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Monthly Archives: May 2013

The Noob’s Guide To Cycling In The Heat…

I love riding when the temps start topping 90 degrees. The way I see it, riding is the most comfortable way to enjoy higher temperatures outside – you’ve got a built-in breeze and in my opinion, it sure beats sitting inside in the air conditioning. Now, lest you get the impression that way up here in Michigan and that I just don’t understand what it’s like to exercise in real heat (say, Florida), you’d be mistaken. While our 90-95 degree days are farther apart, I’ve golfed mid-day in July and August from Florida to Texas – it’s all good to me… Enjoying myself in that kind of heat isn’t easy but there are definite steps that I take to make it livable.

First, I’m thin – at 6’0″ and 160 pounds, I don’t have a whole lot in the way of insulation. This sucks in the winter time – I’m freezing from November through February, but the other seven months of the year, I’m in heaven. This is one of those things that you can’t exactly control right away, though if you’re not in my boat, you’re obviously doing something about it if you’re reading this post.

There are other things that I do that keep me truckin’ even in the hottest weather we get and through mid-summer vacations down south though…

Following a time line, if I’m expecting to go on a long ride, I start hydrating the day before, usually with lunch. Lots and lots of water. Nothing silly, I just have a 32 ounce bottle with me at all times. With dinner I’ll have a 32 ounce Gatorade and another partial after dinner until I go to sleep. Now, in very simple terms, I’m only talking about a 10-15% increase over normal consumption. Day of, depending on what time I’m riding (figure morning for this post), I’ll drink my normal two cups of coffee, shower and get ready. When I get out of the shower, I get that partially hit Gatorade from the night before and finish that off… And I’m ready.  Now, I don’t know if hydrating this way, or this early, is beneficial but for me it works and I have confidence when I do – and that’s what matters.

During a ride, up to 40 miles I can usually get away with just two water bottles.  Either both H2O or one H2O and one H2O with an electrolyte tab.  Beyond that, Gatorade is worth its weight.  I need the electrolyte replacement and the sweetness doesn’t bother my stomach so I go with one Gatorade filled bottle and one with H2O.  This is good up to 50.  For anything over that I’ll stop at a gas station (or two – or three for a century) and refill – same thing, and then I buy one of the small Coca-Cola’s…  Why?  Well, a Coke 3/4’s of the way through a 100 mile ride tastes good, I had a craving for one during a 200k last year and honest to God, it was about the best Coke I’ve ever had in my life, so now I make it a point to have one at some point toward the end a long ride.  The sugar and caffeine are a nice boost.  Dealing with the 100 mile distance, before and during, I want to be at around 200 ounces during the ride and then another 40-100 ounces after (depending).

Finally, and most importantly, I always make it a point to eat something salty after a long ride.  Now keep in mind my weight when I let this out – I don’t have any weight to lose:  I eat a double Quarter Pounder (no cheese), a large fry and either a lemonade, sprite or iced tea.

Now, there was a process that led to this very exact setup.  When I started getting into the longer miles last year, I went through a phase where my sweat stopped tasting salty.  I didn’t get the grainy feeling on my skin either after the sweat dries.  Shortly thereafter my performance level dropped precipitously.  Originally I just went with water only.  In fact, during a ride was one of the very few times that I really enjoyed water.  I didn’t like the heaviness of and sugar in the sports drinks.  Plain old water always did the trick and quenched my thirst completely but without the electrolyte replacement I got into trouble.  Also, there are the electrolyte replacement tabs that one can add to water.  Generally they add a little bit of flavor but they don’t weigh the water down too much.  They work quite well though I’ve only had the Gu tabs and I seem to have a problem with the effervescence though that doesn’t keep me from using them.

A Happy Cycling Anniversary To Me (and to Mr. Bikevcar)…

Today is my second Cycling Anniversary. My life changed for the better on May 23, 2011 when two days before I bought a cheap Huffy bike that was easily three sizes too small. Still 40 years-old at the time, I had no clue that I would absolutely fall in love with riding a bicycle – let alone two.

Two weeks after that first ride I bought a properly sized Trek 3700 that I still own and though I choose it less frequently in favor of my 5200 road bike, I still love that mountain bike. The 5200, on the other hand, is my ride of choice and my pride and joy. It’s an older bike, for sure, but it’s still whisper quite and rides smooth and fast.

Two years ago I’d become disenchanted with running, it simply became boring. With cycling however, I find it vastly more entertaining. I went from running two days a week to cycling six days and running two. I get a nice little endorphin rush almost every time I go out and it’s become a necessity to decompression after a stressful day at the office. In fact, I can throw a ride at any tough situation and straighten myself back out.

Cycling has brought a balance and joy to my life. Where there was once doubt and consternation there is peace and understanding – and confidence. Cycling, as much as anything before it, has taught me how to flip the bird to the committee in my head that cries out in chorus, “you can’t”. Cycling is something that I look forward to on a daily basis.

Cycling has given me true fitness and some badass legs. Lungs so strong that my doctor complains about how long it takes for me to fill them when he says robotically, “okay, take a deep breath”.  A strong, steady, efficient and clean heart – when the nurse takes my pulse for a checkup it almost always illicits an “oh, wow”…

Cycling has given me something to share with my wife and girls – and a way to do for my wife what she once did for me when she got me into running.

Cycling is my Ritalin. It’s my Coca-Cola, my chocolate cake and my Big Mac.

Cycling is my addiction…  With a few exceptions of course: Cycling makes me healthier, it doesn’t poison me. Cycling helps me to keep my wife, kids and job, it doesn’t take away everything in my life that is good (though it is fair to argue that alcohol didn’t take those things – I gave them up, almost without a fight). Cycling will help me to be active at 80, while alcohol would have had me dead at 30.

Cycling is my deserted island for an hour a day.

As a celebratory ride I headed out yesterday for an easy sixteen. I was cruising along, enjoying what was a great spring day that was forecast to be a washout. I’d worked hard the night before on the club ride and I was in the mood to just enjoy a spin. At the seven mile mark I turned west and saw this:

Now folks, that’s not good when you’ve got nine miles left. I thought about knocking a few miles off by heading straight back at a leisurely pace to save my legs… Then I thought better of that and decided to turn it into a game to see if I could beat the rain. Now this decision was fairly stupid – those are severe weather clouds. There was a fair chance of lightning in them – I do not recommend this behavior.  Now, heading west I was into a steady 20 mph cross-headwind so the best I could do was about 17… After that mile though I got into the gas and got to moving. To make a long story short, with a mile to go into a full on 20 mph headwind I was pushing for all I was worth – 19 mph with the clouds right on top of me…  It was going to be close.  Half-mile to go and the wind picked up and so did I. 20 mph and the sprinkles started, then intensified. I made it into the house just before the sky opened up. Just in time.

A caveat:  Back when I was just a young buck, my dad (who was a meteorologist in the Air Force) helped me with my fifth grade science project – a full workup of three months worth of weather, three measurements a day, rain accumulation, types of clouds present in the sky, wind direction and velocity – he taught me everything that a fifth grader could comprehend (and then some) about the weather.  Well, that science project (for which I got an A+ and recognition) has stuck with me my whole life so I can tell by looking at the sky, pretty much within a few minutes, when bad weather is going to hit so I wasn’t exactly taking a crap-shoot.  Unless you have enough experience to do this on your own, I highly recommend against it.

Also, please stop by my English brother in chain rings’ site to wish him a happy cycling anniversary as well.  His will be coming up in three weeks.  Three cheers for BikevCar!  Happy anniversary to us brother.

UPDATE:  And to Laura, who celebrated her Second Anniversary yesterday!

Cycling: A Scary Bonk That Doesn’t Add Up

I went out for my Tuesday evening club ride, a 33 mile loop, and I bonked – bad. Now, I did a lot of things very right and a couple very wrong.

It was a warm night, somewhere in the low 80’s, but exceptionally windy and I went out a little hungry. I had plenty to drink, two full bottles, one with a Gu electrolyte tab and I had a decent lunch, chicken alfredo with extra chicken, so I figured it wouldn’t be a problem. I was mistaken.

The group fractured almost immediately when speeds rose above 25 mph. After my pull, as I fell back and got to the last in the train way too soon I thought, “where did everybody go”!  The crowd had been culled to half within two miles. I held on as long as I could but was off the back a couple of miles later.

I just didn’t have it in me to work that hard last night. It turned out that Matt and a friend of his fell of just before I did. I slowed a touch and let them catch up as we were dead into a howling wind at that point. We rode together taking shifts for almost all of the 26 remaining miles before I trailed off the back to let them have some “bro” time.  In the last mile and a half they caught up to two other guys so I, in turn, picked up the pace and caught them all to ride the last mile.

So let’s get to the bonk… I worked hard in the middle miles because it appeared that Matt’s friend wasn’t quite as strong we were and I was feeling pretty fresh.  Also, we had a tailwind for all of a handful of miles at the beginning – the rest was all cross and headwind so it was pretty tough sledding.  About 28 miles (out of the 33) I started getting hungry – not a little bit hungry, but that “oh no, I’m in trouble” hungry.  By the time I rolled into the parking lot I was famished.  I finished strong enough but I was really feeling it, and I was seriously looking forward to the after-ride dinner.  I spoke with some of the guys for a minute to be social, packed up and hit the road.  1/4 mile down the road I was hit by an incredible thirst that was worse than anything I’d ever experienced and I was shaking a little bit so I stopped at a gas station and picked up a couple of 24oz Gatorades.  The first was gone within 30 seconds and I started coming around a bit so I made a bee-line for Burger King…  This is where things got really weird.  I was so hungry that by the time I got my food, I didn’t want to eat it.  I felt nauseous, so much so that I couldn’t eat.  This is when I really started to get nervous.  I forced half of my dinner down (very slowly) and then wrapped it up and drove home, hoping the drive would give my stomach a chance to settle.  Sure enough, by the time I pulled into the driveway I felt quite a bit better so I went in, popped on the Tiger’s game and finished my dinner.

Within a half hour of finishing, I was out like a light and slept like a baby until 15 minutes before the alarm went off (first time I slept beyond 4 am all week).

I’ve spent all morning kicking around what went wrong and I’ve gotta tell you, I still can’t figure it out.  When I hit the starting line yesterday I was ready to go and I’ve ridden much better in worse conditions.  For now I’m just chalking it up to “one of those days”.

A Fantastic Question… How To Make Lycra Fit!

So the question has been posed by a peruser of my blog (in the form of a search topic): How do you make Lycra fit?

The answer can be very complex if you magically want to change nothing and look in the mirror and not be bummed out, I don’t have the answer for that because there is no such thing.  Not only are you looking for a unicorn, you’re looking for a unicorn that shits golden eggs.  On the other hand, it can be very simple if you actually want to make the Lycra fit…

Five thousand miles on a bike give or take, most of them in your fat burning zone (2) and a sensible diet.

That’s it.  If you want your Lycra to fit better ride 5,000 miles in a year (1 hour, four days a week and 2 hours each day on the weekend) and make sure you have a caloric daily deficit of at least 500 (BMR – 500).  Run and/or ride a trainer through the winter (1/2 hour four days a week + a weekend run). Rinse and repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Now, if you’ve only got 5-15 to drop, don’t worry so much about the deficit…  As long as you don’t do the activity reward/inspired “pig-outs” (I know, easier said than done), your legs (and, um, other things) will be news worthy in less than a season.

It’s not rocket science even if some like to make it seem that way.

There’s a simple rule at work here, and I use this logic daily:  If you’re not willing to put in the effort you’d be better off heading over to the donut shop and asking someone to lie to you.

You’ve Gotta Give It Away To Keep It…

One of the most important lessons a person learns in recovery is that you have to give it away (freely) to keep it.  Well that applies to fitness also as far as I’m concerned.  At our running club we take that to the next level, and then some though.  With my girls this can get a little bit difficult though.  I want to be a tough dad but not a jerk, so finding the proper balance between pushing and hugging is a rather interesting balancing act.  We are a bike riding family but my girls get stuck on the number of miles.  The eldest will do five without whining but eight is looked at as some cruel form of torture.  The youngest is all over the map.  I thought she was stuck on three’s (five definitely brought on the complaints) but then she surprised me the other day when she wanted to extend our normal three miler.

IMG_2294 IMG_2295 IMG_2296Sunday we tried the five-mile out and back again.  As you can see, it was absolutely a perfect day.  Warm, low 80’s, mild breeze and simply fantastic.  I let the girls go with Gatorade in their water bottles rather than water as an incentive but we only made it two miles before the, “daddy, when do we turn around” questions started from the youngest.  The elder was pretty much a trooper throughout – first she normally is, but she was riding her brand new Trek mountain bike so I think she was even a little more accepting than usual.

After the ride we headed down to Brighton (Michigan) to my brother-in-law’s restaurant, the Wooden Spoon for my mom’s retirement party and an incredible early dinner.  If you ever find yourself in that neck of the woods, check his place out – the food is so good I simply don’t have the vocabulary to describe it – put it this way:  For those who have followed my blog for any length of time, you know I don’t do vegetarian…  He made vegetarian pizza the other day that was so good I had three slices and I’d have had a fourth if I didn’t have to leave some for the rest of the party.

On arriving home, we went on another ride together – our normal three-mile loop.  It was a great way to cap the weekend and I’m passing on my joy to my babies (who aren’t babies any more).

Bonking, Swedish style (NSFW)

I pray I never bonk this badly… Chuckle.


Spend enough time on the saddle – any saddle – and you’ve bonked or been very close to it – simply no power or energy to pedal.  And we all deal with it a little differently.  Here’s a video of a mountain biker in Sweden, who simply can’t get pass a portion of trail…even after seven attempts.  How he deals with it, well, hilarity ensues.  We feel for the guy.

Warning:  not safe for work to our Swedish friends.  To the rest of us, slightly NSFW from the translation.  Not suitable for kids, mind you.

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Does Aerodynamic Equipment Really Matter? A Noob’s Guide

I read an article yesterday about Specialized’s state of the art cycling wind tunnel (not the linked article) which had a comments section that was dominated by vitriol against “aero”…  So that got me to thinking about how I could write a post on that topic in the hope that I could add some much-needed humor to the discussion.

So, does aero equipment really matter in cycling?

This is one of those unbelievably charged subjects where it does well to have a PhD in Engineering to discuss without baseless charges of stupidity flying around.  Some would tell you that given the proper tires they can ride a mountain bike just as fast as a road bike. This is simply and absolutely preposterous.  They say things like, “it’s all about the engine” – now there is something to be said for the rider, but all things considered, aero does matter.  The real question is this: Is it worth the cost?  I can save about $1600 if I buy a comparably equipped Tarmac over a Venge. The answer is do you have a spare $1600 lying around, because I will ride the Venge faster than the Tarmac, though probably not by all that much.

Now, will it help you finish the Assenmacher 100 a little faster?  Of course it will.  Will you have to put out as many watts as someone on an old round tube aluminum frame?  Of course you won’t.  Will you draft better in a pack?  Of course you will.

In fact, and this is one thing that so many in the anti-aero crowd misunderstand (or are ignorant of), when you’re riding in a pack the bike is the only thing that isn’t helped by the draft – the rider is… So when someone throws out the stat that 80% of aerodynamics is the rider, they’re right – and wrong at the same time because that 80% is rendered moot in the draft.  Now this must be stated, just to keep things very clear for noobs (or at least those more noob-ish than me)… Drafting matters. If you can’t feel a difference, if drafting is one of those “is it just me” things to you, yes it is. It is just you, you’re either in the wrong spot in a crosswind or you’re simply not close enough to the rider in front of you to feel the difference.  It’s huge.

The only question beyond that is do you have the cheese or don’t you. If you do, go for the bling – it certainly won’t hurt your time.

Now, beyond that, and to illustrate, make a cover for your helmet out if a 2’x2′ square block of foam and duct tape that block to your melon protector and go for a ride.  Would you be silly enough to believe there wouldn’t be a difference?  I think not.  In the same respect, if you put in enough miles, you’ll absolutely be able to tell the difference between a $120 helmet and a $30 helmet – and we’re not even talking about the time trial helmets.  Now the gain going from a standard road melon protector to a time trial dome protector is pretty big, but I don’t want to look ridiculous on my bike so it’s definitely worth it for me to save up to $150, sticking with my aero road melon protector. Also, for the same reason, it was worth it to buy a $110 aero road anti-grey matter scrambler over a kid’s Finding Nemo helmet.  Sure, the Finding Nemo helmet works great and only costs $20, but you’d look like a blooming idiot riding around in one…  How about those aero handlebars (the one’s that are shaped like a wing at the bar-top)?  They shave off something like 30 seconds in 100km. Hey, if you’ve got $300 go for it, 30 seconds translated equals watts.  How about $1,900 Zipp rims?  They work, they save energy and they will help you to go faster…

Here’s the rub though, and this goes to the anti-aero crowd… If you and I are on the same, identical Trek 5200 bikes and you can average 16 mph on that bike, you can blow $15,000 on a bike, aero helmet, prophylactic suit, wheels, shoe covers – the whole enchilada – with me on that $750 5200 with aluminum rims and even wearing that dorky-ass Finding Nemo helmet… I’ll kick your ass all five weekdays and twice each on Saturday and Sunday. That’s a whole lot of getting your ass kicked when you consider you paid 14 grand more than I did – though you will admittedly look cooler than me, at least to passerby who don’t know any better.

So if you want to pick up an easy mile and a half per hour, at the cost ranging from $300 to $1,000 per tenth of a mile per hour, then knock yourself out – it’s your money after all.

Bike Repair App: A Life Saver, an illustration

I’m not exactly a whizz around bike components and adjustments. I know just enough to be dangerous so when we picked up my oldest daughter’s new Trek mountain bike last night and she rode it for the first time she says, “daddy, my chain is rubbing” I got to thinking that I was in trouble… Upon looking at the front derailleur, the cage alignment was all wrong and it’s simply way too close to the frame to allow the proper use of the gears. Now, my first thought is to mess with the “h” & “l” screws to get it back to square. My second thought was, “wait – you’re not supposed to mess with those screws, bad things will happen”.

So I run in the house, grab my iPhone and pull up Bike Repair under Front Derailleur…


Sure enough, my second thought was right on – I am an idiot (knowing you’re stupid is half the battle)… I click on height and angle adjustment, follow the steps and her bike is perfectly adjusted in five minutes.


The steps, though the English is a bit tortured from time to time, are simple to follow and the pictures make it virtually impossible to screw anything up.

If you want to be able to fix anything from minor to major problems but don’t know your butt from a hole in the ground when it comes to repairing bikes, this app is indispensable.

Why Does Your Bike Make That CLUNKing Sound When You Pedal?

You’re hammering down the causeway, not a care in the world, wind at your back – all is well in your realm… Then, clunk, clunk… Clunk, clunk… Clunk, clunk…

It sounds like it’s coming from low on the bike, down around the crank, maybe back at the derailleur… You can’t quite place it though and it’s driving you nuts.

First, relax. Nothing clunks on a bike on purpose so you know something’s wrong.  Second, if you’re worried about the shop not being able to recreate the noise on the stand, don’t sweat it – keep riding, it’s bound to get worse.  Joking aside, it’s probably easier to fix than you think. Here are two simple tips for fixing the clunky drivetrain.

First, check that the bolts that hold the chainrings are tight. If not, tighten them up and continue on. When you get home, pull out the bolts (I cheat, one at a time rather than taking everything apart), clean the bolt, grease it and reinstall. Repeat until they’re all cleaned, greased and reinstalled.

You’re not done yet though.

Second, if possible, make sure that the crank arm bolts are tightened. This is a likely culprit. To regrease the bolts, consult your handy-dandy Bike Repair App.

This post assumes, of course, that the problem is not in the pedals or cleats. Pedals, especially cheap ones, can develop annoying clicks and you’ll feel that one with your foot. There are also other major problems that can cause a clunk or a click, a worn out bottom bracket and so on. I don’t cover these on this blog as I don’t bother with these repairs – the bike goes to the shop for the big things. My local shop owner needs the work and I don’t. 😉

One With The Universe… And The Bike

We started out cloudy and in the low 60’s this morning but the forecast had some good things in store for us – abundant sunshine, nice breeze and 80 degrees by 1 pm.

Now I won’t kid you, I can do without the breeze but I can’t complain too much – it was probably 5-10 mph unless it was in the face (in which case it felt like 30). I headed down at a fairly brisk but easy 19 mph, head down just cruising along. Rather than head straight for the running club I opted for the long route around town and was infinitely glad I did… It was just one of those perfect rides where every turn of the pedal was a cause for a smile. That might seem corny but that’s how it was – I just had a fantastic time.

It warmed up quickly and the clouds were a fading memory by the time I pulled into the running club, 18 miles at about 19 mph (including numerous stops – I was closer to 20).

I was thinking about sitting down for some lunch but thought better of it. I grabbed a couple of bottles of water and headed out to see if I could find my running buddies on there route. With the warming temps I figured at least one would need some H2O. Before I even got out of the subdivision my mountain biking buddy Tim came running up and let me know that he’d picked up a brand new (used) Trek mountain bike for my daughter so I headed back with him to check that out first… Another 9 miles, but at a very leisurely 15 mph.

After a fantastic taco lunch (good God can Grateful Jim make some awesome tacos) and even better conversation I packed up and headed out for the ride home. With the 5 mph breeze at my back for five of the first eight miles I figured this would be the leg to push for speed (not exactly a bright idea after a four taco lunch, but whatever). I got through the tailwind section at 20.2 mph, but without stops that would have been 20.5 easy. Then I turned north and tried to put the hammer down. There are some decent hills, more up than down for the first four miles, and I attacked each one two gears higher than prudent. By the time I rolled over 14 miles I had raised my average by a tenth to 20.3 (no stop signs or lights) but was on the verge of leaving my lunch on the road so in the interest of keeping the needed food in my stomach where it belonged I dialed it back to 16 mph and just spun it back, a smile on my face.

45 miles on the day and more than 135 for the week (so far, I still have tomorrow) and I couldn’t be happier. It was the perfect day for a ride and I took advantage of every minute I had. I’ve never had a “bad” day on the bike, but this one was better than most.