Category Archives: Training

Preparing for a Bicycle Adventure: 5 Fitness Tips for the 50+ Athlete

Preparing for a Bicycle Adventure: Fitness Tips for the 50+ Athlete

First things first—congratulations on your decision to go forward and embrace one of the most rewarding challenges you’ll ever undertake. From personal experience, I can tell you that a bicycle adventure will change you for the better, both physically and mentally. And I applaud your decision to prepare yourself for the big event.

Whether you’re embarking on an epic adventure like the Empire Builder, a 700-mile trek from Montana to Seattle, or a flat 4-day “Rails to Trails” exploration of the Couer d’Alenes, a little preparation goes a long way toward enjoying your travels.

Of course, physical preparation isn’t just helpful for bike tours, it can have a positive impact on many aspects of your life.

Our president and resident fitness expert, Todd Starnes, who was a sports scientist before joining Bicycle Adventures, has some great words of wisdom for the 50+ athlete—

Getting old just plain sucks; our choice is either to grow or decay.

For me? I’ll take growth every time, and if you’ve read this far, then I think you will too! Your next bike adventure can give you the push towards your own personal and physical growth.

It doesn’t matter whether you choose to complete Oregon’s Crater Lake (the best bike ride in North America, according to Bicycling Magazine) or opt for a more cultural two-wheeled experience in Mexico, just enjoy the ride with smiles and sun!

I think it’s important to state up front that physical fitness doesn’t have to mean going to the gym. So many of the activities that contribute to a healthy body can be done right in the privacy of your home, like strength and resistance training, stretching, and even cardio.

The work you do toward preparing your body pays benefits in all sorts of unexpected ways, whether you’re training for a bike tour with the family or just want less stiffness and more stamina when you’re gardening, doing housework, or playing with your grandkids at the park.

 

So why should we exercise?

Preparing for a Bicycle Adventure: Fitness Tips for the 50+ Athlete

Physical exercise can slow the effects of aging and prevent muscle atrophy and bone loss, too—a real concern for 50+ women. I think it also gives you more physical confidence to try new things…and I love what it does for my energy level.

If you’re ready to get started, here are five tips to help 50+ athletes prepare for a bike tour and some advice on how to ramp up to the next level for those who are steady 30-miler cyclists.

 

Let’s Begin With Strength Training

Preparing for a Bicycle Adventure: Fitness Tips for the 50+ Athlete

Strength training sounds complicated and even a bit intimidating, especially if you’re out of practice. But it really comes down to these five simple motions:

  • Pushing
  • Pulling
  • Planking
  • Sitting
  • Bending

You’ll notice “lifting weights” isn’t mentioned—because it really isn’t necessary! Although if you want to join a gym and work with machines and free weights, that’s always an option. I’m going to give you exercises you can do at home, with no complicated machines, and a far lower risk of injury.

The American College of Sports Medicine suggests activities to strengthen each of the six main muscle groups: Chest, shoulders, arms, abdomen, back, and legs. Strength training will come in handy on a bike adventure in so many ways—supporting your back, chest, arms, and posture during the ride itself and giving you the muscles you need to pedal up hills (like the cliffs and canyons in our Southern Utah National Parks tour).

Pushing
The classic “push” exercise is the push-up, which strengthens your arms, shoulders, chest, abdomen, and back—it’s an all-purpose exercise powerhouse. If you aren’t strong enough to do a classic military version, you can try this four-step planPulling
A good strength routine balances pushing and pulling. You don’t need a pull-up bar to build your pulling muscles, but a set of lightweight dumbbells is helpful. I like the
alternating dumbbell row because you can really feel results with just a few reps. (Don’t own dumbbells? Substitute cans of soup or milk jugs.)

Planking
Planking is great for strengthening your core, which underpins pretty much everything you do. If you’re a beginner at planking, you can learn good technique and modifications with this video, plus variations for more advanced moves.

Sitting
No, this isn’t a “gotcha,” there really are sitting-type exercises to help you build strength. I’m talking about squats and lunges, which are great for developing your abs, legs, and back. Even if you have knee problems, you can do these exercises at home.

Bending
I don’t have to tell you how important it is to strengthen your lower back and core—doing laundry, tying your shoes…we’re bending all day long. Some great home bending exercises are back extensions and bicycles.

 

Build Your Endurance With Cardio and Feel the Benefits

Preparing for a Bicycle Adventure: Fitness Tips for the 50+ Athlete

The CDC recommends that healthy older adults get at least two-and-a-half hours (150 minutes) of moderate aerobic activity (like brisk walking) every week, or 75 minutes of high-intensity (running, jogging, cycling) activity. The heart benefits of aerobic activity are not in dispute.

But the added benefits of increased endurance will help you on your bicycle tour, so you can fully enjoy the gently rolling hills of the San Juan Islands.

Simple things to do now to improve your cardio endurance:

  • Skip the elevator and take the stairs.
  • Pursue an active hobby like tennis, swimming, or riding your bike (especially riding your bike).
  • Take a brisk walk on your lunch break instead of snacking at your desk.
  • Go kayaking or paddleboarding.
  • Get a jump rope and skip rope to music.
  • Dance!

 

Add Some High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Preparing for a Bicycle Adventure: Fitness Tips for the 50+ Athlete

Although it sounds complicated, HIIT really isn’t. It’s simply combining brief intervals of intense exercise with longer periods of less strenuous work. You can incorporate HIIT just by running for a few seconds every few minutes when you take your daily walk—or pedaling extra hard for 10 to 30 seconds periodically on your training bike rides.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends HIIT because it:

  • Improves aerobic (and anaerobic) fitness.
  • Lowers blood pressure and cholesterol profiles.
  • Reduces belly fat and body weight while preserving your muscle mass.

Sounds too good to be true, but it isn’t. And the best thing is that HIIT can be modified to suit any fitness level and you don’t have to do it every day to see results. Our fitness guru Todd Starnes recommends observing these rules:

  • Aim for “comfortably challenging,” there’s no need to make yourself miserable.
  • Think quality over quantity—if you are working hard but struggling to keep the pace you had after your first couple of intervals, you’ve done enough for that workout.
  • Four to six intervals no more than twice per week is more than enough to experience the benefits of HIIT.

 

Don’t Neglect the “4 Rs” of Recovery

Preparing for a Bicycle Adventure: Fitness Tips for the 50+ Athlete

Recovery is even more important for the beginning or older athlete, so pay extra attention to the four “Rs” of recovery—

Rehydrate. If your exercise period is 60 minutes or shorter, rehydrating with water is probably enough. For longer sessions, use a sports beverage with carbs and electrolytes.

Refuel. You need to eat to replenish the fuel your body spent and provide nutrients to help your body recover. For adults over 50, that means protein—at least 15 to 25 grams in the hour after exercise. Protein bars and shakes are a convenient option if you don’t feel like preparing a snack.

Rest. I’m not just talking about a short break after exercise (although that’s always important), I’m talking about a healthy amount of deep, restorative sleep at night to give your body time to recover and repair.

Repair. The recovery process looks different in everyone, but for older adults, alternating heat and cold therapy, soft tissue massage, or even therapeutic soaks are helpful for encouraging the muscle repair that occurs after exercise.

The tour guides at Bicycle Adventures take recovery seriously with an appropriate schedule of hydration, nourishing snacks and drinks, healthy breakfasts, and even special accommodations for your own diet and nutrition routine.

 

What You Eat Matters More than You Think

Preparing for a Bicycle Adventure: Fitness Tips for the 50+ Athlete

Your changing nutritional needs become even more noticeable once you hit 50. For one thing, your body may not absorb essential nutrients as well as it did when you were younger—and strenuous exercise impacts digestion, a potential “perfect storm” of nutritional deficits.

Here are some foods to eat if you want your body to be ready to go when you are:

  • Probiotics set the stage for a healthy gut, the gatekeeper to a healthy body. Some people use a probiotics supplement, but you can naturally introduce these healthy bacteria into your gut by eating yogurt with live active cultures (look for the LAC stamp), fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi, and aged cheeses.
  • Fiber feeds the healthy gut bacteria and aids digestion. Get what you need with easy-to-eat foods like barely ripe bananas, oatmeal, brown rice, quinoa, and asparagus.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, help you burn fat, and are good for your heart. Incorporate more servings of fatty fish like salmon to boost this important nutrient.
  • Protein helps repair and grow muscles and maintain bone and joint strength. Try to get some protein at every meal with foods like dairy, fish, poultry, meat, or plant-based sources (lentils, nuts, seeds).
  • Vitamin D is essential to muscle recovery and maintaining healthy bones. Unfortunately, aging skin isn’t as effective at synthesizing vitamin D from the sun, so it’s important to add it to your diet with either supplements or fortified dairy products.

 

How to Ramp up to the Next Level If You’re a Steady 30-miler Cyclist

Preparing for a Bicycle Adventure: Fitness Tips for the 50+ Athlete

So you’ve progressed to a great level—30 miles is a brilliant achievement—well done! But what if you just want to challenge yourself a little more and break through the 30-mile plateau?

Rest assured, you are not alone and there are several ways of getting to that next level, which I would love to share with you.

  • Get More Power Behind Your Pedals
  • Add plyometric training (or jump training) to your weekly workout. Research has shown that in just one month, you can increase your power endurance by a healthy 17%! To avoid injuries, starting slow is the name of the game— so try squat jumps twice a week.

  • Think Smart When you Climb
  • Pick a gear in which you can pedal smoothly, not mash. Think about pedaling across the stroke rather than simply up and down. When you are out of the saddle, if you feel your bike is swinging from side to side, shift to an easier gear.

  • Avoid The Dead Zone
  • Brought on by repeated training at a single, moderately hard intensity. The dead zone can affect enthusiasts who push the pedals hard but don’t follow any training program. In order to improve, the body needs to adapt, which is achieved by a program that hits your personal extremes.

  • Get the most from your speed
  • I know it sounds simple, but always remember to make yourself as aerodynamic as possible on your descents. You will maximise every ounce of speed you have gained. So sit back on the saddle and ride with your hands in the drops. Then tuck your knees and elbows into the bike and lower your head for better results.

  • Resting Heart Rate (RHR) : a number you should know
  • It’s one of the best ways to monitor overtraining. If your beats per minute are 10% higher than normal, when you take your RHR in the morning (before you get out of bed), then you might want to have an easier day.

  • Get Creative with Incentives
  • We all need a little something as a reward in order to remain focused, so when you achieve one of your goals, treat yourself—you deserve it!

Hopefully, I’ve given you some practical tips and pointers to help you get started on a physical program of preparation for your tour. You’ll notice that none of the exercises I suggest require pricey equipment, a gym membership, or hours of your time—you can do them at home and on your own schedule.

 

Ready to Ride?

If you have any questions about fitness, preparation, and recovery, I’m always here to talk to you. And if you’re still looking for the perfect bicycle adventure for you—I can help you with that, too! Get in touch to start planning the trip of a lifetime.

If you’d like to find out more about how to go about planning your bicycle adventure, sign up to our free email course. It’ll teach you everything you need to know.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+LinkedInPinterestRedditShare

Top 10 Cycling Trends for 2018

10 Top Cycling Trends for 2018

We all remember our very first bikes, and think about how much has changed in the cycling world since!

Remember downtube shifters of the 70s? Those things are now in the past. The advancements in cycling over the years have made our rides smoother, faster and more comfortable, and bikes more durable and light.

Think back to last year, since then road bikes have become faster, shifting is going digital, and mountain bikes are changing their frame geometry. It’s exciting to see what changes and trends will continue into 2018 and beyond.

So whether you’re a newbie to cycling (maybe considering your first tour), or a committed cyclist take a peek at a few of our predicted top cycling trends in 2018 before you hit the road or the trail.

 

1. Manufacturers Are Going Aero

Time trial/triathlon bikes are no longer the only bikes being built for speed and aerodynamics. Ever since the UCI has declared a 6.8 kg minimum race bike weight limit, many top-of-the-line road bikes can’t get much lighter, but they can continue to get faster through better aerodynamic design.

For example, Giant’s new Propel Disc aero road bikes are first of its kind for the popular bike manufacturer. First seen last year in the Tour de France, the Propel Disc is now available on the public market. Giant claims it has the highest stiffness-to-weight ratio of any bike in its class, and has lower drag coefficients due to the addition of disc brakes.

The Specialized Tarmac has a new D-shaped frame and new seat tube and seatpost design that makes it more aerodynamic. The new Orca Aero from Orbea is a beautiful aerodynamic design that pushes the boundaries of speed. You’ll start seeing many of these new bikes at all the big cycling tours in the coming racing season.

 

2. Disc Brakes Are Becoming Mainstream in Road Cycling

Once the brake system just for mountain bikes, disc brakes are continuing to become more mainstream in road cycling. The pro cyclists are still trialing the disc brakes in the peloton, but they are likely to become standard in road bikes in the coming years.

German pro cyclist, Marcel Kittel, road last year on a Specialized Venge ViAS Disc on the Quick-Step Floors team. He became the first rider to win a stage of the Tour de France on a bike with disc brakes. Many of the high-end 2018 bikes come standard with disc brakes, like the Trek Emonda, Giant Propel, Scott Foil, and more.

 

3. Gravel Bikes Continue to Gain Popularity

We said it last year—gravel bikes are becoming more popular worldwide in 2018. Gravel bikes are a versatile bike on and off the road making it attractive to a variety of riders. Last year gravel bikes exploded in popularity across the United States and they are growing rapidly into the international market.

Gravel events are also popping up everywhere—there might just be one on a forest road near you!

 

4. Wheels and Tires Are Still Getting Wider for Road Bikes

10 Top Cycling Trends for 2018

Once again, we predicted this last year. The trend is still continuing into 2018. While 25mm wide tires are still the standard for road bikes, 28mm isn’t uncommon.

Unlike like traditional rim brakes, disc brakes allow manufacturers to offer more clearance for wider tires and wheels. We predict that the 27.5 x 2.6 width will become the momentary “standard” this year.

 

5. Power Meters For All Budgets

Power meters are no longer for just the pro cyclists and the wealthy. With new technology and new manufacturers jumping into the market, power meters are becoming more affordable. Shimano, one of cyclist’s largest component manufacturers, has finally decided to dip their toes into the game this year.

While the jury is still out on the new Shimano Dura-Ace R9100-P power meter, Garmin has released the new Garmin Vector 3, which measures leg power independently. The budget-friendly Vector 3S, which measures one leg and doubles it for total power, will gain more attraction this year due to its price tag under $600 USD.

 

6. Indoor Training is Getting Smart

Smart trainers are becoming more popular, like Zwift, TrainerRoad, and other apps. The new Wahoo Kickr Climb is the first of its kind by simulating climbing. The indoor trainer adjusts the front end of your bike to simulate real-time grade changes. You can ascend hills up to a 20% grade and descend down to a -10% to mimic real road conditions.

 

7. Mountain Bike Frames Are Changing

10 Top Cycling Trends for 2018

Not only are road bikes getting more aerodynamic, but mountain bike frames are changing. The top tubes are getting longer and the head angles are getting slacker. With the changes in the top of the frame, offset forks are becoming shorter to adapt to the wheelbase. The Transition Sentinel is pushing the design of mountain bikes with its new steeper seat tubes.

Longer travel 29ers are becoming popular. The Orbea Rallon is an innovative design that is leading the trend of slacked out 29ers enduro race bikes. The new geometry turns these popular cross-country and enduro racing bikes into a fun all-mountain trail bike, too.

 

8. Shifting to Digital Shifters

Both mountain and road shifter are continuing to go digital. While we predict that digital shifting is not going to stick for mountain bikes in 2018, it will continue to grow in the road cycling industry.

FSA just released their new K-Force WE groupset and Shimano has updated its Ultegra Di2 set this year. While we’d like to see digital electronic shifting on the lower end models of bikes, that is probably not going to happen this year.

 

9. Integrated Cockpits Are Coming

Once mainly reserved for TT/triathlon bikes, integrated cockpits are becoming more popular in road bikes as road bikes continue to become more aerodynamic. Integrated cockpits have their pros and cons. They can help tidy up cable routing and save weight. But, if you ever want to change the length of your stem or make any changes to your bar angle, you can’t do that without swapping out the whole assembly.

 

10. eBikes Will Continue to Become Popular

It doesn’t matter if you think riding an ebike is cheating or not. They are continuing to become popular for both mountain and road bikes. The Market Urbanism Report predicts that 2018 will be the year of the ebike.

Many bike manufacturers are making them now, like Giant, Bianchi, and Focus. Cities like San Francisco and New York City have electric bike share programs that are a huge hit with commuters and tourists.

eBikes are not just commuter bikes either. The Focus Project Y looks just like your fancy road bike, but with a hidden motor inside. It just might be the perfect commuting or touring bicycle. Our bike partner, Orbea has a collection of road, mountain, leisure, and urban ebikes to meet all your riding needs.

Give an eBike a try—we think everyone should love them.

 

Are You Ready to Ride?

With over 30 years of cycling tour experience, we’ve seen a lot of changes in the industry. If all these 2018 bike trends are making you excited to ride, why don’t you get in touch today and start planning your ultimate bicycle adventure? We’d be happy to talk shop and share a few more of our favorite new trends this year. We offer awesome bike trips around the world, and you can even try some of the latest technology with our top-of-the-line Orbea bikes.

If you’d like to find out more about how you can go about planning your ultimate cycling adventure, sign up for our free email course.

Road Cyclists: You’ve Got to Try MTB, and Here’s Why

road-cyclists-mtb

We do all kinds of tours at Bicycle Adventures—rails to trails, road tours, mountain bike tours. The fact is, we love riding our bikes. Period.

And now that we’ve got that disclaimer out of the way, here’s a little secret: Mountain biking is flat-out awesome. If you’re a committed road rider, you really owe it to yourself to try mountain biking.

If you’re hesitating, let’s start with a little humor—and six great reasons we think MTB really is incredible. Ready?

  1. How about the obvious? No cars. Does anything harsh your mellow faster than heavy traffic?
  2. You get to commune with nature, up close and personal. If you’re a city person, how often do you get to enjoy that? It’s the perfect time to meditate, listen to the sound of the birds, smell the fresh air, revel in the sight of the trees and flowers and sky. And fresh air is such a tonic.
  3. Like on the road, mountain bike riders enjoy competition. Roadies have their KOMs to protect and MTBers look for hole shots and bits of trail side flair, But it’s all about having a good time…the camaraderie of the bike, enjoying the ride—you know what we mean.
  4. So many choices! Cross-country, all-mountain, enduro, downhill. Road riders get…the road (not that we’re knocking all the amazing road choices like TT, Road Crit, Century, Commuter, so it does kind of balance out in the end, doesn’t it?)
  5. It’s an awesome, dynamic workout. Road rides are great for cardio endurance, but mountain biking gives you a more well-rounded experience. And if you do both, you have an amazing advantage over people who prefer just one or the other. The leg strength you get from road riding translates beautifully to the trail—as does your road-biking cardio endurance. Straight mountain bikers may even have trouble keeping up with you!
  6. Mountain biking increases your focus. Mountain biking takes a lot of concentration. You’re paying attention to sharper curves, tree roots, banked corners, narrower riding spaces like forest roads or trails. You need to make faster decisions. Even if you’re on a flat, cruisy forest trail, that focused attention translates into better skills that in turn translate to better road riding skills. Specifically, technical skills like cornering and braking. On the mountain bike you are always working to center your balance and maximize traction control so that you have a better understanding of how the brakes affect the traction and weight placement affects the corners.

 

These are not your parents’ MTBs…

mtb

All fun aside, mountain bikes have come a long way. An MTB magazine did a casual survey, asking casual riders if they could spot the differences between two bikes of the same model, one from the year 2000 and one brand-new this year.

And while the riders struggled to identify the cosmetic changes, everything changed once they climbed on the bikes. The suspension on the new bike was remarkably improved with rear air shocks, the cockpit was more ergonomic for greater stability and control, and a modern, intuitive drivetrain replaced the clunkier one of the past.

And it’s true—every detail has been reimagined. Tires and wheels for example: Larger diameter wheels roll over obstacles that would have stopped older wheels. Tubeless wheels allow for a wider footprint on the trail which translates to a considerable traction advantage—and they all but eliminate flats!

The frame and suspension designs have also come to form. Modern bikes are efficient and effective. That means you can have a bike that is quick and capable for climbing but have a plush and active suspension which opens up a much wider range of trail options. In the past you could pick one or the other, climb or descend. Now you can go anywhere. It also means less fatigue from the rough terrain.

Here’s what our own Bicycle Adventures team is saying about today’s MTBs:

The bikes have changed dramatically making it easier and more forgiving, —- lighter, better suspension, more relaxed geometry, dropper posts, better gearing, easier shifting, better brakes.” Todd Starnes, President

 

I’m convinced! How do I get started with MTB?

Road Cyclists: You’ve Got to Try MTB, and Here’s Why

If you’re ready to get your MTB groove on, we have a few suggestions to help you get started.

  • Do a local clinic or camp. If you’re a road rider, you’re going to need new techniques—descending, cornering, even arm and foot positions are different on a mountain bike. It’ll also give you an opportunity to try new bikes to see what you like.
  • The right clothes make a difference. You might consider ditching your spandex, at least in the beginning (or at least cover up that chamois with more street-style shorts). You’ll want to cover your body because you will fall at first and a layer of fabric can make all the difference to your skin.
  • Don’t worry about clips right away—just wear your sneakers. It’ll increase your confidence and it makes it easier to walk through technical situations when you will be walking your bike (and there are times we all walk our mountain bikes).
  • Hydration packs are an awesome invention,. Packs even come with a handy pouch to store your camera, keys, phone, and glasses—things that would otherwise bounce out of open pockets when you’re riding the trails.
  • Learn to shift often and early. You need to anticipate the terrain and shift before pedaling gets difficult. Timing is everything if you want to maintain momentum and overcome obstacles without gear-shifting fuss.
  • Rethink your attitude about walking—it’s a very normal part of the MTB experience when you hit steep terrain. It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s just an acknowledgement that you are in challenging terrain. It’s all good.

 

Ready to hit the trail?

When you’re ready to rock and roll, take a peek at some of our most popular MTB tours—and even if you’re still a novice, all of our Bicycle Adventures MTB tour guides are International Mountain Biking Association certified and can teach you the basics or give you a refresher in technique. No matter where you are in your MTB journey, you’ll enjoy these tours.

 

For Beginners

Road Cyclists: You’ve Got to Try MTB, and Here’s Why

The Leavenworth Green tour is perfect if you’re new to mountain biking. Starting in Seattle, you’ll bike the eastern slopes of the Cascades where the trails are smooth, the elevation profiles are forgiving, and the views are incredible.

It’s a five-day adventure with highlights that include riding the Cle Elum Ridge Trail, Cashmere and Mission Ridge (you can try your hand at hiking if you like), a chair-lift ride with your bike up Hogsback and an amazing assortment of trails to cruise down—plus awesome local craft brews and a soak in the hot tub. What’s not to love?

 

A little more challenge?

Road Cyclists: You’ve Got to Try MTB, and Here’s Why

Try our High Cascades Mountain Bike Tour—a seven-day trip through some of the most breathtaking terrain in the country. It’s almost a religious experience…rare and colorful trees, gorgeous views, and amazing wildlife (think eagles, mountain goats, timber wolves, marmots, and even bears).

And the rides—even their names set your pulses racing: Esmeralda Peaks, Angels Staircase, Starvation Mountain Loop, Cutthroat Pass. It’s not for the faint of heart, but the rewards are more than worth it. You’ll come away challenged and satisfied deep in your soul.

 

If only an epic adventure will do…

How about an international adventure? Our Slovenia MTB tour has it all—from the Alps to the Adriatic sea and everything in between. The Peca Mountain Bike Park is a mecca for MTB riders with 300+ miles of trails and paths straddling Austria and Slovenia. We also hit the Petzen Flow Trail, one of the longest in Europe, descending some 7-½ miles.

And if you haven’t had your fill of adventure on the bike, there’s also whitewater rafting, spelunking in Skocjan Caves, and hiking through Vintgar Gorge to round out the trip. This is truly an epic adventure for the die-hard MTB enthusiast (and we may still have spots available for our September 7th departure—ask today!)

 

Let’s do it!

If you’re thinking “I’ve read enough, let’s go!” why not get in touch today and we’ll help you plan your perfect Bicycle Adventure. There’s never been a better time to hit the trails—and we have a tour to suit every taste and ability level.

And if you’re not ready to take the next step but want more information about bicycle tours, sign up for our free email course and learn everything you ever wanted to know about planning a cycling vacation.

See you soon on the trails!

The Truth about Electric Bikes: Why Everyone Should Love an E-bike

bicycle-adventures-e-bikes

We recently published an article about e-bikes vs road and mountain bikes, and it caused quite a stir amongst some of you. So, as owner and president of Bicycle Adventures, I thought I’d throw my 2 cents into the debate…

First of all, an e-bike is not a motorcycle disguised as a bike. It does not have an engine to start – or a throttle – and you do still have to actually pedal it. Or at least you do if it’s a good one.

 

Here is why an e-bike is so great…

I have been around bikes most of my life – for recreation, fitness, travel, commuting, athletics and as a profession – first as a bike racing coach, then owning a bicycle touring company. And in many ways I would consider myself a purist when it comes to bicycling.

To me, ‘purist’ means someone who loves to ride their bike for the sake of riding a bike. You won’t find me worrying about the latest technology or debating the merits of road biking vs. mountain biking. Just give me a bike to ride. That is the bottom line: be it fast or slow, short or long, riding a bike is just…fun.

But why is it fun?

Most people would say, “Because I know HOW to ride a bike.” Just about everyone knows how to ride a bike.

So let’s think about that a bit. When I was coaching bike racing back in the 80s and 90s, people would say, “You coach bicycling? What does that even mean? Doesn’t everyone know how to ride a bike?”

 

So what does it mean to know how to ride a bike?

love-e-bikes

The truth is, there’s a lot to know in order to really enjoy riding a bike – and to me, enjoying riding a bike is to not have to think about it.

I have mastered the skill. I have gone through the 4 stages of mastery.

I often use the analogy of a hockey player: hockey players are not thinking about skating; they are thinking about the game. They just happen to be skating.

  • Stage One: Unconscious Incompetence. You do not know what you do not know.
    Developing skill starts with not knowing what to do, or what’s to come. We’re unconsciously incompetent, ignorant of what lies ahead. Moving from stage one into stage two only requires that we read a book on the subject or talk to someone with experience. In the case of learning to ride a bike it’s incredibly simple: moving into stage two usually involves someone showing and telling us what we need to do.
  • I probably don’t need to say that riding a bike is all about balance. To ride a bike you need to be going fast enough, keep the wheel straight and distribute weight evenly.

    But most of you are beyond this stage.

  • Stage Two: Conscious Incompetence. You actually know what you do not know.
    By gathering information and watching others ride a bike you now know what you don’t know – you have been enlightened by the opportunity to ride a bike. This might not seem like much but it is progress.

    Getting to stage three is where the real work begins. This is the one thing that is required to be successful in any endeavor, whether it is riding a bike or managing your career. You must take action and you must practice. A lot. I’ve tried to get better at cycling by just watching the Tour de France but it doesn’t work.

  • Stage Three: Conscious competence. You can do it, but you need to think about it.
    Being consciously competent at something means you’re able to perform the act, but you still need to think about what you’re doing. This is where things become more interesting. You’re now able to ride a bike.
  • This can be incredibly satisfying, and this is where many – if not most – people stop.

    When I was learning, I remember when I was finally able to ride a bike for a few minutes without stopping. I had to concentrate extremely hard. I would think about keeping the wheel straight, not leaning too much to one side and making sure that I didn’t go too slowly – all at the same time. I could ride the bike, but I was far from an expert.

     

    From competency to mastering the skill.

    every-loves-e-bike

    So how do we get from consciously competent cyclist to the next stage? That’s easy. Repetition, repetition, repetition.

    Not everyone wants to be an expert, and that is OK. Most of us have ridden bikes enough that we have reached that magical point where keeping the bike upright, balanced and moving does not require a lot of concentration as long as we are on a safe flat bike path. However, as our environment changes (steep hills, other riders, traffic, stop signs, shifting) we no longer feel quite so competent.

    This is the point where an e-bike comes in.

    An e-bike levels the playing field and allows you to leap ahead in your competence because it takes away the need to worry about several things -like your pedal cadence, which gear you’re in, and how to pedal up or down that hill.

    Let’s face it. Maybe you’re a runner or tennis player who is coming to cycling later in life. You may not have the time or desire to become an expert, but that doesn’t mean you should sacrifice the joy of riding a bike that you loved when you first learned how. Or that you should have to forego a cycling vacation with the wind in your hair, the fresh air, exercise and the perspective you gain from the seat of a bike – the perspective that you can’t ever get from sitting in a car or bus.

  • Stage Four: Unconscious Competence. Complete mastery. You can do it without thinking about it.
    In cycling, reaching this stage means you can ride a bike without having to think about stopping, starting, shifting, standing, sitting, signaling in traffic, looking over your shoulder, listening for cars, riding next to another rider, or questions like, ‘Am I pacing myself? Do I have the fitness to get up this hill?’
  • Mastery on a bike is not just the skill of riding a bike but knowing how to ride in traffic, how to ride with other riders, how to ride up a hill, down a hill, descend, ride in various sorts of terrain, how to ride at various speeds, how to pace yourself, when to shift and when not to (without thinking, “Should I shift now?”). Shifting has become as automatic as it is in your automatic car.

    An e-bike will make up for a lot of things when it comes to mastering riding a bike, but more importantly it will help you master a bike tour – because you’re doing those things on multiple days.

     

    Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it!

    I had someone show up to a scheduled bike ride the other day who was a very fit individual. He was excited about the tour; he wanted to get some exercise, and he was too proud of his fitness to need an e-bike. I know this gentleman fairly well. I said, “Don, you are very fit and strong, especially for your age, but you don’t know how to ride a bike.”

    He said, “What do you mean I don’t know how to ride a bike?”

    “Well, you don’t understand how to pace yourself on a hill, or pedal in the right gear, or how to start and stop safely. Or how to anticipate unconsciously what to do next. You are having to think about all these things instead of simply enjoying the ride. So I recommend using an e-bike. Although it doesn’t get you past all the skill training, it gets you past most of the things that prevent people from enjoying a bike ride the way I do. Just give it a try.”

    He agreed to give it a shot, just for the day. I spent a few moments showing him how to use the e-bike. Then off we went with about a dozen other riders.

    Being as fit as he is, Don wasn’t about to give up on a workout. So he spent the first couple of miles experimenting with the amount of electric-assist. None. A little. A lot. Full power. Back to none. “Wow!” he exclaimed. “You can actually get a great workout on this!”

    He spent the second third of the ride sneaking up behind his cycling buddies in the group, then upping the e-assist to full power and blasting past them, gleefully announcing, “On your left!”

    By the last third of the ride, he was cruising joyfully ahead of everyone as he led the charge to the finish line. And by the time we caught up with him in the parking lot, he was already working on where to purchase a couple.

    everyone-love-e-bike

    Don with his e-bike!

    And that’s what I mean by being a purist, by the hockey player not thinking about skating. Don had gotten back to the fun. The point where riding a bike had nothing to do with traffic, or hills, or shifting. It was just plain…fun.

    What’s not to love?

     

    Still on the fence?

    Here are the four things an e-bike will do for you to speed up or eliminate the learning curve – which, coincidentally, are the four “fears” we hear the most about riding a bike.

    • Hills. Do I stand up? Can I stand up? What gear should I be in? Can I pedal slowly without tipping over? The biggest challenge with hills is not having the technique – it’s not always comfortable standing up, or maybe you haven’t quite got the fitness. An e-bike picks up where you left off.
    • Shifting. Unlike your car, bikes aren’t automatic. They don’t know when to go to a harder gear with fewer RPMs, or an easier gear with more RPMs. Those are challenging decisions for someone who may not be comfortable spinning with a high cadence or powering through with a low cadence. An e-bike makes those decisions for you – the motor kicks in when you get into a situation where you need a bit of an assist.
    • Keeping up. A lot of people’s biggest fear about going on a bike tour is of not being able to keep up, of holding others back, of getting stuck riding alone and being the last person to arrive. An e-bike fixes all of those fears. It gives you the flexibility to decide how hard you’d like to work without missing out on the fun.
    • Safety. With an e-bike, a longer ride will be more stable because your legs won’t get to the point of fatigue. You can self-regulate, manage your fitness so you’re not in over your head. This allows you to continue on and ride more miles – farther than you might usually – without the worry of over-exerting.
    e-bike-love-everyone

    Don’t just take our word for it: This is Jan M., at the top of Logan Pass, also known as Going to the Sun Road, an iconic climb in Glacier National Park. Her husband is a strong cyclist and talked her into doing the Glacier-Banff-Jasper trip for her first bike trip ever(!) The e-bike made all the difference, and they have now taken 3 trips with us as a couple – and are looking at a fourth.

     

    So why not give it a shot…

    So, as you can see e-bikes and purists can get along just fine. The 3 things to remember are that riding a bike is great for the environment, great for your health and overall it’s just a better way to see the world.
    But what it boils down to in the end is that it should be fun.

    We have plenty of tours where an e-bike is an option. So whether you’ve been turning your nose up at e-bikes because you see yourself as an expert, or you aren’t confident in your cycling abilities but were afraid to put your trust in the equipment, get in touch today and hopefully you’ll be e-riding off into the sunset very soon.


    Todd Starnes, Owner & President, Bicycle Adventures

    Here's why Todd Starnes, owner and president of Bicycle Adventures thinks everyone can learn something by getting on an e-bike.

    Tips for Your First Spin Class

    If you’re preparing for a bike tour and need an indoor alternative to cycling – or if you’re just interested in burning a few calories and working up a good sweat – you might want to try out a spin class. These classes are typically offered at most gyms, and they’re usually about 45 minutes to an hour long. Spinning combines both strength training (mostly your lower body and torso) and cardio over a short time frame. So if you’re planning on trying a class out for the first time, plan on working very hard. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your first class.

    Spin class

    First off, make sure to wear the right cycling clothes. Since you’re going to be doing a lot of cardio, it’s a good idea to wear workout clothes that are sweat-resistant and comfortable. Try to wear clothing that’s fitted—if your workout clothes are too baggy, they might ride up during the workout, which can be uncomfortable. Also, while some cycling classes require cycling shoes, many don’t, so make sure to check in advance with the instructor of the class you want to attend. Some classes even let you rent shoes.

    When attending the class, don’t forget to bring a towel and some water. You will be sweating quite a bit during the workout, so you’ll want to hydrate as much as possible. Get there a little early for your first class and introduce yourself to the instructor. Often, instructors will ask first-time students to sit closer to the front row—that way, the instructor can assist with pacing and posture and keep an eye on them if they need any help. Your instructor can also help you adjust your spin bike’s handlebars, seat and pedals for the most efficient setup.

    When you’re riding, go at a steady pace. If you feel like you can keep up with the rest of the class, go for it! But if you start feeling winded, don’t hesitate to pull back a bit. Once you’re finished with the class, don’t forget to stretch. Cardio can place a lot of strain on the muscles, so in order to avoid any build-up of lactic acid, take a few minutes after class to do some cycling stretches for your legs and torso.

    Spinning isn’t just a great workout—it’s also tons of fun. Music, coaching and the companionship of other cyclists make a great way to get through the drippy, dreary days of winter. You may just be hooked. Have a great time!