Simple tricks to increasing speed by 20% off-road


“Learn how to mountain bike faster in minutes by maximising your momentum with this one simple tip. The gains you get will surprise!”

MTB – Line Choice and obstacles


This video whilst seemingly obvious is one of those little things overlooked when trying to eke out every metre in a race. Not racing well it also avoids you losing your line or scrubbing wide and washing out ….

and this one better

Cornering techniques on your MTB


Your cornering position is the one that will provide you the maximum gain of time. If you mange to complicatly integrate the mouvment until you do it instinctively, you will be able to through the bike around in no time with grip and dynamism.

Cornering with Fabien Barel

I have been guilty of leaning into the corners and getting the bike more upright … this is BAD BAD BAD – watch the video to see why

Cycling in the Cold – aka don’t wimp out in winter


My first really cold ride, at -6C, was in January last year doing the the Strathpuffer 24. but preparation made it easy with ice spike tyres …. and enough layers to make an onion scared.

This year i have been hitting the turbo which is not a great thing as there are only so many cardio fat burn whilst watching Breaking Bad sessions I can do

I couldn’t stand the thought of riding indoors again, especially for a two-hour ride. Some will call it justification, but I prefer to call it logic.  Cycling outdoors in the fresh air and sun would be much better for my mental and physical well-being than riding an indoor trainer for two hours.

icy roads
icy roads

No, I didn’t have to ride outdoors; it was a well-thought-out choice, a preference. After doing that first really cold ride, I now know that I can do it and I much prefer being outside than inside.

IS IT SAFE?

I don’t think riding outside in sub-freezing temperatures is necessarily dangerous, but I do believe certain precautions are wise:

  • If the roads are snow-packed or icy, try to choose a route that has low traffic volume.
  • Relearn how to brake – a fistful of brake can see you hit the deck pretty hard
  • Minimize long downhill sections to avoid getting cold from wind chill.
  • A mountain bike, with its wide tires, is more stable than a road bike.
  • Run lower tire pressure to increase traction and handling.
  • Ride with a buddy so that if one of you has trouble, there is another person to lend a hand.
  • Carry disposable chemical hand or toe warmers. They can be put in your shoes if your toes get cold, or can be used to warm your hands if you have to do a mechanical repair.
  • Carry a cell phone.
  • Have someone available to pick you up if you call for help.

HOW DO YOU DRESS FOR SUB-FREEZING CYCLING?

I’m sure you already know that some people show up in a jersey and knee warmers for the same ride that someone else will be wearing leg warmers, arm warmers, a vest and a base layer shirt. I’ll give you my personal preferences for cold-weather riding gear, but know that I get cold easily.

Recently, I did a ride where the temperature ranged from 10.9 degrees to about -2C degrees, not counting wind chill. I’ll take you through my outfit from head to toe.

Helmet
and ear muff thing

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Merino inner layer
Rapha long sleeve Jersey
Rapha Gilet
Rain Jersey – more as emergency extra windproof layer

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rapha 3/4 bibs
old arm warmers as lower leg warmers (leg warmers may be better)

Shimano shoes and neoprene covers

Gloves long fingered but not very thick

If the weather gets colder i sometimes wear my Nike running tights over the cycling bib and a thicker jersey over the long sleeve on instead of the Gilet. A neck warmer is handy too for the chin.

WHAT ARE YOUR TIPS FOR WINTER ADVENTURES?

10 tips to winter proof your bike


road.cc

Photo by Carlos Almendarez

Riding through the winter can be punishing for your road bike, all that rain, mud and salt can quickly bring it to a grinding halt.

Whether you’re commuting every day or training for an event next year, or just heading out at weekends, it does pay to pay closer attention to your bike if you want it to keep working smoothly through the winter months.

Here are our 10 top tips for looking after your bike this winter.

1. Keep it clean

Washing your bike frequently might seem like a chore, but it’s vital to wash away any dirt and muck accumulated straight after a ride, washing the bike when it’s still wet is far easier than letting the road muck dry onto the frame and components. Horse droppings have a particularly tenacity on a bicycle frame. If riding on gritted and salted roads, it is especially important to wash your bike as soon as possible, otherwise you’ll come back to your bike the next time you ride it to find some rusty parts.

A bucket of hot soapy water and a good sponge or brush is all you need, and doesn’t have to take all that long. You don’t have to be absolutely thorough every time you wash the bike, the main thing is to get the worst of the grime and muck off. There are a raft of specialist bike cleaners and degreasers available that will make a proper job of cleaning your bike and that can make even giving it a quick once over that bit more effective too.

2. Lube that chain

Once you’ve cleaned your bike, a good wet lube is an ideal choice for winter riding. The drive train consists of many expensive parts, and if left un-lubed these will simply wear out more quickly, work less effectively while they do so while making a sound like a load of hungry mice that have just spotted a large lump of cheese.

So invest in a decent lube – don’t skimp now – and keep the chain running smoothly over the cassette and chainset. Wet lubes are good at this time of year because they last a long time and work well in adverse conditions. It’s best to apply lube to a clean degreased chain, so it’s the first thing you want to do after washing the bike.

3. Winter tyres

If you’e bike is running them it’s worth swapping out the sub-200g race tyres for some heavier duty puncture resistant tyres in the winter. There are many available with thicker sidewalls and reinforced breaker belts sandwiched between the rubber tread and carcass.

Some manufacturers make tyres with a rubber compound designed to provide a little more traction on wet roads, generally it will be a softer compound. A softer compound will wear out more quickly however. It’s the rubber compound and not the tread pattern – those sipings and grooves make marginal difference on such narrow tyres – that is key to a tyres traction on wet roads.

Wider tyres are a good choice for the winter, as they can be run at lower pressures so offering extra comfort and grip, from the little increase in contact patch. How wide a tyre you can fit depends on your bicycles. Typically race frames won’t take anything wider than 23mm, or 25mm at a push. Many touring and commuting bikes, and the new breed of endurance bikes, will take up to 28 and 32mm tyres quite happily.

It’s good to keep a regular eye on your tyres. When you’re washing your bike, have a close look at the entire tread of the tyre, and remove any flint, glass or sharp stones that might be buried in the tread.

Buyers guide: The best tyres to get you through the winter.

4. Tyre pressure

When the roads are wet, letting a bit of air out of your tyres can increase grip by slightly increasing the size of the contact patch. A little less air will also improve the tyre’s ability to absorb vibrations from riding over rough roads, so you get more comfort too.

I regularly run my tyres at about 90-95psi during the winter, and softer than that if the roads are likely to be really wet. You don’t have to inflate the tyres to the 120psi maximum indicated on the side of the tyre, that’s just a guideline, in fact one school of thought is there is no actual gain from inflating a road tyre above 100psi in any conditions.

5. Preventing punctures

During the winter the roads can become coated in glass, flints and debris just lying there waiting for an unsuspecting cyclist to trundle over. Believe me it’s no fun fixing a puncture when it’s lashing down with rain. Slightly more fun maybe than waiting for a friend to fix a puncture in the rain, that is.

Slime-filled inner tubes, or adding some liquid latex to your existing inner tubes, can help to reduce a flat when something sharp cuts through the tyre deep enough to hit the inner tube. You can buy protective strips that go between the tyre and inner tube, acting as a breaker belt in a tyre, which while adding weight and reducing the ride performance a bit, will greatly reduce the potential for a puncture. I’ve heard people to slice up an old inner tube and lay it as a strip between tyre and inner tube.

Going tubeless is another good choice. Alghough it’s an expensive upgrade if you don’t have tubeless-ready wheels, the main benefit of tubeless is that there is no inner tube to puncture, with the space occupied by a small amount of liquid sealant. When something sharp goes through the tyre, not only is there no inner tube to pop, but the sealant will react with oxygen and plug the hole.

6. Mudguards

One way to prevent a lot of the water and filth being sprayed all over your bike as it’s churned up by the wheels, is to fit some mudguards. Not only do they keep the road spray of your body, but they can help to protect the bicycle, including the brake calipers and front mech, and bearings in the headset.

If your frame is designed for mudguards, then a set of traditional full-length mudguards is a sound investment. They offer the most protection for you and your bike. If you don’t have mudguard eyelets on your frame, fret not, there are many mudguards that simply clip on to the frame. Their advantage is they are very light, and can be easily removed.

Buyer’s guide: Mudguards for keeping you dry this winter

7. Avoid rust

Treating those components likely to rust quickly during harsh, wet conditions with a corrosion  preventative such as ACF50 will make sure your bike lasts the winter, and that under the encrusted dirt lies a gleaming, unsullied machine just waiting for the restorative flush of hot, detergent-filled water.

8. Regular maintenance

Winter accelerates the wearing process of mechanical components, so it’s worth checking them regularly, monthly at the very minimum, but more frequently if you ride a lot of miles. Brake pads will wear out much more quickly in the poor conditions they’re having to deal with, so keep an eye on the pads. Most brake blocks will have a wear line indicator, so don’t let yourself get caught out with rapidly disappearing brake blocks. It’s also worth checking the condition of the blocks regularly, to make sure they are wearing evenly, and remove any grit that might have lodged in the grooves.

If you have disc brakes you might find it easier to pop the wheel out to have a closer inspection at the brake pads. Sintered brake pads are preferable to organic pads in the winter as they’re harder wearing, so will last longer.

While you’re checking the brakes, pay some attention to the condition of the rims. Are they very concave in shape? That’s the sign the rim is wearing out, and for safety reasons you don’t want to be riding on rims with a dramatically concaved rim wall. I’ve seen the result of a rim wall collapsing because it was so worn out. It wasn’t pretty.

The drivetrain gets a hammering in the winter, and it’s the most expensive collection of parts on your bike. Replacing the chain, cassette and chainset in one go will hit your wallet hard, but an easy way to extend the life of the chainrings and cassette is to regularly replace the chain.

Popping a new £20-40 chain on your bike at regular intervals will save you money in the long run, and is a lot cheaper than buying a new cassette and chainrings when the whole lot wears out at the same time. Some people will replace the chain every couple of thousand miles, if they’re keeping track. Or you could buy a chain check tool that, while seemingly an expensive purchase, will save you money in the long-term.

9. Check gear and brake cables

Water can get into the gear and brake cable housing, and over time will reduce the performance of your gear shifts and braking performance. Changing the cables at regular intervals – cables are relatively cheap – is a good idea. Removing the cables, cleaning them and adding some lube as you insert into the cable housing can bring a tired set of cables back to life.

Lined and coated cables for gears and brakes offer a low maintenance solution. The likes of Jagwire produce cables sets with a proprietary L3 liner and Fibrax make a Pro-formance sealed cable kit, which should keep gears and brakes working smoothly through the winter grind.

10. Slippery coating

A top tip from the British Cycling squad is one that stops mud sticking to the frame and other components as easily. A silicone spray, widely available, can be used on the frame and parts of the transmission with the idea to create a slippery surface that dirt and mud just can’t stick too.

Be sure not to get it anywhere near the braking surface though. You could use a car wax polish instead for a heavier duty coating on the frame.

A study in the Art of Descending


Here is a youtube clip of Cancellara descending – he was a yellow jersey holder at the time but had suffered a rear flat and because his team thought he was going to lose his yellow jersey anyway in the mountainous stage they left no teammate to help him chase back to the peloton. He wouldnt give up though ….

It is the most amazing sequence. Not just the extraordinary skill of perhaps the finest descender we have ever seen. But give credit to the motorcycle team who had to do this with a pillion rider on the bike and to the producer who at some moment decided just to let the sequence run – for almost the whole seven minutes.

If you regard yourself as disinterested in cycle racing – perhaps a pure cycle commuter – I suggest you watch this and imagine. At some time this chap is going to retire from racing. Can you see him riding to work in a traffic jam near you?

In Light of todays weather: tips for riding on snow and ice


Before you set off…

Maximise your contact patch. Road bike tyres have a larger contact patch on the road than a more knobbly mountain bike tyre, and you can maximise that precious contact further by fitting a wider tyre, and/or not running it at quite such a high pressure. That said, in snow or looser conditions a treaded tyre or even a lightly knobbed MTB or cyclocross tyre will give extra grip.

Flat pedals – okay you may be sacrificing some pedalling efficiency but you are buying some get out of jail extra control if things go wrong.

Ever thought about a fixed? This is the time of year when continuous drive really does come into its own – a fact known to old school roadies through the ages. You can slow a fixed bike down on ice without using the brakes and while maintaining traction and power to the back wheel. That’s a very good thing when its slippery.

Get down! Some people suggest that you lower your saddle slightly, so lowering your centre of gravity. The other advantages of dropping the saddle are that it’s easier to get your feet down flat on the road should you suddenly need to use God’s stabilisers, and less dramatically but just as usefully it makes it easier to start off sitting in the saddle when things are really slippy. That extra weight can the be difference between the getting the traction needed to move and having your back wheel slip with potential painful top tube consequences.

Did we mention it’s cold? An extra layer on top of what you would normally wear in winter is a good idea. Not only is it much colder than most of us are used to but the state of the roads means you are likely to be riding slower than your normal pace, so you may not be generating the same levels of heat.

Pay particular attention to your hands and feet
Feet: overshoes, thermal socks and winter boots are all a good idea. Cold feet make for a miserable ride.

Hands: It’s even more important to keep these warm than your feet – trying to control your bike with two blocks of ice on the ends of your arms is not pleasant on any level. Good gloves are a must and glove liners – even inside thermal gloves if you feel the cold – are a good idea too, as are covers over the brake levers and grips (if your bike has flat bars). The benefit here is twofold: not only do they reduce the windchill to your hands but they also reduce the chilling effect on metal brake levers and bars with thin grips. Metal conducts the cold very efficiently, an argument if ever you needed one for upgrading to carbon levers or taking the budget option with some plastic ones.

On the road

Choose your road. You may normally keep to the quieter back roads, but they aren’t usually treated when the ice and snow hits so in terms of keeping upright they are going to be the most difficult. The main roads will be clearer, even so you still need to take care.

Keep away from the kerb. Riding too close to the kerb is not a good idea at the best of times, it limits your room for manouvre and it’s where all the crap from the roads tends to accumulate. Add to that the hazard of ice and snow – even on main roads it’s the one bit of the road that doesn’t tend to be cleared – and it becomes a real no-no. Also, where main roads cross minor ones the ice and snow often fans out from the side road in to the carriageway – best keep away from it. Plus, if you are going to fall off you don’t want to be doing it within head cracking range of a kerbstone.

Give yourself longer to stop. It takes longer to stop safely or even to slow down on icy surfaces. Factor that in to your calculations when approaching junctions or making any other manoeuvre that is going to involve slowing down or stopping. It’s amazing how quickly most people’s brain’s make this adjustment. Oh, and remember it’s going to take other people longer to  slow down too.

Choose your line… If you can. The simplest way of avoiding problems when riding on  ice roads is to choose the dry line where possible. Last year in many parts of the country the weather was very cold but also dry, so the roads weren’t uniformly covered in ice; rather it was lying in patches on the road or in gutters, or if you were really unlucky where some run off water had frozen so the dry line wasn’t always a straight one. Of course sticking to the dry line is not always possible, such as now where in much of the country compacted snow on untreated roads has simply frozen… so what do you do then?

Riding over ice…

Lay off the front brake. Most of us know the old mantra “your front brake is for slowing down, your back brake is for stopping” but the bit that usually gets missed out is “except on ice where you really don’t want to be losing any of your front wheel’s traction. At all.” Haul on the front brake going over ice and any loss of control at the front is going to be sudden and very hard to recover from.

The ideal thing to do if you find yourself riding across a stretch of icy road is to smoothly pedal through it. If you need to slow down… the ideal thing is to be on a fixed. If you’re not on a fixed then gentle braking on the back is your best bet – in countries where ice is more the norm some cyclists practice making the back step out under hard braking so that they will know what to do when it happens on ice. If you do feel the need to use the front brake do it with the back and do it so lightly that the front wheel never stops rolling, we’re talking gently scrubbing off speed, as we’ve already said you really don’t want to lose traction at the front.

If the back does step out under braking the first thing to do is stop braking, you also need to make an instant decision to either pedal, or get a foot or even both feet down.

Choose your line. Again. Yes we already said that, but there’s more. If there is a worn or dry line through the ice try to use it, but you may need to make a call here because the dry line may not be in the place you want to be on the road so you will need to proceed with caution. This situation is more likely to apply on minor roads or ones with a steep camber on which heavier vehicles have worn away the ice and snow more on one side – on these roads you would hope that other road users would also be proceeding with extreme caution too. Don’t let your natural desire to stay on your bike at all costs cloud your judgement.

The other thing to consider when choosing your line is the camber of the road. Many of the roads around road.cc towers have a steep off camber that’s fine under normal conditions but when it’s icy means that not only is the ice against you but so is gravity – you are trying to ride across a slope and your tyre’s contact patch is on the side rather than directly underneath you. The best place to be from a traction point of view is on top of the camber which is right in the middle of the road, it may actually be the only place that’s rideable. If it is, use your common sense. On quiet straight roads where you can see and be seen it may be doable, otherwise get off and walk to the next section where you can ride. There’s no dishonour in dismounting.

Keep it smooth. Avoiding sudden changes of direction and maintain a smooth pedalling action – it really pays off. Many experienced ice riders also say that you shouldn’t ride in too low a gear mainly because it’s harder to keep things smooth if you are really spinning the pedals – and potentially the back wheel.

Keep pedalling. Try keeping both feet on the pedals while you are moving – however, you may want to be able to get your feet off quickly to dab the ground and help in correcting any slides. The suggested method of dealing with your front wheel sliding is to relax your ankle on the opposite side to the slide and either dip your knee out or dab your foot to drag the bike out of the slide. In our  experience though though this is only going to work at lower speeds… so you might want to keep it down.

Don’t panic! This should probably be first on the list. Keep your head, neck and shoulders relaxed – what you don’t want to do is to stiffen up and get twitchy… twitchiness can cause problems.

If you’re properly equipped riding in the ice and snow is good fun, no honestly it is, but it’s not compulsory. You won’t get a medal for it so if you think conditions are too tough give yourself a break and get the bus/tube/walk or stay at home and noodle about on your favourite road cycling website… is hopefully that’s this one.