Archive for the ‘Bike’ Category

I Made It – Once!

Posted: June 24, 2013 in Bike, Run, Swim
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I didn’t really think it would happen! A year ago when I started on this journey, I couldn’t run 1 block without stopping to walk. A month ago, I was still struggling to keep moving for an hour. And yesterday, I swam, biked, and ran (ok, walked too) for 1 hour 26 minutes to complete my first try-a-tri!
Even Saturday, I was feeling totally unprepared.
Until I actually entered the water, I wodered what I was doing, why I was doing it, and how crazy was I anyways? Once I started, it was easier to keep going than to stop, so I kept going! And now the accomplishment feels great, and my body is not even very sore, although still tired.
Will I do it again? I don’t know. I no longer need to prove to myself that it is possible. But, I could have done better! And there is the aspect of maintaining a level of fitness.
For now, I will bask in the glory!


Stationary Biking

Posted: January 26, 2013 in Bike

It’s -35 degrees Celsius, with a wind chill. While there are some people who will bike outside in this weather, I am not one of them. The indoor alternative, is a bike trainer, or a stationary bike.

The bike trainer is a stand that allows you to ride your bike without going anywhere. One advantage to using a trainer is that you always ride a bike that is familiar to you. The positioning is the same as on the street, developing the same muscles.

As I don’t have a trainer available, I was on a stationary bike this evening. There are two style choices in the stationary bike – traditional and recumbent. I chose the traditional, upright style, as it is more like the road bike.

The first thing I noticed was that the seat was shifted slightly forward. This made me feel as if I was going to slide right off. I found myself pushing my body back with my arms for quite a bit of the ride.

The second thing I noticed is that there is no coasting with a stationary bike! If you don’t pedal, you don’t get anywhere. When riding on the street, I enjoy the coasting down after working hard to get up a hill, so to keep pedalling made the ride less enjoyable, although,the fan blowing in my face did a reasonable job of simulating the wind!

All in all, the stationary bike is a decent substitute for riding when the outside weather is impossible, but there really is nothing like the real thing!

A bike comes complete with 2 wheels, a handlebar, a seat and 2 pedals. You would think that’s all there is to it. Not when it comes to discussing triathlon bikes! Each piece can be replaced with something specifically designed for peak performance. The amount of money that you can put into your bike can be astronomical! Let’s just look at the pedals.

To know what kind of pedal is best, it is important to understand the pedal stroke. Because of the design of the bicycle, the strongest push is on the downstroke. But that is only 25% of the pedal stroke. If you can increase the push on the other 75% of the cycle, theoretically, you will have a stronger stroke, and the bike will be propelled faster.

The 4 parts of a pedal stroke are the down stroke, back stroke, up stroke, and forward stroke – in that order.  As mentioned earlier, the down stroke is the strongest part, as you are using the large muscles in the front of the thighs (quadriceps) and butt (gluteus maximus) to propel the pedal down. This stroke becomes even stronger when you stand on the pedals to push down.

Even with traditional flat pedals, it is possible to increase the strength of you back stroke and front stroke, using a technique called ankling. Ankling is the action of raising or lowering your heel to change the angle of your ankle compared to the ground. If you raise your heel during the back stroke, you push the pedal backwards, increasing the strength of the stroke. Likewise, lowering the heel at the top of the stroke will push the pedal forward. This relatively simple (in theory anyways) should increase the speed of the bike, by making your pedal stroke smoother and consistent.

The backstroke primarily uses the hamstring muscles in the back of the thigh. Start the downstroke between the 3 and 4 o’clock positions of the pedal circle to make it more efficient. Continuing to push down to the bottom of the stroke wastes energy, as the pedal is not actually moving down at the 6 o’clock position. This effectively gives the quaddriceps and gluteus muscles a tiny rest in every stroke.

Pulling on the upstroke requires some sort of system that attaches the foot to the pedal. Again, if you are able to work through the entire stroke, instead of resting on the upstroke, you have more power to move faster. The upstroke uses a different set of muscles, again – The hip flexors. By allowing different muscle groups to work at different parts of the pedal stroke, you are reducing fatigue and increasing the distance or speed at which you can ride. Even if you don’t need to increase the power of your stroke, lifting the foot slightly on the upstroke decreases the weight that the opposite foot needs to move on the downstroke.

So which is better, clipped-in or clipless pedals? Clipless pedals provide an additional safety feature compared to toe clips and straps. Your foot will disengage from the pedal by twisting your foot slightly. With toe clips and straps, your feet may come out of the pedals if you fall, but they may not. Clipless pedals also increase pedalling efficiency by allowing the orientation of your foot on the pedal to change slightly, making movements optimum.

The cost: Toe clips at Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC): $8 for plastic ones with nylon straps, $14 for metal clips with leather straps. Reviews say that the plastic ones are better.

Clipless pedals: Anywhere from $30 to $411 at MEC. And then you need to buy the shoes!

For a beginner triathlete, the expense of clipless pedals may not be worthwhile. I the meantime, I will try to develop a strong back stroke on my flat peadals, and put toe clips on my Christmas wish list!