Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Be careful out there (And how to be "more" careful...carefuler...whatever)

If you keep up with the forums, you've probably seen a thread floating around about the incident with an age grouper crashing into Meredith Kessler at Eagleman last weekend. (Who came out with a concussion but nothing broken I believe) While I am not going to point fingers (unfortunately, sh*t happens sometimes, being an age grouper has nothing to do with it) I will acknowledge that triathletes in general do have a pretty bad reputation when it comes to handling and even safety, so I thought it would be a good time to go over some of the basics on what we can all do to be safer on the bike. Most of this is pretty elementary stuff, but sometimes those are the things we need to practice and / or remember to take some time to improve.

1.) Practice your transitions.

Coming out of T1 and getting up to speed BEFORE worrying about my shoes
This is one I'm a bit guilty of. I definitely don't spend enough time working on my t1. I got it "pretty" fast and then just kind of wing it. I did realize that I'm not good at doing the Flying mount, so I have kept from embarrassing myself with that in a race so far. The biggest mistakes I see others make are pretty easy fixes if they would take a step back.

- Don't worry about your shoes until you are up to speed. Too many people think they have to get in their shoes immediately. I am almost always a quarter of a mile into the ride before I'm totally in my shoes. You want to get up to race speed before you even look at your first shoe. Then slip in, strap down (don't swerve) and get back up to speed again before looking at the other shoe. You can pedal plenty hard without your feet IN the shoes.

- You don't HAVE to mount your bike at the bike mount line. No, you can't mount before, but you can mount after. Big congestion and people swerving everywhere trying to mount? Big hill you aren't sure you can get up to speed on? Just run up it.

- If you don't normally have a bottle on the rear of your bike, but add one for a race, REMEMBER your leg clearance is a bit different when you swing your leg over. I Judo kicked the crap out of a bottle at Rev3 in 2010... it stayed put (it had my flat kit in it and was rubber banded down fortunately) but I was very embarrassed.

2.) Practice descending, turning and braking.

Fabian makes it look easy, but I promise he's had plenty of practice.
Most everyone has seen this video. (Also, this video of his TT handling prowess) If not, take a few minutes and watch it. Cancellara flats and has the road to himself to catch the peloton. It's one of the finest bits of descending skill I can think of. While certainly not even Spartacus is infallible (the Olympics come to mind) there is certainly a great deal of skill in the way he comes down that mountain. Of course most of us are unlikely to ever log the kind of miles in a saddle (and at those speeds) that a pro peloton rider does, so we need to take a bit more active approach at some of this stuff. Some things that come to mind that we could all benefit from at least "refreshing" on occasion.

- Descending fast(er). The only way to get faster is to get more confident. The best ways to do that are to descend more (in general) and to descend a particular place often... that way you learn where you can bomb down and where you need to slow. Some of the guys I do our weekend shop ride with are particularly good at going downhill... much better than I am, so I try to get one of them to go fast(er) than I usually go, but still not as fast as they are capable, and then I try to follow their line all the way through. It's helpful for your mind (or at least for mine) to wrap around the fact that "this is possible" by following somebody. Of course you need to trust them :)

- Turning. This one is a bit more important for TT'ing where there's a turnaround and you need to shave as little speed as possible on it, but many Tri's also involve either turnarounds or pretty sharp corners. Learning to hit the apex and "straighten" the turn is worth working on when you get a chance. Riding (slow) between cones (or whatever obstacle) can also do some real work for your ability to handle a turn.

- Braking skills. These cause a lot of wrecks in my experience. Somebody gets spooked and grips too hard on the front brake and does an endo. Yes, there is a proper way to stop hard, and it's worth practicing so that you are ready if it is necessary. On a straightaway (empty parking lot is pretty good) get up *some* speed, get into your drops, brace yourself (elbows bent) and grip on the front brake enough to stop you. Feel your body weight moving? As you practice doing the above with harder force on the front brake, you'll need to "push" your body weight back (pushing into the drops) so that your body weight stays over the saddle.  It's worth mentioning that locking your rear wheel won't actually stop you from speed... but it will blow your tire or make you skid. The rear brake (in dry conditions) is for shaving speed, not stopping. You can only "lock" your front wheel in rainy conditions, and in those scenario's, you brake harder with the rear than normal (since recovering from a rear skid is fairly likely, but you aren't recovering a front lockout)

- Riding a line. Learn to do it, whether you need a set of rollers (cheap ones <$100 all day) or just riding a painted road line (not in the rain!) learn to do it, especially if you are ever going to do a group ride. Nobody wants to ride behind the guy that keeps swerving left and right.

3.) Be a defensive rider.

Not how this usually ends up working out.
- "Share the Road" is a noble idea. It's something to strive for between cyclist and motorist. It is not realistic however. A couple of tons of sheet metal/motor/plastic will always trump a 16lb piece of carbon and a couple hundred pounds of meat. (That's you) When I was learning to drive my dad was insistent that I always keep an eye on things around me, (oh man when I looked at the radio one time I thought he was going to literally clock me.) even if I wasn't doing anything "wrong." His theory was, if you have a green light and a semi truck has a red light, and it looks like he might not be stopping, then you stop... because the biggest vehicle ALWAYS has the right of way, because he has a lot less to worry about. Same with a bicycle. Sure, that car was supposed to yield to you, but just because they should have doesn't mean they will... and you are a LOT more likely to wind up injured than they are. I see it a lot around here (TN is full of angry drivers AND angry cyclists) guys will get cut off by a driver and then the yelling and the "tough talk" starts. Sure, you might be the baddest man (or woman) on two legs, but that guy has a 3500 diesel Ram. He wins. Pick your battles... martyrs never get to celebrate their own name.

- When you're riding with others (and as a general rule) expect that if somebody "can" do something stupid, there's a good chance they will. Are you grinding up a hill right on somebody's wheel? What do you think the chance is that they are going to stand up (which generally shifts a bike backwards about 1/2 to a full foot) in a second? If you're right in their space, you guys are crossing wheels. If you're in a cat 5 crit, what do you think the chance is the guy beside you can hold his line? If he can't, what do you think the chance is he can hold it upright if you bump shoulders? These are things you should always at least "recognize" as potential problems. It's one of the reasons you don't stare at the wheel of the guy in front of you in a paceline. What if he's zoning out and totally misses that Dog/Car/pothole/gravel? More eyes are always better (and you should be able to keep from crossing wheels with him by your peripheral vision, right?)

- Don't be a dummy. This kind of links into the one above, but don't be "that guy." If you aren't sure if you're "that guy" then you probably are... stop it.

- Always assume you look like this on a bike

Poor Kevin Bacon... everything was downhill after "The River Wild"
No no... not that you look like Kevin Bacon... that you are invisible. Even making eye contact with another person/driver/rider, assume they don't see you.

And of course

4.) Nothing new on race day!

Hey who's that idiot wearing a swimskin in a freezing OWS??? Oh... it's me. I even have a white dunces cap on...

If you aren't SURE that outside of something beyond your control going wrong that you can pull off that sweet move, Race Day is not the day to try it out.

Alright... I'm done preaching.
Give me three Hail Mary's and change the internal routing on a Trek TTT bike as penance.

Seriously though, take care of yourselves, hopefully this little reminder will help all of us be a bit safer on our next ride, be it racing, training, or just enjoying the afternoon.

Next week I'll have a race report on the Smokin' the Water tri (Saturday) and I'll touch on the TT series I've been participating in on Wednesday nights. Also, not spoiling anything, but some exciting stuff in the works!

Thanks so much for reading, oh anonymous reader out there.

- Christopher Morelock

1 comment:

  1. Nice read Chris. The way you describe the descending is very clear and well put. Now to remember the "nothing new on race day."