One of my worst habits on the bike, and sadly there are a few, is to hold tension in my shoulders while I’m riding. It doesn’t matter how often I tell myself to relax my shoulders, arms and hands I still find myself stiffening up in this area which leads to soreness and ongoing issues with the muscles in my upper back. So I thought it would be useful to share a few tips I’ve found on the subject which obviously apply equally to men and women. I’ll also continue to focus on these tips myself!
Let it go – Consciously let go of the tension in your arms and shoulders by focusing on that part of your body while you are riding. I regularly check in with myself and literally tell myself to relax my shoulders. Shrugging every 15 minutes or so and relaxing your arms really helps relieve this stress.
Last year I wrote a post about riding while pregnant and I thought I should follow that up with one about returning to riding after giving birth. The most important thing to note is that every women is different and so everyone needs to make their own decisions about how much to cycle during pregnancy and after having a baby.
For the record, this is not a topic that I’m an expert on, because I have not completed any formal training in healthcare or fitness, and I’ve never been pregnant, but I’ve done some research and asked a number of women who have experienced it firsthand for their input.
When to start again?
Some of the women said they were back riding as early as two weeks but it also depended on the type of delivery. Alison Frendin in her article about returning to riding after baby points out that every woman is different – “natural, C-section, episiotomy or tearing? –Obviously if you had a rough time you aren’t going to be ready at six weeks. Still, stitches should be completely gone and C-section mums must wait double the six week period after having this “major surgery”! Even then, lifting or pulling heavy objects and doing any impact exercises is going to put a strain on your abdomen.”
If you want to read Alison’s entire article you’ll find it here.
The butcherbird wreaking havoc at Concord West
Last year I wrote a post about Springtime bird attacks, and either I didn’t heed my own advice or the birds in my area are really bad this year, but last week I was attacked by a very aggressive butcherbird!
For those who don’t know about this little ‘terrier’ of a bird, it’s an Australian native and about half the size of a magpie and usually grey or black & white in colour. Since being attacked by one last week I’ve done a little research on these aggressive little so-and-sos.
As well as having a hook at the end of its beak for stabbing prey (as seen in the photograph), the butcherbird has been described as the Hannibal Lecter of the bird world. It gets its name because it impales its prey on thorns and tree forks. These skewers support victims as they are eaten, or stored for later consumption.
There’s a very aggressive butcherbird frequenting a well-worn cyclist route in my local area, right near Concord West train station and he’s drawn blood on many occasions (I say ‘he’ because it’s usually the male bird who defends the nest, not because I’m being sexist!). He got me from behind last week, clipping me on the chin with a his beak and drawing blood on three separate small cuts. And I’ve spoken to many, many others who’ve suffered the same fate.
One of my personal mandates for this blog is to promote women’s cycling at all levels so this week it’s the top ends turn. Recently I caught up with Megan O’Neill Johnston who the Assistant Manager and Head Soigneur for the Canberra-based Suzuki Brumby’s women’s cycling team who had some very interesting insights into how a cycling team runs…..
Q: How long has the team been going?
Suzuki Brumby’s is a Canberra based team that started in 2008 and originally fielded both a men’s and women’s National Road Series (NRS) team, however in 2014 we are an all-female affair.
Q: How many members do you currently have?
We currently have 9 cyclists in the team; 7 who are based in Canberra, 1 in Victoria and 1 in NSW. We are all really close, not only as team mates, but as friends and I think this contributes significantly to the success and character of the team. There is a lot of comradeship and support for each other which I think is imperative in such a mentally tough sport.
My first Gong ride – 2008
The wonderful Tina McCarthy from Wheel Women recently visited Sydney and ran a bike skills course and asked me along on the Sunday morning. It was great interacting with a great group of female cyclists. One of the questions I was asked was “Have you got any tips for riding the Gong ride?” and I most certainly do.
For those of you who are not Sydneysiders the Gong Ride is Sydney’s biggest mass participation bike ride which is held on the first Sunday of November each year. The ride which has been going for 32 years, is a scenic route from Sydney to Wollongong following the coastline. It’s an awesome event and I’ve participated every year since I’ve been riding, a total of six times. So here’s my tips for enjoying the picturesque Gong ride. These tips apply equally to any mass participation ride that might be held in your home town:
Get your entry in
Don’t procrastinate any longer. If you enter the event you’ve made a commitment to yourself and to others. If you put it off until you get closer to the date you’ll continue to make excuses. You’ll also find that rides like the Gong ride have a restriction of entry numbers and may sell out.
About ten years ago, long before I had thought about taking up cycling, I used to go on a morning walk. It was a brisk walk but it was still just a walk. I had been doing the same thing for many years for exercise, but one day I decided to start jogging instead so that I was ‘getting more bang for my buck’. I figured, if I was going to exercise for 30 minutes every morning, then I should up the intensity to gain more in the short period of time.
Years later I realised that the same idea was behind interval training, but because the intervals are so hard you can’t sustain them over long periods of time. But they certainly give you more ‘bang for your buck’ and help you make real improvements in your fitness. I’ve recently started doing intervals as part of my ongoing training program on the bike and I’m seeing real results.
I prefer to do intervals when I’m on the stationery trainer in my garage because I can concentrate on metrics like my cadence, time, gear selection and heart rate. But I plan to do more of them out on the road as I get more practiced.
There’s been a lot of media space devoted to the issue of bike riders using the roads of late, so I thought I’d put my ‘two bobs worth’ forward.
You’ll note that I haven’t called this blog post ‘Cars v Bikes’ because I really don’t think that’s what it’s about. From my observation many drivers (and by no means all drivers) think that they are entitled to use the roads exclusively and that cyclists should vacate ‘their’ roads or at least pull over and let them pass.
As a road cyclist I think I’m pretty considerate. I do most of my riding early in the morning to avoid heavy traffic, I choose not to ride on major roads except where they can’t be avoided, I obey the road rules, I use front and rear lights early in the morning and late in the afternoon, and I travel at a speed where I rarely hold up a driver for more than a few seconds.
And yet, nearly every time I ride my bike I encounter an aggressive driver who either takes my right of way at a roundabout, comes up very fast behind me and then overtakes in a dangerous manner, and occasionally I’ve been beeped at, or yelled at by impatient people.
I’ve recently started working with a coach. It’s the first time I’ve used a coach and it’s come about because I’m involved with my cycling club’s women’s team. I don’t really consider myself to be a fully fledged member of the racing team but I decided as one of the key administrators of the team, I’d step up and try a bit more racing this year.
Stages Power Meter
Set a goal
So if you ‘re interested in stepping up and either developing your own training program or working with a coach you need to set yourself a goal. Without a specific goal you might as well just continue to be a keen recreational cyclist. There is of course nothing wrong with that, but if you’re serious about training you need to know where you are heading.
Don’t make it so easy that you’ll achieve it in the first month, make it a challenge. And make sure it’s specific like, “I’m going to research all the cycling clubs in my area, join up and try my first race by the middle of this year”. Or it could be that “I’m going to participate in a timed ride like the Amy Gillett Gran Fondo in September 2014”.
My main goal is to improve my time in my Club Championship Individual Time Trial in July. I have all the stats from my first two attempts so I’ll be able to easily measure if there’s an improvement.
On my way
I’ve just returned from an excellent weekend of cycling in the NSW central west town of Bathurst. Bathurst holds a special place in my memories because I attended University there some years ago just after I left school so it’s always a pleasure to go back for a nostalgic visit.
Every year Bathurst Cycling Club and Cycling NSW host a great weekend attended by lots of locals and plenty of Sydney cyclists who want to challenge themselves and breathe in some good country air.
There are three events included in the weekend – the NSW Hill Climb Championship, Bathurst Criterium Races and the Blayney to Bathurst race/ride (B2B), a Sportif rather than a race for most of us, which for the uninitiated is a ‘timed event’.
Cornering is one of those fundamental skills you really need to perfect if you’re going to be a good bike rider. I wouldn’t claim to be an expert but my cornering technique has really improved over the years. This has been through watching other riders with superior handling skills to mine, listening to advice, attending skills sessions and practicing what I learnt.
I’m a pretty risk averse person so when I started out on a road bike I used to rely heavily on my brakes every time I went around a corner. Over time I learned that for a vast majority of corners you don’t need to, and shouldn’t brake at all. You might wash off speed before you reach a corner, but you don’t actually brake as you turn.
Women are generally more cautious than men when it comes to anything that involves physical activity and we need lots of a encouragement before we become proficient at something.So here’s my tips learnt from various people and a bit of research.