Mike, Chuck, Charlie and I rolled out Thursday evening at 6 on the dot. I’d already completed a short warm-up in a hilly subdivision close to the high school and was rarin’ to go. Well, not really. I was a little nervous over the route. With 1,000 feet of “up” in just 26 miles, this a little more of a legit test of a rider’s ability and fitness than the usual flat routes I’m used to… and I had the Trek. With rain in the forecast, the only way to stay dry was to bring the Trek. If I’d have had the Venge, it’s a virtual guarantee we’d be hydroplaning at some point.
And so the four of us rolled out. It’s only a half-mile to the first hill and it’s a doozy, up to 9%. I was feeling like quite the fat ass as I lumbered up the hill as Chuck and Mike pulled away. They slowed at the top and I caught them on the downhill (#fatisfast). We hit a busy quarter-mile section, then down a slight 1% grade to another long half-mile climb (2-5%), but then we get to the gravy – a 2.2 mile run with a -1% grade. The hill at the bottom is payment for the fast descent. We turn onto Linden road, swinging wide before we get into the turn to carve a proper apex so we don’t overshoot into oncoming traffic… and then all that momentum grinds to a halt. The hill starts out at 11% and it’s twice as long as it looks, though it levels out to 6% toward the top. I was spinning up in my granny gear, and I didn’t care a bit how that looked. I wasn’t the last one up the hill, but I wasn’t the first, either.
In the loop around Lake Shannon is where the magic happens. For all of the problems with cycling, the traffic, the pollution, the headaches with maintaining a bike or seven, the next six miles of this route are a cyclist’s dream; lots of shade, rolling hills, and a descent that is about as fun as any in Michigan to start the section. And we put the hammer down requiring knees to be extended when leaning around corners, hands down on the drops to maximize aerodynamics, and lots of speed as we’re rounding tight corners at 30+ mph. I love that loop around the lake. As I see it, that six miles is why road cycling is so appealing. As many times as I’ve ridden it, it never gets old.
After the Lake Shannon loop, we have to pay for all of that downhill glory. We’ve got another brutal climb that Mike and Chuck scurried up… I went max-power to hold wheels but fell off about 3/4s of the way up… I knew there was a regroup about a half mile after, so I wasn’t exactly worried.
The remainder of the ride, till the last mile, is a series of fun rollers, a nice downhill run and little difficulty. That last mile is a bear, though. Around a corner and over a choppy section of road that tries its best to match the cobbles in France and then the climb… after you’ve been bounced out of every bit of momentum you carried through the turn. Remember that 9%er at the beginning? Yep, up the other way to the finish.
We pulled across the line with a 19.5-mph average (anything over 19 is very good, over 20 is excellent and our record best is just north of 22-mph from last year). After, we did a few bonus miles plus a run through a subdivision to check out a guy’s Lamborghini Aventador in his driveway before cruising back to the parking lot.
A few high-fives and congratulations and we parted ways. I fell asleep with a smile on my face and dreamt about how good it is to be me.
And that’s as it should be. Just another day in the life of an avid cycling enthusiast.
Unless you know what you’re doing, working on a threaded headset can be a little difficult. Throw in a Chris King Gripnut threaded headset and you’re likely to end up, as I did, at the shop with a bunch of parts asking the tech to show you how to put everything back together. The trick is the Gripnut – everything else is easy peasy lemon squeezy, but that Gripnut is tricky. Once you know how to work the Gripnut, the rest is ridiculously simple.
So, if you’ve ever attempted this, you know the Gripnut comes in three pieces. The top nut, bottom nut and the sleeve inside, as you can see in the photo above. The top nut threads over the bottom and squeezes everything together. It’s quite awesome and once tightened down, it grips on the threads. So what I, and most other people of normal intelligence will do is loosen and remove the top nut and then try to unthread the bottom nut. But the bottom nut won’t unthread and come off… it gets locked on and just spins, leaving you to wonder what the hell just happened. You’ll sit there and spin on the bottom nut and nothing happens, it won’t unthread. Worse, when you try to put the top cap back on, it won’t re-thread to the bottom nut… this is all because it’s the sleeve that has the threads on it, not the bottom nut.
Fear not, here’s the trick: The three pieces need to remain together while you’re unscrewing the bottom nut and bearing cover from the threaded fork. That third piece, the sleeve, has a key and if the bottom nut, sleeve, and top nut don’t line up just so, you can’t thread everything together properly.
The key to removing the headset bolts is to take two 32 mm cone wrenches and loosen the top nut, but don’t completely de-thread it from the bottom… you only loosen the top. Then, simply grasp both bottom and top nuts and twist counterclockwise until the assembly comes off the top of the thread. Then you can service the bearings and clean everything up (including fixing any annoying creaks).
Just remember, if you separate the three parts of the Gripnut, the parts have to be lined up so the key fits in the slot to thread everything back onto the fork.
When I had it demonstrated for me at the shop, I was more than a little nervous that I might mess it up. Several months later, when I did attempt removing the fork to service the bearing race, it was a lot easier than I expected.
The weather prognostication for the evening sucked. The Weather Channel said we had a 60% chance of getting drenched all day long. But then, as ride time closed in, it dropped to the 20s for 6pm, then to the single digits after. The sky didn’t look all that promising, though. With barely a gentle breeze, I knew it was going to be a fast night. I wanted to take the Venge… bad, but prepped the Trek. Anyone with a rain bike knows, if you take the good bike with a decent chance of rain, you’re getting wet – 100%, every time.
I arrived just before the warm-up time to a minor smattering of sprinkles. Diane was already in the parking lot with her tandem waiting for Jeff. I prepped my bike after a few minutes and rolled out late for the warm-up, alone. It was one of those evenings you’re hoping you don’t get drenched, but a quick shower wouldn’t be all that bad, either. It was hot and sticky so participation was going to be sparse. I started out slow, my legs feeling awfully sluggish after a day off Monday for my daughter’s honors graduation ceremony. I thought I was in trouble for the main event until, maybe two miles in, my legs started loosening up and my pace quickened. I passed a couple out “time trialing” (they were training for a triathlon) at 22-mph, pedaling fairly easy and my outlook for the ride changed. I will never, ever grow tired of passing aero bar riding time trialers on my 22-year-old Trek. After the seven-mile loop I pulled into the parking lot with a 19-mph average. Quite satisfactory.
As was expected, turnout was sparse at best. The skies were a little ugly and it was hot and muggy – I hoped for a little rain to knock the edge off. There were two tandem Bs, three B single bikes and six or seven A guys. We rolled out together, Jeff & Diane on one side of the double pace-line, I was on the other. We started out easy but quickly built up our speed to 22-mph into that slight breeze. We flicked off after a half-mile and headed to the back for a rest. After the next half-mile and a right turn, it got crazy in a hurry. The A guys took over and our pace went from low-20s to upper-20s within an eighth of a mile. We were on the gas and hurtling down the road. Our average pace was already up over 23-mph and climbing – and I was feeling surprisingly good. Getting to the front three bikes, things started to get a little ugly, but you expect that until you take your turn and can flick off.
We hadn’t been hit with a single raindrop at that point, though the skies were showing ugly isolated showers only a few miles from us. We managed to dodge everything. The worst we got was a damp road for a few minutes. We kept that 24 to 27-mph pace up all the way to Shiatown and we were faced with a choice. One of the tandems had dropped a few miles back and Mike and Diane on the other had been talking about turning around at the park to head back home. As the hills were coming up, I offered to head back with them and that’s what happened… and with a slight tailwind breeze.
Once we got going, we cruised – 20-mph on the uphill sections and 24 to 27 on the flats and downhill parts. The tandem and I switched places at regular intervals as we pounded for the finish line, our average pace ticking up as we went. With two miles to go we got serious, taking the pace to a sustained 26-27 (43-kmh). I took a turn, then Mike came around, then I took another before Mike and Diane came around and took it to the barn. We crossed the line with a 22.6-mph average on my Garmin, a 22.8 on Mike’s (obviously we go with 22.8 – or 37-kmh).
And we took it easy back to the parking lot. What a fantastic evening for a ride – and thanks to Dave and me bringing our rain bikes, we were assured to stay dry… though Dave rode home and got dumped on in the last two miles.
Halfway through the ride I was thinking about how much I’m enjoying the Trek. Zero missed shifts and there I was with all of that brand new carbon fiber and I’m on my 22-year-old first generation full carbon race bike, taking my lumps up front with everyone else. It was pretty cool.
Today is another fair chance of rain in the afternoon and that calls for some maintenance. Tinker with a creaky steering assembly and a new chain, bottom bracket cleaning and a move of the saddle for my wife. A mechanic’s work is never done…
My friends and I did a fairly easy ride yesterday. I had a lot left in the tank when we finished (though there were a few times I got a little ragged). We finished the 100km+ ride with an 18-1/2-mph average (30 kph). Our Tuesday night rides are, by most standards, blisteringly fast. The A guys average between 24 & 25-mph on 32 miles of open roads (I’d love to see what we could do if we could close the route down once). We in the B Group (male and female mix) are between 22 & 24-mph on an open 29-mile route.
We have a little trick to our average speeds, though. We climbed, on average, about 18′ per mile… just a little less than six meters a mile on that 100k ride. I think our biggest “climb” of the day was 3 or 4% and lasted less than a quarter of one mile. Our average “up” on Tuesday night is just 19′ per mile (5.8 meters).
When others from hillier parts look at our average pace on Strava and from comments on posts about our rides, I experience everything from shock to kudos. Taken in context, there’s no question we’re dedicated and fast, but that speed is also a benefit of living in the flatlands. We actually have to look for hills around here.
That’s our route from Saturday. Now contrast that with our Horsey Hundred route from last Saturday where we were closer to a normal 53′ of “up” per mile that we finished with a 17.1-mph average (16 per mile, 27 kmh, 160 kms in distance):
Now, that 17-mph average doesn’t exactly do us justice, either. We weren’t hammering for the finish from the starting gun. The goal was to enjoy the ride, not get it done as soon as humanly possible. In previous years we’ve finished faster – 17.85 average in 2019 and 18.08 in 2015… that 18 average is a little closer to my limit – I can remember working quite hard on that one… but we also have to take into account, that’s for 100 miles (160 km). Even with all of that elevation, were we to be turned loose on a 30-mile section with that kind of elevation and no worries of completing another 70, I’m sure we could top 20-mph (32 kph). That’s a lot less than 22-24, though. In fact, we’ve actually done the second day of the Horsey Hundred north of 19-mph for 48 miles, so we can use that as a general guide as well (and yes, it did happen on Strava).
In short, for a bunch of older farts, we’re definitely on the sharp end of the avid enthusiast peloton but the point I’m trying to get at is a lack of elevation does wonders for the average pace and looks awesome on Strava.
My wife and I were supposed to ride the tandem though she wasn’t feeling the mojo and didn’t know if she’d be down for the full 56-mile ride so she wanted the option to take a shortcut.
I wanted all the miles.
I prepped the Trek to roll. Sunday Funday is billed as a 17 to 18-mph average so I won’t take the Venge. The Venge (with me on it) just wants to go fast. The Trek takes a little more effort.
We rolled out, Chucker, Matt, Diane & Jeff on a tandem, Mike, Jess and me. Matt was a little surprised we had such a sparse crew. I was a little surprised myself, but it was going to get very hot very fast and we were rolling out really early. Wheels were rolling two minutes past seven.
The ride called for most of the headwind early in the ride so we started out into it fairly easy for the first mile or two. At which point we picked up Joe and Dave… now we had a group. We worked up the pace as we went along and got it up to a comfortable 18-1/2 to 19-1/2 mph before long (30 to 31 kph). After eight miles we turned south and that was where the wind was. It showed more west than south on the weather app, but there was unquestionably more south. We gutted that out at about the same pace, though. At 14 miles we stopped at our favorite gas station to buy a Payday for my wife and use the facilities. We ended up sitting around talking for quite a while before someone finally pointed out that we could talk just as much whilst riding. We rolled out.
Now, humorously, I can tell you exactly on my Strava analysis of the ride where Greg and Dave caught up to us. There’s a quick spike in the pace and a consistent one or two mile per hour bump. We’d already had a decent average in town but it started ticking up from there in a hurry. Greg and Dave pulled us through a lot of the headwind sections and Greg helped a couple of riders who were struggling in the hills with a boost by pushing on their back while pedaling a little harder. I followed suit with Jess and we worked our way through the hills.
28 miles in we caught our first tailwind and the hammer went down. We kept a great pace up until Dave and Greg left us to head home and we turned east to get ourselves back. Several of us were running low on H2O so we altered our route to get to a convenience store and some refreshment. I bought a Cherry Coke for me, a Coke Zero for Jess and a bag of ice for all of us to share.
When everyone finished, we rolled out for home, bottles topped off and breathing stabilized. Chuck and I looked at each other and Chuck said it was going to be the two of us taking it to the barn. I was right there with him and we did just that, keeping a good, steady pace all the way home. We lost several riders along the way, all of whom split off to head home, but we otherwise managed to keep the whole group together all the way home.
Chuck and Mike headed home and Matt, Jess and I stopped in our driveway with a 19.3-mph average. What a ride! Dinner was mighty tasty last night (chicken nachos)… and my daughter and I went into town to the carnival for another elephant ear and slushy.
I wrote, a while back, about a promotion I got. I had a funny feeling it was going to have a negative affect on cycling throughout the summer – I was guessing I’d be down 20%, maybe more. Add to that my eldest daughter graduating this year and both daughters having participated in three (two for my younger daughter) varsity sports, well, it’s been busy but intensely rewarding year. My mileage is down year over year, though I really don’t know or care by how much (I’m sitting on a little more than 3,000 miles for the year so far and we still have the busy months of summer to go yet)
There have been improvements, though. I’m having a lot more fun this year over last – it’s not even close.
I’d resigned to the fact that my run of 1,000 mile months from May through September was likely over. This year, January and February were sparse at best. March wasn’t great at 576 miles and April wasn’t much better at 677 but I’d ridden less in earlier years. With the new position at work, though, I was expecting to have to take more days off the bike… Then, May turned out to be a pretty good month. Decent weather meant we were outside a lot and we could get some decent miles in and after the Horsey Hundred, I was surprised to see 1,077 on the screen when I checked my overall stats for the month. Really, I’m doing fine for June as well, averaging 36 miles a day after today – which is about right for a thousand-mile June if I can keep it up.
However, that’s a big if and that isn’t the whole of the story, because I believe that 36 miles a day is going to take a hit. We’ve got graduation and a graduation party to get through, plus we’ve got a couple of family reunions… and God knows what else. Point is, it’s going to get very busy around here and cycling will have to take a backseat to more important things.
My favorite quote for right now still works, though; I don’t ride a bike to add days to my life, I ride to add life to my days.
I do ride to add life to my days, but I’m going to have to remember I don’t ride for it to take over my life. There’s going to be a very big distinction as that goes and I think I may have been taking cycling a little too seriously for a long time.
I’ve got some balance to work on, here. This is a very good thing, this realization. First, it shows after two, coming up on three decades of recovery, I’ve never run out of things to work on to be a better me. Second, just in the simple things in life, I can let things that make me feel good run roughshod all over my life if I’m not vigilant. Third, I am blessed and fortunate to be me; I’m not too blind to see that I’m the only one I can really change and if things aren’t quite what I think they should be, the only thing that needs change is me.
I have to remember only losers and whiners worry about what everyone else has to do.
I almost took yesterday off the bike. Work this week was brutal and I just wanted a nap. So I took one. Fifteen minutes later I was a new man… and in a mood to ride.
It was warm and sunny out so I prepped the Trek. I needed some Vitamin D… and to unwind after that sucky week. I rolled out just before 5, heading north, easy. The plan was for a 16-mph average because we’ve got a big weekend planned as mileage goes. After a mile I turned left and found the wind as I wasn’t sheltered by the row of homes lining the west side of our street.
15-mph and almost dead into it. I spun the big ring for a couple miles but dropped to the baby ring to settle in. I’d love to say it was brutal and I suffered through it but I was on my bike in the early summer warmth and sunshine! And the tailwind was gonna be awesome.
And eight miles of headwind later, I was there… and the tailwind part with a 16-1/2-mph average. I knew there was a segment somewhere on that road, too, so I didn’t watch the grass grow. 23-mph was way too easy on the flat(ish) route… 25 was starting to get it, so I went for 26 to 28.
There’s something spectacular about cruising down the road above 25-mph. Approaching 30 is so… fast. I kept the gas down and hammered for home. I have no idea when it was, but Strava says I topped 36-mph at some point… at several points actually. I suppose I wasn’t watching too closely. I know it felt fast!
My average ticked up faster than my mileage counter… then three miles north with a crossing tailwind, followed by the home stretch. I was working harder than I should have but I couldn’t help it.
I pulled into the driveway with an 18.8 average over 21 miles and it was good.
I went to sleep still smiling. Let’s see, reason 4,785 I ride a bike. A lot.
Good times and noodle salad, my friends. Stay tuned, more to come.
Oh, and I PRed that segment. I’ve ridden it a hundred times over the years, with groups big and small… and soloed it at 26.2-mph, good enough for 3rd among some very strong company. It was the cherry on top.
Road Bike Drivetrains, Cassettes, Chains, Cranksets… and Annoying Noises; Shimano, SRAM and ShRAMano
Two weeks ago I had a cassette on my Trek 5200 that Dr. Frankenstein would have approved of. The three bottom (big) gears from SRAM cassette and seven of the top gears from a Shimano 105 cassette. This was the only combination that allowed my bike to shift (relatively) normally up and down the cassette. I spent the better part of two years messing around with the setup thinking the problem was in the cable network – that there was drag in the system due to an error on my part. The bike displayed classic symptoms of systemic drag problems… trouble shifting in one, maybe two gears, but only up or down the cassette (rarely both), unless it was perfectly dialed in within an eighth of a turn on the barrel adjuster. If I had to guess, I’d hit about 85% of my shifts crisply and cleanly. I’d get a hesitation in 10% and completely miss 5%.
The problem turned out to be a worn-out rear derailleur.
With a new derailleur, it didn’t take long to realize it might be better if I went with a single-line cassette. There was a slight misalignment between the third and fourth cog that would produce an ever-so-slight chain skip click when in that fourth cog. Fifth? Third? Absolutely quiet and all of the other gears were awesome. Now, it must be stated here, I am intolerably finicky about such things. I can’t help it. I’ve sought counseling. The counselor pulled all of her hair out. It’s not good.
Anyway, going by Shimano’s and SRAM’s instructions, both companies recommend exclusive drivetrain compliance – in other words, no ShRAMano. I’ve been mixing SRAM chains and cassettes with Shimano components for years, typically because my LBS stocks them (I still shop for everything the shop stocks, there). In many cases ShRAMano will work just fine, but mixing the cassettes was a touch much. I knew this going in, but if one has to resort to mixing cassettes, something is wrong in the drivetrain that needs to be corrected. That “needs to be corrected” part weighed on my mind. I don’t like “needs to be corrected”. My counselor* will attest.
The shifting with the setup above was close, but left a lot to be desired. Every gear shifted excellently except the second to the largest cog. That gear, if I didn’t do a hard shift, stuck downshifting (going up the cassette) and it sounded like the chain was going to grind to dust any minute. It worked fine upshifting (going down the cassette to a harder gear).
Now, I know what you’re thinking, something is still wrong with the shifting – perhaps there is drag in the cables? That’s the typical answer. I investigated that. On a fluke, I took the Shimano Ultegra cassette from my Venge and put it on the Trek, then put the SRAM PG1070 cassette on the Venge. The Trek shifted like butter, 100% up and down the cassette. Not one missed shift. So, I know what you’re thinking… the Venge now shifts like crap now. Nope. 100%, without a noise. I rode the Venge on Tuesday night hitting every shift with precision and crispness – 100%. In fact, I’m actually looking at this as a win-win – the Venge shifts better with the SRAM cassette than it did with the Ultegra (and with Ultegra components, no less). And the Trek appeared to be right as well, finally.
I took the Trek out for its first test spin last evening and it was fantastic. Not a single missed shift or extra click with the chain moving to the next gear, up or down in either the big or little ring up front. It’s been a long time coming, but I’m finally done with this mess. Well, almost done. I’ve got a new Ultegra chain on the way, too. I was going to need a new chain pretty soon anyway (guessing, right around DALMAC time) so I may as well slap a chain that matches the drivetrain on the bike. That seems to work on the Trek. For the Venge, I’ll stick with ShRAMano.
How do we make sense of this? Hey, I wish I could tell you. Sometimes ShRAMano works, sometimes it doesn’t. Supposedly, it’s always best to stay within the line… though, it appears, not necessarily in every instance. Flip a coin.
*I didn’t actually meet with a counselor about how my bikes shift. I talked about it with my wife a little bit, but all of her hair remains firmly attached to her head. I used the line to be funny and overly melodramatic. If you didn’t get the joke, or were offended, well that is unfortunate. I have sought counseling for other matters both related and not related to what I’ve written about on this blog (the overall blog, not this post), so your petty attacks won’t work on me. I wear my issues on my sleeve and write about them often with the sole hope of helping others. If you can’t take a joke, that says more about you than it does me.
My favorite quote for today: “I don’t ride a bike to add days to my life. I ride a bike to add life to my days.”
If you know anything about me, you know that I love the bikes. Road bikes, more road bikes, gravel bikes, mountain bikes, fat bikes… I love ’em all. Not so much the beach cruisers and leisure bikes, but I respect them and those who ride them. A bike, after all, is a bike (even if mine are all super cool).
Anyway, I dig that quote because it sums me up perfectly. Happy World Bicycle Day 2021
Just putting this post together put a smile on my face. Happy World Bike Day, my friends. Ride ’em hard.