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Bike racing: various musings.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015 by  
Filed under Daily Blog


I’ve been putting a lot of thought into bike racing lately, specifically road racing. A big part of me wants to put on a number and line up, but every time I start to get excited about it I’m treated to a video of fresh carnage. I’m not talking about random bike crash videos from around the world, I’m talking about local races–the races that my friends are doing, and the ones I would be doing. Virtually every race involves at least one crash, and oftentimes multiple crashes, and they are not pretty: serious injuries and severely damaged or even destroyed bikes are very common.

My friends Hector Cabrera (leading) and Kyle Markel (owner of Kyle's Bike Shop) at the 2015 Chain Of Lakes Crit. Photo credit: Hawkdancer Photography.

My friends Hector Cabrera (leading) and Kyle Markel (owner of Kyle’s Bike Shop) at the 2015 Chain Of Lakes Crit. Photo credit: Hawkdancer Photography.

I realize that cycling is an inherently dangerous sport, and I accept those risks. No one likes to wreck, but it happens. I’ve wrecked plenty of times, both mountain biking and on the road. It sucks to go down hard, but if you ride enough it’s not a question of “if”, it’s a question of “when”.

Bike racing, however, takes that danger to an entirely different level. Take a bunch of competitive guys riding as hard as they can (usually at, or above, their physical and bike handling limits) and accidents are going to happen.

I’m 46 years old. I don’t heal as well as I did when I was kid. I have a career, a family and many responsibilities. A serious injury could literally alter my life forever, and not in a good way.

So that’s one thing. Another sticking point is the bike. I’m not sponsored, so if my bike is destroyed in a wreck that money is gone. No one is going to hand me a shiny new bike once I’m healed up. I simply don’t have $8,000 to replace my bike. Even a fraction of that sum is not money I have lying around just so I can race.

One option is to buy a beater bike just for racing. That’s definitely something I’ve considered. Wrecking a bike that costs less than just my rear Zipp 404 Firecrest wheel would take a lot of the sting out my wallet. That money can still add up, though.

So, is the juice worth the squeeze? I really don’t know. I’m already in love with the sport, and events like Six Gap get me plenty excited and inspire me to train hard. Hell, I don’t even need events to inspire me: I love training hard just because!

Another possible option that intrigues me a great deal is Time Trial racing. Not only are TT races much safer than traditional road races, they play to my strengths as a cyclist. My phenotype is that of a Time Trialist. Dr. Coggan, co-author of the indispensable Training and Racing with a Power Meter, confirmed this when he sent me an email after analyzing my power data using his WKO+ 4 model.

While I could certainly dip my toe in the TT race pool atop my road bike, I’d really need a Time Trial bike to be competitive.

Anyway, these are just some random thoughts. Unless you’re my mom or my wife, feel free to chime in with your opinions. 😉

John Stone Fitness Comments

11 Responses to “Bike racing: various musings.”
  1. I’m with you John in pausing to consider the risks. I think the TT route is the way to go for whatever my two-cents is worth.

    Let me ask though, as someone who knows nothing about this sport, what kinds of races exists? I assume all kinds do similar to running, both short and long distances yes? Do the longer distance races offer any significant reduced risk? Even though this strays from what you are seemingly best suited for, does it make sense for the mitigated risks or are all the risks you mentioned above still very real regardless?

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    • There are lots of different styles of races, everything from closed course circuit races (called criteriums or “crits”) to long road races. Crits are probably the most dangerous of them all because they usually involve lots of turns.

      Time Trial races are cool because you’re racing others, but you’re riding on your own (no drafting is allowed).

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  2. John, I know we have talked a lot about this subject, and I agree with everything in today’s blog. In fact, I just heard there was a crash at the Pinellas Park Circuit 50+ Masters race this past Sunday that sent as many as 6 cyclists to the hospital!!! I haven’t heard a final injury report, but hearing things like that only reinforce my feelings about bike racing. I will be retiring in 2 1/2 years at the age of 50 at which point I am fully committed to devoting myself to time trialing, which I know I will thoroughly enjoy. Until then I will continue to satisfy my competitive juices with events such as 6 Gap, Strava and just the personal satisfaction of self-improvement. Kudos to those who race, but the risk of injury and the possible financial expense are just not worth it to me at this point in life.

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  3. Pure carnage!!! It’s all fun and games until you are laying there with broken bones and broken carbon fiber!!! Honestly, as I approach 50 it makes watching that even worse knowing how much longer and harder their recoveries will be. You can be in the best shape ever, but in the end Mother Nature will have the last laugh. 🙂

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