BELL GHISALLO cycling helmet
High-tech simplicity
By Matt Cliff

As the flagship of Bell's road-cycling helmet line, the Ghisallo is sported by pro peloton teams like Credit Agricole, CSC, HealthNet and others. I figured I was in pretty good company when I recently strapped on a Ghisallo.

In fact, when Tyler Hamilton hit the pavement in the pile-up in stage 1 of the 2003 Tour de France, he was wearing a Ghisallo. By his own account, the helmet saved his noggin (if not his collarbone).

Admittedly, that says more about the importance of wearing a helmet than about which helmet you should wear -- but as long as you have the choice, the Bell Ghisallo is a serious piece of race gear.

You may think, "What's to review? A helmet's a helmet's a helmet, right?" -- which is true to a certain extent with current cycling-helmet technology, but like other things that become familiar with experience, cyclists know a good helmet when they put one on.

The Ghisallo uses Bell's GPS ("Geared Positioning System") fit system to hug your head snugly and comfortably. The key to the GPS is a tightening dial, built into the helmet's interior webbing, that sits on your occipital lobe (the technical term for "the back of your head"). With the helmet on, simply push the dial upward and turn it either clockwise or counterclockwise, and the webbing snugs up or loosens around your head.

It's so simple, you can do this with one finger (probably your thumb) on the fly, almost without thinking. It was a revelation for me, coming from an older helmet with no such system. And during the winter, when you're more likely to wear skullcaps or other head covers under your helmet, the GPS is especially handy.

The chin strap adjusts via conventional sliding strap locks, and when you combine with the GPS, you're sure to be dialed in with a perfect fit every time. That's provided, of course, that you choose the correct helmet size.

The Ghisallo comes in Small/Medium (56 - 58cm) and Medium/Large (59 - 62cm). Like running and cycling shoes, the same size may vary among different brands. So if you can't try the helmet on before you buy it (i.e. online), it pays to whip out the measuring tape and double-check your size.

I suppose the sign of a good bike helmet is not noticing it's on. That's certainly true of the Ghisallo -- it's light (10.3 ounces, or 292 grams), and with the proper fit it's velvet-glove snug.

It boasts 17 large vents to channel air in and out around your head, to keep you cool during hot months. Speaking of which, I've found the pads lining the front-inside of the Ghisallo to be quite adept at sweat absorption -- something I've found lacking in other helmets where I've had to wear a headband to keep sweat out of my eyes.

With its aggressive flame-like modeled shape and eye-catching graphics (mine is the dark-silver-and-black "pewter"), the Ghisallo looks cool too. Other colors schemes include White, Titanium, Blue/White, and CSC and Credit Agricole "team" versions.

Bell's been in business for half a century, and the "50th Anniversary" version of the Ghisallo comes with an extremely spiffy heavy-duty (fur-lined!) carrying bag. While it's a great way to protect your helm from getting banged around the trunk of your car, an informal poll among my cycling cohorts was inconclusive as to whether many riders use such a case for everyday storage. But hey, if you want it, it's there.

The helmet by itself retails for $99 MSRP -- a good deal for a top-of-the-line helmet -- or $124.99 with the case.For more information, visit

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Drills To Improve Pedaling Efficiency
By: Thomas Chapple

Just like swimmers practice their stroke and golfers practice their swing, cyclists need to work on improving their pedaling mechanics through drills.

The idea is to learn to use less energy by pedaling more efficiently or economically. We want to emphasize this during early-season training, but should maintain it throughout the year.

What follows are the specifics of efficient pedaling mechanics and descriptions of drills designed to help you improve your technique.

Specific mechanics of efficient pedaling:

Start with a sturdy platform
Pedals and shoes should transfer power to the pedals, not take it away. A large pedal surface to push against, and a stiff shoe, works better than a small pedal that allows your foot to rock back and forth, or shoes that flex under pedaling loads. Excessive float can create problems too. Think about doing squats while standing on blocks of ice.

Align your knee over your pedal
A knee that moves in or out will reduce pedaling effectiveness and rob you of power. I recently had Andy Pruitt of the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine perform a 3D cycling biomechanics analysis for me. Andy showed me how my feet rolled over and my knees wandered a bit. After moving my cleats to the side, and placing small (1.5-degree) wedges under them, I was able to keep my knees over the pedals.

Push the pedals over, or across, the top of the pedal circle
This creates a longer power stroke by starting force application before the down stroke begins.

Apply force in a direction that is 90 degrees to the crank arm
At the top of the pedal stroke (12 o'clock) you should be moving the pedal forward. At 6 o'clock move the pedal backwards. The only time you should be pushing directly down on the pedal is at exactly 3 o'clock. At 2 or 4 you'd be moving the pedal slightly forward and down, or slightly back and down respectively.

Pull through the bottom of the pedal stroke
This will assist in keeping a constant force throughout the entire pedaling circle and help the leg that's moving the pedal up over the top of the stroke.

Unweight the pedal as it is coming up
A leg that is resting on the rising pedal creates more resistance for the leg pushing down to overcome. It's not necessary to pull up on the pedal, just unweight it. Try lifting your knee like you're stepping up onto a box.

Focus on one portion of the pedal stroke at a time and you'll be able to improve it more quickly. Then gradually piece them all together as one cohesive movement.

Pedaling drills

Choose drills before each workout, and, after warming up, focus on them throughout that training session.

Spin through Zone 3
Note: For the purposes of this drill, "zone 2" refers to a heart rate corresponding to a "very light" to "fairly light" effort (perceived exertion 9-11 on a scale of 20), and "zone 3" refers to a "somewhat hard" effort (perceived exertion 12 - 14).

Find a course with steady terrain. Choose a course that is mostly flat and free of stops.

Find a steady pace at the top end of your zone 2. Check your speed and then shift down into the next easiest gear (for example from a 17- to a 19-tooth cog). Then maintain the same speed by increasing your rpm. Your heart rate will start to climb through zone 3. When your heart rate reaches the top of zone 3, slow your pace until it recovers back to the top of zone 2.

Focus on keeping the leg muscles relaxed and the spin smooth. Relax your toes and ankles. Don't force the movement. Try to release the tension in your legs and let the energy flow.

You're looking for a smooth, fast, yet effortless motion. If you find yourself bouncing on the saddle, back your cadence off a bit until it smoothes out.

The objective is to teach the muscles in the legs to contract and relax in harmony. Muscles that fight each other will create resistance to the pedaling movement. This resistance will consume, or waste, energy and inhibit your performance.

Single-leg pedaling
Do this on a stationary trainer. Unclip one leg and rest it on something and pedal with just the other leg. Keep the cadence, resistance and duration low until you develop your technique; start at 60 rpm. Alternate legs about every 30 seconds (or when you get fatigued) and gradually (over several weeks of practicing) increase the duration, cadence and then the resistance.

Pedaling with one leg will force you to move the pedal in full circles. You will notice right away how much work it is to pull through the bottom of the pedal stroke and lift the pedal back up and over the top.

Try to eliminate the dead spots at the bottom and top of the pedaling circle, and keep the pedaling motion as even and smooth as possible. You should begin to see some improvement after a few weeks. Don't make the mistake of using momentum to "throw" the pedal up over the top. Move it purposefully.

Back and forth
This drill emphasizes the application of pedaling force in the areas that are usually in the most need of improvement (the top and bottom of the pedaling circle).

During this drill you'll be focusing on pushing the pedals over, or across, the top of the pedaling circle, and pulling them back through the bottom. Think about moving the pedals back and forth rather than up and down.

After a while you'll begin to develop a better overall pedaling force application by learning to apply force over the top and through the bottom of the stroke. As with the other drills, work on keeping the muscles relaxed.

This drill can be done on any ride at any time. Try and include it as often as possible.

Lifting your knee
When climbing, focus on lifting your knees. This will unweight the pedal and you'll notice less resistance; this is good. Think about bringing your knees straight up and pushing straight down over the top of your foot.

About the author:  Thomas Chapple is a licensed elite level USA Cycling coach, certified USA Triathlon coach and Ultrafit Associates coach. He coaches regional and nationally competitive athletes and has competed at the national level in downhill mountain-bike racing. He can be reached at

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Drink it Up
By Josh Powers, CTS Senior Coach

We all know how important hydration is to the success of any physical endeavor and how critical it is in peaking performance in an endurance event. Off the bike hydration is as easy as carrying around a bottle of water and enduring the ridicule of your friends for being the only adult they know that never goes anywhere without a bottle. On the bike hydration is another matter. It’s an activity that tends to take far more conscious thought and planning.

Water accounts for roughly 60% of the total body mass in most male cyclists and about 55% for the average woman.  That’s close to 100 lbs of water for a 160 lb male or roughly 11.5 gallons of water. Water can be lost through several avenues. After combining the water losses through perspiration, urination and breathing you can loose close to 3 liters of water every day. If you’re exercising in hot and or humid environments you have the capability of loosing triple that value.

Without proper hydration you run the risk of dangerous heat illnesses as well as a noticeable decrease in physical and mental performance. Even a relatively small decrease of 2-3% in the body’s total fluid can decrease a cyclist’s performance by 3-7%. Think of the lengths people will go to in order to gain an advantage of 3-7% over their competition. So why give anybody that advantage by neglecting to rehydrate?

The key to maintaining hydration on the bike is to replace the fluids you loose. This sounds simple enough but it can get pretty tricky when you’re reaching for a bottle while negotiating singletrack or when you’re surrounded by a pack of riders. There are two methods used by cyclists to carry fluids on the bike. The traditional water bottle is a good choice but it definitely has its drawbacks. An alternative to the standard bottle and cage is the pack hydration system. The benefits to using such a system are numerous and the technical advancements in modern pack design make the hydration pack comfortable and far more useful than ever.

The pack hydration system becomes a great solution to the more cumbersome yet traditional bottle and cage. Most pack hydration systems connect the tube and bite valve within convenient reach on one of the shoulder straps making it safer and easier to reach for when compared to a water bottle. Since the rule of thumb with hydration is to drink early and often, with easy access you are more likely to drink often enough to maintain proper hydration levels.

In addition to simplicity and ease, the pack hydration system has many more benefits. When properly cared for, the pack hydration system can be cleaner than drinking from a bottle that’s covered in mud and creek water. For those pavement lovers, you won’t have to worry about dropping the bottle in a pack situation and causing a crash. Pack hydration systems also offer more insulation than a traditional water bottle, keeping your fluids cooler on hot days and warmer during the long cold base rides of the winter months. Many pack hydration systems have a larger capacity than two large water bottles. This is beneficial because it requires fewer stops for water and alleviates the worry associated running out at a key rehydration point. This makes pack hydration systems ideal for those fond of long epic rides.

There are many manufacturers of pack hydration systems on the market, Camelbak being one of the largest and most innovative in design and function. When looking into pack hydration systems you need to keep in mind your intended activity and duration. Camelbak products vary in size and function with packs designed for running, cycling, hiking and pretty much any other outside activity you could imagine. Camelbacks water capacity ranges from 28 to 100 oz depending on the size of pack you want to carry. The storage capacity also varies from pack to pack with cargo capacities small enough for the minimalist and vast enough for the person who never wants to be without. There is a pack geared towards any activity and every athlete. The sooner you find the right fit for you, the sooner you’ll be on the road to proper hydration.


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