Sunday, 15 May 2016 13:24

From Couch Potato To Cycling Allegro

TDC Firemen cropped

On July 17th, the American Diabetes Association of Pittsburgh will put on the 25th Tour de Cure charity ride to Stop Diabetes® and raise critical funds for diabetes research, education and advocacy. They have distance options of 10, 30, 50 and 100 miles. In my opinion, even if you don’t ride, you could borrow a bike and do 10 miles (as long as the route is void of climbing). So we encourage that for “family” rides; taking a son or daughter or both out to do 10 miles can be a challenge depending on their age.

While the Cycling Fusion team will indeed be helping a few team members ride their first Century (riding 100 miles in a single day is big milestone in any cyclists journey through the years of riding), I’m actually more excited about a new challenge we are putting out there.

Looking For a Few Good “Couch Potatoes”

I use that expression with affection and understanding. We have all been there, but we know we can’t stay there. So we are looking for some “never-ever” riders, husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend, anyone who knows they need to get moving doing something.

That’s why this blog will start a series focused on those interested in riding their first 30 miles.

Two years ago I trained a young lady from the CW who never rode (she didn’t even own a bike) to do 25 miles, and we had less than 5 weeks to do it. Right now we are about 8 weeks from the TDC which starts and ends at the Seneca Valley High School in Harmony, PA. So for anyone who has been thinking about changing their lifestyle, becoming more active, more healthy this summer - this is just what you need – a concrete goal. Having a tangible goal will not only require some focus and training, but this specific goal has a higher purpose. It’s not just working for yourself, but your can help others at the same time when you ride in the Tour de Cure.

I do know however, that many of my readers are more experienced riders and have already accomplished their first 25 or 30 mile ride. So my challenge for that group is two fold – join our team and ride the 50 or 100 whichever is the next milestone for you as well as recruit at least 1 family member or friend to venture off the couch and on to the bike. We will take a very measured, progressive and “suffer less” approach to the training. We will combine indoor and outdoor riding, with most of the outdoor rides being on the rails to trails and “closed areas” leaving the instructions for sharing the road for the final 2 weeks.

I am specifically looking for “never-ever” riders (childhood biking doesn’t count). Even if you have never ridden with Cycling Fusion before or followed this blog, now is your chance to join us – help us help your friends and family to get over the inertia of “how do I get started”. We also have a network of bike shops, friends and riding buddies who are willing to loan bikes to those who don’t have one – whatever it takes to get them off the couch and on two wheels.

Please contact me personally via the email address listed in my bio/profile on the Post Gazette site.

Published in Cycling
Sunday, 24 May 2015 08:40

So You Want To Ride The MS 150


HeartMonitors natThere are 8 weeks until the Keystone Country Ride and that means there is both no time to waste and plenty of time to prepare.  In other words - you can do this but we have to have a plan, a way to track our progress, and a commitment to be flexible and creative.  Creative? Yes, at times we need to find a way to get our training done;  even if it's seemingly impossible - we need to find a way.

First and foremost is to understand that the only reliable way to measure & track your effort is with a heart monitor.  The cost is considerably less now than in years past, and if you haven’t made the plunge yet to training with a heart monitor, this is now your chance to make that move.  It will forever change how you train the the results you will see.

To help get you on the right track, Cycling Fusion is providing 3 free months to Ride Journal where everything from the creation of your personal training plan to the results of your workouts can be managed.  Use code "PGMS150RJ" to sign up for the free 3 month membership.  If you have an iPhone, you can also get the app Ride Buddy Pro so that your workouts are automatically uploaded.  The graphic below represents the 8 week plan we will be doing together to prepare an “advanced beginner” to ride in this years MS 150 - specifically the Keystone Country Ride.  We consider anyone who has ridden at least 30 to 40 miles, 1 or 2  times, and who rides outside at least once per week to be an “advanced beginner”.MS150 Training Plan

If you want or need more of a challenge than you see above, Ride Journal can be adjusted to each individual.  While this is the “base plan” that we will work from, you should know that Ride Journal will try to fit each person with a personal plan based on their individual riding experience and fitness level.  We will be showing how to use the software to set up your own plan, and we will have video snippets to show the type of indoor workout or outdoor ride that will give you specifics of how to execute the plan as it is presented to you week after week.

For now, there is just two pieces of homework to accomplish:
1.  Secure either a heart strap to use with an iPhone and Ride Buddy Pro (iPhone 4S or higher), or a Garmin heart rate monitor that will upload to the computer.  Other heart rate monitors might work, but these are the only options we have extensive experience with.
2.  Conduct a field test to determine your heart zones (which will be needed to input into Ride Journal).  For this you will want to be on a stationary bike with a smartphone, tablet or laptop connected to the internet.  Here is a link to the free video where I will lead you through doing an indoor ride to establish your zones.  The form to record your results is also shown below.

With those two steps accomplished, you will be ready to set up a training plan that will look very similar to the plan above, and next week we will begin discussing how to use the plan to direct your weekly rides.  Setting up new training plans can be a pain, and somewhat challenging technically, but once it is set up, it will save you time and help insure results in the end. 




Published in Cycling

cool picWhether it's the Rails to Trails like I wrote about in the story on Roaring Run, or the charity ride the Tour De Cure, or even the most famous of all Pittsburgh cycling races The Dirty Dozen, the determining factor for the bulk of the ride difficulty and even overall experience is the climbing required.  The average converted railroad found on the Rails to Trails is no more than a 3% grade because of the nature of the old locomotive engines.  This will feel flat to slightly uphill to most riders.  The average charity ride will begin at a similar level of climbing and fall somewhere short of cycling competition events where climbing is used to separate the field.  The question though becomes how can I tell more speifically what it's going to feel like.  How hard is hard?  How can I know if I need more training before just assume I can handle it.

The metric I intimated I would share with you last week (my final tease of the post) is the number of feet you will climb on a given route per mile of riding covered.  For example, if you ride 20 miles and have 2000ft of climbing, that equates to 100 ft per mile (100ft/mi).  This is the anchor by which all other comparisons - above and below - can be made.  For any rider, this would be considered "a lot" of climbing, with further distinction varying from "hard" to "extremely hard" based on how steep the climbs are. To help put this into perspective, consider another metric of sorts - that being one of the most common milestones or benchmarks of an expereinced (2 - 5 yrs at least) cyclist; that being The Century Ride.  Riding 100 miles in a single day is generally thought of to be something that marks the graduation from "newbie" to veteran rider or beginner to intermediate at least.  The average century has about 6000 feet of climbing or 60ft/mi.  However, centurys can be held in flat states or hilly regions, and this metric will reflect the difficulty by the flat states averaging closer to 2500 feet of climbing in 100 miles with the very hilly areas clocking in in the 6000 + to even 10,000 feet.

Unfortunately, the mere amount of climbing over the entire distance of a ride only paints the overall landscape of the picture.  The real character will further rely on just how steep those climbs are and where they are located on the ride.  When it comes to steepness, consider a few facts.  We've already mentioned rails to trails generally are not over 3% grade and they mostly feel flat.  Consider also that most roads are not built much beyond 7% to 8% with 12% being considered the max except for extreme circumstances (yes, Pittsburgh has many "extreme" circumstances).  Before we talk about the wattage required to produce climbing power, we can use these ranges to factor into our "pre-ride" assessment of a route.  When the average grade for most climbs are 4 to 6 percent one can consider that fairly easy to normal difficulty given that 3% is about the bottom of where you feel the grade.  When most climbs or the average climb begins to average above 7% we are entering the more moderate climbing zone, with double digit grades being the hallmark of "difficult" climbs.  That doesn't mean a moderately difficult climbing route will never have a climb that hits 10 to 12%, but if it does, those sections will likely be very short.

In my next post I will talk about Climbing in the 2015 Dirty Dozen race in Pittsburgh which will be filmed and broadcasted live and for free again this year. 

Published in Cycling

HappyClimber-Spain-smOver the last few weeks, in a bit of a flurry, before the flurries fly, I've been riding potential "Beginner/Intermediate" rides to help finalize the Tour De Cure routes for 2015. Getting this ride "right" is actually more important than any of the other distances since rides between 25 and 35 miles typically represent the first "long" or challenging ride for someone who has been riding long enough to know they want to keep riding, and they now want to take it to the next level.  The shorter rides (often refered to as the "family" category) are typically all flat and are designed to be absolute confidence builders to anyone venturing out on 2 wheels.  The longer rides (35 or 40+) are usually done by riders who have had their initial "baptism" with one of these 25 to 35 mile rides and so they have a lot more mental, emotional and physical latitude than the individual who is about to take their first ride above the Family category.

While there is no universal rating system for how hard or easy a cycling route is, bicyling tour companies typically create their own because of how important it is to try and create a good experience for everyone - here are links to a few examples:  Ciclismo Classico, Trek Travel, Vermont Bicycle Tours.  However, the group that has come up with the simplest method, and one that has no monetary entrapments to influence ratings is The Adventure Cycling non-profit organization.  They not only use mileage ranges, but also try to describe the type and/or amount of climbing.   When it comes right down to it - the biggest determining factor for how hard or easy a ride felt will be directly related to how much climbing you did and how steep those climbs were.  From recreational rider to competitive cyclist, it really is all about the climbing.Awesome DD Climber Small

Unfortunately, there also isn't a universal system for rating how hard or easy a given climb is either - at least not for the average person.  Sure the Tour De France and all other professional cycling events have rating systems for entire races and even climbs (which still vary from one to the other), but they don't really help the newly passionate outdoor rider. To get an idea of how complex it can be to try and rate climbs, you can take a peak at a website called "Climb By Bike" where the link here show a variety of ways climbs are rated and/or categorized. 

As an avid cyclist who has run the gamut from rails-to-trails to racing and vacation touring and now to the melding of it all with indoor cycling, the one thing that remains consistent and necessary is this; one must get a handle on the climbing - sooner or later.  It's really not about the distance, as much as it is about the climbing. 

The hardest ride I ever did in my life was only 12 miles.  One of the easiest rides I've ever done was 100 miles.  From how I felt on the bike during the ride, to how I felt the next day - these two extremes were created due to both the amount and the type of climbing, or lack thereoff.  To that end, I've developed a system for rating routes that have helped me and my students know what to expect on a given ride.  Whether it be for training (coaching my students for a race or an epic big ride) or for an upcoming vacation or charity ride, I have found this method to be very reliable if not predictive.  But, you'll have to return next week to hear what it is... gotta keep you coming back somehow, right? :-)


Published in Cycling

Archway 2 70The American Diabetes Association was very smart to focus on cycling as a key sport and activity for fund raising. Not only do many people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes cycle for fun, some even compete, but many also ride to manage their glucose levels. Cycling can help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes for the 86 million American’s currently at risk for developing the disease. Clearly then, the connection between the two is quite profound. Diabetes is insidious and degenerative in its nature, and it will take its share of cyclists every year, despite their love and dedication to the sport.

The Association is launching its 17th annual Tour de Cure in Pittsburgh to encourage the community to embrace cycling (and physical activities) as part of a critical healthy lifestyle and as a means to raise critical funds to support its mission of research, advocacy and education.

As a follow up from last week’s post on Charity rides, I am using this week’s post to talk about our local American Diabetes Association’s charity ride; The Tour De Cure. While the Tour doesn’t have the two day, 150 mile challenge that the widely popular MS 150 has, it does offer the earliest “big ride” of the season, and it actually is about the best “primer” for the bigger MS ride since it is only 1 day, but still has a 60 mile route that is only 15 miles short of one of the MS ride days.

This year the Tour has partnered with the Greater PGH area YMCAs and my company Cycling Fusion for two big reasons: to help would-be riders meet their required fund raising minimum ($200), and to help them get ready through the winter since the ride is early in the season in May.

After training with Cycling Fusion, one of the “never-ever” (non-rider) on-air personalities from the CW, completed the Tour’s 25-mile route with a mere 5-weeks of prep.   From that point, a natural relationship evolved to develop a plan for helping other riders prepare for the 2015 event. Pushing the creative envelope a little further, the ADA, Cycle Fusion and Y’s have partnered together to offer ways to help cover fundraising minimums for individuals, train for the ride and encourage more people to get involved in this worthy cause.

The event is called The Virtual Cycling Premiere. It's an indoor cycling class taken outdoors, in Market Square; the heartbeat in the center of downtown Pittsburgh.  The ride starts at 8:00pm on Friday night the 19th of September with the PNC YMCA staying open late for riders to shower afterwards before the after-party.  Did I say "party" - I meant for our "liquid carb replenishment" session at one of the very accomodating venues in the square.

For those that can handle 90 minutes, the cost is $75 and all of the funds will go to each person’s individual fund raising account. We have also set up $60 for 60 min and even some 30 minute ride times. This event will be filled with excitement – at night, in the open air, in the middle of Market Square, riding to a virtual cycling video from Maui, Hawaii.  Riding your bike in Hawaii just came to Pittsburgh!

The event will become a perfect Segway into what is rapidly approaching – the “indoor cycling season” – where the ride time outdoors begins to be supplemented a little more each week with indoor rides until those rides become the norm through the winter. We will be talking a good bit more about those in future blog posts.


Published in Cycling
Monday, 08 September 2014 00:00

Charity Rides - It's Not Just For A Good Cause

CharityRideTerriWhile the title is meant to be “tongue n’ cheek”, the organizers of most charity rides would probably agree as a point of fact. They know that it’s not just about raising money for their cause (and there are many good causes out there) or frankly, they would not get as many riders as they do, and thus not raise the money they need. If everyone always gave money simply out of the goodness of their hearts, there would never be a need for a charity ride – everyone would be simply writing checks.  So, it’s OK that there are lots of other benefits to riding in a charity ride in addition to the good that raising money for a good cause can bring.


In general, charity rides are much safer than any other type of riding on open streets shared with moving motor vehicles.  This is for a number of reasons.  First, the general area of the routes have fresh markings on the road or in easily visible spaces for the riders to see, but motorists will notice them as well.  Secondly, volunteers or other police will marshal intersections that are particularly busy; thus raising awareness that something is taking place on the roads, and providing additional safety at the more dangerous intersections. 

Last but not least is the sheer number of riders that typically ride the bigger charity rides.  Naturally the more riders on the road, the sooner drivers will be able to see us, and the more aware drivers will become as they realize there are likely to be more to come on the actual day of the ride.  It might be “more annoying” than usual for drivers that are bothered by sharing the road, but few people complain about a charity needing to raise funds either.


You know how you always tell that person in spin class “We should do a ride together sometime”, or that person in the cubicle next to you at work who always says to you “We’ll have to ride together sometime”? Well a charity ride is the perfect vehicle for these good intentions to be actually put into action.  With the addition of the requirement to raise money, it makes it much less likely that a person will “bail out” at the last minute.

Even though it’s late in the season, here are two more such rides you can still sign up for – both in September. Click on the link below to take you to their site to read more about them and to sign up.

Bike MS: Cook Forest River Ride, presented by Seneca Resources Bike MS: Cook Forest River Ride, presented by Seneca Resources

The 18th Annual Pedal The Lakes


The Significance of Setting a Goal

Sure, these rides have 10 and 20 mile routes, but unless you are riding with the kids (like the 12 and under crowd) why would you pick such a puny goal? Just say “NO!” to puny goals! Set your first charity ride at 25 miles or more, and then the weeks or months leading up to it will suddenly become much more meaningful.   If you do something that you are always prefacing with "it was only..." consider that perhaps you are more than a "it was onlyDo something you have to work for, and it will feel like you've really done something.  Perhaps what is inside you is more like "I trained for ...





Published in Cycling