Category Archives: Road

Safe Cycling in the City

We get it! You want to ride your bike, but heavy traffic and seemingly careless drivers make you choose to use dreadfully crowded and slow public transit, pay for a cab, or even drive a car yourself.

Riding a bike in a city can feel like a daunting task and, yes, it can be dangerous — but keep in mind: No driver has the  intention to harm you. Out there, it sometimes may feel like your fate is determined by drivers of motorized vehicles, but for the most part it is in your control to minimize any potential hazards. A first step to do so is to read and follow these tips:

  • Be aware! Pay attention to vehicles, pedestrians, and other cyclists around you. Make it a habit to think about what drivers around you may want to do, anticipate their decisions, and react accordingly:
    • Turns and stops. Does a driver want to turn or stop? Are their indicators on? Is he/she checking her mirrors? Is there someone in the passenger (or other) seat who wants to get out of the car?
    • Parked cars.  Many times,  bike lanes are aligned right next to parking spots on the side of the road. Unfortunately, this area is also the so-called door zone where extra caution is key. After all, a parked car may pull out on the road or a driver or passenger may open a door unexpectedly. In doubt, reduce your speed or give these cars extra space by moving to the center of the road — but, before you do so, make sure that nobody is about to pass you! It is also a good idea to pay attention to whether the car’s engine is running, its lights or indicators are on; whether the driver seat is occupied, and whether the  front wheels are turned into road. You don’t necessarily have to focus on all these details all the time, but it is a good idea to train yourself to notice these things as they can help you evaluate how likely it is that a car will pull out or someone will open a door.
    • Traffic lights. Are traffic lights about to turn? Some people may want to catch the last moment of an orange light. Check before you cross an intersection, especially if your light just turned green. Clearly, do NOT run red lights!
    • Speed. Learn to judge the speed of all kinds of vehicles. Is a car too fast to stop before a light? Chances are, they will cross it. Will a runner or pedestrian try to cross the road? Is someone about to run a red light?
  • Communicate! As in many other aspects of life, communication is an important factor on the road. Knowing others’ intentions helps us adjust and react accordingly. Sometimes you will have to  decipher drivers’ and pedestrians’ next steps before they happen based on their behavior; other times you are lucky and they will let you know what they are about to do. Keep in mind, it is your responsibility (and in your best interest!) to communicate your intentions to others! This not only applies to turning and stopping, but also to making others aware of dangers.
    • Use hand signals.  It is easy and takes minimal effort: Signal before you turn or move to the center of the road, to show what you will do. Point to the ground to make other cyclists aware of dangers such as potholes. Signal if you are about to stop. Also,  let hesitant drivers behind you know when it is safe to pass you.
    • Make eye contact. A simple eye contact is often all it takes for another person to know what you want to do and vice versa. This applies to anyone you might encounter on a road: Drivers, pedestrians, other cyclists, etc.
    • Make yourself visible. Keep in mind that drivers might actually not be able to see you. Avoid the dead space of mirrors, the sides and backs of large vehicles such as buses and trucks, and make sure you and/or your bike wear lights in the dark.
  • Be courteous! Say thank you with a gentle nod of your head, or a (friendly) hand signal! Out on the road, you are an ambassador for cyclists and want to leave a good impression to encourage a friendly co-existence!
  • Be assertive! Sometimes you will have to be assertive and just claim your space on the road (e.g. changing lanes in busy city traffic). When you do so, (1) make sure you communicate your intention, (2) confirm that other traffic participants have enough space to react to what you are about to do (right speed? enough distance?), and (3) only then do your thing. As mentioned above, drivers are not out there to harm you. They want to protect your life and your bike as much as they want to protect their lives and their car.
  • Be Prepared! Regularly maintain your equipment. Having a working bicycle can prevent accidents as well. Lend special attention to your brakes, tires, and chain. Here’s a good example for a  maintenance schedule.
  • Abide the law! This should be an obvious one. Don’t run lights, etc. You know the rules (if not, read this); you expect drivers to follow the rules. Follow them too! Again, when you are out on the road on your bike you represent all cyclists. Make sure to leave a good impression!

Josh Zisson, a Cambridge-based lawyer, created Bike Safe Boston, a great blog with many good resources about cycling in the city. Amongst other posts, we recommend you read the MA cyclist’s bill of rights and the 10 commandments of city cycling.  These posts will give you some general pointers (as the above) as well as information about what to do when you are unlucky enough to be involved in an accident (spoiler alert: Don’t forget to get the driver’s information!).

If you are riding in a group, some additional rules apply. We have compiled a safety policy document that we encourage everyone to read who leads or joins a ride with us.

Screenshot 2015-11-02 08.50.00

A club ride narrative with Strava Labs

Want to know what one of our weekend club rides can look like? Alex Klotz, a new member of the MIT Cycling Club, put together a cool video using some of Strava Labs‘ features.

We started out on a no-drop ride with about 25 people, headed towards Concord. After the first big set of hills, we were pretty spread out and waited for everyone to catch up. One of the riders, Parrish, was going to go on to an apple picking trip after Concord, and wanted to get going at a faster pace, so she, Paul and Felix set off; I wanted to push myself so I joined the faster sub-group. We stopped at the Ride Studio Cafe so Parrish could fix her shoe, and were behind schedule so we booked it to Concord as fast as we could to try to meet up with the main group, covering about 11 km at 30 km/h. We got there and the main group was nowhere to be seen, but a guy was there waiting for them who said he’d been there for half an hour, so we figured they were behind rather than ahead of us. We were surprised, because we were stopped at the cafe for ~20 minutes.  Parrish went off to go pick apples, and Paul, Felix and I decided to do the CBTT loop and then head back. We did that, headed towards Cambridge, hoping to overtake the main group from behind, and pretty quickly Felix got a flat tire, which we spent a few minutes fixing. Then we continued, went down Mill St, and got to the far end and had to turn back to the main road. After that we continued home without event.

Looking at the Strava flybys afterwards, I saw that we were tantalizingly close to the main group on two occasions. They were delayed because they had tried to go up Mill St and were blocked by the same downed power line that we were, and got within a few hundred meters of us near Marrett St. But the closest we got was at the Concord visitor’s centre. We left when they were within 200 metres, and they arrived two minutes after we left. There’s no way we could have caught them on the way back, even without the flat and the dead-end.



Flashback Friday: Jeff Duval’s reflections on a season with MIT

One year of collegiate racing

I have always loved riding bicycles. When people ask me how I got started I always tell the same story. As a young kid, my mom would put me in a bicycle seat and go riding in the evening. When she felt my helmet hitting her back she knew that I was asleep and that she could go home and put me to bed. I have no way to test if this is the reason why I love it so much, but I like to think it is part of it!

As a grown-up, my reasons to ride are different. Of course, there are all the usual reasons (extremely efficient way of transportation, eco-friendly, cheap*, etc.), but this is also how I develop my personality. To ride long distances you need to train, to overcome obstacles, to adapt to various situations. It is a great way to become more perseverant, grounded and organized. Combine that with the health benefits of cardio-vascular activities and you can become a better person on all aspects!

Before joining the MIT Cycling Team I did a few cycling events (off-road triathlon with kayaking, mountain biking and trail running, Eastern Sierra Double Century, a few centuries) but I was always competing against myself, not directly against a pack. I didn’t think that I was fast enough, or talented enough, to do true races.

Last September I decided that I would start following the road training plan in November to get in a better shape before a long touring trip this summer. I was thinking about racing once or twice, just to see how it was. Then Beth convinced me to try a mountain bike race… and I was hooked after the first weekend. Don’t get me wrong, it was painful (my heart wanted to escape my chest, I felt disoriented, my glasses were all fogged up…), but I knew I would try again and again. I raced three weekends, and I got so much better in such a short period! Being passed really helps bike faster.


Figure 1 Cross-country MTB Race

In November I started the road training plan. This was the first time that I was doing structured training and I made a point of following the plan as closely as possible. Initially, the hardest part was to stay in Zone 2. Completing a 2h training ride without heavy sweat was new to me. My training volume was higher than in the past, but my legs didn’t feel heavy like before; the plan had some benefits! The threshold intervals were really intense; I had no idea that I could keep such a high heart rate for up to 50 minutes.

The real test was to race. Before my first road race I was anxious (Will I get injured in a crash? Will I bonk after 5 minutes? Strategy?). Then the same thing as for mountain bike racing happened: I loved it! It is so intense, you need 100% of your body and 100% of your mind. You get in a zone where you have a strange mix of tunnel vision and complete awareness of your surroundings. Looking at the shadow of a fellow racer to know when to start your sprint is an awesome feeling. None of that would have been possible without the training plan and all the great advice I received from team members.


Figure 2 Sprinting for the prime points at the Tufts Crit

Only 9 months after I started collegiate racing I’m forced to retire, as I’m getting my Master’s degree in a few weeks. Joining the MIT Cycling Team was a great idea; I learned a lot about bicycles, about racing, and I met wonderful people.

*Big lie


Road Nationals 2015 Recap

Road Nationals Recap

The team after TTT awards on Sunday. Back left: Ben Eck, Phil Kreycik, Andrea Tacchetti, Emerson Glassey, Corey Tucker, Julie van der Hoop. Front left: Zack Ulissi, Jen Wilson, Anne Raymond.

On May 6th, the MIT Cycling Team traveled down to North Carolina for three days of epic racing in the hills of Asheville. This year’s squad included: Zack Ulissi, Emerson Glassey, Corey Tucker, Anne Raymond, Julie van der Hoop, Jen Wilson, Ben Eck (mechanic), and later, Andrea Tacchetti and Phil Kreycik. The team rented a home to make prepping for race day easier (e.g. cooking lots of good food and sitting in the hot tub).


Day 1 involved a flight, wrangling of bikes and equipment at the airport (they did manage to get the doubles stuck in the conveyor belt!), and a ~2 hr drive to get to our place in Asheville. Kudos to Corey for an epic spreadsheet (it was color-coded and included our menu!) and kudos to Zack for finding the “deli” with fried chicken and pulled pork! Arrival at the house saw bike assembly, a grocery run, and a short spin down to route 52 to scope out the territory. Dinner #1 TACOS.

Jalapeno egg salad from Zack’s lunch selection.
A view from the deck of our house and the future location of the post-Nationals party


Day 2 was the day of recon. It was the chance to check out the courses and get a sense how the races would play out. Because of looming weather, the team headed out to the road course first. The team jumped out of the car to test the 25 mile loop at varying paces (Corey and Emerson dropped the group going into the first climb). It proved to be a beautiful course though, and now we were prepared for the race that was ahead. That afternoon, some of the team explored the lovely downtown area, while others rested and prepared for racing. Dinner that night: stir-fry.

Pre-riding the road course. If anything, there was going to be great scenery!
Grocery shopping – making decisions about which M&Ms to buy.
Emerson at the stove making team rice crispies

Day 3 was our first race day. The women left the house around 6:30 am to get down to the race course, and Ben joined us for feeds and moral support (but really, when you’re nervous and trying to race, having a rational mechanic on hand is priceless!). The women took off around 8:30 am after call-ups into a foggy mist. The neutral start was a little rough as people crashed and bumped into each other. There was a lot of shouting and calling out to riders (flashbacks of CX-Nats had us all anxiously looking out for Corey). All of the women made it through to the climb though, and we were off! The sun came out and the day got hot quickly. By the end of the women’s race and the start of the men’s, it was hot enough that feeds could make or break the race. Ben Eck did a stellar job feeding the women all by himself (Ben, that bottle made my race!), and by the time that the men went off, Julie had effectively coordinated feeds for the entire ECCC. I think MIT riders may have posed for at least 4 different teams that day (North Eastern, Tufts, RISD, BU at least), but we were lucky to have that conference community to rely upon (thank you ECCC for being such an awesome and collegial environment).

The misty fog pre-race. top-right: the D2 women of the ECCC bonding for a pre-race photo.
The feedzone and the first climb. note: that MIT rider seems to be wearing extra jerseys! But really, it’s just a representation of how the conference really worked to help each other out).


Day 4 was the day of the hill-attack crit. For many, this was by far the hardest crit course we had seen. With 100ft of climbing per lap, the course was more a process of constant hill repeats than the preferred technical corners and pack dynamics of a more traditional crit. Yet, the team threw themselves out there and fought on nonetheless. The women’s field splintered quickly as CMU set a blazing pace for the first few laps and set up the race to be one of attrition. Though even despite the heat and unrelenting climbs, the ECCC was out in full force to support us, and while in the pain cave, the cheers of Alan and the like were reminders of the strong preparation and community we receive racing in our conference. Also, a special thanks to Alan for advocating on MIT and Dartmouth’s behalf when the officials accidentally posted us as down a lap (it was just further proof of the chaos that ensued during this crit). As the other events went off, the course only became more brutal with the heat, and again, the ECCC bonded together to create an ice-water feed and splash zone (the women were not so lucky in the ability to feed or get splashed). At the end of the day, Zack received a victory ice-water bath from Anne, the team celebrated with some excellent donuts from Vortex (thanks for the freebies!), and then went home to recover for the last day of racing.


Day 5 was TTT! MIT traditionally does really well with the TTT, and this year was no exception. The Men set out first in their matching Venges, placing 4th overall. The women’s event followed, and ultimately placed 5th. Both teams made the podium! Zack Ulissi would go on to compete in the ITT in the burning heat (and after competing in all three events!) and end up 8th overall. We want to wish him luck in his future racing endeavors, but we are fearful of the future where he will no longer be scoring points for us :-)

Anne, Corey and Julie in the river for a post-race cool down.
Women’s TTT on the podium.
Men's TTT on the podium.
Men’s TTT on the podium.

That evening concluded with a new Nationals tradition – BBQing with friends. In the past, the last race day has always seen an epic amount of dining (fried chicken has been the longest standing tradition). Though this year we mixed it up some and opted for salmon, sausages and steak instead (thanks a bunch to Emerson and Zack for getting groceries and starting the grill). The group eventually expanded to include Dartmouth, UCSD, NorthEastern and BU riders. Having the large porch afforded us the opportunity to bond with other cyclists and extend the cross-team camaraderie started at Saturday’s feed zone.

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The group hanging out on the porch.
2015-05-10 19.33.20
More socializing on the porch.

Day 6 was the return to reality. We had booked later flights to try and stave off the return to work and life, and did our best to squeeze the last bit of fun out of our time in Asheville. The group agreed that BBQ was essential to this mission and the team returned to 12 bones for one last fix. Emerson, Zack, and Ben apparently won lunch that day as they also secured ribs for the flight back. The other food-newbies on the team merely ordered lunch and were ultimately sad on the return flight when the pros opened feasted on their dinner ribs mid-plane ride.


The team was greeted at Boston with enthusiastic high fives from our resident expert, Ethan, and were much appreciated at the end of a long day. Kristine Fong also supplied Tatte pastries to give the team a little boost as we returned to the prospect of working and being students again (thank you both!).


The team, riders and equipment all made it safely back to Cambridge. Though, at the moment, it’s unclear as to who has unpacked and started riding. Six Gaps is looming on the weekend horizon and it seems that training-in-bed may be the best strategy.


And they laughed at my Gatorskins… also, where’s my wind tunnel?

By Daniel Grier

This past weekend featured the great state of New Hampshire with races at both Dartmouth and UNH. Sadly, it was to be my last collegiate race of the year. Not sadly, the weekend was predictably great. Well, okay. As a first-time racer, I actually spent much of the year in denial about my love for cycling, but after four race weekends I can safely say that “predictably” is the right word.

So what about the races? Well, there were four of them. Saturday kicked off with a 3-mile(!) ITT. Fortunately, they compensated for the short distance with some pretty hefty climbs. In particular, when there’s a dude cheering you on with a sign that says “400m to go!”, this does not mean “time to sprint” because a rather formidable hill will appear to crush your spirits. Despite demoralization via hill, I ended up getting 2nd out of 35; my best ratio to date (w00t).

Later in the day was the famous(?) frat-row criterium on Dartmouth’s campus. The crit was pretty typical for me–I tried to win, and I didn’t. On the other hand, the women’s A/B squad totally killed it. With a commanding presence of five riders in a field of slightly more than that (blame for the lack of precision there), the women’s team repeatedly sent riders on solo-attacks until one stuck. It didn’t take very long. It’s fun to be associated with greatness at least…

On Sunday, we moved over to UNH for the TTT and the road race. Surprisingly, we actually had enough D racers to field a full TTT team. After having been dropped from my last two TTT’s about 20 milliseconds into the race (I’ve since learned that I was riding with a teammate nicknamed “the hammer”, so you can’t blame me too much, right?), it was nice to finally get to finish one of these things. Among other things, the course featured a number of “last hills” since one of my teammates had been slightly misinformed about the time we should take to finish. Anyways, the real last hill eventually came, and we ended up getting first (don’t ask out of how many), so I guess I can’t complain too much.

So onto the event I’d been waiting for–the road race! The course was 40 miles long, which is 20 miles longer than I’d ever raced before, so I was looking forward to a new level of pain. The pace started out pretty leisurely, perhaps because everybody else hadn’t raced 40 miles before either. Unfortunately, winter was not kind to the roads this year, and the potholes were out in force. Anyways, riding in the peloton doesn’t exactly give you the best view of the road, so pinch flats became an immediate concern. I saw at least two people in front of me flat out of the race. At some point somebody joked that we should all be riding Gatorskins. Hah. Little did he know that I race on my commuter bike… I did not flat.

The race continued in that way until we had done one 20 mile lap. When we realized we were about to pass a bunch of spectators, I think the group consensus was that we should bike faster (cyclists are all about appearances, I’ve come to realize). Anyways, we hit the first big hill on the second lap, and people started turning on the jets. I just barely made the break (a rider literally came up and pushed me to help me along). There were six of us together. We go and go, but I’m pretty gassed at this point, and rotate off the front pretty much as soon as I get there. The second hill was not quite as kind to me… I got dropped and ended up doing the last 8 miles of the race by myself. I managed to hold off the field to take 6th. Pain was redefined for me on that day.

At the beginning of the race, somebody yelled out that MIT would do poorly in the race because the course had turns in it, which didn’t match the conditions of the wind tunnel that we practiced in. Despite being a rather long and slightly convoluted joke, it made me wonder about the more pressing issue at hand. This is not the first time I’ve heard MIT being heckled about its wind tunnel. So? Where’s my wind tunnel, guys? Is it heated? I need to train.

Joe after the Frat Row crit at Dartmouth, his signature Dr. Pepper in hand.

My last race weekend: “I have the cheapest bike you can buy”

By Joe Near

I’ve been using an extreme version of the “Joe Near Training Plan” this year. The normal version calls for 3-4 hours of riding per week  at the highest intensity you can manage (i.e. zones 3 or 4) in an  attempt to keep your fitness through the winter while spending as  little time on the trainer as possible.

This year, I managed 1-2 hours per week.

At Beanpot, I got dropped hard in both the road race and the crit. At  Army, I held on in the crit but failed to score points; in the road race, I got dropped again. So my expectations for this week were low.

But my legs must be coming around, because I scored points in every race (that I finished) this weekend. In the ITT, I averaged over 300 watts and got 15th. That’s pretty great for me — even at my best fitness, my threshold is barely 300 watts.

The Dartmouth crit was very difficult for me, both physically and mentally, because of the rain — I’ve always been bad at cornering hard in the rain, and it was hard to force myself while the water and grit being sprayed in my face made it hard to see anything. The faster guys knew it would be hard in the back and went pretty hard in the  beginning.

But I stuck with it and as the rain stopped, things got easier. I still couldn’t see anything in the final lap, and the two guys who had lapped the field started pushing people around in an effort to beat each other in the final sprint, so my primary goal was to avoid crashing rather than place as well as possible. I was therefore very proud to get 10th.

Joe after the Frat Row crit at Dartmouth, his signature Dr. Pepper in hand.

The TTT is typically very tough at UNH because I have to do it with  Zack Ulissi and it’s hilly. I was very fortunate that he took it easy on me this time. It was extra fun because we started last, behind the only two other Men’s A teams. This meant that once we caught the other teams, we knew we were leading in terms of time. I think this encouraged Zack to go easy on the hills, because he was certain we could win. I appreciated that.

But there was no camera for the finish of the TTT. This was a bummer. I wanted to be in one last finish-line photo before I graduate, and the TTT is typically the only place I get to do it! I was going to make such a great face.

In the road race, I felt much better than I expected. Unfortunately the roads were terrible. I have raced this course in the past and remember them being pretty reasonable, so this winter must have really been tough on the road conditions.

Anyway, I flatted around mile 15 and fortunately the leak was slow enough that I was able to ride it back to the parking lot. Some of the downhills were a little bit scary on a tire with 20 psi, though. I was sad to have flatted but it’s tough to complain: I have pretty good luck with flats, generally, and I didn’t end up having to walk home.

I had a great time this weekend, and while I’m sad that I won’t get to do another ECCC race, I’m happy to see that the team is as strong as ever. I’ve been around long enough to see several “generations” of riders, and it’s great to see that the welcoming attitude and cohesiveness of the team has remained.

Some of our newer riders — the women, especially — are getting great results and obviously learning a ton about bike racing every single weekend. Many of the newer riders already act like veterans: I sometimes forget that they have never raced bikes before this year.

Veterans on the team have historically sprung for expensive equipment. My bike is the oldest (and probably the least valuable) in most of the races I enter. So during a discussion about bikes on Saturday, I said, “I have the cheapest bike you can buy!” It was quickly pointed out to me that my bike had fancier stuff on it than many of the bikes sitting around it. Many of the newer team members are so good that I just forgot they hadn’t yet been bitten by the upgrade bug!

So I’d say good luck to everyone, but I don’t think you’ll need it. Being a part of the team has been an honor and a privilege, and I’m both happy to see that future members will have access to the same
great experience I had, and excited to see that the new generation of riders seems poised to continue achieving great results.

Zack U’s Beanpot RR Recap

Not an amazing result compared to the wins from others on the team this weekend, but I wanted to give a bit of insight into how the MA races play out.

Pre-race thoughts – the weather was awful, so I assumed there would be plenty of breaks like last year. I didn’t think anything would stick until the later laps, but there’s ~10 A racers who can usually make a break stick if it goes, so I was hoping to go with them when it happened. Last year there were 3-4 breaks, but it was a lot of the same people in the break each time. This is usually the case when breaks are made by selections on fitness like attacking over a sharp hill; the same people are selected repeatedly if they are consistently near the front at these selection points.

Strava’s new tools have made it really easy to show/annotate road races:

Strava Fly-by for the MA road race 

0:30 – race starts

0:33 – We hit the descent with Joe/Ben/me at the back of the field, Joe jokes about the MIT men being in usual formation at the back. Brakes aren’t working since everyone has carbon wheels and it’s really wet, so no choice but to just go straight and hope for the best. We hit the hill hard and Ben tells me he’s already in the red, but I think everyone was. I’m not too worried about a break going so soon into the race so stay near the back.

0:38 – A few people get off the front, but I see Brett (PSU), Alan (Ship), Glenn (Delaware), and Tom (Providence) in the field, so I’m not worried.

0:46 – I see Alan attack and a small group forms ~10sec up the road. I bridge to that, since I know Alan is strong. Brett also comes along, and we have a strong group of ~8 people.

0:54 – We hit the climb with a small lead over the field, but we’re not going that hard and it’s pretty clear we’re going to get caught. The pace is really hard in the field though and Ben/Emerson/others get dropped in the process. I don’t want to waste the gap I have (the hardest part for me breaking away is getting a gap), so I put in a small attack near the top and go it alone. I spend the next 10 minutes riding tempo off the front, hoping that someone else bridges to me so I can get another chance at a break.

1:02 – I’m tired and want either a new break or get some rest in the group. As I get caught, a group of three including Sam (Middlebury), Vince (Drexel), and Nick (Providence) put in a small attack and sort of roll off the front. I’m right behind them when it happens, so I jump on that. It’s not a hard attack but the field lets us go, probably because so many fast people (Tom/Glenn/Alan/Brett) aren’t in the move.

1:10 – We spend the next lap not far off the front, but eventually the field stops chasing. We rotate pretty well and stay together on the hills. I periodically yell at people to keep rotating, and the gap to the field goes up to ~3 minutes. I assume the Middlebury guys are blocking for us so I make sure Sam doesn’t get dropped even though it looks like he’s hurting on the hills. Maybe not a great idea in hindsight.

1:50 – Glenn and Kai (Middlebury) bridge to the break, so there’s 6 of us. We don’t work well together, but the field is nowhere in sight so that’s fine.

2:15 – Final lap. The Middlebury guys play it perfectly. Sam attacks into the downhill, Kai blocks, and Sam goes away solo to win the race. I try to bridge to Sam, but Kai blocks well and the others in the break don’t want to contribute to bringing him back. I’m guessing Glenn wanted the points for the yellow jersey so made some sort of deal to let Middlebury win when he bridged with Kai, and Vince/Nick seem to be suffering and get dropped near the end. With ~ 1k to go I’m exhausted and Kai goes clear as well, then Glenn sprints around me for third.

MIT Cycling Team
Solvang Training Camp 2015

Solvang Training Camp 2015

MIT Cycling Team Solvang Training Camp 2015
MIT Cycling Team
Solvang Training Camp 2015

Nine full cycling days in Solvang, California made for THE venue for a great team training camp experience. The weather was exceptionally warm, mostly the 60s to 70s. As you can see, we were also fortunate it was beautifully green due to recent rains in the area, more so than the previous year’s  camps  further south and closer to San Diego.  What a great escape it was from the record snowfall and cold back in Cambridge.

We had a great attendance with about 24  team members in the main house and another dozen alumni riders in a second house.  Each morning we fixed ourselves a good breakfast and gathered at the main house to depart for the day’s cycling adventure about mid morning.

Day 1 –  Buellton West

Click here for the Strava route

This was our first day out intended to be an easy “stretch you legs” day after a long day of travel, but the pace got alittle higher than that on the way out (what did you expect from a pack of overachievers?)  Mostly rollers on this route, though each day we needed to head out from the main house to Solvang, a picturesque  9 mile route that included about a mile 6% climb on the way back.

First thing back each day FOOD was generally on everyone’s mind, and it tended to be every man and woman for themselves.  This was rather necessary as these are drop training rides and we were not all returning at the same time, nor necessarily doing the same rides.

Dinner, on the other hand was carefully planned by Jenn in advance to be not only great fare but a true team event in it’s preparation. Everyone was assigned responsibilities that varied from night to night – you might be the helper, the clean up crew or the head chef. I think we all had a turn at each. The diversity of the cuisine prepared reflected the diversity of the group. I think we all came away with an appreciation of the challenges involved in cooking for a large group.


We gathered each evening  for a lively team meeting
We gathered each evening for a lively team meeting

Following dinner the evening organized activities always concluded with the team meeting. These were just fun – at times very educational, at others very entertaining, and at times somewhat competitive.  No dull moments.

Day 2 –  Figueroa Mtn or Tour of California ITT Course and wineries

Click here for the Strava route Mt. Figuero

Click here for the Tour of California ITT  / Foxen Canyon wineries

Today you had the choice of two great routes. Half the group climbed the epic Mt. Figueroa (this was a bonus climb as we did it again later in week) and the other half rode the Solvang ITT loop used several times in the Tour of California (15 miles) followed by a second longer loop through wine country.

Winding thru wine country
Winding thru wine country

A few stopped and checked out the grapes afterwards – worth the stop I am told.

Solvang country side video on the ITT route

Day 3 – Rest Day

click here for mountain bike route Solvang to com towers

Rest day meant something different to everyone. Rest was more about selecting a lighter self-directed ride.  There is some interesting mountain biking in the area. Just a few miles from Solvang you can climb up a dirt road to the crest of the Santa Barbara coastal mountains and then ride the mountain tops to the highest peaks in the area, as demonstrated by the high density of communications towers shown below.

Communication Tower Mountain
Communication Tower Mountain


Looking out from the top of Com Tower Mountain at 4400' the Pacific to your left and the Santa Ynez valley to your right
Looking out from the top of Com Tower Mountain at 4400′
the Pacific to your left and the Santa Ynez valley to your right


Day 4 – Drum and Foxen Canyons

click here for Strava route

This was a northern Santa Ynez valley route with several significant  climbs. Quite a  bit more mileage – close to 90 today. Very rural and bicycling friendly.

A traditional danish plate lunch in Solvang
A traditional danish plate lunch in Solvang


Day 5 – Jalama Beach out and back

click here for Strava route

This was our longest day so far, over 90 miles from the main house south of Solvang west to Jalama Beach on the Pacific.  Some fun climbing on the way out crossing over the coastal mountains and then descending to sea level and the beach.  Great burgers on the beach awaited all!

Pacific Ocean beach front
Pacific Ocean beach front


Day 6 – Rest Day

This time most of us really scaled back on the riding to take a true rest. Good day to check out the very authentic Danish town of Solvang. Not a bad place to live – save your money, though – new starter homes begin around three quarters of a mil…..

Picturesque Solvang. The entire downtown maintains this architecture.
Picturesque Solvang. The entire downtown maintains this architecture.


Day 7 – Mount Figueroa

click here for the Strava route

This was an epic day of riding – long and hard with the signature climb of the Santa Ynez valley.  As you might expect, the lighter riders shined on a day like today.

On the way up Mount Figueroa
On the way up Mount Figueroa
Looking out from the top
Looking out from the top

Day 8 – TTT Practice

 click here for Strava route on TTT practice

click here for mountain bike route Solvang to Pacific coast beach

Lots of variety this day, each was left to chose his own cycling.  There were those who practiced the TTT, others who rested and some who chose mountain biking.  The selection rather depended on how much climbing and mileage one was looking for at this point in the camp.

A little tree climbing toward the end of my mountain bike adventure
A little tree climbing toward the end of my mountain bike adventure

Day 9 – The longest day plus the epic Gibralter Road Climb

97 miles and 9200 feet of climbing

click here for Strava route

This route took us from Solvang to Santa Barbara and back. We did all the epic climbs in the Santa Ynez valley so it was decided we would end the camp with this serious climbers route.

When we got to the top of Gibralter Road looking out over the Pacific we were treated with a too cool drone session and group video  sponsored by one of the alums. A great demonstration of how far the technology has come at a reasonable price point of $1500.

 Video from the top

Gibralter Road switchbacks
Gibralter Road switchbacks
More than 4000' of climbing to the top
More than 4000′ of climbing to the top
Cold Springs Tavern - a most unusual food pit stop
Cold Springs Tavern – a most unusual food pit stop

We wrapped up the day with a stop at the Cold Springs Tavern which had been highly recommended. Serious roast beef sandwiches. A very eclectic clientele. Beautiful setting. Obviously very popular with the locals. Worth checking out.


An epic week of cycling. While everyone was free to chose their own level of riding, several of us exceeded 550 miles and 40,000′ of climbing over the 9 days. Try to get that in Cambridge!

The miles, the warmth, the food and fellowship are rewards on top of the long term health benefits gained when you choose to make a commitment toward a balanced life style through cycling. Sign up for the next episode IAP 2016.


The group at PTown, tired but happy

Harbor to the Bay

Last Saturday, 10 MIT riders went to Provincetown. Not the way most people go (a quick and easy ferry from seaport), but the long way – a 126-mile scenic bike route that took us down the coast through Sagamore and Hyannis, and then up through the Cape on a combination of wind-swept highways and gorgeous rail trails. As if the long route wasn’t punishment enough, we also started in the cold and darkness of 4:30am. Why? For the last three years, MIT Cycling has been proud to volunteer with Harbor to the Bay, an annual AIDS charity ride. Our role is to serve as course marshals at various points along the route, guiding and cheering the 300-some charity riders as they make their way along the journey.

The day started with an early breakfast in Copley square, after which we rolled out to head to our marshal positions, dotted between the 60-mile and 115-mile mark. There was no time for dawdling, as we had to reach these spots ahead of the charity riders, some of whom were starting in Hyannis, 60 miles ahead of us, but 4 hours later. Some simple maths told us we needed to average 15mph. That doesn’t sound so bad, with 10 riders in a good paceline. But, that doesn’t allow for stoppage time, and the rest stops other crew members had set up along the way were simply too good to pass up. Filled with delicious home-cooked treats, from brownies and muffins to carrot cake, we knew we wanted to stop at each one to sample the fine food. So, we hustled all the way to Hyannis, keeping a moving speed of about 18mph. We had some (brave) new riders with us, who did an awesome job keeping up and very quickly learned the benefits of drafting. It’ll be really excited to see some of these new riders racing on the road with us in the spring!

The group broke up as we dropped riders off at each marshal spot, where we were delivered lunch by the organizer and stood (or sat, depending on fatigue) directing riders and cheering them on until the last one had come through. It was incredible to see the determination and commitment of all of these charity riders, many of whom have never ridden these sorts of distances before. Perhaps even more impressive were the costumes some of them were wearing, ranging from various superhero-type capes to full-on glamorous drag.

Andrea and a Drag Queen. It was unclear whose legs were better shaven.
Andrea and a Drag Queen. It was unclear whose legs were better shaven.

After the sag car came through and dismissed us from our marshal spots, the group collected again and rode the final miles together, with one last town line sprint to bring us into PTown at around 5:30pm. With three hours to go before our ferry back (no, we weren’t going to re-trace our pedal strokes), we made a beeline toward food and the clean clothes we had packed to change back into. Two (or three) burgers later, we were all feeling much better, and the satisfaction of a good long ride and having helped a good cause began to sink in. The ferry ride home was pretty quiet (most of us passed out), and we all slept pretty soundly that night.

Jen and Corey “recovering” on the ferry

Overall, it was a fantastic day, and we’re looking forward to doing this ride again next year.


Kate Wymbs’ Army Circuit Race Win

One of the only redeeming part of Army’s weekend last year amidst the hill-climb ITT and the hilly-though scenic road race, was the Stadium Crit – a venue where spectators could view all the action and where I had a blast, despite finishing dead last (check out the recap here). This year, due to an event in the stadium, that crit was to be replaced with a circuit race. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go –academically I was in between two hell-weeks, an awful lot of hills haunted the weekend, and as week 5 of 8, I thought it would be a good weekend to skip so I wouldn’t get burnt out on bikes. The road captains saw my hesitation and encouraged me to take the time off if I thought I needed it.  As fate would have it, however my best friend Becca Greene, who I had been encouraging to come out and race all season decided that Army would be her first weekend. I had no choice, friendship prevailed and I signed up for the weekend.

Boy am I glad I did!

(It turns out I also had an unwarranted prejudice against circuit races – this one was essentially a crit, with crit scoring and only one stretch of road with the yellow-line rule, earning its title as a circuit race. I also had to realize that since I wasn’t contesting green, the race was really more of a scratch race with primes for chamois butter than a points race.)

Alright, enough preamble, time for the actual race report:

Just before the race, Coach Nicole gathered Corey, Jen, Shaena and me in the Barge for a race strategy meeting. We had a critical mass of women in this race that we had a very real opportunity to employ some good team tactics. After debating strengths and different potential strategies, we finally decided on one, knowing that if it failed we would have to be flexible. The goal was to wait for the third prime. I would go for it, ideally get it with Shaena on my wheel and then she would attack and then hopefully get a break if she was alone or Michelle or Leslie went with her.  Then I would get to block and she would duke it out for the finish. If her break failed then Jen and Corey would try to be there and trade attacks. Once Shaena and I recovered, we would join in trading attacks until someone got away. It was a good plan and it let me practice patients since I have this tendency to jump at things early and waste a bunch of energy trying to be involved in controlling the early parts of the race.

The first half of the race went pretty much as planned. Shaena went for a prime or two, securing her green jersey and I tried to rest as other riders attacked and were brought back by a responsive pack. Aside from kicking a hay bale onto the course on turn one of one of the laps, fish-tailing and staying up, the first half of the race was rather uneventful for me.

The laps went by and suddenly the bell rang for the third prime. I tried to play it cool and worked my way up to the front of the back by the backstretch of highway road. At turn 3, I was in the front with Shaena close by, and at 200m to go, I attacked with Shaena on my wheel. Immediately after I got the prime, Shaena went. Unfortunately, Rose was the one who went with her and then refused to work, sitting up and letting the pack catch. Shaena’s attack was so sudden that Jen and Corey were not in position to trade counter attacks as planned. I was gassed from the sprint so it took me a minute to recover. When I got up to the front again, I attacked and Shaena traded a counter attack trying to split the field. The field, however, was very responsive. Other riders also launched attacks after that but the pack always chased and caught.

Well so much for that strategy. With two or three laps to go, I got to the front to see if Shaena wanted to try to get away one last time and if I could help by giving her an attack to counter. She did not and indicated that we should just try to rest for the bunch sprint instead.

And so we decided to wait for the end, where the last 10 seconds define an hour of tactical racing. As other riders went for the double-points final prime, I chilled in the pack. One lap to go. I took the last lap to position myself to the left of Shaena’s wheel. At 400m Shaena went and Gabby from Army and I were on her wheel (I was to left, she to the right.) With about 175m, I went and didn’t look back.

The finish line came and I did a bike throw out of habit. I didn’t know who was around me or how the field was responding. It was only after that I realized that Rose and this Kutztown trackie had finished with the same time as me but a bike length behind!! What a good lead out! My first Women’s A mass start win!  A rider came up to us after the race and expressed how thrilling it was to actually get to see people utilizing team tactics well.

And so, despite getting dropped on the hill in the following day’s road race, I am so so thankful that friendship persuaded me to race this weekend! (It didn’t even matter that that particular friend got in quite late the night before and actually missed my win, sleeping in the car.) I got to prove to myself that I could be patient and that I could be competitive in a sprint against this field. As Coach Nicole reminded me after the race: it’s one thing to say or think that you could do well in a sprint given the right circumstances and another thing to prove it.