By Andrew L. Pruitt with Fred Matheny VeloPress at velopress.com
Reviewed By Bill Bryant
Randonneuring is, of course, all about covering long distances on two wheels while being self-reliant. Hardy cyclists are drawn to our sport because they like the idea of riding a long way without the "safety net" a motorized support crew offers. We ramble far and wide on our own, or with friends, and when something goes wrong with our bikes, we fix them ourselves because there are no spares to be had from a following support vehicle. And since our style of cycling is outside the mainstream, we're also pretty adept at configuring our bicycles and other equipment to meet our randonneuring needs. Tending to our machines before, during, and after our rides is all part of being a randonneur.
But what about the "motor" that propels the bicycle? Foolish is the randonneur who ignores this vital aspect of riding long distances; more often than not it will be the rider and not the bicycle that creates a situation that makes finishing a brevet difficult. It is frequently difficult to find reliable experts locally to help with persistent problems, but luckily for us, along comes a fine book that helps plug that gap. Andy Pruitt's Complete Medical Guide for Cyclists is an invaluable resource for bicyclists of all persuasions, and especially for randonneurs. Completing our demanding long-distance events is obviously a big challenge and this book can help us all, whether we are new to the sport or veterans. Pruitt's book isn't just about fit, but covers a broad spectrum of "body topics" related to optimizing the engine that pushes the pedals. Aided by well-known cycling writer Fred Matheny, it is written in a lively tone that is engaging, and it's also illustrated to help show things better than words can. As someone who has provided bicycle fitting service for hundreds of customers over the years, I find Pruitt's advice spot-on and wish it had been available many years ago. More than most others in the field, he clearly wants the bicycle fit to mirror the rider's body and style of cycling, not vice-versa as happens too often, alas. His discussion of why a professional racer's bike position is hard to emulate by amateur riders is excellent. Similarly, the section on aging and cycling is very good and will be of interest to many RUSA members (like me) on the wrong side of 50. Though many of Pruitt's customers are indeed racing cyclists in search of optimum fit to pursue their vigorous style of cycling without injury, this book consistently shows why and how a more comfortable position is the best one in the end, and how this will help any type of cyclist the most. For randonneurs plagued with minor and serious over-use injuries, the advice in this book is priceless. Along with guidance about fit, the information about training and cycling efficiency is good too, and your motor's output will improve if followed faithfully. Who among us wouldn't like to finish a brevet a little quicker, or get a little more sleep at PBP or BMB?
The spectrum of topics in the book is all-encompassing. Part One is about bike fit (saddle position, handlebars, pedals & cleats). Part Two covers common cycling injuries (knees, back & neck, foot & ankle, hands/arms/shoulders, crotch & skin, eyes & head) and their remedy. Part Three is "Getting the Most Out of Cycling" (overtraining & recovery, weight loss, physiological testing, developing a personal training program, health maintenance, aging and the cyclist, comfort vs. performance, the biomechanics of cycling, and stretching & rehabilitation). The book concludes with some thoughtful questions about the on-going search for improved cycling performance gathered under the heading of "What we don't know (but I wish we did)". My main criticism of the book is that it addresses only the use of regular solo bicycles; recumbent riders and tandem stokers will have to adapt the information to their unique needs as best they can. Still and all, Pruitt and Matheny have done sterling work that should become a cornerstone in the sport.
Along with your RUSA handbook, it is hard to imagine a more thorough book we randonneurs can make use of. These two books will keep us in the saddle, moving forward, no matter our age or innate athletic ability. For anyone contemplating doing a Super Randonneur series of brevets, much less a 1200-kilometer grand randonnée, Pruitt's volume will be an invaluable inclusion in your "toolbox". With his guidance, an intelligent randonneur should be able to get the best fit with their bicycle, design an effective training plan, avoid burn-out, and treat the inevitable injuries that can result from riding a bicycle long distances. Highly recommended!
Andy Pruitt's Complete Medical Guide for Cyclists is available from VeloPress at velopress.com.