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  1. #1
    Legs; OK! Lungs; not! bobthib's Avatar
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    Too old to start racing?

    I started riding this "weird bikes with the skinny tires and uncomfortable seats" in March of '09, and I was surprised to find I really enjoyed it. I've been riding pretty regular, 3 - 5 x per week, and about 40 mi a pop. Twice I week at 5:30 AM I meet up with some younger guys and we do wind sprints.

    I've become a pretty solid B+ rider. Some of the guys are encouraging me to enter local some age class races. I'm 62.5 (I've ridden my metric age several times since my metric b'day) and I can hold my own at 20 - 22 all day in a pace line, and 24+ for about 30 min or so. I can usually find something left to "pour it on" in a short sprint. I just hit a new personal best of 31.4 mph on a slight incline trying to catch a 20 y/o hot shot on an uphill break away.

    I really don't know anything about the amature bike racing scene. Does anyone have any experience in this? What are the age classes? I don't think I can be at all competitive in a 55+ age group, but I think I maybe avoid major embarrassment in a 60+ class.

    Any experienced senior racers out there?
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  2. #2
    Elite Rider Hermes's Avatar
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    I started racing 3 years ago and last year upgraded to Cat4 at the track and this year upgraded to Cat 4 on the road. I am writing this from a hotel room in Frisco, TX where I will be competing this week in the Masters National Track Championships. I have done over 75 races in the last 3 years in the Cat 5, Masters 55+, Masters 35+ competing in hill climbs, time trials, road races, criterium races, circuit races and stage races.

    I suggest joining USA Cycling and sign up for some Cat 5 races and see how you do and how you like it. In reality, the speed metrics you quote are somewhat useless as a predictor of how you may fair. They are good solid numbers but probably not nearly enough and of the right kind of training. For late starters, I highly recommend a coach who will provide direction on the type of workouts you need and the required intensity.

    The other thing to get over is the fear of being last or an embarrassment. When racers line up at a starting line, we all know hard hard this is going to be and the courage it takes to do the sport. Just lining up is a major accomplishment. Finishing a race is a land mark event that will change your perspective on cycling as a sport and maybe even on yourself. Whether you are first or last when you first start is not important. Participation and growth as a racer is what is important. Over time placement is more meaningful. We are all experienced enough to know that one does not start out at the top of the pyramid. You have to work your way up which means suffering at or near the bottom of the peloton for awhile.

    Masters racing in the 45+ or 55+ is very tough. The racers are all very experienced and typically Cat 3 and above. Many could still compete effectively in the open Elite P/1/2 field. However, entering races and competing is great experience and I prefer to race with my friends.

    IMO, just do it and enter races. Do not over think this. If you like competition, you will love bike racing.
    "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Einstein

  3. #3
    Senior Member gcottay's Avatar
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    If you finish last by a wide margin will your life quality be diminished?
    George
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  4. #4
    Member toddtone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gcottay View Post
    If you finish last by a wide margin will your life quality be diminished?
    Good point. My guess is quite the contrary...it will be enhanced no matter what just by doing it! So go for it!

    And great post, Hermes. Very encouraging. Bravo to you.

  5. #5
    Broom Wagon Fodder reverborama's Avatar
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    Having never raced before I entered a local Crit in the 50+ masters category and got shelled off the back pretty fast. I made the mistake of thinking I could just hang out on the back and see how it went. The guy ahead of me got gapped and by the time I jumped around him I was unable to make contact with the pack. This surprised me a little since I can more than hold my own with just about anyone I ride with. A co-worker who is a life-long bike racer told me what he considers to be the biggest secret to masters racing: Wheels.

    He contends that wheels make a huge difference 50+ guys have the money to buy the fastest wheels. Younger guys may be stronger, but the older guys have the income to afford $2300 wheels and that they make a pretty big difference.

    That said, I think that you should go for it. I sure enjoyed it and I like to jump in every once in a while even though I have little hope of a podium finish.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Allegheny Jet's Avatar
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    Hermes summed it up fairly well. At first you will probably find a significant gap between you and the seasoned riders. You may find that entering the Cat 5 "beginner level" races a good option. The Cat 5 races are for the new riders. There may be a wonder boy in your race because it's his first race also. There will also be many first time or beginning racers that you will be able to hang with and even beat. As far as safety, road races may involve less of a chance to crash. The metrics you cite are decent and show you have a good base and some god given ability. Give racing a shot or two to see how you like it, you just might "have to" come over to the other side.

    I started racing 3 years ago and got my eyes opened the first season. I thought I was ready but was not ready for the intense efforts that happen in races. I could match the intensity but could not recover while racing and could not stay within the pack. As the season progressed I was able to stay in the main pack for a couple races. In the off season I got a coach who put me on a training plan and when the 2nd year began I raced in the Cat 4 races. I was able to stay in the Cat 4 packs and even got a podium spot in a two races. At the same time in the masters races I still struggled to maintain the pack. This year is my 3rd year of racing and I have caught up to the masters 45+ level and even won a recent crit race. I'm really looking forward to next year's racing and training, that is, after cyclo cross racing ends in December.
    oldschool areodynamic brick

  7. #7
    Banned. The Weak Link's Avatar
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    You may be too old for bike racing, but you're never too old to holler abuse at bike racers. Yelling at Allegheny Jet was one of the rewarding things I've done in a long time.

  8. #8
    Life is good RonH's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Weak Link View Post
    You may be too old for bike racing, but you're never too old to holler abuse at bike racers.
    +1
    I'm 65 and would love to race cyclocross but around here the categories for older riders are Masters 35+ and Masters 45+. The oldest guy in the 45+ group is about 49. I don't think I'd do well against that group. So I go to the races and cheer on the riders.

    If you think you can hold your own then go for it.
    Last edited by RonH; 08-31-10 at 06:46 AM.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member Allegheny Jet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Weak Link View Post
    You may be too old for bike racing, but you're never too old to holler abuse at bike racers. Yelling at Allegheny Jet was one of the rewarding things I've done in a long time.
    And the cruelest thing was you standing at the bottom of the race's climb and showing the movie sized box of Whoppers, then skipping out before I could grab them. Second thought, with the 101 temperature that day they would probably have been melted together into one giant square Whopper.
    Last edited by Allegheny Jet; 08-30-10 at 08:42 PM.
    oldschool areodynamic brick

  10. #10
    Senior Member Allegheny Jet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RonH View Post
    +1
    I'm 65 and would love to race cyclocross but around here the categories for older riders is Masters 35+ and Masters 45+. The oldest guy in the 45+ group is 49. I don't think I'd do well against that group. So I go to the races and cheer on the riders of all ages.

    If you think you can hold your own then go for it.
    Cyclo cross races are sprint finishes followed by a time trail. Don't worry about racing in your age group, enter the beginner class and just go for it. If you are last then you won't be in anyone's way, but I bet you will be ahead of someone.
    oldschool areodynamic brick

  11. #11
    Elite Rider Hermes's Avatar
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    The most difficult aspect of racing is surviving the accelerations. Anyone can ride with a pack and take a pull at the front. In most group rides even the hammer heads do not try to make the ride as difficult as possible but that is what is done in racing. In a four corner 10 lap criterium there will be 40 accelerations. Each acceleration will require several hundred watts for a few seconds. Beginner racers are not used to very large power output followed by high speed. Both physically and mentally, they are worn down.

    In road races, the leaders pick times in the race where the conditions are the most difficult and lay accelerations on the field - up hills and in cross winds. They will do this multiple times and after several accelerations the field is reduced to a select group.

    One of the most important abilities is to accelerate rapidly in the first 3 to 5 pedal strokes. If you get gapped, you may never be able to close the gap. It is the equivalent of having a very powerful car that can get to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds. Top end speed is interesting but acceleration is very valuable.

    Hence, the higher category masters are very good at making the race as hard as possible and they have been doing the same races for years with the same racers. The Cat 5 racers are very strong but not as tactical or smooth and not as strong as the 55+ masters.

    I do not think wheels or bike selection will make much difference in the whether you hang with the pack or get blown off the back. The reason is that accelerations require hundreds of watts of power and a fast recovery and equipment is worth tens of watts.
    "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Einstein

  12. #12
    Legs; OK! Lungs; not! bobthib's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gcottay View Post
    If you finish last by a wide margin will your life quality be diminished?
    No, unless the competition is over 80!
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  13. #13
    Legs; OK! Lungs; not! bobthib's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allegheny Jet View Post
    Hermes summed it up fairly well. At first you will probably find a significant gap between you and the seasoned riders. You may find that entering the Cat 5 "beginner level" races a good option. The Cat 5 races are for the new riders. There may be a wonder boy in your race because it's his first race also. There will also be many first time or beginning racers that you will be able to hang with and even beat. As far as safety, road races may involve less of a chance to crash. The metrics you cite are decent and show you have a good base and some god given ability. Give racing a shot or two to see how you like it, you just might "have to" come over to the other side.

    I started racing 3 years ago and got my eyes opened the first season. I thought I was ready but was not ready for the intense efforts that happen in races. I could match the intensity but could not recover while racing and could not stay within the pack. As the season progressed I was able to stay in the main pack for a couple races. In the off season I got a coach who put me on a training plan and when the 2nd year began I raced in the Cat 4 races. I was able to stay in the Cat 4 packs and even got a podium spot in a two races. At the same time in the masters races I still struggled to maintain the pack. This year is my 3rd year of racing and I have caught up to the masters 45+ level and even won a recent crit race. I'm really looking forward to next year's racing and training, that is, after cyclo cross racing ends in December.
    That's me, can't recover like the "younger" (55 y/o) bulls. Don't know if that can be trained at 60+. Would love to try Cyclo. Looks like great fun, but not many opportunities ins SO FLA.

    There are sanctioned races locally, and I'm going to check it out. May even give it a shot. Finishing last would not be a problem. Not being lapped and hence QD'd is the immediate goal.

    Our club is going to start some single elimination head to head "drag races" on a one mile strip in a secluded part of town. We'll see how that goes.
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  14. #14
    Broom Wagon Fodder reverborama's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hermes View Post
    The most difficult aspect of racing is surviving the accelerations.... I do not think wheels or bike selection will make much difference in the whether you hang with the pack or get blown off the back. The reason is that accelerations require hundreds of watts of power and a fast recovery and equipment is worth tens of watts.
    I agree that the wheels aren't what keeps you from getting shelled off the back, but I think they are what keeps you up front, all else being equal. If you need to put out 400 watts for each acceleration and the wheels save you 20 watts (numbers I totally pulled out of my ass) that's 5% which turns out to be an awful lot when you are trying to recover during the race.

  15. #15
    I need speed AzTallRider's Avatar
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    Accelerating is hard

    Quote Originally Posted by Hermes View Post
    The most difficult aspect of racing is surviving the accelerations.
    A month ago, when I started group riding for the first time, I fully expected to be dropped on the hills, since my climbing is very limited. I thought I'd be able to hang with them on the flats. Wrong! The issue wasn't keeping up at speed, but exactly this issue. They'd burst off from the stoplights or corners, I'd get gapped, and not be able to bridge it. Then I'd miss a light, and it was all over until the next stop for water refills.

    Talking with one of the guys afterwards, he said that the racers in the group have that need to accelerate so ingrained, they are automatically going to just take off, even on a more relaxed ride. And they tend to crank it up to above the intended group pace, then back back down. So I'm practicing on my commutes: doing intervals where I get up to speed as quickly as I can, then hold it for ~60 seconds, and then back off for awhile. It really takes it out of you. Going the full 9 miles of my commute at a steady pace is a lot easier for me than a single one-minute all-out burst.

    This is a group of mostly 50+ folks. When I went to a club meeting, one of the first questions was whether I was retired. I was told you can't really get fit until you retire and can do 4 50 milers per week.
    "If you're riding less than 18 MPH up a 2% grade please tell people Coggan is coaching you."

  16. #16
    I need speed AzTallRider's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hermes View Post
    One of the most important abilities is to accelerate rapidly in the first 3 to 5 pedal strokes.
    What is the real key to this? Is it going OTS in a slightly taller gear ? Or keeping the gear low, and spinning up to cadence as quickly as you possibly can?
    "If you're riding less than 18 MPH up a 2% grade please tell people Coggan is coaching you."

  17. #17
    Motorcycle RoadRacer cehowardGS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobthib View Post
    I started riding this "weird bikes with the skinny tires and uncomfortable seats" in March of '09, and I was surprised to find I really enjoyed it. I've been riding pretty regular, 3 - 5 x per week, and about 40 mi a pop. Twice I week at 5:30 AM I meet up with some younger guys and we do wind sprints.

    I've become a pretty solid B+ rider. Some of the guys are encouraging me to enter local some age class races. I'm 62.5 (I've ridden my metric age several times since my metric b'day) and I can hold my own at 20 - 22 all day in a pace line, and 24+ for about 30 min or so. I can usually find something left to "pour it on" in a short sprint. I just hit a new personal best of 31.4 mph on a slight incline trying to catch a 20 y/o hot shot on an uphill break away.

    I really don't know anything about the amature bike racing scene. Does anyone have any experience in this? What are the age classes? I don't think I can be at all competitive in a 55+ age group, but I think I maybe avoid major embarrassment in a 60+ class.

    Any experienced senior racers out there?
    Just want to give you my opinion on whether you too old to start racing.

    NO, NO, AND A BIG NO!!
    In another venue, motorcycle roadracing, I started when I was 67 years old. I first set foot on a roadrace track when I was 65 years old.

    Motorycle roadracing is a tad faster the bicycle roadracing, so you be fine. Just get some fancy jerseys like I did in motorycle racing so when you pass the youngins, they know that an over 60 year old just pass/busted them...


    What they see when I pass them
    http://www.cehoward.net/oldman1.jpg

    Get some jerseys fixed up like my racesuits...

    Big fun, big fun...

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    We only passing this way one time, so we shouldn't be saving squat!!!...

  18. #18
    Senior Member Allegheny Jet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AzTallRider View Post
    What is the real key to this? Is it going OTS in a slightly taller gear ? Or keeping the gear low, and spinning up to cadence as quickly as you possibly can?
    All the above. In a race there will be small gaps of 2 or 3 bike lengths opening up in front of you. You need to close them quickly and do whatever is necessary. They are very intense efforts but once the gap is closed the rider gets back into the draft without the need for recovery. If the gap is larger or you can't close it quickly the effort needed can be huge resulting in the need for recovery or even race ending. If you are able to match the acceleration without letting a gap form you saved a "match". Everytime you have to do an intense effort another match is lit, at some point the book may be empty.

    Finishing off a small roller may take getting OTS and even dropping a gear. At times just increasing the cadence will do the trick and at other times dropping a gear and blasting is the ticket. After a while it becomes automatic what you do to close the gap. More importantly is being aware of what the guy/guys ahead are doing. Looking beyond the rider in front will give a clue before the gap occurs. For instance, you see up ahead that the leaders are in a single line, that means an attack is on and the riders in front of you will be responding and you become mentally ready. If the rider in front of you does not respond, possibly because his team mate is up front, you need to be ready to jump around and grab the next wheel in line.

    To develop that strength you need to do some short sprint intervals. One interval my coach has me do is to ride along at 24-26 mph or so then get OTS for 15 seconds at a higher intensity, then sit and easy spin for 15 seconds, then ramp it back up to 24-26 mph over 15 seconds to start the process over again followed by the next cycle OTS, recovery and ramp up. I have to do 10 cycles of the interval then a 2nd set of the 7:30 min intervals after a 12 minute recovery. It’s a very hard interval but beneficial.
    Last edited by Allegheny Jet; 09-01-10 at 11:21 AM.
    oldschool areodynamic brick

  19. #19
    just keep riding BluesDawg's Avatar
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    My brief foray into the MTB racing world a few years ago taught me that I was born too old to start racing.

    It was not that I could not have done it, it was that I lacked the desire. I stuck it out for a season and did gain some skill and fitness from it and I had some fun, but I never gave a second thought to continuing beyond that. Nothing against it, it just wasn't what I wanted to do on a bicycle.

    I love bicycle racing, but only as an observer. I love bicycle riding as a participant.
    The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allegheny Jet View Post
    Cyclo cross races are sprint finishes followed by a time trail. Don't worry about racing in your age group, enter the beginner class and just go for it. If you are last then you won't be in anyone's way, but I bet you will be ahead of someone.
    You cyclocross guys, if I could find the symbol that would suggest 'utmost respect and I am not worthy', I'd use it

    My memory - north of England, February, maybe 1968, horizontal sleet, rode the only bike I had at the time to take part in the Yorkshire heat of the ESCA (English Schools Cycling Association) cyclocross event - top 10 went through to national.

    I'd ridden about 30 miles to get there. Then it started. DEEP mud. no tyre grip at all. Off the bike, try to run with it, no foot grip at all, one yard stride forward and two and a half feet slip back. And cold.

    I think the whole thing took about an hour. I wasn't last - in fact I was 9th. So I had the whole horrible thing to do again at the national finals. In which I was about similarly eminent.

    Then I had to ride back home.

    My sole point of pride about the whole miserable event is that I managed to cry quietly

  21. #21
    Senior Member Allegheny Jet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wobblyoldgeezer View Post
    You cyclocross guys, if I could find the symbol that would suggest 'utmost respect and I am not worthy', I'd use it

    My memory - north of England, February, maybe 1968, horizontal sleet, rode the only bike I had at the time to take part in the Yorkshire heat of the ESCA (English Schools Cycling Association) cyclocross event - top 10 went through to national.

    I'd ridden about 30 miles to get there. Then it started. DEEP mud. no tyre grip at all. Off the bike, try to run with it, no foot grip at all, one yard stride forward and two and a half feet slip back. And cold.

    I think the whole thing took about an hour. I wasn't last - in fact I was 9th. So I had the whole horrible thing to do again at the national finals. In which I was about similarly eminent.

    Then I had to ride back home.

    My sole point of pride about the whole miserable event is that I managed to cry quietly
    Cross racing does hurt a bit, especially the runs up muddy hills with a bike on your shoulder, but you get to do this on a road style bike!
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  22. #22
    Banned. The Weak Link's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Allegheny Jet View Post
    And the cruelest thing was you standing at the bottom of the race's climb and showing the movie sized box of Whoppers, then skipping out before I could grab them. Second thought, with the 101 temperature that day they would probably have been melted together into one giant square Whopper.
    The Whoppers had melted and resembled, in many ways, droppings from a constipated elk. I was doing you a favor by not sharing them.

  23. #23
    Dharma Dog lhbernhardt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hermes View Post
    The most difficult aspect of racing is surviving the accelerations.
    Well, yes and no. If you are having to accelerate out of every turn, it means you are too far back in the pack. The guys in the front are just blasting thru each turn without slowing down, so they're maintaining a fairly constant tempo and getting a comparatively "easy" ride. The guys just behind them are maybe touching their brakes to avoid running into the guys in front, since they might be taking a shorter line, or they're advancing a bit in the draft. The guys behind these guys are squeezing the brakes a bit in response, and the further back you go, the more braking is applied. So the guys doing the hardest accelerations are the ones braking the most. In a higher-level masters race, or even in Cat 3 nowadays, the guys at the front are typically at around 50 kmh (28 mph) or more. So if you are at the back, you have to be able to sprint up to that speed out of every turn, and this becomes quite tiring, which accounts for the large dropout rate in tight criteriums. Usually, the guys who are left in these races are the strongest guys, who are comfortable driving the pace at the front, or the best bike handlers, who can work their way up and just hang on in tight quarters with minimum braking.

    I think that hard accelerations take too much out of you and should be avoided until the final sprint (and setup for the sprint). What you want to do, and what you learn how to do on the track, is to accelerate smoothly and economically just by increasing your leg speed in order to shut down a break. You should be able to let a break gain a small gap, about 15 seconds or so, and then quickly cross that gap without taking anybody with you. So it's a definite surge, but it's not just increasing the tempo at the front and dragging the pack along (which is what happens in most races with guys who are just plain ignorant!), and it's not a really hard acceleration that attracts too much attention and gets guys immediately glued to your wheel. It's just a "gentle" surge that economizes on effort and doesn't attract much attention, but quickly opens a gap that keeps widening.

    The track is also nice because there are no corners to accelerate out of. For all intents and purposes, you are on one long, long stretch of straight highway. What I always liked about the track was that it condensed a road race to the most meaningful part, the finish, dispensing with the first 100 or so kilometers of hills and nonsense, and got right to the point...

    And no, 62 is not too old to start racing. You have one distinct advantage over a guy like me, who had raced for over 35 years, in that you bring way more enthusiasm and curiosity to the endeavor. There was a time where I would be really excited about each racing season, planning the races and the trips, and the training programs leading up to them. Now, I just don't care. And I think this excitement is necessary if you want to do well; it gives you more motivation. Yeah, I'm sure the adrenaline would kick in once i was in the race, just like I can go much harder in a group than I can by myself just because the group ride kicks up my adrenaline levels, but overall I think you would be more motivated, so by all means check it out!

    Luis

  24. #24
    Email for new group DnvrFox's Avatar
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    If you think you would enjoy it, go for it. You never know when you might not be able, for any of a variety of reasons. You have nothing to lose, not even pride. Just being out there is amazing to me.

    As someone said, you only go this way once.

    Go for it.
    Gone - email me at dnvrfox@aol.com for new group of old 50+ folks

  25. #25
    Elite Rider Hermes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by reverborama View Post
    I agree that the wheels aren't what keeps you from getting shelled off the back, but I think they are what keeps you up front, all else being equal. If you need to put out 400 watts for each acceleration and the wheels save you 20 watts (numbers I totally pulled out of my ass) that's 5% which turns out to be an awful lot when you are trying to recover during the race.
    IMO, excellent wheels are worth about 10 watts over convention 32 spoke box wheels. At a threshold of 250 watts that is 4%. I will take that but it is somewhat useless when the required power is 800 watts and you can produce only 650 watts. The other point is that the 10 watts is good for time trials or off the front breakaways. Once in the pack, you ride through disturbed or turbulent air. The impact of better wheels is less. It is not possible to buy your way into the peloton - human power rules.
    "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Einstein

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