Posted by: BikeFox | June 14, 2008

Finding a Bike Shop

Throughout my years of cycling and teaching as a spin instructor you can bet I have heard my fair share of horror stories about bad bike shops. Stories of people getting the wrong advice on which bike to buy (so a shop can move their inventory), ridiculous charges for repairs, being sold the wrong size bike, bike tune ups gone wrong, etc. Some so bad that I would love to list their names here, but I’ll leave that to Karma.

When I was in Ontario I had a few choice shops, and usually each race season there was one gifted mechanic who was the only one I would let lay hands on my bikes! Since moving to Vancouver I have bounced between shops because I haven’t found a shop that meets the following criteria (a good list when deciding which shop you are going to rely on):

  1. Good selection and knowledge of product:
    You want a shop that carries a variety of brands (for bikes and otherwise) so you know you’re not getting pushed into a product because they need to move inventory. You also want the peace of mind that the staff KNOW what they are recommending, and can compare brands for you.
  2. Great customer service: (aka. they care that you shop there):
    My rule of thumb is that if I have purchased some product and had my bike serviced at a shop (which means I should now be in their database with all my vitals) and I come back a third time and they don’t know my name I don’t go back!! (FYI: I always introduce myself to the team member helping me and ask their name.) Bottom line: I want to feel welcome where I drop my $$.

    Oh, I should also add: approachability. I should always feel like I can approach any of the staff with a question no matter how dumb! If I get ignored, get attitude, or feel like someone is being condescending, I’m outta there! I also watch how they work with beginner riders, this is a big indication as to how they treat all their customers, as new riders deserve time, patience and explanation.

  3. I am comfortable asking questions and trust their advice.
    ’nuff said.
  4. They don’t bash your brand of choice:
    Everyone has their own opinion on what brand of bike they like to ride. If I take my bike in to be serviced and it’s not a brand they carry, I don’t want to hear about why what I ride sucks.
  5. They aren’t always on the upsell:
    I am okay with a staff memeber who knows me and knows what I am up to (ie. the BC Bike Race) making a product recommendation to improve my riding experience. But I’m not okay with a shop who pushes someone’s budget just to see how much they can profit from them. I’m also not with the mechanics always replacing parts with new parts just ’cause they can.
  6. Expert Knowledge:
    Everyone that works there should know their stuff and ride/use what they recommend!! Now each person doesn’t have to know everything, but they should be an expert on something to do with their clients, and when they don’t know, pass you on to the person there that is.
  7. My Bike is returned FIXED!!
    This might seem like a no brainer, but you’d be surprised how many times I have dropped my bike off to be fixed, paid a big sum of $$, and got on the trail to encounter the SAME problem!!! Nothing annoys me more.

    Now granted, sometimes, some problems require some trouble shooting and tweaking. So if I have to take it back, then they should be more than happy to resolve the issue without recharging me for the labour.

Soooooo……..why did the topic of this article come up?!

Because I am excited to say that after 5 years of searching I have finally found my shop of choice who EXCEEDS my list above. Actually it was Vik who bugged and bugged me to go to them, as other shops fumbled and failed my expectations. And we are SO thrilled with this shop that we are now proudly racing under their name at th BC Bike Race…….

So………….if you are looking for a top notch shop in Vancouver, even if you have to drive a little farther, I 100% recommend: OBSESSION BIKES

, ask for James and tell him Karley & Vik sent you!!

Posted by: BikeFox | June 9, 2008

Packing Bike Boxes…

Well, by now we’ve got a wee bit of experience packing bike boxes for flight, and after our adventure I have some tips to help you get your baby there and back safe and sound.

1) Box selection
There are a few different choices here: hard case, or cardboard. Having flown my bike in both options, I have 100 times more peace-of-mind when flying my in a bike hard case.

I’ve flown a couple bikes in the same cardboard box that a bike is shipped new to the store in and even when I double boxed a bike, by the time it got to my destination something had always been pressured enough with weight that it was sticking out of the box. This is especially concerning when it’s your derailer!!

I won’t say that a hard case is bomb-proof, but pretty close to it if you dial everything down snug enough. With a Trico bike box (which we used) three layers of 2.5″ thick t pack between the important parts of the bike (the main component and the wheels). And the other bonus is that these boxes have wheels, making life MUCH easier when going from car, to hotel, to airport, etc. You can usually rent these at a local bike shop, and it’s only about $40 – 50 per week, call it “insurance” for your bike.

If you ARE considering using cardboard, I’m going to recommend that next time you are at arrivals in the airport, go to the special baggage section and watch how gently they treat large equipment! [*insert large amounts of sarcasm]. Long story short, on one of our legs we were standing there and watched them hurl, and yes, I mean HURL out, a set of golf clubs, baby car seats, a surf board (nose first, I wonder if it’s still in tact), and a few other pieces. It was SO brutal that a the owner of the car seats actually pushed back the curtains and yelled at the workers in the loading bacy, “Hey guys, why don’t you throw the stuff a little {insert explicative} harder! I don’t think you are breaking things into quite as many pieces as you want?!!!”

2) Dissasembly
As you are taking the bike apart pay close attention to how it was assembled to begin with. I know this may sound obvious, but when taking key things off, ie. a derailer, it pays off when you have to put your bike back together and there is no bike shop within 100s of miles of where you are to help you fix it!

When you take a bolt, screw, out, even though the part it holds may need to be unattached for shipping, make sure you put these parts back in their place. If you can’t do that, then masking tape them to the part which they attach to. (note: masking tape works better for this b/c then things don’t get all gummy).

3) Packing up the Parts:
Start with the big pieces first and work to the smallest. The frame will only fit one way, then work down from there, the smaller parts can be tucked neatly around it. If ANYTHING looks like it could rub another part, then wrap it with newsprint. The other option is to wrap it with bike clothing you are taking with you, and that will open up room in your other luggage, and give the bike more padding.

4) Don’t Pack Your Bike When You Are Tired:
It just makes sense that if you rush this process or are too tired to pay attention you are going to forget how things go back together, or worse, forget a part. Again, when you are 100s of miles away from a bike shop when you arrive at your destination, this spells disaster.

5) Pack Extra Parts
Always travel with spare parts!! (bolts, screws, chain pieces, etc)
When I was assembling my bike in Cuba, I had a really close call. Our room was on the 2nd floor and we were out on the balcony assembling our bikes. A screw slipped from my hand skipped along the tile floor and bounced down into the garden below!! I was luck enough to find it, after about 5 mintues of gently pushing leaf by leaf aside, but had I have lots it I wouldn’t have been riding anywhere!

6) Bag Any Fluids
If you are putting any fluids in your bike box, put them in a ziplock bag, or something that is waterproof from the inside out, so you don’t end up with spillage all over everything by the time you get there!

7) Deflate Your Tires
If you don’t the air pressure in the plane will likely pop your tube.

8) Don’t Forget Your Tools
Do I really have to explain this one? Just make sure that anything you used to take the bike apart with you take it with you to put it back together with.

I think that should just about cover it, safe travels!

Posted by: BikeFox | June 5, 2008

Done being a delinquent….

Okay, so it’s not the first time I’ve been a delinquent in my life……
and now I’m a complete Blog delinquent! But I’m back, I’m back!!

I don’t even want to look at when the last time I posted was – *cringe*.

It’s been a challenging…….however long it’s been……between keeping all balls in the air. Again, it’s that life/play balance thing. I don’t know that I’ll ever master it, unless I become independently wealthy!

So I have lots of stories and tips to share with y’all from Cuba – what a fascinating country! So, stay tuned.

Posted by: BikeFox | April 22, 2008

Riding in CUBA – here we come!!

Vik asked the other day: “Who goes to Cuba at the end of May?”
Answer: WE DO!!!!

Can I tell you how excited I am? We just booked a training trip to Cuba at the end of May. Exactly four weeks before race start – what better time to ride 100 – 150kms a day, and leave the rest of the day to sit by the beach/pool and enjoy the benefits of an all inclusive?!

I’ve ordered the book: Biking in Cuba. Written by a couple who have toured the island and mapped their routes. Ideally we would’be taken to 3 months and traced their route. But neither of us have 90 days – funny that! However I am stoked to stick my nose in the book and see where the wheels can take us from the middle of the island where we have plunked ourselves nicely at our resort and go from there. 🙂

Posted by: BikeFox | April 21, 2008

10 Great Things About Spinning!

Okay, okay, so I am biased, given that I am a spin instructor, but here are 10 great things about adding in Spinning to your training!

  1. When it’s cold an rainy outside it’s dry and warm in the spin room
  2. You don’t have to clean the mud off your bike afterwards
  3. You never get dropped from the ride
  4. There is motivation coming from the instructor at the front of the room, when you can’t find your own
  5. Someone else plans your ride
  6. You don’t have to supply the music
  7. If there are mirrors in the studio you can check your position
  8. If the instructor is knowledgeable enough you can ask them about feedback
    on your riding style and position on the bike
  9. You get to wear shorts and a jersey in January
  10. You might just get me as your instructor! 😉
Posted by: BikeFox | April 21, 2008

A Week of Rest

Yep, you read that right. I’m taking a WHOLE WEEK off. Curious to see how long before I go stir crazy. It wasn’t an easy decision, but looking back at my tracking and training diary I’ve noticed a pattern of VERY little sleep – moreso felt it. With just over 11 weeks to go from START, I figured now was a really good time to try to get 7 nights of twelve hours of zzzzz’s to set myself up for our heaviest training yet.

Right now I am on a plane heading East. Worst thing is that I get to look out the window at predicted sunny skies and those roads that roam forever. Good thing I left my bikes at home!!!

Posted by: BikeFox | April 18, 2008

Road Riding In Vancouver Stinks!

Okay, I know that I said I like road riding. In fact I LOVE road riding in Ontario!! I used to be soooo lucky, and didn’t even know it. When I lived in Cambridge, just outside f the city I would turn right or left at the end of my road and ride for HOURS. I could ride any number of routes to Milton, Elora, Fergus, Stratford, Paris, Woodstock, Milton, hours of country roads with only a few stop lights and NO exhaust.

I moved to Vancouver to improve my Canadian ranking. But what nobody told me is that the road riding is EXTREMELY limited. Read as: if you like chewing on exhaust fumes while you ride, riding in Vancouver is FUN! Man, I wish someone would’ve told me. If you don’t want to drive out of the city (which kind of defeats the purpose of road riding altogether, i.m.o.) you have about 3 main routes to choose from, Richmond/Ionna Beach, Deep Cove, Hwy1/Horseshoe Bay. THREE!! And all require some level of exhaust inhalation. Lovely!!!

Sooooo………here’s my warning to any of you who love to road ride, don’t move to Vancouver. Consequently, the true cross country mountain biking isn’t much better. Victoria Island, take a look there, you still get Ocean and Mountains. Guess I should’ve done my research!!

Posted by: BikeFox | April 17, 2008

Training Rewards – The Carrot at The End Of The Road

Vik HATES road riding. She describes it as, “Too much time to think.” Me on the other hand, I rather enjoy the flow of it, and the ability to shut my brain off while I focus on the mechanics of my body and the ride. With all the rain lately, it’s left little option for much else other than road riding. I’d like to take credit for coming up with ways to entice her onto the bike, but she’s a diligent one! She’s actually talked me onto my bike on a couple rainy days lately. But it doesn’t mean she enjoys it anymore than pulling teeth.

But I guess when you commit to a goal/event like we have, you just gotta swallow what you don’ t like along with what you do.

One thing that certainly makes it a little more enjoyable is when we plan a ride with a coffee break in the middle,1 some great views stops along the way, and for our Horseshoe Bay ride, stopping at a cafe that has THE BEST carrot cake EVER!!! Now, I’m not going to tell you exactly where that cafe is, because we seem to always get the last piece of carrot cake. So I’m not about to send the 100s of cyclists that ride that route every week because I need to bait her somehow. 😉

Feel free to post in the comments below. Here are a few more low cost ideas:

  • a hot epson salt bath after a long training ride
  • a sweet treat in the middle or at the end of a ride (when you put in over 300kms a week, who’s calorie counting?!)
  • girls grab your favourite smelly cream and strip down your legs, loosening up the muscles and easing the stiffness of the next day (my personal addiction is: Butter Cream Frosting, Sinfully Rich Body Butter from Jaqua – this is an “OMG, you HAVE to get some!!!! product)
  • pre-prep your favourite meal so all you have to do is cook it when you are done
  • if you have a training partner, as a personal trainer to show you how to properly stretch each other out
  • find training snacks you enjoy (nothing worse is than eating stuff that tastes like straw during a ride)

That brings up a question, what do you do to reward yourself to keep motivated?

Posted by: BikeFox | April 15, 2008

Balancing Work & Training – Which Wins?

I just checked the date of my last post – kind of a self-disappointment, just as I was getting on a roll with my posts……..
however the good news is that we have been putting in lots of hours and lots of kms on the bike. And then top that off with work, that has left little time for much else. Pretty much just eating and sleeping, and I haven’t been doing much of that either. I am pretty sure some of my friends are starting to wonder if I met my fate with an eighteen-wheeler – nope, still here.

The last couple weeks have taken me back to a space that was always difficult for me as a Pro Racer. There were many days when deadlines won out over training. And it was all I had in me to keep focussed on the task at hand, while the sun shone through the window and I knew the competition was out putting in the miles and getting stronger. One of my biggest mistakes was to try to do it ALL.

A typical day would look like this:
4:45 am – wake up, dress, grab gear for the day
5:15 am – in the car, commute 50 minutes to gym/work
6:00 am – gym, weight workout
6:45 am – stretch
7:00 am – shower, grab breakfast, head to work
7:45 am – 1/2 hour of personal emails, start work
8:15 am – 4:30 pm – work
5:00 pm – grab bike gear, grab snack, train with coach
7:30 pm – end training, ride commute home
8:15 pm – start cooking dinner, call friends while cooking dinner
9:15 pm – finish dinner, make lunch, plan for following day
9:45 pm – start freelance job
11:00 pm – wrap up, pack for tomorrow
11:30 pm – finally fall asleep

Now notice a few things in there……
No “bleed time” (for things that just happen to “pop up”. No downtime. Laundry, chores what are those? It was really easy for things to get out of hand and eat away at the already very little time I had to sleep (on average 5.25 – 7 hrs). Lucky studies have proven that as an athlete gets more fit they require less sleep – though I plan on doing more research on this as I think the lack of sleep over my race career contributed to adrenal fatigue.

I always found it difficult, if not impossible to find the “balance”. Ahhhhh, the ever elusive concept of balance.

Unless you are an athlete who is FULLY sponsored (meaning someone is paying you a salary to ride – that includes those of you who ride for the bank of Daddy), you are likely doing as I was, balancing at least a 3/4 time job, if not full time job (newsflash: cycling isn’t the most inexpensive sport!), training, a relationship and everything in between. And I’ll be the first one to tell you, if you don’t already know, it can be a struggle.

So, here are my top 5 tips to help find the balance:

1) Sleep:

  • monitor your sleep hours and figure out how much sleep is enough for your body
  • once you figure that out, block out that time in your schedule at the very least FOUR days a week and let NOTHING interfere.
  • figure out when you get your best sleep – some people it’s from 9pm – 1am, others it’s 2am – 5am, everyone is different.

2) Meal Planning:

  • plan your meals/snacks for one full week – this way you don’t have to THINK what you are eating for each meal or snack, just look at your plan and make the meal
  • make ONE trip to the grocery store – there is nothing worse than finishing a training ride, having NO idea what you are doing for dinner, and having NOTHING in your fridge
  • *hint* – this also saves $$

3) Be Flexible:

  • if you can arrange it try to get a flex schedule – when you work extra hours one day, take those hours out of another for training
  • sometimes work just wins, we have to pay the bills somehow, just accept it, don’t fight it – because with me, fighting always caused too much anxiety and that got me nowhere
  • set our your ideal training schedule for the week and accept that it might change
  • mark your TOP 3 training priorities for the week, accomplish those even if you have to trade out less important days

4) Reward Yourself:

  • most times nobody is going to do be there after a training ride to pat you on the back, so you need to do it for yourself
  • create rituals and rewards that encourage you to train and leave something to look forward to

And the answer to my Blog Title, is neither work nor training, it’s:

4) Set Your Priorities, know which is most important to maintain balance:

  • which means SLEEP wins over ALL else
  • if you are feeling drained/exhausted before a training ride, trade it in for sleep – I personally have a hard time with this one, even though I know better!
Posted by: BikeFox | April 14, 2008

It’s All In The Wrist : Cycling & Wrist Injuries

article by: Dr. Debbie Wright, Thrive Chiropractic & Wellness Centre, Vancouver

An often overlooked, but fairly common cycling injury is something called “handlebar palsy”.  Also known as “ulnar neuropathy”, it is irritation and inflammation of your ulnar nerve, which runs from your armpit, through your inside elbow, to your hand. This nerve serves to give you strength in various forearm and hand muscles, and provides feeling to a portion of the arm and hand.

The mechanics involved in cycling can easily inflame this nerve, both at the elbow and at the wrist. Your arms absorb a lot of shock that is transmitted through your handlebars. In addition, the nerve is easily irritated when you hold your writs and arms in a fixed position for too long. A combination of both can generally be overwhelming for the nerve.

The bumpy roads and trails involved in off road riding are a main culprit of this problem. However, it can also be linked to improper bike set-up or the rider’s own body type and build. For example, if your handlebars are too low compared to your seat, or if the seat is tilted too far forward, it puts too much weight and pressure on your hands and wrists. Another common problem is riding on a frame that is too big for your body.

Symptoms of this injury include pain, numbness or tingling along the outside of your hand or forearm, and can even progress to the fingers. Often in the early stages it will simply feel like pins and needles, which can be relieved by switching hand positions. However, if left unchecked, it can progress to numbness and intense pain that is present even when not riding. Prolonged irritation of the nerve can even lead to loss of strength and co-ordination of the hand.

If you have the early stages of handlebar palsy, or occasionally feel pins and needles when you ride, you are still at the point where you can manage the condition yourself. This is primary an overuse injury, and so you should focus on the factors you can control in your riding environment. Firstly, get your bike set-up and riding posture checked by a professional to ensure you are not shifting your weight too far forward. Secondly, padded gloves are recommended to decrease the amount of shock transmitted to your arms. Thirdly, be sure to change around your hand positioning while riding and don’t spend too much time in positions you know are more stressful. Lastly, preventative stretching and strengthening will help to increase your arm’s tolerance to riding.

It is important to stretch both the front and back of the wrist. Stretching should be done 3 times daily while symptoms are present, and after each ride preventatively.

Strengthening the wrist and forearm muscles will also help to build tolerance.  It is important to start with a very low weight (1-2 lbs) and increase with tolerance. The pictured exercises should be done in 3 sets of 8, at least twice a day. When the symptoms resolve, it is also prudent to keep this exercise in your regular routine to maintain strength.

If your symptoms are severe and regular, or if you are unable to resolve the problem with home exercises, consult a chiropractor.  A chiropractic doctor can diagnose the specific cause of your pain, provide treatment to manage the condition, and prescribe sport specific and injury specific rehabilitation exercises.

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