I’m going to start a new simple series of easy points. Today marks the first:
Clip-on aero bars… Too many bike riders have them. Only cyclists know how, or when, to use them.
If that simple statement angers you, you’re a bike rider.
A good friend of mine and I had a discussion last night about how you can tell who will make it in sobriety and who won’t. This is a favorite topic of mine as I was voted the least likely to stay sober in my treatment center class. I’m one of the few who isn’t only sober and successful, I’m not dead. Such is normally the case – the one’s who you think don’t have a chance usually do well. Those you think have a decent chance often end up feeding worms.
There are a few things that separate the winners from the dead or dying:
- In my case, I made a decision, two weeks into treatment, that I would not only give sobriety a chance but I’d give it everything I had. We often say in recovery circles, as long as I give sobriety half the effort I put into drinking, I can’t lose. There’s a lot of truth to that simple statement.
- That decision has to be a full time commitment. Nothing, and I mean nothing comes before my sobriety. There is a simple reason for this; without my sobriety, there is nothing else. There’s no wife, no relationship with my kids, no job, no house, car or pet… Some will throw in, “except God” but that’s unnecessary. It goes without saying for those of us who believe in a Higher Power.
- The decision doesn’t mean I’m 100% on-board at all times. Sometimes I didn’t want to drink just 51%… the key is that I don’t ever let it get to 49%-51%.
- I had to pick up the phone. My ego screwed with me bad when it came to sobering up. I had a hard time asking for help from my new sober friends so I mistakenly thought I should be able to go it alone, a lot like how I drank. Ignorance isn’t always bliss. Once I popped my head out of my ass and started calling on those who offered their help, my life got a lot better and happier.
- Above all else, the honesty displayed in item 4 is indispensable. I had to stop looking outside me for something to blame for my predicament and start focusing on my biggest problem: Me.
- Finally, when in doubt, reverse the order and work backwards. Honesty, ask for help, 51% to 49%, remember the decision…
Sobriety is the only path to a happy life for me. I am a pickle, and once a pickle you never get to go back to being a cucumber. I accept who I am and embrace what I have to do to remain happy. There is no scenario where I am drinking and happy. Those two are incompatible and as long as I remember that, I’ve got a chance.
I love long bike rides. Wait, let me clarify and define; I love long rides between 50 and 100 miles (80km to 160km). I’ve gone further, to 125 miles (or 200km) once on a solo ride but didn’t much care for it – a little too much of a good thing, even though I managed an 18.8-mph average.
50 miles on a bike, depending on fitness and speed, is hard. 100 miles is really hard, especially when you’re averaging north of 18 or 19-mph. (28-30 km/h), but there’s something rewarding about completing a ride like that. I’ve written before that the 100k or 62-1/2 mile ride is, in my humble opinion, the perfect distance. It’s just long enough that you know you’ve done something special and still short enough that, with the right training, you can get used to doing a ride of that length without grinding yourself into the ground, and with a regular day job. That’s not so much the case with the 100 miler.
I maintain that stopping to refill water bottles and refuel is fair game without counting it against your average speed. The day we get team cars to help with flat tires and hand us water or a Coke, and food, well that’s the day when you can fairly say we shouldn’t be stopping… and that leads me to my one conundrum with cycling with my friends: they’ll go 30-40 miles in between stops, I like them a little more frequent. Say, every 20-25.
When we do supported rides, we’ll hit most of the stops unless the first one comes too soon (I can think of two rides right off the top of my head where the first stop is only 12 miles in and we blow by each of them, every time). That said, when you’re stopping every 20 or 25 miles, it’s east to break a 100 miler down into manageable chunks, mentally… and that’s what I like about the stops.
I can almost do 20 miles standing on my head, so when I hit that 60 mile mark and I start to get tired, it’s easier to just think about getting to the next stop.
And that’ll do till they give me and my buds a team car.
I got home from work a little early yesterday and I was cagey. I was supposed to meet Chuck at a quarter after five but it was impossibly nice outside. 80° (27 C), only a few wispy clouds in the upper atmosphere, and a barely there mild breeze. I readied my bike and dressed, wheeled the bike outside at five after… and there was no way I was waiting ten more minutes. I threw a leg over the top tube and rolled, my characteristic cycling smile stretched across my face.
The first mile was a little tougher than I expected it would be but I didn’t care. I headed toward Chuck’s house, figuring I’d pick him up along the way. I showed up at his driveway and his wife’s bikes were hung in the garage, along with his rain bike and his tandem, but his bike was nowhere to be found. I checked my phone, “On my way” 5:14 pm. It was 5:17, he must have gone a different way out of his subdivision so I high-tailed it back to my house. Sure enough, there he was in my driveway. We had a laugh and rolled out.
Traffic was fairly light and we didn’t get buzzed once. Somebody in a white Chevy Silverado, 2017, yelled something out the window at us as we cruised in the bike lane down a busy city street, but I assumed it was “You guys are awesome!” or something like that, because obviously we are.
Chuck has a big ride this evening so we kept the pace pretty subdued and just enjoyed the ride… and the suntan! Normally, by this time in May we’ve had dozens of perfect days like that, but they’re in short supply so we passed my road up like a dirty shirt and kept riding. Eventually, we turned back toward my place as I had some dinner to get ready, but I waited until the last possible minute.
I did what we do when we get a perfect day for cycling; I squeezed every mile I could out of it. Eight extra miles, to be exact. Then I went to a meeting… because everything in recovery is better with a meeting.
My gratitude for being me on laying down to bed was immeasurable, and that’s as it should be.
I thought back, sipping on my coffee whilst watching the Tigers’ game last night, to my first club ride. My friend, Phill, fell off the back of the pack a quarter-mile after I did after someone attacked at the front and took the pace north of 28-mph. I spent the next two miles chasing him down. I had no clue where I was or how I was going to get back… I caught Phill and rode back with him and we’ve been friends ever since.
Last night’s turnout was decent even though it was pretty chilly and cloudy. It seemed rain was a threat at any second though it never let loose on us. We rode a seven mile warm-up loop at about 18 mph and lined up for the start of the main event. I’d taken Monday off due to rain and some really tired legs and I was a little worried about how I’d feel. Those worries were put to rest in the warm-up. I felt fantastic. Spry, even.
The A guys rolled right at 6 and we, the B group waited a couple of minutes… We felt slow at the start even though we worked our way up to and beyond 20 mph. After two miles we headed north, into the wind. I was up front, I think with Jonathan, and we picked up the pace to 22-mph and kept it there for our mile.
Lately, we have a tale of two groups; one who does the work and another that tries to hang on at the back. Not last night. Last night was a perfect example of a club ride. Everyone did their share, to the best of their ability and it was smooth. That’s when I have the most fun.
Making a long story short(er), I came in second on both sprints, but I started each from the front after pulling at 25+ mph for more than a half-mile. In other words, I’ll take second after being the lead out too.
We rolled across the finish line approaching 30 mph, 29 miles and change, at 1:20:12 or 21.1 mph for an average. Not bad at all. It was all high-fives and laughs back in the parking lot, as it should be.
I spent the rest of the night feeling grateful for being me. Cool indeed.
On Being a Cycling Weight Weenie and Climbing; Bike Weight isn’t the MOST Important Thing – it’s within Reach, really… But a Close Third
If I had a dollar for every pound I dropped off my Venge through upgrades, I’d have three Dollars. That’s not bad when you consider I started with an 18 pound bike.
Sadly, I’d only need another $1,897 to break even…
S-Works crank, FSA carbon-wrapped stem, wheels, and pedals – those were the big hitters that dropped the most weight. Brakes, handlebar, bottle cages, cassette, chain… those were smaller improvements.
All of that money and my 1999 Trek, that weighs three pounds more, is a better climbing bike. With the good wheels off of the Venge, of course.
Here’s the kicker; yes, a lighter bike is easier to get up a hill and with enough miles in the saddle you’ll be able to easily feel the difference in just one pound – but gearing is more important. Don’t take my word on it, look to the Velominati for the historical perspective (and this should be something the “Rule” haters should even be okay with): “Riding light bikes is fun, but they won’t make you go any faster. Pushing harder on the pedals does.”
I’ve lugged both bikes up that hill, and believe me, it’s decently steep. 18% and it goes up for a minute. By the time I get to the top I’m absolutely out of breath. My Trek, with a 9sp. triple, was easier to get up the hill and I think I could have done the climb with a gear left, too. On the Venge, it was the last gear or bust.
That’s really the trick, gearing. With a 52/36 crank on the Venge and an 11/27 cassette, the easiest gear I get is 36/27. The Trek, by contrast, has a 52/42/30 triple crank and an 11/25 cassette. 30/25 being the easiest. I’m sure it doesn’t take much to figure out that 30/25 is going to be a lot easier to turn over when things get steep. It’s enough that the gearing more than makes up for the weight difference in the two bikes. I am much faster up the hill on the Trek. So, I think for the average roadie, gearing would be most important. The right chainrings and cassette will mitigate a few pounds in bike weight. Now, you take my gravel bike against the Venge (or the Trek for that matter) and forget about it. The gravel bike is a beastly 23 pounds. There isn’t any amount of gearing going to fix a seven or four pound difference.
Now, you might be thinking, “wait a minute, a three pound difference in the Trek to the Venge is okay, but the four pound difference from the Trek to the Diverge is too much?” I’m already pushing a gear that matches up with the Diverge on the Trek – there’s no beneficial “easier but slightly faster” gear on the Diverge, so I’d be pushing gear for gear and four pounds more on the gravel bike. Advantage Trek, every time.
Next, without a doubt, is wheels. A good set of wheels will roll better than cheap, heavy wheels and will therefore help one get to the crest of a hill. Notice, at the beginning of the post, I mentioned that the good wheels have to go on the Trek? The cheaper wheels that currently reside on the Trek are for training. I use the wheels on the Venge when I want to go fast. The wheels matter.
So that would bring overall bike weight to third in the list behind gearing and wheels. So before you drop another Two Grand on making your road bike a couple of pounds lighter, maybe think about putting compact chainrings on there and upgrade the wheels instead.
***My friends, this was obviously an opinion piece. There is plenty of room for different opinions. I’m just going by my experience.
Under normal circumstances, once the season gets going, 200 miles is a good week for me. 250 is exceptional.
After Saturday’s 28 miles with Chuck, in between rainstorms, I was sitting on 246 miles and I had a 56 miler yesterday morning. It turned out to be 57 and change.
I don’t think I’ve ever rocked out a 300 mile week outside of DALMAC.
Back when I started riding, 100, I thought, was pretty cool but unsustainable. 200 was crazy miles for a week, as far as I was concerned just four years ago. 250 was almost too hard to do. Topping 300 was thought to be near impossible for me.
Of course, I had to take three days off work to do it, but 304 is in the bank.
Now it’s time for a day off. I’m freaking tired!