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This blog is written in plain, fly-over country English. The Author reserves the right to forego nonsensical, feel-good gibberish.

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“Where’s the Kickstand”?

Overheard at the bike shop while my wife was getting her new cycling shoes dialed in, asked by a customer taking delivery of his new $600 hybrid:

“Where’s the kickstand”?

I tried so hard to stay out of it but the junior mechanic replied, “I don’t know”!

After he went into the back I explained to the poor old fella that they’re not cool on real bikes anymore. He had them put one on.

Time To Kick the Committee Into Gear: Why Work So Hard? (Hint: It’s Not My Ego, Though Go Ahead and Tell Yourself It Is)

It was chilly, sun shining brightly but there was a bite to the wind. I’m starting to feel better after my two-day cold (only one day off the bike) but I’m still a little tired – run-down is a better word methinks.  Still, with snow and ice on the ground, nobody showed up to the club ride on Tuesday and I was done in anyway. Came down with the bug on Monday so I didn’t ride at all, I slept…  The preceding three days I rode with Mrs. Bgddy so they were slow, easy days. In other words it had been almost a full week since I really pushed myself on a ride.  This shouldn’t be too big a deal, especially for “someone like me”, right?  Who can ride really fast and is internally motivated to kick ass… After all, it’s in my jeans [yes, I know, genes...that's a point]! People like me have it easy, because we’re naturals.  We don’t have to work as hard as everyone else - it is, after all, unfair right?  Yeah, read on.

I could feel my energy slipping as the afternoon wore on and by the time I was headed home I was not in a good mental place. I had been looking forward to a hard effort ride all day long, until the drive home. By the time I pulled into the driveway I was lobbying to get a majority of the melon committee to agree just to get out the door and clipped in.  I was certain we, the committee and I, were going to take it easy if I didn’t just curl up on the couch.  After all, I was still “technically” sick…

I readied the Venge as I was still trying to quell what was growing to the status of a coup within the committee. Pumped up the tires, got my water situated and layered up.  A couple of malcontents in the committee were calling for my impeachment, citing “too tired to pedal” as the grounds.  They added fuel to the fire and I could sense another couple of committee member’s allegiance shifting as I ratcheted the straps down on my shoes.

Fortunately I am not as afraid to breathe life to one personal truth: When it comes to my melon committee, I’m a dictator. This ain’t a democracy – what Big Daddy says, ultimately goes.  There is one problem though:  The more I listen to the committee when I’m down, when I’m tired, after I’ve taken it easy for more than a couple of days in a row, the harder I have to fight to regain control over the narrative.  The tougher it is to get back…

I clipped in and rolled out.  I pedaled easy for all of 100 feet and that all to familiar smile slowly stretched across my face.  All of the negative punks on the committee sat down, dejected.  With a tailwind I was up to 23/24 mph before I hit the 1/4 mile mark. I pushed harder. I let the committee know that I was instituting a goal: Go as hard as I could to completely wipe myself out before I hit the last four miles of my 16 mile ride – and three of those were directly into that biting wind. This meant I’d still have to work to get home.

In the crosswind I dropped it down to 21/22, down a tiny hill and then back up… I picked the pace up. It was time to punish the whining, seditious bastards in the committee. I was easily up to 25 with the wind at my back again. Leading up to another hill, upshift - pick up the cadence, powerful round pedal strokes.  No time for mashing.  At the midway point on the hill I downshifted and kept my cadence.

I could feel my muscles firing, pulling my tendons, in the proper succession: Quad, hammy, glute, quad hammy, glute. Time to give the committee something to really bitch about.  As I crested the hill I upshifted and put the hammer down.  The next stop sign is one that requires a stop – great, I could catch my breath, pedal harder.  Busy road and perpendicular traffic does not stop.  For once, there was no traffic at least a half-mile in either direction – so I shot right through it. North of 27 mph.  I was grinning again. I thought, F- you, committee…

Ten miles in out if sixteen – I gave it every single ounce of energy I had left in my cold-weakened state.  I was smoked.  Exactly what I wanted. I stopped by the bike shop to say hi to the boys and was on my way. I pushed for another two miles and dialed it back. I pedaled back a little easier, the respite deserved…  Though I did have to remember, I am still sick.  It’s okay if I was a bit tired.

I can feel the effort in my legs. Can feel the workout in my lungs.  I slept like a rock.  My daughters were to bed at 8.  I was out by 8:10.

So, getting around to the big picture…  WHY?  Why push?  I have everything going on right now, I’m busy as I’ve ever been in my life, the weather is crap, I’m on the back side of a little cold and I’m in really good shape for this early in the season, my few extra pounds from the winter are almost shed and I’ve been riding hard for almost three years now, getting faster and stronger.  Why not take a spring and summer off to work solely with my wife?  Why not slow it down a bit, after all, who am I trying to impress!?

When I went for that 44 miler with my wife on Saturday, while we had a great time, for the most part talking and getting our miles in together and while that ride was exceptionally easy for me, my wife struggled mightily.  I know that feeling and fought through it so many times I can’t even take a guess at how many – it was a lot.  I don’t care about the stereotypical ego things (or other people’s projections, in other words).  I don’t care about being one of the horses in the group of guys I ride with (though that’s a nice byproduct).

The why is a simple concept:  You can pay me now or pay me more later but you will pay.  If you missed my post about living debt-free the other day, paying interest really pisses me off.  If I get behind on my payments (hard, fitness-building workouts) I will have to work a lot harder to make the debt up farther down the road.  Not only will I have to put in the extra work to get my speed back, I’ll have to re-fight the melon committee to get them in line again.  That’s paying double the interest. Nope, I’ll pay up now.

Thank you sir, may I have another?

Yes I may.

Start cycling to lose weight – without dropping a small fortune…

Being a cycling enthusiast can get pricy in a hurry.  Thousands, upon thousands of dollars spent in a flurry of gratification.  The notion that this kind of cash outlay is necessary is misinformation (or misunderstanding – take your pick) though.  You don’t need a super-bike designed in conjunction with an exotic sports car manufacturer to have a great time and lose a lot of weight.  In fact, you can get a fantastic mountain bike for less than $750 (they’re rated up to 300 pounds usually but that can be pushed).  If that’s a little steep, you can get a decent entry-level bike for less than $500.  Throw in a decent helmet for $50, a pair of sunglasses for $25 and you’re ready to go.  Now, that’s if you buy everything new (which I recommend simply so you can get the proper size frame – it makes a big difference).  If you pick up a used bike, you can get a high-end manufacturer’s entry-level bike for as little as a hundred bucks.  You can be on the road for anything from $175 to $800.  As far as weight loss goes, my personal favorite is the mountain bike to start because they’re less expensive, vastly more durable and much more versatile.

From there, it’s simple:  Ride like you mean it and enjoy burning as many as 1,000 calories an hour depending on the amount of effort you put into it.  When viewed against the considerable cost of being overweight, $800 is a drop in the bucket, a fantastically wise investment.

Where things start to get confusing is with the super-bikes.

Super-bikes, while supremely fun, are only meant for a certain segment of the cycling population and while I happen to be a part of that segment now, a 16 pound bike was not a necessity when starting out.  I was on the road for less than $200 and it was more than a year before I looked into my first road bike and I took that step because I was hopelessly hooked on cycling by that point.  Not only was I hooked, as I got stronger the gearing on the mountain bike became insufficient for anything but single-track riding.  It was too easy to pedal in the hardest gear.  I needed more gear, so to speak.

Here’s the best way I can think of to describe the super-bike craze amongst we avid enthusiasts:  Do you drive a car to work?  I happen to drive a Ford Escape 4×4 - a truck is required for what I do for a living and the one I drive is still quite good on gas (27-28 mpg).  I do not need a Corvette, Porsche or Ferrari to enjoy my ride into work.  Race bikes, for non-professional cyclists, are the equivalent of collecting sports cars only a heck of a lot cheaper.  It’s what to do with your mid-life crisis when you don’t want to mortgage your future and want to stay active so you can enjoy as much of your time on this rock as humanly possible.  In other words, some people buy motorcycles, some buy sports cars.  I buy bikes.

I suppose, if there was anything I’d like to impress on this subject (at least from where I sit behind this keyboard), it’s that the bike matters least when you’re trying to drop weight – the butt you want to lose won’t care whether you’re on a $500 or a $5,000 bike so unless you’re certain that you’re a nut like me (or have the spare cash), super-bikes are wholly unnecessary.

They are a lot of fun though.  A lot like the difference between driving a Ford Fiesta and a Shelby GT500.

A Record Only a Skier Could Love…

We broke a record last night that only a skier could love, a record that has stood for more than 130 years – total snowfall for southeastern Michigan. This year we had 94.8 inches of the white stuff.  The last time we were hit this bad (or at least close to it at 93.6 inches) was the winter of 1880-1881.  Now, for the folks out in high-snowfall areas (Mid-Michigan, the U.P., Minnesota, Colorado, etc.) 95 inches of snow is a drop in the bucket, I’m well aware of this (Northern Michigan regularly gets more than 10 feet of snow in a winter).  I get it – still doesn’t mean life is a bowl of cherries around here if you happen to be  a ridiculously avid cyclist.

Fortunately, the freeze is supposed to be short-lived – just one day.

Normally, tonight would present a very big problem being a Tuesday (club ride night) but I left the office early yesterday to head home and get some rest due to a quick little bug that I thought would have me down for a couple of days.  Thanks to a lot of good sleep and Emergen-C I’m feeling a ton better today.  I knew I was in trouble shortly after I got to the office yesterday.  I felt horrible and had a tough time keeping my eyes open – so I laid my head down on the desk to take a quick fifteen minute cat-nap only to wake up an hour and fifteen minutes later.  I struggled through most of the day and left at around 2.  When I got home, I sent off a quick couple of emails and immediately fell back asleep.  Then after dinner, I slept again while my wife took the kids to swimming class.  I turned in for the night after this week’s episode of Archer and didn’t wake up till just after 4am – and I feel surprisingly good – and that’s where this little saga gets interesting.  I am very tempted to try to suck it up and ride tonight if all of the ice on the roads melts (temps should approach 40 F today so they should thaw).  On the other hand, I’ll end up wearing myself out a little bit in some very cold temps so I think the best option for today is to ride on the trainer and get back to it tomorrow.  Better, I think, to not to give this bug a chance at resurgence so I can have a nice long weekend in the saddle.

 

Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Freezer

This past weekend was awesome for riding. We got 66 miles in on the road bikes and 11 on the mountain bikes with the kids visiting their grandparents for the weekend. They were some slow miles, but the wife and I did have a blast – and the weather was perfect.  It wasn’t warm by any stretch, but we were able to put the toe covers, full finger gloves and the balaclava’s in the drawer.  In fact, we even got to break a sweat yesterday which was way overdue.

Unfortunately we’re headed back to the freezer tonight.  Three inches of snow in the forecast and one day of misery before the temps rebound again on Wednesday.

Saturday was Mrs. Bgddy’s longest ride to date and more than double her longest ride so far this season, we went 44 miles.  Sunday was supposed to be a day off but with the temps hovering around 70 (F) we couldn’t pass up a quick ride around the block on the mountain bikes.  Even though I had to spend Friday, Saturday and Sunday riding a lot slower than normal, being able to share that time with my wife outweighed my need for speed.  Unfortunately, with snow on the ground and temps only slightly above freezing tomorrow, the club ride is out so I’ll have to try to horse those miles in between Wednesday and Friday – I’m sure the boys will be riding this weekend as the temps head back up to the 60′s.

On the bike/mechanical/shoe front, I’m finding myself in a rare position:  I have nothing to work on – nothing to fix and no pressing issues with any of my bikes that would need addressing… and that means I don’t have a whole lot to write about.  How rare, and nice it is to have this problem.  Last week I wrote about a cleat alignment issue that cropped up with my new shoes.  Two seasons ago, when I got my last pair of cycling shoes squared away, I had an alignment issue as well (left foot flared out) and I waited for several weeks and through a lot of pain before I finally took out my Allen wrenches and set my feet straight.  Well, this time I waited all of two days and now that I have my feet lined up straight as I pedal, the numbness I was fighting ceased being an issue.  The interesting thing that has me perplexed about this is that with the fitting I got (special blocks that have to rods sticking out, away from the bike, one isolates the pedal, the other the cleat/shoe meant specifically to align the cleats), when I went from the blocks to the pedals, my feet aren’t properly aligned.  It certainly isn’t a big deal and I know how to rectify the problem (it takes all of five minutes), but the fact that my feet were off at all had me scratching my head.  That said, the issue is dead now anyway.  In short, all is well and I’m enjoying what will hopefully shape up to be a fantastic summer.

Living Debt Free

This is post is going to be a little bit out of the ordinary for me. I’ve been seeing a commercial pop up for some “online bank” that promises loans to people “when normal banks won’t give them money” or something to that effect – and it’s got me so pissed I can hardly contain myself. That online “bank” is selling misery to the dumbest and most desperate and it makes me sick.

Normal people don’t take loans for everyday life.  Those who live strictly enough are actually accosted every time they walk into a bank to please, take some – and politely say thank you as we walk out of the bank without that loan after making our deposits.

Almost two decades ago now, my wife and I had several maxed out credit cards, car loans and a mortgage.  Then we moved out into the country from the city and added a bigger mortgage and a second mortgage so we could afford the down payment (they don’t allow this anymore).  We were in debt up to our ears – and paying interest on all of it.  To put it simply, my wife and I made a trade.  We chose to pay 1-1/4 to 2 times what something cost, so we could have it right now.  We started talking about one of the rent to own places for a new TV – and that’s when we realized we were in a lot of trouble.

We made a decision to stop the madness rather than continue to trade away our future happiness on interest.  We sacrificed:  No new toys – we barely went out to dinner, no toys, no extravagant foods – folks we were only slightly better than beans an weenies for two years – and we paid that debt off to a point where we have only our mortgages left(and we’re almost set to pay the second one-off, we just have to get with the bank and write the check).

I won’t go into a big “hey, look how cool we are because we can afford stuff now” deal because the way my wife and I choose to live isn’t exactly what you call “fun”.  We both have paid off older vehicles (that run fine but are showing their years now) and we don’t have a big, fancy house.  In other words, we don’t keep up with the Jones’s (unless you count the bikes – then we kick the Jones’s butts).  If we don’t keep our eyes on the prize it’s easy to lose sight of the reason we choose this, call it humble, existence.  The prize is this:  While we don’t measure up with others who make about the same amount as we do on the outside, when we want to have our home resided (which should start in the next week or so), all we have to do is write the check.  Or better, say we have a problem – we have a plumbing problem or something…  We can simply get it fixed.

To make a long story short, we don’t need a loan and while others scramble around to find the cash for the necessities, we can sit back knowing we’ll be okay.

I suppose my main point is this:  If you need that high-interest loan because a “normal bank won’t give you money”, it might be time to consider that you might have a bigger problem – and ask yourself this:  Are you really willing to pay double for what it is you want, today?

We did, and came to the right conclusion:  That’s nuts!

 

 

Daddy Needs A New Pair of Shoes…

It became quite apparent during my BG Fitting last year that I needed new shoes.  I won my old shoes in another blogger’s contest, a pair of carbon Pearl Izumi Tri Fly III’s. While they’ve been fantastic shoes, they were advertised as a size 12 but 12-1/2′s were shipped.  They were, without a doubt, too big.  Even so, I made them work for more than a full season and while I may have lost a little bit in performance because every pull on the backstroke was preceded by some slack being taken up first before my foot hit the top of the shoe, they were much more comfortable than the mountain biking shoes they replaced.

Now, I won’t lie, I was awfully tempted to head off to Nashbar to save some cash, then just try to transfer the Look cleat placement from one shoe to the next (my left foot requires a bit of an odd angle to the cleat to get my foot, leg, knee and quads to operate efficiently – my right foot is perfectly square).  Having put somewhere in the neighborhood of 10,000 miles on those P.I.’s, I was fairly confident that I’d have been able to work the cleats out over time.  On the other hand, I really prefer to shop for something as important as shoes at my local shop.  The owner, who has more than 40 years experience, knows me.  He knows how I ride and what my performance expectations are so his knowledge makes up for my ignorance.

I decided to go to the shop and forgo shopping online, figuring I’d spend quite a bit more but I’d get exactly what I needed.  See, I have another minor problem:  I have short toes.  My foot from my heel to the ball, is a size 11, but because of my short toes, my foot technically measures to a size 10 to 10-1/2 but if I buy my shoes to the overall size, the arch will be in the wrong place and believe me, that causes a ton of pain and a lot of foot injuries.  While not insurmountable, this is a lot to keep straight, especially when I can’t try the shoes on before I buy them…  Shoes often run big or small, so ordering the wrong shoes could mean a number of delays.  Worse, I’m one of those who would try to “suck it up” and live with what was shipped rather than go to the trouble of sending shoes back for another, better fitting pair – which would lead to unnecessary pain and suffering (I ran through that for almost a year).  Sure enough, Matt (our LBS owner) got me a smokin’ deal on a pair of ’12 Pro Road Carbon Composite shoes – better than 35% off the ’14 model which run $275.

SpecProRoad 1 SpecProRoad 2

So, they came in last week, Tuesday I think, and I picked them up on Friday and had the Look Keo cleats installed and aligned at the shop (Look Keo cleats [as with most road cleats], should be aligned by a pro so that your feet, ankles and knees line up properly – and stay in line – while you pedal).

I appreciate the strap and ratchet buckle system because they can easily be tightened or loosened on the fly, with one hand – which I had to do yesterday as a matter of fact.  Unfortunately, I cranked them down way too tight before I left so I had to loosen them up when my feet started going numb after only three miles (chuckle – hey, I figured cycling shoes were like hockey skates, the tighter the better).  After 40 miles, my feet were still feeling quite awesome but they started going numb again after the last eleven.  This is, most assuredly, due to the middle Velcro strap being too tight (I rode the trainer Saturday in standard summer cycling socks but wore my thick wool socks for my ride on Sunday).

Now for the important “stuff”…  I tried to find out the stiffness of the sole on the Pearl Izumi’s and the best I could come up with was a 9 on the “stiffness index”.  The new Specialized Road Pro shoes are measure 11 according to the Specialized website, and I could definitely feel the difference – at least that, coupled with the fact that the shoes fit right – or a bit tighter around my foot.  As is so often the case with upgrades, I doubt my overall speed will increase at all but I should be able to hold a better speed over a longer distance a little easier.  I don’t doubt that this will be the case, with one exception:  Climbing.  I can climb like a monkey in the new shoes because there is no slack when I’m pulling up on the backstroke.  I mentioned that earlier – well, in terms of climbing it makes a huge difference.  To be clear, I’m only going to be able to climb as fast as my lungs and legs will let me, but I can feel a level of efficiency that is next-level awesome.

I wrote this post a week ago, but I delayed posting it so I could get a hundred miles or so in them. I put in a fifty miler on Sunday – my first ride in them and my first decent ride of the year – and my feet numbed up like crazy. I had them cranked down too tight. It took them out again on Tuesday, loosened up the straps a touch and made it fifteen miles before they numbed up again.

I also noticed a problem… When I had my cleats aligned and set at the shop, they use special alignment blocks that are supposed to line the cleats perfectly so that your feet align on the pedals in a way that gets the whole leg, all the way up to the quads, involved and perfectly aligned. I know my feet have to be perfectly straight on my pedals (parallel with the frame) or my feet go numb – there is no room for error. After the fitting, my left foot toed out at the heel and my right toed in. I noticed this within the first few miles but I tried to ignore it, placing my trust in the fitting.  I’ve gone this route before – opting to wait rather than follow my instincts and fine-tune the cleat position – and I put off comfort for months.  This time I learned my lesson.  I’ve got long rides planned for tomorrow afternoon and Saturday so I’ll definitely know where I’m at come Monday.

 
UPDATE: 45 Hard minutes at lunchtime on the trainer – no numbness, no pain. It’ll take the longer ride to sort out whether or not I need any more tinkering, but for now I’m good. By the way, I failed to mention earlier in my post that A) I am meticulously finicky when it comes to my feet and B) I use the gray Keo Classic cleats (9 degrees of float) – even so, I still need them just right or I’ll feel it. Thanks to SaltyVelo for the comment.

2014 Dawn Farm Ride for Recovery

100kApril 27th, 2014
10 days to go.

July 2013 Lake Burton, Tiger, GA

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