Welcome to Rat Race Cycles

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Rat Race Cycles is a bike shop and workshop in Nunhead, South East London.

We offer bicycle repairs and servicing as well as bike, parts and accessories sales.  We also hand build quality wheels and custom bikes.

The owner, Pete, is a Cytech 3 mechanic and a qualified CycleFit bike fitter, and is therefore able to tailor each and every aspect of the bike to you from the ground up, whatever your cycling discipline.  This helps you to find the best bike set up to suit your body and your riding style, and can help you avoid injury or pain in your hips, knees, legs, and back as well other joints including your shoulders and wrists.

Find out more about who we are, take a look at what we do, have a look at our price list, and be sure to check back here for updates on what’s going on in Nunhead, and in the wider world of cycling!

Fit Fridays 5: V-crunches

Now that the introductions are over, it’s time we started addressing the question of exercising. We’ve discussed WHY you should be cross training, taking care of your core and your upper body, and stretching, now it’s time to discuss HOW.

From here on in, Fit Fridays will consist of run downs of some of our favourite exercises – how to do them safely and effectively, and why they work.

Before we start, though, I want to make something clear – no amount of ab exercises will get rid of a fat tummy. Crunches and reverse curls etc will do wonders for your abs, but the simple fact is that you can’t spot reduce fat. If you need (or, more importantly, want) to lose fat (and believe me I know exactly where you’re coming from!), then you need to look into diet, energy expenditure and caloric deficit. As you lose fat, it will come off your whole body where it will – you don’t get to choose where it goes from or in what order (more’s the pity!). However, by doing exercises like the ones we will discuss here, you’ll have an awesomely toned set of muscles waiting to be revealed once you’ve melted any unwanted layers away.

So, first up, we’re going back to our core work, with a healthy dose of V-CRUNCHES.  These brilliant crunches will challenge your TVA and back muscles with the stability element of having your feet off the ground, as well as your rectus abdominis (6 pack muscles).

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Fit Fridays 4: Stretching the truth

Ah, stretching. Possibly the most maligned and/or neglected area of a comprehensive workout programme. There are so many myths and misconceptions when it comes to stretching, so let’s start with the very basics…

Why do we stretch?

Well, that’s surprisingly simple, really. There are 2 main reasons for stretching after a workout. Firstly, it’s to do with how your muscles heal, and therefore how they grow. When you work a muscle you are causing that muscle to contract. As that muscle contracts, it bunches up, as you’d imagine, and gets shorter. You make tiny little tears in your muscles when you work them, and as you recover your muscles regrow to repair those tears. This regrowth is how your muscle mass increases. If you don’t stretch your muscles, they repair and regrow in a contracted position. Great for muscles that look rounded and bulgy, but not so great if you actually want to use your muscles to any great effect, as this shortens your muscles and leads not only to postural problems, but also to a reduction in range of moment (ROM). Neither of these is a good thing.

The second reason we stretch is the same reason we cool down after a workout: slower, more gentle challenging of the muscles in a pattern of decreasing effort prevents the muscles from cooling too quickly and seizing, and helps to dispel lactic acid. Continue reading

Fit Fridays 3: Arms and the (wo)man

So often, when we think of cycling training, we think of legs and butt (training, people, I’m talking about training). The massive muscle groups which we use to power through our pedal strokes. The gluteus muscles. The quadriceps. The hamstrings. Less often, but sometimes, we might pay attention to our calf muscles, the gastrocnemius and soleus. Particularly if we’re riding long distances clipped in, we may have encountered niggles with (and therefore stretched out and activated) our plantar fascia (the soles of your feet) or the tibalis anterior (the ‘shin’ muscle, ostensibly). From the hips down, we take great care of our powerhouses. But what of the hips up? We covered the core last week, and why that’s so important. Well I’m here to tell you it doesn’t end there – for tip-top performance you need to be concerning yourself with your upper body as well.

Now, admittedly you don’t need massive amounts of strength in your upper body to be an effective and efficient cyclist. There’s no power lifting involved. Strength in the arms, back and chest is more obviously important if you ride off road – mountainbiking or cyclocross – as fluid and confident bike handling is one of the most important skills you can have. In both disciplines, you need to be able to float over the bike while anticipating and absorbing any obstacles which you need to roll over. The bike is more likely to be flung out from underneath you, and you need your upper body and core strength to avoid being thrown off!

Outright strength may seem less important in road riding, but you can’t neglect it entirely. And if you want to even think about sprinting – well, you only need to look at stills of a sprint finish to see how important upper body and core strength is…

credit: francetvsport.fr

In the above photo from francetvsport.fr, take a look at the angles of the bikes. These riders are pushing all their weight through their pedals to power over the line and using their upper bodies to counteract that force; their core strength is going all out to keep their midlines and centres of gravity at a reasonable angle. You may not ever contend a sprint with Cav et al, but I bet you know the feeling yourself from sprinting off the lights or honking up that short sharp hill.

Even if you’re not super sprinty, or a honker at heart – think about it this way… Not only is a well defined shoulder and upper back a beautiful thing on both boys and girls, but you’ll reduce upper body fatigue on long rides, and upper body strength has a huge crossover into functional strength. Daily things like carrying shopping, hauling around young children, and moving furniture all become way easier with a little strength in the arms and back. It improves your posture and helps with all those riding benefits we mentioned last week that you get from that. PLUS lean muscle mass burns more calories at rest than fat. Which, let’s face it, is the icing on the cake (the one you can now eat, cos you’ll be able to burn it off!). Continue reading

Fit Fridays 2: The Core of your Programme

I’d be willing to bet that most people who have done some sort of exercise in the past will at some point have come across the idea of ‘core strength’ or ‘core fitness’.

Core, as I’m sure you’re aware, literally means ‘the centre’, eg, core of the earth, core of an apple, etc. The very middle of something. But it also means ‘central or integral to, at the heart of’ something. Of course, the parts of our body we refer to in ‘core fitness’ aren’t actually its very centre, so therefore it must be the second meaning; core fitness lies at the heart of our training programmes, it is integral to our fitness. (Don’t you love it when training and semantics come together?)

In case you don’t know what I’m talking about when I say ‘core’, let me explain. Your core is essentially made up of the muscles around your trunk, both the superficial ones – like your rectus abdominis, external obliques – and the deeper ones – such as the transversus abdominis (TVA), internal obliques, multifidus, as well as the muscles which make up the pelvic floor. This is your core. This is where your greatest and some of your most valuable cross training gains can be made. Continue reading

Fit Fridays 1: Start your engines…

So, here we are; nearly the end of October (it comes around fast, huh!?). For most of us now the racing season is over and the darker mornings and evenings are the harbingers of doom – or at least of off-season training. It’s time to reflect on the season just gone, take stock, and work out how far you came, as well as what you want for next season, which will come round just as fast…

Be honest with yourself: how did your season go this year? Did you get the results you wanted? Did you make the gains you were hoping for when the season got underway all those months ago? I hope so. But I suspect the honest truth is: not entirely. If you did meet those goals, I bet you’re wondering if you could have pushed just a tiny bit harder. Made those marginal gains – well, less marginal. Maybe you could have set those goals just a little higher. Maybe you could have tweaked your schedule a bit to make your training work a little harder for you.

But how? Put simply, if you’re not varying your workouts, and interspersing your time on the bike with comprehensive strength, stretch and cross-training sessions, you’re probably missing out. So many amateur athletes pour their all into their chosen sport, and neglect the rest of their bodies.

Fit Fridays with Rat Race Cycles

That’s what this new series is going to be about. In regular Friday posts, I’m going to give you hints and tips on cross-training and nutrition which will help you to push your riding to the next level, and Pete is going to drop by with some technical tips and on-the-bike ideas to push you even further. Continue reading