Update on Weight Loss
Any sport is going to require specialized equipment. Unfortunatlely, none of it is cheap. Since every year I spend a small fortune on replacing worn out gear or just buying big ticket items, I thought I'd share some of the gear that I use on a weekly basis while trainig, specifically the bike portion of the training.
Let's start with the biggest and most obvious item: The bike. We do a lot of road riding so it make sense that the type of bike we use is a road bike. What's a road bike? It's a bike that's built for paved surfaces. It's light weight, has thin tires to minimize friction with the road, has 12+ gears and in general isn't really built for comfort. You won't find any wide saddles with ample padding. Nope, these bikes are supposed to be light weight. So any opportunity to reduce weight and drag is taken. For instance, most bikes have reflectors on them, road bikes ship with them by law, however the first thing a road biker does is remove them all to cut down on some weight but also keeps the wheels more balanced as there isn't a heavy reflector on 2 of the spokes throwing off the balance. The saddles are narrow and fairly hard. The only comfort option you get are saddles designed for both the male and female anatomy. These seats reduce the likelihood of long term damage to your nether regions. Other than that, it's like sitting on a thin piece of wood for hours at a time.
So what bike am I riding? Well, I splurged and treated myself to a new bike this year. I got a 2017 Specialized Rubaix Elite. It's a good bike just above entry level. The cost? Brand new it cost $2300. So what does $2300 get you? A carbon fibre frame that greatly reduces weight. Older bikes would have a steel frame and newer low end bikes would have aluminum frames. Carbon fiber is the lightest option you can get right now. For the 3 previoius Lavaman races I was on a Diamondback Century Carbon bike. It too has a carbon fibre frame and it was a great ride. I would have kept riding it except it got a slight ding it in when it was shipped home and I didn't want to risk it breaking near the end of the season and have to do the race on a new piece of gear. That's a general rule of race day: nothing new. Basically, when you start the race, you should be intimately familiar with every bit of gear you're using.
Getting back to my new bike, it also has a short front suspension built into the vertical shaft that supports the handle bars. It gives me about 1/2 an inch of cushion against the conditions on the road. My back has been loving it.
The next most important bit is your helmet. Helmets are required for all races and if you leave the transition area (the area where you change from swim to bike and from bike to run in a triathlon) you are immediately disqualified from your race. You can walk out without shoes or a shirt on, but missing your helmet is a big no-no for obvious reasons. Your helmet protects your head from trauma and having a field of 2000 participants, some without helmets, is a recipe for disaster. Outside of races, you should always wear a bike helmet. I know they are a bit dorky looking, but I'd rather look a bit dorky than have a serious head or brain injury beacuse of my vanity. If you're a road biker, everyone is going to look at you funny if you're not wearing a helmet. I bought a new helmet this year to go with the new bike. One thing many people don't know: helmets have expiration dates. Generally, 5 years from manufacture is considered end of life. So if you have helmets at home that you or your kids are wearing, take a look on the interior and there will be a tag with the recommended expiry date. You should also replace your helmet anytime you are in a crash of any sort. After 5 years or a crash, the paddig that protects you may not be able to properly absorb the impact and you could put yourself in danger. Do yourself a favor and don't be cheap. Replace helmets when recommended.
Next up is clothing. Road biking does require a certain type of clothing. Most of it incredibly revealing. If you're body conscious, this sport is likely not for you. For guys, everyone can see every detail of your anatomy. For women, same sort of thing except women are more accustomed to tight fitting clothing in sports. For us guys, it can be a little embarassing at first when everyone can clearly see the outline of your stuff. Get over it, we're all in the same boat and we all have a good laugh about it. Generally, for biking you'll want specialized shorts with padding in the crotch. Why? Remember my description of the bike seats? This padding is what is going to save your ass and keep your groin area from going numb. While you can get bike shorts, I recommend bibs. Bibs have straps that go over your shoulders and keep the shorts from falling down. Also, with your riding position on a bike being bent over, your bike jersey will ride up in the back. If you aren't wearing bib shorts you'll get a burn on your lower back between the top of your short and the bottom of your jersey.
That brings us to the jerseys! Jerseys are the shirts that bikers wear. They are generally made from a technical fabric which can be printed on to create custom designs. Jerseys have 2 or 3 pockets on the lower back that can be used to hold a cell phone, nutrition or to put garbage in until you can get to a place where you can throw your trash away. Bike riders DO NOT litter, we take our trash with us. When you start riding, you'll buy one jersey and at your first few races races you'll buy the event jerseys they offer. Think hard about whether or not you like the style of the jerseys before buying and try them on for comfort. I have two jerseys from Lavaman that I never wear because they aren't full zip style. I have to put them on over my head and after you have swam a mile, lifting your arms up and shimmying into a jersey is next to impossible. So they are collecting dust in the closet. Along with a bunch of other gear I bought and didn't like. Check out a bt of my collection below.
Let's move down to your shoes. Your bike will come with platform pedals that you are likely familiar with from the bike you currently own. If you are serious about biking, you'll want to invest in clip in pedals which require compatible shoes. I have a pair of Shimano shoes that work with my clip ins. Clip ins are great because you can use power from not just the down stroke of your leg, but also the upstroke, making your peddling double as efficient. They are also a lot more stable because your feet are connected to your bike so you'll never have to worry about your foot falling off a pedal. However, that's also a potential problem. Imagine your feet being stuck to your pedals when you come to a stop. If you don't unclip before you stop, you tip right over. It's a rite of passage for newbies to the sport. Without fail, we've all done it once or twice. I did it about a mile into my first bike ride with pedals. It actually hurt a lot because my elbow slammed right into the curb. It was swollen and bruised, and I was beyond embarassed. But I lived through it and after it happens once, you learn the value in unclipping BOTH of your feet. Unclipping one is fine, but what if you start falling over in the other direction? Yep, down you go.
The rest of the gear is smaller stuff: Sunglasses are a must. They protect your eyes from the sun and the constant wind generated by riding. They are a life saver. I lucked out and found a pair of Nike bike glasses for around $50 bucks at Costco during my first season and they have been great. Light weight, vented along the edges to prevent fogging up, and just dark enough to reduce glare but not so dark that I go blind in shadowy areas on the ride. Bike gloves are something I would consider essential. Mostly because if you ever go over your handle bars or fall over, you'll instictivly put your hands out to break your fall. I would rather my gloves come in contact with the pavement and get ruined than my hands. I had that happen about 10 years ago and having to pick asphalt from my hands was an experience I don't want to repeat. Riding home 2 miles bleeding profusely from my palms also sucked. Last up is the socks. Get some good moisture wicking socks that will keep your feet dry and avoid blisters. You'll be glad you did.
A bento box is where you can store your nutrition, car key, cell phone and other stuff you might need. It's not essential, but it's very helpful. A seat pack is a storage bag that goes under your seat. This is where you store your tools to maintain your bike: so a spare innertube, tire irons, CO2 canister and adapter, and some allen keys in the event you have to adjust something during a ride. I also recommend having some lighting to make yourself more visible to motorists. I have a set of front and rear LED lights that strap to your bike for a few hours of light. They are rechargable through a USB port, so I generally keep them charging in my car and just pull them out when I need to use them.
Thats the basics of the gear required for getting into road biking. If I added up the total cost of the gear that I use on a single bike ride, this is how it would break out:
Obviously it's a pretty big investment. One that I'm willing to make because I believe in the causes I'm riding to support. It's also an invtestment in me and my health.
Update on Weight Loss