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Monthly Archives: June 2013

A Noob’s Guide to Cycling Sunglasses – What To Look For (in cheap sunglasses)

I bought a new pair of cycling shades the other day. They weren’t anything special, on the cheap rack at a local Dick’s Sporting Goods (I find this awesomely ironic in many ways – I’ll have to shop there more often, just not for cycling stuff, their selection of “cycling” stuff was laughable). These sunglasses did have a “good for cycling” sticker on the lens and they matched my melon protector perfectly so I decided to buy them.

After my first long ride wearing them, they’re the best cycling glasses I’ve ever worn. 35 miles in 80+ degree heat and not one drop of sweat on the lens in my field of vision (one drop hit far to the left of my left eye). It really didn’t hit me, that I could still see clearly, until about mile 23… Normally I’m looking through sweat streaks by 15 miles but the frame at the bridge of my nose fits so perfectly that it channels the sweat down the nose pad so it never touches the lens. The sweat simply drips onto my upper lip when I’m on the hoods.

More testing (much, much more) will be required, but for now, color me shocked and surprised: These $30 shades are awesome!


Now, here’s the reasoning I used to plunk down the $30 (that’s written as a joke, cycling specific sunglasses run up to $250 a pair). First, they ride higher than normal shades so the top of the frame doesn’t obscure my view while I’m in the drops or on the hoods (very important). They’re a tight wrap-around style – a tight fit ensures less debris will get into my eyes. I once wore my driving shades riding and had dust kicked up by a car… I ended up with grit bouncing around between my eyes and glasses – that’s not cool.

Where I got lucky, was at the bridge of the nose. With this pair of shades the plastic frame fits the bridge of my nose perfectly and channels the sweat from my forehead down the nose pads so that it never gets near the lenses.

From now on, when picking sunglasses for cycling, I’ll be looking for glasses that fit like these (the first “perfect” pair I’ve owned). Being able to see clearly after 35 miles was a wonderful experience.

Same thing again today – 16 miles, pretty easy effort at 18 mph with a tough northeast wind that never really helped but hurt plenty. Plenty of sweating but not a drop on the glasses. It’s not a fluke!

1.  Top of frame does not obscure view while riding with hands on hoods or in drops
2.  Bridge of nose fits
3.  Match shades to the helmet (or bike).  You can choose to look like a mismatched doofus, but c’mon, have a little self-respect.

Please remember, most of the time you will get what you pay for.  A deal like this, in my experience, is quite rare.

A Noob’s Guide: The Safe Way To Single Track Mountain Biking

I am a roadie who loves a good mountain bike ride from time to time. It shakes things up, gives me a bit of the impact that all roadies need, and gets me feeling like a twelve year-old kid again. Now, I’m one of the very few recovering drunks who had a great childhood, so when I say that mountain biking makes me feel like a twelve year-old kid, that’s a good thing… Just wanted to clarify. Also, for clarification, we’re not including crushed gravel flat trail riding as ‘mountain biking’. While you may ride easy bike paths and trails on a mountain bike, that’s cycling.

That said, I’m not a kid anymore. I have responsibilities to my wife and my kids. I have to be able to work to support them so my days of doing certain dangerous things are over, or at the very least, very limited. Mountain biking is a gray area. If you were to ask Travis Pastrana, what I do is about as safe as walking on the sidewalk. Ask my mom and I’m a hair-on-fire daredevil (she is, alas, mistaken). The reality is that I do challenge myself on a mountain bike to an extent – that’s half the fun (or exhilaration) but I don’t do so too far outside of my ability.

For instance, do we all remember the video of the guy riding the mountain pass, he’s going just a bit too slow, locks his wheel, falls and proceeds to tumble a couple hundred feet down the mountain? Yeah, that won’t be me, ever. On the other hand I’m not about to sit on my couch in a bubble wrap onesie either.

Finding a fair balance is the trick here – how far can I push the limit without risking the old noodle? The bar will raise with experience but at the forefront is my responsibility to come home safe.

Beyond that, I’ve picked up a few things over the last couple of years that have greatly improved my safety on the single track so I can still have fun while reasonably expecting to come home in a non-vegetative state.

First and foremost: Safety glasses and melon protector. In Michigan, many of the single track trails run through the woods. I’m smacked in the face at least a half-dozen by branches and/or leaves. Because we’re in the forest and it is darker, clear glasses are preferred. As for the melon cover or brain bucket, we need not even bother addressing this. I believe that society has gotten to a point that you’re looked at as a dope if you’re not wearing one on the road, let alone on a trail where falling from the bike is much more frequent

Second, and this I got from my buddy Tim, don’t second guess unclipping. I ride with clip-less pedals. In my opinion they’re vastly safer. I won’t get on a bike without my shoes and pedals anymore. On the other hand, if I lose balance, getting my foot to the ground does take a split second longer. The trick is to aim for the ground with your heel – or lead with your heel as you push your leg out and down… This automatically unclips your foot. The rest isn’t rocket science. If you see a situation pop up that might require unclipping, do it.

Third, is about speed. There’s a difference between pushing yourself and being stupid and winding up drooling uncontrollably on yourself for the next twenty years. Last week a guy I met at a local trail tried to push it too hard and wound up sitting in a swamp with a gash across his forearm. He hit a bridge at full speed, slid off and wham! He was ass deep in muck before he knew it. Fast is good. Stupid? Not so much. Another simple tip is be weary of wooden bridges in a moist forest setting. They are slow to dry after a rain and exceptionally slick.

Fourth, and to thoroughly confuse you, speed is your friend. Fast is good. Too fast is not (See previous).

Fourth and a Half, Laura added a great one in the comments section that my fourth point is an extension of: “TRUST YOUR BIKE. It wants to stay upright. Find your line, point your bike in the direction you want to go, ride loose, and roll with the terrain. It will be faster and more fun but you can stay in control”.

Fifth, and this goes back to the pedals too, in a way. Anticipate getting stuck and having to unclip – at least until you’re good enough to pick the right line. I still get myself stuck in a bad line from time to time so the ability to unclip quick helps.

Sixth, watch descents when roots and rocks. While these descents are safer with your feet locked into the pedals, downhills (at least around here) are often followed by a quick change in direction at the bottom. Keeping the bike under control is an imperative.

Finally, know clearance, watch for roots and rocks that stick up higher than your chain ring and try to time your pedal stroke to keep from bottoming your foot out on an obstacle. You’ll stop and go down almost in an instant.

These are strategies that I use every time I go out mountain biking. Some were put together after I fell a time or two. Others came from close calls. That aside, the few times I have gone down since my first time on an actual trail were under relatively sane conditions and posed little danger (though strange things do happen). The first time I rode though, I didn’t know what I was doing – one of the two times I went down was to avoid riding off of a 20′ drop off. I was riding a little too fast and didn’t know how to make the turn. After that I learned to cool my jets unless I could see far enough ahead to know my exposure.

Playing in the dirt, as we call it, is an absolute blast – especially if it is done in a manner that is safe as reasonably possible.

Happy riding.

Don’t Let Your Head Win!

The same obviously can apply to cycling. 😉



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A Perfect Night For An Excellent Ride…

I started the evening with a warble in my wheel that had to be tended to. I have the original Rolf Vectors on my 5200 and they are absolutely fantastic… A quarter turn on one spoke and an eighth of a turn on the next and I was true’d up. When I packed up the bike at 5 it was still quite warm and sunny but the clouds were building. By the time we were warming up it was overcast and almost looking like rain. The radar, on the other hand showed all clear so we got to it.

The first mile and a half were almost agonizingly slow – 16.8-17.2 to let the stragglers catch up. At the 1.5 mile mark we shot up to 23 mph darn near instantly, where we stayed for almost 21 miles. At that point the group shattered as the big dogs hammered up a few tough hills. I worked my way to the back and latched off for a shortcut with another guy. We cruised back easy (19-22 mph) just enjoying the last eight miles – enjoying the sun (which had broken through and prevailed), the complete lack of wind and the warmth of the evening. It simply doesn’t get much better than that.

29.2 miles in 1hr:2min: 21.1 mph. An easy eight miles and it’s still better than last year’s best.

Last night was one of those nights that made me feel so incredibly good about cycling – it was one of those perfect nights. I needed that one.

Balance: Some Days Are Made To Skip A Workout

I arrived at the abode around 4 yesterday afternoon. It had been raining steadily since I left a job site just north of Detroit. Then, 15 miles from home the rain stopped and the clouds began to part. The roads, a couple of miles from my exit, were dry – and it was warm. Perfect!

As I exited the expressway I was geared up for a nice easy 16 mile left hook lollipop. My daughter was waiting in the driveway for me with her mitt. “Daddy, tomorrow is my first game, we need to practice”. So much for that bike ride. I’m the third base coach for my younger daughter’s team and she had practice at 6:30 so practicing with the elder meant there was no chance to get out and still cook and eat dinner.

This is the difference between last year and this year. Last year I was riding and we’d practice later (if at all). I know this is the right way to be, but I still – I wanted that ride, even if it was just an easy one.

After dinner we loaded up and headed over to the field where we found out at the last minute that practice had been cancelled. The weather, however, was perfect if a little cloudy so my wife and the girls had practice anyway. First was fly balls then grounders. We wrapped up with some base running… Then off to get some ice cream.

In the end I got to do some sprints with the girls and had a grand old time (the ice cream didn’t hurt either). Some workouts are worth skipping.


I saw a funny newspaper headline the other day… Something to the effect of: Michigan loses $430 million in revenue because of online sales.

I had a hearty chuckle. Here’s the other way to write that headline:

Michigan consumers are so tired of getting soaked every time they turn around, be it the gas tax, income tax, sales tax or property tax (we get hammered with all of them – and we’re not even talking about Federal taxes) that they’re turning to the internet to save a measly six percent.

Don’t ever think that the papers aren’t ass deep in the politics business. Only a political hack would write that Michigan is losing money.

Cycling Faster – Getting Stronger – Working Harder and Smarter

I started this season in a bit of a panic, followed by acceptance that I would be slower. What followed that was unexpected to say the least. Being only my second year cycling and at 42 years-old, when I started out slower this spring than last fall – after training doubly hard through the winter, I thought I peaked last season, that last year was a fluke of epic proportions and that I rode faster than I ever would again.

At the end of last season my easy recovery ride pace (solo) was between 18.5 and 19 mph. This spring I was struggling just to hit 19 with a hard effort. It doesn’t help that my miles are down over last year because the weather was horrendous and I was spending more time riding with my family – infinitely more enjoyable but nowhere near as “productive” – at least for me.

The only major thing I changed early this spring was how I looked at hills. In southeastern Michigan, we don’t have many, but what we do have I started climbing in a higher (harder) gear than what I cruise in on the flats. Other than that I tried to be patient and just enjoy riding. My wife and I spend a week every summer in the mountains of North Carolina, Tennessee or Georgia and we started riding down there last summer – that was probably the most fun I’ve had on two wheels so I wanted, at the very least, to be in better shape for that this year than last. Even if I wasn’t as fast.  At the beginning of May I started showing sparks of brilliance.  By the middle of May my speed was coming back and I was noticeably stronger. In the last two weeks, my season turned around. I’m back – and better than before.

The real question, at this point, is do I bother to try to sort out why.  I’m staying with the fast guys a lot longer than I ever could last year on club ride Tuesday, but some of that is strategy – I know how to hide a little better towards the end of the ride and, humorously enough, I don’t get beat up on the hills anymore either though.  Now on that same 33 mile ride, I’m averaging more than a mile an hour faster than last year’s best – 20.6 mph.

To be truthful, I don’t know if I really care that much.  I was quite content where I was last month, so I can simply just be happy with where I’m at.  I realize that this is something akin to sacrilege in the sporting community – if we’re getting faster than why not keep pushing to see just how fast we can get?  I will to some extent, I suppose, continue doing what I’m doing but the truth is, once I get to a point where I can keep up with my Tuesday group, and maybe even inflict a little punishment of my own, I’m calling it good.

Right now I’m in a bit of a perfect zone – I have relative balance between family, work and exercise that I just don’t want to change.  I’m faster and stronger, I’ve been eating like a cow over the last two weeks and I lost two tenths of a pound, and my wife is, for the most part, happy.

I’d have to be an idiot to mess with that.

Another Awesome Day In The Dirt

After 45 miles on Saturday, I was having a tough time figuring out what I wanted to do today. I could go long again, only at an easier pace, or I could hang out with my buddy Tim and play in the dirt – or both.

I opted just for mountain biking out at Holdridge, followed by some softball practice with the girls. Tim and I got our signals crossed so I ended up doing the easy 2 mile North Loop twice waiting for him to show up. When he finally got there we got right to it. I was happily surprised to keep up well with him (though I believe he takes it easy so I can). That said, I felt quite good considering yesterday’s ride and turned in a personal best for that loop.

I don’t know what the deal is but I’ve really been having fun on the mountain bike lately. Call it a great change of pace I guess. I do have a tough time justifying the fact that, once drive time is taken into account, I can ride 35 miles on the road bike to just ten or fifteen on the mountain bike. Still, mountain biking is a ton of fun and it’s a heck of a workout.

On getting home, the girls and worked on batting in the front yard for a bit before dinner. After that it was Harry Potter on DVD, then Transformers on TV. Then bed time.

It promises to be a crazy week. At least I did what I could for my sanity this weekend.

Cycling Safety – Here’s a new one…

I was almost run into on my usual Saturday ride… Don’t know what it is with Chevy Cobalt drivers lately but they’ve really got it in for me…

Must be a Government Motors thing – somebody read some of my posts and they’re sending Chevy Cobalts after me instead of the IRS! (This is a joke. Sarcasm. Of course you know what they say about sarcasm).

All joking aside, I damn near got T-boned – and I have a small bit of the blame in this little dealio, so please allow me to share the experience with you.

I was about 14 miles into my 45 mile day, heading south out of downtown Fenton. I was preparing to make a right turn from the right turn lane. I was in the middle of the lane and had a clear lane to the turn. The cars waiting to go straight through the light were stopped for a red. There was a truck coming up behind me so I turned around to make sure he saw me (he did). When I turned back I noticed a hole in the thru lane traffic, and the red Chevy trying to make a left from the northbound lane into a strip mall parking lot through that hole. She almost squeaked the tires and stopped within three feet of me. Parts of me would have ended up as a hood ornament had she not hit the brakes. It happened so fast I didn’t even have time to tense up.

So here’s where I screwed up – and this matters because even though an accident would have clearly been her fault, the bike rider is always the loser in a crash, so culpability means nothing if I end up in a bag with a toe-tag… First, when I saw the truck coming in my Roadie mirror, I looked back – and I looked back over my right shoulder – away from traffic – that’s number one. I was trying to keep tabs on the traffic around me but I should have looked over my left and scanned the thru lane stopped traffic as I did. Second, and most importantly, I didn’t see the hole or the red Chevy making the left through it before I turned around to check my six. I should have seen the hole and the Chevy waiting to make the left. Now this gets tricky because had I seen that unfolding and stopped, I’d have ended up with a permanent Dodge Ram grille imprint on my ass.

Ultimately, I put myself in a very bad no-win situation and I didn’t even see it coming. That’s where I messed up. If that had turned out just a little differently I’d have been a grease spot and a cop would be using a couple of 2-liters of Coke to get my blood off of the pavement.

I choose to see this as God looking out for me in a second of stupidity. I followed the letter of the law and was riding my bike legally and responsibly – except for that perfect storm of a situation. I will certainly remember this.

Now, here’s how I should have handled this: I should have swept left with my vision to check behind me – I’d have seen the hole in the stopped traffic and the left turning Chevy. Then I could have signaled a slow-down to the truck behind me and let her complete the left. This isn’t exactly the best idea either, call it the lesser of two evils, but often that’s what road safety boils down to on a bike.

In this situation, the best way to have avoided a potential accident would have been to see it coming – or more to the point, to read the situation as if I were driving my truck instead of a bike… Had I been in my truck, I’d have had different priorities. I’d have kept a passive eye on the truck behind me with my mirror. My priority would have been to the traffic waiting to go through the light and I’d have seen that one coming.

UPDATE: Cycling Dayton brought up a great point, in a different way than I’d written… As road cyclists we are required to be hyper-vigilant about our surroundings. We’re doubly responsible for our safety because we have no protection from mistakes – we’re exposed and vulnerable. I ride with this in mind and at the forefront and I still got myself into an ugly situation.

Star Trek and A Perfect Saturday Ride…

Mrs. Bgddy and I went out for a fantastic dinner and a movie last night with our best friends (who just happen to be married as well). For the movie we saw the new Star Trek movie (Into Darkness). The standard version only showed at 10pm so we opted for the Imax 3-D version. Without giving anything in the movie away, it was simply amazing – one of my top five favorite movie going experiences ever. If you get the chance, it’s worth every penny, and we’ll be buying the DVD as soon as it comes out. My wife and I are in complete agreement that one of the coolest things about the new series is that they stuck so well to the old Star Trek movies (from when we were kids) and that the stories, acting and visual effects are absolutely top shelf.

With the movie review out of the way, the morning ride went like this:

I left this morning with my sights on 35 miles. With a bit of inspiration from yesterday’s post on HTFU, I was on the pedals early. It was cool, low 60’s, but sunny, no wind and I was on two day’s rest and a 14 mile easy ride with my wife yesterday – add some seriously hectic news at work… In other words, I was in the middle of the perfect storm of good reasons to inflict some suffering on myself. Anything above a 19 mph average for the solo effort would do.

I started out easy for the warmup – 18.5 for the first mile – and got to it. By the time I hit the city of Fenton I was averaging 19.3 average and was feeling quite good. I was attacking every hill as if it were a red-headed step-child in the 1950’s. I lost a bit downtown because of traffic (six tenths) and a faulty auto-pause. After I got through town I had about four miles to the running club and got the average back up to 19 -18 miles down. I hung out with my friends for a bit and had a cup of coffee and through back a bottle of H2O for good measure. After a half an hour, I headed back out, determined to raise that average a bit.

I tuned out my Endomondo chick from the the start, just concentrating in motoring. I rode hard and at 15 miles in, I opted to extend my ride. Rather than turn, heading for home, I stayed on the road I was on – it was going to be better than 40 miles today. I was feeling winded but quite good and had absolutely no idea where I was at, average wise.

As I approached the next town, part of my normal 16 mile route, i checked my average – 19.7 mph. As is usual, I lost a few tenths at stop lights in town and by the time I rolled over 40 miles I was back up to 19.5 but I was hungry so I pulled up, shut Endo down and reached into my back pocket for a Gu Roctane and a bag of Jelly Belly Energy Beans, the only thing I’d eaten since breakfast. With less than three miles to go, I just spun back at a very easy 15… Just enough time to bask in the afterglow of my effort. With 300 yards to go I bumped into my wife and girls, heading out for their ride so I tagged along for another two or three easy miles. 45 miles and a big ole smile.

I enjoy my Sunday rides because the traffic is much better, but my Saturday rides, I love those… They get the last week off of my shoulders and just can’t be beat.

Oh, by the way, I’m thinking of switching to Km’s instead of miles – you’ve gotta admit, 72 km sounds a lot sexier than 45 miles…and 31.7 km/h is way more awesome than 19.7 mph… Just a thought.


What ever happened to the normal looking IMAX shades? Woof.