John Bissell Blog John Bissell Blog Wed, 17 Dec 2008 23:01:58 +0000 en hourly 1 The relationship between Environmental Protection, Population Density and Work Specialization Fri, 13 Feb 2009 21:18:13 -0800 Conquent
The point of this history is to establish that we have known for sometime that one of the biggest threats to our environment is urban sprawl. Low density development requires more land for the same activities that would take place in higher density development. And by taking up more land, the transportation options become more limited. It’s harder to make mass transit work, and walking and biking are left only for the dedicated athlete. So we are left to single occupancy vehicles – cars. Those cars then have to drive farther to accomplish the same task as compared to the higher density. And not only that, we need to create more roads using more asphalt to get anywhere, thus increasing our impervious surfaces, which runoff into our streams brining the oils and rubber deposits with the water and so on, while increasing flooding and erosion problems.

To sum up – in a low density model, we must use more roads, to travel farther burning more oil, putting more greenhouse gasses in the air while causing more flooding and destruction to streams and rivers. But that’s old news. Note the 1965 California rules, and even the newbie in this regulatory area- Washington came on board almost 20 years ago.

Several studies have been done that assert the best minimum density to resolve these issues. These minimum numbers usually range from eight to twelve dwelling units (d.u.) per gross acre. In this context, “gross acre” means that if you measure say one square mile (640 ac.) there should be between 5,120 and 7,680 – regardless of how many shopping malls, parking lots, office or parks are also in that square mile.

But while we’ve studied the need for density on one track biologists have been studying the natural environment in our urban areas. What we have learned is that streams, wetlands and other habitat areas are incredibly important to the entire ecosystem, from fish – to eagles to humans. If the stream is not protected, the stream is polluted with sediments, oils, heavy metals, fertilizer and so on. The sediments will eventually fill in the wetlands. Or in a more extreme situation, the wetlands are filled by development, and the stream is placed in a pipe, all wildlife associated with the stream is thus removed. This has been a contributing element to the substantial reduction in the fisheries near most metropolitan areas. And this in turn affects bird life and on up the food chain.

The elimination of the wetlands compounds these problems. Wetland create bird habitat and fish rearing, and places for the bugs that the wildlife eats to hatch. But the wetlands also slow the water in the streams, reducing erosion and flooding, while cleaning the water.

There are a number of studies that help us know what to do about the protection of stream and wetlands. Any particular stream or wetland or ecosystem can be rated by a trained biologist. Depending on this rating, certain buffers can be established around the stream or wetland. There are other things that can be done like replanting the riparian (next to the stream) area and adding fish shelters like tree stumps to the stream course, but the primary mitigation recommended by these studies is to keep development and people away from the stream.

So what’s the problem? We have strong legislation effecting change to the urban densities, and in most states there are strong rules requiring protection of the streams and wetlands. Shouldn’t this be enough?

Well, no it’s not - and here’s why: New studies are showing that larger buffers are needed to protect the natural environment. Those larger buffers are adopted into the state and local development rules. Since the Pacific Northwest is a rainy environment, the landscape is riddled with small streams and wetlands. Thus the area removed from potential development in the Urban Growth Area is significant. These new rules are not coordinated with the zoning requirements to make sure that the minimum density continues to be achieved after the larger stream and wetland buffers are established.

In fact, the jurisdictions are resistant to the appearance of high density – taller buildings closer together. In response, these jurisdictions have required the density of a development to be capped, and to measure the density based on a net calculation that deducts environmentally critical area and their buffers. Thus a development that notes ten dwelling units per acre on the plans, may really have five or six dwelling units per acre when looking at the gross lot size, and only have three or four gross units per acre when it is looked at in context with the neighborhood.

This gets to the question: Are we hurting the environment by requiring larger buffers? By implementing large stream and wetland buffers we use up a significant amount of land within the urbanizing area without adjusting our zoning rules to compensate. This reduces the amount of land available for development, thus filling up the urbanizing area faster and putting pressure on the Urban Growth Boundaries. The Boundaries are then expanded, and sprawl continues creating new impacts in the rural area that could have been avoided if the zoning had been coordinated with the environmental legislation.

Clearly there is a trade off to be made here. Right now the trade off is that we allow more sprawl for the purpose of protecting localized streams and wetlands. Is that the right trade off? No one has studied this question, so we don’t know. We are only making this choice by default. “Is the environmental regulation protecting streams creating a bigger impact to the streams because it is effecting urban sprawl?” Without an answer to that question, there is no way to know if we are doing good or harm.

There may be solutions to this dichotomy. It may be that the theory is right, and that large buffers really are the answer, but that the large buffers cannot be enacted without sharp increases in allowed density building height. However the answer might be that we study drainage basins and then choose to stop trying to save streams that are deep in the urban area, and have little chance restoration. Again without a study to determine the impacts to the environment created by the reduction of land in the urban area we can’t know and our regulations continue to shoot in the dark. ]]>
Vocational Education Fri, 6 Mar 2009 21:00:51 -0800 Conquent
Sometime in the 1960’s we decided everything was a vocation. You can get a business degree to go into business, a finance degree to go into finance, a marketing degree, computer science and so on. It didn’t happen all at once. When I entered college in 1983, there were very few undergraduate land use planning schools. Thus most planners over the age of 45 today have degrees in geography, economics, political science or “other related education”. Today, most planners under about 45 have degrees in planning.

This specialization was supposed to be good, because the graduates would know more detail about the specific area of work. As we know the world is getting more complicated every day. It would seem to make sense that giving people more specific education about their future work area would help them through the complexities.

The converse appears to be the case. As the world is becoming more complex, the inter-discipline overlap is becoming more prevalent. The specialization in education leads to most people in most areas of work having a very narrow scope, and little empathy for others in the work force. They are also taught– fairly specifically- how things in their chosen field work, so when things don’t work that way, it can be difficult for those vocationally educated to be flexible. When they have to assemble a team to work in seemingly unconnected area, the team fails.

In the end – what does this mean? Does it mean all your hires should be un-educated – or older and educated by an older system? No, not really. What this means is that the key to success in the current complex world is not taught in planning school or business school or computer science school or any of the other fairly new vocational degrees. The first key to success is hiring people who can think. Add to that flexibility and empathy. If you have those characteristics, you probably have a model for success. So the degree alone cannot be your yardstick.
Complete Streets Mon, 1 Feb 2010 18:53:41 -0800 Conquent
When we look at a street we may not realize that that street, from the pavement width to the striping pattern had do be designed. The design has to be made as safe as practical and so had to take into account statistics from collisions around the country. It would be impractical for an engineer to gather up all the statistics, study the statistics and design a street based on these studies. However, if the engineer misses something – like the correct angle of a sidewalk ramp entering an intersection for instance – and someone gets hurt at that intersection, the engineer bears the liability.

There are so many details that could lead to litigation (Is it safer to mark a crosswalk where there is not stop sign?) that it is just not possible for the engineer to create a successful design without a well researched manual. So every city, county and state (and tribe and national park etc) has a design manual. But every jurisdiction cannot study everything so they build a manual from the AASHTO (American Association of State of Highway Transportation Officials) manual with additions from the ITE (Institute of Transpiration Engineers) manual. The problem – especially with AASHTO is the forth letter in the acronym: H. These standards are all about Highways, not streets, but they are routinely used to guide the construction of streets in most cities throughout the nation.

The highway manual is designed to keep automobile drivers safe. There is very little about pedestrians, bicyclists, buses, delivery trucks and so on. But if the City or County does not use a well studied design manual as guidance, they are taking on all the liability themselves. Then along comes The Complete Streets Coalition. They have provided lots of data about how city streets work and how they can be designed to accommodate all users. Little by little we are seeing cities adopt these standards. There is some resistance, but as the new concepts are constructed and used, we find that they really work. As they are shown to work, the resistance begins to fall.

If you live in a city that is not using Complete Streets, and you ever walk (from your parking spot to the store counts) or bike or skate or bus, it’s time to get some advocacy going in your neighborhood. This is the kind of thing that Conquent Land use and JBA consultants do, and we’d be glad to help.
Being worried about cars and traffic Fri, 5 Feb 2010 19:30:13 -0800 Conquent
“I’m a bit concerned about all the potential bad drivers that I’m more likely to encounter when riding on so many different roads.”

Good, you should, they weigh a lot more than you. Know these things:

1. You are invisible most of the time, even with flashers and a bright yellow vest. Also your visibility depends largely on expectations – you are lots more visible in Seattle than in Lynnwood, because drivers expect cyclists in Seattle, and they don’t in Lynnwood. (Note to readers – this rider lives in the Seattle Metro area. For those of you around the world you can think of similar situations – safer in Portland OR than Beaverton OR, safer in Downtown Sacramento, than in Citrus Heights etc).

2. When you are seen, most drivers are courteous, the second largest group is tolerant, the third largest group is grumpy but not dangerous, and the last few % are flipping insane. Do the math, lets say that the insane “I want to kill a bicyclist today” group is 1% (it could be higher or lower, but we’ll use that number) you see hundreds of cars on the road, even on back roads. – lets say you see 500 cars. That means 5 drivers are actually out to get you. That may not really be right, because I don’t see that many, but it does mean that you need to be alert and know how to mange traffic. (You should note that these numbers are true on the freeway when you’re driving too – maybe even more true, because of the tension created on the freeway. It’s just part of life with cars.)

3. Use a helmet mirror. That way you will know what is going on around you

4. Do not use an iPod – or put anything else in your ears, keep your senses alert all the time – know what is around you

5. Make your presence known, take the lane when you need to

6. Be predictable - Don’t weave in and out of traffic – ride a straight line, make sure your signals are clear and to the point as in don’t just stick out your hand for a turn as a function of following the rules – make eye contact and be sure. I got hit once when I thought I had made eye contact and the driver later said she never saw me.

7. Be empathetic: think about what the other driver sees and how your are seen by them.

8. Also know how the drivers mind works. As we drive we process lots on information. It is not information that we need to remember, so we dump it as soon as the obstacle is passed. When you’re on a bike, you are the obstacle, as soon as you are behind the peripheral vision of the driver, you do not exist. Thus drivers pass cyclists, then make right turns, running over the cyclist that was still next to them. Always be alert to the potential of a driver turning right while you are next to the vehicle.

9. Know your bailout – where can you go to get out of the way of the crazy if you have to.
Training for Long Rides - Part I Hydration Fri, 5 Feb 2010 19:59:58 -0800 Conquent
Our local YMCA bike club is growing, and the members are growing more ambitious. Several members have decided to train for longer rides, centuries and double centuries and were asking what they needed to do to train for those rides. We had a meeting to discuss this, and the following articles in three parts are a summary of the discussion.

Three legs:
1. Hydration
2. Nutrition
3. Physical stress and Recovery (riding your bike)

These legs all go together, but the story will get too long, so I will post it in three parts.

Part I

We’ve all been told to drink, drink, drink because you will never get enough. There is both truth and fiction to this story. The truth is that you will never get enough. In an hour workout you can easily loose 30-40 ounces of water from your body. The problem is that you cannot process 30 to 40 ounces of water per hour. I’ve read articles that say you can process as little as eight – ten ounces an hour and other article that say an athlete can process between 20 and 26 ounces per hour.

These articles lead us to three questions. 1) why the big difference (8 – 10 v. 20 – 26)? And 2) How can I stay hydrated if I loose a quart and the most I can possibly process is 26 ounces? And 3)what happens if I get too much hydration or too little hydration?

To answer the 1st question, it appears that there is a big difference between what trained athletes can tolerate verses what couch potatoes can tolerate AND using an electrolyte supplement appears increases the absorption rate. The study that revealed a processing rate of between 20 – 26 ounces of fluids study was done by Hammer Nutrition and they used Iran Man tri-athletes and ultra-distance runners for the study. They also used an electrolyte supplement. The other study used short distance weekend mountain bike riders and if they used any electrolytes the article did not mention it. After reading these articles it appears that part of your training program is teaching your body to process the greater amount in that spectrum (8 – 26 ounces) and learning how much you can tolerate.

The Hammer study looked into the question “ how can I stay hydrated if I’m not processing enough fluids to replace?”. The basic point of the study was to look at the difference between replacement and replenishment when the body is under load. What the study seemed to show is that when the body is under load (the study defined under load as being faster than a brisk walk) it knows how to solve the problems with less than is being burned (both for food and water). The body replaces during recovery, but only replenishes while under load.

So the answer to the 3rd question is that you walk a very fine line with hydration while under load. The point here is that you are making do with less. Thus you are always behind in hydration while you’re riding; there is nothing you can do about it. If you forget to drink for an hour, you will be behind even more leading to a dehydration problem. All sorts of bad things happen here, like cramping, dizziness headache, and if it gets severe there are lots of very severe consequences to dehydration. ( )
If you drink more than you can process – especially with no electrolyte supplement, you can get hyponatremia ( Hyponatremia is a disturbance or reduction in the electrolytes in the blood. Basically you drank so much that your blood thinned. This problem can lead to a reduction in power, nausea, a feeling of bloating etc. So now if we look at the dehydration caused by forgetting to drink for an hour, and then trying to fix that problem by drinking three water bottles at the next rest stop, you will find that you have not solved your dehydration problem because you cannot process that much water, but you very well may have increase the fluid I the blood without the electrolytes causing hyponatrimia (over hydration) while you are still dehydrated (under hydration).

So the key here is to work on learning how much your body can tolerate while you’re training. I and many others have found it important to time myself just to be sure I’m getting enough at a good even rate. It is also important to note that these extremes are only going to happen with long sustained effort. Most athletes can stand just about anything for about 90 minutes. So even if it is not recommended, you likely could go out hard for a 30 mile ride with no food or water and not encounter any problems that you noticed. You will pay with a hard painful recovery, but you might just say – “I worked hard so of course I’m tired and worn out.” Really you just blew it and got away with it, and if you went any farther you would be calling for a (car bus or cab) ride home. You pay later for the mistakes you make earlier: You feel great during that 1st hour so you don’t drink. You will never catch up. All day you go into a bigger deficit, and hour eight you feel like road kill and don’t know why. It was hour one – that’s why.

It is important to note that at hour eight, you may not jut be paying for the problems created in hour one. If you work out hard the day before, or spend the day before in the sun, or do any number of things the day before that did not focus on hydration, you may be starting the ride in deficit. Most ultra-distance athletes will work on hydration the day before the big event. And any alcohol the day before will make this situation worse. Alcohol will dehydrate you and you need to recover from it’s other effects as well. So always remember, the day before is very important – and for longer rides, the week before is really key.

In this section I mention electrolyte supplements a couple of times. There are a few good ones and several lousy ones on the market. The reason for the lousy ones is simple – most people are not athletes, and most people do not stress their bodies with a sustained effort for 6 – 16 hours (time you would expect to be on the road on a century to double century). If you’re sitting on the couch watching the super bowl and you drink a Nuun tablet, or three Hammer Endurolytes every hour, you will probably get sick. But if you sit on the couch drinking PowerAde, you might be fine. Conversely, if you use PowerAde for your long ride, you will likely find that it works not so well, while the Nuun and the Hammer Endurolytes work great.

I don’t know all of the brands out there. I have researched Nuun and Hammer Endurolytes and believe they both do what your body needs. I like the Nuun better because of the packaging, the flavors and the way it mixes in the bottle to give me a little electrolyte with each sip of water. It is also important to note that your body has the same issue with uptake of electrolytes. There is a maximum you can do. The good electrolyte supplements will give a dosage recommendation. It is a good idea not to go beyond the dosage recommendation.

Part II on nutrition will be posted soon.
Training for Long Rides - Part II Nutrition Sun, 7 Feb 2010 12:11:21 -0800 Conquent
Our local YMCA bike club is growing, and the members are growing more ambitious. Several members have decided to train for longer rides, centuries and double centuries and were asking what they needed to do to train for those rides. We had a meeting to discuss this, and the following articles in three parts are a summary of the discussion.

Three legs:
1. Hydration
2. Nutrition
3. Physical stress and Recovery (riding your bike)

These legs all go together, but the story will get too long, so I will post it in three parts.

Part II

In the previous article which focused on hydration ( ) I noted that the story of drink, drink, drink is a little more than misleading. Well the story with nutrition is the same but with added complexity. The complexities are how much, how often, and what is the make up – protein, carbs, simple sugars, complex sugars etc. This is all made more complex by the marketing of many different products from Gator Aid to Powerbars to gels and supplements. And don’t underestimate the power of marketing. They all say they are good, but most are not going to help you at all.

First is the question of how much:
With nutrition, your body can process much fewer calories than you can burn once you work as hard as a brisk walk (over about 120 beats per minute). I’ve read several articles about this and the study groups show that the athlete can process fewer than ½ the calories burned. To use myself as an example: I weigh about 175 pounds, and I am about 6’ 2” inches tall. In an hour of hard work I can burn about 900 or more calories. In a multi hour sustained effort I often burn closer to 600 calories per hour. Through trial and error, I have found that I can process about 300 – 400 calories per hour. The variable is with effort; as I slow down – and burn fewer calories, I can process more calories. Part of your training program is learning how this system works for you. I smaller person will burn less, and will be able to process less as well. You need to know the maximum number of calories your body can take in while exercising. You need to figure this out on rides longer than two hours because things work differently the longer the ride. Plan enough training rides of substantial distance to test your different ideas of what will work for you and how much you can take in.

This theory goes against what most of us have been told all our lives. You need to fuel or you will bonk. You need to replace your calories or you will not be able to go. However, studies have found that even the racers in the Tour de France who enter the race at 4 – 5% body fat have enough reserves to fuel their bodies through the grueling 21 days of riding – with a caloric loss every day. This is because there is stored energy in your body in the form of glycogen in your muscles and stored fat.

The problem here is nearly the same as the problem with fluids. It is very easy to get behind. If you are burning 600 calories and hour and taking in 300, you’re behind, but your body knows how to deal with it. However, if you forget to eat for an hour, you’re now behind an extra 600 calories. Your body cannot process extra calories per hour, so you can never really catch up.

This process ties I with the fluid consumption process, the electrolyte consumption process and the ride and rest rate witch I will talk more about in part III to come. It takes fluid to process the electrolytes, and to process the calories. Some find that it works to mix the electrolytes and the carbohydrate source in the same bottle. HEED made by Hammer Nutrition and PowerBar Endurance Sport Drink are two examples of this type of product. This seems to work well for rides less than 2 hours, but can lead to real problems on longer rides. During the ride, your effort will change as will the conditions you’re riding in. Even with no outside changes, the demands of your body are likely to change over a very long ride. Mixing the carbohydrate, water and electrolytes together limits you. Even if you are consistent and drink one bottle of water with electrolytes per hour and you consume your magic number of calories per hour, you may need more fluid at 1:15 and more food fuel at 1:40 and so on. For rides longer than two hours, it really is important to keep your food and drink separate (though I am a big believer in putting the electrolyte supplement in the water as I noted in part I)

How Often:
Studies have found that the trained athlete has about 90 minutes of glycogen supplies stored and accessible in his/her muscles. If your ride is less than 90 minutes you can usually get away without eating. But it takes about a week to 10 days completely recharge depleted glycogen supplies (so those 90 minutes without food could take you off the bike for a week). If your ride is longer than 90 minutes, you CANNOT skip the first 90 minutes and run off your stored energy. You may not be hungry in the first 90 minutes, but you will need that stored energy through your ride, and trying to do a ride entirely off what you eat, when you eat it is horrible.

People often make the mistake of eating at the rest stop and not in between. Why doesn’t this work when on a normal (not workout) day you eat just three meals? When you’re going above a brisk walk your body processes differently. Energy stores are made available for action. Muscle repair becomes a secondary consideration, as the body needs to keep moving forward. But when you stop for more than about 15 – 20 minutes, the system changes form energy store going for action to energy store going to repair or what we call recovery today. Once you are in recovery it is very hard to get going again.

So if you stop for a small meal at each rest stop, you are changing you’re metabolic system each time you stop. Each time getting going is a little harder, until you finally decide it just might be better to give this ride up. So eat often, measure your calories and don’t stop long. Make sure your bike and jersey are designed to allow easy access to food while riding. When you do stop it should be to refill your jersey pockets, fluid and get going again. There are some exceptions to this rule and I will talk about those in Part III to come.

The bottom line is: you really need to be consuming something about every 20 minutes starting at the very beginning of the ride. You also need to start with your tank topped off. That means taking care of your nutrition every day while training (on or off the bike) and being very careful the whole week before your big event.

What to eat:
What an array of options out there. There are things we know your body needs and a wide range to meet those needs – then there is the range outside of what works that lots of riders like to try. I urge caution here. When there is a wide range available, it is tempting to say that something works well for you and to ignore the fact that it doesn’t actually meet the nutritional need you have while on the bike.

When exercising for more than two hours your body needs protein. If you don’t give your body protein you will take it from muscles, which decreases power, adds to fatigue, increases muscle soreness and in some people adds to cramping problems. If you ride less than two hours, just about anything you can easily digest works – powerbars (I hate those and feel like I have a rock in my stomach if I eat one, but if it works for you..) gels, cliff shot blocks – simple sugars (maybe – I’ll explain further on).

On a ride longer than two hours you have to treat things differently. And you need to start treating things differently right at the beginning of the ride, not two hours in. It is important to understand that when you go for more than two hours you are really stressing your system. That’s not bad; it just means you can’t put the same stuff in your body as when you’re sitting around. Your body wants easily digested foods that hit the right spot. Often simple sugars sound the best (glucose, dextrose fructose, sucrose, brown rice syrup), however, those can be very hard to digest, and can lead to spikes and falls in energy. Most of the athletic nutrition available out there uses these simple sugars so be careful what you buy and use.

The sugar that seems to be the easiest to digest and leads to a constant energy flow is Maltodextrin. This sugar is a long chain carbohydrate (considered a complex carb). It burns slow and leads to fewer conflicts in digestion. Maltodexrtin is found in several products so you have to read the labels. One issue found in some studies is that mixing simple sugars with either complex carbs or protein causes upset stomachs in many athletes – especially ultra endurance athletes (I’m one of those). Many brands of gel and other sports supplements mix these three which can lead to trouble for some. According to a Hammer Nutrition study, most high functioning endurance athletes cannot tolerate simple sugars – even by them selves, when under load, and never if mixed with complex carbs or protein. However studies done by others (PowerBar, Carmichael Training Systems, Robobank Pro Cycling Team) have found benefit to mixing complex and simple sugars so that the athletes get an immediate boost with a slow let down. The Robobank study found that athletes could process more total calories per hour with this mix. So we find PowerGel, Gu and Accelerade (Gel and drink) all using the mix of a simple sugar with maltodextrin (and Accelerade adds protein).

You also need to find a protein source you can digest. You want protein to be about 15% – 20% of your calories with carbs making up the rest, and maybe a little fat in there if you can stand it. There are some bars like the ProBar and the Larabar that come close to these numbers and are all natural real food (mostly raw), which makes them easier to digest. Cliff bars also can work here. In the old days we ate a lot of peanut butter and jelly to get this ratio (before anyone knew this ratio was important). I have a friend who brings hard boiled eggs to get his protein while riding.

So you can mess around with all of these ides, but be aware: Peanut butter is hard to digest and the simple sugars in the jelly upset some stomachs. Eggs are hard to keep fresh and require you to ingest a big quantity of protein all at once, (which works fine for my friend, but would certainly make me barf) and the bars can be challenging on the stomach for many.

I have moved to an almost all liquid diet. I use Hammer Nutrition Sustained Energy which tries to hit the carb – portion ration just right. Hammer also makes a product called Perpetuem which is slightly higher on protein and has a little fat in it. I have trouble digesting that much protein with the fat, but Perpetuem works well for many others. Hammer uses soy protein which they have found to be easier to digest.

Accelerade is another one with protein that many people like. It is about 20% protein, (whey protein) so it is on the mark for what you body needs for the long rides. I have heard people complain that it is too sweet, and the first ingredient in the powder form is sucrose, while moltodextrin is there too, but much further down the list. So it mixes simple sugars, complex carbs and whey protein which is a mix that has been shown to cause upset stomach in some people (like me). That does not mean it won’t work for you, because it works well for lots of people. It just means use caution.

It is worth noting that what tastes good when at a rest state (like when you’re shopping for products) is never what tastes good 120 miles into a 200 mile ride. I find I never want the sweet stuff when I’m beat tired. So I buy unflavored gel and unflavored sustained energy. Off the bike it takes like rubber and pancake batter respectively. However, on the bike it is just right. (My friend Geoff disagrees and thinks the unflavored gel never tastes right).

It is also important to note that if you use a liquid with protein in it, it will get rancid just like milk does if you set it out for a few hours. Bacteria loves to eat protein in a carb solution. Bacteria in your drink will make you sick. So plan to bring the powder with you and make new batches as you get more water on the road.

The key to all this is practicing with what works. You need to know how your body responds to what kind of food. My goal here is to narrow your spectrum so you try things in the range that might work, and can eliminate those that we know will not work. After you know what works, you need to stick to the plan. That means being very careful rest stops during supported rides. I’ll talk more about that in part III

There is much more to know, like how to eat when you’re off the bike, how to eat when you are preparing for and event and how to eat when you are recovering. That is all for a later article. And nutrition discussions invariably bread controversy, so feel free to e-mail me or file comments on this blog and I will try to answer any questions.
Training for long rides - Part III Riding the Bike Tue, 2 Mar 2010 11:05:43 -0800 Conquent
Our local YMCA bike club is growing, and the members are growing more ambitious. Several members have decided to train for longer rides, centuries and double centuries and were asking what they needed to do to train for those rides. We had a meeting to discuss this, and the following articles in three parts are a summary of the discussion.

Three legs:
1. Hydration
2. Nutrition
3. Physical stress and Recovery (riding your bike)

These legs all go together, but the story will get too long, so I will post it in three parts.

Part III Riding the Bike

I’m going to start by saying that there are whole books written on this topic. This is just a short article, so I’m really only hitting the highlights. There is also quite a bit of controversy here. I’m going to go over what works for me and many in the masses riding the recreational centuries and double centuries. For more detail please look up one or more of the great books on this subject such as The Cyclist’s Training Bible by Joe Friel or Bicycling Magazine's Training Techniques for Cyclists (Revised: Greater Power, Faster Speed, Longer Endurance, Better Skills by Ed Pavelka and many others.

Also I’m going to give you a disclaimer. I’m a cyclist who has been doing this for a long time. I’ve read lots of stuff, and have ridden some really hard ultra-distance rides. I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist or a physiologist, or a psychologist or a personal trainer or a physical therapist, or any other thing that I’m not. This is just a forum for me to share my experiences. Be sure you are medically capable to train and ride a bicycle – and seek medical advice if there is any reason in your judgment (not mine) to do so.

I’ve read somewhere that 60% of doing well in an endurance sport like cycling is mental – “you can do it” attitude, and that about 60% is nutrition and hydration. Since that’s 120%, I guess you don’t even need to ride the bike. No really that’s not true.

The first thing that makes those numbers not true (besides being more than 100%) is that you learn the mental part by riding. Every body is different. The way your body responds to particular nutrition or recovers from particular stresses will be different from anyone else’s. That is important because on a long ride you’re always on the fine line of messing up by not drinking enough or too much or my not eating enough or too much or by going too hard and needing to recover. You can only learn those limits by riding – blowing it – and fixing it. Once you have that down you have about 1/3 of the mental stuff care of. Another third of the mental stuff is the knowledge that you can survive this (whatever this is). You get that by riding too.

Say you’re out doing the Seattle to Portland (STP) and you get across the bridge into Oregon and find out that its 97 degrees. If you’ve ridden enough in hot weather or in a hot spin class room or some other adverse condition, you’ll say “this is no big deal, I’ve done this before”.

The other third of the mental piece is sheer determination. I’ve coached for a long time in several sports, and have not really found easy coaching for sheer determination. Nike says “Just do it”. The Hours have a song (that Nike has borrowed) that says “Everybody gets knocked down. How quick are you going to get up?” Some people do well by looking at the person who does not give up and copying. What ever you have to do, this part is huge and cannot be underestimated.

So on to the actual riding, because you really do need to get in shape.

I Assessment

The first thing you need to do is plan. You might have some goals – a century ride or a double century. You might need to decide if this is a this year thing or a next year thing. Look at what kind of shape you’re in. Do you need to lose a bunch of weight? Have you been exercising at all? Do you know how to ride a bike? Figure these things out to find a starting point. If you are starting from scratch, you may want to find a coach or a club to help you with your initial planning.

Next go for a ride. You need to find a base line; you need to know what you can do. Find a nice route that is mostly flat but has enough hills to find out if you can climb. Take note of how you feel on the flat and on the hills. Take a look at the distance you go and how fast you cover the distance. You are not trying to race; you’re just trying to find out where you are.

See how you feel the day of your test ride, and see how you feel over the next couple of days. Did you get nutrition right? (See part II before this article). Did you get hydration right? (See part I before this article). Did you go for more or less than 2 hours? If less, you will need to work up to a 2 plus hour test ride, because your metabolism has different needs when you go more than two hours, so how you feel after two hours will be different.

Now compare your results to your goals. Don’t get discouraged. Your goals should be along way from your starting point. Now that you know where you are, don’t go out and over train. Every time you stress your body, you do damage. Your body needs to rebuild and heal (recover) to get in shape. If you go out and ride hard every day, then you will never rebuild, and you will never get strong.

II Training Types

Plan to train more than just the long distance systems. Most riders find that they do best with interval training 2 – 3 times a week and one long ride a week. Some even space the long ride out more than once a week. The long ride is training endurance, and getting you used to your nutrition and helping you find your limits. This is not when you should be peaking your max heart rate or ripping the hills down. We call this LSD (long slow distance). As you get stronger, this distance will speed up and you will be able to maybe rip the occasional hill down, but always remember that that is not your goal for the long rides.


At the end of the long rides, evaluate. How did the nutrition and hydration work out? How do you feel? How was your time? Are you comfortable? Could you do more now or did you need to stop at the end? When you have answered these questions you can plan your increase for the next long ride. For most riders 25 – 35 miles is not that much different. 50 miles feels like a much bigger deal than 35 miles because you will be out for 3 – 4 or more hours. Remember from article II you need protein for rides lasting longer than two hours. This means than in 3 – 4 hours you will be testing your metabolism. Once you reach that 50 mile mark for most the 65 mile mark is an easy next step, while 75 miles is still a challenge. Once you make 75 miles seem easy, 85 will be no problem, but 95 will still be a big deal. Once 95 is easy, you pretty much have it in the bag - 120, 140, whatever. To achieve each of these levels, you need to ride the prescribed distance until it feels comfortable. If you get home after 35 miles and feel horrible, ride that distance again next week, and so on. When 35 miles seems easy move to 50 miles, and from 50 to 75 and from 75 to 90 and from 90 to more.

After that it’s a mater of daylight. How fast did you cover the distance and how much time do you need to cover more distance. This magic 100 mile thing is because you have now trained your body and mind to keep going. You have figured out what nutrition works hour after hour, so add another hour, no real big deal. If you get 100 miles done in less than eight hours, you likely can finish a double century in less than 16 hours – daylight in mid summer in the northern parts of the world.

IV Interval Training

The interval training is shorter. You can do this on an indoor trainer or outside. This is where you push yourself. The purpose of the interval training is to raise you heart rate and empty your systems faster than you would do in a long event. You do this by going as hard as you can, recovering, then going as hard a you can, then recovering. There are lots of drills to do this including fast out of the saddle climbing up hills about two to five minutes long, then repeating, or longer climbs, increasing difficulty as you go up to exhaustion, or flat time trials pushing your max heart rate for as long as you can sustain, then repeating. Many riders find that an indoor cycling class with a trainer is the best place for this. The trainer will likely push you harder than you would go if you were alone.

V. Training for power and endurance gains vs. weight loss

It is just about impossible to do both. (There are always exceptions to the rule and I have read about those who have done both, but it is so hard that no trainer or doctor I have heard of would recommend it). If you need to loose weight to achieve your goals, then set that as your goal. It may be that you need to set one year for your weight loss goals and another for your distance goals. You just need to set priorities. Also, while cycling is an anti-gravity sport – and the pros are super skinny – there are plenty of riders out there who are a little heavy. If you have weight to loose I would recommend you talk to your doctor and get checked out. Extra weight often indicates other issues that might make you want to be cautious in an exercise program. But if the Doctor says o.k., then set your goals – either weight loss or endurance and power gains. And start going for your goals.

VI. Recovery and Over-training.

You need to give yourself ample recovery. If you don’t rest you will suffer from over-training. You will have trouble raising your heart rate, and your resting heart rate will not go as low as your normal resting rate. You will not be able to generate the power you are used to. Your immune system will struggle and you will likely get sick. You will be hungry all the time, particularly for simple carbohydrates. You will get tired easily and want to take naps.

The time your body needs for recovery is individual to you. We know that as you get older the amount of time you need increases. For a 5 year old kid it seems like it is about 45 minutes but really is about one day. For someone in their 30’s recovery after a complete body draining day – the long ride or a day for of repeating intervals – will likely be about two days. 40’s and up it can take tree days to recover. So plan your training schedule accordingly.

During a long workout or ride your body is using fuel for energy. During recovery, your body is using fuel for repair. Your by can’t really do these things at the same time. It takes somewhere between 10 and 45 minutes (studies and personal experience) for your body to switch systems. This is important for two reasons: 1) when do I change my fuel so that my body can recover?, and 2) what happens to my metabolism in the rest stop during a ride?

First, when you get done with a ride you need to increase the amount of protein related to carbohydrate. I have read studies indicating that recovery protein should be anywhere from 25% to 50% of your post work out diet, and it should be within 45 minutes of getting off the bike. There is lots of debate about this. If you go really hard, you will probably not want that much protein right away. If you went to hard and messed up your nutrition, you will likely want simple carbohydrates for a while. So listen to the advice to increase protein, but also listen to your body. If you cannot increase protein right-away, be sure to increase protein during your recovery day or three.

How much time in the rest stop? Once your body switches to recovery, it is really hard to get back to energy. So if you’ve been on the bike a long time, you may really want to rest a while, but if you do, you will not want to get up again. I recommend trying to keep your rest stops to less than 10 minutes. Sometime this is impossible because of bathroom lines and food replenishment, but do what you can to keep it short.

The exception to this is when you have tanked. It happens. You’re on a ride that is really important to you and you feel like road kill. Sometimes, you just need to rest and re-set. In these cases take the break you need. Be particularly careful of pushing yourself in hot weather. Heat stroke is nothing to toy with. Rest and cool down if that is what is going on.

VII How to prepare for the big day

So you’ve done all your training and the ride you seat your sights on is coming up. Remember the recovery thing above. Add to that that it takes about 10 days to rebuild depleted glycogen supplies in your muscle. So set you last big training ride for about 3 weeks before the big ride. Two weeks before do a smaller big training ride – maybe half or ¾ of the distance of your big ride. One week before do a nice easy ride. The week before the ride, you can spin gently for days 7, and 6. Days 5 and 4 take pretty easy, go ahead and move around, swim gently or some other activity where your heart rate never quite gets to the brisk walk level. Days 3 and 2 rest rest rest. Day 1 RIDE the Big RIDE!

During those 7 days you want to start with fairly high protein on days 7 and 6 , but you want to be tapering your protein down and increasing your complex carbs so that by day 2 your protein/carb ratio is closer to 20/80. You really want to stay away from trans- fat and greasy hard to digest stuff, and you want to stay away from simple sugars. Try to keep your cards complex. You probably cannot eat too much during this week, so that is your training goal. If you’re like me, sitting still for a week with not real training is a nightmare. So I tell myself that my eating is my training.

Now go and get your goals set and do your riding.
Why Go Into Business? Tue, 2 Mar 2010 20:15:02 -0800 Conquent
Not really. Businesses get started because a really good technician does a really good job. (By technician I mean anyone who does any kind of technical work – from writing to doctoring to engineering). He/she thinks “I’m doing such a good job, I’m making big money for my boss – my boss, that guy – he can’t do this work to save his life. I can do better than him – or anyone else in this company – Yah, that’s it – I’ll start my own company, then I’ll get to keep all the bucks I make.” And with that a business is born.

The problem is that a business takes the ability manage, not just the work flow (which is much harder that the technician thinks), but also to manage contracts, clients, employees, payroll, bills, taxes. The business owner has to plan for the future, to guess what kind of product will be needed next year and in the next five years. And on top of that, you don’t get to keep all the money because now you have to pay rent, equipment, electricity, and both the employee and employer tax contributions.

Thus most small business owners end up making four jobs for themselves – the CEO, the CFO, the COO and the technician doing the job. They only get paid for the work done by the technician; the other three new jobs are overhead. The new business owner cannot afford to hire three overhead positions, so he/she does those three full time jobs plus the job he/she gets paid to do. Now he/she is making less money and working four jobs – and regretting ever getting into business ownership.

The new business owner bought into the fallacy that if you do a good job the work will flow AND that flowing work means good money. We all know better than that. Just ask yourself: Is the best MP3 player the one that captured the market? Was Blue Beam really better than HD DVD? Was VHS better than Betamax? As good technicians we want the best product to make the most money, we believe it should be true, but really we know it’s not true.

And even more than that, many businesses (law, medical, engineering, accounting) work by the hour. So even if your product is better, you can only charge a marginally better hourly rate. Thus the only really way to make more money is to work more hours. So now the work is flowing, and you have the four jobs, but add to that plenty of overtime for the technician (you).

So here’s the thing: The small business owner got into business ownership, but not into business. The small business owner created a job for his/herself that has more responsibility, more time commitment, more risk and less pay than the job he or she left behind. If your boss came up to you and made that offer you’d laugh. In anything else, no one would take those odds.

So what do you do about this? If you want to go into business you have to figure out why you are going into business. You have to make a basic plan with numbers then figure out what you really have to do to make the plan work. If you really want your plan to work it needs to be scalable and repeatable. You need to be able to create systems so that you can hire people who can do what ever it is you do, while at the same time you need to stay relevant and continue to innovate. The way you make money needs to be related to the value added to the client not to the hours you work.

Two examples so this: Several years ago I needed a bicycle component. The component was three times more expensive than similar components, but was the only thing available. I asked the sales guy why this thing was so expensive. He said: “This is something that triathletes use. Triathletes will pay anything, so the manufacturer marks up the price.”

The other is a company that makes a component that saves tons of fuel for airplanes. The component is not very expensive to make, but it saves millions of dollars for the airlines. The company sells this device for a percentage of the savings rather than for the cost to manufacture.

If you can create a realistic plan that you can systematize, scale, duplicate and repeat, that adds enough value for someone to want to pay you more than an hourly wage – then you might have something worth going into business for. Otherwise, you need to be a good technician and do good work for a good wage, and be happy with what you do.
Google Adds Biking Directions to Maps Thu, 11 Mar 2010 10:11:28 -0800 Conquent
There are several things to remember when using this tool. First, the route I like is not always the route that the other cyclist will choose. This seems to me one of the biggest gripes “I used Google Maps for Bicycle routes and it routed me this way when I prefer that way”. Here’s a tip – The computer can’t read your mind. Sometimes it feels like it can, but it can’t – really.

The real test here is “would that route have worked for someone from out of the area who does not know the nuances of the local roads?” So I asked Google maps to get me to places I know well to see if the routes were o.k. In each case Google gave me routes different from what I would have selected for my self, but the routes would have worked if I were from out of town. It appeared the main difference between the Google routes and my own was hills. Google notes in their blog that they will try to avoid hills. I like hills and don’t make an effort to miss them. Thus I see lots of neat stuff and take routes that are less traveled. However, that’s me – not everyone. When I tried customizing the routes to go on the hills, the entire route adjusted much more to my liking.

Next I went to cities that I am less familiar with and asked Google Maps to get me from one likely touristy place to another. In Denver went from Sloan Park to the Denver Zoo, and on the eastern seaboard I went from Veteran’s Park in Trenton NJ to Long Beach NY. In both cases Google Maps gave me options. I reviewed the routes against other data and found that the selected routes were really very good. Were there other secret routes the local cyclists would use to go to the same place? Probably. However, the routes selected by Google were better than I would have done on my own, as a geographer, map geek, and cyclist.

The second thing to note is that Google is only able to work with the data available. In the Seattle Area, the City of Seattle and King County (in which Seattle sits) have done a very good job of created bike route maps. Whereas Snohomish County, the next county north of King has done a poor job of creating bike rout maps. When using Google in both King and Snohomish Counties, I find Google lacking in Snohomish, while doing very well in King. Google is apparently trying to fix this lack of data. They note that the bicycle route function is in Beta and that they would like input on errors. If all of us cyclist tell Google about issues, they will fix the issues and the maps will get better and better. Remember how bad the car routing was when Map Quest first came out? Now you can get good reliable routing from Map Quest, Google, and Yahoo without any worries. I think we should expect the same improvements from Google Bike Routes as well.
Tony Kornheiser Should Go To Jail Thu, 18 Mar 2010 13:05:01 -0800 Conquent
“I don't take my car and ride on the sidewalk because I understand that's not for my car. Why do these people think that these roads were built for bicycles?...They don't share the road. They dominate the road. They dare you to run them down....And then when you do, they get angry. What is that about?....And so you tap them. I'm not saying you kill them. I'm saying you tap them. Tap them once....If you're not rubbing, you're not racing right? So you pop them a little bit and see what happens.”

Lance Armstrong got into the fray on Twitter and said some not so nice things about Kornheiser. Now the bloggers and e-mail guys are all saying everyone should lighten up. They say Kornheiser was just in character. It was just a joke. I say bull shit, I don’t care if it is a joke. Let’s change what he says just a little bit. Let’s say he says “Why do these people think that these roads were built for black people.” All of a sudden it’s not funny.

Let’s be clear. This is the same thing. It is someone in a place of influence suggesting organized violence against a defined group of people. The difference is that the people are on bikes, not of one race, but it is still an identifiable group to which a person in a position of influence is suggesting violence. And for those of you who don’t ride, be certain that tapping a bicyclist with your multi-ton vehicle in traffic very likely will lead to the death of that rider.

If Kornheiser made his comment against a racial group, he would be fired. He might be tried for a hate crime. If he acted on his statement, he would be tried and convicted for premeditated assault or even murder. But some out there think we should go easy on this guy. They are wrong.

I have so much to deal with while I ride – careless drivers, bad roads, rain, and mean people. Now I also have a sports guy telling the world that it is a good idea to cause bodily harm to me while I ride. That is no joke.
US DOT Adopts Bicycle Friendly Policy Mon, 22 Mar 2010 08:47:41 -0800 Conquent
However, design is always tied to funding. With the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) the Federal Government stopped resisting changes that promoted designs other than auto-centric, however, the bulk of transportation funding was still outside of ISTEA, and thus the automobile was still promoted as the highest and best use of our transportation system.

It looks like these long standing policies are changing. On March 11, 2010 the USDOT issued a policy that will put bicycle and pedestrian road design and funding on par with automobile transportation design and funding (<A href="" target=_blank></A>) with the announcement made through Ray LaHood’s blog on March 15 (<A href="" target=_blank></A>)

This is a big step for the federal government. And even though several jurisdictions like Charlotte, NC and Seattle, WA have made the change to complete streets, most have not. With the federal government adopting a policy giving cyclists and pedestrians equal priority to cars, other jurisdictions will start to make changes, even if they don’t like bikes. They’ll change to get the funding. And since funding is where it really is, this policy will lead change.
High Intensity Interval Training vs. Long Distance Training Sat, 27 Mar 2010 18:45:15 -0800 Conquent
The other one published on March first lists the number one training mistake for those training for marathons and ½ marathons is skipping the weekly long run (and this would translate to other ultra endurance events such as long bicycle rides and triathlons).

How can both of these articles published in the same journal be right? Here’s how. High Intensity Interval Training is as important as the article suggests. Pushing your heart rate to 80% or more for a duration of one – two minutes, then recovering and doing it again does amazing things for your fitness. The improvements give you enough fitness to do the long workouts.

However, cardio fitness and muscle strength are not the only measures of your ability to finish the long run or ride. You need all your connective tissue to be strong and that takes more and longer consistent workouts.

You also need to understand how your body works when you are pushing it for several hours at a time. In a long work out your pacing, hydration, nutrition, and recovery are all different from what you get accustomed to in a shorter, high intensity work out. You need to know how to resolve these issues. All of these lessons are learned by taking the long rides or runs. So these two articles are not really in conflict, but like everything else, we need to get the whole picture before making an action plan.

Wednesday’s Bike Ride - Learning from Mistakes Sat, 27 Mar 2010 19:40:17 -0800 Conquent
This year several of my friends are going to California with me. Three of them have done doubles before, and one of them has also done this particular ride a few times before, so I’m confident in their ability to prepare as well. However, one friend, Geoff, is doing Davis as his first double. He is strong and confident, and trains hard, so I’m really not worried about his fitness. However, he still has to learn what strange things his body does on long rides, and how to manage fuel, fatigue and pace.

To this end, I put together a series of training rides that longer than I usually recommend in training for a double. The point is to get him to ride into distress on his training rides, not at the event. We all learn more from mistakes than from success.

This past Wednesday we had one of the breakthroughs I was looking for. First Geoff used a nutritional product that many have trouble with. Then when that product ran short, he diluted it and relied on gels and Power Bars. Next he road hard, and went up O.K. Mill road at a pace I was not comfortable with. I watched my heart rate monitor to make sure I was not overdoing, and paid attention to my fuel intake while a kept up. After about ½ hour of this Geoff started to fade, then he went into a bonk including stiff muscles and no power.

But here’s the good part: We talked about how to fix this problem, including the ingestion of some maltodextrin and caffeine (Hammer Gel Espresso Flavor w/50mg caffeine), followed by some Hammer Sustained Energy, all while concentrating on keeping the heart rate down as close to 120 as possible. With about 20 miles to go Geoff was ready to quit, but I could see the recovery was starting to work. I suggested he see this through.

Sure enough, by the time we got home, Geoff was nearly fine. And he learned several important lessons 1. what to eat, 2. what not to eat, 3. how to pace, and 4. how to fix things when they go wrong. A fine example of the need for distance training to learn how everything works.
8 speed is all you need Thu, 15 Apr 2010 12:11:57 -0800 Conquent
But why? We need gears to be able to stay efficient. A human male athlete produces around ½ horse power. We are most efficient with our feet turning close to 90 revolutions per minute (RPM). We can deviate down to around 80 RPM and up to around 110 RPM and still maintain some level of efficiency, but for an all day thing we would not want to go much below about 85 RPM and not much above about 95 RPM. By increasing the number of gears an a bike, we can get our legs moving at the right RPM no matter the speed.

But at what cost and what benefit. I’ve run a few numbers here. First the benefit. Using a 39-53 double chain wheel and a 12-25 - 8 speed cog set (a very standard racing set up for mountain areas) there is no need to ever have you legs move slower than 87 RPM or faster than 95 RPM. That is right in the range of efficiency. Thus adding gears to 9, 10 or 11 speed cog sets benefits you not at all assuming your range stays between 12-25. Most racers will not expand to a 26 tooth cog, and more often the range is 12-23 or 11-23. If you want to expand the range for a lower gear, you can add a triple chain wheel. Some racers will do this with a 34, 42, 53 tooth chain wheel combination.

Also, if you’re not racing your sensitivity to just the right speed and just the right cadence is less. So for instance a triple crank set with 26, 38, and 52 tooth chain wheels combined with an 8 speed cog set ranging from 12 – 28 teeth will provide ample efficiency from 4 mph to 45 mph. That’s more than enough for a touring bike.

Here’s the cost. The average life span of a good quality 8 speed chain is 10,000 miles. The average lifespan of a good quality 10 speed chin is 1,000 miles. That’s right: the 8 speed chain, because it is thicker, wears 10 times longer. Further, the good quality 8 sped chain costs between $15 and $20, while the 10 speed chain costs $65 - $75.

Further, this benefits Shimano and Campagnolo very much. Both companies have made all of their decent quality 8 speed equipment obsolete. If you break a shift lever, or ne3ed to replace your cog set, you need to upgrade your entire drive train.

My racing bike with eight speed was perfectly serviceable, except that the cog set was worn. Here’s what I bought to replace my cog set: Cog set, crank set, rear wheel, chain, shift/break levers. Eight Speed Cog set $75.00. Drive Train upgrade $2,000.

Some will say that that the upgraded stuff shifts better and is lighter weight. There some truth to this (though not much), but it is not because it is 10 speed. Changes in technology have made shifting generally smoother. Those changed could be applied to 8 speed just as easily as to 10 speed.

This mandate to go to greater and greater number of gears just makes cycling more of an elite sport. There was a time when you could race fairly nicely on what today would be a $500 bike (calculating in today’s dollars). It wasn’t supreme, but it did not keep you out of the race. Today, you need at least and $1,800 bike to try to race, and then you need to put in the maintenance cost.

So Campy and Shimano capture more money from a smaller market, while excluding young riders and expansions into population sectors that just can’t afford it. Maybe a good short term business plan, but not so good for the long term.
I Feel Good (I Got You) Sat, 17 Apr 2010 20:43:03 -0800 Conquent
It’s all in your head. At the 1995 Davis Double Century I was goofing around with a few friends early the ride. We were loudly singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” and telling jokes while passing people on hills and otherwise being generally obnoxious.

At around 130 miles into the ride there is a hill called Resurrection Hill. Resurrection is about 8.5 miles long. There is no shade and it is always very hot. Going up this hill, I felt like hell - nauseous, tired, wishing it would all be over. Someone recognized our obnoxious group from earlier in the ride.

He said “Oh it’s you guys! How you feeling?”

To which I responded with a James Brown Scream “Wow! I feel good”, and the rest of my group joined in: “du, da du, da do do” I sang “Like I knew that I would” etc.

We sang this most of the rest of the way up the hill. Some one else said – “don’t every ask them how the feel again”

I really didn’t feel good, but I was glad to be riding, and so I kept my sense of humor. That’s were all those good feelings come from for any endurance athlete.
Client Vendor Relationships Tue, 20 Apr 2010 20:12:41 -0800 Conquent
Here’s what I mean. We consultants see our job as performing a particular service. So we complain that our clients don’t know what they want from us. They don’t understand their projects. They try to bend the project scope and get us to provide extra services. They force lower prices. We complain that the client does not understand all these cool things that we have done, and the client cannot see the value in the work we’ve done.

All these things are true. However, to complain about these things shows our lack of understanding and empathy for our clients. We need to understand several things about the client and their job. First, of course they don’t know what they are doing; otherwise they would not have hired the expert who does.

Second, their job is to make money. Everything we do for them must add value. They don’t care how cool the work is. They care how much money the work you do will make for them. Since they don’t understand the details of what you do their first approach is to try to get the most for the least, so they nearly universally see it as their job to push the scope, and to get extra things done for less money.

The client is planning to spend a lot of money on something he does not understand. Therefore, the client is going to distrust you, and is going to test you.

So now that we understand the client, the really hard part is: what do we do with that information? Some of the answer to that question is in how the client pursues their goals, and the rest of it rest entirely on the consultant.

First you really have to understand the client’s goals. Second, you must make some very clear decisions as to what will further those goals. Do you need to do some really cool stuff? Is this simple and straight forward with no real obstacles? Do you need to work some miracles for this to work? Only do work that adds value. Don’t do work that does not. Know the difference.

Don’t categorize the work into A work and B work noting that this client only wants to pay for B work. This client only wants to pay for value added work. That is his job.

Now it’s time to talk to the client. You have to find a way to explain the project to the client without scaring him. On the one hand, you have to let him know the risks of what he is getting into. Risk is scary, so the client will be suspicious.

Now with all this being said, some clients are problems and will cost you money and reputation. Part of your job is to find this out and fire the clients that will hurt you. Remember, you are also in business to make money. A client that cost you money or reputation fails in the business plan. How to recognize the wrong client is another story
Who’s the chief technician in your business? Sun, 20 Jun 2010 15:11:28 -0800 Conquent
Now the CEO (you) is the chief technician. You know the product inside and out and can make the product better than anyone. You hire some people. You teach them how to do the job. You supervise their work. When they get stuck, you solve their technical problem. You are the go to guy in your company and maybe in your industry. Now you can’t figure out how to get your accounting, HR. payroll, taxes, marketing, branding done, and you’re missing deadlines, and your clients are mad, and you’re not making money.

The pitfall that most business owners fall into is: not understanding business in the first place. The purpose of business is to make money, not to make a product. The product is just the vehicle for the money.

You have to have all the elements of business in place to make money. The business needs to have a vision – a plan. Not the detailed 2 inch binder “Business Plan” we learn about in business school – but ideas and knowledge of the market place and what the market needs. Then you have to figure out if you can make the product the market needs. After your ideas and vision are set, and your product is known, NOW you do the business plan – crunching the numbers to see if your ideas and product can make money. The numbers need to be run by someone who won’t forget money details that you as the new entrepreneur will not think of. And the numbers need to include personnel who can continue to fill the three parts noted above – vision, make, and manage – after the company is up and running.

This plan should include a CTO or COO who is the chief technician, a CFO who can manage and can respect the vision (harder to find than you might think) and a CEO who makes the decision at the top – and is the vision person – the one who can see long into the future and steer the ship on the right course. The CTO or COO and the CFO can be hired. The vision really can’t be.

If you are a great technical person, but not much of a risk taker futurist, if you like doing a really good job, if you believe the only way to get a job done right is to do it yourself, if you like helping up the junior technicians where you work right now- you are a technician, and you should really think twice before opening a business – or at least get a visionary partner.
Bicycling and being seen in traffic Thu, 9 Dec 2010 09:46:53 -0800 Conquent

The article is interesting, though the statistics may have some fault (1. It was done in Australia where there are many differences in tolerances, road rules and population densities, 2, The study group was very small, 3. The study group was comprised of volunteers – all of whom knew they were being monitored). However, there is some intuitive correctness to the study as well. The basic point that it showed is that cyclists were more aware of their surroundings than the car drivers. I believe that must be true because we crash if we don’t pay attention to a lot of small details that don’t matter to cars, like road surface type, paint striping locations etc.

This article spurred many e-mails about how cars drivers don’t pay attention, don’t use signals, turn right on top of cyclists, turn left across the oncoming cyclists right-of way and general don’t notice that we are there. This line went on pointing out that the only thing auto-drivers are looking for is other cars. Many e-mails even talked about their invisibility as well lit motorcycle riders. There are many studies (some pointed out in this line) that show that people only see what they expect to see and that car drivers only expect to see cars and trucks.

Still more e-mails (and many of the same authors as the above type) lauded the importance of lights, reflectors, bright colored clothes, ankle cuffs, and other means of being seen.

Though I would not discount the importance of being seen too much, as I was reading these e-mails the basic contradiction kept coming to me: they don’t see you because you’re not a car. Lights, bright clothing and reflectors will help with the minority that is paying attention, but it still makes the basic false assumption that will lead to unsafe cycling behavior: “they will see me.” My basic safety program is to assume “they will not see me.” That assumption makes me take responsibility for all the traffic around me, and make changes to my riding line, speed and stopping based on that assumption.

Using that assumption, there are things you can do to make yourself be seen that have nothing to do with your brightness. They have more to do with your positioning in the lane. Note, to do any of these things, or to mange traffic in any way, you must have a mirror. You have to be able to see what is behind to know if you are going to be run over from behind.
1. Don’t ride right up against the curb – you won’t be seen.
2. If there is no shoulder (so all you have is a car lane to ride in) ride out far enough to make it impossible for cars to use that lane. Sometimes that will be in the right wheel track of the lane, sometimes in the left. By riding in this position, the drivers will notice an obstruction in their lane and will be forced to drive around. It also gives you room to get out of the way for the driver that doesn’t go around far enough.
3. On down hills, ride out in the lane, not in the shoulder or bike lane. Most drivers don’t look at there speedometers; If they see you, they think – bikes are slow, I must go faster. They will try to pass at high speeds, down hill, even if it is not safe. If you go out in the lane, they cannot pass, and often will look down at their speedometers and slow down. Don’t worry about impeding the traffic, your safety is not worth the few seconds the driver might save. Also riding in the shoulder or bike lane down hill puts you at other risks such as parked cars opening doors, cars pulling out of driveways, uneven pavement, pedestrians and more.

Some people think these tactics are illegal. Most traffic laws require the bike rider to stay as far to the right as practicable. However, they use the word practicable to give a certain vagueness. If the shoulder or bike lane is not safe, or the right side of the lane is not safe, then it is not practicable to ride in that unsafe place, and thus it is legal to take the lane. I know this to be a true interpretation of the law in California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho.
The Demand For The Loss of Creativity Tue, 25 Jan 2011 10:49:06 -0800 Conquent
Apple’s simplification of the computing platform opens the market up to loads of people who would otherwise not be interested in computing products, it makes computers less of computers and more like terminals. And it makes people not capable of understanding computing devices able to use them, which makes those some of those people feel very smart –even superior. IT experts are relegated to the outskirts of the industry they founded, ran and still love. This is frustrating for IT experts, but it is not the first time this has happened to an industry.

The bicycle industry changed in this same way during the 1980’s and ‘90’s. I started riding in 1977. Gears (called freewheels then, now called cassettes) were selected gear by gear. This allowed a rider to customize his or her bike based on the type of riding planned (racing – touring, hills, flats etc). The calculation of gears was so expected that derailleurs and freewheels came with gear charts in the box to help the customer. Once the rider made his calculations and set the bike up, the rider was mentally invested in the ride. It was part science, but also part art. We knew our bikes, felt out bikes, and thought our bikes into existence.

This process was too complicated for the sport to expand rapidly. During the 1980’s Shimano became the dominate bike part supplier, removing Sun Tour from their long standing place in the top spot. Shimano created set gear ratios and one could only buy a complete cog set or cassette. Certain gear patterns were phased out. Gear charts were not supplied, and by the mid 1990’s it was almost impossible to find replacement cogs. Now many Shimano cog sets are riveted together preventing the replacement of individual worn gears. Flexibly, creativity and thought were removed, in favor of simplicity and mass marketing.

The gear changes started by Shimano have swept through the rest of the industry. Those slow to accept this new way were out. By 1993 Shimano had 100% of the new bike market. Sun Tour was gone entirely, and Campagnolo (once the premier brand) was an after market brand. Campagnolo came back using the Shimano model and is now doing well. Others have conformed. Meanwhile Shimano commands the same kind of religious loyalty for their sometimes only mediocre products that Apple commands in the computing arena.

It is clear that Apple is a trend setter and that others will follow, just as Shimano set the trend and forced the market to their will. The real question is why did it work? Do we really want to leave creativity and thought behind in favor of simplicity? Do we really want others (big brother, big industry, big religion etc.) telling us what we want, need, feel and believe? Looking at the Apple and Shimano model I would say yes, that is what most want. Those few of us who want to think and feel and believe for ourselves will sit on the outside with the non Apple IT guys and the bike gear heads.