Living in the shadow of the PowerBar overlords, the pretzel is just about the perfect fuel for another hour on the road, according to dietician and Ride the Rockies veteran Jessica Lorning.
“You have to maintain blood sugar. And you do that by eating carbohydrates,” Lorning told the RTR First-Time Rider meeting Monday at the Denver Athletic Club. The annual event, attended this year by about 60 RTR rookies on a miserable Denver night, is an opportunity to pick up some tips from the vets. Lorning, a dietician with Swedish Medical Center, will be pedaling her 23rd RTR this year.
She knows food, and biking, and how the two go together. Her first piece of advice: During training and on the tour, RTR riders should build 60 percent of their diet on carbs. Depending on body weight, she said, riders need between 30 and 60 grams of carbs per hour on the bike, and a fistful of pretzels delivers about 30 grams. Riders will find them at most aid stations on the tour.
Food wasn’t the main thing on Darrel Decker’s mind Monday night. A retired aerospace engineer and manager who said he’s “60 plus,” Decker took up cycling four years ago. This is his first Ride the Rockies.
The biggest RTR mystery to him and his wife, Helen, he said, “is just the logistics around the camping. We’re thinking of taking the camper.” Where will they park it? Will they be close to the showers? They came to the meeting wondering whether Helen would be able to bring the camper from town to town while Darrel rides his bike.
“Before tonight, it wasn’t clear,” she said. “Now it sounds like it’s conceivable I could follow along.”
Tour Director Chandler Smith covered the tour’s nuts and bolts — the parking, the showers, the route, the community events, the RTR route signs, the food and the rest.
But the tour advice was left to Lorning and three other experienced RTR riders and tour partners. Here are some of their pearls:
Lisha Burnett, SunCor Energy, which provides the fuel for RTR trucks and vans:
Lisha’s big message: Know yourself, your gear, the route, the towns, and how to have fun. “Get your miles in your saddle,” she said. “Your tushie will need it.” Training is essential to knowing you can pull off an 80-mile ride. Understanding your bike and how to keep it running is part of that I-can-do-it confidence. Same for learning about the road ahead and the places you’ll be staying.
Lisha’s insider tip: “Get a massage, outside, in a tent. It’s fantastic.” There will be 23 massage therapists on the tour, which may sound like a lot, until you consider there will be 2,200 cyclists on the tour. Do the math, and then sign up in advance.
Brian Graves, Parlee Cycles and Mavic, which will provide demo equipment during the tour:
Brian’s big message: Be thoroughly comfortable with your bike before June 8. Head to your local bike shop to get the saddle, stem, bars and cranks fit properly. Then put in lots of miles with that configuration. Don’t experiment with new settings during RTR week.
Brian’s insider tip: “Do not wear underwear under your chamois,” or biking shorts. “You’re asking for saddle sores. And when you’re finished riding, you’re finished riding. Get out of your chamois.”
Dan Gruning, executive director, Bicycle Colorado:
Dan’s big message: Safety. It begins with staying in the proper lane because RTR uses open roads, and it continues with staying “constantly in communication with the people around you.” Alert others to your approaches; alert them to hazards; alert them to your stops. When approaching aid stations, avoid the temptation to plow into the congested entrance. Instead, ride to the less-crowded far end of the station before pulling off.
Dan’s insider tip: “It’s really tempting to get on someone’s wheel” to draft and conserve energy, he said. If you must, at least make sure you hook on to someone who is a communicator. “You’ll know if someone’s good at leading if they’re calling everything out,” he said. “If that’s not happening, that’s not a good person to be getting behind.”
Jessica’s big message: Carbs, carbs, carbs. Three carbs for every two of everything else during training season and the tour itself. And pretzels aren’t the only option: There’s bananas, cereals, fancy new energy bars laced with chia seeds, and of course, pancakes. (Though, skip the sausage, she says: Fat delays absorption of the carbs).
Jessica’s insider tip: “The first 30 minutes off the bike is key.” Eat something with a 4:1 carb:protein ratio. A smoothie with a protein shot, for example. Or a big handful of granola with some milk. She said it has to do with the role of insulin in muscle recovery, but it all went over my head. What she said next was a lot easier to remember: “For a lot of you, this is going to be your first opportunity for doing back-to-back rides. If you don’t refuel your muscles, you’re going to really feel it the next morning.”
Chandler’s insider tip: “Carry cash.” You’ll need it to buy food from one of the dozen vendors who set up along each day’s route.
Much of Monday’s information wasn’t new to Joe Barrett, 59, who has ridden in the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa, known universally as RAGBRAI. Barrett said the advice on the gear, the nutrition, and the logistics was pretty much what he expected. He did detect, though, a certain recurring emphasis on the backside. His big takeaway?
“Get your rear end trained. I need to train.”