When am I Racing Again?

Long story short, I do not know. I haven’t raced triathlon since Augusta in 2017, and I really feel like I should have taken a year without racing after Louisville, but I felt this need to keep improving, but other parts of my life needed attention too. I know one thing. I am not racing in 2019. What I really want to talk about is when it is the right time to race for me.

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I Enjoy Racing
I feel like after Louisville in 2016, I didn’t enjoy racing as much. I had begun to focus on time, because I had achieved all of my distance goals. Times are the same thing that got me away from swimming after high school, so I didn’t want to feel like I was racing the clock so much. Right now, I am focusing on improving as an athlete by improving my hill climbing on the bike and hill running skills, not getting ready for any distance.

I am Meeting Responsibilities in My Life
I am currently in school for accounting, so I know in my future I will not be racing long distance in the spring, more likely just building a steady base until I can pick up after busy season. I also have a husband at home that I care a lot about and need to spend time with him. I think everyone needs to keep in mind the

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I am Enjoying Training
Doing session after session that is planned started to get a little difficult for me, especially as I began to enjoy riding outside more often. I got tired of structuring trainer rides when I could just as easily jump on my bike after work to go ride with other people. Right now, I am focusing on just doing workouts that feel good and are productive, while also enjoying things like group riding.

I have Time to Train
Similar to meeting responsibilities, having time is important as well. Right now, I just have not had the time to swim as much as I like, so I know I need to find that time before beginning to train more. It is just like if I am going to do another full,I know I need to be prepared to do some really long rides on the weekend.

I want to Race
This is the most important. Right now, I want to enjoy training, and racing is not a priority, but the urge to race more is creeping up slowly as I begin to look at more races for next year. I don’t feel any responsibility to be racing, just an urge that I want to go out and perform at my best again.

Basic Group Ride Etiquette

Recently, I have had the opportunity to begin to go on group rides a little more, although my pace is unfortunately slow at the moment. I feel like I am finally when in a group getting the hang of drafting and riding with people, where previously I rode a lot on my own and people made me nervous. When you ride alone, you don’t have to worry about drafting or someone behind you, but in a group there are a lot of other potential issues.

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  1. Know your pace. Right now, I am with our C group, which is 14 mph and up, but when I am in better shape, I am a B group rider, which averages 17 mph normally. Typically you will be faster in a group than on your own, but pick the group that is your speed and stick with it. Normally you will all progress similarly, so you still have a good group to ride with. If you are on a group ride that is a little faster than your usual pace, but you can hang on, sit on the back and let other riders know you are staying on the back.

  2. No aero bars. You can ride your Tri bike with some groups, but no getting in aero bars when in a group on a road or Tri bike. This is for the safety of you and the other riders. I don’t care how good your bike handling is. If have to brake for a sudden red light and you’re behind me in your aero bars, there is a good chance of us both crashing.

  3. Know your pace lines. Most groups employ either a single or a double pace line and will have their set ways of pulling off to the back. In a single pace line, the rider in front will typically signal they are moving to the left and going to fall to the back. In a double pace line the riders will sometimes split to the left and right, or they will both move left, so I suggest starting in back or asking if you are unsure of how the group tends to ride. My biggest pet peeve is in a double pace line when the person next to me will ride between two people instead of on their wheel.

  4. Know your signals. The two most basic are your turn signals for left and right. Beyond that, we also want to point to either side and announce things like glass, potholes, and gravel. I also suggest knowing signals for slowing/stopping, and announcing this as well.

  5. Announce cars. If you hear a car and you are in the back, call out that there is a car back, so everyone is aware and if you need to move to a double pace line you can.

  6. Maintain a steady pace when pulling. This can be a fast pace, slow pace, or a moderate pace depending on the ride, but the goal is to maintain the pace the ride is intended to be. If you are about to pull, look on your computer to see your current pace and try to maintain that when on the front to avoid going too hard, which is easy to do.

$700 v. $7000 Bike: What is the Difference?

When talking to my husband, I frequently hear how he does not understand my bicycle obsession, because it is just a bike. I understand, because I used to be him. Until I worked in a bike shop, I knew nothing of the different between my 8-speed Claris components and 10-speed Ultegra components and the new 11-speed groups. The only difference I knew was carbon fiber versus aluminum, and for me all that meant was weight savings.

The $700 Bike

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My Trek Lexa purchased in 2012 brand new. It is a full aluminum frame and fork. It had Claris 8-speed components, externally routed cables, and aluminum wheels. This was my dream at the time. I had barely ridden a road bike. it was lighter than the mountain bike I had to ride around campus, and it was purple. It also came with pedals with toe clips and straps.

The $7000 (approximately) Bike

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My Trek Madone. The first bike I bought for myself. It is a carbon frame, fork, steerer. It has lightweight aluminum wheels, Ultegra 11-speed electronic components, and is red, which automatically means it is faster. It is also an aero frame with hidden cable routing.

Where does the $6300 come in?

Carbon Frame & Fork - It is more responsive, stiffer, and absorbs vibration from the road better than aluminum.
11-speed components - The number of gears alone creates smoother shifting. In addition, this system being electronic means I can shift with the click of a button and there is not a long lever throw, especially for the front shift. This makes for faster shifting, especially going up hills.
Lighter Wheels - Another weight saving move. The wheels I have on the Madone are also a little stiffer and have a wider rim, so they fit 700x25 tires better the the ones on the Lexa.
Hidden Cable Routing - I am not talking about just cable routing that is mostly in the frame. I mean you don’t see the cables on this bike. This is not only protecting the cables, but it is also reducing some air drag (although if I shrink myself that does it too).

The Real Question

Does the $7000 Bike Make Me Happier?
I don’t know. I love both bikes. I tell people I will never get rid of my Lexa, because it was my first bike, but I would sell the Madone for the newer Madone SLR 7 Disc, and I would upgrade to carbon wheels, so I guess what I am saying is that you do get something for your money, but there is nothing that can beat the feeling of having something that is yours and allows you to feel as free as I did on that first bike. I have upgraded some parts of course like any good bike mechanic would on the Lexa.

Cycling Accessory Essentials

Depending on where you ride and what type of bike you have, you will have certain accessories you need. 

Things Everyone Needs

Helmet - You only have one brain, so you should protect it.  All helmets sold in the Us should meet certain standards of safety, but I always recommend one with MIPS in it, which protects your brain in a rotational impact by absorbing extra energy.

Lights - You need to be seen.  At a minimum you need a tail light that has multiple flashing and steady modes.  I recommend rechargeable lights, because they can be brighter than battery powered.

Road ID - Even if you ride with other people all the time, they don’t know your allergies, emergency contact, or any other relevant conditions in case of an emergency.

Flat Kit - You don’t want to be that friend who always needs a tube or a tool.  A well prepared rider will always have a flat kit with a tube, tire levers, CO2, and a multi tool.

Floor Pump - I have had to change flats and then sell someone a pump, because they didn’t know to air up their tires every time they rode.  Proper tire pressure is extremely important to your ride and not getting flats.

Things Roadies Need

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Shorts or Bibs - I will admit I didn’t give in to this for a while, and I wish I had earlier.  Proper riding shorts makes a huge impact in your ride quality, especially on a road bike.

Jerseys with pockets - I say pockets, because they’re extremely convenient.  I always put my phone in a plastic bag and put it in my jersey pocket in case of an emergency.

Bottle Cages - I put this under road, because on a mountain bike people often use a hydration pack.  You need to be drinking a lot so you do not end of dehydrated when riding.

Short Finger Gloves - Not for everyone, but a lot of people like short finger padded gloves to relieve extra pressure.

Things Commuters Need

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Fenders - If you are commuting you may run into rough weather more than others.  Fenders can help to keep excess water off you and your clothes.

Rack - A rack can be useful for adding a bag or panniers to carry work and keep it off your back.

Bags - As mentioned above, bags carry things so you don’t have to.  They also have waterproof bags to protect electronics and chargers.

Soap - Anything you need to be clean and smell good to your coworkers.

Things MTB Riders Need

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Hydration Pack - As mentioned with roadies, hydration packs can be useful for mountain bike riders, where some full suspension bikes don’t even have bottle cage mounts.  This is so you have adequate hydration and control.

Knee/Elbow Pads - Protection.  Not necessary for everyone, but useful the more aggressive you ride.

Shorts - Just like the road bike, shorts can be important on the mountain bike.  Some people prefer baggy shorts for extra protection with a liner short for cushion and to prevent chafing.

Jerseys - On a mountain bike, your jersey and whether it has pockets or possibly longer sleeves is your choice.  Longer sleeves and a looser fit can be protection and comfort with the movement of mountain biking. 

Long Finger Gloves - Again the theme of protection, because long finger gloves can protect in falls and from passing branches and other items.

 

Buying Your First Bike

I bought my first bike without seeing it.  It was a 2013 Trek Lexa C that was my favorite color, purple, with Claris components.  I knew nothing about bikes, and I was so excited to have a real road bike and not a Walmart bike.  Where I was in my life, this bike was perfect and the most exciting thing in my life.  Now, if you are paying this price, you do want to put some time and effort into thinking about the decision more than I did.

Anatomy of a Bicycle

Step 1

Know the categories of bikes.  There are multiple categories including road, mountain, hybrid.  In road bikes, I also include cyclocross, gravel, triathlon, and touring bikes.  Mountain bikes can further be separated into cross country, enduro, and downhill.  Hybrid bikes can be separated into fitness, comfort, and dual sport.  There are other categories, but these are the most easily defined.

Determine what your goals are to know what category you fall into.  I wanted to do triathlons, and nothing else, but I wasn’t good enough with handling to go with a triathlon bike.  Your goals could be riding mountain bike trails and going out west to ride, which would need a full suspension mountain bike.  You could want a bike to commute to work or the grocery store with a rack and panniers, which could be a road or a hybrid bike.  Once you know wha you want to do, you can narrow down what category you fit in.

Step 2

Know what causes the variation in price of bikes.  When looking at two bikes in the same category the things that set them apart are material, components, and suspension. 

Frames come in a multitude of materials at a multitude of price points.  Majority of bikes sold in bike shops are aluminum or carbon fiber, but you will also find steel and titanium bikes as well.  Typically, carbon fiber is one of your lightest and can be your most expensive bike.  You can still find very lightweight aluminum bikes as well, and they tend to be more budget friendly.  Your frame material may be dictated by your budget.

Drivetrains are one of the most complicated parts of the bike to explain, so I am going to make it as simple as possible.  More rear speeds is smoother shifting on all bikes, while whether you choose to use a front derailleur can be dictated by the type of bike you choose. 

Most categories of road bikes have two front gears and anywhere between 8 and 11 in the rear.  Cyclocross bikes and mountain bikes are where the single front chainring has become popular as we can run larger gear ranges in the back and it saves weight. 

The other major part of drivetrain to consider on a first bike is the brakes.  The most common options are rim brakes and disc brakes.  Mountain, cyclocross, and gravel bikes are almost all coming with disc brakes currently.  Disc brakes don’t wear down rims and they have more braking power than rim brakes.  Road bikes and hybrid bikes still come with both options, so it comes down to if you will find value in the extra stopping power and ability to brake in more conditions.  Disc brakes also come in hydraulic and cable operated models.  The stopping power is the same, but as the pads wear down, the hydraulic brakes will move the pads in so you don’t lose and stopping power.  They may need to be bled in a few years, but they do not require the same cable adjustments of a mechanical (cable) disc brake. 

When combined with frame material, drivetrain will help to narrow down the options.  You may also find a carbon bike with 11 speed components is out of your price range, but an aluminum with it is within your range. 

Step 3

Find your size and test ride.   I highly recommend talking to a professional in a bike shop for size.  I am 5’5” and I ride a 52 cm Trek Domane, where my boss is 5’5 1/2” and rides a 50 cm, so size charts can only help so much.  I also ride a 50 cm in a Trek Madone and a 49 in another brand, so the size on the bike only dictates an estimate.

I also recommend test riding any comparable bike to what you are intending to buy.  A shop may not have the exact model, but they may have the same size in another model or another model with the same components.  This will give you a feel for the position and a feel for the components, although it may not be the exact bike. 

Step 4

Buy a bike and go ride.  I also recommend certain accessories, which will be found in my next post. 

This bike buying process should help you whether you are buying a hybrid to ride with thbike kids or a super aero triathlon bike to race at Kona. 

Living with a Non-Cyclist

I am marrying a non-cyclist. I swore I would just find some nice triathlete or cyclist to date and eventually marry, so we can go on long bike rides and discuss leg shaving tips, but that is not the case in my life, and I will be honest in saying it is not always easy.

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Solution #1 He Becomes a Cyclist

I have found this is likely not going to happen with my husband.  Now, he will go out and ride with me on easier, car-free routes, so I got him his own bike, and we go ride about once every two weeks.  It is fun, but not the workout I am looking for most of the time.  The point on this one is that it is something we can do together sometimes.

Problem #1 We Argue About Training Hours

We may be in love, but not everything is always perfect when it comes to living with someone.  I want to bike four times a week with long rides on the weekends, which is difficult enough without being able to ride anywhere near my house.  This translates to getting home three nights a week, and being gone on one of my days off work of the week, so we are working to try to figure out a schedule that works for both of us.  I need to learn to be a morning person again, and then things would be a lot easier.

Problem/Solution #2 Bicycle Storage

I own four bikes plus a frame, and he owns one.  This means bikes everywhere in our house, if we don’t keep them contained.  We don’t store them outside, so this has led to getting rid of the extra bed in the second bedroom and switching over to having a bike/cat room.  There are up to four bikes at a time in the room, and there is always a Fram hanging on the wall.  We want to get some wall storage to have two bikes one above the other to free up space for another bed eventually, but it is not top priority.  No bikes downstairs is our one rule to keep it clutter free.

Bottom Line

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We love each other, and he puts up with my crazy.  Sometimes in addition to bikes against walls, we have two trainers out, so it is definitely not a simple thing.  Sometimes after work I get home all sweaty from riding and just want to shower and he wants to go eat Chinese food, but we make it work.

Why N+1 is the Answer

Welcome to my blog!  This is my very first post, and I was originally going to write about myself, but I realized I have all of that information in the About section of the website, so I am going to go ahead and skip that.  If you want to learn more about me, you can read through there, and you can learn more through reading my posts.

I am instead going to go ahead and jump right in with a quick post about my bikes and what I use each one for.  People always ask me why I keep multiple bikes, and why I always have another one (or three) I want to buy.  I tell them every bike has a specific purpose, specific advantages, and some even hold a little sentimental value to me.

2013 Trek Lexa

Going in the order which I acquired the bikes, the first is my 2013 Trek Lexa.  This was my very first bike my dad got for me when I finished my first triathlon in college, and it is probably one of my favorites, purely because it was my first.  It didn’t have climbing gears, and it was only 8-speed components, but it got me through some races and out training on the roads.  Currently, it is my greenway bike for when I ride the flat greenway with my husband, and it is upgraded from my 8-speed claris components to 10-speed tiagra components, complete with rack, fenders, and a bag in case I want to commute someday (my dream right there).

Felt B16W Bells Bend TT

Next would be my triathlon bike, which is a 2013 Felt B16W, which was the women’s model of Felt’s popular entry level B16, complete with purple pain.  It has it’s obvious purpose as my triathlon and now time trial bike, and it remains my fastest bike, although that may change some day.  It came stock with Felt wheels, but I have upgraded those to the FSE 55/79 combo I ride currently, and now other upgrades have been done outside of regular maintenance like new cables and housing.  I would love Di2 with 2-button shifters, but I will most likely get a new bike before that happens.

2017 Trek Madone 9.2 Project One

I didn’t get another bike until 2017, when I bought my first bike I paid for myself, which is a 2017 Trek Madone 9.2, which I upgraded to Di2 myself, making it a 9.5 (minus carbon wheels).  This was the first of my bikes I worked on myself, so there was a lot of learning in this process, but I came out of it with a lot more knowledge, and a smooth riding aero bike.  I originally bought it because I love the integration and invisible cable routing, and now it will most likely become the bike I race if I choose to road race more than time trials.

Trek Domane SL 6 Disc Craft Carbon Wheels

Next, I bought a frame.  Trek was doing a closeout on past model year frame sets for employees, so I bought a 2017 Trek Domane SL disc frame.  I spent close to 9 months buying parts for this bike, the problem being the need for hydraulic shifters, and I chose to go with carbon wheels.  I ended up with one Dura-Ace and one Ultregra shifter with one Dura-Ace and one RS785 Brake caliper, and it works perfectly for me.  I did go ahead and only get carbon wheels, no trainer wheels, on this one from Craft Carbon Wheels, opting for 35mm deep rims, so if I get a cross bike, I can swap wheels.  This is also the first bike I put a 11-32 cassette on, other than my Lexa when I upgraded it, so it is the perfect bike for hilly group rides, or if I am planning to do hill repeats up on the trace (Natchez Trace Parkway).  It is also very comfortable with front and rear Isospeed from Trek, and the position is definitely the first one where I got on a bike and immediately thought “this feels good”.

What do I want from more bikes?  For one, I think I want to try cyclocross, so a Trek Crockett would be nice, whether I go frame set or whole bike.  I also want the new Madone, because it is lighter, and it is offered in a disc frame for more reliable stopping.  I think my next bike will probably be another triathlon bike, because I know I want to race more in the future, but I may actually stick to UCI legal for time trial, or keep my Felt for those.  For anyone questioning, N+1 is always the number of bikes you need, but my most recent purchase has been my husbands new bike.

Look out for my first video on Youtube where I will be going over some bike fit basics, as well as messing up my fit on my Lexa and going through some modifications on the position without taking measurements from my other bikes.