For the road bike, I’ve used a number of pumps and the pressure gauge isn’t the thing that makes me love a pump, it’s stability and volume of air delivered with each downward stroke. Right now I’m using the Specialized Airtool Pro and I like it a lot.
For the mountain bike, I want a gauge that makes it easy to read small changes in pressure – like 0.5-1 pound. I haven’t found a floor pump out there that does this. Maybe one exists, but I haven’t found it.
The second issue I have on the mountain bike is that when I use another rider’s pump, 26 pounds on their pump gauge never feels like 26 pounds on my gauge. They feel the same way about my pump.
A great recommendation by pro racer Ernie Watenpaugh lead me to a digital pressure gauge. There are a lot of them out there, but Ernie had been using the SKS Airchecker so that’s what I picked up. For mountain bike pressures, I love having a digital readout. I will admit to some princess-and-the-pea syndrome and digital readout is perfect for me.
I was really surprised that the pump I normally use for mountain biking (not the Specialized Airtool) would deliver digital pressures +/- 2 pounds for what appeared to be the same pressure reading on the gauge.
I haven’t played with the Specialized pump enough to know if my eyeballed pressure varies as much or not.
If you’re looking for more accurate pressure readings from any pump, including borrowed pumps, consider using a digital pressure gauge.
For long mountain bike races, eating on the bike is often a challenge. Accessing packaged food stored inside a hydration pack requires stopping. Most racers don’t want to stop to eat.
If you’re one of the lucky racers that can get away with using only bottles during a race, you can store food items in your jersey pockets. Many racers cannot use bottles-only in a race because their frame size only allows storage space for one small bottle and the distance between aid stations requires more fluid than one bottle can supply. These rider can carry an extra bottle in a jersey pocket, but often small sized jerseys won't hold a water bottle and all the extras needed for race day.
Some mountain bike riders have turned to using top tube storage boxes for food and a hydration pack for fluids. These boxes are popular with triathletes and multi-day, self-supported mountain bike riders. I did try one of these boxes but didn’t like the way it rubs on my top tube in rough terrain and though I liked the zipper access box better than Velcro access, the slapping of the zipper was annoying. Yes, I could put frame protectore on my top tube, but I didn't want to do that.
I prefer using a pack used by ultra-runners. The pack is made by Ultimate Direction and has generous pocket space built into the front of the shoulder straps. Two of the pockets have zippers and the other two are mesh nets with open tops. A photo of the Wink pack is below.
Depending on your personal bend, a top tube storage box or a hydration pack with shoulder strap storage may solve your food access problems.
Awhile back I wrote a column about pre-cooling for racing. Researchers in Singapore recently published a study looking at ingesting an ice slurry before running a 10k. This means of pre-cooling before a hot race is practical and easy for most athletes.
The twelve participants ingested either an ice slurry (approximately 30 degrees Fahrenheit) or an ambient temperature drink (approximately 88 degrees Fahrenheit) prior to their 15-minute warm-up. They consumed 8 grams of slurry or ambient drink per kilogram of body weight.
A couple of interesting things happened. First, the slurry drinkers experienced a rise in gastrointestinal temperature. I’m assuming this is the body’s response to the cold drink, increasing temperature to warm the solution for digestion.
Even with a transient temperature increase, the slurry drinkers had improved mean performance by 15 seconds for the entire 10k. The slurry runners’ mean pace was 7:18 per mile and the ambient solution drinkers ran 7:20.
If you are consuming fluids pre-race anyway, consuming an ice slurry drink may improve your performance.
Yeo, Z.W. et al, “Ice Slurry on Outdoor Running Performancein Heat”, International Journal of Sports Medicine: Issue EFirst, 2012.
A racer dropped me a long note explaining his unhappiness with a race he did that had 10-year categories for racers (60-69) rather than five-year categories (60-64, 65-69). His main point is that he doesn’t view his competition as 10-years younger (or older) than his age – rather a tighter age range of five years.
He thought 10-year age groups was a money saving scheme by the race director so he didn’t have to pay for more awards.
If it meant a registration fee increase, would you pay more to have five-year racing categories? Do you think 10-year splits are just fine? Or you don’t care about age categories at all, you only go to compete against yourself?
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Over the last six months or so, I’ve made several changes to my S-Works Epic 29er. Here’s the list and why the change:
Changed from a SRAM 38x24 to a SRAM 36x22. Though I muscled my way through racing last year on the 38x24, I decided to make the change to lower gears when I was pre-riding the Breckenridge 68 course. I just wanted lower gears so I could do more spinning and less power riding. For me, though the 38x24 is fine for rides on the Front Range, this change is critical for the long climbs at altitude at Breckenridge and at Leadville.
Cut one inch off of the ends of both handlebars. Last season I noticed that I was close to clipping some trees on narrow singletrack races. On an early season race this year, I clipped an rock that was hanging over the trail in a narrow section. (You’d think I would have taken the hint then…) On the Breckenridge pre-ride I noticed my handlebars were wider than one of my riding buddies, Scott Ellis. He is 5’9” tall with very wide shoulders. Why am I riding such wide handlebars? Since the change, I’ve noticed my handling skills have improved. Geeze, the issue of the coach having improper bike fit, like the plumber that has leaking pipes in his/her own house.
Put on new bar grips. My hands will fall asleep on long rides with technical descents. I’ve tried other ergonomic grips and didn’t like them. I put on the BG Contour XCT Grips and love them. They are smaller and more comfortable (the surface gives more) than other grips I’ve tried. If I’m comfortable, I ride faster.
More tire pressure. Ugh. This was a result of belching a tire on rock drop and not noticing. With the tire soft, it caught on the rim on a benign section of trail. That turned my handlebars 90 degrees in less than a flash and I went over the bars. I can run softer tires on non-technical courses, but if there are drop-offs I use more pressure.
Varied fork and shock pressure. It does take awhile to figure this out, but I use different pressures for different courses. I use more pressure in the fork for courses that are very technical and have drop-offs.
How does this help you?
Though you’ve been riding your mountain bike for awhile, maybe years, is it set up optimally for your current level of fitness and for the specific races or rides that you do?
If it’s been awhile since you’ve checked some of these items, I think it’s worth a look.
I love to get these notes. It feels great to know I can helppeople meet their goals.
Dear Ms. Bernhardt:
I'm writing to thank you for the great training program you outlined in your Training Plans for Multisport Athletes book for the 12 Week Program for a Sprint Triathlon. I successfully completed my first Triathlon yesterday. It was fun. It was exciting. And it was a major accomplishment for this 54 year old male.
I've never taken the time to write to an author before but I found your program informative, easy to understand and a real confidence boost to make my participation a reality.
I'm looking forward to setting my next fitness goal.
All the best,
I'm A. Carratta from Italy,
I wrote you in November about a swim question and after the email I bought thebook with the swim work-out.
I follow your table "26 Weeks to IM" and now I'M AN IRONMAN!!!
Swim : 01:50:57 ( I'm not aswimmer and my first IM without wetsuit was terrible and infinite! ) Bike: 06:41:27 ( explosion oninner tube and mechanical problems ) Run : 04:13:38 ( i think to doin 3:45, but the hot temperature .- 40° - was terrible and i relax myself) Final :13:06:05 ... I WASN T TIRED AND I FINISH WITH A BIG SMILE!!!!
Now I'm following "13 weeks to 70.3"
Thanks A. Carratta
I've used a number of your training plans for successful IM and 70.3 races. I finished the 2012 IM Lake Placid in 11:08 and would love a plan that can get me in under 11 hrs.