Friday, April 29, 2011

Getting to grips with mountain biking

Two loves combined
PART TWO: Deborah Atkinson is a former journalist, current senior administrative assistant and an avid cyclist, photographer, writer and needleworker.  Originally from New Mexico, she has called Colorado home for 23 years.  She and husband Brett spend most weekends cycling, hiking, cross-country skiing, gardening or volunteering. She blogs at Snowcatcher.

Riding up steep mountains takes more than your average bike, how technical is what you do?
Colorado, 2010 Deborah Atkinson
In this post, I talked about my derailleur, which I really don’t understand, and am just repeating, probably not even accurately, things that have been explained to me.  To me, maintaining a bike is technical, and thankfully I am married to the world’s best bicycle mechanic, so I don’t have to worry about much.  Except things like losing a spoke on a climb when he’s miles ahead of me.
Riding a bike is somewhat technical, particularly if you are climbing and descending.  A cyclist must know when to shift and what gears work best for different situations and grades.  I’m still learning.  One of the tips I’ve picked up is to downshift before I need to when climbing, not wait until the pedals are moving so slow, I can barely hold the bike upright.
I admire Tour de France cyclists who can corner switchbacks at high speed with incredible leaning angles.  I’d tip over.  Pure and simple.  I’d be hamburger. 

You sometimes cycle for up to seven hours, what food do you fill up on to get through that?
First and most important, a big ride is not the time to be experimenting with new foods.  Especially during the ride, don’t gorge yourself on fajitas if you don’t eat them off the bike.  You digestive tract is stressed enough during a big ride; and big rides get even harder if your stomach is turning because you ate something your body is not accustomed to.
During a seven-hour ride, you must ingest a lot of energy to keep going, and then you have to eat after you finish to replenish what you’ve used up.  Many long cycling events have what they call a pasta power-up the night before; most cyclists will eat huge plates of pasta the night before (or even the week leading up to) a big ride.  Sweat depletes life-sustaining moisture inside the body, so you have to drink a lot, too, and a degree of salt is necessary.
Day 4  Coal Bank Pass
Coal Bank Pass, Rockies 2010
Every cyclist is different, so there isn’t a magical number of carbohydrates or grams of salt for everyone to go by.  I tend to run low on protein, while my husband needs more salt than me.  The best thing to do is to work up to longer rides and listen to your body.  What you are craving typically is what your body needs, such as bananas: potassium, etc.  Keep notes of what foods make you feel energized, and know what foods don’t settle well or take a long time to digest, and adjust your on-bike food to accommodate.

How could a newbie to the sport get started?
When I got drawn for my first Ride the Rockies, I scoured the internet for information on how to prepare.  The amount of information available then was a tiny fraction of what is available now.  I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into, and I was scared.  I over trained.  But I made it through my first week-long 425-mile ride, and it was a great experience I hope to repeat many times throughout my life.

" Don’t be afraid to ask questions. 
Don’t be afraid to get out there and ride. 
Don’t be afraid to join a group ride."
I wish I could have read some of the information available now back then, and that’s one of the reasons I blog about cycling, so other beginners and people battling pain or dietary restrictions can see what it takes to get going and build up strength and endurance.
Many clubs and workshops are available now, too, to help people just starting out and give them the opportunity to talk one-on-one with someone who has already achieved what the beginner is hoping to do.   Work up to what is comfortable; don’t start out with a century!
Don’t do things that make you hate the bicycle or you won’t want to get back on it.
Ride, take notes, and keep track of what you could have done to make a ride better, and every ride WILL be better.  Have fun.  Enjoyment and fulfillment are the most important aspects of cycling.
Ride the Rockies 2005

Thanks very much Deborah - if anyone has any questions, leave them here!  

Part One of this interview is here


Anonymous said...

Excellent advice and great interview! I couldn't agree more whole-heartedly with Deb's point on not taking on a stomach full of random food on long rides. It's disastrous. :)

Snowcatcher said...

Thank YOU, Niamh, for the opportunity to talk about something I love. It's a pleasure "meeting" you!

a runners' life said...

Great interview, thanks for all the good advice. The Rockies looks amazing!

niamh said...

@ a runner's life - are you adding cycle races to your schedule?!

jayayceeblog said...

Not to experiment with new foods is great advice no matter what new thing you're trying. Our youngest daughter swam competitively for over 10 years and we used to hold pasta parties at our house the evening before the meets began. Brings back memories of all those serious hard bodies chowing down. Deborah, you're awesome!!!

niamh said...

@jayayceeblog - pasta parties? the things parents do for us, and we just never appreciate it:)