Velodrome Resurfacing Update

3/27  Velodrome Resurfacing update. We are now at the end of March, and we expected to be done by now.   So what's the scoop? So here is what I know, or think I know about the current state of the track surface. I'm not an SDVA board member, and I'm not managing the project for the SDVA.  So you can consider all of this hearsay, conjecture, and  educated guessing.

In January, I wrote a post about what was going on with the track resurfacing.      If you haven't read that, it's a great place to start.  It explains the problems with the first contractor,  and suggested that the track would be open by mid-March.   Of course we are in the last few days of March, and the track still isn't open.

There are a few things that caused additional delays. If you live here in San Diego, you know that we've had record rains  in the last couple of months.   The rain prevent work from being done on the actually rainy days.  But also left the infield soil so wet, that the heavy equipment required for the job simply couldn't operate.  On top of that,  the possibility of legal  conflict with the original contractor meant that a representative from the city and/or parks department asked the SDVA to cease work for a short time while city of SD representatives examined the situation.     Once the go-ahead was given from the city/parks department and the infield was sufficiently dry, the crews at Hazard construction returned to work.

I've stopped by a few times and watched the crews at work measuring and  leveling the surface.   I believe that t the next step is to put a smooth layer of asphalt on  top of the existing level surface, and that is starting this week.  That is really  the difficult part.    After the smooth surface is laid out, it's just a matter of measuring and painting the lines, and the re-installing the fence at the top.   These things take a little time, but aren't inherently complex and should go off without a hitch.   I'm hoping that the track will be rideable  in the first half of May, so keep your fingers crossed on that.   In the meantime   the Spring Veloswap is scheduled for April 23, and even if the track isn't ready to ride,  theVeloSwap is a go!

What is happening with the San Diego Velodrome resurfacing?

Many  people have been asking me what is going ton with the San Diego Velodrome resurfacing project.   I'm not  directly involved with any of the resurfacing, and I have not served on the SDVA board of directors for several years now.  That being said,  everything here is my personal understanding of what is going on and does not represent  opinion of the San Diego Velodrome Association,  any of the members of the board of directors, or anyone else but me.     Here is what I know, or at least think I know. Mark Ainsle has been the driving force  behind this project.   Many of us have tried to get the ball rolling on a resurfacing project, but Mark is the one that really  took it on and finally  got it moving.   In early fall,  2016 a bid was accepted to resurface the entire track in blacktop.  Some question the  use of  the asphalt/ blacktop type surface,  but it is actually an ideal surface for an  outdoor track such as ours.   Concrete is at least 5 X as expensive, is so hard that it feels  bumpy to the riders, ALL concrete  will develop  cracks, and can be  difficult to repair.    The epoxy  type surface that  we previously had was difficult to repair, allowed water to seep underneath, and  was  slippery as snot when it became wet.      The epoxy surface had been patched many times over the last 20 years, and simply needed to be replaced.    Black top/asphalt is actually the original surface of the track, and the  epoxy surface was installed over that.    The photos below show the original surface of the track as it was built over 40 years ago:

All Photos uploaded to  San Diego Velodrome Unofficial Discussion Facebook  Page by Dusty Wynne

The bid was accepted and the contractor got to work, the expectation was that the  resurfacing itself would take only 4 days.   There are frequently delays in construction project, as things seldom go perfectly to plan.  But the contractor  ran into problem after problem, most of them generated by his own mistakes.  Days became weeks, and he did not appear to be making any progress.   It almost seems that the more he tried to create a nice, smooth surface, the worse it became.   After ~ 8 weeks and with the track in worse condition than before, the contractor was asked to leave the job.

The current state of the track surface: All Photos uploaded to  San Diego Velodrome Unofficial Discussion Facebook Page by Mark Ainsle

Mark Ainsle has been project managing the job for the SDVA and has put in many hours to get this job done.    When it became obvious that the original contractor was not capable of  doing the job, Mark searched far and wide a contractor or expert  with appropriate experience that would  be willing and able take on the challenge.  But there simply aren't a whole lot of construction companies that have  the right experience for this sort of project.  And  of the few that do, none of them were willing and able to come to San Diego for the work.

Eventually, Mark  connected with  some executives at Hazard Construction, a large, local, San Diego company.   Hazard does not have  experience  resurfacing velodromes, but they are a huge company with  the experts, engineers, and equipment  to get the job done.   It appears that the Hazard Construction executives take personal pride in  the project as well.   The resurfacing was scheduled to be finished the first week of February, but that was before our most recent rains.   My guess  is that the completion date will shift by a week or so.   Even if we add another  week for  more rain or unexpected delays,   that still leaves plenty of time before racing typically starts and before  the first scheduled adult classes begin  in mid-March.      I'll post class  registration links as soon as I'm confident that  the track will be open.    Just email me: Sean@crankcycling.com if you would like top be put on the mailing list and get an alert when  registration opens.

Thanks to Mark Ainsle for putting in MANY hours of work on the resurfacing project.   I'm sure he'll be as happy as anyone when the whole thing is finished!



Holiday Coaching Sale!

Now is the time to think about the 2017 season.     A strong  winter foundation is a great way to prepare yourself for your best season ever.      An even better reason to start thinking about training for 2017, is that now through December 25th, you can  start  your coaching  with no start up fee, a savings of up to $250.    Additionally, with an optional annual commitment, you can get 10% off the monthly rate.    You can check out  coaching rates here.  Or email me: Sean@crankcycling.com with any questions. 88d7e4d7-c393-42b3-9baf-47a946de0228

Can mouthwash make you faster?

Can mouthwash make you faster?

No, we aren’t talking about Listerine, Scope, or any of those other mouthwashes that are intended to give you a clean mouth, fresh breath, and make you more kissable. We are talking about the opposite of that: a sweet drink that makes your mouth sticky with sugar, and you don’t even have to drink it. How does that work? First, let’s start with a little background.


Most athletes understand that moderate to high intensity exercise is fueled primarily by carbohydrate. We have large stores of fat, but the energy from that fat cannot be released quickly enough to fuel your muscles at those higher intensities. The chemical energy in carbohydrates can be turned into mechanical energy at a much faster rate. So pedaling harder or putting one foot in front of the other with any reasonable intensity requires carbohydrates as fuel. The problem with carbohydrate is that you can only store so much of it. Once that carbohydrate done, you’ll slow to a pace that can be sustained using only fat for energy. You’ll be slow, and you probably won’t be very happy. In the 90s, researchers firmly established that supplementing with carbohydrates, usually in the form of sugary drink, improved performance. But here’s the thing: Carbohydrate supplementation improved high intensity performance even when the intensity and duration of the exercise was not enough to deplete the athlete’s stores of carbohydrate. And these improvements were real, meaningful improvements, ranging from as little as little as 2.3-11%. What does this mean in real world terms? It means that improvements in a 40K cycling time trial, or a half marathon are measured not in seconds, but minutes. So what is going on here?

A large breakthrough came in 2004, when Doctor Carter from the University of Birrmingham did something new and interesting. He bypassed the mouth. Carter and colleagues had cyclists do a 40K time trial while receiving and infusion of either saline, or a carbohydrate solution at a rate of 1g/min of carbohydrate (similar to what an athlete could drink and absorb the good old fashioned way). As you might expect, blood glucose level in the carbohydrate group went up. What might surprise you is that there was no improvement in performance. That athletes didn’t go any faster. Carter’s follow up was to have athletes do another 40K time trial. But this time they would take a mouthful of carbohydrate drink, swirl it around for 5 seconds and then spit it out. You can probably guess what happened: The athletes improved on the order of about 3%, similar to if they had actually swallowed the drink. Once again, the improvement could be measured not just in seconds, but in minutes. Several other researchers have found similar results, but not all of them have. But there does seem to be a growing body of evidence that at least in some circumstances, a carbohydrate rinse improves endurance performance. So how does it work?


“Central governor theory” suggests that one of the limiters of performance is the brain, and I’m not talking about mental toughness here. According to central governor theory, the brain is constantly taking in all sorts of information about the physiological state of the body, and then regulating muscle recruitment based on that information. The evolutionary value of this would be to reduce the likelihood of self-harm. The brain tells the body to “ease up” to keep from hurting itself. The research on carbohydrate mouthwash/rinses suggests that some sort of chemoreceptors in the mouth tell the brain “more carbohydrate is coming!” so the brain allows the muscles to keep on pumping away.

Of course not everyone agrees. A few studies have shown no effect with the carbohydrate rinse. A few of these studies may have found an effect if the sample size were larger (the larger the sample, the easier it is to find differences). Studies that included 4 hours or more of fasting before the exercise session were more likely to find a benefit. So starting with full stores of muscle and liver glycogen may blunt the effect of the rinse. It also appears that the rinse doesn’t help with efforts of about 30 minutes or less, and nobody has really looked at efforts over 70 minutes.

So how can you put this information to use in a practical way? To some extent, this research has value even if we can’t put it directly to use right now, as it gives us insight into what limits human performance. But I think we can put it to practical use. In most cases, athletes should simply swallow their carbohydrate mix rather than spit it out. But athletes that experience an upset stomach ( GI distress) may be able to get the performance benefits of carbohydrate supplementation, while avoiding the distress. Some experimentation during training may be required, and the athlete may find it best to “rinse and spit”, “spit one, swallow one”, or something along those lines. The other practical implication is for people that are training for weight loss. It would be theoretically possible to use the “rinse and spit” method to complete a more intense workout, while also minimizing calorie intake.

So next time your legs are heavy and your stomach is in knots, just try the rinse and spit.

Questions? What would you like to see me write about next? Email me: coachsburke@gmail.com

Resources and further reading

Beelen, M., J. Berghuis, B. Bonaparte, S.B. Ballak, A.E. Jeukendrup, and L.J. van Loon (2009). Carbohydrate mouth rinsing in the fed state: Lack of enhancement of time-trial performance. Int. J. Sport Nutr. Exerc. Metab. 19:400-409.

Carter, J.M., A.E. Jeukendrup, C.H. Mann, and D.A. Jones (2004). The effect of glucose infusion on glucose kinetics during a 1-h time trial. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 36:1543-1550.

Carter, J.M., A.E. Jeukendrup, and D.A. Jones (2004). The effect of carbohydrate mouth rinse on 1-h cycle time trial performance. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 36:2107-2111.

Chambers, E.S., M.W. Bridge, and D.A. Jones (2009). Carbohydrate sensing in the human mouth: Effects on exercise performance and brain activity. J. Physiol. 587:1779-1794. Fares, E.J., and B. Kayser (2011). Carbohydrate mouth rinse effects on exercise capacity in pre- and postprandial states. J. Nutr. Metab.2011:385962.

Jeukendrup, A.E., S. Hopkins, L.F. Aragon-Vargas, and C. Hulston (2008). No effect of carbohydrate feeding on 16 km cycling time trial performance. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. 104:831-837.

Luden ND, Saunders MJ, D’Lugos AC, et al. Carbohydrate Mouth Rinsing Enhances High Intensity Time Trial Performance Following Prolonged Cycling. Nutrients. 2016;8(9):576. doi:10.3390/nu8090576.

Noakes, T.D. (2000). Physiological models to understand exercise fatigue and the adaptations that predict or enhance athletic performance. Scand. J. Med. Sci. Sports 10:123-145.

Silva T de A e, de Souza MEDCA, de Amorim JF, Stathis CG, Leandro CG, Lima-Silva AE. Can Carbohydrate Mouth Rinse Improve Performance during Exercise? A Systematic Review. Nutrients. 2014;6(1):1-10.

New Posts on the A4 Adventure website

I've got som cool new stuff on the Appetite 4 Adventure  website and Youtube Channel.  

Most recently, James  has showed us a quick look and review of the Knog Oi Bike Bell. I did a quick unboxing and first look  for a long term review of the Outdoor Tech Buckshot 2.0 Bluetooth Speaker.


We also have our first look at the 3T Exploro bike, and we hope to get one for a long term review.


La Vuelta Espana 2016 Stage 14: Col du Marie Blanque and Col d'Aubisque

I love the Pyrenees in the summer.  I've been lucky enough to   be able to make it there the last 3 years and ride some big climbs in the mountains.  Most  recently, I rode up Col du Marie Blanque and Col d'Aubisque  and then  watched stage 14 of the 2016 Vuelta Espana from the top.  I made a little video about the experience.   I hope you enjoy it:

Holiday gift ideas for every cyclist

What do you buy for the rider that has everything?  Here are a few ideas:  

The Sport Kilt.

Dropping  your pants in the parking lot to change into your kit  just isn't a very nice thing to to you your neighbors.   You can wrap a towel around your waist, but  Its comfy, it works better than a towel, and it makes the  car ride home oh so breezy!

Available at SportKilt.com:



 Pro Cycling on $10 a day.

Phil Gaimon tells so humorous  stories about his fast ascent into the pro peloton.  He'll make you chuckle,  and he'll  make you realize that you probably didn't want to be a pro bike racer anyway.

Available on Amazon.com

Pro Cycling on $10 a Day by Phil Gaimon


A Pebble Smart Watch

Pebble smart watches start at just $69.99, but my recommendation is to go for the $149 Pebble Time  What I find most useful about the Pebble is that when you get an incoming text, you can just glance at your wrist to read the message.   If the message is important, you can answer it.  If not, you worry about  it later.   Click on the pic to read a view on geekwire.com or go straight to pebble.com to buy one.



Thule Paramout DayPack

I love my Thule backpack.  I use it as a carry on/laptop bag when I fly, I use it when I ride my bike to go get groceries or beer, and I stuff it with close and shoes when I drive to the start of a mountainbike ride.     The rolltop protects the contents from rain and helps you fold the bag down to a smaller size when it isn't full.    The padded laptop sleeve cradles  my mac and protects it from  shock.  The whole thing is sturdily built and looks great. Buy it on the Thule Websitethule



Lezyne Road Drive Pump

Real bike riders do epics rides.   Real bike riders might need more than just a few CO2s to get them home.   The Lezyne Road Drive mini pump is a must have accessory for  riders that love  REALLY get out on the open roads, where there is no cell service and no bike shop for 30 miles.    Just carry this  pump, and extra tire, and a patch kit.  It is way better than walking.  You can use the water bottle cage mount that comes with  it,  or you can just stick it in your pocket.   The detachable hose fits inside the pump when not in use, and is easy on the valve stems.   Get it at your local bike shop or many online retailers.   Lezyne.com

lezyne 2




San Diego Cycling Camp 2016

February 14-21, 2016

Greenville Cycling &  Crank Cycling are joining up to bring you a world-class training camp in sunny Southern California in Winter/ Spring, 2016. Based in Carlsbad ( North County San Diego), this camp will provide the enthusiast rider and the avid racer an opportunity to train out of a relaxing seaside resort, the Carlsbad Inn. We’ll blend a variety of rides up and down the beautiful SoCal coast along the Pacific Coast Highway with awesome rolling rides around northern San Diego County including an excursion into the  mountains in East County San Diego.  This cycling camp will not only provide you with some great days on the bike, but you'll have some great times off the bike as well.

Off the bike you can enjoy the trendy cafés and restaurants of Carlsbad Village just steps from the Pacific Ocean. Camp routes will test your fitness and skills; however you'll be on the road with some of the top coaches in the country. We are right there to answer any questions you have and each evening we have Coach Time where you can review your power files, map out a training plan, or ask nutrition or equipment questions. Power Training Camp Option: Each evening a coach can review your files with you and answer any questions you have. If you don't have a power meter and would like to learn more about training with power, rent a PowerTap wheel for the duration of camp! Take your training to the next level and learn more about training with power!


WEATHER: San Diego, CA has wonderful weather all year long! February has average low of 51 degree and high of 65. Humidity is relatively low.




Double Occupancy $2499, Single Occupancy $3299 Day camper fee $250/day • A $500 deposit is required at time of registration. 10% (of total camp cost) cancellation fee applied to any cancellations. Cancellations accepted up to 30 days prior. Final payment is due three weeks prior to camp and at this time all payments are final and non-refundable.


“Best mechanical support Iʼve ever experienced, bar none.” Courtney McDonald


Picturesque lodging at the Carlsbad Inn, www.carlsbadinn.com

  • Sag support on all rides including mechanic, snacks, and drinks
  • On-the-road coaching and support
  • File review and training analysis for all riders
  • Roundtrip airport to hotel ground transportation upon request
  • Professional mechanical support including bike assembly and disassembly, packing, daily adjustments, lube, and minor repairs
  • Breakfast daily, ride food and drink, lunch
  • End of Camp Banquet on last night at a local restaurant
  • Short and long ride options each day


Optional Daily Excursions: Enjoy San Diego! Be sure to check our website for info about activities outside of camp such as sailing, State Street Farmers Market, shopping, spa, Witch Creek Winery, surfing, etc

Ready to go or have a question?   Contact Sean Burke directly  619-865-3389

or reach out to us via the contact us page

What Causes Exercise Induced Cramps? Not what you think.

Cramps aren’t caused by sodium loss and dehydration (but make sure you replace your sodium and stay hydrated)  

Muscle cramps are the enemy.   Just when you were having a great race, on your way to a PR, and pushing your limits like never before, you get a cramp that forces you to slow down, or may leave you unable to continue.   Athletes have likely been searching for the exact cause  of  (and thus a way to prevent) exercise associated muscle cramps (EAMC) since before the Olympic games in ancient Greece, but the fact is that we still don’t fully understand the mechanism  that causes cramps.   One thing we can be sure of, or as sure as we can be of anything proven by science, is that muscle cramps are not caused by electrolyte depletion or dehydration.



This seems counter-intuitive to many,  the notion that cramps are caused by dehydration and electrolyte depletion has been around for a long time and has been  repeated so many times that it many simply accept it as fact.  This is probably because athletes that suffer cramps are frequently drenched in sweat and covered in salt, so there does seem to be some anecdotal evidence for the correlation.   However the fact is that there is no known mechanism by which sodium depletion or dehydration would cause cramps.   Additionally, there is little evidence to support the theory that the loss of sweat is actually responsible for the EAMC, and a large amount of evidence to refute it.     A quick search of the scientific literature generates several studies that show essentially no difference in the water or electrolyte losses of athletes that cramp, vs those who don’t cramp .      The research of the last decade or so has led to an acceptance among exercise researchers that electrolyte loss and dehydration are not the cause of EAMC.    But if losses due to sweat aren’t responsible for cramps, then what is the culprit?



The current school of thought is that cramps are primarily due to “altered neuromuscular control” due to fatigue.   While studies have shown that water and electrolyte losses are NOT associated with cramping, there are several factors that are definitely associated with EAMC, including lack of fitness, pre-race muscle fatigue   and athletes simply pushing themselves harder than usual.    The simple and effective treatment of stopping to rest and stretching the muscle likely gave researchers some of the first clues that dehydration was not the cause of cramps.  After all, stretching and rest does nothing to help with hydration or electrolyte levels.  The altered neuromuscular control theory truly began to take hold in 1996, and the evidence for theory has grown, as has the evidence against the dehydration/electrolyte theory.  There are a few different plausible theories for exactly how this “altered neuromuscular control” causes cramps, and as is typical, more research needs to be done. But the point is that there is a mountain of evidence to show that electrolyte depletion/dehydration is out, and general fatigue is in.



Does that mean you should skip the electrolyte beverage?   Absolutely not.  The American Dietetic Association, The American College of Sports Medicine, and Dieticians of Canada all recommend a carbohydrate/electrolyte beverage during prolonged exercise.  Dehydration due to lack of fluids, and hyponatremia due to sodium loss can be not only detrimental to performance, but deadly. So I recommend that all my athletes use a carbohydrate/electrolyte drink during all rides longer than an hour.   The most important thing about one of those beverages is that you like the taste and you’ll dink it.   It isn’t doing any good just sitting in your bottles, it has to find its way into your stomach.  I’m sponsored by Powerbar and I enjoy the taste of their lemon-lime Ironman Perform, so that’s what I put in my bottles, and in my stomach.   The carbohydrates and the electrolytes will help replace what you use and what you use.   But they won’t protect you from cramps.

It won’t keep you from cramping, but drink it anyway.

Bonus:   Some people have asked me about pickle juice to prevent cramps.  There is actually some strong evidence that pickle juice can help relieve cramps, and while researchers have typically used juice from a plain old jar of dill pickles, companies have been quick to sell pickle juice that is specifically marketed and packed for endurance athletes.  Pickle juice is high in sodium, but it does not appear to be the sodium that helps with the cramps.  The pickle juice works so rapidly, that the sodium does not have time to enter the stomach and then the bloodstream.  The most likely theory is that the acidity of the vinegar has an effect on the nerves at the back of the throat that somehow blocks the cramps.  As is typical more research is needed to determine the exact mechanism.

I’ll buy a bottle that also comes with the pickles!


Sean is the head coach for Crank Cycling in San Diego CA.   Have a question for Sean or a topic you would like to see covered?   Contact Sean Via his website: CrankCycling.com





1)Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2005 Jul;37(7):1081-5. Serum electrolytes in Ironman triathletes with exercise-associated muscle cramping. Sulzer NU1, Schwellnus MP, Noakes TD.


2) Br J Sports Med. 2004 Aug;38(4):488-92. Serum electrolyte concentrations and hydration status are not associated with exercise associated muscle cramping (EAMC) in distance runners. Schwellnus MP1, Nicol J, Laubscher R, Noakes TD.


3)Br J Sports Med. 2011 Jun;45(8):650-6. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2010.078535. Epub 2010 Dec 9. Increased running speed and previous cramps rather than dehydration or serum sodium changes predict exercise-associated muscle cramping: a prospective cohort study in 210 Ironman triathletes.Schwellnus MP1, Drew N, Collins M.


4)Br J Sports Med. 2009 Jun;43(6):401-8. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2008.050401. Epub 2008 Nov 3.Cause of exercise associated muscle cramps (EAMC)–altered neuromuscular control, dehydration or electrolyte depletion? Schwellnus MP.


5)Sports Med. 2007;37(4-5):364-7.Muscle cramping in the marathon : aetiology and risk factors. Schwellnus MP. J Athl Train. 2009 Sep-Oct;44(5):454-61. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-44.5.454.


6)J Athl Train. 2009 Sep-Oct;44(5):454-61. Electrolyte and plasma changes after ingestion of pickle juice, water, and a common carbohydrate-electrolyte solution. Miller KC1, Mack G, Knight KL.


7)J Am Diet Assoc. 2000 Dec;100(12):1543-56.  J Am Diet Assoc. 2000 Dec;100(12):1543-56. Position of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and athletic performance.

Strength Training and Endurance Performance.

mouse Strength training does not increase endurance performance, but you should probably do it anyway.

What exactly is strength?  For our purposes, I would  define neuromuscular strength as:  The ability of the muscle fibers   to produce   force.  In the case of a cyclist this would be the force against the pedals.     Endurance cycling doesn’t require much strength.    From a practical and mathematic  standpoint: The force required to push against the pedals while doing  a 40K TT at 90 RPM in under an  hour is less than 45lbs  of force.   Strength and force production simply aren’t a limiting component of putting out the power required for endurance performance.      From a pure scientific standpoint: I am aware of no  peer reviewed studies that indicate strength training in trained cyclists   improves  endurance performance, and I’ve seen several that show  no increase.   There is a preponderance of evidence to show that strength training will not improve your 20 or 40K.

But you should probably do it anyway.

One reason is that bike racing requires more than just steady power outputs and strength training CAN improve sprinting performance.  The US  racing scene is dominated by criteriums, which  require frequent hard accelerations out of corners and  almost always come down to a sprint, even if it is only between a few riders.  Non racers enjoy sprinting too, and we all know that  every club rider wants to throw down in the sprint for the city limit sign.    Even if you don’t consider yourself a sprinter, most races will involve some sort of sprint.   Very seldom does a rider just roll away from his or her rivals, so even the  135lb climber is probably going to have to sprint against someone to get the win.   For a mountain bike racer, a finishing sprint may not be important.  But improved strength can help power over that log, rock, or step up.

Another reason to do strength training is that it can help with your bone density and therefore your long term health.  In 2003 when I was studying exercise physiology at San Diego State University, two of my professors authored a paper titled, “ Low bone mineral density in highly trained male master cyclists.”  The take away message from study was that cycling may keep you fit, but it doesn’t keep your bones strong.   What does keep your bones strong is weight bearing activity, so most  cyclists ( men and women alike)  would be well served by adding strength training or other  bearing activity to their fitness regime.

Besides improving sprinting performance and increasing bone density,  a little  strength training  can also help prevent injuries, and just make you an overall healthier person.   A little shoulder and core strength can help you maintain that aero position longer and more comfortably, or prevent  back pain that some riders get on long rides, especially hilly ones. You aren't going to be come an amazing climber by doing crunches, and core work is not going to win the race for you.   But weakness and back pain can very easily kill your race.  One of my favorite reasons to strength train is another one altogether: Sometimes it feels good to just go to the gym and lift heavy stuff.

So if some weight training is appropriate for most riders, that just lead to many more questions such as: How Much?  What type?  and When?     The details of this can be a bit more complicated and must be a tailored to each individual rider.   It is important to remember that the best way to get better at riding your bike is to ride your bike.   So  for a committed bike racer, on “on the bike “  training is going to take precedence.     Most riders will benefit from doing most of their strength training during the winter, when it is the off season,  the days are short, and training volume goes down.    The weight training will help you stay fit through those winter days,  and strength training for only a short time each off season can pay dividends all year around.  Some cyclists, such as track sprinters and even some criterium specialists, may do weight training even during the racing season.   Cyclist will also have to balance their overall training stress, the total time they have to train, possible weight gain, their natural abilities, their desire to be more well-rounded as an athlete, and  many other factors.

We are coming up on the shortest day of the year,  so  it can be tough to get in weekday rides.   If you haven’t already begun an off season weight training program, now may be a good time to start.   Talk to a coach that is well versed and educated on strength training as well as cycling, do your own research, or find a well-qualified strength coach to help you develop your plan*.

Sean Burke is the head coach for Crank Cycling.

*If you choose to go with a  strength coach  rather than a cycling coach, I  would suggest going with someone with a   Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist ( CSCS) certification.   CSCS   is the gold standard for strength and conditioning coaches

7 Reasons You Should Race in Mexico

I’ve got many friends who live and /or race on both side of the US/Mexico border.  Some of them live in Tijuana or Ensenada, but many of them live north of that line in the dirt.   Don’t let that border fence keep you from going down south and having a great ride.  

    • The racing is cheap.   For example, my friend Omar Lozano is promoting a race in Tijuana On November 30th,  and entry fees run between 180 and 250 pesos, depending on your category.   That’s only $15/$20.   That makes the entry fees about half of what they are in the US  (Americans may have to pay $2-3 dollars more for insurance)
    • Tijuana and Mexico in General are safe. I usually accumulate several weeks in Mexico each year, and I’ve never felt unsafe. Of course there are some bad neighborhoods,  just as there are in any city.  There are neighborhoods right here in San Diego where I wouldn’t want to walk around after dark.  The same goes for LA, New York, or any big city.
    • The racing is fun! There is just something about racing in Mexico that is different than racing in the US.   Everyone races hard, but I feel like nobody takes themselves too seriously.  The racing scene in Mexico reminds me of cyclocross and MTB racing, in that the racing is hard and the athlete are fit.   But everyone is also having a great time.
    • The border wait has been significantly reduced. For the last decade or so, the San Ysidro Border wait could be a big barrier, with borders waits reaching 3 hours at peak times.   But recent opening of additional lanes, has reduced the  border wait during those peak times to 45 minutes, and sometimes as little as 15!
    • You don’t have to drive your car across the border. Many of the Americans that I know  ride across and to the race, so that is always an option.  You can also park your car on the north side of the border, cross by foot, and hop in a minivan cab to get a ride to the race.    The races in Tijuana are not far from the border and a cab ride will be cheap.    If you do drive, it is a good idea to get Mexican insurance from our friends at Baja Bound.  Your insurance company may cover you for somewhere around 20-25 miles into Mexico, but if you get in a fender bender, the Mexican authorities won’t recognize it.   Yet another option is to get a shuttle from Chula Vista to the  race v   I personally have an annual policy from Baja Bound, so I prefer to simple drive across.
    • You can have some great food while you are there:   Tijuana  is a great up an coming culinary scene.   And whether you prefer gourmet meals, or  food from a street cart, TJ has some of the best.  In fact I’ve never been much for ceviche or sushi but I’ve recently grown fond if it,  And some of the best fish I’ve ever had in my life was from places with plastic tables and chairs in Mexico.
    • It feels like a mini adventure: Even though I cross the border frequently, I still feel like it is a small adventure every time I do. It just breaks up the monotony of doing the same  thing every day, or every weekend.


    If you’d like to give racing in Mexico a try, you’ve got a great opportunity to give it a go on November 30th.   But even if you can’t  race that day, keep an eye on Omar’s website for his races in the US and Mexico.

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SRM Raw Power


Are  you using a Cannondale, Specialized, Rotor, or SRAM crank?  Looking for an SRM?  We have the deal for you.  For only $1490, you can get an SRM Powermeter.  This powermeter attache and  replaces the existing spider on your cranks.   This is an excellent way to get SRM Power on your bike for a great price!  Ready to go?  Have questions?  Contact Coach Burke at  sean@crankcycling.com or call 619-865-3389

3rd annual Boulder Creek Challenge Ride Report

3rd Annual Boulder Creek Challenge: Gravel Grinder, Challenge Ride, Fundraiserboulder creek 1 Last Saturday November 8th, riders congregated in Descanso to participate in the 3rd annual Boulder Creek Challenge.  The BCC began in 2012 as a way to have a great day on the bike as well as raise money and awareness for San Diego Velo Youth, a program that uses cycling as a tool to reach kids from at-risk schools and teach them about life skills.     The ride itself is a little over 60 miles, with over 6500 feet of climbing, most of it during the first 30 miles and on a dirt road.   The ride isn’t described as a race, but riders vie  for prizes at 3 KOM points along the route.  The nearly 5000 feet of climbing on dirt roads would mean that many would call it a gravel grinder one of the many gravel bikes on the market is probably the ideal bike for the ride.  We call it a “challenged ride” and riders are encouraged to challenge themselves, but equally as important is the fact that 100% of the proceeds go to San Diego VeloYouth.


The neutral rollout in through Descanso boulder creek 2

 The weather was sunny but cool, and  the rain from the week before had left the dirt roads in excellent condition.   The riders followed the  lead truck  on the neutral rollout and got to warm their legs up for a few miles before the climbing began.  The lead vehicle pulled away on Oak Grove road and , the highly motivated pair of  Dana Weber from Stage21/Cannondale and Tim Zandbergen  of Rokform/Rock-n –Road immediately turned the screws.  Ten minutes later, the duo had left everyone behind and they actually approached  FIRST KOM so quickly that the event staff was caught by surprise and barely caught them as the crossed the line.   Tim was first to the top of the first dirt climb and took the prize of PowerBar energy blasts.

Weber and Zandbergen riding away, with smiles on their faces

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Struggling to keep the dynamic duo in sight.boulder creek 4

Ryan Johnson, Kevin Lentz and  Celo Pacific , as well as   Everett Hauser of Adams Ave bikes chased up the dirt road as Weber and Zandbergen  bombed the dirt descent, sometimes getting their skinny tires  a bit sideways in the dirt.   The two stuck together and only widened the gap on the chasers on the 1200 foot dirt climb.   Here, Boulder Creek climbs at 12% or more for extended stretches, and the riders had to sit down and grind it out in a struggle to keep traction in the dirt.  When the twosome approached the second KOM, the other riders were nowhere in sight.     Weber wheelied across the line to take the KOM prize of a gift certificate to Toast Enoteca and Cucina  wine bar, while Tim earned the second place reward of another box of PowerBar product.

Weber and Zandbergen  heading down the first dirt descent

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The KOM Point Awaits

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Some riders enjoyed a more leisurely pace up the dirt climbs

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It doesn’t get much better than thisboulder creek 8

After the second KOM, the road turned to pavement and the riders rode towards the 3rd KOM atop Engineers road.    Dana and Tim hammered uo the 1200 foot climb and then  relaxed as they  crossed the line together to each win a pair of Spy Performance sunglasses and wait for the others.   It was over 10 minutes before the Celo Pacific boys made it up to the top of Engineers road to claim third and fourth  at the final KOM, and nearly  30 minutes until all the riders that made the time cut at the turnoff for  Engineer’s road reached the top.     The entire front  group stopped to trade a few war stories  and refuel with PowerBar blast, gels, and bars, then descended Engineer’s and rode towards Julian to enjoy some well-earned pie.

Katie Crist won the women’s KOM at the  Boulder Creek Fire Station and a pair of Spy Sunglasses

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 Former Olympian and world record holder Shaun Wallace was the first rider to cross the 2nd KOM, without making the time cut, and apparently the first to Julian Pie Company. boulder creek 10

Riders relaxed at Julian Pie Company as the KOM winners were recognized, and some even went for a second helping of pie.  After some pie, some coffee, and some trading of stories,  the riders rolled off together   back towards Descanso.  The climbing wasn’t quite finished, with 500 feet of elevation gain between Julian and Descanso park.   The group once again found Weber and Zandbergen pushing the pace, but not enough to break away, as a group of 10 crested the final hill and rode downhill into Descanso.

Julian Pie Company

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Riders Relaxing at Julian Pie Company  before the descent back into Descanso

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We consider the 3rd annual Boulder Creek Challenge  to be a huge success.    Everyone got to push their limits riding the beautiful dirt roads between Julian and Descanso.   The weather cooperated, we had some great pie, and we had great fun.    We also raised some money for San Diego VeloYouth and helped get kids from  at risk schools learning about life and riding bikes.     The 4th annual Boulder Creek Challenge will be some time during the first half of November 2015.  We hope  you’ll join us.


Sean is the head coach for Crank Cycling in San Diego CA.   Have a question for Sean or a topic you would like to see covered?   Contact Sean Via his website: CrankCycling.com



*All Photos Credit Elaine Hutchinson or Kathy Burcham



3rd Annual Boulder Creek Instructions and GPS files

Here is a GPS  file for the course: http://ridewithgps.com/routes/6430837

You'll find a video on how to put GPS files on your garmin here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AO6z83sOBdw

Arrive at 8:30 or so in order to have time to sign waivers and have a brief preride meeting.  We will have KOM prizes provided by Spy Optic, Aqua Al Due, and Powerbar

    We’ll roll out  at 9 am with a neutral start out of  the Descanso Park and R de on  I-8 and the 79.  We’ll roll down the hill and into Descanso and after about 3.5 miles, the neutral vehicle will pull away and its time to unleash the hounds.  Soon after, the road turns to dirt and begins to go uphill.   About 10 miles into the ride there will be an aid station and  KOM Prize( PowerBar Product) for the first rider to crest the  hill,  and then you’ll have almost 5 miles of dirt road descent.   Use caution here or you’ll find yourself on the ground.   Your arms and legs will feel the fatigue as you control your bike down the dirt downhill.   Use extreme caution when crossing Boulder Creek around mile 15.  If there has been any rain recently, the crossing will be as slick as ice and the mossy surface will pull your bike out from underneath you like a magic carpet.      You are now 800 feet lower than   the original start point, and you’ve got to climb your way out.     Don’t start off too hard, as the next KOM point is still 6.5 miles and over 1200 feet of climbing away.    At times, you’ll struggle to keep  the power down as the grade exceeds 12% and your  rear wheel  spins out in the dirt.     The second  KOM prize ( Aqua Al 2 gift certificate)  is at the intersection of Boulder Creek and Engineers Road.

The road turns to pavement here and the front group will turn right towards the 3rd KOM9 (Spy Optic)  ~4 miles and 1000 feet  up  Engineers road.  Anyone that is 20 minutes behind the front group will go straight and skip the third KOM  to go directly  to Julian.   When we arrive in Julian we’ll take a LEFT at the main street and  and enjoy some well earned apple pie at Julian Pie Company     Before long we’ll all head out of town and back towards the start.  The ride is mostly downhill from here, but we still haven’t hit the high point at  Paso Picacho State Park, 500 feet above Julian .  The downhill after the Paso Picacho is dangerous.   Pay attention to the warning signs and go slower than you think you should.  I’ve seen several riders on the ground and  have pulled  one  up off the tarmac myself.        From here you’ll  the relaxing downhill all the way back to Descanso as your hard earned reward.


You should have a GPS file, and the course will also be marked,  It is pretty difficult to get lost out there, as once we hit builder creek there  really aren't any turns.  Several riders have done the course before, and know the route, and the sag vehicle will also direct you if you are unsure.

There will be aid stations and the first to KOM points stocked with PowerBar Product, as well as some roving support and a sag vehicle.   You should still plan to be self sufficient,  as it may take a while for the sag vehicle to catch you.   This means carry flat repair, water and food.

You can so this ride on a road bike with 23C tires and carbon wheels, a mountain bike, or anything in between.   I know because I've done it on all of these and had a great time doing it.    A gravel grinder type bike with ~28C tires or so is probably  the ideal bike for the ride, but you'll have fun on any bike you ride.

As far as gearing goes, if you are a stong climber, you'll be fine in a 53 X 25 ( even if it is hard, you'll make it up everything)   If you are not such a strong climber, then  compact chanring, OR at least a 28 in the back is a good idea.

The weather looks  ideal for the weekend,  it was near perfect when I rode it on Tuesday.  You probabaly won't need any layer, but if you do need them you can drop them off in a  (non- moving) support vehicle.   I'll brief you on this some more before the ride.

I'll see you all bright and early on Saturday!

Do some weight bearing exercise!

Cycling will  keep you fit and is great for cardiovascluar health and fitness.  But many studies have sown that masters athletes who only cycle, have lower bone density from masters athletes who also do weight bearing activity.    So do some weight bearing activity this fall and winter.  Strength training, running, hiking, and team sports such as soccer  or basketball are all great examples. MattMHike




The trouble with putting on a bike race in San Diego.

The problem with putting on a bike race in San Diego: Why are there so few bike races in San Diego?  It’s pretty simple:   The city doesn’t support them in any way.  In 2010, I wrote about why it costs $10,000 to put on an industrial park crit, in 2011and 2012, I wrote about how it costs $12,000 and then $13,500 to put  on an industrial park crit.   I’ve stopped writing one of those blog posts each year, but I assure you the costs have not gone down.   I’m lucky that I have a good spot on the calendar, and I get enough entries to make the event successful.   Yes, I put a little money in my pocket each year, but it really isn’t much.   Without the support of Spy Optic as title sponsor,  I probably would have called it quits a few years ago.  But recently, I’ve had some additional problems.


Problems after 10 years of racing the “Top Gun” course.

Shortly after the race in 2013, I got a call from the San Diego city permit office, asking me to talk with a business owner who was unhappy with the race.  Lou owns one of the buildings on Top Gun, where the Red Trolley Classic course had been for over 10 years.  He had called the city to express his displeasure at the closure of the road in front of one of his buildings, and claimed that one of the lessees had complained.   There are two businesses on Top Gun that are open the day of the race (typically the same Sunday as the Superbowl), a caterer and a cleaner.  Both businesses had minimal traffic that day, but they and their customers needed to get in and out.   I remedied this by putting up appropriate signage on Flanders that fed the customers through the alley and around in front of the business.    This seemed like a minimal impact of the business and the customers, as the total number of drivers coming in and out was fewer than 20, but this still wasn’t acceptable to Lou.   He was also upset that some of the racers had parked in his parking lot.   I had put up signage (that was summarily ignored by  many racers), but promised to put a person standing there all day in 2014 to be sure that nobody parked in his lot, but that was not acceptable to Lou either.   He made it clear that he wanted us gone, and would fight me every step of the way through the permit procedure.   I later called the City of San Diego permit office, and told them that I thought Lou was being unreasonable, and that I would do whatever I could to mitigate any impact to his business, but that he made it clear that he was going to fight me over the permit no matter what.  The special events administrator at the city basically told me that the permit office would side with the business owner by default; that the business owner didn’t have to prove his business was impacted; that it would be very difficult to get the permit if he wanted to fight me;  and  the fact that I have been holding this event for over a decade carried no weight whatsoever.   She also suggested that I use “the  course that the Cyclovets use” also known as the Hunnekens course.   I’m a very principled man and it ate me up inside to give into this bully, but I decided I would make lemons into lemonade.


Hunnekens and CAF

In 2014 I moved the race to the Hunnekens course.  I worked with Nico Marcolongo, the program manager for CAF Operation Rebound, to use the CAF parking lot as a registration and expo area.  There was only one business owner or representative on the racecourse that had concerns and that was Chris Nicholson, the manager of a lab that was inside the course.   Chris told me that they tested biological samples for Scripps hospitals and that samples needed to be delivered 24/7.    I addressed his concerns by reserving parking for his employees and couriers directly across the street, as well as providing a 4 seater golf cart to offer rides and to help couriers with any large containers.   We didn’t track the number of times a courier needed access to the building that day, but I’m positive that it was fewer than 10.   The event was a great success.  We had record participation numbers, we made a small but meaningful donation to Operation Rebound, and I heard no complaints from Chris Nicholson or anyone else on the course.

Trouble Ahead

I turned in the permit for Red Trolley 2015 in mid-September.   In years past, I would sometimes wait until as late as November to turn in my paper work.  However  a lawsuit against the city over the Sea World fireworks and a subsequent agreement requires an environmental study for each and every special event permitted in the city of San Diego.  These studies take time, and so the permit needs to be turned in earlier than in years past.  I assumed everything was going to go just as well as 2014 until I got a call from Cindy at the special events office.   Apparently Mr. Nicholson was unhappy about the Cyclovets Summer Classic Criterium on September 21, and was asking that no more permits for bike races are approved on Hunnekens street.   Cindy suggested that I find another course and that for all intent and purpose the city was highly likely to side with the Scripps Lab Manager.   I was again informed that neither 10+ year history of the race nor the mutual support between the event and CAF would count for anything.  I immediately called Mr. Nicholson and asked him how I could address his concerns.   Chris told me that the races were disruptive and that walking across the street and getting a ride in the cart was not working.   After a few minutes of discussion, it came down to the fact that he didn’t want his employees to be inconvenienced in any way.  He claimed that the lab had grown, the system we had put in was not working, and that those samples had to be delivered in a timely manner.  My insistence that the samples would still be delivered faster than they could be on any weekday fell on deaf ears, and Chris promised to fight the permits for all future cycling  events on the street in front of the lab.

On the 21st, I was present at the Hunnekens course to volunteer for the race.   I spent about 5 hours out on the course doing whatever needed to be done, and trying to make myself useful.   I spoke with the race organizer after the race and he confirmed that there were a few samples delivered to the lab throughout the day, but that it was fewer than 10 trips made be the courier that day and there did not seem to be any problems.   We also spoke about how we would stick together in an attempt to continue using the course.   On Monday, 9/22 I received a call from a police officer that works with the special events office.  The officer told me that she had heard from the lab manager last week, and she “strongly suggested” that I find another course.   I spoke wither again on 9/23, and she reiterated that if I were to fight for my permit I would most likely lose,  and that I wouldn’t even really get a chance to offer my side of the story any further.

What to do for 2015?

So the officials at the city made it clear that a business owner or manager simply has to claim that they are negatively impacted by a small special event and that the city will side with the business owner by default.  The complainant doesn’t have to prove or substantiate any sort of loss, they simply have to say that they don’t support the event and the event promoter has to prove otherwise.   So now I’m stuck.   If I fight the business manager and lose, I won’t have enough time to apply for a new permit in a new place.  My other option is to give into another jerk, give up on Hunnekens, and search for a new spot:  A spot that is as fun to race as Hunnekens or Top Gun, but where not a single business owner will complain.  I’m open to suggestions.

Do you know anyone that works in high level management at Scripps?

Do you have any ideas for a race course?

Share your thoughts with me via email.  Sean@crankcycling.com