By Tristan Cowie
Editor’s note: Tristan Cowie may just be the most well-rounded rider in the area. The guy can manual through a pump track, line up at a UCI pro cross race, pedal a century, and smash rocks with the best of them. He is a former Brevard College collegiate national champion, taking individual titles and the overall omnium his senior year. That title is reserved for the rider who places the best in downhill, short track, cross-country and dual slalom. While still focused on his own racing, Tristan now helps other athletes as a coach at Carmichael Training Systems right here in Brevard. In that role, clients not only look to him for direction in their performance, but set up as well.
Tristan’s Road/Gravel Bike and Riding Tips
Brevard and the surrounding area have miles of beautiful roads and trails. Having a comfortable, confident and safe set up on your bike is crucial to enjoying what this area has to offer. Cycling is a sport of repetition. With increased fitness and strength, the rides grow longer and more difficult. These tips and tricks will insure that the bike works consistently, operates safely, and provides miles of comfortable riding.
1. TIRE SELECTION/PRESSURE – Having properly inflated tires and good quality rubber will add more smooth miles to the weekly bank. Investing in an accurate pressure gauge and checking your tires before every ride decreases the chance of getting a flat tire on a remote road with little or no cell phone coverage.
2. NAVIGATION – Garmin and Wahoo are two leading producers for GPS cycling computers. Loading some terrain maps in your computer will even allow you to check for alternate routes during the ride. A short cut home in the rain? Yes, please!
3. SPARES – Always be prepared. Carrying plenty of tubes and tools to fix small issues is a must for safe riding. Riding on the road increases your radius away from the car or home more than a mountain bike, making it more difficult to return quickly.
4. COCK PIT SETUP– Road and gravel roads are much smoother compared to mountain bike trials. There is less moving and adjusting your body weight over the bike so slight issues in bike fit will be uncovered more quickly. Getting a proper bike set up is a must if you plan on doing moderate to serious riding.
5. BOTTLE CAGES – A small but important item. If you start to dabble in gravel riding, not having properly secured bottles will be a constant headache. Halfway through a ride and realizing you don’t have any more water since the water bottles popped out? Not fun. Leave the lightweight, flimsy carbon cages at home.
Tristan’s Mountain Bike and Riding Tips
1. COCKPIT SETUP – The handlebars, brake levers and shifters make up the bike’s cockpit or steering wheel. Having all of these items positioned correctly is important for the safe operation of the bicycle. Handlebars come in different widths and selecting a wider bar will slow the steering of the bike. A wider bar will make it more stable at speed and increase the leverage of the handlebar, making it easier to direct the bike and helping to relax the upper body. Relaxing means saving energy to use later on in the ride!.
2. TIRE SELECTION – Pisgah, Bracken Mountain and DuPont are home to roots and rocks. A high-quality tire will aid in puncture resistance, improve the grip and traction, and provide more confidence in technical sections on the trail. A wider tire, something like a 2.3 or 2.4-inch tire, will also help the tire roll over roots and is less likely to fall into small gaps between rocks.
3. SUSPENSION -Having properly adjusted suspension allows your bike to work more efficiently. The bike will gain traction on the trail and allow you to ride more smoothly with less effort. Suspension adjusting can be a daunting prospect for most riders, but practice being familiar with how to set air pressure and tweak basic settings. The local bike shops are great places to start this process.
4. WATER – Always, always, always bring enough water. Camelbacks and storage solutions such as the Specialized Swat Bib or Race Face Stash help you carry water without adding bulk. Taking a minute to plan out linking locations of running water will ensure you are always close to a water source if there is an emergency.
5. SPARES – Mountain bikes ride on rough terrain. Mishaps and broken parts are very likely. Taking a trail-side maintenance class at a local shop will help you with a makeshift repair and get you out of the woods. Be comfortable changing a tube, repairing a snapped chain and adjusting a broken derailleur.