Cycling Center Dallas Blog
Cycling Center Dallas Blog
Here we talk about all things cycling - training, wattage, group rides, bike rallies, triathlons, weather, coaching, coaches, nutrition, ponderings, musings, and equipment! If you have a topic or a question, send us a note and we'll try to answer for you!
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Coach Wharton

Stage 20: 21 Days, 21 Tips for Cycling in July! Why do you Ride?!


Why do you ride? I'm sure there are lots of reasons, but it's something you should reflect on frequently. Here's a short story about a Monk and his students. I hope you enjoy the parable!

One day a Zen teacher saw five of his students return from the market, riding their bicycles. When they had dismounted, the teacher asked the students,  "Why are you riding your bicycles?" 

The first student replied, "The bicycle is carrying this sack of potatoes. I am glad that I do not have to carry them on my back!" The teacher praised the student, saying, "You are a smart boy. When you grow old, you will not walk hunched over, as I do." 

The second student replied, "I love to watch the trees and fields pass by as I roll down the path." The teacher commended the student, "Your eyes are open and you see the world." 

The third student replied, "When I ride my bicycle, I am content to chant, nam myoho renge kyo." The teacher gave praise to the third student, "Your mind will roll with the ease of a newly trued wheel." 

The fourth student answered, "Riding my bicycle, I live in harmony with all beings." The teacher was pleased and said, "You are riding on the golden path of non-harming." 

The fifth student replied, "I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle." Upon hearing THIS, the teacher went and sat at the feet of the fifth student, and said, "I am your disciple."


The Tour de France is about MORE than just a single winner. It's about strain, stress, teamwork, individual pursuits, and survival. When you ride, think about where you've been on your two-wheeled journey, today and in the past, where you are, and where you're going, with the goals you've set. 

Cycling Center Dallas is here to help ALL cyclists achieve their goals and get more out of every single ride.  

Coach Wharton

Stage 18 - 21 Days, 21 Tips for Cycling in July! "What's in YOUR Pocket?"


Cycling is a pretty minimal activity. You just throw a leg over a bike, and start pedaling. However, most people want to stay connected, or have a way to get out of trouble if something should occur when out on a ride. That's why bike jerseys have pockets, and bike shops sell saddle bags!

Let's take a look at what's inside my jersey pocket/saddle bag.

Currently, I keep the following on my person:

  • Phone (Charge it, but don't necessarily look at it! Keep it protected from sweat and moisture).
  • Tire Tube Patch Kit - the new superpatches work great!
  • Tire sidewall patch kit. Park Tool makes something that will get you home.
  • Tire Tools (I carry three, since these tend to snap in two at times).
  • One extra tube (make sure it's the right size (650c, 700c), and that the nipple is long enough to fit in any of the new, aero wheel rims).
  • TWO Co2 cartridges (always carry a backup just in case - cartridges can be finicky).
  • A "Cool-Tool", with allen wrenches, maybe a philips head and regular head screwdriver on there, maybe even a chain-breaker...
  • Money - I usually carry two $10 bills.
  • Business Cards. Because, well, you never know...

You can add or subtract from this list, but it's always a good idea to be prepared. Take a maintenance 101 class at your local bike shop as well, because you'll end up with a good idea of what to do if you experience something when cycling.

Remember - the vast majority of your rides will be event-free: Cycling should be mundane. But it never hurts to be prepared, mentally, physically, and equipment-wise!

Being prepared means knowing what causes events and anomalies to occur, and riding in a way that those events are much less likely to happen in the first place. Being fit and improving through our classes will help you be more prepared.

Coach Wharton

Stage 16: 21 Days, 21 Tips: LONG RIDES!

LOng Rides

While the riders of the Tour de France are used to being in the saddle for 3 to 7 hours every day, day after day, that's a luxury you and I can probably not afford. Instead, we have to plan our long rides accordingly.

North Texas is lucky, in that we have great routes that leave from popular bike shops every weekend, and we're also fortunate enough to have a FANTASTIC bicycle rally calendar! I prefer the rallies, but you'll certainly get something out of every event, local, regional, or otherwise.

Preparing for a long ride requires some logistics. Here's an example:

On Friday night of last week, in order to prepare for a rally on Saturday, I did the following:

ABC Quick Check - Checked the air pressure on my tires, made sure the brakes were touching the rims in the right places and not rubbing the tires, lubed and cleaned the chain, and then checked the bike over for cracks, dings, rips in the saddle, etc. If you do this the night before, you can always fix it at home, instead of scrambling at the start of the ride.
Checked to ensure that my shoes, helmet, gloves, glasses, and sunscreen were in the car. Honestly, since I'm a cycling coach by trade, I always carry an extra helmet and shoes, just in case.
I prepared and chilled my bottles and Camelbak (YES, I drink a Camelbak as a fast road cyclist, and I'm not ashamed of it. My safety and health are more important than a verbal jibe). ALWAYS BE PREPARED. I carry extra fluids, and I drink on a schedule.
I also checked my saddle bag to make sure I have tubes, Co2 cartridges, cool-tool, tire tools, patch kits, and some cash. Because you never know.
Before the ride itself began, I repeated my ABC-Q check, made sure my Camelbak was working (clogged hoses are bad, really bad), and made sure I had some food in my pocket as well, just in case.

Car keys - well, find a spot to put them, because I think they're better served closer to the car, in case, well... just in case you get sidetracked. Do NOT lock your keys in the car!!

For the ride itself, whether you're alone or with others, remember these three rules:

BE VISIBLE, both to oncoming traffic and upcoming traffic.
SIGNAL YOUR INTENTIONS. I don't care if it's dorky, use your hand signals and communicate with all the other road users.
CONTROL YOUR POSITION IN THE LANE. I know it's controversial, but you're safer in the lane than on the shoulder, and if you're visible, upcoming motorists can always prepare to pass safely, or wait until that is possible. If you're slogging it out at a slow speed, and you can 'sense' a queue of motorists behind you, well, do the courteous thing and pull over. It's an easy way to avoid conflict. Let them pass.
If you're solo, make sure you know the route, and make sure that others know where you're going, how long you'll be, and when they might expect your return. Something as simple as a note on a fridge or windshield can make a difference if others are looking for you, and you're out on the side of a road with a broken bike that can't be fixed on the spot.

ALWAYS drink early, drink often, and drink on a schedule. Any rides over 90 minutes, go ahead and eat a bar or waffle. It's far better than bonking, and dragging yourself or others home at a delayed pace. And finally, PLEASE consider cycling without earbuds. I'm convinced that hearing is a great way to plan for and avoid pending events, and I just see too many looks of surprise when I pass cyclists with earbuds, even after I've been announcing myself for the past ten or fifteen seconds, clearly.

There's no concrete definition to the term "Long". A long ride can be an hour, a morning, a day, or a voyage of many days. Work within your limits, train smart and hard, and watch that definition change as your body adapts and becomes more powerful!
Long Rides are one of the most enjoyable aspects of cycling, and the reward is looking back at what you've accomplished with satisfaction. If you have questions about how we can help you accomplish a longer ride, be it a rally, or even the Hotter 'n Hell 100, come by the studio some evening, and introduce yourself. We'd love to help - after all, that's what coaching is all about!

Coach Wharton

Stage 12: 21 Days of the Tour de France, 21 Tips for Cycling in July! - DESCENDING!!


As much fun as we're having watching the climbs in the Tour de France, the DESCENDING has been phenomenal!

Road bikes are really amazing machines. They're lightweight, aerodynamic, stiff, yet comfortable, and they're suspending hundreds of pounds between two wheels, put together with carbon fibre and steel or aluminum spokes. Descending on a bicycle should be done with safety in mind first, and confidence in your own abilities, as well as the bicycle's braking system.

To begin, think about the word "modulation". Modulating your brakes means that you can squeeze them more gently, and apply braking power on a steady basis, instead of just squeezing for an "all or nothing" approach. Brakes work best when you start early. Then, as your speed declines, you can increase or decrease the pressure, which will decrease or increase your speed as you descend.

Davis Phinney taught me, back in 2005, to always descend in the drops, and not on the hoods. This does two things: It lowers your center of gravity, but it also allows you to 'Stretch' the bike, and apply force to both the saddle, pushing backwards, and the bars, pushing forwards. When you do this, you can control the bike better, and descend with more confidence.

Even though you may be descending and your body may be in an unusual position, ALWAYS keep your chin up, and your eyes forward, so you can see the road. There may be debris or potholes to avoid, there may be something requiring more braking, slower traffic, etc. Likewise, whether you're passing someone, or they're passing you, even in the wind, COMMUNICATE VERBALLY. ALWAYS announce yourself when passing!!!

Descending requires knowledge of your balance. When making a turn, brake early, and pedal backwards until the OUTSIDE FOOT is at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Then, when you start the turn, you can lean in to it a little better, and use your inner thigh on the straight leg to help with steering.

There is VERY little steering in descending, but a LOT of leaning.

Descending requires some core body work and balancing skills to improve, so don't hesitate to contact a coach or trainer at CCD or OBC who can help.

Whether your descents are just a few seconds, or as long as half an hour, there are ways to improve your cycling abilities through bike fit, fitness, skills clinics, and resistance/balance training. Contact Coach Tracy Christenson for a quick chat, and set up an appointment today!

Coach Wharton

Stage 11: 21 Days, 21 Tips for Cycling in July! LONG CLIMBS!!!

Speed and Slope and Watts
Image courtesy of Alex Simmons and Ric Stern Coaching. 

Okay, today's stage of the Tour de France is a big one. There are six climbs, each several miles long, and they are steep, like 60-90 minutes at 6-10% steep. The Tour is at its' midpoint, and now it's a real game of attrition, and spending some of the energy that may have been saved somewhere in the first week.

Climbing long and steep hills requires patience, knowing your gears, knowing your abilities, and knowing how to pace yourself. As the gradient increases, your natural pedaling speed will slow down, and there won't be as much inertia to carry you for more than a second or two. Riders literally begin to decelerate between pedal strokes.

The trick is to keep your chin up, keep your chest out, ride relaxed on the hoods, and set a tempo of intensity that you know you can hold. When you get to a hairpin turn or a corner, move away from the edge of the road. That position has a slightly lesser gradient, it puts you out in traffic where you'll be MORE visible, and it allows you, the cyclist, to see further up the road.

If it's especially long, you'll need to stand up out of the saddle now and then, and when you do, go ahead and shift in to a HARDER gear to start off, just so you can get a little extra torque. Continue to look UP. I see far too many cyclists ride their bikes with their heads down, and the effect is both physiological and psychological. Besides - there's still so much to see, even on climbs and at slow speeds!

Just keep turning the legs over, stay seated and upright (aero doesn't matter much below 12mph), and let your body pull you, like a front-wheel drive car, toward the top.

If it's TOO steep, you may have to 'criss-cross' the road, but this is a much more advanced maneuver, and it is NOT recommended for beginner or recreational cyclists.

Likewise, depending on your fitness, you may have to dismount, take a break, and even walk. There's NO shame in doing that. I see it in rallies all the time. When you remount, make sure you're in a gear that you can turn over easily, be in a position on the road where you're visible, and angle your bike out just a bit, and not just straight up the road, so you can get your balance and begin pedaling without getting too wobbly.

Whatever your method is for conquering hard, long hills, just remember - the view from the top is epic, and the trip back down is SO worth it! We'll cover descents soon.
Climbing on a bike is all about stamina and strength. Cycling Center Dallas and Online Bike Coach are here to help you improve both!

Coach Wharton

21 Days, 21 Tips for Cycling in July! Day 7: Fatigue!


I thought this post for Friday would be perfect; it's all about Fatigue.

Fatigue is what happens when you've been working hard at something, but it's something that takes time, is arduous, and leaves you a little less sharp, a little slower to act. It is increased by intensity, time, and weather conditions.

Today marks Stage 7 of the Tour de France. The riders are doing everything they can to offset fatigue. They're focusing on NOT burning energy. Micah McKee, my first cycling coach, taught me "Why stand when you can sit, why sit when you can lie down." Everything is banked in anticipation for the moment when that energy will have to be used.

The best way to offset fatigue is to train on a regular basis. When you train, fitness is never immediate. You have to overcome the inertia of being stationary. Once you get going, however, it's important to make training a regular part of your routine, just like brushing your teeth before bed.

As hard as you train, however, appropriate recovery is also necessary. Train hard, rest harder. Drink more fluids. Eat properly. Get at least 7 hours of sleep every night. There are all sorts of things that are going on under the skin that can make a difference in your next ride, so do what you can to optimize and repair, so you are better PREpared for the next ride.

Finally, if you're really fatigued, remember, none of us are getting paid as much as the guys on TV. They're literally paid to suffer. We, on the other hand, have the opportunity to skip a day, ride a different route, start at a later time, or do something different. When fatigue leads to lost focus, well, it's time to go bowling and shake things up!

We know how to help you offset fatigue and improve your performance when recovering. Stop by and take a class, and sample some of our famous OSMO recovery drink with almond milk. You'll feel the difference, in just a few days!

Coach Wharton

Stage 3: 21 Days, 21 Tips for Cycling in July! Short, Steep Hills!

Stage 3 Short Sharp Hills Tour de France 2015

As the Tour de France winds it's way around France and several neighboring countries, the terrain frequently dictates the challenges the riders and teams will face.

Today's stage is all about short, steep hills. These hills probably resemble some of your more local terrain. They're maybe 1/4 to 1 mile long, but they're anywhere from 4 to 12% steep. To overcome them, you have to apply some strategy.

The first thing to realize is that you're going to need to pre-shift in to an easier gear. Practice this on flat terrain first - you don't want to drop a chain off cogs, get them tangled, or shift in to a harder gear when you were intending to shift in to an easier gear.

Once you're in an easier gear, don't focus on the hill right in front of you - it will resemble a wall, and might be intimidating. Instead, keep your chin up, and focus on the FURTHEST POINT OUT on the road - often called the "Event Horizon".

With your chin up and your eyes focused on the end, arch your back, open up your chest, and pedal as if the bike was a front-wheel drive. PULL yourself up the hill, don't force it by pushing. When you pull, you'll use more muscles in your legs, and your power output will be more evenly distributed.

As the slope increases, you'll tend to tilt further forward, but this results in more fighting the terrain. Instead, think about how light you can make the imprint of the front tire on the pavement. Don't lift it up and pop a wheelie, but do think about how you can glide up the hill in a steady pace and cadence, without putting too much pressure on the front of your bike.

Eventually, you may need to stand, especially if the slope gets too steep, or the hill is just too long. But remember - climbing out of the saddle is inefficient, and you're doing it on borrowed time. Your cadence will slow down, and unless you're really powerful, or you're getting to the point where the slope may begin to ease up, then you may end up "hacksawing" (pedaling, but feeling like you're standing still between pedal strokes) your way up the hill, or blowing up completely, and being forced to dismount and walk.

Most of the hills in today's Tour de France stage are between 1 and 3 minutes long, but they'll be steep and hard enough to separate the riders. If your local hills are too much of a challenge right now, then you really should consider a training block of intervals at Cycling Center Dallas. Hills require some strength, and a lot of practice. We can show you how to be a stronger cyclist, on hills, and everywhere else you ride!

We hope you're enjoying the Tour de France, and your own cycling. If you want to improve your ability to climb hills, don't hesitate to give us a call or just drop by before an evening class. We'll see you out on the road!

Coach Wharton

Stage 2, 21 Days, 21 Tips for Cycling in July! - "The Wind is my Friend. The Wind is my Friend!"

Stage 2 2015 Tour de France

Did you watch Sunday's stage in the Tour de France?! The theme of the day was... WIND!!!

The stage traveled over 100 miles on perhaps the flattest course ever, in a direction that ended up towards the North Sea. While the wind coming off the ocean may be great for sailors and flying a kite, it is definitely a challenge for any cyclist.

You have to be confident, you have to be strong-willed, and you have to be smart about where to position yourself when cycling in the wind. If you don't, you may end up working harder than you like, and traveling slower than you ever imagined.

The mantra I like to repeat to myself when I'm battling a headwind or a crosswind is this.

"The Wind is my Friend. The Wind is my Friend."

I repeat this mentally, and within my breathing pattern, and it helps me focus. I focus on holding an aerodynamic position on my bike, I focus on the fact that I'm still moving forward, I focus on trying to keep my cadence a little higher than I'd like, and I focus on the realization that most of the time, that headwind will turn in my favor and become a tailwind, be it in five minutes, an hour, or another day.

Cycling in the wind is inevitable. Some wind brings cooler temps and feels great. Some wind brings boiling, humid air to your skin and works to deprive you of energy. Some wind works with you, and some wind tries to blow your wheels out from underneath you.

The trick is to embrace it, stay focused, and penetrate it like scissors on fabric. Cutting through the wind with style leads to a smoother ride, and the ability to "ride" to the challenge!
Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions about this tip or your cycling fitness, give us a call or just stop by before our evening classes!

Coach Wharton

The Tour de France is Here! Read on for 21 Tips over 21 Days of Cycling in July!

Stage 1 Tour de France 2015

The Tour de France began on Saturday, and if you're a cycling enthusiast, there is no better way to celebrate cycling and fitness than to watch and follow the Tour!

The winner of Stage 1, Dennis Rohan, rode the 8.6 mile course (slightly less distance than a lap around Dallas' White Rock Lake), in just under 15 minutes. The other cyclists followed behind, with the slowest cyclist finishing in 18 minutes and 30 seconds. It was a flat course in Utrecht, Netherlands, and it set the stage for some incredible cycling to come.

Several cyclists commented on their ability to handle the heat, and it was only made worse, when they donned their skinsuits and aero helmets, which are designed to cheat the wind, but not necessarily ventilate heat from the head all that well.

What can YOU accomplish on a bike in 15 minutes? Try it and see. Can you keep pedaling that long? Can you do it seated, or do you need to stand? Are you cycling for leisure, or are you dedicating yourself to riding at increased intensity, so you can improve your fitness? Are you drinking enough fluid?

Fifteen minutes can feel like an eternity, but it can also be short enough that it's something you can accomplish. Next time you ride, inside or out, watch the clock. After a good warmup, see what you can do in fifteen minutes. Break it down in to 5 minute periods. Watch your cadence. Listen to your breathing. Shift when you start to grind your gears. They say that the faster your speed, the slower time travels, so live in the moment, take several drinks along the way, and when it's over, reflect on where you are, versus where you were that short time ago.

Dedicate yourself to fifteen minutes of intensity every day this week, be it all at once, or broken down in to intervals with recovery, and watch your cycling change!
Thanks, and if you have any questions about this tip or your cycling, give us a call or just stop by before our evening classes!