Skip navigation

Tag Archives: bicycle racing


The 4th stage of the ’09 Tour de France highlighted the Team Time Trial (TTT). The TTT requires many skills from all 9 riders in the team “train.”

Among them are obviously speed, power, and endurance- which are needed to keep such a high rate of tempo for the entire TT distance.

But one of the most overlooked skill in any type of bicycle riding is; bike handling skills. In fact of all the acquired skills of riding, handling skills are by far the most important.

During today’s stage, team Bbox showed the importance of understanding, focusing and implementing the mechanics of cornering, or lack thereof in their instance.

Four of their nine riders rode right off the road in a sweeping right hander. The turn wasn’t that tight, nor was it a decreasing radius corner. It was basically a constant radius, flat basic turn.

Once the first rider of Bbox drifted wide, missed the apex and began to go off the road, three others follwed him! Why? Simple. Target Fixation. Besides knowing how to corner properly a rider needs to know how to avoid following a wreck or the same path of carnage.

This is where quick and firm Countersteering comes into play.
More about countersteering later.

A corner is made of three basic elements. The entry, (turn in point – “tip”) the apex, (the middle or center) and the exit (the end of the corner).

There is a proper way and an improper way to corner efficiently, safely and quickly. Bbox showed the world how NOT to corner, while team Saxo Bank and team Astana among others, showed how to perfect a corner.

To be somewhat fair, in a TTT, riders are riding time trial bikes- which are usually more rigid, have more rake in the front end to be aerodynamic and subsequently, are more unstable in corners.

But that’s not to say these riders get a pass on their lack of good handling skills. These guys are in the pro Peloton. They are supposed to the best of the best- but that’s not always the case.

While some of these riders are amazing climbers, sprinters and all around good endurance and power athletes- they are not necessarily all-around good bike riders. What makes a complete rider, is all the aforementioned, plus knowing and understanding how to Steer, Turn and Brake properly.

Steering, Turning and Braking– are the core skills of bike handling.

cornering-apex

The entry is where turning/steering starts and the rider begins to lean into the turn. The apex is the point where the rider reaches the furthest point on the inside of the turn and the exit is where the rider can start going upright so as to pedal and power up again.

There are 4 basic laws of physics- gravity, inertia, traction, and balance as they apply to cornering. The laws of physics dictate that when a bicycle is leaned over, the position of its center of gravity will  influence the lean angle of the bike.

cornering example

In addition to kinetic energy, a rider has two other forces working on the body and the bike- Gravity pulling you down, and Centripetal Force pulling you either left or right- depending on which way the rider is turning.

The lines in the above picture display the forces during cornering. The illistration is designed to better understand these basic forces involved when cornering.

The bottom line on the graph represents the road which induces frictional forces. The horizontal line is the centripetal force and the vertical line, represents the force of gravity.

Countersteering

In short, counter steering moves the wheels out from under the center of mass. It involves turning the front wheel in the opposite direction you want to turn the bike, be it a motorcycle or a bicycle. Counter-steering is achieved by pushing on the inside of the handle bar in the opposite direction you actually want to go.

steer-push

Select your turn in point as you approach a turn. But before reaching your “tip” look through the turn and select a reference point (RP). When you reach the “tip”, begin to steer (countersteer).

It is important to intiate firm countersteering- to keep the right trajectory and proper line.  As the rider nears the apex (a single apex corner) and has the need to turn more sharply to keep from running wide or off in the turn, the rider turned in too early.

A gradually, early turn in has the rider following a parabolic path, a wide arc at first that tightens until maximum lean or turning is reached near the apex. This is an example of “lazy” steering. This often results in a rider(s) missing the apex which causes a dramatic slow down and/or riding off the road.

Turn in slightly later but quicker and the rider follows a more circular path that requires less lean angle but reaches the apex sooner and is able to hold the arc longer. This technique is known as “squaring off” a corner, which usually enables a rider to carry more speed/momentum through the corner.

Many riders don’t bother to work on their cornering technique and when it’s crunch time- find themselves in a time losing situation. Today, those 4 Bbox rides cost their team precious time– in a race against the clock, seconds and as it turned out, hundredths of a second enormously count.

Some quick tips:

  • Use counter steering (pushing on the bars) more so than leaning your body
  • Look through the turn (keep your eyes up and looking down the road)
  • Keep light to moderate pressure on the bars
  • Pivot your hips to assist counter steering

(no death grip- this allows the bike to follow its  ‘natual’ centrifugal path – by holding too tight you  prevent the front end from following its inherent course- this causes the already rigid front end to become even more unstable)

  • Use the brakes sparingly and try not to brake much when the bike is mid corner or when you are leaned over

Remember, a bit slower in…but almost always faster out.

 

Four wheels move the body. Two wheels move the soul

 

Author is a former WERA and CCS sportbike and grand prix roadracer

 


Brian Surtees on his TZ250


In the whirl of wheels streaming by- spectators, cheers and late summer blue skies…The Race is on

Historic downtown Basking Ridge, NJ was once again the setting for the 18th annual Olde Mill Inn – Tour of Basking Ridge. The Labor Day race is always an eventful contest near the end of the road cycling season. The  event features 8 separate races accommodating all abilities- from pros to amateurs. Presenting Sponsor, Liberty Cycle puts on a great community event each year.

The 1.12 mile sweeping course features six turns around the bucolic borough. The Start/Finish line located on South Finley Ave and Lewis St., which is the front stretch of the short circuit- that rises and falls into turn 1-  a fast left onto on Henry St that leads to Turn 2- a quick left onto Rankin.

Turn 3 is a sweeping right/left combo onto Dyckman then a slight rise towards the left hander onto Colonial. The final corner, turn 6 is another left onto S Finley to the Finish line.

The final sprint race of the day was the  category 5 event. The competition was a short 5 laps that saw 36 riders line up for the start. Atop my Hutchinson-shod, Pro-Lite carbon frame, I lined up at the start line on the left, about midpack so I would have an inside line into T-1. Local guy Doug Ernst, Joseph Meyer-Fuchs of Oakland and Nick David from Hoboken were among the top favorites and all quickly went to the front at the drop of the starters flag.

Not being a true “racer” (this was the my first race of the season, and really had no training in my legs to speak of- read: I am slow) I planned my strategy around the design of the tight course. I knew that attacking the corners was the only chance I had of a top 20 finish.

As the pack tore off into T-1 I was mired somewhere in between the chaos of lap 1. Immediately I powered through 1, and 2 the left handers, closing up on the guys in front of me. As we headed onto the back part of the course I would lose a bit of ground. But dive bombing the turns would bring me onto the wheels just ahead of me.

I have found that some riders are a bit hesitant and stiff when cornering. I have found that I can exploit that weakness by not slowing and going as fast as I can through the turns- whenever possible. Eight seasons of motorcycle roadracing has its advantages.

The gap to the front grew as I watched the leaders quickly pull away. I settled into a sort of frantic rhythm dicing it out with 4 other riders- who kept the pace at about a 23 – 24 mph average. (good thing this race was only 5 laps!)

Doug, Nick and Joe were picking off riders at the front and waiting for their opportunity to take command. Yours truly was hanging on for dear life in 26th spot with 2 laps to go. The four guys in front of me would gap me on the straights and I would suck right back up in turn 1- a fast sweeping left, which I took at full speed, about 28+ mph.

More riders fell off the lead as Nick and Joe were moving up to the top spots. Lap 4- out of T-2 our pack of 5 pass two guys who seemed like they were standing still. So far I’m thinking- “This is cool, I haven’t been lapped and I actually passed a couple of riders” But I’m sucking wind hard, and my legs are burning with lactic acid.  This was it, the crux of race, gotta hold on one more lap….

Past the start/finish we begin the “bell lap” the final circuit…

The imperfect and often awkward synergy of Man and Machine…merge for a fleeting chance of perceived glory…fore now the battle is between heart and mind

I can hear the crowd but its muffled. My vision is tunneled as I flick the bars and lean the bike in for the hard left. The gap of nearly 50 feet quickly disappears as I close up. I’m sitting last in our group of 5, trying to draft and save any energy I may have left. I’m watching to see if anyone is going to try and jump- as we bend into the right/left combo T-3 & 4- so far nothing.

I wait for turn 5. I swing slight right of the pack and square off the corner. Arc it wide and keep pedaling through the corner, as this gives me the momentum I was looking for. I swoop up on the four riders in front of me and jump out of the saddle to add some power to the pedals- I move right and pass all four.

Meanwhile Joe and Nick had control of the last lap, sprinting towards the finish, as Nick popped up and made his move for the lead and the win. Across the line it was Joe who took the victory followed by Nick and Doug garnering the last podium spot in third.

As I set up for T-6 I glance back to see what- if any gap I might have. I tuck my chin into my left shoulder and see a substantial space between us. As I crest the rise on S Finley I spot another rider just ahead of me. I’m in the drops and keep my head down- but eyes up. I can see he is as tired as me-

Shoulders rocking, cadence faultering…”I have to get this guy, I have to.” I put every last ounce of breath and energy into the my weakening legs and watch the distance between us shrink. The finish line is in sight as I’m closing in on his rear wheel…once again, I swing right and pass the lonely rider- with a familiar grimace on his face.

I fly pass the finish, totally spent. Sitting up I try to catch an elusive breath and give a thumbs up to the guys around me- I make a feeble attempt to say “good race” but not much comes out as I am somewhat oxygen deprived. The guys at the front are not even breathing hard, while me and some of my similar competitors are shagged. smiley

 

My post race thoughts were a combination of satisfaction and disappointment- after finishing 19th of 36 riders. Sure that was a good result for my first race of 2009, but as a ‘competitior’ I wanted better. But what my mind wanted and what my body gave were just not equal- Yet still the moment was good, the day fulfilled.

And in the end, on dreams we will depend…

 

Machine Specs

Frame/Fork: Pro-Lite Carbon  | 53cm

Drivetrain: Ultegra 10 | 53/39 | 12/27

Wheels: Neuvation | M28 Aero 3

Tyres: Huchinson Equinox (slick rear) | Quartz (intermediate front)


 The historic and famed TD Commerce Bank “Triple Crown of  Cycling” has been consolidated into just one title event for 2009. The single sponsored event- the Philadelphia International Cycling Championship is scheduled to take place on June 7th of this year.

Admist the deep recession and troubled economy as well as TD Bank’s assessment of its sponsorship dollars, the bank has decided to step down from title sponsorship of the Reading and Lehigh Valley Classics, the first two legs of the Pennsylvania Triple Crown of Cycling.

The event is now in its 25th year of existence, starting out as the old Core States race back in 1984. Each year its stature and popularity has proved to continually grow with both the fans and competitors alike. But with the on-going financial difficulties, 2009 will be more of a test to the future of the long standing event.

There will be a  main featured race for the contingent of pro riders and a few of races for the amateur riders. Philadelphia city and Pro Cycling Tour officials expect a slight decline this year, with between 50,000 and 75,000 spectators posibly attending, based on figures from previous years.

“Given the succesful history of the event and the past amount of spectators, the 2009 expected numbers are a bit down due to the economic climate.” Said a Pro Tour official.

Race Statistics:

Biggest One-Day cycling event in U.S.
Over 350,000 spectators – 2008
Local live television coverage
2007 ratings – 3.4 audience share

Video impressions – 12.5-million
Website hits 30 days prior to event – 3.6-million

Event Demographics:

53% male
47% female
57% ages 25–49
64% college graduate or higher

49% professional
31% non-professional
20% students
59% earning $50,000+
30% earning $100,000+

The estimated total economic impact for the city of Philadelphia  is approximately between $3 and $5 million dollars. Being the 5th largest media market in the country that type of boost to the local and regional businesses will do the tax coffers good.

The impact of revenue ranges from the mom & pop stores to chain hotels, restaurants and a variety of retail services.

Sporting events, both local and national are visible reminders that hard work eventually pays off and that winning is never easy- but is always rewarding.


Wednesday, August 27th 2008

Bicycle racing is Hard, Eh. No shit, you don’t say there sherlock. Well, yea to all those cyclists who are in the know! But if you don’t have the experience or an appreciation of just what it takes to push your body to its physical/aerobic limits then let me reiterate. Bicycle is racing is hard, no wait, make that really, really f*cking hard.

A couple of weeks ago I stumbled upon a local club- Century Road Club of America. Basically, a bunch of guys and girls who participate in a variety of club races, both road and off-road. I recently joined and took a shot at the Thursday night Road Race event which happens to take place near my apartment. First let me set the stage. I have not ridden much this year, due to a host of crap and what not. So, between some solo and group rides I had logged only about 800 mediocre miles before attempting my first race of 2008.

Not exactly a great idea…but I threw caution to the proverbial wind anyway! The 21 mile race is a three lap event that runs on a 7.2 mile circuit through Readington and Hillsborough NJ.

Thursday, August 21.
We set off at a blistering pace, about 25-26 mph out of the gate.  I’m going faster than I wanto to, but I have got to stay in touch with the draft. The group bends through the winding roads and the pace is mad- 28 mph. Now if this were 1/2/3 pro level race it would be fine, but we’re talking club guys here! Then there is me, the newbie, and slow as shit! Nearing the end of the first lap I’m barely hanging on and starting to fade- as I watch my speed fall from 27, to 25, to 21 and finally down around 19-20 mph.

It’s no use- I’m losing the draft but I’ve got to keep pedaling, got to keep going. By the end of lap two I’m done, and about to be lapped by the fast guys (who, by the way race in sanctioned events) So I give them plenty of room and slow it down letting them all pass. I’m not going to be the guy who took out the fast riders, or balked a move for the lead…that’s for damn sure.

I cruised in with a two lap average of 20.8 mph, lungs sucking hard for air, and my leg muscles on fire- no doubt filled with lactic acid. It was humbling to say the least, as I thought maybe, just maybe I wouldn’t get lapped…so much for that notion!

Wednesday August 27.
Ok, so I know that road racing is tough, so maybe I’ll try my hand or in this case legs at a Time Trial or as we two-wheeled blokes like to refer to as TT’s. The Wednesday night TT runs the same course as the road race, but it is only one lap- 7.21 miles of rolling terrain. It’s all out for one lap, right then, as quick as you like sunshine…Super.

I planned and prepared since Monday for this run, stretching properly, eating properly, hydrating, and so on, and I felt good on Tuesday with a short easy spin. Wednesday arrives and I feel a bit tired, but I figure it will pass as the day goes on and I get amped up for the TT. I roll out and decide to ride my bike to the start which is only 3 miles away from my door. So far so good.

I get to the start line of the course and sort out all my stuff, I take off my backpack, and set off to do about 45 minutes of warm-up riding. I get no more than 2 miles into my warm-up and BAM! My right quad cramps though not viciously, but enough to make the eyeballs a bit wide and my breath a bit shorter. My first reaction is anger, yup, I’m fucking pissed off, and cursing into the wind.

I cannot believe what is happening, I am utterly dismayed and disqusted at the same time. I turn around and head back to retrieve my stuff, and head home. I pedal easy spinning a low gear so as not to lock up the confounded muscle. I get off the bike and have a sit down, and good talking to myself as well!

I’m all like, wtf? what is going on here? Not that I was really expecting any answers, but I was frustrated and needed to vent. I stretched ever so gently, walked around a bit, drank a lot of water and powerbar mix drink, and tried to massage the knot out. I mean I didn’t want to throw the towel in, I wanted to run that damn TT – as it would be the last of the season.

I talked with a few guys and their words of encouragement gave me enough incentive to stay and give it a whirl. Eddie, the guy who runs the TT calls out our starting positions- based on previous times, but since I didn’t have one, I had to make a guess. I told him probably in the 22-23 minute range.

Slowly, my quad is feeling slightly better, as it has loosened up a bit. I feel better, mentally too. I pop an aspirin and a potassium pill, down some more water and get ready to roll off third in line. The only down side is that my warm-up was fairly slow and short, about 8 miles and not nearly at the pace it should have been.

I rotate leg and foot over and over, putting human force into my machine gradually building my speed. I try to quickly settle into a rhythm of around 21-22 mph, and get ready for the first set of rollers, where I know I will scrub off a bit of momentum. I’m down to 17-18 mph through the section of rolling terrain, but it soon levels out again and I’m back on the gas.

A hard right hander with scattered gravel in the road means hauling it down fairly well to negotiate the tricky turn, I keep my eyes up and keep off the brakes- and I’m through ok. On to the chipped stone road – which sucks balls btw, because it leads to the only short, but very steep hill.

I managed to pass both riders who went off ahead of me, and now I’m telling myself maybe only one or two of the real fast guys will come steaming by. Maybe it will be the guy on his P3 Cervelo- decked out in skin suit and aero helmet, or the gent on his beautiful Orbea TT bike, at least I could marvel at that their power and machinery as they go blowing past me eh? Well I just kept pushing, and hoping to make it to the end with no incidents, and as I approached mile 6, I could not believe that no one has yet to come past. Could it be that I won’t be lapped?

I didn’t want to get too confident just yet, so I put my head down and pedaled as hard as I could for the finish. The last 1/2 mile is a false flat and really burns the legs, so I held back a hair to have some reserve in the last few yards or so.

As the finish line came into view, I glanced under my arm to see if I was going to be passed in the waning seconds…and to my surprise there was no one there! I spun up the rpm’s then shifted to a higher gear, as high as my legs could bare, then I threw every last bit of energy and force I had left into those cranks and pedals- breathing extremely heavy as my legs burned- so much more than I have ever experienced this year.

25 yards to go…10 yards to go…now 5…whooshing across line I flew- it’s over man, it’s done. I began to slow my effort, shifting into an easier cog, but I’m breathing so heavy I can barely get the breaths in and out. That was suffering! That was Hard, but fun.

%d bloggers like this: