Sunday, March 15, 2009

Stevens Criterium

So now that our race is over, I can finally get a full night of sleep :)

Seriously, everyone involved in the race has been working hard over the past few months to make sure this race would go off with out a hitch. From what I saw today, everyone was satisfied with the course. Yes even the infamous Joe Kopena, who gave me and my teammates some well deserved praise. From what I heard from teams as they left, the race was fun and well run.

We started early this morning by re-sweeping the course and getting our marshals in place. We had plenty of volunteers from various organizations at Stevens and full support of the Hoboken Police Department. Several teams showed up early to preview the course that some said was dangerous. Before the first D1 field there were pre-jitters all around the parking lot. After the first few laps that all changed as the racing became fast and furious. I think the leaders in each field lapped the pack several times. It was definitely a memorable day of racing.

We were on schedule for most of the races, and I am very impressed with how well everyone on my team handled themselves. This was a difficult endeavor to undertake, and we were able to put on very successful race.

We had some problems early this year with blogging, permits, etc etc. In the end Stevens put on a good race and I am very excited to be able to put this race on again next year. All my teammates were very proud to say that they were part of such a good event. For the future we will try to get a longer course to avoid so many people being lapped. The potholes will hopefully be taken care of and will have a super smooth crit. Now I'm looking forward to next week and U Delaware. Hope to see everyone there

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Over the past few days, several high ups in the ECCC have been tearing into my teammate Raymond over the Stevens course. I assure that the course is safe, the reason for the post was to make racers aware of it. Judging from what we saw in the D and C, it is highly recommended that racers preview the course.

Our course is technical and will make for excellent racing, however due to the inexperience of some riders crashes can be expected. In order to minimize the crashes, Raymond recommended for teams to preview the course. I feel that people are overreacting to all the logistics of our race. It seems that some people(you know who you are) are upset at the parking and speed bump issues(they are being fixed today). Obviously, you do not what planning a race in the middle of a city is like. There are certain obstacles know that we had to compromise with the city.

For you guys that have been tearing into Raymond, you need to calm down (yes he is a little obnoxious, but that is what gets everything done at the end of day). Seriously, calm down its not cool to be throwing garbage at my teammate. Some of your arguments are not valid as you have not been dealing w/ a corrupt city that is called Hoboken. Understand, that although we are a second year team we are striving to become better. We have had some pitfalls and minor problems but have been able to overcome them w/ the help of certain individuals(again you know who you are). Instead of criticizing and being negative, why don't you individuals give constructive criticism. Work with us not against us, we will put on an amazing race that everyone will remember for years. This course will make for some great racing, we simply ask that riders preview the course to avoid crashes. The course may have some bumps, some tight turns, and maybe some rough roads. That is bike racing for you, if you don't like it then don't race. If you want to see some epic racing, then show up and race at Stevens.

Instead of having a private discussion Joe has decided to inflate the situation on a public forum. This is not the Joe Kopena I met last year as an intro racer. Instead of being supportive and helpful as in the past, he has decided to give us the cold shoulder. The comments about us not being experienced enough racers are being made w/ no valid argument. Some of our racers have been racing in Prospect Park all year and have come out w/ scratches and some cases bite marks. Our racers compete in more USCF races than most teams combined. If you are going to make an argument, please get your facts straight. We may not have time to train as some people, but remember we are engineers and actually work in school.

I ask In the future, if you have a problem w/ us grow up and call or email us. There is no need to publicly scrutinize a second year team. You blog about how you love the intro coaching and how worked so hard for it, then show that same compassion for us who have only strived to put on a good race.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Race Report

Well my start of the 2009 collegiate season has officially started. Didn't go to well to say the least...

In the ITT, I had mechanical issues and did the first portion of the course in my small ring which caused my to lose a minimum of 30 seconds. In the crit I did OK, but didn't finish where i wanted. I question the fitness level of some of these racers. They may be strong now, but come June will they be burnt out??? Well if they just race collegiate, then more power to you. But for USCF racers like me, there is no need to be that fit this early. The bulk of my season is in June anyway, so I if get wrecked now no big worries.

In the Circuit Race, I took a nasty spill in the C2 field w/ 3 laps to go. An out of true wheel is to blame as i went down on a slippery right hand turn. The most annoying part was that I felt really good during the race. Oh well, that bike racing for you. I hope to see everyone out at the Stevens Crit this coming weekend.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Creative Borrowing

It has brought to my attention by some individuals that it seems like I like to plagiarize. I assure that none of my posts were meant to to seem that way. I will admit that an earlier post I copied and pasted from Bike Snob NYC, but I simply that was funny and meant no harm. My last post, I made it clear that I did not write the article. I copied the content to save people the time of clicking the link, mainly because sometime links do not work for whatever reason.

The nature of my posts is not to offend or take credit for something that is not original. But if do use an existing article, think of not as copying but as creative borrowing. The idea is to get the info out there, if that means copying and pasting then so be it. By recognize that credit was given to the original writer/author, and please calm down. Its not like I stole several billion dollars from investor or am using public funds to pay for lavish vacation. There is not need to try to tear me a new one, grow up please...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Back to Basics

With Steve's post in mind I figured it was best to post this now. I posted a link last month on proper paceline skills, but I will put those up here in this post.The full article can be found here.

Pace lines are those neat single file lines you see in the Tour de France and it's a great way to cover a lot of distance fast, with much less energy expended by everyone in the group. The concept is that wind resistance is your enemy (as much as 40% of your energy is spent overcoming wind resistance) and by following someone close behind you can use less energy. Of course the person in front will be doing most of the work so you trade off turns at the front so that every one gets a break.

A word about risk. The efficiency of riding in a pace line comes at the cost of added risk. Riding in a pace line is not as safe as riding by yourself. If the rider ahead of you (or behind you or on either side for that matter) does something unexpected, you could find yourself on the pavement in an instant. Don't ride in a pace line unless you're willing to assume these risks!

There are three basic rules to Pace line riding:

1) Don't do anything suddenly!

2) Don't do anything suddenly!


This may sound obvious but it is the key to a good pace line. The best way to start out pace line riding is with a partner you trust who is a smooth rider (i.e. as smooth or smoother than you). Start out following him or her with about 2 feet of space between your bikes (or greater if your not comfortable that close). Gradually close the distance to whatever your nerves can stand. Ideally you want to be 6"-12" away, although as you can see from Fig 1, you can get a good draft a wheel's length away, so getting too close is not absolutely essential. It is also important that you do not ride up along the side the rear wheel of the person in the pace line ahead of you, this is called "overlapping wheels" and can cause a fall if the person ahead of you swerves to avoid an object in the road.

The Effect of Drafting

Wheel Gap in Feet decrease in resistance
.5 44%
1.0 42%
2.0 38%
3.0 34%

Start out riding a pace line with just two riders and do it on flat ground. It is a good idea to split your attention between watching the rear wheel of the rider ahead of you and glancing over his or her shoulder to see what's ahead. The lead person should be watching ahead and giving verbal cues along with GRADUALLY moving over for the ever annoying... er.. present, runners in the bike lanes (we don't ride on the sidewalks, why do they run in the bike lanes?). Later, as you develop more confidence in your (and the rider in front's) ability you can begin to reduce the distance between you. Be sure to "guard your front wheel" as it is the key to stability. If you do bump another rider, don't panic or make a sudden swerve, just move away from the interfering rider. One of the drills practiced at bike clinics is bumping and riding arminarm on a grassy field. It's fun and teaches you that just because you bump or are bumped, doesn't mean you're going down.

There are other rules just as important:


Don't stop pedaling (see rule 1). if the speed of the pace line slows just pedal around slower ("soft pedaling" -- pedaling without applying a lot of force to the pedals), this keeps your pedaling motion going and prevents you from unintended acceleration when you go from motionless to pedaling again. It also prevents the person behind you from being startled. You can also reduce your speed without braking by raising your body to create more air resistance or moving over slightly out of the draft of the person ahead of you, but don't raise up off the saddle!


Basically, DO NOT (see rule 3). The person ahead of you must let you know about upcoming obstacles and if you are at the front you should give plenty of warning if you are going to stop for a signal. If you have a problem (flat, chain came off, etc.) just yell "chain, flat, stopping, etc." and pull out of the pace line and coast until you are clear and can stop without endangering other riders.

Gear Changing

Try and stay in a gear that you can spin around at 80-100 RPM. The brake lever shifters (STI, Ergopower) are nice because they allow you keep your hands on the bars and shift which doesn't cause wobbles like the down tube shifters do. If you have down tube shifters you may have to refrain from changing gears as often as you would when riding alone.


Generally pace line and hill should not be used in the same sentence. Everyone has a different climbing style and unless you are familiar with the rider ahead of you may end up in a ditch from an overlapped wheel. Gradual hills are fine, just increase the distance between you and the bike in front of you and try not to accelerate up the grade (it's OK for your pace line speed to drop 2-3 MPH or more on an uphill drag). Oh yeah one more thing NEVER GET OUT OF THE SADDLE IN A PACE LINE!!! When you get out of the saddle you tend to throw you bike back 6-12" which will definitely cause a crash!

If you must stand up to make it up the hill and someone is close behind you, an advanced technique is to push down hard on the pedal as you raise up off the saddle. This compensates for the tendency of the bike to move back as you raise up. Practice this riding alongside someone going uphill before trying it out in a pace line. Likewise give an extra hard stroke as you sit down to avoid slowing during the transition to seated climbing.

Unintended Acceleration

Another thing to watch for is unintended acceleration. First made popular by Audi in the late 70's, it was actually first used to describe the phenomena of being "off the front" of a pace line which generally irritates everyone in the pace line. It happens when you get to the front and subconsciously you feel that you are not moving fast enough so you pick up the pace without realizing it. At some point you look back either to see no one, or a bunch of really annoyed riders.

Everyone has done this accidentally at some point (yes, even our editor) [That's a lie, I do it intentionally. -ed.] and you can avoid it by looking at your computer (yes Brandon, they are useful) and noting the speed before taking a pull at the front. Stay within 1.5 MPH or less of that speed and avoid looking like a wanker!!

Multiple Riders

Once you feel comfortable riding with another person in a pace line you can graduate to multiple riders. This gets a bit trickier since you are dealing with more than just two people. Everyone has a different comfort speed and this really shows up in multiple rider pace lines. Again, watch your computer and try to keep with 1/2 MPH of the last leader's pace. If you find the pace too fast, take a shorter pull at the front, or better yet "pull through and off which means when you get to the front just pull off without

taking a pull at the front. When pulling off the front of the pace line ease up on your pedaling but don't stop, the idea is to get to the back of the pace line as fast as possible in order to get a break from the wind. As you get toward the back of the pace line, gradually increase your pedaling speed to match the pace line speed and pull in behind the last rider. Be careful to make sure that the rider you pull in behind is the last rider, More than one crash has been caused by someone pulling into another rider thinking they were at the end. (Another reason to keep the gap between you and the next rider at 6-12"). Even good riders have trouble in multiple rider pace lines, the best remedy is practice.


Echelons are used extensively in team time trials and you may have unconsciously used them in your daily riding. Usually the wind is not head on to the riders in the pace line and may come from one side or the other to the direction of the pace line. In this case you will see the riders following to the side of the rider in front of them. The technical explanation is termed "relative wind" but is best explained by experimenting with a friend the next time you are in a crosswind. If you notice you are still feeling a headwind when following another rider pull off slightly to

one side (away from the wind) and see if this helps block the wind. Remember to stay out of traffic and don't overlap the wheel in front of you, even if you are off to the side the front rider can still swerve over and take you out.

Dual Pace Lines

Dual pace lines are used with larger groups (8-15 riders) as a way of keeping the group from stringing out too far behind. It also has a pleasant side effect of enhancing communication within the group. It is really just two single file pace lines put side by side. The rotation can be done two ways. Normally the lead rider pulls over to the side away from the wind, and the rider at the end of this line moves over into the end of line on the wind side. This has the effect of creating a continuously rotating pace line.

Where there is lots of road and no traffic, this can also be done by having both the riders at the front come off the front to the outside of the dual pace line and drift to the back. Note that the California Vehicle Code requires riders to stay to the right unless they are passing another vehicle (bike or car), or avoiding debris in the roadway.

Duties of the Lead Rider

In a smooth running pace line riders do not have time to see and avoid obstacles, such as rocks, holes, cracks in the pavement, old muffler pipes, cans of Bud, etc. The riders depend on the lead rider to be the eyes of the pace line and to either point out or shout out a warning, (rock right, runner right, car up, etc.) These warnings should be passed down the pace line by each rider. If you don't feel comfortable taking your hands off the bars to point out a rock, just shout "rock right (left)".

If the pace line needs to slow down because of a stop sign, car turning ahead, or whatever reason, the leader must shout out a warning, "light up" [meaning a stoplight, not time for a Marlboro -ed], "car up", etc., and the following riders must pass the word.

Drinking and Foreign Substances

It's probably best to get a drink when you're at the back of the line, so you won't mess someone else up if you swerve while swigging you favorite tonic. The same goes for spitting, this is best done when you're the last rider. Projectile vomiting and expectoration in the pace line is discouraged by the CVC.

Problem Riders

Occasionally you may be troubled by other riders who don't hold their line, stop unexpectedly, etc. Don't ignore this, often it's just a matter of education. Please talk to the offending rider in a polite way, asking him or her to refrain from the problem behavior. If you are reluctant to do this, ask one of the ride leaders to handle the problem. Safety is every one's concern!

Being Smooth

The best pace lines have the smoothest riders and the smoothest riders got that way in one of two ways. either by riding the track or by riding rollers. I do not recommend riding the track right off because it is just downright scary, they won't fit in you living room, and they are rather expensive.

This leaves rollers. (Not the same thing as a wind or mag trainer!) Rollers are three drums 6 inches in diameter, Your rear wheel sits between the two rear rollers and you front wheel sits on the front roller. The middle and front roller are connected with a belt. There is nothing to physically attached to your bike to hold it up, therein lies the secret to being smooth. When you ride your bike on rollers the wheels spin and it is this action that accelerates the wheels and creates a gyroscopic effect that gives your bike (and you) stability to stay upright.

The reason rollers are good at making smooth riders is that they amplify any movement or steering on the bike. Subtle shifts of body weight while riding rollers will cause wobbling, likewise steering input to the handlebars. It takes about three or four hours for a reasonably coordinated person to ride the rollers without assistance from crash pads, pillows and friends, and you will fall down (at least once). The best advice is not to try this on a hard surface. Once you have mastered riding rollers on your own you will be amazed at how much smoother you are on the road. This will translate into a much more enjoyable and confident pace line rider.

We will be trying out pace lines with the Saturday sport ride as conditions warrant (i.e. wind, interested riders ride length) and everything will make a lot more sense once you have experienced them on the bike.

I ask all team captains to send this out to their rookie racers and some of your more experienced ones as well. It's always good to refresh yourself on proper riding skills.