Ask Noak: Tom Noaker Answers your Questions

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By Tom Noaker

Q#1 In response to Ivonne regarding entry into cycling via mountain bike or road bike:

Dear Ivonne: Based on the type of riding you described (Legacy Parkway and mellow trails) I would say your friend’s advice to go mountain rather than road bike is sound. A road bike will restrict you (initially) to mostly pavement riding, while an MTB will open up more route options.

Also, yes, tire selection and PSI (tire pressure) can have a big effect on ride quality. Just be aware that a road bike will always be faster and more efficient on pavement than an MTB. I always suggest having a professional bike fit right from the start. This will assure not only a more comfortable introduction to the sport, but also better pedaling efficiency. Enjoy your new ride!

Q#2 Regarding best winter training for runners:

Dear Sleepless When It Snows: Nordic skiing, either classic or skate, is an excellent winter activity that can actually improve your running fitness. Classic is most like running (sagital movement), but both recruit more muscle mass than running, and require distinct technique skills. I recommend renting ‘no wax’ bases for beginning classic technique. Work on position, timing, balance and agility before progressing to skate.

Once you can negotiate turns and feel somewhat proficient, give skate skiing a try. It is possible to develop both techniques simultaneously, but definitely seek professional instruction to avoid early adoption of bad habits. Mark Deterline and Laurie Humbert conduct great learn-to-skate clinics at Mtn Dell (you will see more about this in Cycling West in the fall issues), and White Pine Touring, Solitude Nordic, Soldier Hollow and Sundance Nordic all offer beginner and intermediate classic, and skate lessons daily to get you started. There is no off season!

Q#3 What is the best way to improve my cycling; get a coach?

Dear Excited/Undecided: When I began cycling, the only riders with coaches were pro roadies. Now everyone can be coached with the click of a mouse (and a debit card). Before hiring a coach or subscribing to an online service, here are some questions to ask yourself: How much time do I have to train and compete? What are my goals? How much can I budget for coaching services? How much detail do you want with data and scheduling?

If you have never worked with a periodized program, you will certainly benefit from even a basic schedule. Finding and working with a coach who provides honest and frequent communication is key to success. Best of luck!

Q#4 What cold weather training outside do you recommend for cyclists in winter?

I consider Nordic skiing to be the best and most time efficient form of winter training, but I happen to live in a prime location near multiple facilities. Nordic requires specific equipment and, like swimming, can punish even the super fit who aren’t willing to perfect technique. Conversely, those who develop good technique can punish the super fit!

Snowshoeing offers a pretty good workout without the technique barrier, and for a lower price tag. The cost/benefit ratio may favor snowshoes, but I would never give up a marginal day of Nordic skiing for a great day of snowshoeing. Also, you can shop the early season ski swaps for great prices on Nordic equipment. #gonordic

Q#5 Backcountry or skate skiing?

Backcountry is currently the fastest growing segment of the ski industry. Advances in equipment (AT and split board technology) have changed the experience dramatically, but one thing that remains constant is avalanche danger. Once you own the gear, you need to acquire avalanche safety skills and skiing backcountry solo is probably one of the biggest mistakes you can make. (I’ve done it — don’t do it!)

Backcountry is also time intensive; usually an all day affair. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve headed out ‘just for a few hours’ and staggered in after dark.

Nordic classic and skate track skiing provides a great workout solo or with friends, potentially every day all winter. Avalanche concerns are usually replaced by, “What’s the best wax for today?” I suppose it comes down to, ‘pick your poison’, but I can’t imagine a winter without a healthy dose of each.

Get out, stay out!

Tom Noaker is a well respected and accomplished sales rep and business owner in both the bicycle and ski industries. He has won sixteen State Championships in cycling across four age divisions, as well as three Mountain Bike National Championships, and competes as a cross-country skier at the elite and elite Masters levels. Tom coaches some of the best young riders in the country, and is board president of the South Summit Trails Foundation. Please send your training, equipment and event preparation questions to [email protected] with Ask Noak in the subject line.

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