I Promise I’m Not Trying to Be An Asshole

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a few weeks. I had been tossing it around in my mind and after seeing photographer Ally Newbold’s terrible bike crash (feel free to donate to her medical fund here) I began writing it bit by bit in my mind during my rides.

Then, as luck would have it, I had my very own bike crash that resulted in an ER visit to make sure I didn’t have a broken face or bleeding in my brain. I was riding on a road near my house, doing the second workout in my new weekly training plan, and I was crushin’ it. I felt great, I was going fast, and I felt confident. I went over some railroad tracks that I had crossed at least a dozen times before… and that’s the last thing I remember. According to my Garmin, I was going approximately 18.1 MPH when I crashed, so I hit the pavement pretty hard. All I remember after that is a man asking me for my phone number and a woman hovering over me until my mother arrived to take me to the Emergency Room.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetThis was the beauty shot I posted on social media to remind my friends to wear their helmet and to drive carefully around cyclists.

These photos are a more accurate representation of what happened:

cyclocross blog crash 3 collageAbrasions, swelling, bruising. My helmet also has a nice crack in the side where I broke my fall with the side of my head.

All in all, I got very lucky. One of the things I am most thankful for is that everyone on the road was being a courteous driver. If someone had been riding my ass, or even trying to pass too closely (“It’ll take me like five seconds to get past this chick, it’ll be fine”) I could have ended up much, much worse.

Which brings me to my main point… Drivers, I promise I’m not trying to be an asshole when I’m riding my bike. We just see the road differently.

I know a lot of drivers get annoyed when they’re caught behind a cyclist. We’re slower than you. As much as I like to flex and admire my legs in the mirror, I am humble enough to know my gams don’t boast the 100+ horsepower of your spectacular vehicle.

But hear me out.

I try to stay pretty far to the side of the lane. There aren’t a ton of bike lanes where I live, so I am going to be in the road. However, I can’t and won’t hug the white line like I’m trying to bike a tight rope. Why not?

When you’re on a bicycle, you need to be approximately a million times more aware of what’s on the road. When you’re in a vehicle, a small (or even large) pot hole in the road is something you may or may not swerve to avoid, and something that may or may not cause your hot coffee to spill all over your cupholder (the latter happens to me daily, because I’ve lost every single coffee cup lid I’ve ever owned). When I’m on my bike, the same pot hole could easily result in a flat tire or a total crash.

When you’re driving, do you ever think about sticks in the road (post-storm oak branches aside)? If I run over that same stick that you have the luxury of crunching over thoughtlessly, again, I could very easily end up rubber-side-up in the road.

Also, road shoulders are not nearly as well maintained as the roads themselves and are often filled with debris that has been swept off the main route. And people leave their mailboxes open and I’m not actually that keen to find out what happens if I hit one (does the door rip off, or do I come to an abrupt and unpleasant stop?). If I’m not riding in the shoulder, it’s not for the explicit purpose of pissing you off. It’s for my safety.

I need room to swerve a little bit. I need room to make a quick decision to not end up splattered on the side of the road. I want to avoid that branch, I want to avoid the pot hole, I want to avoid the post-winter cracks and crevasses created by frozen water and snow plow shovels. If I don’t, I could very easily end up crashing face-first into the pavement or sliding along the blacktop and ending up right underneath your tires.

Even things I don’t think of as hazards (for example… railroad ties I’ve ridden over plenty of times before) could put me belly-up in the middle of the road. If you’re tailing me, or trying to “sneak around” me, you’re not going to be able to stop as fast as me. It’s really, really possible that you injure or kill me in a split second.

“But I’m in a hurry!”

I hear you, I really do. As someone who is perpetually accidentally late, I get it. Or maybe you’ve just had a long, terrible day at the office and all you want is to go home, microwave a Hot Pocket, kick back, and watch some TV.

But let me break it down for you.

My average speed on most rides is 15mph. Most of the roads I ride on are 25-35mph roads.

If you’re caught behind a cyclist for 30 seconds and you’re slowed from 35mph to 15mph for the whole 30 seconds, you are adding an additional 17.2 seconds to your commute.

If you’re caught behind a cyclist for 30 seconds and you’re slowed from 35mph to 10mph (uphill, perhaps) for the whole 30 seconds, you’re adding an additional 22.5 seconds to your commute.

That’s less time than it takes to microwave your Hot Pocket. Wanna know what takes more time? Running into a downed cyclist and having to fill out an accident report.

I know there’s a whole host of issues drivers have with cyclists – some are fair, some are a little dubious. But all I’m saying is if you happen to see me on the roads, give me a little extra room. It’ll cost you less than 30 seconds (and let’s face it, being caught for a whole 30 seconds doesn’t happen that often – it’s usually much less) and it helps me get home alive.

And the next time you see me taking up an extra 12 inches in the lane, remember, I’m really not trying to be an asshole. I just don’t want to crash again.

The core of the matter…

I’ve been hearing a lot about the importance of core strength in cycling lately. Part of me just accepted it on face value, like “Oh, of course you need a strong core” but the other part of me (the lazy part that really doesn’t feel like doing core work right now, okay?) wondered “Why? What’s so important about your core muscles in cycling?”.

How Does Core Strength Affect Cycling?

Basically, a strong core provides improved body control and a solid power foundation. Even if you have rock-hard quads and calves to die for, a weak core will affect your overall cycling effectiveness. The muscles in your core keep your body stable in the saddle (aiding efficiency) and will provide a solid foundation for your hips, thighs, and knees to draw their power from. For example, if your pelvis rocks side-to-side with each pedal stroke, you’re wasting a lot of power and energy on the lateral motion of your hips that should instead be used to maintaining a smooth, steady, and strong pedaling motion. When your core is stable, everything below your core is stable too.

Core strength can be especially important in cyclocross, as many of the movements such as quick accelerations, barriers, riding in mud, tight turns etc. demand a lot of core strength (especially lower back) and body control. Cyclocross also demands a bit more upper body strength than regular cycling and having a strong core linking your upper and lower body is essential for powerful, fluid motions.

Okay, now what?

So, apparently core strength does matter. Guess it’s time to pull out a yoga mat and get to work.

Videos:

CORE sequence for cyclists from Kathryn Slater on Vimeo.

I hate yoga but this video is so effective I can’t NOT do it.  I’ve done core work but this is one of the few things that has left me noticeably sore for a few days after.

If, like me, you’re not into yoga vids, Cassey Ho of Blogilates has a MILLION ab-specific workouts that are super tough. Plus, Cassey is just sweet and perky enough to make you feel bad for swearing at her under your breath.

Oh, what’s that? You don’t want to spend a solid 15 minutes grunting and sweating on the floor? A five minute alternative is a great way to reasonably guilt yourself into getting your core work in!

Dynamic movement core work. Too bad I don’t have a medicine ball. Or a partner.

A lot of the videos I’ve found online focus a lot on abs. The key to overall strength, though, is balance, which is why I try to occasionally target my back muscles. Plus, anyone who’s ever ridden in a bumpy cross race knows how painful it can be for your lower back.

Articles:

Training Peaks

Bicycling.com

So, now that I’ve reasoned myself into doing core work, I’ll just have to make weekly goals about how many core sessions I do per week. For right now I think two seems reasonable and eventually I’ll up that to doing three to four per week. God knows I need as much help with “body control” as I can get.