First Time Racer Questions
Hi All, I am a first time poster and have been lurking for around this forum for a few weeks. I have used the search tool to look for answers to my questions and this has been helpful but I still have a few more questions that would be more specific to me. I welcome any suggestions anyone might have and not opposed at all to critical feedback. Thanks in advance for taking the time to read this and for offering some advice.
I will be doing my first mountain bike race on July 17th. This will be a non-technical course with the rider doing as many 7 miles loops as possible in a 3.5 hour time frame.
44 year old female
5’7”, 125 pounds
Above average fitness level
I am an injured runner at this time and have not been able to run for almost 10 weeks but biking does not bother the injury. I am endurance oriented and averaged 60-75 MPW (10-11 hours of running/wk) and can be competitive in my AG for local races. I have both a road and mountain bike and have ridden throughout the years for enjoyment (not training) but limited at about an hour of riding.
My bike was put together by my local bike shop owner. I think we were at around 17 pounds before I added a few extras. He takes care of any adjustments that I need/want.
2010 Turner Flux w/ XTR
Kenda Nevegal Tires 26x2.10
Redline Magnesium Pedals
I prefer to stay with the flat pedal for 2 reasons – I have a peroneal tendon tear in my right foot and don’t want to do any more twisting than is necessary and a lot of our local trails are a bit too technical for my taste (and not wanting any more injuries). I have modified a Pearl Izumi mtn. bike shoe with stealth rubber on the bottom and this seems to work ok for me.
Over the last 8 weeks I have built up my time on the bike with the last 3 weeks being 9, 9 and 11 hours with three 3 hour long rides. The majority of the time is spent on the mtn. bike on pavement with little to no stopping involved. I train with the same training philosophy that I use for running and will include more time on the dirt for the last 2 weeks. I felt that time on the bike pedaling and sitting was the first priority. I also do around 5-6 hours/week of ‘running’ in the pool to try to maintain my running fitness while injured.
OK, thanks for sticking with me so far. Here are some things I am wondering about:
1. Handlebar width – Currently my bars are 25” and my shoulder width is around 17-18”. Is there a relationship between the two for a cross country type rider? The more time I spend on the bike the more I think that they need to be cut down. I currently have the Ergon GP1 grips but have a set of the Ergon GS3 on the way to try. I have struggled with hand comfort and numbness.
2. Position on the bike – It seems like my hamstrings get far more work than my quads. My knee position over the pedal is as it should be according to my bike guy and I have dropped the handlebar position one notch but I don’t feel like I can access full strength (quads) unless I really lay down over the bike. My handle bars are pretty level with the seat height. Would dropping the handlebars another notch or two help attain more aggressive pedaling?
3. My feet go numb after about 45-60 minutes. Any tips for this besides trying different shoes?
4. What would be a good tire pressure for a 125# rider on a fire road type trail?
Those are my questions and I appreciate your taking the time to read this ‘book’ and offer up some suggestions.
1. If I remember the way the Ergon is constructed correctly, you can try narrower widths without cutting your bars. Just move everything in 5 or 10mm, and see what you think.
2. KOPS is a guideline. Don't be afraid to try moving your saddle fore and aft, if you think you might improve your riding position. I wouldn't optimize my handlebar position for riding up and down the sidewalk, so revisit your local trails before you do that. To me, it makes sense, especially for an endurance race, to do as much training as possible off-road. Otherwise, your core and upper body aren't going to be where you need them to be when you race, and you're going to be in a lot of pain by the end. Or, I would be.
3. For me, this is all about not overtightening my shoe. Of course I don't want my foot to move around either. Aftermarket insoles help me a lot with this - I get a secure fit without having to whale on the buckle and the little straps. Good pedaling form helps, I think. The pedals should be under the ball of your foot. (Not everyone agrees with this, but it's the more common, accepted technique, and I think it's better.)
4. With 2.1" tires, probably around 20 psi. Nevegals are not popular with racers in my area. I don't have saddle time on them, but I typically ride something with a lower knob. For pressure, you want the lowest pressure that doesn't cause problems with wallowing and pinch flats.
I know you say you've been riding for enjoyment for years, but I've got to say that you don't sound like you like it. Why not ride for more than an hour? Why not ride trails for more of your training miles? With your endurance background and those three hour rides under your belt, you'd probably already do well if the race was this weekend. Do some more of your rides for the next two weeks on trails, don't worry about whether or not you're having a good workout, and enjoy it. If you're really afraid it's messing with your training, you can always go back onto some boring stuff and do some intervals at the end. It's not going to be your ability to be on a bike for 3.5 hours that slows you down on race day, though - it's going to be your ability to be on a bike for 3.5 hours in more technical terrain than what you're accustomed to.
"Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx
Pretty much what Aswitch said...
Also, there are some clipless pedals (not platforms) that offer a bit of "float" or side to side movement that are much easier on the knees than other brands.
Speedplay frogs offer good float in road pedals and I assume the same for mtb??
Drop in?... Anyone?
Just a quick note on the hammy... I have a grade 1 tear myself... it's not enought to keep me from racing. I lowered my saddle 2-3mm and moved it forward 3-4mm (both feel like a mile, not mms)... this de-emphasized the hamstrings (like a triathalon bike does)... i guess. It helped a ton!
Any numbness is usually bike fit related. I'd pay the buck 50 and get a pro bike fit... given all your thoughts an concerns. But... I would start with your cycling shoes! Be certain the fit correctly! Then go from there!
My bars and saddle are the same height relative to the ground... and finding a good aggressive position on the bike is not difficult.
Thanks for the suggestions. I will check around my area for a more specific bike fit.
strat819 - I also have a chronic high hamstring issue on the left side. I will try moving the seat forward.
AndrwSwitch - I initially felt a bit defensive about your comment on my enjoyment rides. Why limited to an hour? Many reasons - I have time specific goals related to my running races that I have not achieved yet so that has been my top priority and therefore I do save my legs and energy to do the workouts and miles needed to reach these goals. Since riding has been limited in the past I start would feel it in the neck and rear after about 45 min. I also rode most of the time with my best friend who is pretty spent after an hour or so.
Why am I doing most of my training on the road. Most of the trails near me are far more technical than the race course and I have been very careful with the foot. Two weeks ago I could not even stand and pedal and so I have been concerned about having to step off really quick due to the rocky conditions and coming down on the foot at an awkward angle. As I looked back through different posts I saw where alot of racers train on their road bikes so I hope that my 75% pavement/25% trail all on the mountain bike will be sufficient. For me this type of training is not boring in the least bit. Now 'running' in the pool is a different story!
I am planning on making the drive up to the race course on Monday to give it a whirl. I wish they had an exact course map on the website but riding the terrain should be quite helpful.
The new grips should be in today - I will post back on whether I have him cut the bars or not in case anyone is interested.
Thanks again for the help. Enjoy the 3 day weekend.
Concerning handle bars, check out this blog entry from Gene Hamilton's Better Ride website. I took a clinic with him and it helped me immensely.
I've always been told my my LBS that seat post height and seat (fore and aft) position are non-negotiable. They're based on your measurements and you've got to leave them alone. Stem length and rise angle are a matter of preference. I'd say go with a stem that lets you stretch out more as long as you're comfortable enough and don't feel like you'll go over the bars. You seem to want that attack position. Try a shorter stem or a stem with less rise. One thing to look for, is you want to make sure your arms are not locked at the elbow when you're on the bike. You need to be able to absorb shocks with your arms, just like your legs.
Check out Steve Hogg's website and blog. You'll find some great posts on bike fit.
Bar width is often a personal preference. If you do cut your bars, the shorter width will make you more upright. Basic geometry.
If you're not using your quads as much, this perhaps might have something to do with your cleat position and whether your drop your heels when you pedal. I'm no expert of course. The best thing to do is to make minor adjustments one at a time.
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