Drive My Bike


Tour Of Utah Pictures

I was able to catch two stages of the 2009 Tour of Utah last week. Stage 3 was an individual time trial held at Miller Motorsports Park, and Stage 4 was a brutal 96 mile cross country ride ending at Snowbird ski resort. Here are some pictures…

TourOfUtahLogo 

Tour de France alumnus Floyd Landis warming up for the Stage 3 time trial:

ToU_3_LandisWarmup

A local rider representing Canyon Bicycles finishing the Stage 3 time trial:

Tou_3_LocalRider

Lance Armstrong?… No, but a rider for the Trek team with a very cool looking outfit:

ToU_3_NotLance

Yellow Jersey holder Francisco Mancebo looking relieved to finish the brutal 10 mile climb up to Snowbird at the end of Stage 4:

ToU_4_ManceboFinish

Floyd Landis finishes Stage 4:

ToU_4_LandisFinish

Dave Zabriskie, fresh off of the 2009 Tour de France, finishes Stage 4:

ToU_4_ZabriskieFinish 

The winners of Stage 4 on the podium:

ToU_4_StageWinners

Francisco Mancebo, who went on to win the Tour of Utah, with the Yellow Jersey at the end of Stage 4:

ToU_4_ManceboYellowJersey

Attending these races was a lot of fun! I had never been to a bike race before, and wasn’t sure what to expect. The atmosphere was very casual and open, and spectators were free to walk around and visit with the teams. There were some incredible bikes, and lots of excitement in the air. I look forward to next year.

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Father’s Day Ride

Since it was Father’s Day today the family gave me the afternoon off, so I decided to take on my most ambitious ride to date. I rode to the top of a nearby mountain, and I think it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done.

TraverseRidgeSummit

That road off in the distance is the one that I came up to get to the top. For those of you that know Salt Lake City, this is the road at the south end of the valley that goes up Traverse Mountain in Draper. I climbed almost 1600 feet over about 7 miles, and parts of the road are a 10% grade. I didn’t know that when I started, and like I said, I think it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

As soon as I turned onto the main road leading up to the summit the intense stuff started. I shifted down to the lowest gear I had, small ring in front, and largest ring in back. Even though I was geared down so far I still had to fight for every pedal stroke. It felt like I was just crawling up the road, and it took every bit of mental focus I had to keep going. I kept trying to relax my upper body and focus on smooth breathing and smooth pedaling. The road winds around a lot, so you really can’t see what is ahead, and every time I came around a corner I would see more road stretching up the mountain, and I would have to will myself to keep going. It became a game of “just pedal to that tree up there” and then “okay, now just pedal to that signpost”.

I kept up this mental game until I was a little over halfway up, and I kept telling myself that I had come so far that I couldn’t quit now, but finally it overwhelmed me and I decided that I couldn’t go any further, so I pulled over on a part of the road that seemed a little less steep. I say a “little less steep” because I don’t think the grade got below 5% from mile 3 until the top, except for about a 100 yard stretch next to a little pond. I almost fell off the bike when I stopped, because my legs were so shaky. I had some panic “what have I done” kind of thoughts, wondering how I was going to get back down when I couldn’t even stand up. I drank some water and walked around for a few minutes to catch my breath, and then sanity took over again, and I figured I had come so far that I should try to keep going.

I had picked a good place to stop because just around the next bend the road flattened out a good bit for a little stretch, and I noticed a little pond off to the left, so I decided to pull over, enjoy the scenery, and eat a granola bar to see if I could get some energy back.

TraverseRidgePond

I don’t know how long I sat there. It seemed like 5 minutes, but it could’ve been longer. Passing drivers gave me interesting looks as I finished my granola bar and drained my first water bottle. I looked up the road, and guessed that I might be getting close to the top, so since I felt a bit refreshed I decided to soldier on, determined to get to the summit.

Needless to say, I made it, and the picture at the top of this post is the proof that I was there.  I sat and enjoyed my conquest for a few minutes, taking some more pictures, and even sending a text message to my family with a picture, to prove what I had done.

If the ride up was one of the hardest things I ever done, then the ride down was surely one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever done. I’m not sure how fast I ended up going, but I was keeping pace with the cars coming down, so I would guess I probably hit 45-50 miles per hour. That was intense!

On the way down I noticed a sign that I hadn’t seen coming up, and it pretty much sums up the journey…

TraverseRidgeGrade

I’m actually glad that I didn’t see that on the way up, because I think it would have been one more thing to overcome in the mental game.

By the time I got back home I had covered about 25 miles, and had accomplished something that I never would have dreamed of even trying a year ago. We cooked some steaks, and I shared my adventure with my family.

It was quite a Father’s Day!



Understanding Clipless Pedals – The Shoes

If you are new to modern bicycling, or even just unfamiliar with clipless pedals, then the options can be confusing. In my last post about clipless pedals I gave an overview of two of the common clipless pedal systems available. In this post I’m going to talk about the different kinds of shoes that are available.

3ShoesTop

Clipless shoes come in several different varieties. There are shoes for racing, with special kinds for both road and mountain bikes. There are shoes for casual riding, such as commuting or taking a spinning class. There are also specialty shoes, such as sandals. The picture above shows examples of these:

  • On the Left is a racing shoe for Road Bikes. It is equipped with a cleat for a Look clipless pedal.
  • In the Middle is a shoe intended for casual riding. It is what I wear for my daily commuting and my spinning class. It is equipped with a cleat for an SPD clipless pedal.
  • On the Right is a bicycling sandal. The weather has finally gotten warm enough that I wore this sandal last week for my commute. It is equipped with a cleat for an SPD clipless pedal.

What are the differences in these shoes? Basically it comes down to three things, Compatibility, Functionality, and Comfort.

Compatibility is probably the most fundamental difference. The road shoe is compatible with a cleat for a Look pedal, and casual shoe and sandal are both compatible with a cleat for an SPD pedal.

3ShoesBottom

I compared these systems in my previous post, and also mentioned that there are other systems available. Whatever system you choose to use, you will need to make sure that the shoes you buy will accommodate a cleat to work with your pedals.

Functionality is another difference, in other words, what kind of riding are you going to be doing? The racing shoe has a strap system, much like a ski boot, that offers a very secure fit designed for high performance. You can cinch it down tightly for minimal foot movement and maximum power transfer when you are doing serious riding. They are also very lightweight. The casual shoe offers a simple lace up system that is simple and comfortable, with no fancy moving parts. It won’t secure your foot as well as the racing shoe, and it is a bit heavier, but it is great for more casual riding. The sandal… well, it is a sandal. It is intended for rides when casual and comfortable are the theme of the day.

3ShoesSide

Comfort comes in two flavors, on the bike, and off the bike. If you pick a pair of shoes that fit well, then your comfort on the bike should be good, no matter what.

The big difference will come when you get off the bike.

The Look style cleat on the road shoe extends almost a half an inch off of the bottom of the shoe. When you walk in that shoe it can be quite awkward, because you are literally walking on the cleat. It can be slippery on smooth floors, and it is easy to roll an ankle if you aren’t careful. Of course, if you buy a pair of road shoes then you are probably far more concerned about riding in them than walking around.

The SPD Cleat on the other shoes is set into a cutout in the sole, so it is virtually flush with the bottom of the shoe. That means that walking in these shoes feels much more natural and comfortable. You still make a clickety-clack noise when you walk, kind of like wearing tap shoes, and it can get slippery if you step right where the cleat is, so you still have to be careful.

What shoe is best for you? Only you can answer that question. Figure out what kind of riding you are going to do, then go take a look at some of the shoes that are available. Try some of them on and find a pair that is comfortable, then find out what type of cleats those shoes are compatible with and get some pedals to match. Of course, if you have already purchased your pedals, then that will limit your selection a bit. This would be a good time to visit your local bike shop and get their advice. I purchased my shoes at REI, and the people there were very helpful.

Personally, I have chosen to go with the SPD system because I prefer wearing my casual shoes, and I enjoy being able to walk around easily if I ride to the grocery store. The sandals are also compatible with my SPD pedals, and I have decided that I love wearing them in warmer weather. They are so comfortable that I kept them on the entire day last week and wore them around the office and out to lunch. (Yes, we have a very casual work environment).

Another consideration is what to do if you have multiple bikes. If you put the same kind of clipless pedals on all of your bikes, then you might be able to get by with a single pair of shoes. On the other hand, if you are hard core, and can afford multiple shoes and systems, then you may prefer to have specific shoes for specific bikes. The racing shoes actually belong to my friend Jake, and his road bike has a nice set of Look pedals. I’m babysitting Jake’s bike while he is in Africa, and even though his shoes fit me, I really prefer to use my SPD shoes, so I’ve decided to purchase a cheaper set of SPD pedals to replace his Look pedals. (Jake, if you read this, know that I’m taking good care of your baby while you are gone).

Once again, it is all about finding out what works for you. Don’t worry so much about “the rules” here, just try some things and see what you prefer.

I’ve got one more post planned in this series where I will briefly show how to install the cleats on your shoes once you make your purchase.

See you next time….

UPDATE: You can read more about installing cleats on your shoes here.