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Nutrition Strategy for Endurance Riding

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This is intended to be a simple nutrition guide to help you through your training and events.  I encourage every athlete to do more research on this topic, consult with a nutritional professional, and find out what works best for them.  It is ok to experiment with nutrition during training, but never try something new during a race or event.


You can generally survive a one hour ride with very little food or water, but as you extend your rides beyond an hour, nutrition and hydration become critical. Just eating and hydrating is good, but answering  three important questions will help you get the best nutrition strategy for your training and events.

note - During exercise you will burn more calories than you can consume.  This is normal.  Ideally, you will get the majority of your calories from stored fat in your body.

How much?

How much you eat and drink during a bike ride is unique to each person.  In general, you need the following amounts.

Calories/Hour * ~180 - 400**
Fluids/Hour  16oz - 24oz 

* Keep in mind that your fluid calories count towards this total

What to eat?

Your food options range from a homemade sandwich to energy electrolyte drinks like Gatorade.  Understanding how quickly food breaks down, the affect on your digestive system and impact to your blood sugar levels is the key.   Why is this important?  In general you want to eat more complex foods at the beginning of a ride.  These items will break down slowly and deliver constant energy ( not spiking your blood sugar level) for a long period of time.  Simpler foods, like gels and blocks should be used during the middle and end of a ride.  They provide more immediate energy (higher blood sugar levels) but for a shorter period of time.  

How do you put it all together? - The 20% rule

Whether you are doing a 2 hour ride or a 6 hour century, you can break down your nutrition into 20% intervals.  Here is an example for a century ride. You can use distance or time intervals.  I prefer time.

Time Interval ( hours) Food Fluid Total Calories
1.2 PB& J  Sandwich 16oz 180
2.4 Cliff Bar (Oatmeal) 18oz 200
3.6 Cliff Bar + gel blocks 24oz 250
4.8 gel blocks + gel 24oz 300
6.0 gel 24oz 300

 

 

 

Perceived Exertion (PE) - Going beyond Heart Rate

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We have grown to depend on heart rate monitors to tell us how hard we are training and racing. Heart rate(HR) training zones are a simple exercise perscription, both for the gym or when you are in the outdoors. But, HR is just one data point that should be considered when doing physical activity. It does not take into account other factors such as nutrition, muscle fatigue, body pain, stomach strength, and mental fatigue. All these factors should be combined to calculate a perceived exertion (PE) level.

What is the PE scale?

1 - 5, 1-10, and 10 - 100, are the most common scales used in endurance training and racing. The largest number in the scale represents the maximum possible human effort.  As the numbers decrease, the overall effort is decreasing.

Here is the scale I have developed. I encourage you to experiment and find a scale that works for you.

 

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Wet Weather Gear

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If you live in a location that has more than one season, then you probably have to deal with cold and wet weather.  Riding in these conditions is challenging but can be safe, fun, and a great workout. 

Having the proper gear for wet weather riding is the key to a good workout.  At a minimum, you should have a

MUST HAVE

1. Rear Fender ( a must )

2. Water Resistant Gloves ( your hands are the first things to hit the wind and rain)

3. Water Resistant Jacket ( protect your core from getting cold )

4. Glasses ( protect your eyes from rain, wind, and dirt )

And you should also consider

5. Front Fender (optional but nice to have)

6. Booties (They will not keep you feet dry, but they will keep them warmer)

7. Water Resistant Pants

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The Hunt for the Perfect Saddle

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If you like to ride, then you should know how important the bicycle seat is to your success. A painful seat can shorten your bike ride and, in severe situations, cause physical stress to your pelvic anatomy.  If you are racing, you could be spending 1.5 hours to 5 day in the saddle. Having the wrong saddle is not good and just not acceptable.


This article will dispel myths, provide both basic and advanced knowledge about the saddle selection process, and, most importantly, how to properly setup you saddle for the best performance. Believe me, most people are not using their saddle properly.

All hips are not created equal.  For that reason, saddles come in a variety of sizes, shapes and materials. The goal of these variations is to maximize comfort by making sure the saddle makes contact with your sit bones properly.

 

SIZE – The first consideration in saddle selection is the size. Saddle width must be optimized for hip width. Most commonly, I see new cyclists with very large and/or wide saddles. People usually equate big saddles with comfort. This is usually not the case. The saddle must fit you properly.


SHAPE – The second consideration is saddle shape. Along with size, shape is used to optimize the contact of the saddle with your sit bones. Some manufacturers make gender specific saddles, taking into consideration the anatomical differences between men and women. The goal is to ensure that the saddle provides support without restricting blood flow.

 

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