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Active Expert: Gale Bernhardt

11 Posts tagged with the mountain_biking tag

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.





Questions and discussion can be found on my Facebook page.


Cycling and mountain bike training plans can be found here.

968 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: mountain_biking, pressure, floor_pump, digital_gauge

We were mountain biking the Gold Dust Trail between Boreas Pass and Como, Colorado. Heading down the trail, I caught a glimpse of what looked like claw marks on a tree. Scott Ellis stopped in front of me and said, “Did you see the bear claw marks?”


I said I did and I needed to get a photo…


Front of tree


Back of tree



More marked trees on the other side of the trail




Doing some reading, apparently bears mark the trees in this manner for several reasons. They might be marking territory, eating portions of the tree or teaching young bears how to climb.


While it’s exciting to see the marks, no need to linger too long...




Questions and discussion can be found on my Facebook page.


Cycling and mountain bike training plans can be found here.

1,049 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: mountain_biking, colorado, como, bear_claw_marks_on_trees, boreas

This blog continues the series on training principles. The last post was on duration. Today’s post is on specificity.


In one of my many past lives, I taught alpine skiing. That was a loooooong time ago. When I got hooked on triathlon, I drifted away from alpine skiing. I’m not blaming triathlon for my lack of skiing, there were lots of reasons why I quit skiing.


First came the dry spell of skiing only once or twice per year. Then was the complete lack of downhill skiing for about 12 years (+/-). In the past three or so years, I did take up Nordic skiing. I still do more Nordic than Alpine skiing, but I’m getting the itch to do more Alpine skiing. Not only is it a blast, but I think it helps my mountain biking skills.


The same balance and weighting issues that are present in skiing are present in mountain biking. For examle, my right turns are weaker than left turns in both sports. I’ve done more skiing, both Alpine and Nordic, in the last couple of years and I’ve found that skiing helps my mountain biking. Nordic skiing does lend more to endurance than downhill skiing. However, alpine skiing helps with balance, skills, power development and the ability to pick a line down the mountain at high speed.


While I believe skiing helps my cycling in the off-season, it is not cycling. As the race season approaches, in order to be a better mountain bike rider – I need to ride the mountain bike. This training principle is known as the principle of specificity:


“The mode of training becomes more important, as event day approaches. Training that is specific to the sport becomes more important than generalized training. In other words, the specificity of training becomes more important.”


These training plans have helped thousands of people succeed, they can help you too.

810 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: mountain_biking, skiing, specificity, alpine, nordic

It’s no surprise that I often get asked the question, “How can I get faster?”


The short answer is, “It depends.” (Those of you that know me well, know this is my short answer for 90% of the questions I get asked.)


Though the precise answer depends on a lot of things, I can tell you that there are eight major training principles that affect all training – no matter if you want to go longer or get faster. Those training principles include overload, volume, duration, frequency, individual response rate, intensity, specificity, rest and recovery.


In the next few blogs, I’ll take at least one of the principles and give you a couple of things to consider when applying that principle to your training. Know that these principles are discussed, and applied, to the training plans in all my books.


Let’s begin with overload.


Taken from my book, “Individual and progressive overload must be applied to achieve physiological improvement and bring about a training change. A widely accepted rule of thumb is to increase annual training hours, or annual volume by 10 percent or less.“


If you’ve looked at any of my training plans, you’ll quickly notice that I increase weekly volume by more than 10 percent in most all plans.Why?


                I’ve found that short-term overload can be increased by more than 10 percent if adequate recovery is included in the plan. When I work with athletes over the course of a year, annual volume is typically increased by around 10 percent. There are, however, exceptions.

What’s the biggest mistake I see self-coached athletes make with training overload?


                The biggest mistake I see is the ever-increasing-by-10-percent overload. In other words, people increase weekly volume each and every week, week after week, by 10 percent. This eventually leads to an overtraining situation. This mistake becomes the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

Next blog is training volume.




These training plans have helped thousands of people succeed, they can help you too.

983 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: cycling, triathlon, mountain_biking, training_principle, how_to_get_faster

For awhile, I’ve tried to determine if repeated short-term exposure to altitude can help with the acclimatization process. This curiosity is geared primarily for people living in a Front Range situation and then doing fun activities, training or racing in the mountains.


To help me determine if short-term exposure to altitude might help acclimatize people so that they can enjoy fun activities, training and racing at altitude, I picked up a pulse oximeter.  I mentioned the pulse oximeter in a 2010 blog. My personal interest in the numbers is for alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, trail running, road cycling, mountain biking and hiking.


A pulse oximeter is a non-invasive way to measure the amount of oxygen the blood is carrying. The number displayed is expressed as a percentage of the maximum amount the blood could carry at 100 percent. At sea level, typical saturation values are 97 to 99 percent in healthy people. At 5,000 feet it might drop to 95 percent and at around 10,000 feet it may dip to 90 percent. Somewhere around 10,000 feet there is a big change and oxygen saturation can drop to 80 percent or below.


Acclimatizing to various altitudes can help improve these numbers up to a point. Know there is individual variability in the acclimation process and there is even variability among native dwellers at any altitude, beginning at birth.


Children born at various altitudes have similar oxygen saturations during the first 24 to 48 hours of life and the values change within the first four months of life. For example, newborns in Denver, Colorado (5,280 feet, considered moderate altitude) have saturation levels of 85 to 97 percent while those born in Leadville, Colorado (10,152 feet, considered high altitude) are 85 to 93 percent.



Though the time periods noted in a medical column weren’t exactly the same, it is interesting to note that after four months, the Leadville infants were between 89 and 93 percent saturation during wakefulness. Healthy, awake infants under the age of two measured between 90 and 99 percent in Denver. So there was some shifting up, particularly on the low end.


You can pick up a pulse oximeter at many local pharmacies. A common use for these devices includes measuring oxygen saturation in people with compromised lung function. Pilots and mountain climbers also use the devices to determine when supplemental oxygen might be necessary to avoid fainting.


I’ve been playing with an oximeter to look at oxygen saturation at my house (roughly 5,000 ft. measured on my Garmin) and Frisco, Colorado (roughly 9,100 ft.) I did this because much of my fun, training and racing is done at altitudes of 7,500 ft. or more and I was curious if my oxygen saturation changed much between the Front Range and the Colorado mountains.


The next blog will be more about what I’ve noticed in my experiment of one.



2,061 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: denver, hiking, mountain_biking, altitude, colorado, skiing, trail_running, acclimatization, nordic_skiing, pulse_oximetry, frisco, blood_oxygen_saturation, alpine_skiing, road_cycling

Um…because the guy in front of me did…


Yes, my mom did teach me not to do stuff just because someone else does it. Somehow that lesson didn’t enter my conscious mind on Saturday.


Last Thursday I decided to enter my first mountain bike race of the season. It was the point-to-point race at Winter Park. Normally I like to pre-ride a course before racing it, but there was no time to do it before race day.


The race was a nice benchmark for my fitness. Relative to other people, my climbing felt strong and I was able to make up time on the climbs. The single-track descents in the woods were my nemeses. I just haven’t put the time into riding these kinds of descents to allow the comfort level needed to not be a white-knuckler.


I was a brake-squealing creeper. Ugh. I hated it. It wasn’t the descents I hated, they were great. I hated not being confident on the descents. I lost a load of time going downhill. I’ve got some work to do.


On the upside, the open descents felt good.


About those squealing brakes…


At the start of the race, the marshal mentioned that we would go around one stream crossing due to the high running water. He said there is a second crossing that “some people choose to ride and others walk.” Fair enough.


Somewhere in the second half of the race, the stream suddenly appeared. I was riding down a descent and before I knew what was going on, I noticed the guy in front of me rode through a stream. He made a big splash. I thought, “Doable and it looks like fun.”


Charging through the water, all I remember is that my front wheel felt light. It lifted and drifted, seeming to hit something. Instantly, I’m down into the stream, submerged except for my face. There was a small, green tree branch (or trunk) that was some two or three inches in diameter down in the stream. I managed to catch my arm and handle bar on the branch, which kept my head from going under. 


All I could do was start laughing. I had a flash in my mind of what that fall must have looked like. In a word – funny. Yes, at least two people saw it - or saw the result.


Of course I was in the deepest part of the stream when I fell and it got shallower at the edges. I picked myself up and walked a couple of feet to the bank and started riding again. I laughed for quite awhile after that, in spite of wet, squealing brakes. I had a big smile on my face.


Ah, to act like a 12-year-old again. I love mountain biking.

598 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: mountain_biking, winter_park, stream_crossing

Some athletes struggle with balancing life responsibilities and athletic goals. When the dreamy world of training like a professional athlete collides with the reality of life, it can be disappointing.


I’ve found that the more stress an athlete has in his or her life, the less training volume and intensity they can handle. Too much of either volume or intensity and there is a higher risk of illness or injury.


Something has to give. You are not bulletproof.


There is a stress scale, the Holmes and Hahe Stress Scale, which can be used to rank stressful events in your life. A handy automatic calculator for the scale can be found on


This stress scale estimates the likelihood of illness based on the number of stressful events in your life. If your score is 300 or more, you are at a high risk of illness. Scores between 150 and 299 indicate a moderate chance of illness (50-50). Scores 150 or below indicate a slight risk of illness.


Keep in mind this scale was designed for “normal” people, not those aiming high for athletic accomplishment.


When you find your stress scale is on the increase, consider reducing the amount of volume and/or intensity in your training.


The extra rest just might keep you healthy and make you a better athlete as a result.

848 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: training, cycling, triathlon, mountain_biking, stress, illness, endurance_sports

In Colorado, it is not unusual to not have cell phone service in many foothills and mountain locations. This can be a very dangerous situation.


Case in point, a couple of days ago local rider Barb Schultz told me a story about her neighbor Chad (don't have Chad's last name). He was mountain biking on a local trail when he sustained a serious injury to his upper leg. The short story is that the front fork on his mountain bike suffered catastrophic failure. The break ended up slicing his upper leg wide open.


Chad was only a quarter of a mile from the ranger station when the accident occurred, but he had no cell coverage and couldn’t call for help. Luckily, Chad is a medical student and knew how to take care of himself until he could walk out of the single track and get help. He used his jersey as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. He did get help and eventually received 32 stitches in his "fillet gash" to repair the injury.


Barb told me that Chad’s story is one good reason why she carries something called SPOT. It is an emergency response system that uses satellites (not cell towers) to call for help when you really need it. I hadn’t heard of it before.


Barb uses the personal tracker (I think) although there are options to have the application downloaded to your smart phone. The service plans can be found here.


Because Barb frequently rides alone, her husband can watch her on the website and know where she is and if she’s still moving along at the expected rate.


I’m often on trails and roads, with and without other people, where there’s no cell coverage. There have been two occasions I can think of where someone was injured and no one in the group had cell coverage. We were able to get help by riding out to a car or to phone coverage, but having an emergency response option would have been great.


I’m currently investigating the various options.

777 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: mountain_biking, mountains, trail_running, satellite, backcountry, spot, emergency_response, sattellite, tracking_device

Finally, the weather has warmed up on the Colorado Front Range. Everyone, and everything, was out today.


Kent Winters, Bill Beyers and I headed out for a mountain bike ride on the popular Blue Sky Trail, just off the Coyote Ridge connector trail. Kent was the strongest rider of the day and was in the lead. Bill rode second and I brought up the tail.


Outbound, Kent didn’t see a snake sunning itself in the trail. Bill pointed it out as he went by and I was nearly on top of it by the time I saw it. It was scream worthy.


Kent was stopped in the trail about 25 yards ahead of Bill and I. We thought it was another snake, but no, Kent thought he saw a cat leap across the trail and into the bushes. Not a house cat, but a mountain lion. He't not 100 percent certain, but pretty sure.


We watched for awhile and never did see the cat.


Coming back, several people warned us of a rattlesnake in the trail. Kent rolled right past it and Bill saw the snake move or tumble toward the trail. (I’ve visualized the snake striking at Kent, but I have a vivid imagination.)




The snake was coiled and in the strike ready position. Though we tried to move it off the trail, it wouldn’t budge. Kent offered to take a closer photo with my phone. While Kent was moving closer toward the snake, I was backing up. I would have climbed on top of Bill’s shoulders if I thought I could pull it off. Let’s just say I like to give snakes plenty of room to navigate.




We ended up walking off trail in the weeds. (Probably where the snake’s friends were hanging out…my imagination tells me.)


We made it back to the trailhead with no snake bites. It’s a good time to refresh my snake savvy.


Rattlesnake information

Rattlesnake fact or fiction

1,524 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: mountain_biking, rattlesnake_information, rattlesnake_fact

Last weekend a few of us went mountain biking in Summit County, Colorado. Luckily, we had a couple of experienced riders with us to show us some good trails. One such rider was former Summit resident Bill Frielingsdorf. (Thanks Bill!)




This post isn't so much about the great trails Bill showed us over the weekend, rather it is about data collection. For those of you that haven’t played with a GPS device, such as the Garmin 705, I’ll show you a few cool things you can do with a data file.


You don’t need to download anything to see the basic file link here. At this link you will find moving time of 3:36, elapsed time of 4:53, distance of 28.33, elevation gain of 4,109 as well as a course profile, speeds and heart rate data. The display map shows you the course on a basic flat map.The only thing you’ll need to download (and it’s free) to see some of the features is Google Earth.


Below the map (not above) you’ll notice a tab titled “Google Earth” – click on that selection. (Remember, you must have already installed “Google Earth” from the download above.) A box will come up asking you if you want to open the activity with Google Earth (which is typically the default selection) and select “OK”.


That should bring up a satellite view of earth, the route traced on the map and public photos of the area that other people have posted.  Of course you can select any of the photos to see pictures of that area. There is a vertical bar on the right side of the map (move your cursor over there) that allows you to zoom in and zoom out on the map. I suggest you have the map fill most of your screen.


Once you’ve got the map where you want it, notice there is a player feature at the top left corner (move your cursor over there) of the map. If you select the second tab from the left, the player shows you a fast motion view of the ride. You can see points where we stopped, the point where I went backwards to check on a possible mechanical problem, and the entire thing is time-stamped. Selecting the tool on the right side of the player bar allows you to select the speed of the animation (slower, faster).


If you want to see the map in 3-D, notice the circle that has an “N” on it. If you click on the arrow just below the “N”, it tips the map toward the north. You can move away from the tipping tool and use the “hand” to resituate the map. To do this just move your curser to the middle of the map, left click the mouse and drag the map to see what you want to see.


You can further play with the tipping and zooming features just to experiment.



780 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: mountain_biking, colorado_trail, summit_county_colorado, keystone

Sometimes, I wish I was brave


Last spring a group of us from Colorado took a trip to Moab, Utah to do some mountain bike riding. From the Front Range of eastern Colorado, a drive to Moab takes some 5.5 to 7 hours depending on which city marks your departure point. So that the entire first day isn’t consumed by driving, many people stop in Grand Junction or Fruita to ride for a few hours before continuing the trek to Moab; which is what we did on our spring trip.


I wish I was stronger

On both ends of the Moab trip, we stopped at a trail head titled “Kokopelli Loop Trails”. While we thought it was a great warm-up day for Moab, on the homeward stop we decided that the Fruita area deserved a trip dedicated to riding the local trails. That trip happened over the Columbus Day weekend.


I wish I could feel no pain


We left the Loveland area at 7:00 am, the temperature was a frosty 18 degrees Fahrenheit, it was snowing and the roads were slick. Though the weather forecasters predicted the storm would be over before we reached Denver, it turned out we had snow and icy conditions well onto the westbound I-70 portion of the trip. An early morning accident at the Eisenhower, Johnson Tunnel rerouted us over Loveland Pass. (Note to skiers, Arapahoe Basin and Loveland Basin have both been making snow and each have one run open.)


I wish I was young


When we arrived at the Kokopelli Loop trailhead, it was 68 degrees Fahrenheit – well worth the 300ish mile trip. We began with Mary’s Loop and headed right to Horsethief Bench. There is some great video of this trail on website by Pete Fagerlin. If you watch the Horsethief Bench video, you’ll get a good idea of what the trail is like. That written, anyone that has ever shot video or even some still shots of mountain bike terrain knows the camera does not do true justice to the difficulty of any given section. To give you another perspective, below is a photo of Scott Ellis and Todd Singiser on the way back up the most technical part of this trail.




I wish I was shy


After a day of playing around on several of the trails in this area, we headed back to Fruita for some excellent food at Fiesta Guadalajara. After filling our guts and rehashing the day, it was back to the hotel to watch several of the videos on Fagerlin’s site and decide the strategy for the next couple of days.


I wish I was honest


On Sunday we popped into the two local Fruita bike shops, “Over the Edge” and “Singletracks”. Both shops were out of the waterproof maps, but we did end up asking one of the people in Singletracks what his recommendation would be. He told us he considers the best area of riding to be the area we visited the previous day. Then, he said if we wanted “rocky, ledgy and more technical” we should visit The Tabeguache Trail system outside of Grand Junction, and ride an area known by locals as “The Lunch Loop”. If we wanted smooth, flowing trails, he suggested we ride the Bookcliffs area, also known as Road 18 Trails and North Fruita Desert Area. We decided to do the tougher trails on Sunday, smooth and flowing on Monday morning before the drive back home.


I wish I was you not I


If you look at a trail map, there are three parking areas for the trail system. Start at the lower trailhead parking lot. If you go back multiple times, explore the higher parking lot areas. We started on the Tabeguache Trail and stayed primarily on that trail, finally connecting to the Gunny trail. There was definitely enough challenge here for us. I was short on photos today, but you can find video of the Gunny loop on Fagerlin’s site.


Sometimes, I wish I was smart


On the final day, we decided to hit the Bookcliff’s area and ride several of the connectors to Joe’s Ridge. After two days of riding, our legs were tired and we decided “smooth and flowing” trails sounded good. Do not assume “smooth and flowing” means mindlessly easy. No. It does not.


I wish I had power


We rode out of the lower trailhead and made our way to Chutes and Ladders. This is a fun trail with shorter, steepish climbs and equally described descents. While the entire trail system is probably smooth sometimes, we found a number of sections deeply rutted from significant rains. The three- to six-inch ruts kept you alert and picking your lines wisely. One false move on a deeply rutted section would grab your front or rear tire. Sometimes the error was recoverable, other times not.


I wish I could lead


After Chutes and Ladders, we headed to Joe’s Ridge. Just as it sounds, the trail runs along the top of a ridgeline. There is not much room for error, should you drift off of the trail. In some sections, there are only inches to spare and in other sections, one to two feet. A tumble down the side of the hill isn’t like falling off of a rocky cliff, but it would be awhile before you stopped rolling. Fagerlin has video of Joe’s Ridge and below is a still shot.




I wish I could change the world


For anyone looking for great singletrack and plenty of options for ride difficulty as well as varying terrain, I’d highly suggest the Fruita area. A couple of good resources include “Fruita Fat Tire Guidebook” and the “Fruita Grand Junction Colorado Trails Recreation Topo Map.” There are also single-page maps available at the trailheads, if they are in stock.


Let's start over
Let's start over


Note: The italicized sections of the blog are portions of the song “I Feel So” by Box Car Racer, heard at the beginning of the Fagerlin Horsethief Bench video. We felt motivated, and encourage others to do the same, to add our own words after:


I wish I was…

I wish I could…

1,918 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: mountain_biking, fruita_colorado, grand_junction_colorado, lunch_loop, joe's_ridge, horsethief_bench, mary's_loop