Author: Chris Case

Fast Talk, ep. 65: Debunking supplements — what works, and what doesn’t?

The VeloNews Fast Talk podcast is your source for the best training advice and most compelling insight on what it takes to become a better cyclist. Listen in as VeloNews managing editor Chris Case and our resident physiologist and coach, Trevor Connor, discuss a range of topics, including sport science, training, physiology, technology, nutrition, and more.

Those who take their training and racing seriously are always looking for something to give them an edge — that marginal gain. The obvious and easiest fixes are often equipment upgrades — lighter bikes, more aerodynamic wheels.

Then come nutritional supplements. So much has been promised to us in pill form, it’s created a multi-billion-dollar industry. There’s a pill to make everything better. Those promises carry into enhanced endurance performance. And many athletes have resorted to the morning supplement cocktail believing it will make them better cyclists. But there’s a dark side. Those cocktails can actually hurt performance, certainly affect health, and lead to even darker, ethically-challenged places.

Today, we’re going to talk about supplements and our concerns with them, and then cover a few foods that actually do work.

We’ll discuss:

  • We thought about bashing all the supplements that don’t work but then realized we only have an hour. So instead, Trevor will read a description of every supplement that does work. That list combined with a discussion of its sources will cover the first three minutes.
  • We’ll talk about supplements in general and why they can be a big concern.
  • And with those concerns in context, we’ll start addressing things that have been proven to help, starting with pickle juice.
  • Next on our list is beetroot juice which can not only help performance but has been shown to have health benefits as well.
  • Believe it or not, we’re going to talk about chocolate — or more specifically the active ingredient, cocoa flavonoids, which also, surprisingly, have both performance and health benefits.
  • That, of course, leads to something that frequently comes up in the sports nutrition literature — chocolate milk. It’s as effective as most recovery mixes. So, the key question is how effective are the mixes?
  • Finally, we’ll revisit the ketogenic diet and specifically supplementing with ketone esters.

Our primary guest today is Ryan Kohler, the manager of the University of Colorado Sports Medicine and Performance Center who holds a masters degree in sports nutrition and exercise science. Ryan has helped Trevor and I with many previous articles and behind-the-scenes work with some of our experiments, shall we call them. We’re excited to finally get him in front of the mic, even if he is a little shy.

In addition, we’ll talk with world-renowned coach Joe Friel, author of the definitive book on training, The Cyclists Training Bible. We asked Joe his opinion about supplementation based on decades of coaching. We’ll also hear from endurance mountain biker Rebecca Rusch and Apex Coaching owner Neal Henderson, the personal coach of world time trial champion Rohan Dennis. They’ll each give us their thoughts on supplements and a few things they’ve found that work.

As always, if you have a minute please take the time to rate us on iTunes, Stitcher, Soundcloud, or wherever you get your podcasts. And keep those emails coming! We have a dedicated Fast Talk email address.

Now, gather your pickle juice, your beet juice, pounds of chocolate, maybe even some ketone esters if you have them, and eat up as we talk. Let’s make you fast!

Fast Talk is available on all your favorite podcast services, including iTunesStitcherGoogle Play, and Soundcloud. If you enjoy the podcast, please take a moment to rate and comment on iTunes after listening.


  • Nelson, N.L. and J.R. Churilla, A narrative review of exercise-associated muscle cramps: Factors that contribute to neuromuscular fatigue and management implications. Muscle Nerve, 2016. 54(2): p. 177-85.
  • Dominguez, R., et al., Effects of Beetroot Juice Supplementation on Cardiorespiratory Endurance in Athletes. A Systematic Review. Nutrients, 2017. 9(1).
  • Perez-Berezo, T., et al., Effects of a cocoa diet on an intestinal inflammation model in rats. Exp Biol Med (Maywood), 2012. 237(10): p. 1181-8.
  • Goya, L., et al., Effect of Cocoa and Its Flavonoids on Biomarkers of Inflammation: Studies of Cell Culture, Animals and Humans. Nutrients, 2016. 8(4): p. 22.
  • Patel, R.K., J. Brouner, and O. Spendiff, Dark chocolate supplementation reduces the oxygen cost of moderate intensity cycling. J Int Soc Sports Nutr, 2015. 12: p. 47.
  • Volek, J.S., T. Noakes, and S.D. Phinney, Rethinking fat as a fuel for endurance exercise. Eur J Sport Sci, 2015. 15(1): p. 13-20.
  • Cox, P.J. and K. Clarke, Acute nutritional ketosis: implications for exercise performance and metabolism. Extrem Physiol Med, 2014. 3: p. 17.
  • Hawley, J.A. and J.J. Leckey, Carbohydrate Dependence During Prolonged, Intense Endurance Exercise. Sports Med, 2015. 45 Suppl 1: p. S5-12.
  • Pinckaers, P.J., et al., Ketone Bodies and Exercise Performance: The Next Magic Bullet or Merely Hype? Sports Med, 2017. 47(3): p. 383-391.
  • Petrie, M., et al., Beet Root Juice: An Ergogenic Aid for Exercise and the Aging Brain. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci, 2017. 72(9): p. 1284-1289.
  • Australian Institute of Sport. ABCD Classification System. 2016 [cited 2017; Available from:
  • Pierini, D. and N.S. Bryan, Nitric oxide availability as a marker of oxidative stress. Methods Mol Biol, 2015. 1208: p. 63-71.

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Fast Talk, ep. 64: Inside the Canadian team’s world championship success, with Mike Woods and Rob Britton

The VeloNews Fast Talk podcast is your source for the best training advice and most compelling insight on what it takes to become a better cyclist. Listen in as VeloNews managing editor Chris Case and our resident physiologist and coach, Trevor Connor, discuss a range of topics, including sport science, training, physiology, technology, nutrition, and more.

In episode 64, we ask the question: What does it take to stand on the podium at the world championships? It’s a simple question without a simple answer. Strength buys you a seat at the table, but playing a winning hand takes effective training, teamwork, near-perfect strategy, and an incredible mindset.

In today’s episode we take a deep dive into all of the elements that are needed for a podium placing at worlds with two of the members of the Canadian team — Mike Woods and Rob Britton. The two of them, along with their team of coaches, asked that simple question over a year before the 2018 world championships. Canada doesn’t have the biggest reputation, nor the best-funded team, but they found the answers and earned Mike the bronze medal.

So, how did they do it? Today we’ll cover:

  1. How the race played out to put Mike in a position to fight for the podium
  2. Rob Britton’s all-day breakaway that helped put Mike in that position
  3. The final “hell climb” as Rob calls it, how it was central to Mike’s strategy, the sort of numbers he put out on the climb, and why those numbers don’t tell the full story
  4. The finale, and why in a split second the excitement of a podium momentarily turned into a disappointment
  5. A comparison of Mike’s and Rob’s very different preparations for worlds. Mike used the Tour of Utah and the Vuelta to get his legs ready. Rob, on the other hand, loaded his bike up with fifty pounds of gear and did a very low-tech ride across half of Canada. Yet, both riders arrived with great legs… and, perhaps more importantly, great mindsets.
  6. How Rob and Mike balanced their training — including the balance of long slow volume rides, threshold work, and VO2max training, and how training for a seven hour event like worlds may differ from the local two-hour race

Our primary guests for this podcast were the Canadian superstars themselves: Mike Woods of the EF Education First team and Rob Britton of Rally Cycling. Mike, who comes from a running background, exploded onto the scene five years ago and since then has raced multiple grand tours, which has included a recent stage win at the Vuelta. Rob has dominated the domestic scene with multiple wins, including the GC victory at races like Tour of the Gila.

In addition to Rob and Mike, we’ll talk with:

Mike’s coach Paulo Saldahna. Despite his remarkable coaching success, Paulo points out that coaching is only one of the many hats he wears. He’s the owner of the successful indoor training company PowerWatts and is an endurance sport physiologist by trade where he builds support structures for athletes worldwide and runs a high performance facility in Montreal.

Finally, we’ll talk briefly with Dr. Ciaran O’Grady, a coach and sports scientist at Team Dimension Data. As a WorldTour coach, we’ll ask him what’s different about training for a seven hour race.

Now, if you’ll please stand for the national anthem of Canada. Oh Canada, my home and native land… Let’s make you fast!

Fast Talk is available on all your favorite podcast services, including iTunesStitcherGoogle Play, and Soundcloud. If you enjoy the podcast, please take a moment to rate and comment on iTunes after listening.

Read the full article at Fast Talk, ep. 64: Inside the Canadian team’s world championship success, with Mike Woods and Rob Britton on

What has the U.S. gained by hosting cyclocross World Cups?

In early December, a string of articles and tweets by several Belgian cyclocross promoters, pundits, and analysts suggested the sport may be losing its footing, even in the sport’s epicenter. TV viewership was down year over year by a double-digit percentage. Mathieu van der Poel’s domination was leading to predictable racing. A lack of strong rivalries in the men’s field was eroding any narrative to drive fan interest. And the calendar of races? That schedule, suggested the critics, was also to blame for the decline in energy surrounding the sport.

As an answer to cyclocross’s woes, Flanders Classics head Wouter Vandenhaute suggests redrawing the cyclocross season to mimic the classics road season as a unified, streamlined, more digestible entity. Cyclocross commentator Carl Berteele also proposes an entirely new calendar for the sport, with individual races at the start of the season, and then series racing starting in October and a maximum of one country per weekend for the majority of the season.

Another of Berteele’s proposals, however, was what most caught our attention: lose the U.S. World Cups.

“I am in favor of internationalization, but I am not a fan of the American competitions: it did have something a few years ago — a new world that seemed to be opening up,” Berteele said. “But what is the surplus if we take stock after a year or three? I happily drop the names of Kenny [sic] Werner, Curtis White, and Anthony Clark. Do you know them? They are the best American riders this season, Werner and White even won seven times. True? In the States, of course, but nobody knows that.”

Harsh? Probably. Uniformed? Seems to be. Simplistic? Definitely. If we look past the fact that he misspells Kerry Werner’s name, and he completely disregards the American women who have proven their athleticism and talent for years at the highest level of the sport, it does raise an interesting question: what has the U.S. gained — from the athlete perspective, fan perspective, community perspective — by hosting two World Cups, in Iowa (at Jingle Cross) and Wisconsin (at Trek), on American soil?

We spoke with racers, promoters, and team owners who gathered at the recent USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships in Louisville, Kentucky, to answer that question. Here are their thoughts.

Kris Auer, race promoter, Charm City Cross

“We’ve gained a lot of perspective on where ’cross is in America. And those two World Cups are amazing events. So well done. That said, it hasn’t born fruit in the way that I think cyclocross needs to grow globally, and it hasn’t really demonstrated what the U.S. has to offer. We had 16 American athletes and 16 Canadian athletes just to fill the field, which shows that globalization is not happening. We’re spending a lot of money on these big events when maybe we need to take a step back and focus on U.S. cyclocross. In my opinion, the U.S. World Cups aren’t really providing that domestic focus. It eats up a couple weekends where you can’t really do anything else in America.

“I’ve looked into hosting a World Cup, and it was like, ‘Wow, it would be rad to host the best in the world.’ I think it’s what we want to see: the best racing, on our turf, and show what we can do. But we’re certainly not getting support from the rest of the world on that. They need to do what we’ve always done — [travel across the ocean] — and they don’t want to do it. And they don’t have to do it. There’s so many UCI races in Belgium alone, so ‘Why come to the U.S.?’ It’s so expensive; they want to do it not with two bikes and two sets of wheels, they want 12 sets of wheels, four bikes, and guarantee their comfort zone. I just don’t see the world wanting to do it right now.

“I want to believe [Berteele] looked at it like, ‘Hey, we’ve done his grand experiment and it hasn’t worked yet.’ What sucks about his comments is he likely hasn’t been to the U.S. He probably knows zero about racing in the U.S. He’s uninformed. If he wants to have a great opinion, he should come watch some U.S. racing and look outside his very small box. I love Belgium, I have a Belgian announcer at my race, I’m all in. But I think that guy needs a lesson in reality. Someday, Belgium is going to step away from ’cross a bit and they’re going to be left holding nothing. They’re cycling mad, but nothing lasts forever. He’s shortsighted. I don’t think he’s looking at it like it’s a failed experiment, I think he’s saying, ‘Why bother?’ And I think he’s dead wrong. We should bother. Maybe it is a failed experiment. But we had to try. Nothing great happens by saying, ‘It’s cool.’ Something great happens when people get fired up about something. That’s when greatness comes.”

Stu Thorne, general manager of

“It’s just good for the sport. It’s a World Cup series, so why should they all be in central Europe? If we want to make it a true World Cup, being in the States is a good thing.

“You’ve gotta have that pinnacle series that people aspire to. You’ve got to have something at that top level that people can latch onto.

“A good number of U.S. racers would love to race in the World Cups. Are they all going to be at the front of the race? Some of them, for sure they will not. Are they there just to participate and gain experience? It’s not the worst thing in the world. Every league has their team that doesn’t do well. Does that mean they should be kicked out of the league? These riders that are trying to gain experience, I don’t think they’re there just to fill out the grid, even if that’s ultimately what they’re doing. It’s important for everyone to be there if you’re going to be inclusive and have a true World Cup. Otherwise, we ought to just call it the Belgian Cyclocross Cup.

“I have friends that don’t know anything about cyclocross. But when I say, ‘Kaitie Keough won a World Cup,’ it legitimizes it when I tell somebody that. It brings people into the sport; if we could do that with a lot of people that would be phenomenal. How do we do that? I don’t know. But a World Cup across the world is a start.”

Katie Compton (KFC Racing), 15-time national champion

“We get points and don’t have to travel across the ocean, which is an issue. We’ve got our support from teams, and families, and friends, and bikes, and equipment. But beyond that, it shows the world what the U.S. has to offer for ’cross. It’s different from Belgium. It’s never going to be like Belgium. And it shouldn’t be like Belgium. Our business model is totally different. But having those World Cups puts us on the world’s stage and shows what we have to offer, which are really fun, challenging courses, a different scene, spectators who are really into bike racing and know the athletes and support first through 50th place. And if we’re going to grow the sport of ’cross, we need to leave that little pocket in Belgium where it exists now. For a true World Cup, it doesn’t need to be a Belgian Cup.”

Kerry “Kenny” Werner (Kona)

“From the fan perspective, for one, it’s cool to see those guys come over here. For people that are passionate about the sport, that’s what keeps the sport alive: ‘Holy s***, those guys are fast, and for real!’ For kids that see Wout [van Aert] and [Mathieu] van der Poel, from a development standpoint it … I’m of the mindset that the reason they’re so good at ’cross over there is that they’re exposed to the highest level of racing when they are 12 or whatever. And it’s getting better here.

“From the racing perspective, there’s the exposure. And I don’t know if we gain much from that in the short term — from those two weekends, it’s not like it necessarily makes us better; to do that you need long-term exposure to a higher level of racing — but it keeps you hungry. I’ve had a pretty good season, but I know I’m not that good in the grand scheme of things. My world ranking right now is 18th, and I’m proud of that, I worked hard for that, but if I got a top-20 result in a European World Cup, that would probably be the best result of my career.

“It’s hard. I understand what [Berteele] was saying because it’s true, it is an inconvenience for them to come over here and race. But we do that all the time. Otherwise, we’d all wait until the end of the season to head over there.”

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Don’t worry, the ‘cross nationals venue is okay!

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (VN) – Tim Fulton, parks administrator for the Louisville Parks and Recreation Department, casually strolled through the soupy, deep mud of Joe Creason Park as the under-23 men’s national championship race churned away on course.

Fulton was surrounded by a sea of thick slop, pock-marked by the footprints of thousands of fans, racers, spectators, and staff at the venue on the city of Louisville’s southern reaches. He was surrounded by pools and patches of every kind of mud you could imagine: greasy, slick off-camber sections; watery, gritty puddles of muck; peanut-butter-like bogs of soil, grass, and twigs. To the layperson, the scene at USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships likely looked to be an utter disaster — the park ruined; the earth scarred forever.

Not so, said Fulton. So how would the city refurbish the park after thousands of racers and just as many fans obliterated the grassy slopes and wooded portions of the park? Fulton, bearded and bespectacled, was completely unfazed.

“The parks are for people to use,” Fulton said. “Louisville is incredibly lucky to have a national championships here. We’ve planned ahead with all of our partners for this. This is cyclocross, this is what we expect this time of year. I appreciate our local residents bearing with us while this is going on, but more importantly, I hope they’re coming out to witness these awesome events.”

Fulton laid out a very simple plan to return the muddy mess back to the passive-use park; in some ways, it will return as a healthier, more robust place once work has finished.

As soon as the men’s elite race wrapped up on Sunday, clean-up began. On Monday, city staff cleaned the hard surfaces, brushing and scraping sidewalks, roads, and paths of mud. In certain areas, straw was used to protect the area from further damage and to hasten the drying process. The rest of the drying would be up to mother nature, and in mid-December, that could take several weeks.

Under Louisville’s turf is a clay-rich soil. Once dry, any compacted soil will be aerated by the city’s golf course maintenance crew. Aggressive grasses are native to the area, so in much of the venue, nature will simply be allowed to take its course. Seeding will also be used to supplement the regrowth in certain areas. The bowl area, which was spectacular because of the mud, according to Fulton, is a managed meadow. The parks and rec staff will return in the spring to reseed with native species and perennials.

According to Fulton, the track is not the biggest issue. Rather, it’s the areas where crowds of fans gathered that pose a slightly more challenging issue. There, sod will be used to refurbish any damage. According to Fulton, it’s also helpful to remember that the weight of fans and cyclists is relatively small to vehicles like semi-trucks and RVs, and causes much less compaction and damage.

“By late April, I suspect you’ll barely notice that we’ve had an event of this size,” Fulton said. “One of the great things is that on some of the slopes we had some invasive species. This event worked to our advantage because we were planning to come back in the spring anyways and replant with native understory.”

The ease of cleanup is aided by the care with which the course is originally designed. Keegan Schelling, the course designer and operations director for USA Cycling, does not route the track near vulnerable trees with critical root zones and other more delicate areas. It is a lesson Schelling learned the hard way after the national championships in Austin, Texas, when issues with the course and its route near old, beloved heritage live oak trees, disrupted racing and necessitated hasty rerouting.

“Since Austin, I’ve spent considerable effort educating myself in forest ecology and the way that trees and their under-stories grow,” Schelling said. He now owns a nut and fruit tree farm outside of Albany, New York. “I rely on the knowledge to make decisions about the best places to route the race track.”

In the case of Joe Creason Park, Schelling said, you have to consider how the native grass meadows had co-evolved with large herds of herbivores, historically. That has been eliminated in the past couple hundred years. While it looks like a disaster, the grasses need some damage every once in a while, to rejuvenate and remain healthy.

“It is, in a sense, quite analogous to the rejuvenating process that occurs when a wildfire burns through a forest,” Schelling said. “It has the same effect. It’s a single event and definitely an impact, in the short term. But in the long term, that type of a disturbance has a minimal impact, especially since it’s only once a year. It looks bad, and I acknowledge that. But we’re not coming at it from an ignorant point of view.”

In terms of expense, Fulton was, again, unfazed. Clean-up and repair is budgeted for, he said, and things like seed and native species are not expensive. While he would not share a total dollar amount, Fulton focused on the value gained from the experience of timing a planned refurbishing of the park with the event, effectively minimizing any costs due to damage. Likewise, with Louisville’s climate and annual rain totals, grasses are prolific and much of the work will take place naturally and relatively quickly.

“Louisville is a special place when it comes to events like this,” Fulton said. “My staff and staff in other departments are fans of cyclocross. Some of the guys that will be cutting the grass know the pro riders. That’s a special thing to have.”

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Fast Talk podcast: Do you need a coach? With Neal Henderson and Rebecca Rusch

The VeloNews Fast Talk podcast is your source for the best training advice and most compelling insight on what it takes to become a better cyclist. Listen in as VeloNews managing editor Chris Case and our resident physiologist and coach, Trevor Connor, discuss a range of topics, including sport science, training, physiology, technology, nutrition, and more.

In the famous book “Daniels’ Running Formula,” Jack Daniels lays out what he considers to be the four ingredients of success. The fourth ingredient is “direction,” and he describes it as follows:

“Direction, the final ingredient of success, refers to a coach, a teacher, or a training plan that can be followed. Of the four ingredients of success, direction is probably the one of least significance, should one of the ingredients have to be eliminated. I say this because direction is the only ingredient that can have either a positive or negative influence on the athlete… it is possible for absence of direction to be better than bad direction.”

It may seem a little strange to hear one of the most decorated running coaches of all time say that coaching or direction is the least important ingredient of success. And it raises an important question: Do we really need a coach?

In today’s episode, we’re taking on that question.

  1. First, we’ll start by asking our expert guests that simple question: Do we need a coach?
  2. Next, we’ll talk about the relationship athletes have with their coaches — what makes a good relationship and what makes a bad one.
  3. After we’ve defined that relationship, we’ll ask our panel what to look for in a good coach. And, conversely, how to identify a bad coach.
  4. Finally, we’ll talk briefly about how much coaching is worth, and whether an athlete should stick with the same coach or change from time to time.

Our panel today includes, first, coach Neal Henderson, owner of Apex Coaching and current coach of time trial world champion Rohan Dennis, among other elite athletes. Neal has joined us before, on one of our most popular episodes, in fact, Episode 33: Is FTP Dead?

Our other main guest today is the renowned endurance athlete Rebecca Rusch, formerly an adventure racer, now a decorated cyclist of mountain bike, gravel, and bike-packing events around the world. Rebecca currently works with CTS coach Dean Golich; for many years she went without a coach. She has a great depth of experience as an athlete and brings a wealth of knowledge to the conversation. She also runs several training camps and hosts her namesake Rebecca’s Private Idaho gravel race near her home in Idaho. Check them out online at

In addition to our panel, we have several experts weigh in throughout this episode:

Ciaran O’Grady, a coach and sports scientist with Team Dimension Data, talks with us about the pros and cons of self-coaching versus the accountability that comes from working with a coach.

LottoNL-Jumbo’s Sepp Kuss, winner of this year’s Tour of Utah, reached the WorldTour by being self-coached. We talk about why he did that, and what it’s like now working with the team’s trainers.

We check in with Dean Golich, head performance physiologist at CTS. Dean has worked with an incredible number of top athletes and shares some of his thoughts on how he approaches coaching them.

The legendary Ned Overend continues to crush Cat. 1 riders into his 60s. Despite all of his success, Ned has never had a coach. He explains why.

Finally, we talk with Armando Mastracci, who has developed a highly sophisticated training AI system that can help athletes plan their workouts. Armando discusses what parts of coaching a good AI system can replace and what it can’t.

Now, a reminder: Don’t forget to rate us and send us your feedback. We love your comments and suggestions, and the more reviews we get, particularly on iTunes, the easier it will be for others to find Fast Talk.

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that Coach Daniels didn’t say coaching was a bad thing. He just said a bad coach is worse than no direction. So, of course, he offered his thoughts on what makes a good coach:

“If the term coach refers to the person who directs the improvement or refinement of running performance, then a good coach can answer the question, ‘why are we doing this workout today?’ A good coach produces beneficial reactions to training, creates positive race results, and transforms the athletes he or she brings into the program into better runners (and better human beings.)”

That’s a tall order. And with that, we hope to add clarity and context to the discussion of coaching. Let’s make you fast!

Fast Talk is available on all your favorite podcast services, including iTunesStitcherGoogle Play, and Soundcloud. If you enjoy the podcast, please take a moment to rate and comment on iTunes after listening.

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Reviewed: Five front lights to chase away the darkness

No longer do you need a battery the size of a water bottle to power a light bright enough to see the road or trail in front of you. With new LED technology and better battery capacities, front lights have become more compact, more versatile, and less expensive. Whether you are commuting, riding at night for the pleasure of that tunnel-vision experience, or using a light to add a bit of safety to your rides, an array of front lights have hit the market in recent years that are far more advanced and convenient than their predecessors.

We chose to take a closer look at five front lights for cycling, all of which have at least an 800-lumen rating. What’s a lumen? Essentially, it’s a measure of the total quantity of visible light emitted by a source. What’s important to note is that just because one light has a higher lumen rating than another, that doesn’t mean it is necessarily better than another. Other factors, like where the light is cast, have an impact on the light’s overall quality.

All of the lights we tested are rechargeable via a micro-USB port. There is no reason to use disposable batteries in this day and age.

How to choose a light

First, it helps to know your primary use for the light. If you’ll mostly be using it in urban settings, look for lights with enhanced side visibility, which helps you to be seen at intersections and when coming out of road junctions. Will you be hitting the singletrack path on the way home from work, or just riding the trails at night for pleasure? Brighter is often better but consider the beam shape. Most of the lights we tested have roughly a round beam. However, we found that a more horizontal or squared-off beam (like that on the Specialized Flux 1200) has advantages. Primarily, you’re not wasting energy and beam power illuminating the trees above you or other things that are less relevant to seeing ahead.

Also, consider if you’ll often be swapping the light between bikes. If so, you may consider a strap-style mount — which has the additional benefit of fitting on bars that aren’t round, unlike the bracket-style mounts. There are also now many lights with a quick-release mount.

When it comes to durability, know that lights will take a beating if they’re going to be used often, subject to the elements. Look for lights with weatherproof seals and solid construction.

Now let’s jump into the lights.

Specialized Flux 1200

183 grams

Photo: Brad Kaminski |

The Flux is one of the simplest, cleanest designs we’ve tested. Its CREE XP-L LED double-beam light casts a wider horizontal beam for increased visibility to the sides of the trail or road and, therefore, your line of vision. The steady modes comprise 1,200-, 600-, and 300-lumen settings, with an estimated 1:15-, 2:30-, and 5-hour runtime. Our tests confirmed that these estimates were accurate. A short press-and-hold turns off the light. A long press-and-hold allows you to access secondary modes: daytime flash, steady wide + narrow flash, camping flashlight, and emergency low. An extra-long press-and-hold locks the light for traveling. Specialized claims a 90 percent fast charge in 1.5 hours and a full charge in 3 hours.

Photo: Brad Kaminski |

The quick-release-style bar mount is easy to install, clean and simple, and holds solid to 22.2, 25.4, and 31.8-millimeter bars. Thin, grippy, rubberized strips on the inside surface of the clip help it grip the bar. Conveniently, the mount allows you to center the light in front, above, or below the stem with a long reach to work around most computer mounts and shifter/brake cables. All that being said, the clip is not perfect. Sometimes it would appear to be fully locked into the mount, but it was not. It took a lot of force to snap in and release. It was better once mounted on the bike.

Furthermore, in order to re-aim the light’s beam, you must fully loosen the bar clamp quick release — impossible to do while riding. A separate hex screw where the mount meets the light allows you to rotate the lamp, but only in large increments.

Photo: Brad Kaminski |

If you’re someone who won’t often be re-aiming the beam or switching lights between bikes, you’ll have no problems. But if you expect to tilt your beam up and down depending on where you ride and whether it’s day or night, the Flux 1200 is a bit finicky. The trade-off is a rock-solid mount once in place.

Knog PWR Trail

247 grams

The Knog PWR Trail is, first and foremost, an elegantly designed 1,000-lumen headlight. However, it’s more than that. The light is part of a greater line of bike products and yet-to-be-released outdoor products designed to share a battery. The Trail falls in the middle of the current PWR line, which ranges from 600 to 1,800 lumens, and three battery capacities from 3,350 to 10,000mAh. You can swap the head containing the light between the bodies housing the different battery sizes (or buy a second as a spare). Pull the head off and the battery can be used to charge your USB devices and other electronic devices like phones and head units.

Photo: Brad Kaminski |

Knog claims the PWR Trail runs for two hours at 1,000 lumens, or up to 300 hours in its eco-flash mode. The light uses an elliptical beam pattern and can be mounted both on top or under the handlebar (under your Garmin). There are no buttons on the light: twist the front portion of the light to turn it on and off and switch between modes. While this makes for a clean design, we’d prefer if you could toggle back and forth between modes by twisting in either direction. With the proprietary ModeMaker app, you can customize the light: select and tailor modes from the menu or control brightness, adjust runtimes, and add new light modes.

Photo: Brad Kaminski |

There are a few picky points. The mount can get sticky in the channel, making it tricky to slide the light off the mount for storage or when your bike is locked outside the coffee shop. Overall, it’s relatively easy to affix to a handlebar, though you’ll need to insert the appropriately sized rubber insert since the mount does not have rubberized strips. A series of four red lights on the side of the barrel indicates battery life. It isn’t a perfect method, but it’s superior to a system whereby the color of the light, or whether it’s flashing or not, indicates battery life.

Blackburn Countdown 1600

274 grams

Photo: Brad Kaminski |

For those who want or need a bit more juice or plan to hit the darkest trails, the Countdown 1600 is a great choice. Yes, that number represents the large 1,600-lumen output. There are also 1,200-lumen, 600-lumen, 300-lumen, and pulsing and strobe settings that peak at 300 lumens within their respective cycles.

Blackburn has gone beyond the typical build to create a light that meets standards created by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Thus, you can have confidence in the output, run time, water resistance, and other performance claims the brand makes. To that end, the digital display on the back of the light, which indicates exactly how much battery power is left and the mode the light is in, takes all the guessing out of knowing the battery life. That’s a great thing: No longer do you need to remember a pattern of green, orange, and red lights to understand when you’ll be left in the dark. On the Countdown, the battery life indicator actually underestimated battery life in our experience, meaning we had more time left than we thought.

Photo: Brad Kaminski |

Another small but welcome touch is that you can scroll back and forth between modes using the illuminated, rubberized buttons rather than having to cycle through in a loop. And, no matter what mode you’re in, if you quickly need a blast of bright light, you can enter the Blitz mode by quickly hitting the power button.

Photo: Brad Kaminski |

The Countdown is made for harsh conditions. That means the aluminum body construction is a bit heavier than the other lights in this roundup, but that comes with its advantages as well. The light meets the IP-67 Standard, which is a techy way of saying it is totally protected against dust and grit and is fully protected against the effects of water immersion between 15 centimeters and one meter for 30 minutes. Of note, if the light is left in the Blitz mode long enough, that aluminum body will get seriously hot.

Photo: Brad Kaminski |

While the light itself is bombproof, the mount was a bit less impressive. It tended to turn more than necessary unless it was really cinched down. The nut-and-screw style mount system is also much slower to attach than a quick-release style mount. That said, a pull knob allows you to release the light from the mount, enabling you to leave the mount on a bike for quick mounting and dismounting.

Light & Motion Urban 1000 Trooper

119 grams

Photo: Brad Kaminski |

The Urban 1000 is one of the tidiest front lights on the market, especially considering its 1,000-lumen output. Within its diminutive aluminum and hard-plastic shell there is a four-mode LED: high (1,000-lumen), runs for 1.5 hours; medium (500 lumens), runs for three hours; low (250 lumens), runs for six hours; and pulse (up to 500 lumens), runs for 12 hours. There is also amber side lighting, which increases visibility on the road and at intersections.

The light can also be put into a one-touch “race mode” which enables riders to toggle between high and medium output. We liked this mode when riding in areas where we faced oncoming pedestrian or cycling traffic.

Photo: Brad Kaminski |

A small indicator light on the top of the barrel indicates battery life: green when you there’s plenty of charge left or red when you’re running low. After the specificity and convenience of the Blackburn, it’s annoying to have it be so vague.

Overall, the construction of the Urban Trooper is great. Its waterproof design provides all-weather reliability (it is said to be submersible up to one meter). The band-style handlebar mount allows for easy on and off, or a quick release allows you to slide the light from the mount. At first, it is a tight fit and hard to remove. Once in place, the mount allows the light to pivot, and a pin prevents the light from sliding off the mount. It’s all very tidy, without the more permanent feel offered by the clamp-style systems of the Specialized and Knog lights.

Bontrager Ion Pro RT

177 grams

Photo: Brad Kaminski |

The impressive Ion Pro RT has even more features and functionality than its already capable predecessor, the Ion 800. First, it has a warmer, wider beam that makes it easier to see the trail.

In high mode, the Pro pumps out 1,300 lumens (compared to the 800 that the aptly named Ion 800 produced) for a claimed 1.5 hours. In the medium-steady mode, the Ion Pro puts out 800 lumens for a claimed three hours, which is twice what its predecessor was able to do at the same brightness. (And the same price.)

Photo: Brad Kaminski |

The Pro also boasts impressive run-times in its flash modes, including a claimed 22-hour daytime flash mode and a 26-hour nighttime flash mode. Bontrager says the 300-lumen daytime flash can be seen from over 2 kilometers away.

The Ion Pro RT pairs with select Garmin units for on-screen control and up-to-date battery status. It is USB rechargeable with a sealed charge port for weather-proofing. A double-click power switch helps eliminate the possibility of accidentally turning the light on — good when storing, traveling, or simply eliminating the possibility of running down the battery in your backpack.

The Pro’s mount is one of the cleanest designs we’ve tested. The large nob allows you to de-tension the mount quickly. Fitting the mount on various size bars is possible by expanding the diameter at the hinge point. Rubberized inserts slide into channels to neatly secure the mount to bar. And the hard-plastic quick release to which the light attaches is robust and easy to use.

Photo: Brad Kaminski |

Read the full article at Reviewed: Five front lights to chase away the darkness on

Inside Sepp Kuss’s dominant victory at the Tour of Utah

On stage 2 of the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, Sepp Kuss made a monstrous, audacious solo attack over Mount Nebo. He rode up to and through the day’s breakaway. He turned himself inside out into a stiff headwind on the upper, rolling terrain atop the highest peak in the Wasatch Range. Finally, he bombed down to Payson, Utah, to take an emphatic stage win and the overall lead by 29 seconds over his LottoNL-Jumbo teammate Neilson Powless.

With several demanding stages to come in the weeklong race, any cycling textbook would suggest Kuss simply play defense, sit on the wheels of his nearest rivals, and allow his WorldTour team to control the race. If he did that, a big professional win would surely be his.

Scratch that. Sepp Kuss doesn’t know how to follow wheels. He doesn’t care what the textbook says. He doesn’t want to patiently play defense.

In the most dominant fashion, Kuss ripped the race apart, stage after stage. In stage 5, on the final climb to Snowbird, he decided with 8 kilometers left to race that he couldn’t hang around anymore. Later guys! He rode away from everyone, including a trio of EF Education First-Drapac riders and BMC Racing’s Ben Hermans. And he had a big, beaming smile on his face all the way to the summit.

After the stage win, with a 1:21 lead over Hermans in the overall, Kuss could breathe easy, relax, and soak it all in. Or not.

In the final stage, Kuss hit the base of the much-feared Empire Pass climb. EF Education First’s Nate Brown was several minutes up the road, though not in contention for the overall win. Mitchelton-Scott’s Jack Haig, sitting fifth overall, launched an attack that put Kuss on the ropes — for a moment. Eventually, Kuss couldn’t stop himself. He again rode up to and through the remnants of the day’s break. Two kilometers from the summit, Kuss passed Brown; at the summit, he had a 42-second lead on the field. After a tricky descent down the rain-slicked streets into Park City, Kuss claimed his third stage win and the title of Tour of Utah champion with the most dominant performance in the race’s history.

Three years ago, Kuss raced for the University of Colorado cycling team in one of his first road races in Denver’s City Park. During the race, a teammate rode up beside him to recommend he ride in the drops through the course’s technical corners. In August, Kuss crushed a world-class field at the Tour of Utah. The progression has been phenomenal.

How’d he do it? A performance of that caliber deserves a closer look.

Kuss had what looked like a smile plastered to his face as he rode away from the competition on the climb to Snowbird Resort on stage 5. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

Neo-pro novelties

After racing for the Pro Continental Rally Cycling team for a year and a half, Kuss signed with LottoNL-Jumbo for the 2018 season. In January, he sat down with team staff to discuss his season plan. “Probably 95 percent of the races I did this year I knew about leading into the season, which is pretty nice,” Kuss said.

For both the Amgen Tour of California and the Tour of Utah, Kuss and fellow American Powless were earmarked for co-leadership duties from the beginning of the year. The team’s confidence in the young pair, 23 and 21 at the time respectively, was evident.

“That’s part of the team’s development philosophy,” Kuss said. “For a young guy coming onto the Jumbo team, you have a lot more opportunities to already be higher up than you would at a Team Sky or something. I see it as a strength of the team because they’re able to put young riders in those situations pretty early on, which gives you some good experience and confidence.”

While it was stressful in the peloton, American Sepp Kuss (LottoNL-Jumbo) was out front in the breakaway at Strade Bianche. Photo: ©Tim De Waele | Getty Images

In his first WorldTour season, Kuss faced a trial-by-fire scenario several times. It was his first year competing in many of the biggest European races, including the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, Volta ao Algarve, Strade Bianche, and Vuelta al Pais Vasco. To say his spring was difficult would be an understatement. Kuss admits he struggled, mentally and physically, feeling as if he never could get his head or legs where they needed to be. Nevertheless, the mellow Kuss kept plugging away, doing the things his team suggested he do. He reasoned that whenever you start with a new program or are in a new coaching environment, it takes time to have the confidence to say how you’re feeling or give constructive criticism. He didn’t want to rock the boat; he was also curious and willing to try their way.

Finally, after the Criterium du Dauphiné, where Kuss feels he rode fairly well, he sat down with the team to discuss where he was at and where he wanted to go.

“I said, ‘This is kind of the direction I want to go with training the next few months — maybe we can try to incorporate some of these things, let’s not do X and Y anymore, let’s try something different based on what has worked and what hasn’t in the spring,’” Kuss remembered telling his coaches. “Everyone is different, so one style of training is not necessarily right for everybody. I think it’s a healthy coaching relationship when you can say what works and what doesn’t.”

After the Dauphiné, the team selected Kuss for the Vuelta, so they told him they were already hoping he’d put in a bit more volume than normal, which further influenced his training.

Back to basics

In July, Kuss returned to the U.S., first to train in Boulder before returning to his hometown of Durango. A quick glimpse at his Strava profile tells you what big miles mean to a pro. The number of KOMs he gobbled up belie the fact that he was reducing intensity.

He was back on familiar terrain, and able to return to the training that had worked for him in the past, with some subtle but significant modifications. Comparing the lead-ins to the past two Tours of Utah, Kuss included much more intensity and lower volume in 2017. (He finished ninth riding for Rally Cycling.) Three or four consecutive days of “good intensity” were followed by less rest between training blocks. By comparison, in 2018 he did two- to three-day blocks with longer hours and 50 percent less intensity.

“Some of that intensity in those volume blocks was also just on my own, freestyle, whatever,” Kuss said. “And a lot of riding at altitude for extended periods of time, which also helps when you’re just riding along.”

The reason we aren’t able to be more specific about the training load is that Kuss isn’t able to. Kuss, who doesn’t have a personal coach outside of his WorldTour team, is essentially self-coached, and always has been. Those new-fangled data points such as Training Stress Score (TSS)? “I don’t really look at those graphs,” he said. “I don’t totally believe in all those numbers. But certainly, looking back, all the weeks in training as a whole were much harder than the race in Utah.”

Sepp Kuss, an accomplished skier, is quite happy with his winner’s prize of a season pass to Snowbird. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

To be clear, in the race a lot of time is spent just sitting in the peloton, thus the smaller overall load. However, peak power numbers were much higher in the race than what Kuss did in training.

While Kuss built toward a solid performance at Utah — a race he “knew he could do well at” — he also had to consider what would help him prepare to make a grand tour debut in his first year on the WorldTour. It was a complex and daunting balancing act. The two objectives made for a perfect source of inspiration.

“The whole motivation for my training was the bigger picture, looking at the Vuelta — it was a big, big opportunity to do that and knowing that I would have the chance was a huge motivation to go out there and train and make sure I did everything right,” Kuss said.

Nothing to lose

Finally, with all the big miles behind him, Kuss launched himself at the Tour of Utah. From that attack on stage 2 to his final surges on Empire Pass, he dominated the race. Amid all the fun he looked to be having — when’s the last time you saw someone beaming as they throttled their way up a climb like Snowbird? — it also seemed like Kuss was getting away with some tactical errors, making moves that were ill-advised given the circumstances. Had there been stiffer competition, would those moves have backfired?

A young Kuss said he wasn’t really concerned with that.

“I felt really good, and when you have that certain level of confidence and condition, you have nothing to lose,” he said.

He claims everything he did was under his limit, and he never felt like he was going to blow. He does concede, however, that if the race were at sea level or there were more WorldTour teams, maybe it would have played out differently.

As for his attitude on Snowbird, his refreshing answer is as satisfying as his smile was on the day.

“That’s just cycling, you know. Maybe once in a season, once every two seasons, you have those moments when you don’t feel the chain, as the saying goes,” Kuss said. “When you’re in that moment you just feel invincible… invincible isn’t the right word. But you feel, ‘This is why I train. This is why I make all the sacrifices.’ At the end of the day, it’s fun. It’s fun to race your bike, especially when you feel good.”

Sepp Kuss wins stage 6 of the Tour of Utah in Park City, his third stage win of the week, on his way to the overall victory. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

The next step

On the heels of such a dominant victory, inevitably comes both confidence for the rider and higher expectations from fans and team alike. Kuss is aware of both the negatives and positives, and the greater significance of his win.

At the beginning of the year, when things weren’t going well, when the races were so hard he felt like he was digging himself into a hole, it presented a heavy challenge for a 22-year-old kid living in Europe.

“To come around and show the team that I can actually ride a bike was a good feeling,” he said. “They’ve seen how bad I can be, but also what my potential is… that it’s worth their time to invest in me and develop me and give me quality races.”

That’s a huge benefit, and relief, for a first-year pro. It may even bode well for his trajectory in the sport, although Kuss is the first to remind anyone that he has a chasm to close before he should be considered a grand-tour talent. But when he’s getting dropped in the third week of the Vuelta, and people say, ‘Well, you’re such a good climber, why can’t you hang on?’ that’s the downside of expectation. As he puts it, maybe he’s just tired; maybe he’s just not good enough. Just because he did it in Utah doesn’t mean he can climb away from Chris Froome.

“I can handle the expectation, because to me it doesn’t matter what people expect or what mold they want you to fit in, but it’s easier for me if I fly under the radar, nice and steady,” he said.

Read the full article at Inside Sepp Kuss’s dominant victory at the Tour of Utah on

Horst Cross Spikes Pro Kit: All Conditions

Horst Engineering has produced the ultimate set of spikes for any and all cyclocross conditions. Available in titanium and stainless steel (shown here), the kit includes four short spikes (11 millimeters), four medium-length spikes (13.3 millimeters), four long spikes (17.6 millimeters), and four dagger-like ice and snow spikes (17.6 millimeters), all contained in a handy case. The kit also includes an angled open socket wrench and thread locking compound. In cyclocross, where gear can make or break a performance and course conditions always play a role, the kit allows you to customize your shoes for conditions varying from dry, hard courses to sloppy, rain-drenched mud and those rare icy, snowy tracks.

Read the full article at Horst Cross Spikes Pro Kit: All Conditions on

Fast Talk podcast: Rethinking the science of trainers

The VeloNews Fast Talk podcast is your source for the best training advice and most compelling insight on what it takes to become a better cyclist. Listen in as VeloNews managing editor Chris Case and our resident physiologist and coach, Trevor Connor, discuss a range of topics, including sport science, training, physiology, technology, nutrition, and more.

In episode 60 we’re discussing trainers… hey, for those out there who hate them, we get it, but stay tuned, as we’ll tell you why you shouldn’t completely ignore them. For those who love them, we’re going to tell you why riding outside every once in a while is a really good thing. For those in between, today’s episode will offer a wealth of knowledge on how to get the very most out of trainer time.

Now, one thing is certain: The days of staring at the basement wall while riding your clunky, loud trainer are behind us. Today’s smart trainers and online tools allow us to “game-ify” the experience and are making many re-consider how they feel about riding indoors, and importantly, the extent of the training benefits.

In this episode, we’ll talk about the science and experience of the trainer, including:

  1. How riding on a trainer differs from riding on the road, including the experience, our interaction with the bike, the different inertia generated by the trainer, and its impact on our biomechanics.
  2. What impact these differences have on our power and heart rate, and why we shouldn’t use the same numbers inside and outside.
  3. We’ll discuss situations where it’s good to use a trainer—and when it may be even better than riding on the road, such as when we’re doing neuromuscular work.
  4. Likewise, we’ll talk about situations where you might want to avoid the trainer. You might know already… a five-hour, mind-numbing ride on the trainer is a sign of incredible dedication. Don’t do it again.
  5. The game-ification of trainers by tools like Zwift, Trainer Road, and Sufferfest, and how this is changing our perspective on trainers. It can be both good and bad.
  6. When to use rollers rather than a trainer.
  7. And, finally, we’ll talk about how much time to spend on the trainer, and alternatives even when there’s snow outside.

You’re going to get a lot of different opinions in this podcast. None of us will go so far as to call the trainer Satan — though at times we’ll come close — but you will hear a few guests give convincing evidence that the trainer has benefits you can’t get on the road. Ultimately, it’s going to be up to you to decide.

Our primary guest today is Ciaran O’Grady who is a new coach and sports scientist at Team Dimension Data. Ciaran just finished his Ph.D. at Kent University with Dr. James Hopker, who conducted some of the definitive research on the biomechanical differences between riding on a trainer and the road.

In addition, we’ll talk with:

Retired multi-time national cyclocross champion Tim Johnson. Having lived in the northeast for most of his life, Tim is very familiar with riding indoors and has a lot of good points to offer from two decades of experience.

Trevor also caught up with Jacob Fraser from Zwift and Kevin Poulton who coaches Matt Hayman and Caleb Ewan, and works with Team Katusha. Kevin used Zwift to coach Matt to his 2016 Paris-Roubaix win and since then has integrated significant trainer time into his athletes’ race preparation.

And with that, get your fan ready, dial in your Zwift avatar — make sure you enter your weight correctly in Zwift now, no cheating. Let’s make you fast!

Fast Talk is available on all your favorite podcast services, including iTunesStitcherGoogle Play, and Soundcloud. If you enjoy the podcast, please take a moment to rate and comment on iTunes after listening.

Read the full article at Fast Talk podcast: Rethinking the science of trainers on

Fast Talk podcast: Preventing cycling’s most common injuries, with Dr. Andy Pruitt

The VeloNews Fast Talk podcast is your source for the best training advice and most compelling insight on what it takes to become a better cyclist. Listen in as VeloNews managing editor Chris Case and our resident physiologist and coach, Trevor Connor, discuss a range of topics, including sport science, training, physiology, technology, nutrition, and more.

PAIN, INJURIES, SORES… they are an unfortunate but nearly inevitable part of cycling. If you want to be among the best, you need to wear them with pride. And if you believe that, then get out of the 1980s. Yes, this is a sport for the tough man or woman. But save being tough for that 20 percent climb, not for the aches, pains, and saddle sores you don’t need to suffer through.

In this day and age, most of the common overuse injuries in cycling can be addressed and prevented. It just requires the proper precautions — such as getting regular bike fits and doing off-the-bike strength work. (Here are our five favorite workouts.)

Today we’ll talk about the most common over-use problems and how to address them, including:

  1. What used to be the most common over-use injury — knee problems — why they are no longer the most common problem, and how it’s possible for most of us to go through the rest of our cycling careers without one.
  2. Back problems — these have eclipsed knee issues as the most common cycling complaint. Unfortunately, the cycling position is not kind to the lower back, but there are still things we can do to prevent pain.
  3. Saddle sores, numbness, and pressure issues, and how with the right saddle and fit most of these issues can be addressed.
  4. Just like the back, the cycling position can be tough on the neck. We’ll discuss.
  5. Feet and hands — many of us think that numbness is just part of riding a bike. But the truth is that if you’re experiencing numbness, something is wrong, and it can generally be solved.
  6. Finally, for those of you still clinging to that 1980s mindset, we’ll talk about just how bad it was then and why you want to get with the 2000s.

Our primary guest today is Dr. Andy Pruitt who has over 40 years of experience in cycling medicine and ergonomics. He is a bike fit guru who invented the Body Geometry fit system and continues to design ergonomic products for Specialized. He has seen every cycling injury in the book and, because of that, has literally written the book. It’s called “Andy Pruitt’s Complete Medical Guide for Cyclists.”

In addition, we speak with Evan Huffman of Rally Cycling, who shares some quick thoughts on the injuries he’s seen on his team, and what the team’s staff does to make that a short list.

Finally, we speak with Colby Pearce, a regular on our show. As a coach, fitter, and elite athlete, Pearce shares his thoughts on the common injuries he sees and what he does to address them. Colby zeroes in on one of the most important aspects of the bike — saddle choice and saddle position.

So, put on your favorite chamois, relax your hands, feet, and back. Let’s make you fast!

Fast Talk is available on all your favorite podcast services, including iTunesStitcherGoogle Play, and Soundcloud. If you enjoy the podcast, please take a moment to rate and comment on iTunes after listening.

Read the full article at Fast Talk podcast: Preventing cycling’s most common injuries, with Dr. Andy Pruitt on