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Is Cycling On The Roads Too Dangerous?

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
VTR Expert
User is currently offline
on Friday, September 27, 2013
in Cycling

 

The last few years there seems to be more and more incidents of cyclists being hit by cars. The most recent incident was the senseless act that cost the lives of two cyclists last weekend at the Tri-State Seacoast Century in New Hampshire. The last few seasons there doesn't seem to be a week that goes by without hearing about a fellow cyclist being hit by a car. Are these incidents happening more often or is it just easier to spread the word via email/Facebook?

As a cyclist and triathlete for over 20 years I have ridden thousands of miles on the roads. About 18 years ago I was hit by a car during a 60 mile training ride. I was lucky. I survived the crash but suffered a back injury that kept me out of work for 3 months. My bike was also totaled costing me thousands of dollars. For years afterward it was rare for me to encounter someone else that had been hit by a car. Now it seems that more and more cyclists have either been hit, ran off the road, or had a near miss with a motorist.

Why is this? Are cyclists to blame? Now we all know a few riders that do not follow the rules of the road and take unnecessary chances but I believe the vast majority of cyclists are very cautious riders. Why? Well it is the obvious...our life depends on it! In New England most of our roads are not setup to accommodate cyclists. We have narrow roads with little to no shoulder or bike lane. I am not sure if it is because cyclists are only on the road for about half of the year but many motorists just do not know how to drive past a cyclist. Take a look at a few examples I describe below:

1) Driver gives way too much room as they pass almost hitting a car head on coming in the opposite direction.

2) Driver gives you no room and could "shave" your legs as they pass many times without even slowing.

3) Driver refuses to pass you and rides your back tire "afraid?" to pass.

4) Driver pulling a trailer or boat passes you with plenty of clearance but forgets they need to give extra room for what they are pulling and you are almost clipped.

5) Driver passes you and beeps the horn for no reason sometimes startling you and you almost wipeout.

6) Driver passes you and immediately turns in front of you.

I could go on and on with different scenarios. If you have ridden frequently on the roads you have experienced all of the above and then some. All of this does not even include hazards such as pot holes, rough road, sewers, road debris, dogs, etc.

With all of these dangers out on the roads is it just too dangerous to be a cyclist? As a responsible family man is it irresponsible to put myself in harm's way and go for a ride on the roads? The bottom line is that you are at risk every time you go out for a ride. Extreme caution and following the rules of the road will not defend you against many drivers that really could care less about your safety. Speeding, distracted drivers (texting/email/phones), and increased traffic have made our roads a perilous place. As a cyclist it is your "right" to ride on the road. Unfortunately this is little comfort when you are hit. We are defenseless and rely on motorists to avoid hitting us. I don't know about you but I do not have that much confidence in my fellow man.

Think of this... Police Officers need a special law to tell motorists to slow down as they pass. (Move Over America). Police cars have flashing blue lights, project authority and still have trouble avoiding being hit. What chances do we have? It is really frustrating and maddening to hear incident after incident of fellow cyclists being injured or killed. What is the answer? More rail trails? More bike lanes? More laws to protect cyclists? I do not know the answer but cycling seems to be becoming a very dangerous sport.

As a cyclist, the fact of the matter is if you are hit by a car chances are you will be badly injured or killed. Your bike will be destroyed costing you thousands of dollars. The driver of the car will have minor vehicle damage and will probably face minimal or no punishment. We have all of the risk! Maybe cycling is just too dangerous....should we just give up on cycling in New England? Or better yet should we all just move to Southern California and enjoy the countless miles of bike paths?

As I pondered these thoughts a police car pulled someone over in front of my house. The officer got out of his car and started talking to the driver. Seconds later another car flew down the road driving at least 15-20 miles an hour over the speed limit and had to brake heavily to avoid hitting the officer. This is despite the fact they would have had a clear view of his flashing lights for a good distance. The officer stopped the driver and yelled at him to slow down and pay attention then the guy sped off.

How do we get people's attention? What can be done?

Feel free to share your thoughts below.

 

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Indoor Cycling Tips to Survive the Winter

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
VTR Expert
User is currently offline
on Wednesday, January 09, 2013
in Cycling

Unless you are lucky enough to live in a snow less environment, chances are you are going to have to ride indoors at some point this winter. Many of us put this fact off for as long as possible because the reality is indoor cycling sucks. All of the things you love about cycling do not exist when riding indoors. Riding down a country road enjoying the sights and sounds of a beautiful spring day. Pushing your body to maintain speed over a small rise and then accelerating on the downhill. Designing a new route for your long ride and then feeling like an explorer as you cover new ground. Compare that to being locked in a stationary position sweating your #@!* off as you turn the cranks hour after hour in a dark corner of your house. Now there are many different ways to "spice" up your indoor training. Here are a few ways to get you through the winter.

The Bike Trainer

Almost every cyclist/triathlete has a bike trainer of some type. The problem is most people find riding on a trainer consistently all winter very difficult. Here are a few tips that may help you keep your sanity.

1) Design a program that meets your fitness goals. If you trudge down to the basement with no plan you are not going to last long on the trainer. Create a winter workout plan that is realistic and will help you stay focused. Keep in mind the trainer can be a tougher workout than riding on the road. There are no downhill breaks or coasting. If you stop pedaling the bike stops. Creating a high intensity workout that lasts 30-60 minutes can really increase your fitness.

2) Don't waste a lot of time riding junk miles. The last two winters I religiously spent 6 hours a week on the trainer during the winter months. Of these 6 hours I would say only 1-2 were quality and the rest were just spinning my legs. I honestly do not think riding junk miles on the trainer increases your fitness level. I would have been better off riding a couple of high quality workouts and a long ride each week. Everyone has a winter indoor cycling tolerance and every time you get on the trainer it goes down just a little bit. You don't want to waste your time. Make each workout count.

3) Have trouble designing high quality workouts? Try Spinervals indoor cycling workout videos. I have purchased several of these videos and they have worked for me. These videos are great because you do not have to plan or design your workout. You simply follow along with the video, changing gears and applying the appropriate trainer tension as described on the video. A note of caution.....most of these videos are really tough workouts. They are designed to be high intensity workouts to increase your fitness. If your "workout" on the trainer is spinning your legs in an easy gear while you watch the news you are in for a rude awakening.

4) If you want to get a "long ride" done on the trainer set yourself up for success. I am not sure if it is beneficial to ride 2-5 hours at one time on the trainer but if you feel this would help your fitness then you need to plan ahead. Just because you are indoors doesn't mean you don't have to plan out the details of your ride. Just like on the road you have to still plan out your nutrition, fluid intake, etc. All of these items need to be accessible during your ride. In addition how will you pass the time? I usually plan ahead and make sure I have several movies or TV shows available. Keep in mind if you are riding for four hours that is at least 2 entire movies. There is nothing worse than running out of things to watch and still have 60-90 minutes left to ride.

 Spinning

Sick of the trainer? Spinning can be a great way to break the monotony of the bike trainer and can be an excellent workout. If you have never tried a spin class you should definitely try one this winter. Riding the spin bike takes a little getting used to but you should not feel intimidated going your first time. The spin bike is similar to the trainer as you control the tension on the pedals. That is why I said spinning "can" be an excellent workout. The instructor will guide you though the workout but no one is verifying your tension level. When I attend a spin class I am looking for that high intensity workout. I try to use as much tension as I can tolerate to make the most of my time.

There is no denying that you can get a great cardio workout from a spin class. There is some debate as to whether spinning will increase your cycling fitness. The spin bike is not the same as your road bike. Seat angles, pedaling, lack of shifting, and general positioning are all different. I can only give advice based on my experience. Three years ago I did limited riding on the trainer but consistently did a spin class three times a week all winter. In February of 2010 I came close to my PR at the Mercedes Half Marathon after running a great 5k the day before. I started riding outdoors a month later and I was shocked that I was not in great cycling shape. I was very uncomfortable on my bike and my leg strength was not there. My opinion is that spinning can get you in great overall shape and is great cross-training but cannot replace riding your bike on the trainer.

Computrainer

A Computrainer is your bike trainer on steroids. Sensors are attached to your bike, the bike trainer, and your person to monitor cadence, power output, pedaling efficiency, heart rate, etc. While you ride you are watching a screen with a pre-loaded bike course of your choice. The tension on the trainer changes based on the course conditions. Most of the Ironman bike courses are available and it is a great tool as you can actually ride race courses in advance. Many top triathletes use Computrainer to train for specific early season events. The big drawback with the Computrainer is the price. The lowest end version is around $2000 and each race sells for $99. One option to avoid the big price tag is to look for a local club or YMCA that may offer use of a Computrainer. In my area there is a club that has a Computrainer Center and charges $25 an hour. (check it out here) This is a great option if you would like to try it or just add sessions into your training plan.

As all of us try to drag ourselves through the next couple of months of winter the key to maintaining your cycling fitness is to keep training. Don't get burned out...Adding in a spin class or Computrainer session can break up your week and keep you motivated. I think variety in your indoor cycling training will keep you sane and make your winter training more enjoyable. Of course if you really want to have fun pack up your bike and head somewhere warm for a week!  Cool

 

 

 

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