Braces, Hills and Age…Oh My!

By Marilyn Trout | 08/23/11

Steven Depolo, “Braces Wooden Teeth Exhibit Children's Museum” April 17, 2011 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.

We’ve teamed up with Marilyn Trout, certified USA Cycling Elite Coach to answer Voler Newsletter List members’ training questions. You can view her coach profile at Send your cycling inquiries to Marilyn, and for a limited time, if yours is selected to be answered in our Training column, Voler will send you a $20 gift certificate that can be used towards any purchase from the Voler Store at To submit your inquiry, e-mail her at, and type “Voler Training Question” in the subject line of the e-mail.

The following tip is a reprint of a July 2009 three-question inquiry submitted by Voler E-Mail List member Bill Grandi – still excellent subject s at any time.

Braces, Hills and Age…Oh My!

Q#1: At the age of 56 I am going to have to get braces. Never had them before and I know that it will certainly change my eating habits while cycling. I love to eat Clif Bars on the bike (bananas give me indigestion) but their texture is sure to give my braces fits (Cleanliness and structure). Do you have any suggestions for eating on the bike that will give me the energy I need for a 1-2-3 hour ride so as not to bonk?

Q#2: When climbing a hill and it comes to a curve that slopes downward with a high point and low point, do I want to take the higher section of the road or take the shortest distance between two points which means sort of like dipping and having to come back out? Do you understand that? *smile*

Q#3: When climbing when do I stand and when do I tough it out and sit (ala Lance vs. Jan)? At my age (56) it is becoming a more and more important decision. I don't want to fry my energy but I also don't want to fry my quads.

Any help would be appreciated. Thanks for taking the time to answer.



Q#1:  Certainly for an hour ride, putting some calories in your bottle will do the trick. Beyond that I'm sure you can find some soft energy food that works without binding up your braces. Try some softer items like Pop Tarts or Fig Newtons, cereal bars and other soft energy bars. Gels are a very good option as well. Whatever tastes good, is economical and provides the calories is what I go for. Bananas never worked for me either. Dried fruit/raisins work even a jam sandwich on white bread ( not nutritional but digests easily and gives quick energy can work.) Let me know what you discover.

Q#2:  I believe I understand your description of a hairpin? I guess it depends what your style of climbing is and how much energy you have. Taking the shallow part of the curve and going a bit further keeps the power output steadier and doesn't require the spike of energy needed to get out of the saddle and stomp on the pedals…like at the end of a long ride. If you are simply touring and want to maintain the steady pace/rhythm of the climb, really don't like to stand and not interested in speed (shortest distance between 2 points), then that's the route to take. However, if a rider consistently does that without challenging themselves to get out of the saddle and do some "strength training" on the bike, the rest of the body loses out because when seated the legs and gluts are the focus rather than engaging the rest of the body (arms, core, back... ).

Q#3:  When to stand and when to sit? Well, I answered that somewhat already. As you eluded to climbing style with Lance and Jan, riders climb differently to get an optimal performance.  Racing aside, I think it's good for all riders to know what their optimal riding climbing position is to get the most out of their riding.

“Frying your energy or frying your quads" neither sound like a good option. If you mean that when you stand, you tend to fry your knees due to previous injury or medical intervention, that is a different story. Being conservative and gently building strength to be able to stand would be in order. Quite honestly, getting out of the saddle numerous times throughout a ride isn't what does us in. It's usually assuming too much work with too little fitness. Getting out of the saddle is much ado about leg strength. New women riders generally are pretty wobbly when they try to get out of the saddle, climbs or flats, because their core and legs are very weak. If the fear is lack of energy or leg strength, then I would encourage you to include these in your training goals for the season. Concentrating on strengthening your core throughout the entire year will help this tremendously.

I believe we need to keep challenging any age. Certainly if we are injured, acutely or chronically, it is never a good idea to be foolish and do things that are detrimental to our health. Whenever possible it’s good to be on the offensive in all respects of our training, to be ready for when the hills creep up on us or our age.

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