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Monthly Archives: October 2012

A Recurring Cycling Search Theme: Is X mph over X Miles Fast (or Good)

Here’s a search that led someone to my blog:  “cycling 14 mph over 45 miles good”.  Of course it’s good – dude, you just rode 45 miles!

For everyone out there on the internet, listen up, because I wondered the same thing when I started out – what’s fast, what’s not, so on and so forth.  I Googled the same things.  The truth is there are too many variables to put everything into nice little speed categories.

For instance:

14 mph is slow for a road bike, but pretty decent for a mountain bike – especially over 45 miles.  But that’s not the point.  If you spent three hours on a bike, unless you’re dogging it, that’s still good!  Who cares if it’s fast or not, you’re movin’ baby.  I can, however, throw out some pretty common numbers:

For a road bike – less than 40-50 miles, no drafting, 16 mph is slow for relatively flat roads, but not so bad when you’ve got a lot of steep climbs (to borrow a phrase, Aaron).  18-19 mph is pretty quick (on the flats, but fast with a lot of hills) and 20-21 is pretty stinkin’ fast.  If you’ve got a decent group add 3 miles per hour to each of those…  Yes, drafting works that well, and yes, you can sling-shot too, but there are limits for us mere mortals.

For a mountain bike – less than 35 miles, on roads (dirt or paved) – NOT Trails, deduct 3 miles per hour, so 13 is slow, 15-16 is pretty decent and 17-18 is fast.  If you’re on a trail, depending on the technical nature of the trail, 10 average miles per hour can be pretty fast – On a local trail I ride, I can manage 11 mph and I’ve been told by people far more knowledgable than I am that I’m in the top 80-85%, on the other hand, if it’s an easy trail, that’s slow…  Trails are too subjective to put a good figure on them.  Here’s the best way to figure out whether you’re fast, slow or somewhere in the middle on a trail…  When you go out, if you’re passing a bunch of people when you hit a straight sections, congratulations!  You’re fast.  If you’re being passed by a bunch of people when you hit a straight, you’re slow.  If you’re not being passed or passing people, than you’re about average…  UNLESS, it’s a slow day on the trail, in which case I give up, you’ve got me.

Now, this is for the weekend warriors, for your charity century riders, for your fitness nuts.  Pros and racers are a hell of a lot faster than that.  Figure mid 20’s to 30 mph in a pack – as far as I know – and admittedly, I don’t know much, I’m not a pro or a racer.  Put it this way, the Prolog at this year’s Tour de France was just shy of 4 miles (3.97678 to be exact)  in length and it was being done in the low 7 minute range (7:13 -7:30 for the top ten, the top 175 finished under 8 minutes) – that’s less than two minutes a mile folks, 34-35 mph.  That’s fast.

Here’s the best way to tell whether or not you’re fast on a road bike…  If you’re feeling cocky and think you’re fast, I can offer you this: Walk into your local bike shop and ask what day, place and time the local advanced club ride meets. If you can keep up to the end, you’re fast. If you get dropped within the first 5 miles you’re not. If you hold on for a good 15-20 miles, you’re pretty damned good. That’s the best way to know where you stand because that takes all of the variables and throws them in the garbage can.

What I do know is this:  If you’re working hard, breathing heavy and sweating over 45 miles, it really doesn’t matter how fast you’re going – you are getting fit…  And at the end of the day, if you’ve got that and a smile on your face, does it really matter who thinks what is fast?  I think not.

Noobs Road Bike Mainenance Checklist… More Than Just The Easy Stuff

For my first year of cycling I was pretty regular with cleaning my bike, cleaning and lubing the chain and make sure that everything was in good working order. Unfortunately I found out the hard way that I wasn’t quite doing enough so I decided to put together a few of the items that have given me fits – to hopefully save you the same grief. This list, by the way, is in addition to the standard, normal maintenance items.

1. If you have a quill stem remove it, clean it, grease it and reinstall it at least every six months max (I clean and regrease mine once every few months). If, while you’re riding – up a hill in particular, when you’re putting some stress on the bars, if you hear (and feel) a creaking noise coming from the stem/bar area, this is the likely culprit. You’ve got metal on metal and those parts have to be adequately greased to keep from creaking. To do this, loosen the bolt on top of your stem… You do not loosen the headset nuts! If your stem doesn’t loosen up, bang on the bolt with a mallet – rubber mallets will not work if it’s really stuck, go with one of those rawhide dealios, or if you don’t have one, place something on the bolt to absorb some of the blow of a regular hammer – don’t directly hit the bolt with a steel hammer… Too many bad, expensive things could go wrong, because you’re probably going to have to give it a pretty good whack to shake things loose. Remove the stem and lube all of the parts, including the stem shaft, and reinsert it and tighten it back down. You want a very healthy tight – but to be specific, consult your owner’s manual for the correct torque. Personally I don’t use a torque wrench, I just tighten the hell out of it without stripping it, but I’d be an idiot to recommend you do that only to have you sue me because you tightened it too much and broke your bike.

UPDATE: Important note – once you get the stem out (you may have to loosen the brake cable to do this), DO NOT try to clean out the tube with a towel and your finger – there’s a 75% chance you’ll get your finger stuck in there and once it’s in, it ain’t coming out… I was 30 seconds from walking my bike out of the spare bedroom, through the living room and dining room, into the kitchen – finger stuck in the steerer tube – to get a stick of butter. I was not laughing (though you probably are). All I could think of was, “holy shit, Matt’s gonna laugh his ass off if I have to call him about this”…

2. Remove your seat post, clean it, grease it and reinstall it. Carbon bikes with carbon seat posts are different – this is for alloy/aluminum frames and/or posts. If you have a CF Frame and a CF Post, there are other products you use but if you have an alloy post and a carbon frame (as I do) or vice-versa, and the post fits snugly, grease it. This is the cause for fretting all over the internet – many folks believe that it is bad to grease an aluminum post that goes in a carbon frame. If you’re heading to the comments section, please hang on a second… I’m going by what Craig Calfee says – and I guarantee he knows more about carbon fiber than you do. Here’s the problem – at an atomic level, your alloy/aluminum post is charged differently than your carbon fiber frame – this difference causes corrosion to occur. Throw in some sweat that drips down (or salt water for short) onto the post during a ride (if you’re riding fast enough it will get a good dousing as the wind pushes the sweat drops back – happens to me all the time) and you’ll be lucky to extricate your seat post with the jaws of life. If you find that after you’ve lubed your seat post that it slips, clean the grease and search the web – there are remedies posted all over the place. The general rule is if your post is snug going into the tube, use lube… Loose? Skip it. No pun intended…

3. Once a year (or maybe twice) disconnect your brake cables and clean out the zerts on your frame. Your shifter cables shouldn’t be too big a deal as long as you’ve taken care of them throughout the season.

4. Clean your brake pads. That’s right, your brake pads. Slivers of aluminum can embed themselves into your brake pads under normal riding conditions. They will wear out your rim over time. Remove the pads and use a sharp pointy object (I used a safety-pin and a good set of tweezers) to get the aluminum bits out of your brake pads. Also, if you happen to use the back brake more than the front, it doesn’t hurt to rotate the pads from time to time.

That does it for the easy oddities – there are a couple of other issues that I find when I ride with other folks that get surprisingly little attention… If you’ve got a nice bike, it deserves these:

5. Clean that nasty lookin’ cassette when you clean your chain. This is a photo of my cassette just before I’m due to clean it again (Friday). If your cassette doesn’t look this good after you’ve cleaned and relubed your chain you are doing something wrong. Cut it out.

6. Wash your bike and lube the exposed cables every time you clean and lube your chain (every 250-400 miles depending on the lube you use). If you don’t feel like going through the effort, at least wipe it clean with a damp towel. If you happen to be single and wealthy, it is always best to hire hot women (or men for the ladies) to do this – as shown here:

If you are married, let your imagination run riot, mate – try to get the wife out there in a bikini, there’s no telling what that might lead to. Now, if you’re of the fairer sex, and are offended by this, fear not! I regularly wash my wife’s bikes in only shorts or swim trunks – she get’s the glistening biceps, pecs and the whole nine yards, while getting her bikes cleaned… That’s right folks, I give too, and that’s the idea. If you need bike cleaning tips, I just happen to have written about the subject a time or two. For winter cleaning – I cheat… Being a master of the universe that I am, I have a warehouse at my office that I clean my bikes in.

A clean bike is a happy me.

How I Handle Wrong Way Riders – A politically correct guide

In my post entitled Legal Cycling In The USA Part Two, I reviewed some Michigan and Ohio bicycling laws. One had to do with riding on the wrong side of the road, or against traffic. Hilarity ensued in the comments section, A blogger who goes by the handle iswimbikerunstrong posted this comment:

“I’m not quite sure what to do when I’m riding on my bike (with traffic) and see another cyclist approaching in the same bike lane or shoulder but going against traffic? Should I stay to the right, stay to the left, or just punch him in the face as we pass”?

I wasn’t going to let that go…

“If it’s a him, punch him in the mug.  If it’s a her, generally I would say bark some kind of rude command, like “get on the right side of the road” or something, but as touchy as some folks can be about that… I don’t know.  To avoid assault charges though, a simple, “dude (him or her) you’re on the wrong side of the road, ya dope” will do”.

Now I’ve never called another cyclist or bicycle rider (as the case usually is) a dope – that was more for humor – but how do you handle wrong way cyclists?

Before I started cycling seriously and even though I knew riding on the left (right in the UK) was wrong and I hated seeing it, I would let it go when I passed them on the road.  Now that I am an honest to goodness cyclist, and I actually understand how dangerous the practice is, letting it go is out the window.  I’ve become a one-man wrong-way righting crusader.  I’ve actually turned around in the middle of a training ride to ride along with people so I could take the time to explain the dangers of riding on the wrong side of the road – usually I reserve the “decent” treatment for mothers and children.  I maintain, by choice, the ability to assume that they simply don’t understand how dangerous it is.  With men or boys, the treatment is a quite a bit different.  This is disparity is greatly due to the fact that Mrs. BgddyJim was a wrong-way rider when she first started cycling.  She mistakenly believed that she was safer if she could see traffic coming as we do while we’re out running.  It took some gentle work, but she ended up seeing the light.  With men in particular and often boys, right or wrong, I’m a lot more no-nonsense in my approach.

Now the fact that I treat women differently than I do men can be looked on as either a good thing or a bad thing.  I am decidedly more courteous to women and children while more gruff with men and young men…  If you’re a “men should be chivalrous and decent to women so that they aren’t intimidated off their bike” kind of woman, you’ll likely think this gesture noble.  If you’re the type who looks for chauvinism in everything a man writes, well I can’t do much for you because you’ve already made up your mind.  You’re welcome to post a comment, but good luck convincing me that I should be treating men and women the same, my eyes usually glaze over after the first sentence.  If you’re a man and take offense, please pull up your Scooby Doo Underoos and buck up, would ya?  You’ll get over it…  Some day.

Back to the topic du jour, what is the proper way to deal with a wrong-way cyclist?  Well, I know two things:  Punching one in the mug is out of the question and so is letting it go without a word.  There is a middle ground – and what I do works.  In extreme cases, if it’s a male riding a bike the wrong way, I’ll make an absolute spectacle of the situation.  As they approach, I check over my shoulder – and if it’s safe I signal that I’m moving left and watch over my shoulder to make sure there are no vehicles coming while slowing down and give them the old, “hey, thanks for being safe and riding on the wrong side of the road”.  If I can, I’ll add “and putting my life in danger”, but we’re usually out of earshot before I can get that in.  For a female I do the same lane shift but keep it to, “you are on the wrong side of the road”.  Also important, is that I always give them the gutter – I don’t leave anyone (male or female) the option to come left around me, especially if there is no traffic present – First, if you’re coming up on someone dumb enough to ride on the wrong side of the road, they obviously don’t know what they’re doing – otherwise they’d be on the other side of the road, yes?  Of course, so I don’t want to be locked into a specific line while dealing with someone of that nature – I want to have the out in case they do something even more stupid than riding on the wrong side of the road.  Second, the wrong-way rider can have the gutter with all of the potential problems that come with riding in it.  Now, this takes some judgment, keen handling skills and the ability to read traffic and what the other cyclist is doing – all in a very short amount of time.  Caution must be king.

The most important thing I must remember is that the goal is for everyone to get home safely.  The hope is that the wrong-way cyclist in the situation comes away with a better understanding of just how foolish they are being by choosing to ride on the wrong side of the road.  I must never sacrifice the goal for the hope because in the end my wife and kids need a productive husband and dad, not for an idiot that we don’t know to learn a lesson.

Up next:  Part Two – Dealing with people who walk on the proper side of the road – but in the bike lane…  Oh yes I have.

Sorry To Be Short…

I only got one post in today so I apologize, but it’s 80 degrees out and I’m slammed at work.  On top of that the World Series starts tonight…  I’m taking it easy for today on the blog so I can shoe-horn 10 hours of activity into 5 hours.

Thanks for stopping by.


Are Ultegra Components Noisy?

That question, are Ultegra components noisy, showed up in my search topics and I thought it would be a good idea to answer it because there could be some big problems associated with that noise.

First of all, the answer is no – Ultegra components are whisper quiet.  Technically they’re quieter than that. When they are tuned properly and lubed (along with the chain) correctly they’re silent. The sound of the tires gripping the road will drown out the whir of the rear derailleur pulleys. They’re that quiet.

Now, if you’ve got a lot of pressure on the pedals when you shift you will get a decent throaty clunk when you shift gears with the rear derailleur, but that’s quite normal.  If you follow the normal procedure of pedaling a little lighter when you shift, it will be smooth and quieter – Campy fans say it’s too smooth and quiet (SRAM components have and even stouter shift).

Beyond that, if you’re cross-chained (generally with a triple crankset) you will hear some chain noise.  I’ll also develop a little whir about 150 miles after I’ve cleaned and lubed the chain.  Then, when it’s time to clean and relube the chain again it will get a little more touchy, usually between 300 & 350 miles.

There are minor problems that can lead to a noisy bike that do relate to the components, such as an improperly adjusted derailleur that can be fixed quite easily:

Don’t worry too much if you mess this up – my first time trying this turned into a mess taking two hours to clean up.  If you need directions in front of you (I did), print the linked page off and set it down next to you.  This is what got me straightend out…  If you mess your drivetrain up and you simply can’t figure out what the hell you did, don’t sweat it – take your ride to the shop to get it adjusted properly.  Once you see how it’s done by a proper mechanic, that should help you immeasurably.

Legal Cycling In The USA Pt II… Stay On The Right Side Of The Road

I’ve been doing a little investigating into Ohio’s laws to make sure that I hadn’t improperly stated anything in my previous post concerning a Bicycling article – the way they wrote the article follows the letter of the law.  The Sheriff’s Deputy was, indeed, mistaken.

That notwithstanding, I found it interesting that in Ohio, signalling with your right arm outstretched for a right turn is perfectly legal, and obviously preferrable (4511.40)…  The same cannot be said for Michigan which still sticks to the antiquated left hand, right turn method, though I ignore it and have done so in the presence of police officers quite often – I use the right arm out pointing to the direction I’ll be turning…

In addition, the Ohio Bicycle Federation did a fabulous job in commenting on Ohio’s laws to clarify a few things.  One of them made me think back on a trip to the gas station the other day.  I was cruising down the road in my truck – a narrow main road, two lanes and hardly any shoulder with a 55 mph speed limit, and what do I see but two late teenagers (17-18) riding their bikes right at me on the side of the road.  I can’t remember ever seeing anyone quite that brazen, normally they’re at least smart enough to ride on the gravel shoulder on the wrong side of the road – not these two.  After passing them I whipped around (safely of course) and caught up to them, they were still on the wrong side of the road…  I’ve decided to stop holding my tongue when it comes to wrong way riders and let the two know that they were risking their lives by riding on the left.  I then turned into a sub division and went about my way…  Normally, I’ll only say something when I’m on my bike and have to dodge a wrong way cyclist, but no more.  This is from the Ohio Bicycle Federation:

Section 4511.25(A) is a general rule that applies to all vehicles, including
bicycles.  Some people think it is safer to ride on the left to “see traffic
coming”.  This is illegal and wrong!  Pedestrians walk facing traffic so they
can sidestep off the road if necessary.  But you cannot sidestep a bike.  Riding
on the left is both illegal and dangerous.  Crash statistics show that wrong
way riding has about 3½ times the risk
as riding on the right.

In addition, and Michigan Law mirrors that of Ohio in this regard, the law allows for riding on the sidewalk.  I cannot, for the life of me figure out why it is so hard to make riding on a sidewalk illegal.  This is from the Ohio Bicycle Federation:

Although this section allows riding on sidewalks, don’t do it.  Accident studies
show that even low-speed sidewalk riding has about double the accident rate as
riding on the road.  The danger increases with speed.  If you ride on the
sidewalk, every intersection and even every driveway is a potential collision
site.  Motorists crossing your path do not look for conflicting traffic on the
sidewalk, especially if you are coming from the “wrong way”.

Lastly, this little utterly important snippet:

An unseen cyclist is in great danger.  According to the Ohio Dept. of Public
Safety data for 2007, about 62 percent of fatal bicycle crashes in Ohio occur
during non-daylight hours (even though few cyclists ride then).   The reflectors
that come with new bikes are grossly inadequate for nighttime visibility.
Always use both a headlight and tail light when you ride in the dark.
[Emphasis is mine]

There is a common saying among we firearm toting Americans – if trouble comes knocking on your door, light it up like a Christmas tree.  The same should be said for riding at night – I use a flashing tail light whenever I ride alone during daylight hours, I can’t imagine ever wanting to ride at night if a motorist couldn’t see me from at least 1,000 yards away.

Thanks For The Faith No More…

I read a post on a blog last night that had the video for Faith No More’s Falling To Pieces video embedded in it.

Quite stupidly I clicked on the play button and was immediately thrust back to my rebellious youth – my awkward teenage years behind me, I had it all…  I was 19 years old.  In ’89 I had the hottest girlfriend on the planet (think Ginger Lynn at 21 – only pretty), a great job, later I was actually maintaining passing grades in college, and hadn’t spun out – yet…  Life was awesome.

So anyway I’m listening to Falling To Pieces on youtube – on my phone, while flipping to iTunes and spending a small fortune on Faith No More albums with all of that awesomeness that was my 19th year above grass flooding in…  My poor daughter didn’t know what to think – as she’s watching Sponge Bob and begging me to turn it down.

I can’t find found the post with help – even though I commented on it – and I know I follow your blog…  Just wanted to say THANKS!

For those who require clarification (and sure as shit stinks, you’re out there):  My wife is now, and has been for more than 17 years, the only woman in my world.

Legal Cycling In The USA

While perusing bicycling magazine’s website the other day I ran into an interesting story that relates to cycling on the road that brings up a few interesting points for debate…

Two guys peel off the back of an advanced club ride in Libya – I mean Ohio. They were both racers who had a fairly tough ride the night before and decided to finish the ride at an easier pace. Going through a small town, they encounter a Sheriff’s Deputy who excoriated them for riding on the road. An explicative flies from the Deputy’s mouth and pandemonium ensues… Ending with one of the cyclists tazed and both in cuffs.

Now the Deputy, from his own testimony, is a liar, pure and simple. That he wanted to be a prick and throw his weight around is made fairly clear in the article… I’ve seen this first hand and it’s scary as hell when it’s happening to you. The two sued and rightfully so…

My concern with the article is when it starts getting into the weeds:  Assuming that the cyclists were riding legally on the road – and as the article lays out, it’s pretty hard not to – the question then becomes what should a cyclist do when a police officer attempts to violate a cyclists right to the road when the officer is in the wrong?

From the story:

What happened to Tony and Ryan from the moment the Deputy first decided to say something to them is a real-world example of the challenge cyclists face in securing their right to the road. For most of us, I suspect it’s easier to just quietly comply with a law enforcement officer’s misguided attempts to enforce laws that don’t exist. Sure, we know the officer is wrong, but do we really want to go to jail to make that point, instead of wherever it is we happen to be going at that moment?

The problem is, if everybody acquiesces to a violation of our rights, do we still have the right? I would argue that unless the right is exercised, it doesn’t exist. Therefore, when a law enforcement officer is enforcing laws that don’t exist, it is incumbent upon us to stand up for our rights.

While that’s a good answer and true, the article makes the key point immediately thereafter:  But how do we do that without triggering a beat down and a trip to jail?

And therein lies the rub.  Keep in mind here, I had a rather troubled youth – I’ve had my run-ins with the police – and I’ve lived cleanly since, I know both sides of the coin.  Disregarding an officer’s order or request is foolish, no matter how right you are.  Often times this will result in a beat down of some sort for the simple egregious act of non-compliance to a Fourth Amendment violation.  Does it suck?  Hell yes, but once you’ve got the busted teeth and black eyes to show for disregarding the unlawful order of an officer who is violating your right to the road, they’ll really go to work on you and unless you’ve got the money for an exceptional attorney, you. will. go. down.  Now I have an excellent attorney and can afford to fight that kind of rap – if you don’t, leave that shit to people like me who can afford to fight it the right way by doing as ordered and getting off the road – at least until the cop is out of eyesight…  The only other option is to buck the system and hope you can find a lawyer who would fight the case for free (pro bono).  To that end though, you can bet that if a cop is unlawfully harassing cyclists, sooner (rather than later) the officer will happen across one with money – and at that point it’s on, as it was in this case.

Now, is this fair?  No it most certainly is not.  It is practical.  Bitching about it through busted teeth won’t change a thing either.  Cops make mistakes just like everyone else.  Just like doctors, nurses, lawyers, construction workers – everybody right down to the chick working the drive thru at Mickey D’s – and if you think the “chick” at the drive thru is discriminatory, fear not, the skinny pimple pocked boy is on the frier (feel better?).  Cops are just better at covering it up than just about everyone else (except politicians).  The point is, if it sucks to be you, there’s no reason to make it worse with a bad decision.

Feel free to disagree – the comments section is below.

Trail Running…

My trail run this morning was fantastic. We were moving pretty good for running on a very technical mountain bike trail, somewhere in the mid to upper eight minute mile range for 5-1/2 miles with just under 1,100 feet of climbing.

Unfortunately, I didn’t quite have my shoes tied tightly enough so I ended up with blisters on both of my big toes because many of the obstacles were obscured by fallen leaves. I was also surprised at how unsteady my ankles were… You figure you ride a ton, run a bit, you’re in fantastic shape – you’re light and nimble… A 5-1/2 mile trail run shouldn’t be much of a big deal. Uh, yeah, I was wrong. My ankles were protesting rather loudly on the last mile.

Otherwise, it was a perfect day for a run. Upper 40’s, sunny and for once, no wind. Running with my friends was extra special. First, I’ve never been able to keep up with them – they’re both in that next level of runner category – but the cycling has made keeping up a lot easier.

After we finished, we decided to make it a regular thing for the foreseeable future. We’re all busy guys so I can only hope that this works out.

Afterwards the wife and I took the kids for an easy spin around the neighborhood on the mountain bikes. Next up is dinner followed by bowling. Thankfully this week I didn’t ride a hundred miles before bowling so I’m looking forward to not running out of gas in the middle of the second (of 3) game.

Happy Sunday.


Spectators at a children’s triathlon had to hold back tears when an 11-year-old cancer survivor whose prosthetic leg broke mid-race was spotted crossing the finish line on the back of a US Marine.

Ben Baltz was competing in the 1.6km running portion of the mini-triathlon in Florida on Sunday — after completing a 140m swim and 6.4km bike run — when a screw on his mechanical leg came loose and the limb snapped in half.

Ben has been using a prosthetic since the age of six, when he was diagnosed with bone cancer in his right leg and had his fibula and tibia removed.

At the Sea Turtle Tri kids triathlon at Opal Beach, Pensacola, local Marines who had volunteered to help monitor the course ran over to the young boy, picked him up and carried him the rest of the way.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I want you to turn…

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