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How to pack for a 500+ mile bike ride across New York State

Packing for ESR? Check out these tips.

Tackling a seven-day, 500+ mile cycling adventure takes preparation, and one of the best steps you can take to prepare for Empire State Ride is to pack appropriately. When you register for this lifechanging ride, you learn all the details about the adventure you’re taking on. Here, you’ll also find a list of necessities to pack and suggestions for some of the must-haves you may not have considered. 

Once you’ve reviewed the packing list, check out the tips below from our veteran riders for inspiration.

🚲 Terry Bourgeois

ESR founder Terry Bourgeois suggests packing:

  1. Flashlight for navigating camp
  2. Vitamins, focusing on magnesium and potassium supplements for recovery
  3. BioFreeze or a topical pain-relieving product
  4. Earplugs to use in the tent
  5. Desitin for skin irritation
Terry speaks into a microphone in an ESR shirt during the weeklong adventure. Filler content.

Maria COccia-Bourgeois

Seven-year rider Maria Thor is always prepared with:

  1. Performance bars
  2. Packs of nuts
  3. Pedialyte for hydration
  4. Toilet paper with a plastic bag for use in between rest stops
  5. Tube, co2 cartridge and bike tool

🚲 Joyce Ohm

Five-year veteran rider Joyce Ohm can’t leave home without:

  1. Gallon Ziplock plastic bags – she packs her kits (jersey, bibs, sports bra, socks) in plastic bags for each day, with clothes for the evening, as well. Dirty clothes go back in the plastic bags. If it rains, suitcases can get wet, and the bags protect her clothing from rain.
  2. Lightweight, fitted sheet to cover the air mattress
  3. Battery-operated fan for the tent
  4. Recovery shakes and a reusable water bottle
  5. …. and most importantly: A sense of humor!
Dr. Joyce Ohm dons a white Roswell Park lab coat in an office setting. She weighs in on ESR impact.

As part of the $3,500 fundraising commitment, riders are provided with a tent, air mattress, camp chair and towel service each day. Each rider is allowed two medium-size bags, plus a sleeping bag and pillow that we transport each day. The weight of any single bag may not exceed 35 pounds. Pack strategically to have everything you need to enjoy the week! 

The best tires for riding 500+ miles across New York State

Coach charlie LIvermore on Mobility

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

Are narrow bike tires really better?

This is a question that comes up a lot from ESR participants and it’s a good one. The answer is wider is better for all road surface conditions, but especially for the variable road surfaces you’ll encounter on the ESR route. Use the widest tire, with supple high-performance casings,  your bike frame will allow.

Wide tires make cycling more fun, safer, and just as fast as narrow tires on smooth surfaces and faster on less-maintained and bumpier roads. Additionally, lower tire pressures are much more comfortable acting as a mini shock absorber. The wider the tire, the less pressure required. In the test below, the 44 mm tires were inflated to 2.1 bar (30 psi); the 28 mm tires at 4.5 bar (65 psi).

Here’s a tire test on real roads, using a down-hill coast with constant speed, on a day with no wind. Same exact tire and casing on a 44mm vs a 28mm model.

The results:

28 mm: 27.636 km/h
44 mm: 27.564 km/h

Graphic that shows a tire test with rider climbing up the incline
tire size over run time graph

Debunking the Myth: Wide Tires Are Not Slower

It’s a common belief that wide tires are slower than narrow ones, but recent studies challenge this notion.

  • Real-World Testing:
    Lab tests on steel drums don’t accurately reflect real-world performance. To truly measure tire performance, tests must be conducted on real roads with a rider on the bike.
  • Results:
    Tests conducted on various tires, pressures, and road conditions consistently show minimal differences in speed between wide and narrow tires. Even at significantly lower pressures, wider tires roll at comparable speeds to their narrower counterparts.
  • Aerodynamics:
    Contrary to popular belief, wider tires don’t significantly compromise aerodynamics, especially at moderate speeds.
  • Track Tests:
    Power meter measurements on a track confirm that wider tires don’t require more power to pedal, and in some cases, they outperform narrower ones.
  • Smooth vs. Rough Roads:
    On rough roads, wider tires actually perform better due to their ability to absorb surface irregularities without compromising speed.
  • Real-World Performance:
    Racers have achieved remarkable success using wide tires in various competitions, showcasing their speed and durability.
  • Lab Tests vs. Real World:
    Lab tests on steel drums may suggest narrow tires are faster, but real-world conditions prove otherwise. Suspension losses caused by vibrations are not accounted for in drum tests.
  • Placebo Effect:
    Narrow tires may feel faster due to increased vibrations, but actual speed measurements show wide tires perform just as well.
  • Cornering Grip:
    Wider tires offer superior grip, especially on twisty descents, due to increased rubber on the road surface.

Conclusion:

Wide tires are not slower than narrow ones. Choosing tires with high-performance casings ensures both comfort and speed, debunking the myth that narrow tires are inherently faster.

I rode the last two ESR’s on 35mm tires and will increase to 38mm this year.

Look forward to seeing you all soon!

Coach Charlie

Camping at ESR: What you need to know

Empire State Ride is just around the corner, and riders are in for the journey of a lifetime. Not only are road warriors advancing cancer research from the seat of their bikes, but they’re also taking on a unique cycling challenge. If you’re anything like Maria Coccia-Bourgeois, you’re going to learn a lot during your week on the road.

“I did my first Empire State Ride, hopped on the bus and off I went. I’d never camped. I was a Holiday Inn girl, but I learned to camp, and I’ve learned a lot of things about myself that I never thought that I would do or could do."

If you’re a first-time road warrior or thinking about becoming one next year, you may be wondering what to expect at camp. After a long day of riding, there’s no better feeling than freshening up and getting settled in for the night. By familiarizing yourself with the schedule and resources, you can make the most out of your camping experience.

Here’s a quick snapshot of what to expect.

🚲Your experience Includes:

  • No-hassle tent camping, including tent, chair, air mattress, clean towels and daily delivery of your luggage
  • Shower truck, restrooms, bike truck and mechanics support
  • The ESR HUB, a central location for rider information, beverages, snacks, first-aid supplies, sunscreen, and cue sheets.
  • Wellness support, including first-aid and physical therapists as well as optional massages at riders’ expense
  • Catered breakfast and dinner with consideration for dietary restrictions
  • Charging stations for devices
  • Nightly mission-based programs
  • Hammocks and lawn games
Picture showing an ESR tent and chair
Picture showing the inside of an ESR tent

🚲Schedule

The last rest stop closes at 3 p.m. each day. Dinner starts at 5:30 p.m. with the nightly program at 6:15 p.m. that unites everyone around our shared mission to end cancer. Then, you have free time until 10 p.m. when quiet hours begin. You can use that time to enjoy our evening reception, chat with other riders or just unwind while reflecting on the day.

🚲 Camp Locations

ESR Map of camps

Orientation Day: July 20, 2024 — Wagner College, Staten Island

CAMP: Wagner College
1 Campus Rd, Staten Island, NY 10301

Day 1: July 21 — Somers Intermediate School, Somers

240 US-202
Somers, NY 10589

Day 2: July 22, 2024 — Dutchess County Fairgrounds, Rhinebeck

6636 U.S. 9
Rhinebeck, NY 12572

Day 3: July 23, 2024 — Shaker Heritage Society, Albany

25 Meeting House Rd
Albany, NY 12211

 

Day 4: July 24, 2024 — Donovan Middle School, Utica

Oneida County

1701 Noyes St, Utica, NY 13502

Day 5: July 25, 2024 — Weedsport Speedway, Weedsport

1 Speedway Drive #415
Weedsport, NY 13166

Day 6: July 26, 2024 — Ferris Goodrich American Legion, Spencerport

691 Trimmer Road
Spencerport, NY 14559

Day 7: July 27, 2024 — Finish Line in Niagara Falls, NY

101 Old Falls Street
Niagara Falls, NY 14303

“Camp is part of the camaraderie that makes ESR so special. It’s a great way to meet other riders and hear why people are there.”

“At the end of the day, it's not about the ride. It's about the funds raised. And it's about hanging out at camp when you get there. Trust me, the beer tastes really good after a day of riding.”

Thinking about tackling this summer adventure in 2024? Register today or read more.

Coach Charlie: How to prepare your body for #ESR24 training

Coach charlie LIvermore on Mobility

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

The days are getting shorter and for many ESR riders, the outdoor riding season is coming to an end. Fall and winter are typically the best times to begin an off-the-bike program. This period of low to no riding is when you can switch your focus to preparing your body for 2024 ESR training.

The goals of an off-season preparation program are injury prevention, improved muscle recruitment patterns and improved efficiency on the bike. There are many approaches. For example:

  • Cross train with running
  • Cross country skiing
  • Hiking
  • Start a strength resistance/weight training program
  • Take yoga or pilates classes
  • Mobility training

I’m a firm believer that mobility is what we all need most for our long-term health and wellbeing. When you change the way you move and correct the imbalances caused by our modern habits, you will get better results for all other off-season options and the spring cycling season itself.

Mobility is defined as the active control of a joint. It is the combination of strength, flexibility and control. Mobility training involves conditioning or priming joints at their end range of motion which then expands the joint’s workspace and contributes to long-lasting changes.

Flexibility is defined as the passive control of a joint. Flexibility training or stretching creates temporary changes to the tissues. Flexibility is the muscle’s ability to passively lengthen. Flexibility, therefore, is a component of mobility, though mobility and flexibility are not interchangeable.

The great thing about mobility training is that you can do it at home with minimum to no equipment, and most sessions are in the 12 – 30 minute range.

Here are my two favorite programs that you can stream and follow at home.

FOUNDATION TRAINING (FT) :    https://ftstreaming.com/

TRS VIRTUAL MOBILITY COACH: https://thereadystate.com/trial/

Start moving right and have a great fall and winter season!

See you on the road,

Coach Charlie

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

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

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.

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

Coach Charlie: How to train for your first century

Charlie Livermore on the 100-Miler

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

Your first 100-mile ride can seem like an intimidating task, but with the right preparation, anyone can develop the fitness, skills and confidence to ride your first century. This is a basic overview of important topics that will help you get to that first century finish line.

Training the body to meet the demands of a century is multidimensional; it’s not just about the bike workouts. Put it all together, and I’ll see you smiling at the end of your biggest day at Empire State Ride.

Pre-Training Preparation.

Bike Fit — You’ll be spending significant amount of time on your bike. Make sure you’re sitting correctly on it. Book an appointment with a professional bike fitter to ensure that your body is in the most optimal position on your bike.

Prepare Your Body — In a previous blog, I wrote about mobility. The time you spend preparing your body during the winter off-season will pay off when bike training starts in the spring.

Training.

There are training plans coming soon on the ESR website for beginners, intermediate and advanced riders. Choose the right one for you, and once you start, focus on consistency. Getting on your bike regularly is the key to success.

Recovery.

Adequate periods of rest are essential for adaptation to training stress. Rest days and weeks are built into the training plans. It’s important to adhere to them even if you don’t feel like you need a day off or an easy recovery week.

Nutrition.

You must consume enough energy (food) to support your activity level. Your focus should be on improving your fitness, not losing weight. A major component of recovery is replacing the energy used in a training session so you can repeat it. Visit the ESR website and read some of my past blogs on nutrition for a deeper dive into this important topic.

Skills.

From learning to ride in a group, eating and drinking while moving or pedaling and shifting your bike, skills are an important part of being a good and safe cyclist. The best way to learn skills is with a local cycling club that has good mentorship leaders. Go on group rides and ask lots of questions. I will be writing about shifting and pedaling in my next blog.

For a deeper dive into training and preparing for your first century ride, here’s an article I recommend you read from my friend, Chris Carmichael.

CHRIS CARMICHAEL

See you all in July!

Coach Charlie

Join us at the finish line!

Our ESR road warriors have committed to a 500+ mile journey across the state. Over seven days, they’ll tackle long distances, hills and exhaustion to honor everyone affected by cancer. Help us celebrate their accomplishment by cheering them on at the finish line! All enthusiasts welcome. 

Saturday, July 30 @ 2 p.m. – 6 p.m.

There will be food trucks, music and programming to honor our road warriors and congratulate them on completing their adventure. Our road warriors will cross the finish line around 4 p.m.

Here's what you can expect

  • Food trucks
  • 42 North Brewing Tap Trekker
  • Live music
  • Programming on our riders’ impact
  • Opportunity to purchase ESR gear
  • Awesome signs and plenty of cheering
  • Smiles as hundreds of road warriors embrace that finish line feeling

What to Bring

  • Enthusiasm
  • Inspiration and willingness to create a sign
  • Spending money and appropriate gear for the weather

Parking

Map showing parking in Niagara Falls