“My dear boy”, Coach Aldo Safalcin said to me, looking me up and down, “No matter what your size, you can be a better cyclist. You just have to remember a few things.” He’s really quite a character, and I was there to learn his “Ten Commandments of Cycling”.
Coach Aldo’s website quotes him as saying “Cycling knowledge and experience is power”. I said, “The Gasper is here – teach me, Aldo-San!”
I’d just arrived March 1, 2014 at Alabama Cycling Camp in Ramer, AL, a week-long no-frills training camp in the rolling rural hills of Alabama’s famous “Black Belt” geographical region, to begin my Ride The Rockies training. What better way to get started than to attend a real cycling camp with real pro coaches and real racers? (Thank God they’ve got a “B Group” and “no one left behind” policy!)
Aldo and his sweet wife, Renee Schroeder, come every year from “Camp Alto” (their Summer Camp and permanent home) in Nederland to Alabama for Base Miles, and to conduct six weeklong, no-frills cycling camps for a dozen people at a time. Snow-weary Midwestern cyclists come to immerse themselves in Aldo’s and Renee’s knowledge and hospitality.
One rained-out day, I accompanied Aldo to a nearby Costco for camp supplies. I listened and discerned his top teachings. Without further ado, here they are:
- Thou shalt Use the Finger, and Save the Legs.
Aldo sez: “Avoid standing up to pedal. Sit and gear down, keep cadence close to 90 always, especially hills. Gear down until almost bouncing on your seat, then quickly up one or two gears to stop the bouncing. Ride like this and you can ride all day.”
- Thou shalt REST, and get 8 to 9 hours of sleep.
Aldo sez: “No late partying – sleep is the best cycling secret.”
- Comport thyself Without Stress.
Aldo sez: “You can’t be a faster cyclist if you’re wound too tight! Enjoy life, be happy, and enjoy the journey, my dear boy!”
- Honor thy Dietician.
Aldo sez: “Dude, it’s about the food. Make it simple, balanced, and easy to digest. Vegetables, fruits, dairy, smart fats, light proteins.”
- Conserve thy Energy in Large and Small Ways.
Aldo sez: “Elbows Bent, Knees In. Use the Finger and Spin, Spin, Spin.” Gasper sez: “This I call ‘Aldo’s Axiom’, and I repeat it often as I ride to remember Commandment #1 and #6.”
- Be thou Aerodynamic.
Aldo sez: “Gasper, what’s with the flapping loose jacket? Are you crazy? Wear tight clothing! And draft when you can, for Gasper’s Sake!”
- Thou shalt Hydrate sufficiently.
Aldo sez: “Losing too much water slams you into an energy wall and can cause hypothermia.”
- Know thy Body’s Energy Secrets.
Aldo sez: “G, the body burns energy through cooling and digestion, so dress and eat accordingly to stay cool and eat water-filled, easy to digest foods.”
- Keep the Pre-Ride Meals Holy.
Aldo sez: “What you eat 1 ½ to 2 days before a ride determines your performance.”
- Recover well and quickly with food, water and massage.
Aldo sez: “Chocolate milk is the miracle recovery food, and give yourself a leg massage after every ride.”
Gasper’s got the secrets, and they are working! Maybe I’m only a bit faster, but cycling is now more enjoyable, I can ride further, and at the end of the ride, I feel like I can go another 40 miles. By the middle of the week, I was hangin’ with the A Group!