While the shorter days mean less after-work cycling, the longer nights mean more after-work reading (at least when you're not doing home improvement projects, but we'll not get into that here). So for this edition of Cycling Fun Friday, a couple more books to add to your nightstand.
"Inside the Postal Bus" is an account by former US Postal Cycling Team member Michael Barry. It's a fun, light read. Barry's writing is engaging and does a fine job of conveying what it's like behind-the-scenes on a pro cycling team.
Interestingly, while he was on the team the same time as Lance, there's not a lot of dishing about the 7-time Tour champion. Barry didn't race the Tour in 2005, but he did many of the bread-and-butter European races. I found the stories about these races the most enjoyable of the book. He also gives an account of his time on the Olympic cycling team.
All in all, I'd rate this book a B+. It won't win any literary awards and the stories loosely follow in chronological order, but they seemed a bit scattered, with no unifying theme to connect them - other than the fact that they were all about bike races.
Get this book if you want a glimpse into the the day-to-day life of a pro bike racer. That's what Michael Barry knows best and he does a fine job of letting us into his world.
I recently re-read Eric Harr's "Ride Fast: Get Up To Speed On Your Bike In 10 Weeks Or Less" and was pleasantly surprised at how well it's held up despite all I've learned about training since I first discovered it a couple years ago. Like the book by Chris Sidwells (reviewed here), it provides a pre-packaged training program, but Harr's book kicks it up a notch by setting a goal: take a newbie cyclist and train him (or her) to do a 3 mile time trial at an average speed of 25 mph - a daunting task.
Harr's book functions best as a one-stop course in performance cycling, and could even stand-in as an introduction to racing. There's information on proper gear, bike maintenance, nutrition, and race preparation, as well as the training plan itself. A number of sidebars are packed with additional information as well, covering everything from proper massage to basic physiology.
The biggest strength of the book, like the Sidwells book, is that its program covers not only exercise on the bike, but overall fitness/exercise as well. There are a number of off-bike exercises that are recommended - and those workouts only take about 40 minutes at a time.
The on-bike workouts are gauged by either perceived exertion or a percentage of maximum heartrate. In that way, it's pretty standard. But my biggest criticism is that Harr has you calculate "maximum heartrate" based on the flawed formula "220 minus your age" The plan in this book would be more effective if you're either very good at calculating your perceived exertion, or you know what your actual maximum heartrate is, based on a field or lab test. That old formula is pretty useless.
Overall, I'd recommend this book to anyone that's ready to graduate from casual to serious riding or from haphazard training to planned training. It's not the be-all, end-all but it does provide an excellent introduction to performance-based cycling and a great foundation you can build on.
The weekend's forecast looks good again (amazingly), so more racing on Sunday. Will let you know how it goes, so watch this space . . .