Why Do Cyclists Shave Their Legs, and Should You Shave Yours: A Noob’s Guide Through A Slippery Subject…
Just looking through some old posts… Writing this one really made me laugh – and I had another chuckle reading it again. A celebration of being a cycling noob…
Originally posted on Fit Recovery:
Rule number 33 of the substantial list of cycling guidelines, known simply as “The Rules“, is as follows:
Rule #33// Shave your guns.
Legs are to be carefully shaved at all times. If, for some reason, your legs are to be left hairy, make sure you can dish out plenty of hurt to shaved riders, or be considered a hippie douche on your way to a Critical Mass. Whether you use a straight razor or a Bowie knife, use Baxter to keep them smooth.
I happened upon this list three days before my first initiation into “real” cycling – that is, actual cycling, not just “riding my bike”. I had already been worried about the shaving of the guns before I happened on the rules because I’d seen it mentioned elsewhere while researching proper group cycling etiquette. While I am not quite a yeti, I am a furry…
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The weather wasn’t perfect, cloudy and even a little misty at times, a little cool at 60 degrees, but that’s a good thing because the wind was a paltry 4 mph out of the west(ish – a little south to it).
We’re starting earlier now, we simply can’t get the 30 miles in before dark starting at 6:00. 5:45 tonight, 5:30 next week for two… and then we’re done for the year.
After taking four days off for hunting, I had no idea how my legs would react but I was nervous… I haven’t missed four days in the last four months combined. Now, I rode yesterday, slow to spin my legs back up, but it felt like I was fighting my legs even at just 19 mph for the warm up. It was exceptionally odd, knowing that I can ride faster, easier, but my legs just weren’t cooperating.
We were off, a couple of minutes late to wait for TT guy. He must not have gotten the memo that we were starting early. We were headed dead into the wind and it was a bit of a struggle maintaining 19. Mike and I dropped back after a mile for a little shelter, before making a right. The pace was bumped up to a reasonable 24 mph and that’s when my legs finally loosened up.
It’s surprising when I look back over the last few years, that 24 was easy. Not too long ago I would be pushing hard to keep up at that speed. 26 was taxing and 28 was all I could handle for a mile or two. Today we have stretches in the 30’s and I’m still okay (though I can’t hold that for long).
My wife was with us last night and about six or seven miles in, I noticed her just off the back so, even though I’d just gotten done with a pull up front, I dropped back to bring her back up. She only lasted a half-mile longer before hollering to me that she was going to opt for the short route, that I was free to ride my ride – and that, I did.
After yet another pull up front (I really took my share of turns last night), I fell back and bam… That fast, a gap formed between eight of us and the lead group. I thought about jumping up and bridging it, I could have, but I chose to sit back and ride with my friends instead. I knew we had a healthy group.
We rolled at 20-22 mph into an ugly headwind that shouldn’t have been so ugly… Finally, we hit a tailwind and the pace picked up considerably. There were a couple of cool, notable things going on in the group yesterday… First, we had both noobs from last week – and TT-guy had taken to heart what we talked about. He was noticeably better, which meant the group was able to work together rather than fight to stay together. Also, that second noob that we dropped in the hills the week before had figured out that he had to stay ahead of TT-guy so that when he let the inevitable gap form, Noob #2 wasn’t a casualty… So he was riding more comfortably as well. It wasn’t perfect but it was a lot better, at least from my perspective. We also had picked up a third guy that I’d never met before. He certainly didn’t ride like a noob and he pulled like a mule so we were more than happy to get behind him and let him roll. I have no doubt we owe at least two-tenths of a mile an hour on our average to him alone. His only weakness was hills. Being a bigger guy, he struggled mightily whenever we hit a hill. Toward the end of the ride, he’d shoot off the front before a hill so he could take it at his pace and let us catch him at the top. Interesting strategy, I’d never seen that done successfully.
This week, my buddy Mike led me out for the sprint, which was kinda neat. He took me up to 27-28 mph and I was able to shoot off the front at almost 32 mph before I really even put much @$$ into it and we rolled into town with a solid 21 mph average – just enough to feel like we worked hard, but not so much that I struggled at any point to keep up.
It was pretty close to a perfect night, at least good enough for government work. Still, that four days off really knocked me down a level. The ride was a little tougher than it should have been. Of course, it wasn’t bad enough that when a few of the guys asked who wanted to do the 100k Tour de Livingston this coming Sunday that I didn’t volunteer us immediately. Of course I jumped at that… And so did Mrs. Bgddy. Now that’s going to be fun… One of the rest stops is at an apple orchard – hot cider and donuts, oh my!
On the other hand, sometimes a fella’s just gotta look snazzy…
Here’s the bike:
And the new winter jersey:
Oh, yeah… Now that’s a nice mix of Hi-Viz and Awesome! To tell you the truth, I’ve been waiting on something like this for some time now… I can understand the whole “Hi-Viz” craze, especially in the cloudy, often crappy, autumn weather we have here in Michigan. What I hated, at least until now, is that all of the clothing is just bright and usually very boring. The Therminal Long Sleeve Jersey, is the perfect marriage of cool and “Hi-Viz” though. ‘Bout time.
I’d do a full write-up, but when it comes to Specialized’s cycling clothing, every piece I’ve ever owned (and I own a lot) has fit well, worn fantastically (I have cycling shorts going on three years old that still look fantastic and perform even better). I haven’t even worn the new jersey yet (I did try it on) and I can tell you without a doubt, it will exceed my expectations. Specialized’s stuff is, simply stated, that good.
To date I own: Four pair of cycling shorts (2 RBX Pro, 1 RBX Comp and 1 BG Comp), one jersey, one Element 2.0 jacket, 1 outer rain shell (my wife’s), and one Element 1.o jacket (my wife wears that one most of the time as well, she runs a little cooler than I do), three pair of cycling gloves, 1 pair full finger cycling gloves and an under the helmet winter cap. Add that up and you’re looking at a whole lot of money and I’ve only ever had a minor problem with one cycling glove, and that was replaced.
So, if you have a Specialized bike and some extra disposable cash, and then a little more disposable cash, pony up for anything you can afford. Specialized’s cycling wear is well worth the cheese.
Before I get into this post, I am a hunter. I do kill deer. I do eat them afterwards. If you do not like this or uncomfortable with the fact that I do, first, don’t bother. I accept you for who you are and I don’t care if you can’t accept me for who I am. Second, good God, quit taking yourself so seriously would you? That said…
It’s October and in Michigan, that can only mean one thing now that my buddy Bill has moved back from the south… It’s hunting season. Now, my buddy Bill and I hunt especially well together. Neither of us need our hands held, we each compliment the others dislikes when it comes to chores (I cook, Bill doesn’t mind dishes, etc.) and while we do rough it in a completely rural campground deep in the woods (no electrical – except our generator, no restrooms, no showers, no running water… Imagine running out to the middle of any wooded area where you can get lost in ten feet if you don’t know exactly where you’re at and calling that a “campground”). On the other hand, we don’t exactly rough it either. Bill brings his generator, I bring the camper, we have heat and watch a movie every night before turning in… We’re out in the middle of nowhere but have many of the comforts of home. Well, we got back late last night from a three-day excursion – Thursday night to Sunday and I’m sore.
From camp, it’s a quarter-mile hike to my blind and another three-quarters to Bill’s so every day I hike out to mine, then back to camp, then we hike back out with a couple of 50 pound bags of carrots and sugar beets slung over our back which we then spread out according to bureaucratic regulations (don’t get me started). We go from my blind, then out to Bill’s, then back to camp for a bit of lunch and maybe a nap… Then we head back out for the evening hunt, come in just after dusk, make dinner (or order pizza if it’s raining and cooking outdoors is made unreasonably difficult), watch our movie while we eat, then we crash. Same exact thing, every day.
Well, I end up with between 2-1/2 and 3 miles of hiking a day over fairly aggressive terrain, lugging a 15-20 pound backpack and either my bow or 50 more pounds of beets (I usually take the beets because they’re harder to balance on your shoulder – less comfortable – because Bill’s my elder)… In other words, it’s not exactly a walk in the park. Between hikes, I’m sitting dead still for six hours in the morning and three in the evening. After a while, even with the decent beds in the camper, the hard miles and extra-long sitting wears on me and my back starts to act up. It’s actually not as bad as it used to be – we tented it one year and stayed another in a motorcycle trailer with a wood floor. This year, by comparison, was awesome.
So, in addition to the hiking, the sitting for hours on end, the one thing that can’t be escaped is the cold. The unrelenting, unforgiving cold… With the exception of five or six hours at night when we’re running a heater, it’s cold. This first weekend, we didn’t top 50 degrees till Sunday (generally speaking, between 34 and 44 F) and only Friday did we have any sun but with winds from 20 mph with gusts up to 40, it was anything but a picnic. Saturday it was cloudy and windy (again with the 20 mph wind) and extra cold. Try that sometime… Dress up as warm as you want, then go for a hike to get the blood pumpin’, then sit still for five or six hours and let me know how you feel. Not that I’m complaining, to do that would be stupid as much money as I spend to do it… I’m attempting to illustrate that this isn’t exactly a trip down to the Y Campground in July. There’s a little more to it.
In any event, while I am in spectacular physical shape, this whole deer hunting camp thing was a lot easier when I was younger and running.
So this morning I wake up and my calf muscles, specifically my plantaris muscles, feel like piano wires and my back hurts as if I was just kicked by a mule. Well, maybe not quite a mule, but I’m hobbling along like a seventy year-old smoker.
Most people in my position would make the incorrect assumption that what they need is a few days to recuperate. Not me, I know what I need – ’bout sixteen miles to spin this out before I take my daughters to swim practice this evening. Really, I have to ride this afternoon… I sure don’t want to take these wrecked muscles out on the club ride tomorrow nigh – and I’d sooner kick my own ass than miss that.
I was a part of the National Bike Challenge, though just for September this year because I had a miserable time getting the NBC hooked up to my Endomondo account earlier in the season and I just didn’t care to take the time to figure it out (I used to be entered automatically through my GPS account).
Over the last few years I was happy if I ended up in the top ten percent of the National and Local Leader boards. I figured if I was in the top ten percent of nuts who go to the trouble of tracking their workouts, well that was something. On the other hand, of course, it really isn’t, because the real nuts don’t bother tracking anything – they know they’re going to get their miles. My cycling buds, Mike and Chuck, both have more miles than I do and neither one are in on the challenge… Of course, they’re both retired too, so there’s that.
Still, of the more than 92,000 Americans participating in the challenge, I cracked the top 200 as of last weekend (I’m currently around 250 for the Nation – I’ve dropped a few places in the last few days). I am top ten for my state (top 0.5%) and that includes STRAVA, Endomondo, Map My Ride and Moves users… While it’s not a big deal on one level, it’s still pretty cool on another.
I don’t participate for props, or to be better than anyone else, I suppose it’s like running a 8 minute mile in a 5k running race. If you’re a guy, you won’t even sniff an age group podium at 23 minutes in my area. Still, we run them anyway and we all check our splits and place, both overall and by age grouping. We know we’re not going to win but dropping from a 9 minute mile, and all of the places associated with the increase in performance simply makes the effort a little more worthwhile.
Then there’s the political side of the Bike Challenge. They talk about saving expended greenhouse gasses because of miles ridden, but even when I’m just taking a trip to the bike shop, I’m blowing out less CO2 by taking the car, only because I take the long route, but many of my miles are pure enjoyment miles. Now, to really get much too intellectual on this, I’m going to breathe whether I’m on a bike or not, but my respiration is definitely increased while I’m riding, so I’m blowing out more CO2 (a pollutant by the ridiculous EPA’s standards) than I would if I were riding the couch instead. On the other hand, because I ride my bike, my normal respiration the other 22-1/2 hours of the day (give or take) is greatly less taxing than if I were that couch jockey, which I most definitely am not. However, I have to eat more food to fuel the effort of riding a bike, so that requires groceries that have to be shipped, often across the country, to get to the store. Then I have to drive there so we can pick enough groceries up for the week and then drive home. Of course, we were going to do that anyway, so there’s only the added food required to pedal my bike so you actually have to write that trip to the grocery store and 99.9999875% of the shipping – because that stuff was going to be shipped anyway. In other words, I’m just writing down words to seem witty. It’s all bullshit and I really don’t care anyway, as long as I get to ride my bike. Well, all but the fact that my good buddy Brad is out harvesting his soy beans right now and his are used in the production of carbon fiber. No shit. Really. My carbon fiber bike is made with a renewable foodstuff grown and harvested by one of my cycling buddies. Can’t say that about an aluminum frame. That’s made out of a pop can. I digress…
What’s really important is this:
Now honestly, the 1,038 miles in August is probably a little more impressive simply because I had DALMAC in the first week of September – I had almost 450 miles before we even hit Labor Day. I was almost halfway to that 1,058 miles before I hit the Second full week of September – and it was a good thing too, because after DALMAC I had to slow things down considerably for a week so I could recover a little bit. The second week I only managed 150 slow-ish miles. That said, I only missed one day in September, on the 10th… So in three months, July, August and September, I had all of two days off of the bike. Two, out of 90+. Now that, I like. Best of all and contrary to my once firmly held belief that a day off at least once a week was necessary, I went through all 90 days with, at worst, only a minimal pain here and there (I had a sore Achilles’ here or there – that was the worst, but it never rose above “meh”). No overuse injuries, nothing other than the occasional saddle sore to deal with (Aquaphor is the best thing ever for a saddle sore btw).
To wrap this post up, now that we’re into October and I surpassed my yearly mileage goal (6,000) by more than 500 miles with three months left in the year (I have more outdoor miles this year than overall mileage in 2013 and 2012), it’s time to take some time off to indulge my other hobby. It’s time to pack up the camper and head up north for bow hunting season. My weekends will be filled with plenty of quiet time in the woods and some bro time with a good friend whom I haven’t been able to hunt with for years. While this may sound fairly easy, and we do camp in style (movies every night, good food, plenty of coffee…), I’ve never gained weight over a hunting season – in fact, I’ve lost weight every season. Living outdoors is a lot of work. That said, it’s always worth the effort. :D
I love this time of year! Life is good.
Bicycle Maintenance with Professor Jim: Why You’re Feeling that Clunk in Your Handlebar when You Hit a Bump or Hit the Front Brake – And How to Fix It.
Even though we keep up on our maintenance and consistently tightened our bolts once a week, things loosen up and catch us every now and again. It’s simply a part of cycling. I noticed, just last evening, that when I hit the brakes there was an ever-so-slight bump that I could feel in the handlebar. It was almost imperceptible, but there it was… Every time I feathered that front brake to bleed a little speed above 20 mph. I could really notice it above 28. I knew exactly what was going on. My headset was just a smidge loose. This also presents as anything from a minor to a major “clunk” when you hit a bump. In fact, I just fixed this same issue on my wife’s bike a few weeks ago – hers was a little more obvious than mine.
The fix is painfully simple and takes less than two minutes. Pay attention to the clock on my bike…
First, to assess the problem, apply the front brake:
Then, you can wrap your free hand around the stem and spacers:
Or down where the fork goes into the frame (the technical name for that part of the frame is the “steerer tube”):
Because my bike has an aero frame, it’s not easy to get a grip right there so I always opt for the stem and spacers – option 1. With the front brake still applied tightly and your hand at either of those two locations, gently rock the bike back and forth. If it’s a minor movement you may barely feel movement in the spacers, but you should be able to feel that minor “clunk” in the frame. If your headset is really loose, the movement will be fairly obvious.
Once we’ve nailed down the headset being loose, now it gets really easy. Loosen up the bolts that hold the stem tight on the fork:
Loosen both bolts, and you want them fairly loose. You do not, just to make sure you were right, have to repeat the method we used to check to see if it was loose in the first place. It’s just not necessary yet. Next, we’re going to tighten everything back up… In my case, I knew it wasn’t going to take much because I caught it so early… Just a quarter of a turn on the stem cap:
Now, contrary to what it may look like in that photo – as there might be a considerable amount of force behind tightening that bolt, this is a rather delicate operation. First, that stem cap is for more than just decoration when we’re tightening the headset. What that cap is doing is forcing the stem down so the bearings tighten up… The idea is to get everything snug enough that it won’t move, without overtightening which creates too much pressure on the bearings, wearing them out early – or worse, creating a pinch-point where the steering can catch when it passes a certain point during steering. What we do is go in small turns (unless the assembly is exceptionally loose). Give it a quarter turn and check it again, as we did above. Brake applied, hand wrapped around the spacers below the stem, rock back and forth:
If it’s sufficiently tight, as mine was after just a quarter-turn, then we can move on to the next step. If you still feel movement, go with another quarter-turn and check again. Repeat the process until the movement/clunking is gone. Once you’re good, tighten the stem bolts up to the recommended torque (I use a 5 nm preset torque wrench):
Once that’s done, give it one more test:
And one final test… pick the front wheel off the ground by the top tube of the frame and turn the wheel, with the handlebar, back and forth. It should be free and easy to turn and should not “catch”.
6:51 to 6:54 am… And I had to take all of the photos for this post.
With that out of the way, it’s time for a ride… For you. I had to get to work.
We dropped a noob last night. On purpose. Damn Time Trial bike, again. Now I know you ninnies out there are going to complain that we should take him under our collective wings because, after all, it takes a peloton to raise a cyclist… What a load of crap… Allow me to explain.
It was cold and ridiculously windy yesterday evening. The wind was out of the north and it was down right gnarly.
Story of my cycling life. I took too many turns up front, pulled too long… Geez, we might have to get the bow-chicka-wow-wow music going. That doesn’t sound good at all.
Anyway, the second we got a helping wind, the pace went through the roof. Damn, it was so fast. I couldn’t even hazard a look at my computer. I tried to stay on the back after a decent turn up front but I was totally red-lined. I managed a few miles, but when one of the racers motioned me up, I simply huffed, “Can’t do it, I’m maxed out, brother.”
I scanned the crew that was left… My friends were mostly all gone off the back already. All but one. I sat up. Just too much.
I soft pedaled for about a half-mile to catch my breath and let my friends catch me. I tucked in to the back and we set our own pace, about 24-25 mph. I had big Joe behind me and we had the first hill coming up in a few miles so when I hit the front at 23-1/2 mph, I held it for a minute and started cranking the speed up. 24, 25… a mile into my turn. 26. I was feeling really good. 27 mph and I held it there for, geez it had to be two miles, all told it was a crazy-long pull. I had a goal though… Big Joe was next in line and he struggles a little bit on the hills so I figured if I could get him up to the start of the hills, he could control the speed of the climb. It didn’t quite work out the way I’d hoped, but he made it through the first set just fine.
Unfortunately we’d also picked up that dude on the TT bike. We went from a well-oiled wind-breaking machine of an echelon to a discombooberated mess within two miles. Such is the case when you’ve got a noob who has absolutely no clue where to be in a group – then, throw that noob on a TT bike and put simply, it’s a crash waiting to happen. To make matters worse, we’d picked up a second noob who was rightly afraid of TT-guy, so Noob #2 was always out of position trying to figure out where he should be without stepping on the toes of TT-guy. Add a 15-20 mph crosswind and you can imagine how messy things got.
Leading into the third set of hills, it looked like Matt (the most accomplished cyclist among us) had enough… He stepped on the gas, hard. I caught it, Mike, Joe and Phill did too but the two noobs were left in the dust. It was the perfect use of a hill for an attack against a guy on a TT bike – we formed a gap because he was in too tough a gear to counter the charge up the hill and I’d imagine that he probably even mis-shifted before he finally did try to go. The second noob, was an unfortunate casualty.
After the attack, the five of us formed up again and we were able to work together again but it took a minute for Phill to catch up so we had to soft-pedal to let him catch up on the way down a nice little hill. TT-guy used the opportunity to catch us – he wasn’t as far off as we’d thought. Dammit.
The next three miles were an exercise in patience. TT-guy was always out of position, decided he was too tired so he wanted to ride on the aero bars in the middle of our pace line and was getting bucked around by the headwind like a Frankie First Year giving bronco riding a try on a bet. I was feeling rather strong still so I rode up next to him, at 21 mph into a 20 mph headwind, and asked him, “You don’t ride much with other people, do you?” He responded, “No, I do triathlons mostly.” All of a sudden everything makes sense. Over the course of the next two miles, and during his pull, I tried in the nicest terms I was able to muster under the conditions, how group rides work. I pointed out how the echelons work in the wind, why he struggled so much riding out of position, and most important, how his being out of position and in the wrong gear all of the time was screwing up everybody else’s ride. After his pull, I started to head back for a bit of a rest… I let TT-guy in and took up position behind him so I could continue the lesson. Every time he started to drift out of position, I let him know what he was doing. The meant eating a lot of wind as we’d turned east and had a nasty crosswind from the left – with his erratic riding, I simply wouldn’t risk having him crash me to explain how group rides work…
All of a sudden, out of nowhere he veered hard to the right and I said, “See, now if I wasn’t off of your rear wheel, chewing on wind so you can ride with us, you’d have taken out my front wheel and I’d be getting a ride home in an ambulance.” He was fifth position in a six man echelon, down in the f@ckin’ aero bars, and he got hit by a gust of wind because he was out of position.
Folks, it’s that simple and can happen that fast at the speeds we commonly ride at – and that’s exactly why people who ride TT bikes in a club get a bad wrap. They insist, at the beginning of a ride, that they know what’s going on and where they can ride in the aero bars and where they can’t but as soon as they start to tire out a little bit, as soon as the going gets a little tough, BAM, one of us is on the ground with a cracked spleen. They’re not all this bad though. I ride with another guy, Rob, who actually is quite the accomplished Time Trialist. He, is never out of position, only rides in the aero position at the front or well off the back, and regularly helps stragglers who let a gap from back to the group. So we must be cautious, as I was reminded of just this morning as a matter of fact, to refrain from the knee-jerk reaction that all TT cyclists suck in a group. That is most definitely not the case.
After the ride, that’s when I really went to work on TT-guy though. I explained some of the parts of the ride that he might have missed. As an example, I said, “Now do you remember on the way up that one hill where you got dropped?”
He interjected, “Yeah, I’m not very good on hills.”
I cut in, “I know you aren’t – we all do, and that’s specifically why we attacked on that hill. We dropped you on purpose because you’re not safe to ride with.”
He laughed and gave me a joking chuck on the shoulder and added, “Get outta here.”
I said, “No, I’m being dead serious here. We dropped you on purpose because you’re not safe to ride with. Look man, at the end of the day, when the ride is over, I have two small kids and a wife, I don’t need any of them changing my diaper because a noob crashed me on the club ride because he doesn’t know how to ride his bike.”
And therein lies the rub, folks. You’ve got a noob, on the wrong bike, riding with the wrong group (the advanced group), who can’t even hold a straight line (let alone a position in a pace line. Fortunately, I did finally break through the layers and got him to understand, there are two places that he should be in a pace line right now. Either at the front in his aerobars or at the very back of the pack on his handlebar ends. That’s it, until he buys a road bike.
Suckiest ride I’ve had all year.