Do not take any part of this post as if I were complaining. You would be mistaken, and I apologize for better articulating that I am not a victim in this – I feel lucky to be doing what I do for a living.
I’ve got three hours from when I get home till I’ve gotta be in bed sleeping, if I want to be rested and up in time to get to work. By rested, I mean six hours of sleep. Six is enough, by the way. I can’t sleep much longer. I did, Monday, what is almost unconscionable for a cyclist; on a perfectly sunny, if just a touch cool day, I chose the trainer over riding outside. The truth is, after walking my job all day and the two-hour commute home, I was tired and I didn’t want to have to get dressed, get the bike prepped, then get my butt out the door for my hour ride… it just seemed like trying to fit in a lot at the time.
Well, yesterday I drove through a rain shower that was going to hit our Tuesday Night Club Ride so I opted to stay home… even though the shower only showed up as a blip onn the radar, those who showed up got hammered. My buddy, Chuck says he’s going to have to switch weather apps because the one he’s using is obviously worthless… and I even let him know that I was driving through a shower. I rode inside again. I also got my sleep.
Sadly, we’ve got rain in the forecast for today, tomorrow evening, and Friday… as of right now, it’s afternoon rain for Saturday and Sunday, so we might get lucky and squeeze some miles in over the weekend. Thankfully, no freezing temperatures.
Point is, I’m sacrificing a lot in terms of my normal riding to do this job. It’s worth it, by a long shot, but I’m having to be creative to fit everything in…
And I have to mention my saint of a wife. Without her, what I’m doing would be impossible.
I’ve only got one road bike that’s still straight off the rack, my gravel bike. It’s a level up from “entry-level” and I don’t plan on putting any money into it, other than maintaining it. I bought the bike to beat it up in the dirt.
My regular road bikes don’t look a thing like they did when I brought them home. Building them has been one of my great joys in cycling. It’s not the cheapest way to go, not by a long shot, but there’s nothing plain Jane about either of them anymore.
The best I could afford when I bough my Venge was the entry-level model. This isn’t to say it was the equivalent of a Specialized Allez, it wasn’t; the Venge I bought was the cheapest form of the full bike. Some of the upgrades I bought for the Venge helped with the performance, others are simply for looks.
Now, I’m going to come at this from an angle of my own personal experience. I am not an authority on what’s cool and what isn’t – in fact a lot of this is up to choice and opinion. On the other hand, I do know cool from gaudy and that’s because I tried gaudy first. Take what you like, and leave the rest.
On white bar tape
The Venge is my race bike, if I raced. And I don’t. I won’t. I don’t have the time or the want to. There are those out there who insist on white bar tape on the race bike. Their lesser bikes, like the rain bike, black is acceptable, but for the race steed it’s said white is a must. I don’t necessarily buy into that. White bar tape would look (and be) entirely out of place on my Venge. Now, if you look at a lot of the pro peloton, yes, white tape is prevalent, but it’s not a 100% thing (not even for Sky). If white works on your good bike, by all means, have at it. If it doesn’t, don’t sweat it.
Cool vs. Gaudy
Too much of a good thing is gaudy, a line I try to tip-toe on with the Venge. The red Look pedals, the red and black Blackburn cages… if I went red cable housings and bar tape, it’d be way too much. Even the one red bottle cage is pushing it a bit, though I think it works. This one is up to one’s opinion, just be wary of going too far.
Introduction of an additional color to the paint scheme
Originally, white didn’t have a place on my bike. My first set of after-market wheels were black with white and red decals, so I added a stem that had white as well. With the tiny white pinstripes on my saddle, it brought everything into balance. Then those wheels broke on a particularly bad pothole that I nailed dead-center. I bought replacement hoops but couldn’t get new decals. In fact, I couldn’t get replacement hoops from Vuelta, either (rims). I had to resort to Velocity hoops (who were spectacular to work with)… So I lost the decals for a while and that threw my bike’s color scheme out of balance. I could make the argument that I still had the pinstripes on the saddle, but that was a stretch. I lived with it, though, because the stem I’d bought was awesome and super-light. Then I picked up my Selle Italia carbon saddle – the white pinstripes were much more prominent on that, and so my bike was back to being well-balanced again. The point is, introducing too many colors that don’t fit the color scheme is a risky proposition. If one part goes bad and needs replacing, your whole “color scheme” can be thrown off. Proceed with caution.
Next up is practicality. My ultra-light stem, while it feeds my “weight wienie” side and the color scheme of the bike, there was a practical nature to it as well. First, it is exactly the proper length for my needed “reach” to the cockpit/handlebar. I can reach the bar top, hoods and drops comfortably, without strain, and I can ride in the drops comfortably for at least an hour. As well, the angle of the stem was a choice as well. Follow the top tube slope, of flatten the cockpit out with a steeper, inverted stem? Well, with the aggressive geometry of the bike, I opted for the stem that followed the top tube’s slope so it rises a little. If I’d have gone with a -17° stem, I would have had too much drop for the ride to be comfortable. The bike would have looked cooler, but looks don’t matter if you can’t stand riding the bike… I won’t ever sacrifice practicality for pretty, and vehemently recommend against that.
Where the rubber meets the road
If you look at a lot of new bikes, they’re all the same with the exception of paint scheme. Other than bottle cages, you really don’t have a lot of real estate with which to display your “pizzazz”. I went out of my way to make sure that my bike was my own – it’s got personality to it – and the process of making it so has been an absolute joy.
It is just about to start raining – 100% chance, it’s the calm before the storm. It won’t stop there, though. At some point that rain will turn to snow. We’re supposed to get less than an inch, but c’mon already. Tomorrow is supposed to be nice enough to ride, though. Snow in April isn’t unprecedented, but it is rare.
We knew this was coming so we packed as many miles as we could into yesterday. It was chilly and quite windy, but the sun was out in all its glory. It was close to freezing when we woke up but the temperature quickly rose to a balmy 40° (4 C) by 9am. The trick was the wind. Below 15-mph (24 km/h) is manageable, but the forecast called for 18-mph. Simple enough, but we also got gusts up to 32-mph (51 km/h). I wasn’t prepared for that.
Under perfectly sunny skies, the turnout for a Saturday morning was quite excellent – surprisingly good. We rode from my friend, Chuck’s house, so Mrs. Bgddy and I drove over… I love bonus miles, but not in that kind of blustery cold – and we’d have been dead into a headwind almost all the way to his house. We were just about set to roll when Winston called Chuck – he’d been riding down to meet us but, in his words, he’d calculated the extra time for his hangover into the time he left his house, but didn’t account for the hangover plus the headwind. He was running several minutes late.
We stood around until the shivering started. We decided to ride up to him, then we’d turn around and start the ride, proper.
And so it was. The first 25 miles were all into a headwind or cross-headwind. It was fun, even funny at times, though brutal. We just hunkered down, got in the drops, and pressed on. Once it started warming up, the wind wasn’t so horrible, too – and warm up it did. In fact, even before we turned to let the wind push us home, it got downright nice out. The sun was gloriously bright and the temp climbed to a point it was fun to ride – even into the wind. All of a sudden, a nice ride had broken out. After paying for it, the ride home with the tailwind was entirely enjoyable.
We got back to Chuck’s house with smiles on our faces and 44-1/4 miles under our early-season belts. We had some challenges on that ride, but we pulled together as a group to get through it and I left feeling that euphoric joy that we cyclists get to enjoy so often. The feeling lasted all day.
After a shower and some lunch, my wife and I laid down for a nap. After which, I had to run some errands that took me by the bike shop. As any enthusiast would, I stopped in to pick up my late-season tires and to say high to the crew. As I was looking around I noticed an older couple looking at cycling shorts and I overheard the wife ask if you wear underwear with them. I took overhearing the question as a sign and explained why commando is the way to go with cycling shorts. It turned out they had hybrids that they decided to dust off and ride so they had some questions. I did my best to answer all of them – including explaining why riding on the wrong side of the road is disastrously bad form, even downright dangerous.
There’s nothing like a good ride in the morning to get you into a mood to help some new folks into the sport. It was a good day, indeed.
And now it’s almost time to put some miles in on the hamster wheel…. ugh.
I know, I know. After all that complaining about the crappy weather over the last month and a half, how could I possibly be thankful for a cold snap?! I’ll explain:
Friday was a day off riding for bowling.
Saturday was fairly easy, but decently long for this early in the season. It was also awesomely beautiful as weather goes. Cool at the start, but it warmed up quick and it turned out to be a fantastic day for a bike ride – best this year.
Sunday was spectacular and another long ride. I spent a lot of time up front and got busted by my wife for pushing the pace too hard on Sunday Funday toward the end. I was good and tired when we pulled into the driveway… then I took my daughter to play a couple of games of tennis. Then I went bowling. My friends, I slept good that night.
Monday was supposed to be an easy day, but no. My buddy, Chucker apparently doesn’t have an “active recovery” gear. After we spoke about meeting up and he made me promise him it was going to be an “enjoy the sun and surroundings” kind of easy day so we could save some for Tuesday, he proceeded to hammer it after an easy first few miles. And I followed suit, because I’m not going to take it easy if he isn’t… (chuckle). We ended up with better than a 19-mph average.
Then Tuesday was brutal hard, but with a relatively mild (average) temperature, it was worth showing up for the club ride. The wind was horrible – right up until we were supposed to get the payoff tailwind… We fought cross headwinds for thirteen miles, during which it started looking gnarly off to the west. I decided that, rather than go for the full 30 miles, I’d cut off at the river and take a six mile shortcut to try to beat the coming rain. At first I could feel the cross-tailwind pushing me along quite well – 23-mph up a long hill was relatively easy. Then I had to head north with a crosswind for a few miles at 21-23 – and then I hit what was supposed to be the glorious tailwind section and as the clouds blew in, the wind died down by about half (from 18-mph to 10-mph). Still, 22-25-mph was manageable and with the skies darkening all the time, I was spurred on to time-trial it home.
While it did sprinkle a time or two, it wasn’t bad enough to wet the pavement. I beat the rain by a little better than 30 seconds.
So, my friends, by the time Wednesday rolled around and I’d been riding fairly hard, four days in a row, I was beat. My legs hurt and I was tired. I needed an easy day to bring some life back into my legs, and I got it in the form of a cold front that blew in. It was windy, a little nasty, and we were due some snow. I rode on the trainer last night and it was good. I changed wheels, picked an easy gear (third hardest) and just settled in for a 45 minute spin. It’s amazing how much better my legs feel today – and we got some snow last night so I’ll be able to ride the trainer again tonight – because this weekend is going to be hectic again. Spring temps are back and we’ll be crushing it.
I’ve ridden with a simple stem-mount computer since I’ve ridden with a computer – until I bought a Garmin this year, and now that I’ve got it I’m glad to have gotten rid of the stem-mount cycling computers (on all but the tandem, my wife gets the Garmin on the tandem to avoid a wired computer).
While there once was a time, and not long ago, I thought a simple cycling computer was the best way to go, times change. It’s not that the simple computer is bad, but it is inarguable that a Garmin Edge 520 Plus with mapping capability is a game changer next to a simple computer. The fact that its a “flush out front” mount cleans up the cockpit immensely is just an excellent bonus.
For the longest time I didn’t think I could justify the cost in upgrading to a Garmin. This year, I just thought it was time to start getting some maps in order for some of the longer routes we ride up north. They’ll be invaluable in the future when my wife and I want to take a camping trip. All we’ll have to do is pick a campground, load a map and go – turn-by-turn directions the whole way.
I didn’t think, after everything was hooked up, that I’d like the new setup as much as I do.
Incidentally, I picked up two SRAM mounts, so I have a mount for both road bikes, the gravel bike, the tandem, and both of my mountain bikes (the Garmin comes with three mounts, too). The SRAM flush out front mounts are only $20 and they’re a little lighter than the original Garmin FOF mount.
I love cycling caps. I freaking dig them. I have close to a dozen.
Cycling caps are the perfect bug barrier and bee deterrent system so I don’t get stung in the melon. They’re also cool, in a nerdy “I don’t care if you know I’m a geek for being a cyclist” kinda way. Finally, for those of us old enough to remember Jesper Parnevick, Jesper Parnevick.
Also, as a little known aside, a cycling cap is an excellent under-cap for a hard hat if you happen to be in construction.
I don’t like the brim when I’m riding, though. Brim up is the proper way to go, because brim down I can’t see as easily as I’d like when I’m in the drops. This works with Specialized helmets, but it doesn’t with my Kask Mojito. The front scoop of the dome protector is all wrong for a cycling cap… Brim up makes the melon protector ride up too high. I’ve struggled with what to do for the better part of a couple of months. I almost went back to my Spec. melon protector just so I could continue wearing my cycling caps.
Then it dawned on me; I knew what to do, but The Rules would most certainly prohibit the display. So unconscionable was my solution, they didn’t even bother addressing it in the rules as they are – but I don’t care.
The solution is to flip the cap backward so the brim covers my neck – but to avoid the obvious problem of yet another ridiculous tan line, I flip the brim up (this also fixes the issue created by the brim messing with one’s ability to look up whilst riding in the drops – an enormous difficulty, as difficulties go. In cycling).
An impervious bee layer, the brim doesn’t mess with my line of sight, and I don’t have to turn it up, which looks weird paired with my super-cool awesome Kask Mojito helmet.
I just have to watch out for the Velominati… if one of them sees me on the road I’ll have to be on my horse, lest one of them try to knock me off my bike for being badass enough to pull off the reverse cycling cap, brim up.
Yes, it is good to have my problems.
We rode another 43-1/2 miles yesterday, under perfect conditions for an April weekend. No rain, mild temps (at least by this year’s standards – we’d usually call this average), and relatively mild winds. Our friend Chuck is back from out west, so it felt like our group was whole again. The Venge is almost unbelievably fun to ride since the addition of the new Selle saddle and the cf wheels.
Yesterday turned out to be a busy day, though. After some lunch, I took a nap. My oldest daughter, who just decided she wanted to give tennis a go, asked me to take her out to practice a bit (I’m okay at tennis, too – my brother has been a teaching pro for decades). I have to admit, I think I gave her a bit of a “deer in the headlights” look when she asked. 90 miles in two days, I expected to be a little gassed – and I still had to bowl after. Tennis turned out to be a really good idea, though. Rather than being “too tight”, after a few volleys back and forth, I loosened up and gave her a pretty good go of it (she’ll be kicking my butt on a regular basis in no time).
Then came bowling, and that didn’t turn out so well. I just didn’t have it last night. I started out well, but I fizzled fast. I was glad it was our last night for the season.
If that wasn’t enough, the Tigers won, sweeping the Royals to put them in first place – it won’t last long, I imagine, with a newly rebuilding team, but it’s been nice to see them win and have a good time of it so far.
By the time I got home last night, I couldn’t have been more ready for bed. I didn’t last long once the lights went out. It was a perfect weekend.