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I’m writing this in full swing of the Tour de France and I’m sure many of you get as stoked about riding as I do while watching it. But, there is more to riding than just getting on the bike and pedaling. There are tactics, nutrition, proper training and teamwork.

I’m creating this blog of sorts to keep us all connected, enthused about riding, while improving our skills and keeping active in helping feed those in need around us. You’ll see regular posts on cycling, training or nutrition tips as well as updates and information on how to help the hungry in your neighborhood and beyond.

So let’s get started.

Texas is pretty flat. When I’m in the saddle cranking up some hill, I sure have different and sometimes impolite thoughts. It doesn’t seem it but we don’t have the “HC” climbs around like the French Alps and Pyrenees. HC refers to Hors Categorie or beyond categorization. Even without these ridiculous climbs, we could still learn some good climbing techniques to climb smarter.

In long, steady grades, effective climbing is about monitoring your effort so you don’t redline and use up all remaining energy. Here are some tips for climbing these efficiently:

Position: stay seated most of the climb and sit back in the saddle; relax your upper body and open up your chest by pulling your shoulders back a little; stand intermittently to rest some muscle groups

Cadence: your cadence should be between a pretty quick 80-90 as cranking hard fatigues you quickly while low-weight, high-rep helps muscles recover faster; add a little effort on the steeper pitches then go back to lower intensity

Effort: keep it steady by starting the climb at a pace that you think you can maintain through the climb then back off a notch so you have some cushion if it steepens

Short, steep inclines are best tackled aggressively. Yeah, doesn’t sound like much fun. I can feel the leg burn already.

Gear: start the climb in the same gear you had in the flats and be prepared to shift quickly and often to keep cadence.

Cadence: keep a lower than normal cadence of 60-70 because spinning will cost you momentum on the steeps; keep on those pedals.

Effort: go after it hard to conquer the steeps as fast as possible

Position: stand in the attack position or stay seated with hands on the bar tops and slide slightly back in the saddle for maximum leverage; pending on length of climb stand or alternate and stand when gradient pitches up and sit when it backs off to help keep the consistent cadence; if need to shift gears sit and come off the intensity a little then get back on it

Tackling rolling hills while maintaining a consistent gear and cadence will increase your speed through them.

Gear: keep the gear you started the climb in as long as possible and shift down only to keep cadence; once you can see over the crest shift up and kick it to get over the top

Cadence: keeping this between 70 and 90 will keep your momentum but dropping too low and you’ll get bogged down

Effort: attack the bottom of the roller at the same intensity as the flats but gradually increase the effort as you ascend; recover on the descent but maintain speed

Position: hands on the hoods and remain seated until cadence drops by 5 rpm then stand; don’t shift until your standing cadence also drops 5 rpm

I’ve ridden with all of you and I know your thinking, “Rand isn’t good enough to give this kind of advice,” so to overcome that fact, I’m adapting information gleaned from other publications and blogs about cycling and nutrition. This one was adapted from Bicycling magazine, May 2011.

Bonus material: Find out how much water you need in a day. http://nutrition.about.com/library/blwatercalculator.htm