The Bike as a Fitness Tool – By Sarah

Throughout my life, I’ve always used a bicycle as a way to get around. When I was eight years old, it saved me a few minutes walking to get to my friend’s house down the street. When I was sixteen, it saved me a half hour’s walk to get to my boyfriend’s house across town. And now, at 21, my bicycle takes me to work, to parties, to get groceries, or to any park bench in the city.

It never really occurred to me until about a year ago that my bike rides were also a great form of exercise. Cycling is probably why I avoided the freshman fifteen, or any extra fifteen pounds for that matter. But I didn’t really make this connection until I saw the super-fit athletes that work and shop at Breakaway Bikes.

In other words, I didn’t get into cycling because I thought it would help me lose weight. It was a fun and easy form of transportation — it still is. However, I realize that cycling is also a sport, an extreme sport in some cases. Many customers come into the shop looking for a way to get into shape. Still others come in looking for a way to conquer an Ironman competition. In short, a lot of people see a bike as a fitness tool.

Why had I missed the bicycle-fitness connection? I started to think that maybe cycling fit a certain niche for people — one that didn’t necessarily concern body image or weight loss.

When people use the word athletic, for example, a certain body type comes to mind — one that’s slender, lean, muscular, etc. Could it be that the cycling world is an exception? As Katie Lambden points out in her own blog post, even professional cyclists seem to show a wider range of body types than most other professional sports — especially female professional cyclists. It might just be that bike riders encompass a peculiar population that go unaffected by the nation’s body obsession.

So what came first? Does cycling simply attract those who are more open-minded when it comes to body image and health, or do cycling and its culture actively encourage these ideals?

I want to argue the latter. Riding a bike, while it can be intense, does not have to be a work out all the time. That’s why we have beach cruisers and the granny gear. You can take it easy on your bike but still be riding your bike. You don’t have to be in shape to enjoy cycling. It’s inherently rewarding and thus encourages people to do more. But when you want to work at it, you can. You can really push yourself on a bike, even if it’s a hybrid.

Furthermore, I think cycling culture, as diverse as it may be, can foster healthy notions about body image. When you see other people on bikes, of all different shapes and sizes, it takes the emphasis away from the body and places it appropriately on the activity — riding!

Perhaps, though, that feeling of invincibility is only present on the bike. We can be different people when we’re not riding. Once again, we have to confront our bodies: what food we’re going to eat, when we’re going to eat, what we’re going to wear, how much we’re going to drink, etc. I’m not completely convinced that our positive body image translates to the non-cycling parts of our lives.

While the approaching warm weather means riding outdoors in the fresh air, it also means a swarm of mixed signals about swimsuit bodies and summer tans. So I’ll leave you with this message: healthy does not always mean skinny, beautiful, strong, etc. Health encompasses both the mental and the physical. Health matters both on and off the bike.

So You Want To Race Your Bike? – By Charlie

So at the behest of a friend, or by the flight of fancy, or out of a desire to see your sense of financial- and self-preservation dissipate as you approach a white line after an excruciatingly painful hour of riding an expensive piece of plastic and metal around in a circle, lungs searing, legs aflame—and for what? $50? Bragging rights? For Hecuba!?—that is to say, for whatever reason, you have decided to race your bicycle on the road.

To you, I say: Welcome to the club. We’re gonna have a lot of fun. And Tim Krabbe’s book, The Rider’s opening lines are going to be so much more pellucid:

“June 26, 1977. Hot and overcast. I take my gear out of the car and put my bike together. Tourists and locals are watching from sidewalk cafes. Non-racers. The emptiness of their lives shocks me.”

Here’s the thing though—the racers affiliated with this bicycle shoppe are something of an exception to the rule, put forward by the venerable bikesnob NYC, that road bike racers are “fastidious, snotty, and aloof.” He has a point, though, when he says, “Because road cycling is steeped in tradition (and occasionally garnished with attitude), every single aspect of road cycling – from clothing choice to equipment choice to hand signals to which way to pull off the front of a paceline – is governed by rules.” Additionally, there is a distinct lexicon, familiar only to the initiated. Here, I’d like to let you in on at least a few of the “rules” the regular roadies follow, or at least expect others to follow even as they may only selectively apply to themselves. When reading these, note that neither I nor my employer endorse any of these as imperatives. Consider them encouraging reminders of how to fit in. We simply want you to be aware that the cycling scene is like high school, and roadies are the plastics. Blend in with your surroundings, or be eaten alive.

1. A road racer has shaved legs.

Nothing says “this guy is a noob” like hairy legs. There is much hemming and hawing about whether there are “legitimate” reasons, that is, empirical proof that it is demonstratively deleterious to your performance to not shave them. But really it comes down to tradition.

2. Do not arrive to the race in kit, unless you rode your bike to it.

Obviously there are hygienic considerations here. If you drive up in kit, you have nothing to change into after the race. That means a drive home in a sweaty chamois. If that happens, I promise your partner won’t be doing you any favors that evening, even if you were the day’s big winner. Unless there’s a podium to stand on, chamois time is over 10 minutes after the race. Guys, strip off the jersey immediately upon dismounting and fold your bib straps (not shorts, bibs!) down so everyone can see your tan lines. Change into appropriate casual clothing between two car doors, and don’t forget to bring a towel!

3. Pin your number on properly.

Upside down numbers are a dead giveaway that you don’t know what you’re doing. If you want to be über pro, use 3M spray to adhere your number to your jersey—or, better, skinsuit—in the most aerodynamic way possible

4. Learn who everyone is. But don’t act like you know anyone until the race is over.

Again another characteristic typical of the “noob,” smiling or saying hi before the race indicates that you are not as serious as they. The competition will sense that you perhaps have a social life outside of cycling wherein you learned this peculiar characteristic some call “being personable.” Be prepared to be driven into the barriers in the sprint.

5. Keep your drivetrain away from yourself.

First off, your drive train, along with your bike, should be clean upon arrival to every race. Wash it the night before. Almost all bike chains are grey, not black. They do not squeak. They shift when shifted, in a 1:1 ratio. More importantly, though, is that grease does not adorn any inch of your hands, bibs, jersey, and above all else, your calves! This is what’s known as a “cat-5 tattoo.”

This mark earned its name in virtue of the fact that many category 5 racers (the category in which all USA Cycling riders must start their first 10 races) annoit themselves with their greasy drive trains while straddling their top tube.

6. Lastly, sprint in your drops.

It is more comfortable to ride with your hands on the hoods, but it is more powerful to ride in the drops. In the drops: you have more leverage on the pedals down there, especially while standing (compare rider on the left vs. rider on the right); you are lower and therefore more aerodynamic; and you have more control of the bike in case you get bumped. Plus, you don’t look as ridiculous as the guy in the orange helmet (me in my first usac race). I’ve considered adding to this list the advice “don’t get an orange helmet,” but it sort of depends on what matches your kit.

Now hopefully you are at least comfortable showing up to the race. Next time I’ll try to write a primer on talking the talk and looking something of the part of a road racer. Once that’s in your purview, you may want to consider graduating to looking PRO. Doing so requires adhering to several more rules, to be discussed in future posts. Once you achieve PRO status, you can further enhance your status by becoming “Euro.” This is sort of like Dr. E. R. Bloomquist’s rank of “cool,” or the Kierkegaardian religious—except in roadie world probably the aesthetic comes on top. Lost? Apologies—go watch Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas to catch the allusion. Anyway… To be Euro, you must stridently adhere to the rules set forth in the Official Rules of the Euro Cyclist. As the authors note, being euro is not just a posture or a lifestyle—it is a state of being. Embrace it. Now that you’re a racer, you’re so far from the mainstream, so deeply embedded into our zany subculture, there’s no turning back. You might as well go all-in!

Spring is a Comin’ – By Javier

If you haven’t noticed, the spring is almost upon us. All the tell-tale signs are starting to show themselves: the Mercury is slowly starting to creep in an upward direction, the precipitation is starting to fall more as rain than snow, and most importantly, we’re getting more sunlight. YES!!!! I mean, it’s almost 5:30pm and there’s still enough light for me to enjoy being outside. Many of us relish the return of warmer temperatures as the jump-start we need to get out of our winter hibernation. For those of us in the cycling industry, the spring marks a return to what we enjoy seeing most, people riding their bikes. Regardless of whether you race, are a daily commuter, or a recreational cyclist who loves to cruise around Kelly Drive, warm weather makes it all so much more enjoyable. But, if you’re like many Philadelphians, hell, many Northeasterners, your bike has probably been hibernating since November. Before you get all gung-ho, and decide to take your bike on that ride you’ve been thinking about for months, take a few minutes to get yourself prepared for the season.

Let’s start with a visual inspection. Before you even throw your leg over the top-tube of the bike, take a few minutes to look over your bike. Is the tread of your tires worn? Do your wheels spin true? Is your chain rusty or dirty? If your bike has been sitting for the past few months, it might be a good idea to bring it in for a tune-up before you hit the open road. Now that you’ve looked the bike over, jump on the saddle and give it a quick spin around the block. Pay attention to how the bike feels and sounds. If your bike isn’t shifting, or braking, properly, or you hear a strange noise every time you pedal, remember that it won’t get better with time. We have the best mechanics in the city and they are ready to keep you rolling with our tune up services. One piece of advice, bring your bike in sooner rather than later. A Soup or Salad tune-up that might keep you off your bike for a day in early March can easily become two-weeks in mid-June due to the high volume of tune – ups we must perform as the weather warms. When it’s a beautiful out, and you decide that you want to ride your bike, remember that there are others in the city who feel the same way.

Ok, so one of our wrenches has shown your bike some love and you’re ready to roll, right? Not so fast. Your bike may be in tip top shape but what about your other gear? We all know the meteorological saying, “March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb”, if you don’t, see here. March is known for its unpredictable weather and being prepared for it all is paramount. Some might argue with me about this but I think proper eyewear is the most important piece of outerwear any cyclist own. Good eyewear protects you from rain, dust, debris, and wind. Unless you have The Force, I don’t recommend riding with your eyes closed. Luckily, we have a wide selection of stylish and functional eyewear by Tifosi. I don’t want you thinking that as long as you have a good pair of glasses, you’ll be ready to attack the elements. Come in and check-out our full line of Louis Garneau clothing.

Your bike is ready, you’ve got the clothing, now it’s time to think about ‘you.’ Yeah, that’s right, I want you to think about yourself going into this spring. I want you to ask yourself what type of riding you’ll be doing this season. Are you going to do your first triathlon or will this be the year you plan on completing that Century? We’ve recently revamped our coaching packages and there’s something for everyone. The coaches at Breakaway are the best in the city. We’re experienced, dedicated, and are there to make sure you get the most out of your season. Let the spring be the time where you lay the groundwork for your goals.

I hope this little conversation has been the kick in the pants you’ve needed tog et a jump start on the season. . Be sure to stop by the shop. It’s been a few months and we miss you and your bike.