Raising awareness and adjusting attitudes for better safety on the road

My friend Ray alerted me to a report that the State of New York is about to pass a law requiring prospective drivers to take a bike safety course before they can get their license.  It doesn’t just include bikes, but pedestrians, skateboarders and scooters as well.  This is a great idea because bikes, pedestrians, skateboarders and scooters are no match for a motor vehicle when there’s a collision.  They all lose and the consequences can be deadly.  Cyclists are often outraged whenever there’s an incident where a cyclist is struck by a motor vehicle, citing lack of enforcement of traffic laws when the accident involves a cyclist.  I suspect that drivers in general are cited less frequently when they operate their vehicles in a reckless manner and have an accident, but I don’t have any statistics to back this up, so let’s just chalk it off to being my opinion and nothing more.  This report does, however, remind me of a topic I’ve been meaning to post about for a few weeks now.

I recently completed a driver’s safety course in the State of Texas.  Like many of us, I feel pretty confident that I know the rules of road and consider myself to be a pretty safe driver.  I have to admit, I was surprised by the amount of content included in my recent course that was new to me.  I was also pleasantly surprised to find a chapter dedicated to bicycle and pedestrian safety.  According to the course, motorists must treat cyclists as if they were just like other cars on the road and that the cyclists had a right to be there and as such, had to obey the same traffic laws as the motorists.  It went on to say that motorists had to take special care when near cyclists because a collision would result in serious injury for the cyclist.  It also said motorists should leave safe passing room and avoid sharp turns that threaten the safety of the cyclist.

The overriding theme throughout this course was the fact that driving attitudes had a significant impact on how safely we operate our motor vehicles.  Anticipating potential problems often leads to avoiding these issues altogether.  I really liked this aspect of the course because it forced me to think about various driving situations and how I could alter the outcome by simply anticipating a problem and eliminating it by changing my attitude about the situation.  In the end, it doesn’t really matter who’s right and who’s wrong, if we all were a little more considerate to others while driving, many accidents could be avoided.  This includes focusing more of our attention to the task of driving, acting in a more predictable manner and leaving room for others to avoid trouble as well.  This doesn’t guarantee my safety, but I’m hoping it increases my odd of avoiding serious injury.  I’m sure I’ll still run into an uneducated motorist ever once in a while where, no matter how much consideration I’m offering, they will go out of their way to endanger me with their reckless actions.  There’s not much I can do about this, except encourage them to take one of these driver’s safety courses.

While I am encouraged by the approach the Texas Department of Public Safety has taken, I’d like to see them take it a step further by requiring all drivers to take a driver’s safety course every time they renew their license (about once every 10 years) as well as make this part of the standard curriculum for new drivers.  Traffic laws change over time and so do traffic conditions.  What harm would it do to raise awareness every few years by requiring a refresher safety course.  These days it’s pretty easy to do this online.  The cost could be rolled into the renewal fee.  I think it gives the Texas DPS an opportunity to raise awareness to safety issues and how best to address them.  I know I’m probably going out on a limb here, but if even one serious injury or death is avoided, why not?  What are your thoughts on the matter?


Oh the memories a bicycle makes…

I was driving around my wife’s home town of Antigo Wisconsin last night looking at the holiday lights and she said to me, “this brings back so many memories, I used to ride my bike up and down these streets.”  Just to put the scene in proper perspective, it’s been snowing here all week and this is on top of the infamous storm that dumped so much snow it collapsed the Metrodome in Minneapolis. So, having her remember riding a bike through these snow covered streets where the snow is piled up higher than me (I’m 6’7″) at every corner was quite remarkable.  But I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

I clearly remember the excitement of getting my very first bike for my 8th birthday, a Dunelt English Racer with a Sturmey-Archer 3-speed internal shift hub.  I used to ride that bike all over my town.  After a while, it lost its fenders and chain guard, but the core bike survived for many years and much abuse until one day it was stolen from my driveway because I had foolishly left it outside at night.  We lived in a pretty safe neighborhood, but I knew better because my parents had warned me that I shouldn’t leave it outside.  I was crushed.

That summer, I managed to get a summer job in Germany and bought a new bike with my very first paycheck.  This time I got a 5-speed.  I was very proud and rode that bike all over Germany.  I had made a good friend over the summers I’d spent visiting my grandparents in Germany and he suggested we take a few bike tours during the weekends.  Later that summer, we spent a few days sailing his Flying Dutchman from Bremen to Bremerhaven.  We camped in his boat quite a bit that summer.  Each time, I rode my bike to the yacht club where he stored his boat.  Cycling in Germany is very cool because there are actual bike paths on virtually every street and it, along with an awesome public transportation network, is the way many people get around.  Over the years, the number of cars have increased, but the infrastructure for cycling was established long ago as Germany rebuilt after WWII.

I grew up in a Levitt subdivision on Long Island, not to far from the Village Green that was immortalized in a Billy Joel song.  It was actually a pretty perfect place to get around on a bicycle.  Lots of residential streets with pedestrian crosswalks to get across a busy thoroughfare.  Later, they extended a bicycle path along Wantagh State Parkway parkway near my house that took you straight down to Jones Beach.  It was a little over 12 miles.  I’d loved the beach ever since my mom used to take me there several times a week during the summer.  The perfect day was going to the beach in the morning, then getting back in time to swim in our neighborhood pool and topping it all off with an ice cream sundae from Carvel, conveniently located across the street from the pool.  Of course, we often rode our bikes to the pool as well.  We’d all taken swimming lessons so we could enter the pool without being accompanied by an adult.

Both my kids have been riding since they were 4.  While they’re not into riding a road bike like their dad, they do love biking.  These days, their favorite bike is a freestyle BMX bike.  My youngest is pretty entrepreneurial and makes some money building up bikes for his friends and selling bike parts over the internet. He actually builds some pretty nice bikes, often custom fabricating parts using ordinary tools.  While I’m not always pleased with the resulting mess in the garage, I’ve supported him in this endeavor as much as I could.  During a recent career day, he presented his plan to become a bike designer.  I love the fact that he’s taking something he loves to do and wants to turn it into a lifestyle.  Good for him.  Secretly, I envy his choice.  Perhaps one day I can retire from what I’m doing and work on bikes all day like my friend Tim or put smiles on peoples faces like my friends John and Jamie.

The smile you see when a person gets their first bike is like no other.  I’m sure some of it has to do with the shininess of the bike itself, but I think there are other reasons as well.  One that comes to mind is the freedom that a bicycle represents.  All of a sudden, your boundaries expand by at least an order of magnitude and all sorts of new places are accessible to you.  While you may not venture too far at first, just knowing you can gives you a liberating feeling that’s not easily matched, even by your first car.  Bikes are somehow more relaxed and less restrictive than most other forms of transportation.  Perhaps thats part of the allure.  Whatever it is, a bicycle is sure to make you smile more times than you’ll ever remember.  So, go ahead, think back to some of your childhood memories and start counting the ones that involve a bike.  I think you’ll surprise yourself.

So, I wish everyone a happy and safe holiday season.  And remember, there’s nothing like the smile a bike brings.  I’m smiling right now as I write this even though it’s way to cold and dangerous to go outside and ride.  Just thinking of all the riding I’ve done this past year and all the new friends I’ve made is enough to make me smile that way.

Do you ride or drive to your ride start?

I once again met up with one of my regular ride groups on Saturday.  The ride start was a little over 5 miles from my house and it’s a pretty easy ride over there, so I rode my bike there.  The reality is that I feel a little silly driving somewhere to then ride my bike, especially if it’s close.  Why waste quality bike time?  Besides, I love finishing my cup of coffee and rolling out of my driveway on my bike.

I do have some criteria about making the decision to drive or ride.  Generally, if it’s 10 miles or less to the start, I’ll consider riding.  I won’t ride if it’s dark.  I’ve done that once or twice and I usually end up riding too fast and pay for it later in the ride.  It’s hard for me to gauge my effort level when I can’t see the readout for my heart rate monitor.  The other thing I worry about is the limited visibility.  When you ride to the start of a ride, you always run the risk of a mechanical issue, such as a flat tire and that’s harder to do when you can’t really see what’s in the road.  Then you keep your whole ride group waiting even before they start their ride.  I never want to be that guy, you know the one that shows up and even before getting out of the gate, has mechanical issues.

People are always surprised when I tell them I rode my bike to the start of a ride.  Most of the time, I think it’s because they can’t really picture a route that gets them there safely.  I consider myself fortunate because I have lots of options when I roll out of my driveway.  I know there’s a few readers out there who live in my town, so I thought I’d post some links to some of my regular routes that I can take right from my neighborhood.

I have similar options from the office where I work because my office is located right along a designated bike route in Austin, TX.   So, next time you’re heading out to your ride, ask yourself if there’s a way to get there on your bike.  You’ll get a little extra quality bike time and you’ll get an opportunity to warm up at your pace.

What to consider when planning your route

I ran into my town’s police chief and his wife yesterday at a  local coffee shop while waiting for my ride partners to meet up for the ride we had planned for that day.  I chose to ride my bike to the coffee shop and got there a little early so I could enjoy some coffee.  Our police chief is an avid runner and his wife is a triathelete.  We were chatting a bit and she expressed surprise that I had ridden my bike to the coffee shop.    She asked what route I took and was again surprised by my answer because the route was a 4 lane divided road with no shoulder.  She asked me if I was worried about motorists.  I told her that I wasn’t too worried, especially at that time of day and I was riding with my lights flashing.

I thought about our conversation later in the day and some of the excellent posts by my twitter friend, Tim on the subject of bicycle safety while out on the road.  If you’ve not read any of Tim’s posts, you’re really missing out.  He spends a fair amount of time commuting around Austin on his bike along with volunteering his time for the Yellow Bike Project.  You gotta love a guy like that! Anyway, back to the subject of route planning.  I’m pretty comfortable riding in traffic and would consider myself a pretty experienced rider.  So here are some of the things I consider when I decide to ride a route from my house.

Traffic Density

I try to avoid riding in heavy traffic when there is no bike lane or shoulder.  There are several reasons for this.  First, it’s no secret that heavy traffic increases the stress level of motorists.  This stress level leads to frustration and sometimes even aggressive behavior.  I worry a lot about aggressive behavior because as a cyclist, I know I will lose against a several thousand pound vehicle. Second, the last thing a cyclist needs to do is impede traffic any further because it’s unlikely motorists will find room to get around me if I’m going slower than they are.  This only adds to their frustration.

Road Construction

I try to avoid roads under construction for several reasons.   One of the most important reasons is that drivers will be distracted by workers, equipment, flashing lights and other obstacles.  This reduces the likelihood that they will see me and that’s not something I want to chance.  One of the other big issues are the barriers you often find that are there to protect the workers.  Unfortunately, these barriers literally put a cyclist between a rock and a hard place.  Not some place I want to be when there’s a lot of traffic.  Last, but not least, construction zones often have a lot of debris that I then have to avoid or, worse, gets kicked up into my path.

Speed Limits

As a cyclist, it’s really important to pay attention to the speed differential between yourself and motorists.  The higher the differential, the bigger the buffer I will want to have between motorists and myself.    Combine a high differential with either of the other two conditions I mentioned and you end up with a lethal combination for a cyclist.    That’s why I prefer routes where the speed limit is 40 Mph or less if there’s no shoulder.  I also look for routes where there’s more than one lane in a particular direction.  This gives motorists a clear path to get around me and give me the space I need.

Overall Visibility

I can’t stress enough how important visibility is.  There’s  couple of things you can do to improve your odds of being seen.  First, wear bright clothing.   Consider your surroundings when choosing your colors.  Colors such as yellow, orange or white are always good choices.   If it’s cloudy, I’d avoid white also.  In low light conditions or at night, be sure that your clothing has reflective patterns.  Second, consider using one of those red flashing LED lights.  I’m partial to the Serfas TL-ST rear light because it is easily mounted on a variety of places on my bike, including on the road side of the rear triangle.  It has several light flash patterns that are all very visible.

You can’t always count on bike lanes and wide shoulders, so hopefully you’ll find these tips useful when planning your next route.  With a little forethought, it’s easier than you think to find a route that gets you where you need to go even if there are no bike lanes.

Do you have a favorite cycling jersey?

I’ve been wanting to write this post ever since participating in the Livestrong Challenge in early October.  Consider it part 2 of what to wear.  Cycling attire is known for its bright colors and tight fit.  I generally like jerseys that are easily visible in all sorts of light conditions.  I’m always on the lookout for unique jerseys that really stand out.  This is what I was doing while scanning for my friend Darryl at the start of the Livestrong Challenge.

I ran across a woman wearing this jersey.  I recognized it immediately because it’s one of my all time favorites and, sadly, it was destroyed when I crashed.  My wife gave it to me years ago because she thought it would be funny to give me a jersey called Illegal Alien where the alien was asking you for a green card.  I’m an immigrant myself (born in Germany) and had a green card myself at the time.  Primal has put out some pretty good jersey designs over the years and this was one of their better ones.

Here Comes the SunI replaced it with another Primal jersey.  Like the previous one, it’s reasonably bright and easily recognizable.     I have to say, I was a bit disappointed by Primal’s selection this time around.  In the past they’ve had some classics, but the recent ones  all seem a little forgettable.  I wish they would bring some of their older designs back.

I also have a University of Texas Longhorns cycling jersey that I sometimes wear. For the Livestrong Challenge, I wore my Livestrong kit.   Do you have a favorite jersey?  What do you like about it?

Favorite Shop Ride

Today I participated in the Jack & Adam’s Steiner Steakhouse shop ride for the second time.  I’d done this ride once before back in September.  I found this ride through the Austin Cycling Meetup group I had joined a few months back.   The plan was for our group to meetup about 15 minutes before the start of the ride.  The weather was nice enough so I decided to ride my bike to Steiner Steakhouse along Bullock Hollow Road.  Last time, I took a right on Oasis Bluff.  This time I decided to straight up Bullock Hollow Road.  Let me tell you, it may not be as steep, but it’s actually harder.  It was all I could do to keep my pedals moving.  I arrived at Steiner Steakhouse right at 8:15 after traveling about 10 miles.

I immediately spotted my friend Allison who’s also our meetup organizer.  She does a good job making sure those who RSVP’d for our meetup actually meet one another and today was no exception.  I ran into a few people I knew from previous meetups as well as one of my regular riding partners, Robert.  The shop ride has 2 options, a no-drop 15 mile ride for beginners and a 30 mile ride that is split into intermediate and advanced riders.  Robert and I decided to take off with the advanced group.  I fell behind climbing the big hill at the Crystal Falls Country Club, but managed to catch up to a few of the stragglers from my group just as we turned back onto Lakeline Blvd.  I stopped there to detach the sleeves from my convertible wind jacket and let my wife know where I was on the route. I managed to catch a few of the stragglers from my group before getting back to Steiner Steakhouse.  I ended up riding a total of 42 miles with a few decent hills in there, bringing my weekly total to 219 miles.  This is the most I’ve ridden in quite some time and I could really feel it in my legs.  I’m going to have to pay closer attention to how I train to get myself in better shape.

The best part of this ride is the discounted brunch at Steiner Steakhouse afterwards and the plan was to have my wife meet me there after the ride for some of their delicious pancakes.  If you’ve not been there, they have excellent food and a killer patio.  It was fun chatting with my ride buddies.  I’d been to Steiner Steakhouse for dinner and our meal excellent then as well.  But, brunch on the patio with that view on a cold clear day made for a relaxing time.  The best part is getting your bill and realizing it’s cheaper than McDonald’s.  Awesome!

My wife wants to try the 15 mile route one of these days, but it was pretty cold this morning so we’ll probably wait for warmer weather, but this ride will be on our calendar from now on.  If you’re looking for a social ride with an opportunity to relax with new friends you made on the ride, I highly recommend this shop ride.

I have much to learn

I signed myself up for Austin Cycle Camp’s free Saturday Training a little over a month ago when the weather was still pretty warm. It was 28 degrees when I rolled out of my driveway this morning. I used the clothing strategy I wrote about in What to wear? Today was a bit more of a challenge because it was supposed to warm up to 65 by midday. I’d planned on riding to Bicycle Sportshop’s Parmer store because it’s only about 5 miles from my house.  By the time I got there, it had already warmed up to almost 40 degrees.  Fortunately, I ran into Ray (Bike Noob).  I peeled off a layer and stowed it in his car.

Today’s training plan involved using our heart rate monitors.  Austin Cycle Camp even brought some extra heart rate monitors for those who didn’t bring one.  I had my Garmin Edge 305, so I didn’t need one.  Dave explained what we would be doing and how we should be monitoring our heart rate.  I quickly reconfigured my display to match the training.  Today we would spend the majority of our training session at about 85% of our max heart rate.  I was glad to hear that because I was still a little sore from our Cranksgiving ride where I spent the majority of the ride in zone 4 and 5.

On the way back to our starting point I rode with Trey for a while.  He asked me what my max heart rate was and how I was doing with respect to the training goal.  He explained how I wanted to be sure to not feel lactic acid build up in my legs and that I might need to get myself tested to better manage my training in target heart rate zones.  Later in the parking lot, he went into a lot more detail about the type of training we were doing and how it would help us.  I clearly had a lot to learn about training with a heart rate monitor and how to improve my overall fitness.

As I mentioned previously, one of my goals for next year was to start racing in the Driveway Series.  It’s mostly for fun, but I’m a reasonably competitive guy so I want to make sure to turn in some good results and to do that, I clearly need to improve my cycling fitness.  This is where training with a USA Cycling Certified coach makes all the difference in the world.  Guys like Trey and Dave really know their stuff and can help me improve.  My plan will be to do some training with them in the spring to get ready for my racing debut.

But even if you’re not racing, it’s nice to be able to get out on the bike with confidence, knowing that you can handle whatever a ride throws your way.  Trey and Dave started Austin Cycle Camp for recreational riders like me who want to get better, but don’t necessarily want to go pro.  They’re both incredibly positive and won’t intimidate you, so it really doesn’t matter what your fitness level is or your cycling abilities, there’s something in it for everyone.  They want everyone to love cycling as much as they do.  Be sure to check out their unlimited training over the next few weeks, it’s a pretty good bargain and it’s good for you, too!

I have lots to be thankful for

Earlier this week I attended an engagement party for a close family friend and his new fiancée.  As toasts were made, I couldn’t help but think about the new chapter in his life that was about to begin.  Lots of good times ahead for them.  I got up early yesterday to go for a long solo ride.  I enjoy these rides because it gives me time to reflect on what’s happening in my life.  I again thought about that moment on Tuesday evening and remembered my own new chapter that began about 18 years ago.  Thanksgiving week began with the birth of our first son.  It wasn’t an easy time for my wife, but she still managed to pull together our first Thanksgiving in at our home, with the help of her mom and a cousin.  I was still on cloud 9 after the arrival of our new family member, Erik.  I was so proud and I still am.

Now Erik is 18 and finishing up his last year in high school.  Someone once told me that my job as a dad was to create memories, so that’s what I did.  Sometimes life gets pretty busy so once in a while it’s good for the soul to think back and remember those times.  But we shouldn’t just limit our reflection to the week of Thanksgiving or even the holidays in general.  Sometimes I do this when I’m out riding my bike and yesterday was one of those days.  It was a pretty windy day, but I was lost in my thought and hardly even noticed.  I thought about the various chapters in my life and how I felt at the time.  So many experiences, some bad, but mostly good ones.  Somehow the bad experiences always seem inconsequential when I look back at them.  Then I wonder how many more chapters there will be and what they will be about.

I feel especially thankful to be riding my bike again.  As I mentioned earlier, I started riding again for health reasons.  My weight had ballooned and my blood pressure was getting pretty high, something had to change.  I was making good progress until about 6 months ago and even bought a new (to me) bike.  6 months ago I was lying in a hospital bed fighting an infection after my emergency hernia surgery.  I knew things weren’t going well and if the infection didn’t get better, my doctor would have to go back in and find the problem…not good.  Fortunately, they gave me some stronger antibiotics and soon I was back at home.  My recover was slow and painful, but after about 6 weeks I was finally able to get back on the bike.  My core was a mess and I knew I had to take it easy.  Then, just as I was making good progress I had a bad crash.  I wasn’t sure how soon I’d recover from that, but I did.  I still get spooked bombing down hills where it’s difficult to see the road contour, but I keep doing it so I once again can put that bad experience behind me and keep riding.

That’s why I got up before dark this morning and headed down to the Veloway to ride with the folks from Austin Cycle Camp on their Cranksgiving Ride.  It was a ride just for fun and today we were doing paceline laps at the end of Mopac, each lap faster than the previous one.  I hung with the lead group for a little while, but got dropped about 1/3 of the way into the last lap.  I tried to catch up for another mile or two, but they turned on the afterburners and were soon gone.  I still managed a good ride and great workout with a fun group of riders.  Then it was time to head home to spend the rest of the day with my family.

On the way back, I began to think about what I was thankful for and decided to spend a few moments writing it down.  First, I’m very thankful for my wife.  We’ve been married almost 20 years and I can’t imagine life without her.  I’m also thankful for my boys, who have taught me a lot over the years (shhh, don’t tell them).  I’m especially thankful that my youngest son is still with us after his near fatal accident on a school playground. I’m also blessed with wonderful friends who are constantly coming in and out of my life.  We often gather at my weekend home on Lake Buchanan in an ever widening circle for happy hour.  Lots of smiles and lots of laughter along with unforgettable sunsets.  I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  I’m also glad to have met so many wonderful people who all have one thing in common, they love to ride bikes.  This year I made a concerted effort to get to know some of the riders I share the road with and have made some fun new friends.  Finally, I’m just glad to be able to ride.  I hope to be doing a it a very long time.  I’m looking forward to sharing those experiences with my wife, who’s finally starting to ride and liking it.  So with that, starts yet another chapter in my life.  It’s all good and certainly deserves thanks.

A bit more of a ramble than usual…what are you thankful for?   Spend a few minutes thinking about it every once in a while.  Life’s too short to not appreciate all the good things.  Better yet, write it down…it’ll make you think about it.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!  I hope all of you get to spend it with those who mean the most to you.

What to wear, what to wear?

Choosing what to wear is not something I spend a lot of time thinking about most of the year.  That’s because I’m usually wearing a bib shorts and a short sleeve cycling jersey.  I’ve got some light weight socks that keep my feet from getting too hot.  However, now we’re getting to the tricky part of the year because it’s not uncommon to see 30 or even 40 degree temperature swings in a day and 20-30 degree temperatures during a longer ride.  For example, it was about 35 degrees at the beginning of the Wurst Ride and 70 by the time I finished.  So, how do you dress for that?

The answer is carefully selected layers.  I’ll also under dress a bit so I’m not overheating or carrying too much clothing with me later on in the ride.  The first thing I start with is a base layer underneath my cycling jersey.  This is equivalent to some of the higher end thermal undershirts you could also use for skiing, snowboarding or any other winter sport.  It’s important to find an undershirt that wicks moisture, so I’ll generally go with a synthetic blend or silk.  Whatever you do, don’t use that old-school cotton.  As long as the temperature is above 52 degrees, I’ll go with this as a base layer, my bib shorts and a short sleeve cycling jersey.  I’ll also switch to some warmer socks.

If the temperature drops below that, I’ll add a wind jacket.  There’s a couple of things you want to look for in a jacket that will add to its versatility.  The first feature that’s important are sleeves that are removable.  This allows you to remove them once it warms up, yet keep out the wind when it’s cold.  The other feature that’s pretty important are vents under the arms and across the shoulder area of your back.  This will allow the heat and moisture you generate to dissipate.  I got a transformer jacket from Performance Bike that I’m extremely happy with.  The sleeves are removable and when removed, there’s mesh opening across my upper back that allows heat and moisture to escape.  It’s also got a nifty back pocket with a strap on the inside that allows you to reverse it so that the entire jacket will fit in that pocket.  You can then strap it around your waste.  I give this jacket an ‘A’ for versatility.  It’s wind proof and moisture resistant so if you’re caught out in the rain it will keep most of the rain out as well.  Adding the jacket allows me to ride in temperatures down to about 40 degrees for long periods of time.

If I’m donning the jacket, I’m also going to switch from my regular cycling gloves to my wind gloves.  These are light weight full finger gloves that protect my hands and fingers from the wind.  I’m partial to my Zonda’s from Performance Bike. If it’s below 40, I’ll consider switching to my Pearl Izumi winter gloves.  I’ve had these for years and they’re very warm.  I’ll also be donning some shoe covers.  Like the name implies, they go over the outside of your regular cycling shoes and are designed to retain heat so your toes stay warm and toasty.  There’s a variety of options out there, but if you look for neoprene, you’ll be pretty safe with whatever brand you get.  At this point I’ll also consider a skullcap to keep my head and ears warm.  You lose a lot of heat through your head area, so this is a good way to retain heat and avoid the chills.

Once the temperature drops below freezing, I’ll add another layer underneath my jacket.  This layer is a jacket, but it’s more like wearing a sweater.  I’ll also add some cycling tights to go over my bib shorts.  It’s important not to let your legs get too cold, so I’ll usually add the tights once the temperature drops below 40 and will be staying there.  I’ll also consider a wearing a bandana over my face or some sort of face mask to keep my face from getting hypothermia.

If all those clothes don’t keep warm enough, then it’s too cold to ride.  In general, I will try to wear as little as possible if I know the temperature will be rising later in the ride.  That way I don’t have to carry all the clothes I peel off during the ride.  Cold weather doesn’t bother me too much, so your temperature thresholds will probably be different from mine.  It’s important to have a strategy and to keep track of your thresholds so you’re well prepared.  I often bring more clothes than I need to the start of a ride and then make it a ride time decision.  My friends have occasionally benefited from my over-prepared attire selections.  What’s your strategy?

Awesome Local Resource: Austin Cycle Camp

A couple of weeks ago, Austin Cycle Camp announced free training sessions each Saturday in November.  I had participated in their Bike To the Bash ride back in September, which was a lot of fun.  One of my ride buddies had done one of their group camps and spoke highly of them, so I signed myself up for their session starting at Bicycle Sportshop’s Parmer location.  It’s only 5 miles from my house so I decided to ride there.  There was quite a turnout, which was great to see.

Today’s plan included crit circuits and cornering.  Trey started out our group on the crit circuit, which was about a 1.5 mile loop that included a fairly fast down wind leg as well as a slight incline on the back side that finished into the wind with an incline right as we were turning into the wind.  Trey wanted us to increase our speed for each of the 4 laps.  I  felt that I was doing ok for the first 3 laps.  I had to summon my inner Jens to push through that last lap at an even higher speed. I was really surprised how my legs burned along that slight incline and really had to dig deep on the home stretch to the finish.  I was sure my last lap was slower than the 3rd lap, but checking my lap averages when I got home on my computer, I managed to eek out a .2 Mph average improvement in that last lap.  I didn’t quite make the 22 Mph target, but got pretty darn close.

Next up, Dave had us working on cornering.  He carefully explained what he wanted us to focus on and how to attack the corners in a way that would allow us to really use the momentum of the bike to shoot out of a turn at speed.  We started with a smaller circuit gradually increasing our speed.  I noticed I was still a bit spooked by my crash back at the end of August, which caused me to be really tense and wobbly into the turns.  After some additional coaching tips from Dave, he had us go again, working on technique and allowing the bike to take us through each turn.  We finished up with a 3 lap sprint where we could only pass riders along the straight aways.  I ended up in the lead group, so I felt pretty good about my effort and turns.  This will really help my confidence in turns at speed, which is something I’ve shied away from ever since my crash.

We had a pretty fast ride back to the bike shop where we started.   I pushed hard to further extend my workout.  I felt exhilarated when we arrived back at the shop.  It’s been a frustrating summer for me trying to recover from  hernia surgery in July and my crash at the end of August.  Somehow I still managed to get in over 3000 miles since April so I’m ahead of where I was last year at this time.  Training sessions like these will only make me better.  I chatted briefly with Trey, Dave and Lucy after the ride.  I’d been thinking about racing next year in the Driveway Series so we talked about that for a bit.  They suggested participating in some of the beginner clinics offered on Wednesday evenings, so I’m going to check them out.  As we get closer to the 2011 Driveway Series, I’ll probably sign myself up for some coaching from Austin Cycle Camp.  In the mean time, I have some things to work on.

There’s still two free training sessions left this month, the next one starting at the Veloway and the last one back up north.  Dave told me they would be working on hill climbing, which is an area I’ve been trying to improve upon this year.  While I’ve improved my conditioning quite a bit, I’m really looking forward to these next two sessions.  If you’re looking for more training, they’ve got a great deal going right now:  $149 for unlimited group sessions over 4 weeks right before Christmas (you’ll need to sign up here before November 20, 2010).   I’d also check out their destination rides.  The next one is going to Gruene on November 19th.  Trey, Dave and Lucy are lots of fun and they will be riding right there with you so it’s like having a personal trainer with you on your bike.