Friday, September 27, 2013

About to Break: are You Prepared for Cold?

"But you live in Florida!" Is the response I always get, each season when conversations regarding cold-weather cycling clothes come around. However, talk to any serious athlete and they would tell you the key to staving off injury and ensuring a healthy expenditure of energy is treating your body right and giving it what it needs. This might not always be what your head convinces you is the best plan of action.

Don't Trust the Weather Man
While all the apps in the world might project the temperature for the morning ride to be 65F, they are not calculating any wind chill from you moving on your bike. Just because you roll your bike out and aren't shivering doesn't mean you are experiencing the actual temperature while riding. Through the colder months it takes experience and listening to your body to know the best way to compensate.

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes 
There are several major places on a cyclists body that can be negatively effected by cold weather riding. Your joints can be negatively effected by the cold, even if your mind tells you it is not cold out. High-stress joints, such as one's patella area (knee cap) do not have much blood flow and take longer to warm up. So even if your core, quads and glutes are feeling great, you could still be adding stress on your body because of how far behind your knee cap is in the warm up process.
In fact, a good rule of thumb is "70 degrees, cover your knees." Don't believe me? Think this is ridiculous? Well let me throw some science at you! The patella tendon goes right over the knee cap. Because of the lack of blood flow and the poor positioning in the wind, it is naturally very tight in the wind and feels much colder due to the wind chill factor. Tendons are like rubber bands, ever stretched a cold rubber band? it doesn't. 
Also, the vastus medialis is a large muscle just under the inner side of the quads. Because of it's angle of connection to the knee cap joint the vastus medialis is crucial in a healthy knee tracking. Because of its size it takes a long time even in optimum weather conditions to warm up, and even longer in the cold. Until it is warmed up, your knee will not be tracking in a healthy rotation. 

Not Too Hot, Not Too Cold
Luckily for us cyclists, there are tons of different weights, wind protections, and body part specific coverings for cold weather riding. This allows everybody to find the exact combination that fits them in all chilly situations.

Arm, Leg & knee Warmers
A very easy way to make sure you are not hurting your body but still be comfortable is using leg, knee or arm warmers. These items are often wind proof and only cover the rider's limbs. This allows you to change your clothing with the weather. All these items are small enough to take off and put in a back pocket. They also provide no warmth to the core, which is often the last part of the body to need help in cold situations.
A great example of these type of products are the Gore Oxygen SC knee warmers. With Windstopper technology they are able to allow the knees to warm up without unnecessary insulation.

Wind Jackets & Vests
A great way to check if you are appropriately protected is if you are cold standing still but warm while riding. Because a rider's body is heating up, there is not a lot of insulation needed, the main focus is stopping the wind from cooling down the body too much.
Wind jackets, like the Cannondale Morphis jacket are perfect for this function. Not only do they provide complete wind protection to the upper body, but the magnetic sleeves detach to become a vest. This allows the body to cool down, because nobody likes being too hot.

Ear Coverings
Everybody is different but for me, my ears are one of the first parts of my body to become uncomfortably cold. It starts a chain reaction, first my ears get cold, then my head starts to hurt, then I curse the excellent ventilation of my helmet, then the ride is no fun. If you've ever been there, you want to look into something to cover your ears. Gore's Bike Headband is a great example of finding warmth without fighting a beanie into your helmet!

These items are often overlooked in importance of fighting cold. It is an easy step, many companies provide the same level of padding as their warm weather options in a full finger style. Gloves should be one of the first steps in covering up. When it comes to shifting and braking, fingers that are slowed and stiff due to cold do not work. The Giro Gilman gloves are a great option for cold in the great state of Florida. A insulated covering is not always necessary. Often times it only takes a barrier.

While your upper body is being hit by wind, your feet are actually being hit by three fronts: wind, and rotational wind from pedaling as well as any water from wet roads or puddles. To make sure you do not throw your very expensive, very ventilated road shoes in anger towards your purple toes, try out some bootie coverings. This allows the fit of your shoes to stay the same but adds wind/water resistance on the outside of the shoe. Pearl Izumi Elite Toe Covers (we call them 'booties' because it's way more fun) are a great example of how to keep your toes as happy as you are on the bike!

Everybody is different when it comes to cold weather riding. Starting the learning process in Florida is a great location due to its timid temperatures when it comes to our "winter." No matter what, don't let the cold dictate your off season. Winter months can be the most enjoyable season for cycling and add yet another facet of how you love riding.  Get educated, get equipped and get riding!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Aero Minded: Helmets that do More than Save your Head

Helmets are a standard on any ride. Many cyclists refuse to ride with anyone not sporting the 'mushroom head' look. For years helmets have been a necessary inconvenience to better your odds of walking away from a crash.
However, This year, at the Tour de France, helmets were on everybody's mind (literally). Every brand seems to come to the realization that in a sport that revolves around effective power and aero positioning, the helmet has been overlooked.
Brands like, Giro, Specialized and even smaller helmet manufacturers like Kask are producing drag-conscious helmets no longer reserved for the TT stages.

Air Attack Shield by Giro

Giro really went back to the basics when designing the Air Attack. Creating prototype after prototype, and only changing to improve function, they came up with the shape we see now on such teams as Rapha-Focus, Garmin-Sharp and the 2013 British Olympic Track Team. With the built-in "shield" that continues the aero profile over the riders eyes, the air attack has become a complete package. Here's a great video on the time and effort put into creating it:

Bambino by Kask
Kask hit the market with a bang during the 2012 Tour de France. Team Sky's TT machine sporting funky looking, bob-tailed, aero helmets. Sky being known for using only equipment scientifically proven to improve the rider's performance, the helmets were not taken lightly. Kask states that the Bambino is more aero than a true, full-tailed aero position helmet because it is still aero if the rider breaks position. While it may look like a sun-powered oven for your head, the two-layer construction keeps air flowing through the infrastructure of the helmet, cooling the head it protects.
Here's why Sky decided to go with Kask:

Coming soon...
Evade by Specialized

While some may think Specialized is late to the party, they have actually been looking at air flow of their helmets for some time now. The S-Works Prevail boasted a drastic improvement on rider's over all speed while still maintaining a level up in ventilation.
The Evade is simply the next impressive step in the S-Works evolution. I could ramble off some numbers and stats, but we would all rather watch the very handsome, Mr. Chris Riekert talk about their newest head piece. Also, here's a picture of Chris when he thought he should have a moustache!

I'm sure there will always be a place for the helmets that sacrifice wind-flow for comfort and ventilation. However, with the type of effective improvements all companies producing aero helmets are boasting, it is not hard to see that this could be a strategy that sticks around for some time.