Reducing stress and discomfort on cycling “touch points” will make you to go farther faster
Road cycling is synonymous with suffering. We relish the pain. It’s one of life’s great dichotomies, where something that hurts so bad can feel so good. But through all the suffering on century rides and beyond-category climbs, we also want to be as comfortable as possible. Which is to say that despite the burning in our legs and lungs, there’s no reason our hands, feet, and butt should be tortured. Saddle sores, foot cramps, and numbness are not what we signed up for. That’s a different type of pain. It’s real pain, the stuff we avoid or else take drugs to mitigate. Pain and suffering are two different things in the world of cycling.
So I set out to find a number of ways to optimize these touch points and maximize comfort.
I made the switch to Selle SMP two years ago, and it was like going from a 1979 Pinto to a 2015 Lexus. I immediately outfitted each of my bikes accordingly — both road and mountain — because there’s no going back. The unique SMP design provides a cradle of comfort and performance, eliminating numbness while offering ideal riding positions for steep climbs, flat-out time trials, and everything else in-between. I prefer the mid-wide Lite 209, which is generously padded, but there’s a model to suit any body type or riding style.
Going from a standard bar to the Metron is like going from straight to parabolic skis. It feels right. It feels like it was designed with the specific demands of road cycling in mind, such that it elevates both performance and comfort. I initially sought a bar with a flat platform on top to spread out the pressure on my hands. This is a key feature of the Metron, for sure, but the top bar also has a slight rise, which relieves lower-back stress on long stretches, and a 10-degree forward bend, which is a more ergonomic hand position. Finally, there is a flat section behind the brake hoods that provides a more cradled hand position.
The North Shore of snowboarding is inspiring, unforgiving, and the best riding on the planet
The helicopter buries its skids into a knife ridge no wider than a snowboard is long. This first attempt marks the landing zone high up in Alaska’s Chilkat Range, north of Haines, Alaska, and not far from the Canadian border. The pilot makes a second attempt to establish the L-Z, but the ridge isn’t cooperating. Instead, he opts for a toe-in landing, which means the bird is essentially hovering as the five of us carefully climb out onto said ridge.
It’s early April. I’m here with two friends, David “Scotty” Scott and Chris “Geeb” Guibert. We’ve been matched up with a solo Swiss rider, Gabe, to make a foursome. We’re lead by Gabe Gioffre, the lead guide for Alaska Heliskiing, one of the very first outfits to establish AK as the global Mecca of skiing and snowboarding. It doesn’t get much bigger or heavier or more devout than this.
To one side of the ridge is a 50-degree face that immediately cliffs out. The run we’re contemplating on the other side starts at about 45 degrees and then exits into a big bowl. Swiss Gabe is first to drop it. He straight-lines the face and hops off a small feature as he enters the bowl. At that moment, an avalanche releases upslope to his left. It’s about 50 yards across and a foot or so deep. With great deft, he navigates laterally across the slide to safety on a higher slope outside the slide path. We all watch in semi-terrified amazement as the avalanche rumbles down the bowl and comes to a rest. Now it’s our turn.
Optimizing a brand’s locations for search, discovery, and traffic — both online and in the real world
There has never been more ways to find a Starbucks. You can go to the store locator on the website. Chances are, it will be the mobile version, because that’s how local search happens more often than not.
Or you could use the Google Maps, Apple Maps, or Bing Maps apps. You could check Yelp, Foursquare, Facebook (Places), or the newest local discovery app, Vurb. If you’re over 50, then your car’s navigation system is also an option. What’s more, you might just type “coffee shop” into a search engine and see what comes up — could be a Starbucks but more likely it’s a neighborhood cafe.
This challenge for brands like Starbucks…and Bank of America and Target and McDonald’s and H&R Block and Verizon — any brand with hundreds or thousands of locations — boils down to two things: search and discovery. How easy is it for consumers to find the restaurant, the store, the branch, the office? That’s search. And how likely is one to find a particular store over another when searching the category? That’s discovery. All of which drives foot traffic, web traffic, and ultimately sales. Managing this at scale is no small task. Given how fragmented the local search ecosystem has become, brands face a nearly impossible challenge in getting this right.
What I’m describing here is broadly known as local SEO i.e. search engine optimization for physical locations. What are the benefits and ROI? Not only does it mitigate lost traffic and sales that would otherwise go to competitors, but if you do this right, it will generate incremental sales by owning premium real estate on the mobile devices of today’s consumer.
One thing is for certain. Tackling this challenge requires technology. It requires a software platform designed to automate the bulk of local SEO. It also requires the human touch to truly excel in this space. If you’re looking to win in local SEO, the solution must combine the best of both worlds: technology and services.
With that in mind, following are the five steps to nailing local SEO:
On minimizing the risks associated with a cycling lifestyle
There’s a fundamental difference between the notion of “minimizing risk” and just “being careful.” It’s a lot like the difference between a glass half-full or half-empty. They technically mean the same thing, but the spirit is vastly different.
To be careful is to avoid risk as much as possible. A number of my friends choose not to ride road bikes in Los Angeles because the risk is seemingly too high. They’re being careful at the expense of enjoying world-class road routes lacing the Santa Monica Mountains. The risk is effectively zero but so is the reward.
To illustrate this another way, building a successful startup company is all about minimizing risk — the risk that you won’t get enough traction to continue funding the company before you run off a cliff…and out of cash. And when you achieve product-market fit, the risk goes from mere survival to not capitalizing on the opportunity. Because if you aren’t aggressive enough, the competition will crush you. In this sense, being careful can actually be the greater risk.
With the benefit of big data and online maps, you can often assess the overall risk of riding various routes in any given city. Below is a map of cycling accidents in Boston, which is compiled by the Boston Area Research Institute. One can glean key insights about where accidents happen most often and under what conditions.
A big part of minimizing risk is knowing what those risks are and then how they can be effectively mitigated, whether through trend data or the latest gear. Below are 10 gear-driven tactics for surviving all manner of cycling endeavors.
What it’s like to ride a century on the wheels of the Incycle-Cannondale pro team
We’re accelerating up a long, gradual climb in the Tour de Palm Springs, which unofficially kicks off century season in California. It’s early February, and the temperature is quickly approaching 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Palm Springs is a relatively flat century with just over 3,000 vertical feet of climbing, but we’re going up this particular ascent very fast. That’s because the group I’m with is being lead — pulled, that is — by the Incycle-Cannondale team. In other words, I’m riding 100 miles with the pros.
The team is off the front, pushing the pace. Glancing over the shoulder of the rider in front of me, I can see the top of the climb in the distance. I’m desperate to stay on his wheel and in the draft, that place of solace where you’re immune from the wind. This wheel is my only hope of staying with the group. And yet I can see that my heart rate is already pinned high in the red zone. There’s no way I can sustain this pace. The lactate is already pulsing into my leg muscles, and we still have 50 miles to go. I let up and quickly get dropped.