Last night, I spent the evening at the Forest City Velodrome in London, ON. I travel from Toronto 1.75 hours to London to train on the track.  I do the Wednesday night training session weekly through the winter. It's a long drive, but I'm there for about 3 hours, so I get a fair amount of training in. It's always a GoodTM workout - thanks to Rob Good, the guy that runs the show.

I learned a few things last night. One item was to go easy on the first two laps of a flying 500m. A flying 500m not a flying 750m. Track has many events, and we don't always have time to practice all of them, so sometimes I just wing it - albeit incorrectly. Secondly, spin, dammit, spin. Training on the track should start with an 80 or even a 75 gear inch gear set to get the legs spinning as fast as possible. I can do 200RPM on rollers, but on the track I currently top out at 135RPM. I need to the cadence up to become more efficient. One does this even if it means getting dropped during training. It is about leg speed and liking to spin.

I'm frustrated. I am really getting tired of landing on the pavement, smashing helmets, and nursing wounds. I like riding bikes, but man, it's dangerous. The worst part, most of the issues with landing on the pavement are not my fault. They are someone elses. Tonight, that was no different. This time it was a a$$hole driver.

To understand my frustation, understand that I choose to commute to work and back, some 15 km one way, by bike largely because it's faster than the TTC and cheaper than driving. I built a special carbon commuter bike for the purpose with cheap parts that are easily replaced. On the commute, I routinely almost get run off the road. Usually, I get almost run down by a SUV, a minivan, and a pickup truck.  All these drivers are a$$holes in my book. Occationally, it's a truck and one time, it was a TTC bus. I always love drivers that need to buzz by me to get to the red light a block away. Generally speaking, drivers have no idea how to ride around a cyclist. Which is why, I actually like cycling through the inner city. I find, the closer one gets to the downtown core, the more normal drivers become. Why? More cyclists, small lanes, more traffic, slower speeds, and generally more patience. As one gets away from the core, the roads widen, the speeds pick up, and drivers get stupid. Everyone is in a hurry to get to the next red light. I also ride knowing that I will, at some point, get knocked off my bike. I've been lucky this year - my crashes have happened in bike races, and not in traffic. I've trashed a bike frame, and trashed something like 3 helmets this year, and nursed numerous patches of road rash. This is why I'm getting frustrated. I'm getting tired of crashing. It seems to happen to me far too much. Tonight, just added to my frustation.

When I started with racing a few years ago (three?), I had no idea where it would lead. I was informed by a friend prior to getting into racing that it takes three years to build the fitness to be able to race. To me, the whole idea of blowing $50 (or more) and not being able to at least finish with the pack, seemed like a complete waste. My first year at it (2011) I was blow away by how "easy" it was to stay with pack. This year, my second year of doing the Ontario Cycling Association circuit, I hoped to take racing to the next level and see the podium. While that never happened, I learned something about racing and myself. I learned about the mental aspects of racing and the necessity for mental toughness.

Once the body is sufficiently trained, whether one makes it first to the finish line has more to do with the mind not only believe it is possible, but willing itself to keep going even when the body is in such pain that it wants to shutdown. Tactics play a part as well, but that only plays the part of getting properly positioned for the last 500m in a road race or the last 1-2 laps on the track. It is ones ability to go all out after hours of intense riding on the road, or enduring the endless attacks/accelerations (the jam) on the track or a crit, that determines the winner.

As I recovery from my broken collar bone from the crash in the Tour de Terra Cotta race on the August long weekend (yea, a month ago), I've had time to reflect on how I got to where I am. Of course, it helps to be asked by the Heart and Stroke Foundation for my story and, now, Bicycling Magazine has asked for the same. I also have friends, that while cyclists, still struggle to lose that last 10-25lbs. I thought I would offer some of the "Pearls of Wisdom". The basis premise of this post is you have to make diet, exercise, and training a habit - something that requires little thought, but is something you just do.

Exercise as a Habit

First, my transformation from a fat guy at 265lbs to my now 185lbs frame didn't happen overnight. It happened mainly because of my desire to change which lead to the creation of new habits. There are a lot of diet and exercise programs out there that claim to be a quick fix. There is no quick fix. It takes time and a lot more than will power. When I started in the dead of winter back in 2008, I bought a trainer for my mountain bike, set it up in the basement, and told myself I would do 20 mins every morning before work on weekdays. I got up 30mins earlier to get ready and on the bike. I never missed a day. Before long, it became second nature to get up, change into the bike shorts, go to the basement, and spin for 20 mins. I have to admit some mornings I didn't want to get up, and after 20 mins I was completely wiped, but I kept at it. But, my rewards was I was losing weight. Eventually, 20 mins in the morning led to 30 min rides outside in the morning. 5km in 30 mins. Eventually, those rides got longer. 8km. 10km. 15km. I had to start riding after work because I ran out of time in the morning. Eventually, I hooked up with a friend and we started riding "long" regularly. Our longest ride was 60km. A new road bike soon followed as did joining a bike club. That was 2008. This past weekend I rode some 300km including 80km in Blue Mountain, ON - some of the longest hills in Ontario - all with a partially broken collar bone because I just can't stand to sit still anymore.

First, thanks to everyone for your support, emails, twitter posts, words of encouragement, etc. after my shoulder met the ground in the Tour of Terra Cotta and I broke my collar bone. A special thanks to my friend, Roger Spackman. He is visiting Toronto from the UK this month. Roger, who has not driven on the right side of the road for some years, managed to find the Georgetown hospital, and stayed with me to eventually drive me home. Also, thanks to friend Robyn "Tailwindz" Meredith, after finishing the race, came back to help me out, find Roger, etc. and later came to Emerg to cheer me up. In case you don't know it, Robyn got 3rd overall for the Ontario Cup for the Masters B Women's division. Someone at the crash site asked her if she was my wife. She said no, but probably felt like saying something like "Ah, hell no, but he keeps asking me to go out with him and I keep telling him I won't even consider it until he wins a race".

It has been about 11 days since the crash. Of course, the crash took out the use my right arm for a few days. It took a day to be able to figure out how to sit at the computer and type with two hands. So, I was only off work for a day - which was a good thing because the pain killers kept be mostly asleep all day the day following the crash. I still can't brush my teeth properly - try telling that to the dentist whose appointment I had on Monday this week. Floss you say? Huh? You try that with your left hand.  I spent until this week working at home. My office just told me to stay there. It worked out. The pain killers and everything I needed were here at home.

When a friend of mine approached me back June about upgrading his alloy bike - the bike I bought him off of craigslist some years ago for $600 - I suggest Chinese carbon. I got him that $600 bike back when he believe $600 was too much to pay for a bike and the time he was completely shocked that $600 didn't buy a bike with pedals. He has changed his mind a bit since then by joining two bike clubs and by taking up cycling seriously.

Considering who I was dealing with, I went out to create a midrange bike that would last him some years to come even if  he decided to talk up racing (or not). I set on ordering a FM015 frame and fork from Hong Fu and a 38m carbon clincher wheels. The wheelset was only available with red hubs, so I took the red cue and made other parts of the bike red. We pickup out red tires, red bar tap, and a red Acronis headset. If we could have order a red seatpost clamp, we would have done so, but we settled for a black Miche seatpost clamp. The bike came with one, but I decided to replace it. The Miche clamp is just a better product and the Acronis headset makes for much easier adjustment of the headset.

The first Chinese bike I built was based on a FM015 from HongFu Bikes. My Vitess Red had it's top tube smashed and seat stay damaged in the Calabogie race in April. I used the parts from my Vitess to build out the FM015. I may still get my Vitess replaced/repaired - nothing I have rides like it.

The bike therefore has the following build list:
- FM015 Frame and matching fork
- DuraAce 7900 group with 53/39 175mm crankset, 11-25 casette, white cable housings
- C50 50mm Vitess branded carbon clinchers with a PowerTap SL+
- Swisstop Yellow brake pads
- 3T carbon stem and seat post
- standard English BB
- Fizik seat
- Speedplay Zero steel shaft pedals
- Hong Fu carbon bottle cages
- Garmin cadence/speed sensor and garmin 705 mount
- Name stickers obtains from the Morning Glory Cycling Club

If you want to learn to go hard, I think one of the best ways is to take up track cycling. And I mean by hard, REALLY HARD. I happened to be talking to a friend of mine this evening. I think her only issue is being about to max out. I've been trying to convince her that racing the track is the way to go. I think it is an issue a lot of cyclists hard - hitting the max heart rate and still being able to function.

I am currently reading Mark Cavendish's book: Boy Racer. One of the things that is quite prominent in the book is that Cavendish started racing the track. From what I can discern, he learned how to go hard on the track. In track cycling, it's just you and the track. The bike has nothing silly like gears and brakes to get in the way. In a sprint, there is no "other gear" to go for - you just have to hope you picked the right gear to start with and can spin fast enough. I can say from experience, racing a bike with a gearing of 80 gear inches (48/17) gives a new level of HARD. I routinely reached new personal bests for heart rate as well as cadence racing on the track.

In Ontario, we are lucky that the Forest City Velodrome (FCV) exists. It is one of three indoor tracks in North America - the others being in Los Angeles, CA and in Burnaby, BC. The FCV is special because it's a track crammed into an old hockey rink - so, on the black line, it's 138m. It is a small track. They say that a rider experiences 4-5G's in the corners when going 55-60km/h. It's a fun track to learn to ride and it takes a while to get used to the forces in the corners.

[This is the first of series of articles on my experience with Chinese bikes]

The Story


I have a unique history it would seem. I seem to have a history of trashing carbon frames. One has to understand, that I never intended to do it; however, I seem to be part of an extra ordinary number of crashes where my bike gets run over. For example, take April this year.

I raced at the Calabogie OCUP race. I had my shiny new Vitess bike for four weeks. It was just returned after having the frame repaired and repainted. On the last lap of the race, I was in the middle of the pack when a few guys touched wheels, and took out 10 guys in the pack....me included. While I was fine, the bike frame was trashed. Here is the video: CLICK HERE - in case you missed it. The guy behind me ran over the bike. In hindsight, it could have been worse - I could have been ran over. The bike was toast. It has a broken top tube. This has been the story over my racing "career". Every year a bike frame gets trashed. Crash replacement frames run about $2,000. Repairs to carbon frames can run about $500-1500....and then, depending on where the cracks are, the frame may never ride the same. This is a process I have had to deal with every year since 2009. I would like to make it through a year of cycling where I did not have to replace a frame.

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