Over the years, I have developed some funny habits that I follow to a T throughout the cycling season. Some of these habits began as humorous coincidences and others follow the standard code of the road. Growing up in a cycling household meant that I learned much of my discipline from my father who in turn learned from a long list of PROfessional cyclists. Some of these practices seem funny and dated but I also know from my years spent in the cycling industry that often these practices have solved nagging issues for many cyclists. Here is a sampling ranging from humorous to bizarre:
Never expose your knees in temperatures below 21 degrees C.
In colder, wet weather, the muscles and ligaments require the additional protection to prevent injury and keep the blood circulating. In essence, lubricating the knee. (This, of course, is counterintuitive to the entire BKW philosophy. But hey, I am far from a PRO and plan to ride my bicycle for another 60 years.)
No white bar tape before Memorial Day or after Labor Day.
This rule came about out of my love for the peak season ride. Now I love the cold, rain, and wind of the Spring, and nothing spells HARDMAN like braving these conditions, but there is something so basic and pleasurable about the peak summer months. The Tour in July, Vuelta in September. These rides take place in primarily beautiful weather, basking the riders in a warm glow. Often all the PRO teams are sporting the white tape in these months. Therefore, in an effort to protect my mind's snapshot of summer racing, the white is reserved for the warm months.
Early season development on a fixed gear.
A cyclist should spend the first 1600 kms of the season pedaling a fixed gear machine. This period helps develop the ability to spin a larger gear with greater fluidity, blessing the rider with the ultimate skill, a skill the French refer to as supplesse, or "suppleness". A rider begins with a lower gear combination, working up slowly every 500 kms, progressively building in gear size.
Cleanliness: Keep on it. This is a tough subject to address because the areas covered are tres personal. I'll be as candid as possible: Bacteria is bad, anyway you slice it. Wash your shorts, wash your ass; chamois time is clammy time. I have spoken to none to few about saddle sores and discomfort while riding. A couple great pairs of shorts are the first remedy followed by a disciplined approach to caring for them and you. Make all efforts to relieve yourself (read #2) before your ride. Follow this with a shower, a light layer of chamois cream (or Noxzema if you are truly an OG), and a clean pair of shorts. Rotate your shorts and wash after every ride. When you finish a ride, get out of your shorts. There is nothing PRO about sitting around in a wet chamois for hours on end, even if you're drinking a sweet espresso on a warm day. Happy cyclist, happy backside, and when forced to sit on your wheel, fellow cyclists will thank you.
Tire label at the valve. Here is another simple but often overlooked practice. When installing a tire, line up the valve with the label on the tire. One, it makes things look PRO and two, when you have a flat, it makes identifying the source of the puncture in the tire easier. Find the hole in the tube and then locate the corresponding area in the tire. this allows for identification for the cause of your flat, staple, glass, tack or pinch flat. Wha-LA!
Sharing a water bottle: No Bueno. Never, ever, share a water bottle. As the season wears on and the warmer months take over, the heat goes up and so does liquid consumption. Concurrently, with more miles and intensity, the body's immunity begins to settle into a weakened state. This is the reason so many PROs are susceptible to colds and stomach bugs. Well, I guess the stomach bug can also be related to doping issues but let's stay on the positive. So as a rule, no matter how thirsty I may be, I never share a water bottle. I don't need to catch a cold or a stomach bug from one of my teammates. Plan ahead, bring enough water, and always be alert to sources for clean water and a bottle refill.
Drink Hot Tea. Following a ride in less than ideal conditions, immediately hit the warm shower, change into dry gear, and then enjoy a cup of hot tea. The tea helps your body warm from the inside, which will equip you to stay comfortable all day.
Tune it up. By April 1, I like to have all of my gear for the coming season dialed in. This means tires are new, cables and housing is replaced, and a new chain and cogs are fitted. I go a bit overboard and use the time to tweak the machine, I replace the bottom bracket, check, and clean all bearings and reapply grease and Anti-Seize to all threaded surfaces.
Some of these items may be helpful and some funny, but many of them govern my cycling life. As time goes on, some of these tips seem dated. Time changes the practice of cycling and this is not better evidenced than by the CONI suggestion to sport a cabbage leaf under your hairnet to keep your body's temp regulated. I'm grateful to have learned much of what I know from my father; he's been a great mentor and leader in this sport. Even as I begin to ride more and he begins to ride less, I'm always amazed at the wisdom and insight he poses. His advice centers on the simple and often overlooked, something that comes from age and experience, something I hope to be gaining every day I ride and follow my own code of the road.