Not everyone's happy
Earlier this week CA announced that J17 gear restrictions would be lifted to a 7.0 meter rollout, which is around 90 gear inches, it was to be lifted to 86" (6.75m), up from the previous limit of 82" (6.5m).
Many of you reading here know I am very much in favour of this, but not everyone is pleased. I hope to calm the storm a little, or at least provide some argument in favour. Note please that this is my opinion, and I am not representing any organisation except for aboc Cycle Coaching (me!) when I write this. Furthermore, I don't have any influence on the people that made the decision that I am aware of. I don't even know who they are.
Enough with the preamble ...
Firstly, the rule change does not mandate that every J17 rider ride 90". It means they are allowed to, which is not at all the same thing. J19's are allowed to ride up to 104" or something, they don't, because they usually can't. I work with J19's who can squat small cars and deadlift your fridge, full ... they're not anywhere near being able to rev out the J19 gear restriction yet,. and managing them through J17's is a challenge (be patient, your time will come, being restricted to 82" sucks, but next year ... repeat and hope the kid buys in to the argument).
If a J17 is a great revver, they will choose smaller gears, if they're a big, strong kid, they will push bigger gears. Up 'til now the rules have biased against strong kids and towards super-revvers, at least in sprint, which is where my attention is focused. I expect it's the same in enduro circles. Big, strong kids can't rev as fast as the hummingbirds (heavy legs, can't move 'em quite as quick, but they can accelerate!). We build kids up to be strong so that they can be competitive as J19's and seniors, and not spend another 6 years trying to get them strong enough, this is an even bigger task with girls than it is with boys - they put muscle on a lot more slowly than boys. One of the causes for the loss of elite sprinters after J19 is the almost insurmountable gulf between a J19 and a senior (hey, kid, race Perko, who is pushing 108" or more and Anna who is superstrong! good luck ...). I've interviewed a number of guys who've given it up after J19's and this is a common theme. They don't want to spend 5 or more years getting smacked before they're even at a level where they can keep up and not be embarrassed.
By better preparing J17's to use bigger gears, we hope to lift the standard in J19, and thus, make the transition to senior riders be less daunting. If J17's filters out a lot of the strong kids in favour of super spinners (which, at present, it does), that means J19's are in general, weaker than they could otherwise be as a population, and then less likely to manage the jump into senior ranks. There's loads of examples of this in sprint in recent memory, in particular in the girls, but also many of the boys have failed to make the jump past J19. This is for many reasons, but one is that the jump is too big for most of them to manage in a realistic timeframe.
Some of my colleagues have mentioned that by allowing J17's to push 90", that this will kill the sport and other hyperbole (and a half!), or that we shouldn't change a working formula (hey, it's NOT working! We bleed riders after J19, you haven't noticed?! Where are they all?). Nonsense. The current situation is that strong kids are held back (and they're often some of the best talents, so they go off and play some sport where their talent isn't nobbled), hummingbirds prosper and the less talented kids are off the back on 82". The only difference by allowing bigger gears is that the strong kids will be able to keep up with the hummingbirds. The less talented, or younger, or less developed kids will be off the back no matter what anyway. It happens now, it will continue to happen. I don't think much else will change. If it does, the rules can be changed again.
And this is the rub. Many are suggesting that club racer kids will give it up because 90" is too big and they can't keep up, there'll be no tactical development etc etc. Here's the thing. At club level, clubs are free to introduce their own gear restrictions anyway. You want a race where no-one can push bigger than 82" - NO PROBLEM! Just put it in the race rules. Brunswick did this on Saturday, everyone was on 90" (magic number?!) and it was great. Close races, lots of skill and tactical development. GOOD! We had first year J19's (the ones I trained overgeared last year and got strong and who hated being forced to ride 82" in competition) keeping up with senior sprinters, which made for good training races. But, for opens, state and national championships, the talented kids should be allowed to display their physical talent. It may well keep them in the sport longer and help us find the next group of champions. State and National titles are not "every kid's a winner" races, they're championships and the best kids should be able to win them.
I'm sure there will be people who will cite examples of successful riders who came through our current system, they do exist, and this is good (look closely at their development path before you cite them though, some will surprise you at how they got into the system, Cadel rode MTB, Matthew Glaetzer was a pole vaulter and did not come through gear restricted juniors etc), but we can do better (we have to, everyone else is!) and we can't say everything is great because some physiological freaks have survived it, if they even came through it. Our rules and development programs should not be judged by the success of the very rare genetically gifted athletes that pop up, but rather by the health of the whole ecosystem.
Finally, the knee injury furphy. Where's the corpses? We train our guys overgeared ALL the time, putting out much greater torque and power numbers than anyone else in the state (wanna bet?! I have data ... ), I have not seen a single knee injury. Not one. If a kid isn't strong enough to push a gear (86, 90, whatever) they simply won't be able to push it. They can grind at 60rpm up a hill (that's ok ...) in a road race out at Eildon or the 1:20 etc already if they want or have to. Knee overuse injuries come from throwing kids at huge miles and on badly fitted bikes, not from pushing a gear that's too big for them.
So there you go. I don't think it will kill anything, I think it's for the long term good of developing better senior riders
In case you haven't already seen it ...
Why everyone defaults to enduro
How do most people get started in a sport? Usually it's at school, or you get invited by a few friends to join a team etc. Most of the 'sharp' sports (Olympic or other elite level, football, criocket etc) get their talent young, at schools or by blind luck and co-incidence. Then there's everyone else who maybe missed that boat.
Why did you start riding your bike? Most of the people I speak to (and after almost a decade of coaching, that's quite a large sample) started out wanting to get fit. They're mostly older (not juniors, most of my coaching clients have been masters age or mid 20's starters), mostly got a bike, went off and rode Beach Road, did maybe a few things like the Bay in a Day or the Alpine Classic (or wanted to but didn't think they could). They saw Glenvale, got interested and had a go (it's easy to start with crits). Kids do it a bit differently, maybe it's a school around the bay program, or they pick it up from their parents, who maybe raced or are racing.
What do they do? Endurance racing. It's all endurance. Crits, 90% of track racing (certainly Blackburn's track program is endurance based, I expect most other clubs do the same or similar), road racing ... everyone's doing endurance.
The same thing with running, there may be a few sprint races at schools and a couple of the fast kids go off and get popped into little aths or similar if they're lucky enough to have a PE teacher who notices and is well enough connected to get them started, but everyone does the cross-country run, adults train for half marathons or triathalons. Who trains for sprints? Who even thinks they could? Very few people, in my experience.
I want to change this. I want sprint to be big. I want YOU to have a go, and if you've got kids, to have your kids exposed to sprint. It's the pointy end of the sport and it is not inaccessable. We're making more sprint races, we run a sprint series, we want YOU to have a go.
If you want something ...
They didn't have a track, so .. They made it happen. There's a lesson in that for many of us.
This is my bicycle, there are many like it, but this one is mine
Some good bicycle-road stuff
From today's Age (Thanks to Dino for pointing it out).
Melburnians are spending hundreds of thousands more hours on freeways - leading to zero gains in speeds or travel times, as roads fill up as soon as they are built.
Speeds on Melbourne's roads have dropped since 1995, from an average 44 km/h to 40 km/h. Average speeds in Melbourne in the morning and evening peaks are the lowest they have been since 1994.
Hands up who's surprised!
When we build more freeways, we encourage more people to live further from work, making our city more dependent on cars for travel. It's a BIG LOSE!
Of course, the people who build the roads disagree - Are they unbiased? Do the roads pay for their boats and holiday houses? Uhuh ...
''Perhaps the German word schlimmbesserung - meaning an improvement that makes things worse - is an apt descriptor for the massive program of new road construction that has marked Melbourne's 'solution' to its transport challenges over the last several decades,'' Mr Odgers' report concludes.
How best to make racing better?
Lots of people would think the best way to support a race or racing in general is to sponsor things. Hand out cash for King/Queen of the mountain, primes in crits (does anyone do primes at crits anyway?!), donate cash to add to prizemoney pools and so on.
I think that's sub-optimal. I think the best way to support racing is to get involved in organising, promoting and competing in races. I personally don't know anyone that cares terribly much about how much prizemoney there is for a race. I won a moderately big handicap way back in my enduro days (Lenny Hammond H'cap 2004) and it paid $250 for the win. Not bad, but to be honest, if it was $10 or $500, it wouldn't have made any difference to me and I didn't even consider prizemoney when I entered. The win was the thing and Mal Sawford's writeup in Cycling News and the CCCC website was the crown jewels.
Most of the people I race with and work with don't care about prizemoney. They like bling prizes though, but using bling prizes to effect is the key. The way CCCC use an aggregate for their crit series, for example, is fantastic. Riders from every grade have a chance (although with CCCC's crits, realistically it's won by A grade riders most of the time but that's because they promote grades on wins and winners trickle up until they stop winning) and it encourages regular participation. Aggregates, rewards for outstanding performances and the like are good, I think, and our experience at the Summer Sprint Series seems to hold that to be true. The few A grade lads that win most of the races most of the time don't make the field, it's a quality field across the grades that makes for great racing for everyone and I think prizes and event structures should reflect that.
At the SSS we scaled our aggregate performances by grade and while an A grader did win the overall, daily aggregate prizes were split across each grade and in '07-'08 the aggregate was tied between an A grader and a C->B grader and it was decided by fractions of a second in the end, so really, everyone did have a chance. I reckon we've stumbled onto a good model that allows riders at any level to have a chance at the 'big' prizes, without us as organisers spending loads of cash. If I give you $50, you pop it in your wallet and spend it on who knows what, it gets lost in general revenue and forgotten .. but if you win some 'thing', it's a better prize, I think and if you have a chance to win the same prize as the top riders, then grading really does work.
Back to supporting ... The best thing riders can do is to hype the events they want to happen. If you want a quality field to race in, YOU have to help get people there. That means talking up events with your riding chums etc. Just showing up on the day to race is not enough.
A good web comic has a break. I hope for not too long.
If you haven't seen it, Yehuda Moon is an excellent webcomic about a bloke (Yehuda) who works in an LBS. It's entertaining and written by someone with a real clue about the issues involved in riding on-road and also the funny stuff that happens at bike shops.
One of my favorites is this one.
I hope Rick Smith (author) gets back into it. It's an entertaining and poignant comic that often strikes a chord with our experiences on road and in shops. I hope I haven't ruined your day's productivity if you haven't seen it before and spend the rest of the day catching up from the first strip! Nah, you know the risks ...
Today's Age has a good article on cycling for transport
It's about time? Maybe ... Or maybe they're just seeing what's happening? Anyway ... In today's Age,
Roads Minister Tim Pallas yesterday said that the Government's new cycling plan was about cycling's emergence as a "mainstream" activity.
"We are mainstreaming cycling as a legitimate transport mode," Pallas said at the launch of the cycling plan, in a beautiful little corner of Northcote, next to the Merri Creek — prime cycling territory.
In suburbs such as Northcote, Brunswick and Fitzroy, up to 13 per cent of adults now ride to work.
That's not bad.
The point is made that in the 'burbs it's not as good, maybe distances are greater, or it's more 'conservative' in the 'burbs, everyone's bought in to the car as a status symbol and can't even consider riding for transport?
But in outer Melbourne, cycling remains distinctly marginal: in the city of Brimbank, which covers suburbs such as Sunshine, 0.2 per cent of journeys to work in the CBD are made by bike. In Glen Eira, covering Caulfield, it is 1.7 per cent.
Brumby also said :
"(Cycling) is good for your personal health. It will get your blood pressure down, it will get your cholesterol down. It also takes pressure off the public transport system and our road system,"
"Cycling is now an essential part of the transport plan," the Premier said. "That is a big shift from where we were a decade ago, where really what funds were available to cycling were just an add-on."
All this is good. A big increase in spending, but of course, how it's spend is key. More bikepaths? They're good for beginners, but if you're using bicycles for transport, we have a network of paths in place, that go everywhere. They're our roads and the best thing we can do, I think, is to educate drivers and riders (potential and actual) in effective use and sharing of our roads. Not all that expensive to do - start with adding a few questions in licence tests and the occasional TV add explaining the rights of cyclists on the road to drivers who often are ignorant of the rules and requirements for safe on-road riding.
That's not what's going to happen. They're going to build more paths. BV are thrilled, but BV's real name should be 'Bike Paths Victoria". Making more paths just reinforces to drivers that bikes don't belong on the road and doesn't really help. Bike paths are dangerous for commuters, arguably moreso than roads, especially at intersections with roads, and onroad bike lanes are a disaster.
So we have a step forward in recognition (people are riding! Good!) but the same old BV 'build more paths' bull that now will get more funding and legitimacy. It's not all bad, tucked away at the end of the article is a list of things to do (emphais of the good by me):
- Significantly improving the on and off-road cycling network within 10 kilometres of the CBD.
- Completing cycling networks in the six so-called "central activities districts" — Footscray, Broadmeadows, Box Hill, Ringwood, Dandenong and Frankston.
- Completing cycling links in regional centres.
- Developing bicycle facilities as part of road and rail transport projects.
- Safe cycling programs in schools.
- Campaigns to encourage cycling.
- A review of cycling accidents, and the creation of counter-measures.
- Launching a "look out for cyclists" safety campaign.
- Establishing a public bike hire system for Melbourne.
- Installing 33 bike cages at train stations by the end of 2009.
The last few of these are good. Very good. I hope they don't get swallowed up in 'bike path mania'.
Not exactly a journal of scientific repute ... but all the same
In the April 2009 edition of "Ralph" magazine. Yeah ... I know ... it's not exactly the journal of sports science, but if you're the type to buy such things, towards the back there's an article on riding bikes, which I have contributed to. Fame at last ... Sort of. It's only a page and it's not really very detailed, but there you go.
Cycling is not dangerous, why linger on the very rare horror stories?
Ghost bike: A white painted bicycle chained near a cycling fatality site.
Dog bites man is never news, man bites dog is. It's a media truism and a cliche'. We notice the unusual, and ignore the commonplace.
In 2007, for example, 332 people died on Victorian roads. How's that break up?
67 passengers in motor vehicles
6 cyclists. On average over the last 5 years, 8 cyclists a year died on Victorian roads.
That's not very many. It's hardly even noticeable in the stats, ~2% of road fatalities are cyclists.
So what's the point of the ghost bikes and the ride of silence and other such activities? If we're to accept the generally held interpretation of some reasearch out of the US, that suggests that the more cyclists ride on the roads, the less (in terms of riding time) get involved in collisions, one aim of most sensible cyclists is to encourage more people to ride, more often (apologies to Bicycle Victoria!). How does a ghost bike help that? How does something unusual and thus newsworthy reminding passers-by of a fatality encourage those passers-by to consider riding rather than driving? I don't think it does any of us any favours.
Cycling is NOT dangerous, cycling is one of the safest and best ways to get around. It's healthy for riders, it's better for the air we share, it's even better for drivers (reducing congestion etc). That's the message we want to push, and we need to push it because it's the truth.
So get on your bike and ride it, encourage your friends to ride. That's how to make a real difference. The best monument to the fallen, if you must, is for more people to ride their bikes; ride to work, ride to school, ride to the shops, ride to parties and dinners with friends, ride to your holidays, RIDE!
A very good article on road rage
It's by a yank, but is pretty relevant to here. Have a read.
An extract :
My goal is to stay in control of my emotions. When a bad driver cuts me off because he is not paying attention or checking his mirrors, I am able to stay cool. Let someone else ‘teach him a lesson’-whatever I have to tell myself to get through those first critical moments without reacting. In those cases where it seems the bad and dangerous driving was intentionally directed at me-it is very difficult for me to control my knee jerk response to retaliate immediately. It feels like I am ‘giving in’ or in some other way ‘losing’. In order to change my reaction I had to change my perspective. If I lose my temper and escalate an antagonistic situation- what I am really doing is losing control. I try to equate losing my temper with being defeated, with ‘losing’. For me this is often enough to deter my dark side from emerging.
Or why it's not good to compare windy, old concrete velodromes with indoor board tracks!
Dino and I had a sprint session this morning at Blackburn. We tried a few different lines for flying 200's and had a couple of match sprints against eachother too (1 all in the match sprints). Blackburn is so much slower than DISC it's just not funny! We were on little baby gears and pounded by a 15kn+ nor westerly which made the windup a struggle and the final 80m tricky- but with little gears on it the wind wasn't such an issue, it was just spin as fast as you can time!
A good hitout anyway.
My condolances to the family and friends of the woman killed on Swanston St this morning in a collision with a bus. We don't know how it happened, but it's a terrible thing for her family and friends. Last year 6 cyclists died on Victorian roads from a total of 334 fatalities, so not many of us die, but some do, and it's tragic when it happens. Stay alert on the roads, our safety is our responsibility.
How to get more people riding?
Today's Age, again ....
The headlines :
Tax breaks for cycling to work
End special deals for 4wd's (get the great big land barges OFF the road!)
Insist on fuel efficient cars
Abolish the fringe benefits tax lunacy that encorages people to drive more
I'm not so keen on the tax break, I don't think we need middle class welfare, but the argument for it is sound.
It's now blurring into week three of le Tour. Simon Gerrans has just won a stage in the Alps, Cadel's lost the yellow in what we can only hope was his bad day on the tour where he didn't look strong and the race is far from having a clear leader, with 6 riders within 50 seconds of Frank Schleck's tenous grip on the yellow jersey (everyone has a bad day on the tour). Tonight's a rest night for the Tour, phew ... some sleep at last. The next two stages in the Alps will sort that out though.
A good article on bikes as transport in today's Age some exerpts from Chris Saliba's article, called
A bike often gets you there quicker
A recent report says that 52% of typical car trips in Australian cities are under five kilometres long. That's about a 20-minute ride. Broken down into energy costs, such a trip will set you back about 200 calories.
I soon learned how much fun it was whooshing along and enjoying the fresh air. I was hooked and couldn't have cared less what people thought. I now have a large basket attached to the back of my bike and can easily do all my shopping as well as commute. As far as I can see, bikes are a great positive. They save you money on petrol, burn up body fat, help the environment — and they're fun. On top of that they're very reliable and, in some situations, faster than cars.
Our DISC session last night ended with a few of us utterly trashed. Need. New. Legs.
Twice a week at the LBS, and I love it
I'm in at Cycle Science today, and it's a cold, windy and rainy day, so it's going to be a quiet day. Wednesdays are normally reasonably quiet compared to the chaos of the weekends and Friday evenings. Pete (the boss) takes most of the morning off to see his dad, and leaves me here to look after things 'til lunchtime. When it's bad cycling weather, it's very quiet.
One of the fun things about working here is the new bits we get all the time. A truck arrives and we get a whole pile of new bits to play with, or a rep shows up and shows us new bling bits and we waste time crapping on about the Tour, what's selling well, what's been on the shop floor for years (anyone want an older Trek 8000? We've had that one for 4 years at least!), what do we think will sell well next summer (commuter bikes, I'm betting on) etc. Today won't pay many bills, but it's still fun to work here, if you can call it working. I've had one customer come in and talk about riding the new Eastlink bikepath and we had a look at some bikes that might be suitable for that, but other than that, a quiet day.
In today's Age, more people see reality.
Relevant quotes, Tracee starts with :
BRING on the price rise. I know that I'm supposed to be worried about petrol going up, but something about the hysterical predictions that we'll be paying $2 a litre for it by the end of the year has been strangely exhilarating. It's like a great, big penny has finally dropped. Except I don't feel panicked, I feel relieved. Relieved that we'll be paying more realistic prices for such a finite resource. Relieved that short-sighted government policies over the past decade have been exposed. And relieved that it's forcing so many people to rethink how and when they use their cars. Including me.
She rabbits on a bit about helmets, hair and lights, but then adds :
So now I'm about to enter a whole new phase of commuting. Well, at least I hope I can stay committed to biking it to work as often as possible. I figure that even if I relent on one or two days a week, I know I'll be doing more than I was when I was driving to work every day.
She'll save herself a fortune, and it's good for all of us. She finishes with this hopeful paragraph :
I just hope this petrol crisis has the right kind of outcomes. More personal responsibility, firmer buttocks and some real government vision on public transport and sustainable energy supplies — not a mad dash to keep plundering the planet's ever-diminishing fuel resources.
It's interesting that while many of 'us' see this coming, our govenments seem so keen to hide the scary truth from the great unwashed suburban mcmansionites. Rudd, Brumby etc must be aware of peak oil and the issues it's bringing to the fore, very very quickly. You could kinda forgive Howard, he was so blinded by obedience and cowtowing to the yanks that he couldn't see the elephant in the room (and with the baby bonus? MORE people? BRILLIANT! That's just what we need ... not enough water, not enough fuel, hey! let's encourage the punters to breed more, that'll be a great solution ...) But Rudd knows about peak oil and he knows what's coming (or his advisors are totally stupid). What's happening in Oz at a government level to reduce the harm? More of the same? It won't work, Kevin.