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2012: New Year, New Ride?

2012: New Year, New Ride?
by Joe Silva

Just like New Year's resolutions, the ticking over of the calendar inspires many of us to jumpstart our lives with new tools to meet our goals. For cyclists, that means considering whether or not to update or replace our ride. It's a reasonable proposition. For starters many of the new bicycles and components that were first unveiled at the various trade shows at the end of the previous season are finally becoming available. And according to Chris Carmichael, former Olympic athlete and founder of Carmichael Training Systems (CTS), buying a bike early on in the year allows for more flexibility.

"I think the winter and early spring is the best time because you have time to get used to the bike, establish a new cycling position, swap out parts if you want to, etc. before having to either race or start an extensive training program." says Carmichael "You want to sort out your equipment before you start seriously training for an event, because you want your position on the bike to be consistent as your training volume and intensity increase."

But before enthusiasm gets the better of you, there are several things to consider before making a new purchase. Not all bikes are created equal, and what's available "off the rack" might not always make the most sense for you. Carmichael maintains that if you're going to spend an awful lot of time on your new ride, then it makes sense to check out as many aspects of your bike carefully.

"(Don't assume) that all the parts that come with the bike are the ones that will work best for you. For instance, there is such a wide variety of handlebar shapes and sizes, a plethora of saddle options, etc. that you can really customize the interfaces between you and the bike. These connection points, along with shoes and pedals, can significantly change your experience on the bike."

What the long time coach also recommends you consider adding to your shopping list is a power meter. Often viewed as the only the purview of competitive athletes, Carmichael feels that even enthusiasts can benefit from the data you can get from strapping one of these devices onto your machine. In many cases where the amount of time spent on your bike is limited by...well, "life," the investment in a power meter might be of even more value to someone who's looking to get more out of their time in the saddle.

"Because of the already-high quality level of modern bike components and frames, for the most part these days, upgrading parts or bikes is less a matter of necessity and more a matter of preference. I would say, however, that when an athlete wants to take his or her performance to the next level – especially if they are short on training time because of a busy career or family schedule – they should invest in a power meter."

And if a bike and/or a power meter on not within the realm of your budget during these times of financial restraint, you might be able to satisfy your urge to improve your cycling life by working with a coach, which can actually be more cost effective than any major bike component. The question follows then, when is the right time to consider actually working with a trainer.

"Immediately! Carmichael kiddingly says, identifying his natural bias on the subject. "But in all seriousness I really believe that personal coaching is valuable and effective for athletes. It's not just about creating a training plan and analyzing workout data, either. Training is not a linear process, you go through ups and downs, and times when there's self-doubt and a lack of progress. A coach's job is to push you to greater heights and guide you through the dark periods, all while helping you integrate your athletic ambitions with your other priorities in life."