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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)


 –Basking Ridge, NJ

Part II

For those who may not know, Basking Ridge/Bernards Township is situated in the Pharma belt of Somerset County- which is also the second wealthiest county in New Jersey.

The Bernards Twp/Basking Ridge area is home to the corporate offices of AT&T, Verizon and The United States Golf Association. Basking Ridge boasts its own country club as well, with an 18 hole PGA golf course.

Ridge High School, one of the best rated in the state was ranked second overall in 2007.  There is no doubt that Basking Ridge is a much sought after, desirable community and a nice place to live- just ask any of its 26,000 residents.

untitled1

Quick Stats

Bernards Township is one of the most expensive boroughs to reside within Somerset County, as well as the state. The cost of living is 68.66% higher than the national average.

The median house value is approximately $685,000, with median property taxes just over $9,500 and the median household income above $128,000.

The public school budget rings in at a hefty $84,007,764. The cost per pupil is over $11,000 (24% higher than the state average) with a total student cost of approximately $68,500,000. Which leaves approximately $17,000,000 for expenditures. Salaries, vehicles, athletics, etc. A very healthy budget indeed.

The general tax levy in Basking Ridge has increased a massive 110% in 10 years. Rising over 11% annually, (more than double the cost of living) from $30,128,190 to $66,837,438.

The only aspect that keeps the very beautiful and historic borough from being an exclusive bedroom community is the four thousand plus condominium units throughout the township.

Those 4,000 units have a median price in the neighborhood of $300,000. These more affordable options (evidently to the chagrin of some locals) are approximately half the cost of most single family homes in Basking Ridge.

Who invited you to the party?

The Ricola Race has the distinction of being the only professional sporting event to take place in Basking Ridge and immediate surounding area (excluding the Somerset Patriots Baseball team). This alone should be a fantastic draw for the fast-paced, excitment filled event.

You want reality? The race is the best reality show around, happening real-time, up close and in your face. No other sport allows the spectator to get so close to the athlete- while he or she is competing! Cycling offers unique perspectives and unprecedented access.

Interestingly enough the only other two other major annual events that take place in Bernards Twp., are the Far Hills Race Meeting Steeplechase and the Music at Moorland Farms Summer Symphony. Both of which get a lot of attention and exposure from the local media, surounding townships and presenting sponsors.

It seems as though the bicycle race may not be perceived in the same vein as the equestrian, golfing and symphonic events. But a look at the social and sporting statistics of bicycling tells a different tale.

FYI

Cycling is the second most popular recreational activity in the United States.

Cycling demographics cover three areas of interest. Recreational, Racing and Spectator Events. Like most professional sports the race participation is male dominated. Though unlike most sports, cycling has a very large female recreational and spectator base.

Demographics

grids

  • Cycling is the #1 fitness and health activity among doctors and lawyers over the age of 40.  
  • Cycling is the second most popular recreational activity behind sport walking.
  • 17-million bicycles are sold in the United States each year.  
  • The mean price for a professional racing bike is $3,500.  
  • Household income for 45-49 year old licensed racers. ($95,940)

  Source: Simmons, MRI, USA Cycling Membership, Bicycling Magazine

There is no doubt that the sport of cycling is very popular and attracts a wide array of participants who take part in one way or another.


 -Basking Ridge, NJ

Part I

ricola_grand_big

The 4th annual Ricola Twilight Grand Prix cycling race is set to take place on Wednesday, May 27th in the bucolic borough of Basking Ridge New Jersey.

The elite cycling event attracts a good number of pro and pro-am riders from all over the country including a small contingent of globally based riders as well.

Though not a points paying race for these pro’s and non-pro’s , the large attractive purse of $10,000 in prize money is definitely a strong pull for the 120+ competing riders. Most of whom were already in town for the oldest bicycle race in the country- the 50 mile Tour of Somerville, which will have run its 66th edition on Memorial Day.

The Ricola GP organizers capitalized on the Somerville classic, taking advantage of logistics by staging their race just 2 days after the ToS event. Local bicycle shop Liberty Cycle and its owner/operator, Greg Cordasc was instrumental in bringing the event to the Somerset County borough.

The race takes place in historic downtown Basking Ridge, with the riders passing along the main line of retailers along South Finley Avenue. The circuit layout is key in showcasing the many types of retail stores and services in the borough.

The race course is not the typical “criterium” style course and is regarded as one of the most technical short race circuits in the U.S. It features a 1.1 mile loop that offers a combination of 8 tight and sweeping corners every lap over the 44 mile race distance.

There are plenty of ideal spectating spots where fans get up close and personal- just inches away from some of the best elite riders- sweeping past in excess of 35 mph, which makes it unique and exciting to watch.

small alp horns

The event offers some interesting and fun pre-race activities such a BMX riding and tricks demo, the Bonnie Brae Knights Drum Corp. and the Ricola Swiss Alp horn players. The organizers have made the event appealing not only to cycling fans, but the whole family and all ages as well.

Obtaining the headline sponsor, Ricola USA was a huge ‘get’ for the event, providing visibility, name recognition and a lot of potential market appeal. With such a major sponsor, you would think that the race would be a fairly big attraction for the borough.  After all, it is a professional sporting event.

But apparently that is where that thought ends. It is somewhat painfully obvious that borough officials of Basking Ridge do not exactly embrace the event- for whatever inexplicable or unapparent reasons they may have.

Spectator turn out is decent, but certainly nowhere near its true potential. The racing event has tremendous appeal, but does not yield the bigger, more enthusiastic type crowds at other similar cycling events within the area, such as the Tour of Somerville.

There seems to be a bit of a disconnect between the solid efforts from the promotion of the race and the townships lack of efforts to publicize and market the race- in fact, one could even say they almost seem to undermine it.

(a topic further explained in parts II & III)

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