What you need to know about: Road Cycling!

by amy frankenthaler


Spring is in full swing here in Boston. We are finally hitting 70 degrees, the sun is out and we are all trying to do more things outside! Spinning indoors all Fall and Winter has got us itching to cycle outdoors! It is definitely a sign of spring when those Hubway bike stations start popping up around the city (a sight for sore eyes).

I asked one of our Handle Bar instructors, Ashley Wagner to chat with us about her road cycling experience, the difference between indoor spin and road cycling. Ashley picked up road cycling right after college and made the bold decision to ride CROSS COUNTRY. Cross Country on a bike saddle, this girl must love to cycle (both indoors and out!!).

What is Road Cycling? Tell us about your experience on the road and across the country? 🙂 

Road cycling is one of my favorite things to do (beside riding inside at The Handle Bar of course 😉 ). When I ride outside I like to tour. Touring means I am not racing but using the bike to ‘tour’ an area. It is one of the best ways to explore. I love it because you get a better prospective then you would in a car, but you can cover more ground then you can on foot. Also who doesn’t love being outside on a beautiful day and getting a little exercise while you are at it!

How did you get into cycling?

I actually starting spinning inside and really liked the workout I was getting on a stationary bike so the natural next step was to take it outside. I told my sister about wanting to try road cycling. Naturally, my sister who is awesome… but a little insane, immediately found this summer cycling program called Bike and Build and convinced me to sign up. In the spirt of go big or go home, having no outside cycling experience, I signed up for a 3 month long bike tour across the country (yes 0-4000miles).

I had 6 months to train, which was a god send. The hardest part surprisingly wasn’t the fitness but was feeling confident on a bike, on the road, with cars. I like many of you, hadn’t ridden a bike since I was 10 so my skills were pretty rusty. I was able to figure it out with only a few minor falls and come June was had quit my job and was ready to ride my bike every day.


Tell us about that how was the trip?

Turns being a little crazy paid off, it was the time of my life. If you have the time I would 100% recommend doing it. Obviously there were some growing pains at the beginning but I was so happy to be riding my bike, exploring, and being outside every day it didn’t really matter that my butt hurt. We Went from Portsmouth, NH to Vancouver BC. I was fortunate enough to ride alongside the Great Lakes, and over the Rocky’s thought Glacier National Park and put some serious miles on my bike. I learned a lot about my body and what it can do. I also learned a lot about cycling, which is something try to bring into my classes at The Handle Bar.

Is there a difference between a Spin Class and Road Cycling? What is harder? 

Honestly, I think spinning inside is harder. This is because you are in control. I am always so impressed when I see riders turn it up one extra notch or really give themselves a challenge. When you are outside you have a hill and you have no choice, you have to get over it. Inside, it takes much more mental strength to turn up that hill and intentionally make your ride harder.

For someone that has never road cycle before: How would you recommend transitioning from indoor cycling to the road? 

There are two things that are hard for people when they go from sinning to the cycling; clipping in and cars. Luckily for Handle Bar riders you already have practice clipping in, which will really go a long way. Before setting out on the street with cars and obstacles I would try clipping and unclipping a few times to be sure you know your peddles and your shoes. The other challenge is cars. They are big, fast and could squash you like a bug. This can be especially tricky in cities like Boston with few bike lanes and windy roads. When first starting out I would recommend a bike path, one of my favorites is the southwest corridor that goes through Jamaica Plan and Roxbury it is nice, and wide and off the street and a great place to get started.

What are some tips you have?

  1. Wearing a helmet is cool. I know it is a hard struggle to especially right after I have showered but my brain is too important to be vain.
  2. Get a rain guard, you never know when it is going to rain and having this on my bike with make you so much more comfortable.
  3. Start with a buddy! It was great to have my sister with me. She laughed at me when I fell over at a stop light because I couldn’t unclip in time. I also had someone with me when we road 30miles in the wrong direction in Indiana and we had to hitch hike our way to the guest site for the night. It is a great sport but it can be little intimidating to get started if you have someone with you it will make it a little easier and more fun when you stop for an ice cream break!
  4. It’s ok to fall, lets face it…it’s going to happen. You are going to feel so much better when you finally do and realize it isn’t that bad. (But be safe out there please!)

Ashley taking her own advice about falling!

You can catch Ashley teach in Southie on Fridays at 7:15am and 4:30pm OR on the roads of Boston cruising on her bike. So be sure to hop into one of her classes or tweet at her (@amwagner23) if you have more questions about road cycling! As always if you want us to dig a little deeper into anything Handle Bar related, please reach out to us!

See you in the saddle!

Putting a Positive “Spin” on Marathon Training

Running a marathon has been a goal of mine ever since I can remember. Year after year, I would set my mind on this 26.2 mile venture and then quickly talk myself out of it for one reason or another. I’m talking serious stuff like, if I ran the marathon I would miss the Sox game on Patriots day or pumpkin beer and late night tater-tots sound much more appealing than weekend long runs. Then, April 15, 2013 happened. Being a born and bred Boston native, I felt like I needed to do something to help those affected by the Boston Marathon attacks. Running a marathon and raising money for the One Fund seemed like a perfect way to show how Boston Strong I was. Before I could talk myself out of it, which let’s face it- I thought I inevitably would, several colleagues jumped on board with me and together we formed a team and registered for the Philadelphia Marathon in November. I had motivation, I had a team, I had paid the $135 registration fee- what could stop me? 
That is a completely rhetorical question, because the truth of the matter is that any number of things were bound to stop me. The particular hurdle I faced next was a hip injury that I incurred when training. I could barely walk, forget run, without severe pain. I was pretty sure my marathon aspirations would again be sidelined. How could I continue to train? What I didn’t know was that answer was right in front of me every time I donned my Handle Bar tank top and went to work in Southie.
After sharing my injury news with a friend, he directed me to an article that discussed how cardiovascular performance on the bike can translate to cardiovascular performance when running. In addition, cycling is a low impact sport, which would protect my hip. Even being as spin-obsessed as I am, I hadn’t thought of this. I became diligent about taking 3 classes per week at THB. The music, lights and energy that are HB staples, would help me put the injury aside, let the music and beat guide me through the ride, and visualize myself completing my first marathon.  
After my three week hiatus from running, my PT encouraged me to get back at it. To say I was anxious that my three weeks without running would inevitably crush my chances of completing this training program would be a huge understatement. Moreover, unlike my previous “attempts” at 26.2, this time everyone in my life knew I had set out on this journey, I would have to face all of them. I laced up my sneakers, put on a new running top that I splurged for at LuluLemon for “motivational purposes”, and hit the pavement with my favorite HB playlist pushing me along. My first day out I was able to complete 6 miles at my goal pace! I was shocked about how amazing I felt. My cardiovascular endurance hadn’t wavered at all. You would never know I hadn’t run for three weeks, I was able to pick up right where I left off. In all the years I spent running, I never had such a comeback after my training ceased.
I have always loved indoor cycling and it has always been part of my fitness routine. The roll it now plays in my training has only fueled my passion for this intense workout. As I delve further into marathon training, I have replaced one of my weekly runs with a class at THB. Spending time on the bike riding to the beat has allowed me to increase my endurance, pick up my cadence, cross train, and continue training for my first 26.2 mile run!
By Susan Haley