Yesterday I realized that my mailman left the current issue of Bicycling with my neighbor instead of in the mail chute of the van where I live down by the river. I knew something was wrong because up until that point I had been living a zen-like existence, devoid of all of the suffering Bicycling brings me, and my blog hadn't seen me log in for almost a week.
I never subscribed to Bicycling, yet every month it shows up on my doorstep like a Performance catalog and begs me take it in, to love it, to feed it, and to let it be read. It's like a train wreck for me, I don't want to look, but I have to, my eyes are drawn to it and I start thumbing through the pages, losing parts of my soul with each contradictory article I read.
This month I got a big kick out of the hype vs. truth article and thought I'd write my own. Heck, why not, it's not that I'm an expert, they just send that dang Bicycling catalog to me each month and it inspires me....
1) The taper
Hype: Before any big event you should take about a week off to taper and be well rested for your event.
Reality: The reality of this is tapers really only work if you are following a structured training program and actually riding and/or are just riding a lot and are near the edge for your fatigue levels. For instance, a taper will not work if you just ride willy-nilly every now and then and are pretty rested anyway. In this case it's better to get out and ride that week beforehand. Additionally a year-long taper is generally not considered to be a good idea. For example, it would not be good for a person to do the Pottawatamie Pounders Double Century this summer, then immediately start tapering for next summer's PPDC.
2) Sports drinks
Hype: Sports drinks keep you well fueled and make your workouts more effective.
Reality: Sports drinks cost lots of money, are loaded with sugar, and are probably making you fat. The human body has enough sugar packed away in the muscles to take you through a ride up to about 2 hours. Sure, longer than an hour and a half and you need something more than water or you will feel the dreaded bonk and that really sucks, but if you can't make it an hour and a half on a ride without a sports drink you should really look at what you are eating when you are not on the bike. That packet of gel you're downing on the last laps of a crit is only going to make people steer clear of you, not make you faster than them. 3) Recovery drinks
Hype: Recovery drinks are packed with everything you need to help your body recover and you should drink them after every ride.
Reality: Recovery drinks cost lots of money, are loaded with sugar, and are probably making you fat if you drink one after every ride regardless of length. The whole 4:1 bandwagon cracks me up. Why someone would drink something as nasty as Endurox when they could enjoy a Guinness and get some real food is beyond me. Luckily the hype with chocolate milk having that same magical 4:1 ratio at least had a good tasting beverage associated with it. I can't imagine if the cycling tabloids came out and said Tab had the magical recovery formula, cyclists would be downing that crap like a mystical potion from Merlin.
Hype: All of a sudden, or maybe not so all of a sudden, caffeine is the miracle beverage. It increases your perceived time to exhaustion, it burns tubloads of fat like a bunson burner, and it makes you look younger too.
Reality: If you like coffee, drink it with a feverish intensity. If it wakes you up and makes your ride more invigorating by all means go for it. If it's how you meet your online dates, don't stop drinking it. However, don't start drinking coffee because Bicycling and RoadbikeRider don't have anything better to talk about and because it's their latest miracle hype. For some people caffeine upsets their stomach, for some it causes fatigue, and for others their online dates are not impressed when they ask what the difference between an espresso and cappucino is.
Hype: A coach can really get you to where you want to be and help you meet your goals.
Reality: Coaches are expensive and the average person can "coach" themselves pretty well. Do you really need to pay someone big money each month to tell you what day to ride intervals and what days to do one-legged pedaling and to take a break when you feel tired? The secret to riding strong and being good at an event is simply to get out on your bike and ride, train with similar conditions to your event, and be smart about your rest and eating. Consistency is a good thing too, the place where many people could benefit from having a coach is that kick in the butt to keep them honest about how much, or how little, they are riding.
6) Practicing in fields
Hype: Practicing bumping in to each other out in fields and rubbing tires is great for pack riding.
Reality: Bicycling sites and magazines continually mention this, but does anyone ever do it? Seems like there is always "that guy" who suggests it to his teammates or riding group, but then never shows up for a ride again. I think I'd rather just not bump in to people or rub tires on group rides and then just playfully practice it once in awhile with someone who is comfortable with it. I can't imagine bringing a newbie over to a grassy park and plowing in to him and making him rub my tires. Maybe that's why "that guy" never showed up for another ride again, he didn't see the fun in cycling after that.
7) Singlespeed/fixed gears
Hype: Singlespeeds and fixed gears bring back the simplicity of the bike and geared riders are dorks.
Reality: Ride what you enjoy. Honestly I can't see having to make your bike current with the latest fads as being simpler and more liberating. Slowly pedalling up a hill in an oversized gear and then trying to steer with a handlebar no longer than a beer bottle also doesn't seem simpler to me, but if it's what floats your boat then go for it. To the lemming the simplicity of a bike is in going places with it and leaving the car home, being able to effortlessly climb stuff and still play on all of the obstacles you find along the way, my clone doesn't agree and that's ok.