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Coach Charlie Livermore: Pedaling and Shifting 101

Charlie Livermore sits in a chair wearing an Empire State Ride jersey and smiles.

The Empire State Ride is lucky to have the support of professional cycling coach Charlie Livermore as an advisor and friend. Charlie is not only a coach at Carmichael Training Systems, but also serves as a training consultant on our adventure across New York State. He offers his expertise and tips to all ESR riders and joins us on the road each July to ride 500+ miles.  

All blogs by Charlie

Coach Charlie Livermore on Pedaling.

This is a short version of a much longer talk on pedaling that Charlie will present at the ESR. The aim of this blog is to give you a simple technique you can practice to improve your pedaling efficiency.

For many of you training for the Empire State Ride, the outdoor riding season has finally arrived. The transition from indoor to outdoor riding adds the challenge of varying terrain, wind and group dynamics that require skills to manage well. Let’s look at what arguably are the most important skills that will make you a better cyclist: pedaling and shifting.

Pedaling.

Why is pedaling technique so important?

A line of ESR riders pedal together
Shows a close-up of an ESR rider's bike

Good pedaling efficiency results in getting the absolute most power from each revolution of your pedal stroke. Do it well, and youll produce more power for the same or less energy output.

Most amateur cyclists pump their legs down, in a style which results in spikesin torque, rather than a smooth, consistent application of power. Pedaling this way is all start-stop-start-stop. Rounding out your pedal stroke decreases torque spikes with each pedal revolution.

How do you pedal efficiently?

If you’ve had a good bike fit and are sitting optimally centered around the bottom bracket (seat height and for/aft position), you’ll be able to create full torque from 12 o’clock (top of the pedal stroke) to 7 o’clock (just past the bottom) with each leg. While your foot is traveling from 6 – 7 o’clock, the opposite leg takes over to create torque. It’s not full circles with each leg! Think a good smooth 1/2 circle with a well-timed handoff to the leg coming up around the back. The result is constant torque all the way around, all the time.

How can I spot inefficiency in my own pedaling?

Change up your cadence to highlight weaknesses. Say you ride naturally at 80 rotations per minute (RPM) — increase the cadence for a minute to around 100 rpm. If you are bouncing on the saddle, your pedal stroke is probably inefficient.

Similarly, try riding at a slow cadence, 50–60 RPM, and notice if the pedal stroke feels like a push-and-stop effort. If you’re constantly finding yourself re-engaging on the pedals, it means you disengaged from them. Disengaging results in a loss of speed and requires a re-engagement, which is the same as reaccelerating. Acceleration requires much more energy than keeping speed steady.

Shifting.

What's shifting all about?

Two ESR riders ride around New York City during ESR22.
An ESR rider cruises down the street.

The primary function of gears are to enable us to maintain a comfortable pedaling speed (cadence) regardless of the gradient or terrain. 

 

A high gear, sometimes referred to as a ‘big gear,’ is optimal when descending or riding at high speeds. The highest or biggest gear on a bicycle is achieved by combining the largest front chainring size with the smallest rear cog or sprocket. Vice versa, combining the smallest front chainring size with the largest rear sprocket size results in the lowest available gear, which will help you keep your desired cadence when the road points up.

 

Again, shifting is about pedaling efficiency. Having a much broader choice of gears for a given situation will allow you to apply torque smoothly around the pedal stroke. I recommend having the greatest gear ratio possible for ESR. I’ll be riding a compact crankset 50/32 with an 11–30 tooth cassette on my bike.

 

Since we are all proficient drivers, I like to use the car analogy to bring home a point. Just like a car, bicycles benefit from a low gear to accelerate from a standstill, or to climb a steep hill, and at the other end of the scale, a high gear helps you to achieve high speeds without over-revving.

 

Continuing with the car example, using too low a gear at high speed would result in high fuel consumption. The same is true of your body pedaling a bike. More gears means more scope to your pedaling technique by fine-tuning your cadence to suit the gradient or terrain, often resulting in a lower energy cost.

On Cadence.

A quick word on cadence. I don’t believe there’s a specific optimum cadence for everyone, but current theories suggest that you should aim to train yourself toward a higher cadence as it’s a more efficient use of energy – moving the stress more to your cardiovascular system. The best cadence is the one that produces the smoothest torque around the pedal stroke.

 

Bike Practice.

Those long easy weekend endurance rides can feel boring and tedious, but they are crucial for aerobic development. These are the best rides to practice your pedaling and shifting skills and the focus will help pass the time.

This blog post by Chris Carmichael, “6 Shifting Tips To Be A Faster Cyclist Today,” is a good read to continue your education on shifting. 

I’ll leave you with a final thought on shifting: Never be satisfied with the gear you’re in. Shift constantly to try to find a better one. In a 75-mile ride, it’s common to shift 500–750 times. Keep an active hand on your shifter the whole ride.

I’ll be presenting an in-depth talk on pedal stroke at the ESR this year. I hope to see you there!

 

In the meantime: Train Right!

Coach Charlie

How one woman is fighting back against cancer, for herself and others

Meet Caitlin Pietz: Volunteer for ESR and Breast Cancer Thriver

On a sunny day in February, Caitlin Pietz stood in front of a small metal bell as a stream of sunlight cascaded through the windows beside her. With her husband Mark at her side, she proudly gripped the chain that hung from the mouth of the bell. For a moment, she stared out at the faces of the loved ones who surrounded her, pausing to take in the scene. Then, she pulled the rope with palpable excitement. A smile spread across her lips as the lobby filled with a brassy jingle and cheering rang out. At that, a new chapter began. Caitlin had officially finished her treatment at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Volunteering for a Cause that Aims to End Cancer

For Caitlin, ringing the Roswell Park Victory Bell brought new meaning to a movement she’s already been part of for many years — a movement to find new treatments for cancer and, ultimately, save more lives. She’s volunteered for numerous Roswell Park events through the years like the Ride for Roswell and IceCycle. Doing so was her way of honoring her father who passed away from cancer. Her husband, Mark, would ride in these events while Caitlin volunteered.   

In 2017, Mark decided to ride for three days in Empire State Ride, and Caitlin drove him to Weedsport. She stayed for dinner and sat in on the evening program, where she listened to a rider named David talk about his cancer journey. As it turned out, David’s cancer journey closely resembled that of Caitlin’s father, though David had survived and Caitlin’s father had not. After David’s speech, Caitlin gave him a big hug and shared her story. They soon became fast friends.

That serendipitous moment motivated Caitlin to really get involved with Empire State Ride. The next year, she signed on as a weeklong volunteer, making countless peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the riders. If you ask her about this, she’ll give you a smirk and say that hers were the best sandwiches, because they were made with love. Of course, she had additional duties, too, like assisting with the evening program and making sure riders with special dietary needs had the fuel and hydration they needed. At the end of the week, she was exhausted but happier than ever.

“I thought, ‘This has been the most tiring but best week of my life.’ It was just so much fun,” Caitlin says. “They talk about the ESR family, and that is no joke. You really do become family with these people.”

Caitlin returned as an ESR volunteer again in 2019 and had planned to return again after the pandemic — until she heard the three words that no one ever wants to hear: 

You have cancer.

Caitlin’s Breast Cancer Diagnosis

Caitlin stands before a crowd after ringing the Roswell Park Victory Bell. Context.

Throughout Caitlin’s volunteer efforts, she never expected to be on the receiving end of her efforts to drive lifesaving cancer research. In 2022, however, Caitlin went to a routine mammogram the day after her 50th birthday. When her doctors sent her for additional testing, including mammograms, biopsies and MRIs, Caitlin knew something was up. Her doctors soon delivered the news that Caitlin had invasive ductal carcinoma, a type of breast cancer.

“That started a journey of 10 months,” Caitlin says. “Two surgeries, a lot of visits in between and then chemo and radiation. And I will say, the journey was tough but the staff at Roswell Park was amazing.”

Caitlin said that the staff at The 11 Day Power Play Resource Center helped her get oriented with the hospital and even walked her through a dry run of what to expect before chemo to make the actual treatment less nerve-racking.

“There was never a point when I didn’t have answers. Roswell Park … I just can’t imagine going any place else,” she says. “The journey wasn't fun — probably the worst 10 months in my life overall. But here I am, on the other side of it, thanks to Roswell; thanks to the amazing doctors and staff and nurses and aides and everybody who has given me a perfectly healthy prognosis going forward.”

Bringing her Volunteer Efforts Full Circle

Despite her struggles, Caitlin says the day she rang the Victory Bell was one of the most emotional and gratifying days of her life. She threw a big party at a restaurant after her bell ringing and about 45 of her closest friends showed up. Almost 80% of them were people she met on the road during Empire State Ride. Many were also in the crowd as the sound of victory rang out after her last treatment, including Dr. Joyce Ohm, Chair of Cancer Genetics and Genomics at Roswell Park and an ESR road warrior.

“I see riders every day and tell them, ‘Those dollars matter. Those $5, $10, $20 donations are going to turn into cures, and they’re going to save lives,” Dr. Ohm says, reflecting on her research efforts.

During the course of Caitlin’s treatment, she saw, firsthand, some of the advancements in treatment options available thanks to research funding raised through events like the Empire State Ride.

At Roswell Park, Caitlin had access to a test that allowed her doctors to personalize her treatment plan based on her genetics and specific type of cancer. This simple genetic test shows whether a patient with breast cancer will benefit from chemotherapy. Though Caitlin’s test showed she would need chemotherapy, an estimated 70% of patients with common forms of breast cancer may not need it as part of their treatment plan.

“Every day during Empire State Ride, we realize why we're all doing this, and it is to raise money to find new treatments for cancer, new research dollars,” Caitlin says.

Dr. Joyce Ohm, Chair of Genetics and Genomics at Roswell Park. ESR road warrior. Clarifying picture

Caitlin’s Favorite Part of the Empire State Ride

For the 2023 Empire State Ride, Caitlin plans to greet her ESR family at the finish line and cheer each and every one of them on for their accomplishment. She’ll also be volunteering that day and hopes that she’ll be able to volunteer for the full week again next year. In the meantime, she’s grateful she can take in her favorite part of the adventure.

“The best part of the whole thing? Seeing that finish line moment,” she says. “It’s so great at the end, because they reach the finish line and everyone’s crying because it was such an emotional week hearing all the survivor and patient stories.”

Will you join Caitlin in her mission to end cancer?

Meet first-time ESR road warrior Laura Jean

Her Journey from Kidney Donor to Road Warrior

For aspiring Empire State Ride road warrior, Laura Jean, this July will look much different than it did just a year ago. She’s set her sights on riding 500+ miles from Staten Island to Niagara Falls for the first time ever. Already, Laura’s envisioning the roar of the crowd at the finish line and the smiling faces waiting to greet her at the end of her weeklong journey.

“I’m an emotional person, so I can guarantee that I’ll probably be sobbing. It’ll be part of the accomplishment: seeing a lot of friends and family and knowing the difference that I’ve made.” She smiles and adds, “and then, I’ll probably feel pure exhaustion, too.”

Of course, that exhaustion will be a different kind of fatigue than what she felt last year.

An act of heroism

On July 11, 2022, Laura lay in the recovery room of her local hospital following a surgery to remove her kidney. Though she is the picture of health, she had committed to donating her kidney — to a perfect stranger.

Prior to the procedure, Laura never once met her recipient, Elena DePaolo. In fact, Laura had come to learn about Elena’s story through Facebook. She considered helping at first, but then Elena’s story disappeared, and Laura assumed she had found a match. Then, a few months later, the story resurfaced. Laura dug a little deeper and saw that she and Elena shared many things in common — like their hometown and several mutual friends, just to name a couple. What was serendipitous about all of this was that both women are adoptive mothers.

Laura Kashishian lies in the hospital before her surgery to remove and donate her kidney

“I just felt really connected at that moment, and I thought that I had to give it a try. By the end of the month, I had reached out to start the process of donating my kidney,” Laura says.

To many, Laura’s act of heroism in the face of a call for help is one for the headlines. For the 40-year-old Niagara Falls native, however, it’s the story of how a stranger became a close friend.

Laura and Elena had a chance to meet in the hospital following the procedure, and now the two regularly get together for coffee or playdates for their kids.

“I met her the day after my transplant, and it was really emotional.” Elena says about their encounter. “When someone does something for you and you can never repay them, all you can think is, ‘She saved my life.’”

“There were lots of hugs and tears and a lot of emotion,” Laura says.

Elena recalls the first time Laura came to her house after the surgery to meet her three-year-old son. “He warmed right up to Laura the first time she came over. He was playing dinosaurs with her, and you could tell he knew she was a good person.”

Now, Laura’s planning to dedicate her Empire State Ride to end cancer to two people: Her mom, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2021, and her new friend Elena, whose battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia started in 2016.

Laura and Elena smile for the camera
Laura and Elena meet in the hospital for the first time after their surgeries. Laura donated a kidney to Elena. Context.
Laura and Elena stand in front of a Spiderman birthday display. Filler image

Elena’s Cancer Journey, from Her Perspective

Elena’s journey has had many twists and turns. While trying to start a family, she learned she had a condition that caused the organs on the left side of her body to be underdeveloped. Her left kidney had never worked.

Then, she learned she had acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and she turned to Roswell Park. Her doctors immediately took action to combat the blood cancer. As part of her treatment, Elena received a stem cell transplant in October 2016. She was put on an anti-rejection medication so the transplant would take. It did, and the treatments proved effective for the cancer. Elena entered remission.

But her pre-existing condition, the cancer journey and her attempts to get pregnant took a toll on Elena’s body.

In 2017, Elena was diagnosed with stage 3 kidney disease, which progressed over several years into end-stage kidney disease. She started dialysis in March 2022 and held her breath in the hopes of finding a donor. But Elena was determined to find one. She put up flyers and went on every major news station that would have her to ask if anyone would be willing to donate. When she posted the story on Facebook, everyone in her community reshared the message.

When Elena finally did connect with a potential donor, the opportunity quickly fell through. So, by the time Elena learned she had another donor, she was skeptical.

“When they called me for the second time, I was afraid to be too excited. I didn’t tell anyone for a really long time,” Elena said.

When she met Laura after the surgery, however, her feelings had transformed. “When Laura walked in, I cried. I just felt like this complete stranger, who lived in the same town as me, helped me. It was like I met my angel.”

A Full-Circle Moment for Laura

For many, going through a major operation may warrant a little time off. For Laura, on the other hand, it was grounds to sign up for something big and challenging. Out of everything Laura is looking forward to this July during Empire State Ride, she hopes seeing Elena at the finish line will be a full-circle moment for both of them. She also hopes to inspire others to consider organ donation.

“I’m just hoping that people are able to see that you can go back to normal life after donating a kidney, and it’s a great gift to be able to give someone,” Laura said.

On Fundraising and the Road Ahead

Now, training and fundraising are in full effect for Laura. Though she originally worried about hitting the $3,500 fundraising minimum, it proved to be easier than anticipated. She’s already exceeded her original goal. She thanks her family, friends and the owner of a local small business for supporting her on her mission to make a difference.

Come July, she’ll be dedicating her ride to countless loved ones who’ve been affected by cancer, and she’ll wear their names on a custom jersey.

As for the Empire State Ride community right now? Laura says they’re already making her feel welcome.

“I’ve joined the Facebook group, so I can already gather the sense of community that this event brings. I’m really excited to get to meet some of the people that I’ve been interacting with on that site!”

Will you join Laura in her mission to give back?

Join Laura at #ESR23

Rider Spotlight: Meet BillytheKid

Meet BillytheKid

Here, Billy talks about the family business, being on the road for ESR and his journey with thyroid cancer

You’ll see BillytheKid Klein on the road during Empire State Ride sporting a large red nose and a sly smile. If you ask him about his nickname, he’ll tell you it’s just who he is. His family called five-year-old Billy by that name, and he now uses that name for all his businesses. He even signs his checks with a little running man heart and BillytheKid — anything to make people smile.

Billy lives on a large farm in rural Pennsylvania, where he’s resided for more than 45 years with his family, raising horses. His daughter won two world championships and a reserve in equine competition during her youth. When Billy and his wife retired from breeding stallions, they shifted their focus to more sentimental occasions: weddings. They acquired carriages and started a business that takes brides to the altar — in true Cinderella-style. The pair has several Victorian outfits and top hats that they wear to give the carriage ride a more magical feel.

“Taking a father and daughter to the altar for the ceremony and hearing their intimate talk and seeing the tears, and then, 25 minutes later, taking her to start her new life with her new groom — I would do that for nothing, just to experience it,” he said proudly.

Billy’s Cancer Journey

On a sunny day in New York City, Billy sat in a large waiting room of a local hospital. As he looked out over the East River, a group of people close by started talking about cycling. Billy’s ears perked up when he heard them mention a tour that went from Staten Island to Niagara Falls. He grabbed a seat next to them and started asking questions about the adventure. They pointed him to the Empire State Ride website, where Billy learned about the 500+ miles it took to get from one end of New York to the other, the road warriors who make it happen and the critical funds raised for cancer research.

“You’re in a certain state of mind when you’re in a hospital and with other people who share your problems,” he said. “Something really clicked. I felt chills reading the stories, seeing the testimonials. I was hooked. I did all the research I could and said, ‘I’m in!’

Cycling is a big part of Billy’s life, but the thought of riding between 70 and 100 miles per day seemed like a whole new ballgame. Embarking on Empire State Ride in honor of cancer patients felt like a challenge that he needed to take on to help others and honor his own story.

Billy’s cancer journey started in 2014 when he found himself more congested than usual. His doctors sent him for a chest X-ray, and that’s when they made a startling discovery: Billy had thyroid cancer. He soon had a full thyroidectomy followed by a round of radioactive isotopes to wipe out the residual cancer. For a while, that was it. They monitored Billy closely for five years.

Then, in January 2019, Billy’s doctors ran a round of tests that showed poorly differentiated thyroid cancer — cancer cells that don’t look like normal cancer cells. He began treatment again but soon became iodine resistant. The cancer started to grow, and it hasn’t stopped.

Billy’s First Empire State Ride

BilltheKid holds up a tribute card on the road during the 2022 Empire State Ride
Billy stands nose to nose with another ESR rider.

Billy’s own cancer journey, and those of his loved ones, made his commitment to participating in the 2022 Empire State Ride even more meaningful. But it’s the experience that Billy had on the road that sold him on hitting the road again this year for #ESR23.

“It was life-changing,” he said. “You know how you go to a concert or a movie that’s so great you don’t want it to end? You don’t look at your watch. You don’t want to know the time. Well, that’s the feeling I had the last day of ESR.”

Billy raves about the community of people that he was surrounded by as he rode the 500+ miles across the state. Despite some riders being younger and having better endurance, Billy said people really looked out for him and helped him complete the mileage.

Billy wears his clown nose

“The amount of support from others … I mean, they knew I was the old guy and they put me in a slipstream and surrounded me to protect me,” he said. “I just so appreciated that. It really helped me feel like part of the group.”

On Fundraising

As for the fundraising, Billy said he really felt intimidated by having to raise $3,500 when he first signed up. Many of his friends were retired and on strict budgets. So, he started by asking for small amounts and he kept asking everyone he knew. Before he knew it, he’d hit his goal. Then, on the road, Billy would share his daily progress. Once people saw firsthand what Billy was doing, even more donations rolled in.

“I put in a report every night to my contributors on Facebook,” he said. “Money just started flowing in. It was overwhelming. I went to sleep crying every night because I was so touched.”

As for fundraising for 2023, Billy sought out an endowment from a local Jewish organization. He presented about the impact Empire State Ride has on cancer, and they offered a $3,000 donation. Now, he plans to raise his goal and keep going for a cause that’s helping other survivors and thrivers just like him.

“My grandfather used to say a dollar is made up of 100 pennies. That's really kind of what Empire State Ride is, you know? It takes a lot of $25 bills to add up, but to just sit back and watch it grow is astounding. I choke up every time I think about it.”

Learn more about where the funds go below and register today!

BillytheKid's new ride for 2023

Coach Charlie Livermore: Nutrition and Hydration for ESR Training

The Empire State Ride is lucky to have the support of professional cycling coach Charlie Livermore as an advisor and friend. Charlie is not only a coach at Carmichael Training Systems, but also serves as a training consultant on our adventure across New York State. He offers his expertise and tips to all ESR riders and joins us on the road each July to ride 500+ miles.

All blogs by Charlie.

Coach Charlie Livermore on Nutrition and Hydration.

The aim of this blog is to give you simple tips you can use to fuel your hydration and nutrition strategy as you train for the 2023 Empire State Ride. 

In my coaching practice, I spend equal amount of time prescribing training and the fueling strategy necessary to complete those workouts and adapt positively. In this era of low carbohydrate diets, getting my athletes to consume enough carbohydrates is a struggle. When they do, the difference in the consistency of their moderate-to-high intensity efforts is astonishing.

Carbohydrate needs may be different at different exercise intensities. When exercise intensity is low and total carbohydrate oxidation rates are low, carbohydrate intake may have to be adjusted downward. With increasing exercise intensity, the active muscle mass becomes more and more dependent on carbohydrates as a source of energy.

Hydration is perhaps even more critical to get right for all workouts. One of my favorite quotes, “Nutrition doesn’t work in a dehydrated environment,” sums it up well.

Here’s a closer look at both areas:

Hydration.

The weather gets hot in July, and your body’s cooling mechanism is sweat. You must replace both the liquid and the electrolytes that make up your sweat. The less acclimated you are to heat, the more electrolytes you lose through sweat. Here are some tips to keep you well hydrated all week:

  • Drink 1 to 1.5 bottles per hour, depending on the intensity and length of the ride. Use an exercise hydration product that primarily focuses on replenishing electrolytes and carbohydrates.

  • If you have a computer that has an “Alert” feature, program it to remind you to drink every 10-20 minutes. The latest research recommends drinking greater amounts every 20 minutes vs. small sips every 10 minutes. If you choose every 20 minutes, you’ll need to drink a third of your bottle at a time. Either way, you’ll be fine.

  • Drink before and after your ride. Drink 8 ounces of water first thing in the morning and begin hydrating for the next day as soon as you finish you ride. A common practice I use (it’s hot in Florida) is to weigh myself before and after my ride. Then, I hydrate until I recapture my pre-ride weight. If you lost more than 3% of your morning weight, you didn’t drink enough during your ride.

  • If you’re urinating a lot throughout the day and the color is toward the clear side, you may not be absorbing what you’re drinking. Add some electrolytes to help absorption.
Meal #1 of ESR
Meal #1 of ESR

Nutrition.

Now that we’re beginning the level of intensity in training that requires glycolytic energy metabolism, we need to make sure we have the fuel/energy for the work required. For this type of work, carbohydrates will be your primary source of energy — but you also need protein.

 

Click the headings below to learn more:

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates requirements depend on the duration of your workout or ride. For the purposes of this guide: I’m going to break it down to three categories: Short: 45-60 minutes, Medium: 60 minutes to 2 hours and Long: 2+ hours.

Short: 45-60 minutes.

  • Pre-Workout: If you haven’t eaten three hours prior to your workout, consume a Gel 15 minutes prior to the workout.
  • During workout: An electrolyte hydration mix is all you need for this workout. I prefer LMNT or Liquid IV.
  • After workout: Drink 24oz to 32oz of the same low-calorie hydration recommended above, especially if your workout was indoors or in hot weather.

Medium: 60 minutes – 2 hours.

  • Pre-Workout: If you haven’t eaten three hours prior to your workout, consume a sport bar or a PB+J sandwich prior to your workout.
  • During workout: Consume 40g of carbs per hour. Here’s an example:
  • Skratch Sport (21g of carbs) + 1x Gels (20g of carbs) = 41g of carbs
  • After workout: Immediately after a medium-intensity workout, drink 24 oz to 32 oz of the same low-calorie hydration such as LMNT or Liquid IV. Within 30–45 minutes, consume a sports recovery shake. I like Skratch Recovery.

Long: 2+ hours.

  • Pre-Workout: If you haven’t eaten three hours prior to your workout, consume a bar or a PB+J sandwich prior to your workout.
  • During workout: Consume 60g of carbs per hour. Here’s an example:
  • Skratch Sport (21g of carbs) + 2x Gels (40g of carbs) = 61g of carbs
  • After workout: Immediately after a long workout, drink 24oz to 32oz of the same low-calorie hydration such as LMNT or Liquid IV. Within 30–45 minutes, consume a sports recovery shake like Skratch Recovery.

Current data suggests that dietary protein intake needed to support metabolic adaptation, repair, remodeling, and protein turnover generally ranges from 1.5–2.0 g/kg/d or to make it very simple, 1 gram per pound of body weight. Daily protein intake goals should be met with a meal plan providing a regular spread of moderate amounts of high-quality protein across the day.

Recommendations are currently to consume 25-30g of protein per meal. The key to maximizing muscle protein synthesis is to consume that amount, 4-5 times per day with at least three hours in between each consumption.

Nutrition itself does not make you fitter on the bike. What it does, however, is provide significant contributions to what we are trying to achieve from training.

 

Good luck, 

Coach Charlie

How ESR impacts cancer research across the nation (and the globe)

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ve committed to riding Empire State Ride this year or you’re thinking about tackling this adventure of a lifetime soon. ESR has strong New York ties, particularly Western New York, the home of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. 

But what if your out-of-state donors or your prospective donors don’t have those same ties? Maybe they’ve never stepped foot in Buffalo, but they’re passionate about finding cures for cancer or they’re simply interested in supporting endeavors you’re passionate about.  Maybe you’re from out of state and are looking for a way to explain your impact. 

Here's what you can tell donors about the impact you’re making through ESR.

1.

When you make a gift to support Roswell Park through ESR, you’re ultimately making a worldwide impact.

Through regional, national and global collaboration, the funds that come to Roswell Park go into efforts that will change the way we prevent, diagnose and treat cancers of all kinds everywhere. After all, we’re all on the same side in the fight against cancer.

Rider holds gratitude banner with all her loved ones on it and the ESR sign in the background

2.

Donations fuel cancer research at Roswell Park. That research can be done by small local teams or larger, collaborative teams.

Either way, if the studies bring incredible discoveries (as they often do), that research leaves the lab and enters the realm of clinical trials which expand to reach patients everywhere. Still other research contributes to growing pools of data that scientists all over can learn from as our experts at Roswell Park make sense of what they’re finding hidden in our genes and in our immune systems.

A sign honoring loved ones affected by cancer

3.

Many clinical trials at Roswell Park are funded by donor support.

While every trial starts small, careful study brings those trials to patients in Western New York and then beyond. Clinical trials reach cancer centers all over, meaning they reach patients all over, bringing those promising treatments to people who are searching for hope in the toughest times of their lives. International partnerships in clinical trials have brought treatments developed by Roswell Park investigators to Australia, Canada, Cuba, China and beyond.

ESR rider holds sign at finish line in Niagara Falls

4.

The comprehensive cancer center in your region may have collaborated with Roswell Park on lifechanging work.

One easy way to start looking into that is through a simple search on Roswell Park’s website and the website of your local center.

Rider points to the back of his jersey, which honors loved ones affected by cancer

Looking forward

East coast, west coast, northern or southern hemisphere; any effort to better understand and more effectively treat and cure cancer is good news for all of us. Thank you, wholeheartedly, for joining us in this mission to end cancer as we know it. For good. Everywhere.

Cycling Safety 101

We're counting on you!

Two riders practicing good safety

The Empire State Ride is counting on everyone, regardless of cycling experience, to ride safely. We ride in all types of traffic conditions – big city streets, mixed use recreational paths, rural roads, village streets and everything in between. Along the way, you’ll encounter pedestrians, other cyclists and all types of vehicles, including cars and horses and wagons. To avoid accidents and injuries, it’s vital to pay attention to your surroundings and follow safety procedures.

Here is a list of all required safety gear:

Bicycle - Free transport icons A properly fitted CPSC-certified bicycle helmet. Consider MIPS or WaveCel for added protection. If your helmet doesn’t fit, is older or has cracks in it, replace it.

Bicycle - Free transport icons Front and rear lights, specifically a front white headlight and rear red tailgate. Bring extra batteries!

Bicycle - Free transport icons Bike repair kit and extra tube. Though Empire State Ride provides professional bike safety checks and repairs at camp each day, it’s always important to have a bike repair kit with a pump or CO2 and extra tube, just in case.

Bicycle - Free transport icons A bike mirror to see behind you.

Bicycle - Free transport icons An ESR-issued safety triangle (right).

bike safety triangle

Here are safety highlights that we must follow.

cone, pylons, safety, sign, traffic Follow the rules of the road.

cone, pylons, safety, sign, traffic Learn and use hand signals.

cone, pylons, safety, sign, traffic Make your intentions known well in advance to avoid causing an accident from behind.

cone, pylons, safety, sign, traffic Call out your passes.

cone, pylons, safety, sign, traffic Ensure cars are not coming up from behind before you make any passes.

cone, pylons, safety, sign, traffic Use your head and taillights each day (charge them overnight).

cone, pylons, safety, sign, traffic Wear bright clothing and your ESR-issued safety triangle.

cone, pylons, safety, sign, traffic Obey all traffic signs and lights. There are no closed courses on ESR.

cone, pylons, safety, sign, traffic Ride right – safely out of automobile traffic, on the shoulder, to the right on paths.

cone, pylons, safety, sign, traffic Take the lane with care to make turns against traffic.

cone, pylons, safety, sign, traffic Ride no more than two abreast, where safely possible, otherwise ride single file. NEVER ride 3-4-5 abreast. Do NOT hog the road to chit-chat.

cone, pylons, safety, sign, traffic Do NOT ride left of the center yellow line.

cone, pylons, safety, sign, traffic Do NOT impede traffic. Let cars safely pass.

cone, pylons, safety, sign, traffic If you must stop, pull off to the right, out of traffic.

cone, pylons, safety, sign, traffic Pacelines are dangerous in mixed groups of cyclists and on mixed use paths.

cone, pylons, safety, sign, traffic On trails, look both ways when crossing a road.

cone, pylons, safety, sign, traffic Beware of trail gates and/or bollards at intersections and trailheads.

cone, pylons, safety, sign, traffic Be courteous to other trail users and alert them to your approach.

cone, pylons, safety, sign, traffic Stay well hydrated.

cone, pylons, safety, sign, traffic Use sunscreen and/or protective clothing

cone, pylons, safety, sign, traffic Earbuds and personal audio are dangerous if you can’t hear hazards. Use one bud only or use bone buds that do not go in the ears. Adjust your volume so you can hear vehicles and other people.

 

Check out this safety video, courtesy of the League of American Cyclists

Let’s Get Started: Finding the Right Bike

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ESR Logo

This is part one of a blog series for first-time riders written by first-time Empire State Ride road warrior, Jenna. Join Jenna in learning the ropes as you prepare to ride 500+ miles to end cancer. 

“In a lot of ways, the Empire State Ride is the exact opposite of a race in that the people who are finishing at the end are getting some of the biggest cheers.”

I’m not a cyclist. But I have spoken with people who have done the Empire State Ride and heard many uplifting and inspiring stories. It has quickly become evident to me that the ESR journey is something special. So, I signed up as a first-time rider. Now, it’s time to get started.

As I prepare for my 500+ mile trek alongside new and returning riders, I know I have a long way to go. But I’ve started spinning regularly to build up to the beginner ESR training plan. I also swapped out my old Schwinn hybrid for a new-to-me road bike so that I can ride safely, efficiently and without injury.

Here are a few tips I’ve learned throughout my bike research:

There are many types of bikes out there: trail bikes, hybrids, road bikes, touring bikes; each one has a specific purpose. Road bikes are designed with speed and agility in mind, and their lightweight frame makes them ideal for tackling mileage when you don’t have to carry a ton of luggage (ESR takes care of that for you!). Touring bikes are built with a heavier frame and thicker tires to absorb the vibrations in the road. For long distances, a good endurance (not race) road bike is the best option.

Once you’ve figured out your bike type, you’ll want to make sure you’re looking at bikes that are the right size for you. You can find sizing charts online to determine the right frame, but you should also think about your contact points (meaning your pedals, handlebars and saddle) and other factors like your top tube length.

If you’re new to the sport like me, you’re best to leave this part to the experts — which brings me to my next point.

Your local bike shops understand sizing better than anyone and can either a) get you set up with a new bike or b) make any necessary adjustments needed on your bike so that it fits you. 

Road bikes can be expensive. While it can be tempting to buy a cheaper bike from a department store, quality is important when riding 500+ miles. If you are looking to buy secondhand, make sure you’re doing your research and then take it in for a proper tune-up and fitting.

This one is especially important. Make sure that you have the right gear to go along with your new bike, specifically:

  • A CPSC-certified bicycle helmet. Make sure you’re following the manufacturer’s instructions and replacing your helmet every few years, because materials degrade over time. It’s also important to ensure your helmet fits correctly, meaning that it’s low on your forehead, the straps are evenly adjusted, and it does not swivel.

    If your helmet doesn’t fit, is older or has cracks in it, replace it.

    You should also consider investing in a helmet with a Multidirectional Impact Protection (MIPS) system. This technology is relatively new and was developed by specialists in Sweden to absorb shock and better protect your head. You can also consider WaveCel technology as another advanced option.

  • Front and rear lights. Empire State Ride takes place on open roads and trailways. Having a front (white headlight) and rear (red tailgate) ensures that cars passing by you will clearly see you as you ride along. Make sure you use rechargeable batteries or bring extras, as well!

If you’re just getting started with training or considering joining as a new cyclist, let’s get started together. Share your experience with us by email at empirestateride@roswellpark.org or on our social media pages.

Rider Spotlight: Alan Kurtz

Meet ESR Road Warrior Alan Kurtz

Alan talks about the Hometown Challenge, overcoming obstacles and honoring 75+ loved ones

Alan Kurtz, 64, sits in front of a wall of race T-shirts, all cut down to squares and stitched together into a quilt that speaks to his lifelong passion. In front of them rests his road bike, a towel draped over the handlebars from his most recent ride. Running has always been at the center of Alan’s life. He’s completed seven marathons and qualified for the Boston Marathon — one of the world’s most prestigious and competitive running events. He ran the 26.2 miles with pride despite a sprained ankle. Later in life, he began competing in triathlons, which brought him into the world of cycling. Once he discovered Empire State Ride, the rest was history.

WHY EMPIRE STATE RIDE MATTERS

Image shows the back of Alan's custom jersey with the names of 75 people lost to cancer.

Like many, Alan has a personal connection to the cancer cause. He lost his father to cancer in 1984, and since then, he’s constantly sought out ways to honor his father’s memory. Walks and short races to raise money weren’t for Alan; he wanted something that would challenge him and combine his love of endurance sports. That’s when he saw a suggestion on Facebook for a 7-day bike tour. He clicked through, learned about the Empire State Ride and read that it supported clinical trials and cancer research at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. He knew he had to become a road warrior.

In 2017, Alan embarked on a journey of a lifetime to end cancer, joining his fellow road warriors in tackling the 500+ miles from New York City to Niagara Falls. He’s been involved with the event ever since. Along the way, he has honored his father’s 56-year legacy, as well as a growing list of other loved ones affected by cancer: his mother who passed away in 2018, his mother-in-law who passed away in 2016, his father-in-law who passed away in 2020, his uncle who lost his battle in 2022 and 71 others affected by various forms of cancer.

Alan also honors his own battle with prostate cancer after receiving a diagnosis this past year.

With cancer affecting so many facets of Alan’s life, he knew he’d keep coming back to Empire State Ride year over year. Of course, life sometimes has other plans.

RIDING THROUGH IT ALL

A global pandemic, the loss of loved ones, hip surgery and other obstacles have kept Alan from joining his fellow road warriors on the road in recent years. But that hasn’t stop him from participating. He’s completed the Empire State Ride 500+ Mile Hometown Challenge multiple times, always finding new and innovative ways to cover the distance.

This past year, Alan rode up the eastern seaboard of his home state of Florida over the course of seven days. He charted out a course that traveled along the east coast from his home near West Palm Beach, finishing up just north of Jacksonville, booking hotel rooms each night along the way. His wife followed him on his journey, meeting him at preset rest stops (with nutrition and hydration) and the “finish line” in front of each hotel.

Along the way, Alan took in the sights, including a statue of a tin man, piglets, Daytona Speedway and a PGA tournament golf course.

“It was beautiful. I’ve seen many parts of Florida driving, but riding it just gives you a whole new perspective. You can take in so much of the scenery: the local developments and real estate, the river, along the Intercoastal Waterway and, of course, the beach. It was really just a great ride. I’m glad I did it.”

For the challenge, he had two jerseys designed. One jersey indicated that his “Sunshine State Ride” was in support of the Empire State Ride; the other included the names of 75 people who motivate and inspire him to ride, a list that is not comprehensive.

“They are not alone,” Alan says. “More than anything, they (and numerous others) are why I ride!”

ALAN'S ADVICE ON THE HOMETOWN CHALLENGE

The beauty of the 500+ Mile Hometown Challenge is that you can log the miles on your terms while still raising funds for the same impactful cause. You can ride anywhere in the world and break up the miles however you choose during the month of July (or beyond).

“If this is a cause that you really believe in and you want to do something about it but can’t afford to go on the road, the Hometown Challenge is your best opportunity to do it,” Alan says. “It’s not that hard if you put your mind to it.”

Here are some of the great benefits you’ll get when you sign up for the challenge:

  • A private Facebook group with fellow riders to connect, share advice and ask questions
  • The new ESR myHUB app
  • Access to experts, including a fundraising coordinator, cycling coach and more
  • Fundraising tools to help you meet and exceed your personal goal
  • Challenge to track your miles during the month of July
  • Rewards to celebrate your milestones
  • A team of other cyclists from around the world, ready to take on this adventure with you

“ESR, to me, is not only about the challenge; more importantly, it’s about the cause. Figure out what you’re comfortable with, get dedicated, get motivated and get out there and do it,” Alan says. “You will get better, you will get more comfortable, and you’ll be able to go farther. It’s not about speed, but you will find yourself going faster, and you’ll find yourself just loving it.”

JOIN ALAN AT THIS YEAR'S RIDE — IN PERSON OR VIRTUALLY

Coach Charlie Livermore: Pedaling Efficiently

Charlie Livermore sits in a chair wearing an Empire State Ride jersey and smiles.

The Empire State Ride is lucky to have the support of professional cycling coach Charlie Livermore as an advisor and friend. Charlie is not only a coach at Carmichael Training Systems, but also serves as a training consultant on our adventure across New York State. He offers his expertise and tips to all ESR riders and joins us on the road each July to ride 500+ miles.  

All blogs by Charlie

Coach charlie LIvermore on Pedaling

This is a short version of a much longer talk on pedaling that Charlie will present at the ESR. The aim of this blog is to give you a simple technique you can practice to improve your pedaling efficiency.

Training for 2023 ESR requires lots of time at an easy, conversational pace (endurance intensity). Athletes often find this important piece of the training puzzle boring and repetitive. It’s too “easy” to keep your mind focused on the workout execution and counterintuitive to the old “no pain, no gain” cliche. But there’s no better time to practice your pedaling mechanics and improve your cycling efficiency than during those 60’ to 6-hour endurance rides. The smoother and more efficient you can train your pedaling stroke, the less energy you require to maintain your power or speed — and who wouldn’t benefit from that?

Think of a pedal stroke in the same way you might think of a golf swing, tennis swing or swim stroke. It’s a complex series of muscle activation of the hips, gluteus and leg muscles to act on moving the crank in a circle to create maximum torque. The longer you can create torque around the pedal stroke, the better. This is referred to as the duty cycle.

In the image below, you can see what the duty cycle of an efficient cyclist looks like compared to the duty cycle of most recreational cyclists.

On the left, the efficient cyclist starts applying tangential force when the crank is behind 12 o’clock (green) and ends at about 7 o’clock (pink). On the right, the duty cycle starts at 1 o’clock (pink) and ends before 6 o’clock (green).

A graph that shows the pedaling range of advanced and everyday riders.

It’s clear that there’s much more time in the duty cycle of an efficient cyclist. If you think about what’s happening on the other side of the crank of a short duty cycle, there’s a whole lot of time where there’s no force on the pedals at all. This results in the bike decelerating, forcing you to reaccelerate with every pedal stroke. If you have a hard time keeping your speed in a headwind or on a climb, you most likely have a short duty cycle.

So, how do we practice and change our pedaling efficiency? It’s really easy in theory, but it will take some time to adjust. Human are programmed to walk not pedal, and we are essentially applying walking biomechanics to pedaling, which looks like this: push down, wait for the feedback when our foot feels the floor, and then begin the process with the other leg.

To change that, we have to avoid reaching the floor and stop thinking about pushing down. Instead, think about pushing across the top and sweeping back before you feel the bottom. You don’t have to think about pushing down. That will happen naturally.

A graph that shows the pedaling range of advanced and everyday riders.

Quick tips

Things to think about and work on while practicing efficient pedaling technique:

  • Pedaling in the saddle is a two-joint action: hip joint and knee joint. No need to act on the ankle joint. No ankling.
  • Walking is a two-joint action: knee joint and ankle joint. We are not walking.
  • Think about pedaling from the hips, not the feet. Unless you’re sprinting, you should never feel much pressure on your foot against the pedals.
  • The push over the top starts by activating the muscles that extend the hip — the gluteus and rectus femoris.
  • The bottom sweep starts by activating the hamstring to close the knee joint. Try to feel your heel pulling back against your shoe.
  • To begin this technique, first focus on getting the sweep right. Try pedaling exclusively with the hamstrings (posterior chain) to activate and program this part of the stroke.
  • Imagine staying close to the top and the bottom of the circle. Do NOT overextend your leg on the downstroke or lift it too far over the top on the upstroke.
  • You are not pedaling in full circles! The pedal stroke is from 11 to 7 on a clock. Don’t overuse your hip flexor to “lift the leg.”
  • The advanced version of this technique is to synchronize the push over the top with the sweep through the bottom.

Thanks for reading!

Coach Charlie