Could the key to better riding be in your elbows?

Does this title sound like one of those tabloid miracle cures? Read more to find out how this mysterious cure could turn your life around! It is all part of being more mindful on your bike.

But seriously… A long and excruciating ride last weekend revealed a small and crucial difference in riding styles between me and fellow members of Team Lick Cancer: elbows. Okay, I can understand that many of them fell back on the climbs of the hills around Westford as I have a few more months of training under my belt. (saddle? shorts?) It was the descents that surprised me as everyone else’s bikes were slower going down. What gives? It was the elbows.

Most people coast down hills, especially steeper ones, or if there is a stop at the bottom. So the limit on speed is resistance, both air and mechanical. I doubt my hubs and tires make that much difference, so the delta must be how aerodynamic someone is. The two easiest ways to cheat the wind is to move your hands lower on the bars and bend your elbow. Some cyclists don’t feel comfortable riding down in the drops (the subject of a future post) but can still get a free boost in speed by bending their elbows, thus dropping their upper bodies.

Better yet, you can do this on the flats, with the added benefit of reducing the jarring to your shoulders, neck, and head. Next time you are just riding along, imagine your arms as two springs. If they are straight, any bump in the road is transmitted from the handlebars to your body, causing fatigue, especially on longer rides. Now crook those arms a bit. That pothole still slams your wheels, but now your arms flex and take up the jolt. And since your torso is not slamming back on your arms, your hands actually take less of a beating, along with the entire bike.

Bending your elbows during a ride does require more flexibility as you are bent over more. You might end up trading sore shoulders and neck for a sore lower back. However, if you can stretch just a little more, you will be faster and more comfortable on your next ride. 110 miles from Sturbridge to Bourne will seem easier and leave you more energy for the next day.

Fun fact of the day: Kurt Searvogel is trying to break the 1 year cycling record of over 75,000 miles. See to read how he is riding over 200 miles and eating over 13,000 calories a day., and losing weight! Even more amazing is that the record was set in 1939 by Tommy Godwin, in England during WWII, during food rationing and limited visibility.

Snow is finally gone

It was a brutal winter, with record snow in New England. The good news is that it melted at a reasonable pace and didn’t cause any real flooding. About 25 years ago I rode to the top of Mt. Wachusetts and hit snow on the way down. In recent years, the first spring attempts were blocked by snow that gets piled 8-10 feet over the access road to turn it into a ski trail. Last weekend I encountered snow twice on the one-way parts, right after 30-35mph descents. Jim took the attached photo.

Snow on Mt. Wachusetts access road