The Best Movies About Cycling

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Over the last 200 hundred years, there have been thousands of cycling races across the world uniting sports and fitness enthusiasts alike. As popularity increased, filmmakers worked to portray the world of cycling in ways that the race viewers may not typically see. Films range from fiction to nonfiction, comedic to dramatic, from documentary to adventure. There is no shortage of movies on the long-established sport of cycling, and with so many to choose from, it may be helpful to start with a few of the best cycling movies.

Bicycle Dreams (2009)

 

This documentary focuses on the 2005 Race Across America, a 3,000-mile cross country event attempted by only the best endurance racers around. Starting with the tragic death of endurance cyclist Bob Breedlove, this story is proof of the astonishing strength of the human spirit.

 

The Armstrong Lie (2013)

 

Starting as a documentary on Armstrong’s extraordinary comeback from cancer, the film takes a turn as news breaks of Lance’s history of cheating with steroids. The film shows the once-known cycling hero’s fall into disgrace as he is stripped of his seven Tour De France titles and banned from professional cycling.

 

The Flying Scotsman (2006)

 

This film depicts the fantastic story of Scottish amateur cyclist Graeme Obree as he attempts to obtain the world record for the one-hour distance despite suffering from a mental illness and having no sponsors for support. Despite the establishment’s pushback of his self-made bike, the cyclist gives the world a story of undeniable triumph.

 

The Triplets of Belleville (2003)

 

If you are a fan of Tour de France, then this selection is for you. Although this French animation is different from most cycling movies, this funny and touching film has something to offer all. As a young boys grandmother attempts to train him to be a champion in cycling, she decides he will be the next winner of the Tour. This movie won the Oscar for Best Animated Foreign Film in 2004.

 

Breaking Away (1979)

 

This would not be a “Best of” list without mention this film. This representation of small-town America, life as a college student and amateur cyclist, this movie grossed $20 million in North America, proving its critical and commercial success. The American Film Institute ranked it as one of the top ten American sports films of all time.

 

The Biggest Cycling Races In History

By Mark Dziuban

 

In 1817, Baron von Drais invented the first version of what is now called bicycles. After 50 years and various design changes, the recognition of the freedom and fun that bicycles brought to the people led to the first mass-production of bicycles in 1868. On May 31st of that same year, cycling as a sport officially began.

 

The race was a 1,312 yard (or 1,200 meters) race near Paris. Within a year, the first city-to-city race was held between Paris and Rouen. In the U.S., the first recorded race was held in Boston on May 24, 1878. By the 1890’s, a new form of racing began to thrive: the six-day race. This non-stop competition includes 142 hours of round-the-clock racing performed by one to two-man teams. While cycling became common in continental Europe, England’s deteriorated road conditions hindered the popularity of the sport.

 

Throughout the following 200 years, many races and racers came and went leaving unbelievable stories and records to intrigue all for years to come. Here are just a few of the many unforgettable moments in cycling history.

 

In 1903, the Tour de France was inaugurated as an outsized and extravagant race. The 21-day-long race quickly became one of the most popular and prestigious cycling races in the world. This multi-stage race has been held over 100 times with route distances ranging from 2,000-2,200 miles. To this day, there have only been four cyclists to win the race five times altogether.

 

Founded in 1909, the Giro d’Italy, or La Corsa Rosa, is also a 21 day, 2,000+ mile long race. This race holds the title for most engaged fans, as the weather-related obstacles, such as freezing rain or snow, seems to present no problem for the tour enthusiasts.

 

Dating back to the 1930s, the Tour de Suisse is the most famous bicycle race in Switzerland. First won by Austrian cyclist Max Bulla, this race is known as the place to prove yourself before moving on to the Tour de France. There has been only one cyclist, Pasquale Fornara, who has managed to win the race four times.

 

Established in 1947, the Criterium du Dauphine incorporates eight individual stages over the course of eight days. Benefiting from its location and place on the calendar, race organizers often feature a mountain stage with a route that is nearly identical to what the Tour de France will trace one month later.

 

While racers and races continue to evolve, the stories, moments, and successes of those dedicated to the ultimate physical challenges will remain cherished and revered.

The best books on cycling

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There are a variety of great texts on cycling, including those focused on cycling history, professional competition, and philosophies on training. Here are a few of my favorite titles.

“How Cycling can Save the World” by Peter Walker

Guardian reporter and longtime cycling columnist Peter Walker delves into the place of cycling in a car-dominated society. Walker essentially argues that “the future of humanity depends on the bicycle,” discussing cycling’s impact on environmental sustainability and transportation safety.

“It’s All About the Bike” by Robert Penn

“It’s All About the Bike” is the true account of author Robert Penn’s journey to build the ideal bike. A seasoned cyclist with over 25,000 miles to his name, Penn explores various historic and cultural details surrounding the bicycle as he takes readers on his hunt for “two-wheel perfection,” exploring the reasons that avid cyclists continue to saddle up to this day.

“The Cycling Anthology” by Ellis Bacon and Lionel Birnie

If you are looking for a compilation of great writings on cycling, look no further than “The Cycling Anthology.” The collection brings together original and exclusive pieces written by leading cyclists and cyclist commentators. Covered topics include professional career development, the impact of statistics, and the legacy of Lance Armstrong.

 

“Shut Up, Legs!” by Jens Voigt

In “Shut Up, Legs,” beloved German cyclist Jens Voigt gives readers a closer look inside his cycling career, covering his victories in three stages of the Tour De France. Though Voigt never claimed an overall victory, he handled himself with grace and exhibited an aggressive, dedicated riding demeanor. The book “offers a rare glimpse inside Voigt’s heart and mind.”

 

“The Story of the Tour De France: Volume 1 – 1903-1964” by Bill McGann

The Tour De France is, unequivocally, the biggest spectacle in the cycling world — not to mention the sports world at large. This text dives into the historic event’s past and present, exploring its rise in size and success over the years. Readers are able to trace each chapter of what has become one of the greatest and most esteemed events in sports history.

Exploring common cycling ailments (Pt. 2)

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Like any endurance sport, cycling can come with its fair share of overuse injuries. There are a variety of pesky ailments that commonly plague dedicated cyclists, which can quickly interrupt — or end — an otherwise fruitful training cycle.

I previously explained how to approach and manage five common cycling ailments. Here now are answers to a few more frequent injuries.

 

Broken clavicle

Crashes and impact injuries are an unfortunate, but frequent part of competitive cycling — a group of fast-traveling athletes in close proximity to one another is sure to spell disaster now and then. There are obviously numerous ways these scenarios can lead to significant injury, but a common injury area is the clavicle, or the collarbone; this is not surprising, given this bone’s vulnerable exposure and front-facing position (any head-over-handlebars situation puts it at immediate risk of taking the brunt of the fall). This particular injury requires quick medical attention, so exercise common sense in any situation where you think you may have suffered a break or fracture.

 

Back pain

Given the fact that cycling usually entails a slightly bent-forward posture, it is no surprise that many cyclists mistakenly slouch during long rides, leading to pain in several critical areas — among them, the back. Additionally, many of us also hold jobs that find us sitting and bending over for long periods of time, causing an adverse shift in our biomechanics. Chronic back pain can quickly shut down a cycling season, so make sure to correct your posture problems and engage in proper stretching and strengthening exercises while you still can.

 

Arm pain

It is also not surprising that many cyclists occasionally grapple with arm pain — after all, a cyclist’s arms are responsible for the overall steering of the bike. The easiest way to correct this ailment is to check the reach on your bike; it may be too long and therefore responsible for unnecessary pressure and straining. Furthermore, check to make sure your handlebars are not set too low. These tips can also help to correct pain associated with the neck and upper back.

 

Exploring Common Cycling Ailments (Pt. 1)

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Like any endurance sport, cycling can come with its fair share of overuse injuries. There are a variety of pesky ailments that can plague dedicated cyclists and quickly interrupt — or end — an otherwise fruitful training cycle.

Here is how to approach and manage five of the most frequent cycling ailments.

 

Achilles tendonitis

Tendonitis of any body part is never fun, as the inflammation can be incredibly painful and stubborn with movement, but the achilles tendon is arguably one of the worst spots to develop the injury — especially in cycling. Each pedaling motion and dorsal flex is contingent on a healthy achilles, and pain in this area can quickly take a cyclist out of commission. Like most forms of tendonitis, achilles tendonitis can be avoided by preventing overtraining, stretching the area properly, and taking time off at the onset of any noteworthy pain. If the injury has already developed, the R.I.C.E method is your best bet (in other words, Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation). Additionally, give yourself ample recovery time to allow all the inflammation to fade.

 

Neck pain

The neck may not be a first consideration when listing areas of potential cycling injuries, but the reality is that neck pain plagues countless riders on a regular basis. Typically, this issue stems from poor head position and even poorer riding posture. The best rule of thumb is to keep your chin tucked, make a 90 degree angle between your shoulders and upper arms, and engage the muscles in your neck while looking up. Maintain this position and you should be able to solve your neck problems moving forward.

 

Groin pain

Cycling-related groin pain is not exactly surprising, for obvious reasons, but it is also fairly easy to fix. In almost all cases, the pain is likely coming from a poorly shaped or positioned saddle. It is important that you find a saddle that fits your body type perfectly, all while making sure it is properly installed onto your bike. Even a well-fitted saddle will create problems if it is not positioned correctly.

 

Knee pain

Given the basic biomechanics of cycling, it is also not surprising that many cyclists deal with nagging knee pain. The issue is arguably the most prominent in the sport, but it can be avoided with proper footwear, foot positioning, and proper foresight in terms of overuse and overtraining. If you are already experiencing knee pain, in addition to mending the aforementioned factors, take a few days to let your patellas recovery; they are potentially delicate parts of your body that will need to be strengthened and properly healed to avoid long-term problems.

 

Ironman competitions to consider in 2018 (Pt. 1)

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The Ironman triathlon is held in exceptionally high regard in competitive aerobic sports. The event essentially takes the components of a basic triathlon and pushes them to the extreme, challenging participants to complete a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride, and a marathon (aka, a 26.2-mile run) without a break. Understandably, these competitions are fierce and intense, and only the physically and mentally fit will stand a chance at completing all three tasks in succession.

However, as harrowing as Ironman races are, they can also be incredibly addictive; they present the ultimate challenge, and the sense of achievement gained through finishing can quickly morph into a full-fledged obsession.

If you have caught the Ironman itch, here are several competitions to consider during 2018, as listed on the official Ironman website.

 

Ironman Boulder

Located in mountainous Colorado, Boulder’s Ironman competition is both challenging and scenic. On one hand, participants will be able to take in breathtaking alpine sights, as majestic rocky mountain peaks stand on most of the course’s turns. On the other hand, this terrain makes for an unpredictable and quick-changing race experience, with flats and hills equally dispersed throughout the competition’s road segments. Those with a sense of adventure are particularly inclined to give this race a try.

 

Ironman Santa Rosa

Though less rugged than Boulder’s course, Santa Rosa’s Ironman event provides equally beautiful landscapes nestled in one of the country’s premiere wine regions. The race’s swim takes competitors across the coastal foothills of Sonoma County, while its marathon ventures through the Santa Rosa Creek Trail, a flat and shaded course proven to facilitate fast times. The course is a great one to achieve a personal best time.

 

Ironman Canada

If you are looking to venture outside the country for your next Ironman challenge, look no further than Ironman Canada. This storied competition combines the beautiful mountain landscapes of Western Canada with a rustic, woodsy aesthetic complete with cabin communities and pristine forests. Along the way, participants will get to visit Alta Lake at Rainbow Park, Valley Trail, Whistler Village, Lost Lake, and Green Lake. The race’s finish area, located adjacent to the Whistler Olympic Plaza, proves the perfect spot to indulge in your achievements and celebrate victory.

 

The best books on physical fitness (Pt.1)

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Whether you plan to lose weight, improve your cardiovascular health, or simply put on more muscle, physical fitness is a great lifestyle habit to adopt. Countless studies have highlighted the immense benefits gained from regular physical activity, and there are a variety of ways to get yourself in better shape.

Sometimes, however, it can be difficult or confusing to start or hone a physical endeavor. Times like these may warrant outside advice, motivation, and other forms of intervention focused on improving your experience henceforth. In terms of literature, there are many exercise-based stories and guides worth checking out.

Here are several notable books on physical fitness.

 

“Born to Run” by Ryan McDougal

A highly regarded text in distance running literature, Ryan McDougal’s “Born to Run” tells a story of “a hidden tribe, superathletes, and the greatest race the world has ever seen.” Interested readers will have to explore the book to find out what that description entails, but in short, McDougal provides a firsthand account of his journey to solve a nagging foot injury that stunted his running performance. His ventures led him to the Tarahumara Indians, an isolated Mexican tribe with ancient running practices that have made them seemingly impervious to injury. This book is not only great motivation for readers’ own running lives, it is an interesting look at an alternate running ideology.

 

“Starting Strength” by Mark Rippetoe

“Starting Strength,” written by renowned strength training coach Mark Rippetoe, is highly detailed guide to strength training for beginners. Rippetoe employs his own knowledge of strength training, alongside the input of other experienced coaches and sports scientists, to provide readers a step-by-step guide that is as thorough as it is accessible. This text is a must-read for anyone even vaguely interested in taking up lifting.

 

Strength Training Anatomy” by Frederic Delavier

With over 1 million copies sold, Frederic Delavier’s “Strength Training Anatomy” is another must-have for strength training junkies — both established and new. The text is the ultimate resource for in-depth strength training’s anatomical side, as it explores over 600 muscle illustrations detailing the importance of specific lifts, stretches, and muscle building cycles. This collection provides a full-fledged approach to strength training from both an internal and external perspective.

The Most Awesome Workout Ever

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It was the year 1899 when then commissioner of the U.S. Office of Patents Charles H. Duell declared, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” From our perspective 118 years later it seems absolutely ridiculous that someone who had so much access to the world of innovation could make such a statement.

Is your fitness and nutritional knowledge similar, or on par with what Duell thought regarding innovation back in 1899?

Have you concluded, based on what you “know”, that someone your age and current physical condition simply cannot change your physique or alter your metabolism? I would like you to think again as science continues to evolve and, in recent years has only begun to think differently. It wasn’t that long ago we were all impressed watching Rocky Balboa crack five raw eggs into a glass so he could increase his protein intake but, science has since proved a cooked egg harbors far more nutritional value than a raw one! So, if you’re drinking raw eggs and think you’re making gains, the fact is you’re not. Now I don’t know of anyone who is drinking raw eggs any longer but the point is, it’s time to disregard old workout myths and nutritional knowledge and replace them with some new scientific fact.

One of the old workout myths that may be keeping you away from the weights is that you need to lift hours upon hours, every day of the week. Well, the good news is that’s just not the case. In the pursuit of healthy fitness your body has three simple requirements: Exercise, Fuel, (in the form of food), and Rest-lots of rest! The primary focus of this blog is exercise so I’ll key in on that but you need to understand, the old way of thinking of over exerting ourselves, or “stop when you drop” is quite simply not true.

Contrary to what you may believe, weight training or “resistance exercise” has much more to offer than an overall increase in muscle size. Resistance training causes an increase in your body’s metabolism AND a decrease in body fat all while increasing its lean muscle mass. As discussed in one of my previous blogs, the reduction in caloric intake without resistance training simply teaches our bodies to store fuel in the form of adipose fat tissue, (as future emergency energy stores), while eating away at its own lean muscle mass for its current energy requirements. In other words, if you don’t use your muscles, you’ll lose them! Our bodies literally cannibalize themselves in order to preserve energy in the form of fat as, when dieting, (or caloric intake reduction), we are actually training our bodies to store fat for future energy needs. So, contrary to common belief we MUST eat AND resistance exercise to lose excess body fat!

So now that we know we need to work our muscle to lose fat, let me share my personal experience how I lost 20 pounds of adipose fat tissue and gained 6 pounds of lean muscle in just 6 months.

Like you may be, I was one who came to the conclusion that I simply do not have the genetic makeup to be lean. I always considered myself athletic, I just never had an athletic look, (do I sound like Duell back in 1899???). It was time to make a change. In order to do so I began to read and study. I took what I learned and prescribed a workout formula specific to my personal need. I hung up the bike and running shoes and hit the weights. Here are some interesting facts I learned throughout my research.

Our muscles are comprised of three different types of muscle fibers, each having its own primary function. The proportions of these three muscle fibers vary within each individual person AND within each individual muscle themselves. Genetics determines muscle fiber dominance. Let’s look at all three and find out what they do.

White Fast Twitch, or type IIb muscle fiber is responsible for strength and explosiveness. It is this muscle fiber that gives us muscle size. Work this muscle fiber exclusively if an increase in muscle size is desired. Athletes who possess natural ability for explosive movements required in such sports as sprinting and weightlifting are white fast twitch muscle dominant. To increase muscle size, resistance training requires using a weight heavy enough to be moved in the 4-6 rep range to exhaustion. If you can’t move the weight 4 times, you need to lighten the weight, if you can move the weight beyond 6 times, you’ll need to increase the weight-it’s that simple.

Red Fast Twitch, or type IIa muscle fibers are responsible for sustaining loads over a relatively prolonged period of time. People who genetically have more red fast twitch muscle fibers are best suited to play sport requiring stamina such as boxing, football, or basketball. To improve stamina, work your muscles in the weight room using a weight allowing 12-15 repetitions per set.

Red Slow Twitch, or type I muscle fibers provide energy over long periods of times and are best suited for endurance events such as long distance running and cycling. Exclusively work this muscle fiber in the weight room if it is weight loss desired and improving your long-distance endurance while not increasing muscle size. Using a weight allowing repetition ranges of 20-25 times is the weight required to work these muscle fibers.

I learned each of the three muscle fiber types provide a unique purpose from its other two counterparts but when called upon they can all work in unison. For my own specific purpose, I determined I wanted to lean up AND increase muscle size and stamina. I decided I needed to work all three. Sounds like a lot of work? It’s not. The National Federation of Professional Trainers, (NFPT), suggests working all three muscle fiber types in a single workout. Holistic training was the work out prescription for me.

The trick to working each muscle fiber within the same workout is to exhaust one muscle fiber before moving along to the next one. One must start with the biggest muscle fiber and work your way down the ladder. If muscle fibers are worked in the reverse order it would be easy to exhaust your red slow twitch muscle fibers recruiting your red fast twitch muscle fibers to take over the load. This is exactly what you must avoid.

So, let’s use a chest press as our example workout. Perform two warm up sets using a weight approximately 60% of the weight you plan on using for your heavy set. I perform 10-12 repetitions using slow and deliberate form. After your warm up, load up the bar to a weight you will be able to move 4-6 times before exhaustion. Always use a workout partner as a spotter to ensure your safety. Perform the first set to exhaustion. If you were able to do more than 6 reps, add weight to the bar, couldn’t do 4 reps, remove weight from the bar. This is an absolutely critical component of this work out. Now, rest three minutes and perform the set one more time.

During your next 3-minute rest, remove enough weight from the bar so you’ll be able to perform 12-15 reps for your next two sets. Remember, always take a three-minute rest to flush out your muscles making certain to drink water. Now that you have successfully exhausted your white fast twitch muscle fibers it is only your red fast twitch which can be recruited to move the new, lighter weight. Complete two sets here, lighten the bar one final time to a weight that you’ll be able to complete two final sets at 20-25 reps. The last set sounds easy but you’ll find these last two sets are the hardest. Your muscles will be filled with lactic acid which will not be allowed to be flushed out of your muscles until you put the weight down. You will feel a burn like you haven’t felt in years!

I work 5 different muscle groups for each work out. I am able to perform all repetitions as described in just 75 minutes. Stay focused and the time flies.

Day 1 and day 3 I work this exact set as described. Day 1 is chest and shoulders, Day 3 is back and legs. On days 5 and 6 I work the same muscle groups but instead of the holistic work out as described above I work my red slow twitch muscle fibers exclusively as weight loss is my primary goal. 5 sets of each muscle group done in reps of 20-25 is a fun and demanding workout. Obviously, diet plays a role in order to achieve desired results but we will discuss that in a future blog.

After years of running and performing long distance athletics I have finally achieved the physique I had always hoped for. My current body fat percentage is at 9 percent, pretty good for a 57-year-old!

Five mental benefits of cycling

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Like many fitness-based hobbies and endeavors, cycling can provide a fair amount of both physical benefits, ranging from improved cardiovascular health to increases in leg muscle. However, cycling also holds a lot of potential in terms of its mental benefits. These benefits range from mood enhancements to a spike in general sharpness during the day.

Here are a few of the biggest mental benefits of cycling.

 

Better memory

We all forget now and then, but a cycling lifestyle can keep you above average in terms of remembrance. Cycling, and most aerobic exercise in general, acts as a natural stimulant for the brain, increasing blood flow and supplying oxygen and nutrients. A quick bike ride may be exactly what you need to clear your mind and bring forgotten matters back into the foreground.

 

Better self-confidence

The feeling of accomplishment attached to most sports and fitness hobbies is reason enough to get up off the couch. Cycling, however, holds a unique strand of this positive emotion; it provides the rare chance to push yourself to your aerobic threshold for miles on end, reflecting on the journey later on. This process can maximize your confidence — if anything, take pride in the fact that you are doing something not many other people do, on average.

 

Better all-around mood

Perhaps the most important mental benefit of cycling is that it can positively influence your mood. A little exercise on a regular basis can go a long way in terms of keeping you generally happy and, as mentioned in the previous section, confident in yourself as a physically fit human being. Aerobic exercise has also been linked to improvements in anxiety and depression, making it a powerful natural remedy for potentially crippling mood swings.

 

Better challenge management

Cycling is not always intended to be a highly painful, grueling affair, but it can greatly increase your threshold for pain and physical challenge in general — regardless of the intensity at which you ride. Building physical endurance can translate well into mental endurance by fostering an ability to compartmentalize a pressing or tiring situation (for example, you may take a long ride a mile at a time rather than focusing on the entire intended distance from the start). Building this type of mental muscle memory is a great practice for improving your overall quality of life.

 

Better connectivity

Research has shown that continued practice of the same motor skill can improve connectivity within the brain’s various regions, and what is cycling but a continuous motion over an extended period of time? By pedaling on a regular basis, you can increase the amount of your brain’s white matter, or the parts of the brain that facilitate smooth communication between regions — this will keep you thinking smoothly and clearly.

Tips for beginning cyclists

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Millions of Americans, myself included, ride bikes.  And that number is growing all the time.  If you’re thinking of joining the growing number of people joining the cycling movement, here are some tips for beginner cyclists, taken from a great post I read on the site active.com:

 

Protect your skull

Every year, head injuries are responsible for nearly 60% of cycling deaths in the US, and many of these could be avoided by wearing a helmet.  Many states have bike helmet laws, but law or no law, you should always wear one.  And if you’re cycling with your kids, make sure they do too.  

 

Use your gears

When climbing hills, shift into a gear that will keep your cadence in the right range of rpm’s, so that you can make it without putting undue stress on your knees.  

 

…and avoid pedaling in high gear for too long

A good rule of thumb is to try and keep your cadence between 70 and 90 rpm’s.  When you pedal in a high gear, then it puts added strain on your knees.

 

Get the right saddle

The right saddle makes a huge difference when you’re riding.  The thickest padding won’t necessarily give you the most comfortable ride.  Generally the best type of saddle is a longer seat with a cutout.  

 

Change position while riding

If you keep your hands, arms, or rear in the same position for too long, then they risk getting numb.  To avoid this, make sure you mix things up.  Move your hands around on the bars, and move your rear end around on the saddle.  

 

Don’t ride with your headphones on

A lot of people enjoy listening to music or podcasts while they’re working out.  But that’s not something you want to do when you’re riding a bike.  If you can’t hear an emergency vehicle or other commotions behind you or off to the side because your music is playing too loud, then that can be extremely dangerous.  If you do want music, try for a small clip-on radio with a speaker that you can attach to your jersey.  

 

Know the rules

Ride with traffic and obey all road signs.  They’re meant for bikes just as much as cars!  Keep a close eye on all cars in front of you so that you can try and anticipate what they’re going to do.  

 

Keep your head up

Keep your helmeted head up in front far enough so that you’ll be able to react to any obstacles in the road, or on the shoulder in front of you.  You want to be aware of what’s coming ahead; something like a storm drain grate is very bad for skinny road bike tires.