Look Ahead

If I had to give just one piece of advice on how to ride a bike better it would be to look where you want to go. The funky chicken is of course very important, and we must never forget to stay loose, but all these things don’t matter if we don’t remember to look where we want to go.

So ten years on we still ride our hardtails, but full suspension is bit comfier. I’d like to think I’m a better rider – or maybe that’s just the suspension, but ten years of always looking ahead has made me pretty good at reading the trail and if I’ve learned anything its to expect the unexpected because that happens quite a lot when you ride a mountain bike.

A rock moves when you don’t expect it, a puddle might be a bit deeper, and the chain slips just when you don’t need it to – but keep looking where you want to go, and there’s a good chance you might just get there.

Read the path ahead, stay relaxed, smooth out your riding line, focus on the obstacles coming, not the obstacles that you are on, to give yourself more time to make smart decisions for the next thing on the path. Constantly having to react on a last second is something we try to avoid.

So look ahead.

It’s Never Too Late

Recently I did my first road ride since keeping away from the roads for a couple of years. If I’m honest, I think it was my first ride in about two months. Apart from the mountain bike ride I did the day before, but that was with a friend who hadn’t ridden since August and admitted he’d had to go out and buy new clothes because she’d put on quite a few pounds and none of his clothes fitted him anymore. It was a chatty ride and a very gentle introduction to exercise, which suited me fine.

So the next day a more committed cycling friend suggests a road ride which before we go out I am feeling a bit excited about but also dreading because I know I’m going to have to work a bit harder to keep up – not so worried about the balancing skills.

It was a fresh, beautiful sunny day and the route was a quiet back road loop that took us through the stunning landscape and pedaling along enjoying the scenery and the banter I felt great and realized I was doing something that made me happy.

My main excuse is, of course, the terrible weather, riding in bad weather is fun for the first few times then it’s just tiresome and impossible, a bicycle is no substitute for a dog on a walk. So once the bad weather went then I found another excuse – I had the flu over getting cold, which saved me from eating and drinking to excess which in hindsight was great. It saved me from having to buy new clothes (I have got to the ‘this used to be a bit loose’ stage). But it left me in a place where motivation had deserted me. I knew having been inactive for so long it could be painful getting exercising again, and I began to imagine a life where my bicycle wasn’t my ‘raison d’être’-although I’m not quite sure what I would do with myself.

Then I watched a documentary on the fattest man on earth where he laments desperately about letting himself get to that point and how unhappy he is, and I thought when did he start down that road?

I put down the box of chocolates, downloaded a Cycling Log app and planned a training programme to get me through the next 90 days until I have to participate a race. Can’t wait.

It’s Never Too Late

Skiing holiday in Chamonix

Looking forward to spending some time with some friends skiing, walking, eating, drinking and relaxing in a small chalet near Chamonix.

The chalet, though cozy, is ideally placed for reaching the chairlifts – just walk out and go to the lift – or queue as it usually is crowded.

Fantastic cold weather with clear blue skies and just a faint breeze is waiting.

The few blue runs out there are more like red runs, and the long red runs are more technically demanding than reds you see in skiing areas elsewhere. Not sure my skiing improves with each skiing holiday, but who cares, I’m sure it is going to be a great time.

Some photos on my Flickr page after the trip.

Keep it real

I started biking purely to get from A to B without having to walk. I lived in Southampton at the time, was a student, and my first bicycle journey was from my flat in the middle of North Baddesley to the University. My folks had bought me a bike for my 17th birthday – a no-brand ‘ATB’ that had it been taken off road would have most definitely protested – much like myself at the time. An exercise was something that I remembered vaguely from school and being made to run round muddy fields and getting caught trying to take a shortcut so having to do it twice.

My bike was like a reflection of my myself at the time – a massive but sturdy machine that worked but kind of took its time to get there and our maiden voyage together was an uphill one. I lived in the middle of North Baddesley (small and quiet neighborhood). I dragged the steel beast up its pace until we got to the highest top of the route (anyone else here the heavy breathing)? It was at this point that I felt light, almost airy in fact – I had a whitey, and all the blood had gone from all available organs to my legs hence the strange feeling. I sat on the steps and slowly recovered, got back on the beast and made it down to university – just. It got easier each day, and I took to taking jaunts around the city and beyond, exploring all the bits I didn’t know by bike. I got a rack and a pannier bag. I started loading up the beast with blank pieces of paper and pastels and drawing stuff that looked interesting – at the Docks, building sites on the other side, one day I even went to Winchester.

With more and more miles I got fitter, and I had everything I needed either in my pannier bag or strapped to the bike-utility style. We went everywhere together, and when the frame broke, I took it down to the sculpture department, and they fixed it back together for me, and we set off on another adventure. I loved that bike and the time I had it – it was crap really, but I had some great times on it and discovered the city on it.

I liked the fact it was a bit ugly but handy and combined the pleasure of riding a bike with a sense of purpose.

Now I have a fancy bike that cost too much money, has all sorts of dials and settings on it and I tend to just go round in circles on it (when I have the time). It doesn’t have a set of panniers, and I don’t think there is anything steel on it at all 😥

Keep it real.

The new arrival of the Fanny Back

Singletracks.com has an interesting article about the Camelbak waist bag. The bag looks like a refreshing alternative if you don’t like to have a full backpack.

Yes, it takes some mental rehearsal to get rid of the sad fanny back reputation.

History of fanny back

Anyway, it allows you to pack plenty of supplies for a your ride. I suppose we will see more and more hip bags on the market.

I think if you want to go even lighter you can use a small runner’s waist pack that has a pocket for a water bottle, and some room for your gear.

For shorter rides these kind of waist packs are probably a lot more comfortable than a full-on backpacks.

Bigger backpack is still needed for those more remote and longer rides.

How to be a Mountain Biker

In the wondrous world of the Internet, you can run into everything exciting.

This video is so funny cause it’s like… hmm, mostly true.

Actually, the amount of truth in this video hurts.

The video almost described my friend Jef… From stickers on everything to flannel, micro-Brewer beer, the need for multiple bikes (although he’s broke), turning the bedroom into bike-room, carbon and wheel size obsession…

Bicycling – a Good Way to Get in Shape

Okay well, you obviously want to get in shape or improve your fitness. Who doesn’t right? Well here is some good news: you don’t really need an expensive program to do it. I have used bicycles as a primary form of transportation and have found that I am in better shape than I have been when working out at a gym. You can do it for a lot longer than hitting the gym for an hour or two.

The problem with fitness programs is that most of us are not being able to keep the results that we see within the first few weeks. You might also think that you need to see results within minutes or a few days 🙂 This is often not the case as it takes awhile for your body to get in the right place physically to start to burn off the extra stuff that you are trying to get rid of.

Now, bicycling is a fairly easy thing. If you work your way into it. So sorry this isn’t a quick method, but if you keep it up you will increase your overall fitness.

The first thing you will need is a bike. There are many brands/manufacturers of bike makers. You probably won’t go too much wrong if you choose some big name brand like Trek, Giant or Specialized. I personally own the Cube Stereo mountain bike with 29″ wheel size (Cube is a German manufacturer, and I bought my bike couple of years ago when I was living in Munich), and it suits me well. It has a carbon frame which makes it light and stiff.

There are also different types of bikes for exercising: Mountain, Hybrid, and Road for example.

Hybrid is a mix between a Road Bike (Thin Tires) and Mountain Bikes (Heavy Duty/Big tires). The Hybrids allow you to have things on them like carry-on bags.

What will you need to do in order to get in good shape and improve your health?

Some basics – As you get older (like me), the stretch is an important part of your warm up and exercise over all. And enough water and energy bars for long rides of course.

First 2-3 weeks
Don’t push yourself to climb that big hill – just go for nice rides on fairly flat ground. Also maybe go trail riding on a paved Bike Trail. Don’t ride your bike every day. Keep some resting days during the week. This period is just to get you use to riding a bike again. Slowly increase your frequency of riding your bike.

Next 4-5 weeks
This is where you can be riding your bike every day. Push yourself a little bit harder every time you are on a ride. Little pain is a good thing, it means that you are working those muscles that you haven’t been before. This is where you need to be drinking water and lots of it, as well as the energy bars, but limit yourself to one so that your body can focus on burning off that extra stuff that you want to be gone.

5+ weeks
This is where hopefully you have reached the point to where you love your bike and can ride it almost everywhere. This is where you should be used to trying to go up every hill and not quitting until you absolutely need to.

That is one of the big points of any fitness program – you should not quit! You just have to keep going. Get a friend to be there with you to motivate you. Your body will tell you when you can’t do anymore because it won’t let you. The pain that you feel afterword is a good thing.

This is how I got started. I hope this helps you to get started too. Remember quitting is not an option, you have to push through it. It will make you stronger in the end.