Top 5 Cycling & Training Books I've Read

I like reading books, but mainly when they have to do with cycling or triathlon. Lately, I have been picking up a book at night to read instead of watching something on TV or playing on my phone, because it is supposed to help you fall asleep. Sometimes I like to read inspirational stories, other times I like to just read about someone’s journey, and other times I like to read about training.

How Bad do You Want it?  Mat Fitzgerald
Pro Cycling on $10 a Day Phil Gaimon
  1. The Triathlete’s Training Bible - Joe Friel
    This one has a lot of science in it, and I enjoy it for that reason. I am always trying to learn more about how and when I should train and recover. I recommend this especially if you are training for something and coaching yourself, because it can provide a wealth of information. There is also a version specifically designed for cyclists, and I recommend that one as well.

  2. How Bad do you want it? - Matt Fitzgerald
    I bought this book before Ironman Louisville in 2016 in order to help myself mentally prepare by reading stories from top athletes. The one that stuck with me the most in this book was Siri Lindley’s chapter, and I took that with me into my race. I highly recommend it, because it offers something for people like me who have trouble with the mental side of training.

  3. Pro Cycling on $10 a Day - Phil Gaimon
    If you are looking for something funny, enticing, and all around entertaining, this is my top recommendation. I started it and read probably 75% of it in one day. It starts with when Phil first started cycling and chronicles his journey in the world of pro cycling and the struggles that came with it, while not focusing too much on how he was not making enough money and living on people’s couches at times.

  4. Surfacing - Siri Lindley
    Like I mentioned before, I was really interested by Siri Lindley’s story in one of the other books, so I went out and bought her book when it came out, and I was not disappointed. I read the entire book in one flight from Nashville to San Diego shortly after Ironman Louisville in 2016. I found her journey from beginner to world champion triathlete to be very intriguing, especially seeing the way she trained progress throughout the book.

  5. Bike Snob Abroad - BikeSnobNYC
    This is one of my current coffee table books, and a little different from the others, because it is looking at cycling from a different lens than that of a pro cyclist or triathlete, and more from the perspective of an ordinary cyclist exploring how the norms in one country differ from the norms of another when it comes to cycling. I like it, because it is one of those books where I can read a short section, and then step away and come back much later and still enjoy it without feeling like I missed something.

Training in Nashville

I work in a bike shop and we get questions all the time about where people should go to train, so I thought I would create a post with just that. Here is your guide to training in Nashville.

Centennial Sportsplex

Centennial Sportsplex

Swim

Pool Swimming. Do you like a cold pool or a warm pool?
If the answer is cold, my recommendation is the Centennial Sportsplex on West End. This is also a good option if you are staying downtown. It is a Olympic size pool, set up short course most of the year, except during the summer. They have anywhere between two and seven lap lanes available and the pool is open 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. If you prefer a structured workout, I work for Nashville Aquatic Club as a masters coach and highly recommend you look into joining us for a workout.
If the answer is warm, the local YMCA’s are a great option, if they have enough lanes. They have between three and six lap lanes, depending on the Y. I recommend Maryland Farms in Brentwood at 6:30 p.m., because it is normally quiet then, and it is open until 9:45 p.m. if you are a night owl.
An option in the middle would be also in Brentwood, the Indoor Sports Complex, which is an Olympic size pool with four to eight lap lanes available and is not too warm or too cold.

Open Water. I recommend going with the Nashville Aquatic Club group out to Percy Priest Lake. You can go to the public areas on your own, but some have heavy boat traffic, which is why I recommend a group in a cove.

Natchez Trace Bridge

Natchez Trace Bridge

Bike

If you are downtown, your closest option will be Shelby Bottoms Greenway, from there you can get on roads and follow the Music City Bikeway, which goes all the way to Belle Meade or follow the Music City Bikeway the other way on Shelby Bottoms to the Stones River Greenway, ending at the Percy Priest Dam.

If you are on the west side of town, I recommend either finding the greenways in Percy Warner and Edwin Warner Parks or coming out to where I like to ride on routes near the Natchez Trace. I can provide Strava links to routes or map some, but my favorite is to ride out the Natachez Trace from Highway 100, headed south. You get off at the Lieper’s Fork exit and stop by either Red Bird Coffee or Puckett’s Grocery for a minute and then take back roads back through Franklin. There are a few options for the route back, and I can provide the exact route if someone is interested. It has a lot of rolling hills, but only one significant climb up the trace entrance.

Belle Meade Boulevard

Belle Meade Boulevard

Run

If you want to get out of the city, any of the greenways I recommend for biking are also good for running. Aside from that, I also recommend Belle Meade Boulevard as a good option for running. It connects to an entrance to Percy Warner Park, and is about five miles total if you go out and back. It is a rolling route, and very shaded in the early morning hours, but it will get extremely hot in the afternoons.

There is also a path in Brentwood starting by the Brentwood Library on Concord Road that is very flat if you prefer a flat route, and another path I like in Franklin. This one starts at the soccer fields at the Franklin Recreation Center and goes along the river, through a neighborhood and into downtown Franklin where you can continue onto a new extension I have not run or on to the sidewalks in Franklin.

Those are all of my best suggestions for where to train. I have lived in Nashville since 1996 and once in a while am still finding new places to go run or ride, so I will definitely try to share those with pictures as I stumble upon them.

Singlespeed Cyclocross Build (Part Two)

I ran into some problems with the second half of this build.

Trek Stranglehold Dropout System

Problem 1

TRP brakes.  I’m used to Shimano, where the hose is not attached at the shifter to make for easy installation on an internally routed frame.  I ended up having to cut and bleed both anyway, but it made the routing more complicated than it needed to be, aside from the rear chainstay where Trek has made it as simple as possible where the frame forms a tube for the hose to run through.

Problem 2

I had to warranty my rear brake after installing it and trying to bleed it when we found out the bolt was over tightened, meaning I could not loosen it to bleed the brake.  TRP was very good about it though and promptly shipped a new caliper, and I am able to cannibalize the first one for spare parts.  Then I had to cut the hose again, but it was not as much of a problem this time and the bleed got done.

Problem 3

Not necessarily a real problem, but I hate wrapping bar tape.

Custom Trek Crockett Singlespeed

Overall, this build finished up well, although I do not like bleeding TRP brakes.  The brake levers actually have holes in them, so they look pretty cool in photos, and the bike is fun to ride with perfect gearing.  Learning the dropout system and setting up a singlespeed is a little new to me, but with the help of more experienced mechanics I got it all done.

I Want to Ride my Bike Because

There are so many reasons I want to ride my bike, and sometimes I don’t have the time to actually ride it when I want to. It can be a bad day, a need to train, or just an overwhelming need to go ride a bike. These are a few of my favorites I’ve run into in my life lately.

Trek Domane SL 6

I cried over a sandwich - but to be honest it was a really bad sandwich and not what I ordered. I don’t know why exactly I cried over the sandwich, but I was having a rough morning, and the sandwich topped it off. I got home from work at 8:30 that night and got the trainer set-up and rode my bike, because I really needed to ride my bike.

I haven’t ridden my bike - and I just want to ride bikes all the time. I love my bikes, and I just want to ride them all the time. Unfortunately, school, work, and family can all get in the way of my opportunity to ride my bikes.

I haven’t ridden this exact bike - a personal problem. Not everyone has multiple bikes to choose from like me, but I know one person who has more than me, and he will ride one bike, go home, and then ride another bike, so all of the bikes get ridden. I wish I lived somewhere I could do this easily.

Trek Madone with Bontrager Ion 800 Headlight

It’s 70 degrees out - in December. I remember one Christmas, the weather was so nice, I rode my bike from my parents’ house to my aunt’s house for Christmas dinner. People thought I was a little crazy, but I just thought it was nice to get out in the clear weather.

I built a new bike - yes another one. I love building bikes. It may be a little bit of an obsession I have, because I like having the newest things, but it is also fun for me. I love a project bike.

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

Trek Madone 9 Series

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.

2013 trek Lexa top tube

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.