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RBA Q&A: You Have Questions & We Have Answers

September 20, 2014
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NOT CROSS-TRAINING, BUT ‘CROSS-TRAINING
This winter I’m focusing on cyclocross racing since the race series is very competitive in Boulder, where I live. I’ve done ‘cross races before, but mainly for fun; this year I have 10 race weekends lined up. My question is about how this might affect the early part of my road season. In a way, I think cyclocross could really help, but I’m not sure if it’s an exact crossover in fitness?
Chris

It really depends on what your typical winter looked like before this season. If you took eight weeks off the bike, or just rode around aimlessly, then I would have to say that cyclocross will indeed help you to be ready for the rigors of the road season. But, there’s a significant difference in the training necessary for success on the road compared to cyclocross. If you’re racing every weekend, you’ll end up shortchanging the overall training volume you’ll need for the springtime road races, especially if you’re a Cat. 3 level or above, where distances will likely be in the 70-plus mile range. If indeed road is your primary focus, you can still be competitive on the ‘cross scene-you just need to adapt your schedule. Rather than racing ‘cross both days of the weekend, try racing just on Saturday, then adding in a long endurance ride on Sunday. This will allow you to have good legs for the race while not having to compromise the volume you’ll need come spring.

HYDRO OR MECHANICAL?

I’ve been waiting until there was something distinctly different before getting a new frame, and it seems like the disc is it. The only problem is that I purchased Ultegra Di2 just two years ago and would prefer not to buy new shifters. Is there much of a performance difference between mechanical and hydraulic brakes?
Manny

Two of the biggest differences are the ease of lever pull and increased power of a fully hydraulic disc brake over a mechanical one. These two things can be minimized, though, depending on which cable-actuated brake you go with and how it’s set up. Something like TRP’s Hy/Rd will work with any cable-actuated lever and has a hydraulic reservoir on the caliper itself. Its twin-piston design has ample power and self-adjusts when the pads wear. With the Hy/Rd and any other cable-actuated disc brake, the key to getting the most power and best feel at the lever is using compression-less brake housing.

LIFE IN THE SADDLE

What is the typical lifespan of a bike saddle? How often should we replace one? Do our rear ends change to the extent that a saddle that was fine is no longer comfortable? Mine was great, then I had some discomfort. I replaced it with a new version of the exact same saddle and the discomfort continued. I’m wondering if I need a new shape saddle or if something else is going on. I have lost about 15 pounds since April; this may be irrelevant, but I thought I’d mention it.
John

Co-owner of Bike Effect and cycling fit specialist Steven Carre responds: The actual lifespan of a saddle depends on the type of saddle that it is. Some saddles are only good for about a year or two at most of consistent cycling. Some are good far beyond that, but nothing lasts forever. Typical high-end, performance oriented saddles should be replaced every year or two depending on mileage. The easy way to tell if a saddle is past its prime is to simply compare it with a new one. Does it look like the same shape, or is it now sagging in the middle? A ‘hammock’ shape to a once-flat saddle means that your pelvis sinks to that low point and isn’t able to rotate or move the way that it should be able to on a saddle. When you’re on the bike, make sure that you’re sitting on the back, wider part of the saddle and not just straddling the nose. A quality pair of shorts and some chamois cream will also make a difference. If you’ve tried all of the above and your issue isn’t solved, see a reputable fitter and make sure that your saddle height and reach are what they should be. A saddle that is too high will cause you to scoot forward on the saddle, as well as a reach that is too long.

If you have a tech or fitness question that needs an answer, send to: Road Bike Action.

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