Friday, September 17, 2010

Calculating Gradients without a GPS

As you've probably figured out by now, us old cyclists have a trick or two to teach newcomers (those under the age of 50) about cycling. All the new kids—at least the ones with jobs—have cool bikes and amazing electronics to get them where they want to go and determine the precise salinity of their sweat.

But what happens when something breaks down? God forbid you forget to charge your GPS between rides, but what if that happened? Not only would you get lost on the way out of your driveway, but you would not know just how steep that hill you're climbing really is. Is that a 9% grade or an 11% grade? If it's over 14% you'll definitely want to brag about it over smoothies at the coffee shop (or maybe over coffee at the smoothie shop).

I can't teach you how to replace all the amazing functionality of your GPS in one short blog posting, but I've got the gradient calculator part covered. Just print this blog and cut out the table below. Tape it to your handlebars just in case your GPS goes on the fritz. If you haven't properly warmed up, subtract 2 from the positive gradients shown for the actual figure.

You've decided to ride a century for giggles today instead of the usual 30 miles.
0% (flat road)
You're wondering if (a) you've over-trained, (b) you haven't trained enough, or (c) you really might be a fat load [rather than a cycling hero] after all.
You're convinced your brakes are rubbing but you can't find where.
Cycling is overrated and you want to call your friend or spouse for a ride home. You're thinking of selling your bike and taking up golf.
Somebody poisoned your food and put rocks into your saddle bag.
The time-space continuum has been swallowed by the gravity continuum and you are getting sucked into a black hole.
Those intoxicated construction workers have put a wall where there should be a road.
Cycling is overrated. You most certainly will give your bike to the next person you see after you ride back down this wall disguised as a hill.
Cycling rocks. You are faster than you've ever been before. Nobody can catch you, ever.
<0% (downhill)
We came across this sign on our way to the Alpe de Siusi climb
during the 2009 Giro d'Italia. Fortunately we were going down it rather than up it.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Cycling Checklist Sans Café

Before I begin I'll confess that I'm often struggling with a particular question. The gravity of this question rivals that of other big questions like "Why is there air?" and "If there is a god, why is she so pissed at us?" The particular question I struggle with is, "Was this brain fart due to my age, stupidity, a lack of coffee, or all the concussions I've suffered due to cycling & skiing head-bangs?"

Last night I updated my cycling checklist. [Click here for your own copy.] I've updated this list over the last few years to make sure there is no opportunity for me to forget anything when I'm going on a cycling trip, to a bike race, or just out for a casual bicycle ride. I generally don't need the list if I'm riding from home because I discover what I'm missing by the time I straddle the bike. But when I'm throwing everything in the car to start my ride from somewhere else the list becomes very important…especially if I haven't had any coffee yet.

This morning I drove over to Fiesta Island to do some time trial training. I go to the island by car, which theoretically means I'll double-check the simplified "daily basics" cycling checklist (on page 3 of the PDF file linked above). But of course I did NOT consult my newly-revised checklist before leaving the house. Fortunately I did remember my bicycle (forgotten once upon a time, but didn't get far from the house before realizing it), shoes, helmet, sunglasses and gloves. Ironically, what I did forget was the one thing I added to the list last night: My bike's GPS computer, which was still at home recharging. Not that I needed navigation help on a closed-loop course, but I do like checking my speed and heart rate from time to time. I noticed the missing GPS unit when I got on the bike, but didn't think to take the heart rate monitor off my chest until I was on lap 2 or 3, so it broadcast my racing heart's activity into endless ether.

On this particular morning I blamed the lack of coffee [for what proved to be a steady stream of brain farts] when I took my cycling shoes off after my ride. That's because I found a cherry pie-flavored LÄRABAR® squished in my left shoe. I didn't even notice it when I put my shoe on, but after about 20 miles it felt like my left sock was slipping down into my shoe. I looked down as I rode and the sock looked normal, so I was puzzled until I took the shoe off and found the energy bar…safely sealed within its flattened wrapper. If I had a couple cups of coffee before putting my shoes on I'm sure I would have felt the bar under my foot when I put the shoe on. Wouldn't I? Maybe?


(Of course I ate the bar. What are you, nuts?)