Indoor Cycling: Rollers vs. Trainers

If you’ve been riding this winter, chances are you’ve had more than a few days indoors – maybe a spin class, the trainer, or rollers. If you’ve never taken advantage of indoor cycling opportunities, there’s never been a better time. Cycling technology has never made it easier to get at least a short workout in when the conditions are just too deplorable to get outside. Granted, none of us want to subsist on a steady diet of indoor riding, that’s not why we love what we do. But good indoor options can keep you going through those tough weeks when you can’t get out. Your fitness doesn’t have to suffer when old man winter rears his ugly head – in fact, your fitness can even improve by being consistent and taking advantage of some indoor cycling tools.

My good friend, Rick Wilson, is the person that got me started riding. He was my Cycling Sensei for a few years when we both lived in Southern California. Rick’s now living in Boston and gutting it out through a long, cold winter. In the past, he’s used the old faithful trainer to keep the legs turning over but he recently dropped some cash on a set of rollers and sent me some video of how it’s going. Turns out, rollers are a great option for us extremely amateur cyclists looking for a new challenge and inspiration to get in the saddle. Plus, a good set of rollers are cheaper then a good fluid trainer! Rollers are no longer just for trackie pros warming up in the infield. But they are very challenging to learn to ride well. Rollers engage more than just your legs as your core, balance, and bike handling are all put to the test. Check out this video from Rick that gives us a run-down of the rollers experience:

Here are a few links from Rick that he used when considering the pros and cons of trainers vs. rollers: CyclingSkills blog and Also, if you haven’t checked out The Sufferfest videos, head on over there to see some of the most motivating indoor workout videos for roadies and pro cycling fans on the market (review of Sufferfest to follow sometime soon).

Here’s a question: what do you use when you can’t get outside? The trainer? Do you saddle up on rollers? Or maybe a spin class? Please leave a comment and let us know.

Whatever you do, be encouraged that the hours spent indoors will pay off when it eventually warms up. Spring is right around the corner.

Thanks for the video Rick – great insights! Think I might get me one.

Ride on…


Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park | From

Ray's Indoor Mountain Bike Park[tweetmeme only_single=false source=”artofgroupride”] This is awesome – an indoor mountain bike park for when the weather sucks or you just want to get in a good skills session.

Here’s the course map:

Unfortunately, you have to go to Cleveland or Milwaukee to get in your session. If you haven’t seen this yet, it’s worth taking a look at. Their tagline is, “If you keep coming, we’ll keep building.” Who knows, maybe the next indoor mountain bike park will land near you! Check it out on Cycling News @ Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park Second Location Opened or Ray’s Indoor MTB Park website.

Ride on…


Product Review: Craft Gore Windstopper Gunde Boxer

[tweetmeme only_single=false source=”artofgroupride”] This post tackles a subject that might take a little maturity to read but we’re all adults here so I’m just gonna come out and say it: sometimes on a really freezing ride my personal region feels like I have frostbite.

Why is it that when it comes to cold weather cycling we have all kinds of the most advanced technical layered clothing available to us except for this one area of our bodies below our jackets and above our leg warmers? I mean, we have foot warmers, leg warmers, arm warmers, fleece-lined windproof gore-tex jackets but continue to go out riding in the cold with little more than bib shorts around this one area. In the past, I’ve improvised during a freezing ride, alternating between taking off a glove and putting it “down there” until my fingers were frozen then replacing the glove on my hand. Back and forth. Not fun.

If you’ve suffered like this through a cold ride like me, here’s your solution: the Craft Gore Windproof Gunde Boxer. I’m a big fan of most everything I’ve ever tried from Craft. In fact, I can’t think of a single product I’ve tried that hasn’t worked exactly as advertised. Baselayers, jackets, gloves, bibs, shoe covers, Craft products span the range of technical cycling gear and the windproof boxer doesn’t disappoint.

In fact, the boxer does exactly what it says it does: keeps you warm where you need it. There are other alternatives in this category. You could drop upwards of $250 on a killer pair of thermal bibs that you might wear a few times a year. If you have cash to burn, that might be your ticket. For me, I’ve found that on the coldest days, I can continue to wear my regular training bibs and simply layer with the Craft boxers. Warm and toasty. Frostbite feelings solved.

Before you go and order yours, here are a few things you need to know:

  1. I wear mine under bibs but the boxers do have seams.  Not big, uncomfortable seams but it helps to use a good chamois cream if you’re wearing them against your skin.
  2. If you want to layer the boxers over cycling shorts but under an outer bib layer, consider ordering your boxers one size larger.
  3. As always, apply chamois cream FIRST before embrocating.

Give the boxers a try. Inexpensive item, misery prevented.

Ride on…

Embrocation Tips and Product Review

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Plain and simple, if you haven’t discovered embrocation, you’re missing out. I can’t say it any better than Pete Smith (referenced from Embrocation Cycling Journal):

Embrocation is the essence of cycling. One of those things that just makes your world spin. Technically, you could do without embrocation, but that’s not living. Embrocation is the jam on your toast, the honey in your tea. It’s hot infusing carrier oils with capsicum at 2:00 in the morning. It’s pure, it’s life, it’s just plain good. Embrocation used to be just for race day, but lately has found it’s way into the daily routine. Wake, shower, dress, coffee, embrocate, commute. It helps you feel cool on the hottest days and warms through to your heart when the mercury dips. Embrocation is the panacea for a ho-hum day. ~ Pete Smith, Founder of Mad Alchemy Embrocations

I’ve tried all different products but most recently I’ve been embrocating with DZ Nuts In Heat, Medium Heat. I started using it on a fluke because I ran out of my previous product and my local bike shop, Palo Alto Bicycles, happened to carry it. This is unusual as most bike shops I’ve been in don’t stock embrocation. It’s like this hidden little secret in the cycling world. I’ve always had to order products online. But the owner of DZ Nuts isn’t your average cycling product developer and it seems that his products and genius extends beyond riding a bike at the highest level. That’s an interesting story in itself.

I took the advice of my bike shop comrade and threw down a few bucks for the medium heat. I was told that the high heat is just too painfully hot unless the conditions are truly arctic. I’m glad I listened. Medium has been all the heat I’ve needed in cold conditions and near-freezing rain this winter. The embrocation goes on a bit pasty but really has the feeling of sticking to you, like it’s going to last for a few hours’ ride. And it does. You don’t need to put on a lot of it. Best to start with a little to see how you react. Common sense, I’ve found that the more I put on, the warmer and more prolonged the effect. The best part is that it really doesn’t kick in until you start heating up, then the warm glow sets in.

This morning, I rode from 7-9am. Temp: 38 degrees. I applied a fair amount of In-Heat to my upper and lower legs, then applied to my lower back and sides. I rolled out to a popular climb not far from my house that takes me about 30 minutes to ascend at an average pace (4.3 miles at 7%). It’s tough to dress for climbing in cold weather because you naturally warm on the way up but descending can be freezing if you’re drenched in sweat. This is where In-Heat really kicked in. I was warm and buzzing the whole way down. For my money, that’s the best test of an embrocation’s effectiveness.

This is the important part when embrocating: apply embrocation then put on your leg/knee warmers, then bibs. Be sure that your chamois doesn’t scrape up your leg and get the embrocation on it. Trust me. You don’t want embrocation in your nether region. If you’re going to apply a chamois cream, do it AFTER getting fully dressed and AFTER scrubbing your hands with soap. Also, don’t touch your eyes. This stuff works wherever you put it.

Here’s another tip – embrocation doesn’t just have to go on your legs. I’ll rub some on my feet, sometimes on my lower back and arms if it’s really cold or raining. In the wet, you can feel the embrocation working under drenched leg warmers and vest. It’s like adding another layer that doesn’t succumb to the cold water.

Here’s the product listing from the website:

This pro-grade embrocation combines both the traditional components and qualities of the Belgian “home brewed pastes” with modern science to create a medicated liniment that loosens and prepares muscles for maximum exertion, as well as providing warmth, protection, and comfort during the most nasty weather conditions. Developed and tested on the European roads by Garmin Transitions and Columbia HTC professional cycling teams to be an essential training and racing tool.

As you can tell, I like this product a lot. There are plenty of other embrocations out there that do a great job too. One in particular that I love when the temp dips below freezing (review to follow). I also have a handful of products that I like when the weather’s not so cold and I’ll review those when things warm up. If you’ve never tried embrocation, there’s no better time to start!

Ride on…

Orange County New Year’s Day Group Ride

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If you live in Southern California and you’re looking for a cycling experience to start your year off right, you have to make you’re way over to the Orange County New Year’s Day Group Ride. You can find out the start time, location, and route by clicking on the link or on the photo above. The vibe is fun and non-aggressive, what you would expect the morning after an NYE celebration. Everyone’s just happy to be out on a bike. It also happens to be my favorite group ride, pictured in this post and on the banner at the top of this blog. I lived in the area for a long time and always used to pick up the pack at Starbucks in Corona del Mar. Riders jump in all along PCH and by the time the ride hits Dana Point the group’s usually grown to a few hundred strong.

The ride has 2 rest stops, one next to the Dana Point harbor and the other at a 7-11 in Lake Forest. Riders will jump in and peel off all along the way but if you ride from the beginning and back to Long Beach it’s a hundred miles. If you’re not used to that kind of mileage, don’t worry too much. The draft from a group that size will drag you along. One year, we made it back to Long Beach in 4hrs 15min. I thought something was wrong with my computer. I actually felt fresh, not like I just rode a hundo. Explanation, easy: my nose never hit the wind, I wheelsucked the whole way…so did 250 other riders so I didn’t feel to bad about not doing a share of the work.

One of the unique aspects of this ride is that many of the Pro riders who live in the area come out for it. It’s still the off-season and an easy way to get 4-6 hours in the legs. For a Pro who’s putting in 4-6 hours of daily base miles, I would imagine they view this ride as a great way to break up the long solo days.

Pro’s aren’t out to make the ride Pro-fast. But it is cool to watch the way they handle themselves in the pack. I remember one year rolling along next to Tony Cruz, one of Long Beach’s native sons who would always show up for a local race when he wasn’t in Europe. I forgot for a moment that he rode the Spring Classics the previous year, Paris-Roubaix, etc until the group pulled into the second rest stop at 7-11. There was a line of riders waiting to get into the parking lot and, rather than waiting, Tony bunny-hopped the rock-strewn median at speed like it was an easy cobbled section in Roubaix. It was a big curb with a sewer. If I tried that, I’d break my frame, wheels, legs, probably more. Pro bike handling is impressive even in a 7-11 parking lot. Pro’s look like regular people for a minute until they do something on the bike that regular people can’t do. It’s easy to forget that Pro’s have superpowers on the bike.

It’s New Year’s Day, so the roads are virtually empty. Most normal people are sleeping off the night before. No one ever accused cyclists of being normal so, if you’re in the area, drag yourself out of bed and jump in.

Ride on…

Windproof Your Feet on the Cheap

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You’ll either love this or laugh. It’s either smart or ridiculous.

Here’s a little tip I got years back – can’t even remember where. For some reason, I have a difficult time keeping toes and fingers warm in the winter when I don’t dress right. So here’s what I do for feet when it’s below freezing: warming embrocation, thermal socks wrapped in a sandwich baggie, shoe, then booties. Seems like a lot, I know. But when a bike ride feels more like skiing, the extra plastic windproof layer takes the edge off. And I don’t even feel the baggie or the seam in my shoe. Super-nerd or super-resourceful. You make the call.

What do you do for cold feet? Give the sandwich baggies a shot on your next cold ride and let me know if it works for you.

Ride on…

Dude, That Hurt: The Friday Noon Ride

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(Click on the image to view interactive map of the Friday Noon Ride route)

Did the Friday Noon Ride in Palo Alto today. It was fast.

Everyday at noon, a group of 20 to 30 riders meet at the corner of Page Mill and Foothill. It’s the regular, motley crew that shapes up any Group Ride except this is in the middle of the work day so it’s usually folks that have the flexibility to take a long lunch break. Friday is my day-off so I typically jump in. The loop takes just over an hour, plus the ride to and from the roll-out. So let’s call it 90 minutes.

Each day’s route is a bit different with Tuesday and Thursday being quite fast and Wednesday includes some climbing. Friday is usually pretty tame, especially during the season when the stronger riders are just looking to spin before a weekend of racing. But every once in a while, someone gets a kick in their step. Maybe you know the feeling. You’re expecting a tempo ride and all of sudden the group is strung out and you find yourself sprinting to close gaps. Match #1, burned. Match #2, burned. How many matches do I have?

I could almost hear people thinking. “Should I go with this? Do I even want to? If enough riders sit up and don’t go with the attacks, maybe everyone’ll settle down.” I overheard one guy say, “My program calls for a Zone 3 tempo workout so see ya later.” Dedication or excuse? Couldn’t tell.

It turned out to be a blast. Off-season rides can be slower and I thought for a minute that this is too hard to be working in December. But getting some intensity this time of year is rare so I’m of the mindset that I’ll take what the group gives me. After all, my time in the saddle is more limited than it used to be when I was younger so if it hurts then it’s probably good for me.  If the group wants to go hard then game on. If I pop and drop then so be it.

When a friend rolled passed me in the paceline and said, “Dude, this hurts,” I actually thought of a previous post from earlier this week. Check out that quote and see if you can relate. It kept me going when I wanted to quit.

What keeps you going when all you want to do is sit up?

Ride on…