Thursday, January 19

Get your beets?

Among those in the cycling world, using beets for increased performance isn't exactly a new topic. Chris Baddick covered it for Training Peaks in an article over two years ago and there are plenty of scientific studies investigating the topic as well. I'll let Google guide you further in that regard and share my personal story here.

Last fall I began training for Tour Divide again and it was my second season working with a power meter. Through diligent training and great coaching I've been able to inch my power upwards over this time but I've likely reached the point where huge jumps in power development are gone. As such I started focusing on more marginal gain areas for an amatuer athlete such as better sleep, healthier eating, my Elevated Legs, and nutritional supplements. By nature I'm wary of supplements and I've been pretty cautious about what I might use. However beets being a real food seemed like a great place to start so I emailed Lynda to get her opinion. Her impressions with other athletes were positive with no drawbacks other than cost so I decided to give it a try.

Overall my impressions of beet products are very positive and my preference has evolved over time. When Red Ace Organics offered to send me a case of their products for review I was happy to give them a try. In addition to the Red Ace beet products I have also used Beet It shots, Beet Elite powder, and Sunny Green organic beetroot powder. Recently I've tried Enduro Bites Beta Red powder as well but I don't have a significant enough sample of experiences yet with it to comment. It does include things other than beetroot which is different from these other products. Red Ace sent me three types of beet products to test: Beet Performance, Beets and Greens, and Beets and Turmeric. Their Beet Performance shots are the most comparible to the other products I have used but I'll talk about the other two types briefly as well.

One thing that you'll notice is that the cost varies among all the products. I'll try to compare them using real world costs in my area so bear in mind that may be different for you. The cheapest option by far is the Sunny Green organic powder. The cost per serving is much less than the other options and if that's your biggest concern it's a winner. I have a canister at home that I still use but it's definitely less convenient than a shot. It takes quite a few tablespoons to get the right amount of beets and mixed with water or juice it's fairly gritty. My preference is to use it in smoothies for loading where I don't notice the taste and texture at all. I have made my own performance shot with it by mixing it with tart cherry concentrate and it's tolerable but not exactly enjoyable.

The other powder that I've tried is the Beet Elite black cherry. It's about $3 per serving and comes in a packet as well as a bulk container. The packets are handy in that you can throw them in your bag and mix up when you need them before a workout. The black cherry flavor is much better than the plain organic powder but it is still a powder and you have to mix it to not have any lumps.

This school year I've been in a hurry to squeeze in workouts regularly and so the shot type products have been great. I can slam one before I get dressed for a workout or on my way to a climb and it's in effect for my workout an hour later. At King Soopers I found the Beet It products and they are frequently on sale for $2-$3 a shot. Performance wise they work as well as the rest and the convenience of grabbing them at the local grocery store is great. However the taste of these shots leave something to be desired. They're better than the plain powder but worse than the black cherry Beet Elite for sure.

This brings us to the Red Ace Performance shots. I tried them once before however I have to order them or grab them from a store other than my local grocery store. They're about $3.75-$5 a shot depending on where you buy them. In a larger bulk amount you can get them cheaper. I found in heavy training where I'm doing several interval sessions a week (where beet products seem to help) the taste is definitely the best. I can throw a Red Ace Performance shot in my school bag and not hesitate to slam it down before my workout. The flavor is great and the performance is equal to the other products. They pack a lot of beets in a small shot without the off putting smell or taste I've found in some of the other products and the shot is super smooth. I'm going to order them in a larger amount now that I've been able to try them in depth and that should bring the cost down significantly. The Beets and Greens shot and Beets and Turmeric shot will likely see lesser use in my personal rotation. If cost was no object they'd be great to use daily. One great use I could see for the Beets and Turmeric is recovery from sickness, injury, or heavy training. In limited amounts ($) I'd love to take a Beets and Turmeric shot at night to maintain loading and increase my turmeric intake in an easy way.

Also the reason I'm focusing on taste and cost is that I feel it's fairly disingenuous to claim as a single data point athlete that one of these shots is head and shoulders above the rest. Power gains from using beetroot are small but when you're looking for small gains they're worth considering. For me the ease of use and great taste of the Red Ace Performance shots is a pretty awesome combination and worth the cost over the other options, especially with a larger and cheaper order.

If you would like to try the Red Ace products yourself you can also use coupon code singlespeed for a 15% discount.

Thursday, June 30

Why Singlespeed?

I get asked directly or indirectly all the time, "why singlespeed?" Why give up modern gearing when it's so good, so wide ranging, so fast? Hell if you stick with XT level components it's not even that expensive, though XTR and XX1 are as pricey as ever.

It's a valid question in this age of Di2 capable, 10-, 11-, and 12-speed mountain bikes. I'll attempt to put some words to the issue here though they represent my feelings alone. I don't promise your satisfaction in my answers or reasoning. 

For me singlespeed all started as I got sick of breaking Trek Fuel frames and maintaining rear derailleur cables in the dusty Front Range of Colorado. I got a Redline Monocog for Christmas from my wife one year long ago and quickly grew to love it's simplicity. There was nothing to adjust and minimal maintenance besides the occasional tightening of the chain and some lube. I just got to hop on and ride. When I moved to Boulder from the flatland triathlon scene of St. Louis, MO I tried to keep the climbing at bay. I stayed to the east, getting promptly thrashed by the hills anytime I ventured west. But something unexpected happened when I started riding that heavy 26" Monocog. I got faster. I became a better climber. The better I climbed, the more I began to love mountain biking. I ventured into longer rides in more difficult terrain. Probably a year later I ditched my front suspension for a rigid fork and haven't looked back since. To be frank, the lack of front suspension is a far bigger detriment to my speed on the local XC and Endurance scene then the lack of gears ever has been.

So what logical reason is there for riding and racing a singlespeed, especially down the 2700 mile Tour Divide? Well there are a few. First it's lighter by a couple pounds. My rig was one of the lightest out there despite me carrying more weight in gear than I did on my 2009 run. Second it's weather resistant. In 2009 the weather was pretty horrendous by comparison to 2016 and the mud was out of control. The singlespeed trucks right on through most of the time without any major issue. A straight chainline and some steel drivetrain components stand up to conditions that put a pretty serious hurt on geared bikes. My drivetrain this year went from Banff to Mexico without needing anything but a few shots with a hose and chain lube. Too bad I can't say the same about PF92 bottom bracket bearings. Third a singlespeed is cheap. I'm not sponsored in any serious way and pay for the vast majority of my gear and parts. Cheap drivetrain components are nice when you put serious miles on your gear training and racing. Most of my steel cogs are a decade old, the chainrings last thousands of miles, and chains are replaced for $30 or less.

People's biggest misconception (I think) is that a singlespeed is just so much slower than a geared bike in the vast majority of terrain. With proper training I'm not sure that's actually true and looking at Strava segments of quite a few pieces of the Divide seems to at least support my theory. I turned in the 3rd fastest all time segment (that's uploaded to Strava...) for the final 105 miles of Tour Divide in terrain that should punish a spun out single speeder pretty severely. While most geared riders train to optimize power in a preferred cadence range and then gear their bikes to keep themselves there, I chose a gear and trained my body to produce power over a wider range of cadences. I can make reasonable power for long time periods from 25 rpms all the way up to 110 rpms. Would I be faster I could stay at 85 rpms all the time? Maybe but I'm not totally convinced of that. My Tour Divide moving average speed was 11 mph, not a whole lot different than Mike Hall's. He still kicked my butt but probably not because I was on a singlespeed. 

At the end of the day though, none of these what-ifs, how-comes, or whys even matter. 

I just flat out love riding my singlespeed. It excites me. I'm passionate about it. Every time I throw my leg over my singlespeed and mash down on the pedals, the direct drivetrain connection feels so good. 

Long ago I gave up any hope of being a "professional" athlete. Giving up that fantasy gave me the freedom to do what I want, ride what I want, and race what I want. (Again) this year singlespeeders in the Tour Divide have shown that they're more than capable of being competitive, no matter what the conventional wisdom might say. And with that maybe the why doesn't matter. Or maybe those who ride one gear are just so passionate about riding their chosen bike that it overcomes any obstacles the single gear brings. Either way I'm not likely to give up my singlespeed any time soon.

Friday, May 27

Stay Tuned...

Tour Divide updates coming soon...

Saturday, September 28

Another space

The blog is certainly not something I have time for at the moment. Find me on Facebook or message me for Twitter/Instagram info as it's semi-private.

Sunday, April 8

Finally Official!

My job for next school year is finally settled and official! I'm teaching 6th grade math and science at Henry. Woohoo!

12 more weeks of DTR to go!

Thursday, March 15


Marni and I had a date night on the home wall tonight. It was 60 degrees out and almost too warm for anything slopey but much nicer to hang out in between burns without wearing a down jacket. And it was beautiful out during my lunch time run at work. After JJ was in bed I warmed up on a handful of problems and then got to work. I finally made the second ascent of Pink Tiger V4 (FA Chad) after my 2nd night of projecting it. To celebrate, cake!

Marni did a great job cruising the green traverse several times and sending the leopard traverse for the first time. Now to link them into the circuit ;)

Next up is getting these guys into a regular rotation to get some endurance back...

Tuesday, March 13

Sore all over

Climbing, running and more climbing over the past few days. So awesome. My road bike is almost ready for commuter duty as well. Hopefully I will know about my job for next school year this week and things will finally assume some positive stability.

Fatty can't wait to train more and get back to the alpine! More to come...