Last night was my normal club ride – 30 miles of pure joy. The weather, a cold front having just pushed through a few hours earlier that brought rain followed by immaculately clear skies, couldn’t have been better – with one exception: 20 mph wind gusts.
Normally I’m good to stay with the horses in that group for about 20-25 miles before they kick it into a gear that I simply don’t have. This isn’t bad news of any sort, the guys that I’m talking about are all current or former racers – they’re fast. As well, I’d never judge my fitness by whether or not I could keep up with them, they’re next level and put something into their workouts that I’m simply not willing to give.
On windy days the group is just brutal. One way or another I always find myself in the gutter of an echelon with no protection from the wind. Last night was pretty cool though – right around the eight mile mark I was on the good end of a double echelon so I had protection both in front and from the side and I was cruising gloriously. Then the wheels fell off going around a sharp turn. The group shattered and when it reformed, the only slot left was in sheer misery. It wouldn’t be so bad at 18 or 20 mph, but at 25 with an obnoxious 20 mph cross-headwind it was just too much. I detached and fell off the back to pedal easy for the rest of the ride. That was right at the ten mile mark. For the next two miles I thought about taking a shortcut I learned while riding with my wife and the slower group a few weeks back – it would have turned a 30 mile ride into a 24 mile ride with just a turn of the wheel… Oh it was tempting. The wind was just sucking the life out of me.
Nearing the shortcut turn I thought to my self, “Self, you’re not going to be a punk today. You’re going the full 30, now quit your bitching and get on with it”. And that’s exactly what I did. I could see another rider about a mile up who’d fallen off the back as well so I made it a game to see if I could catch him (he’s a stronger rider than I am, but not by much). I got my butt in gear and was with him in a matter of three or four miles.
Folks, this is the only way I know to get and stay fit. On those days when most mere mortals sit on the couch and even the exceptional one’s would take the easier route home, I choose to go the extra mile (or six in this case). Let me tell you, the traffic on the extra mile is pretty sparse.
All told, with my warm-up, I logged 35 miles yesterday, that last thirty at just a shade under 20 mph average. With the wind that we had yesterday, that’s a big number – fastest I’ve ever ridden in that kind of wind… And I could have taken it easy and felt lousy about a 29 mile ride instead. Pity.
This is what fitness is to me. It’s not about who I can beat or even how fast I can ride… It’s about pushing my mind to accept the work, like it or not, so when I look in the mirror the next morning I can like what’s staring back at me.
That’s right, 4,000 miles on a $30 tire, and I’m not close to done with them yet. If you’re wondering how one gets 4,000 miles out of a bike tire (23mm of course), I rotate them.
So here’s the report:
Perfect. No flats, 4,000+ miles. Not one. I’ve ridden in rain, sleet, a little snow – even on a few dirt roads. Not even fresh chip seal roads could flat these tires. My previous set of tires cost 2-1/2 times more, were lined with Kevlar, and are now sitting in my office… They’re my winter ‘bike trainer’ tires because they flatted too often (every time I rode in the rain).
I’m a light cyclist for my height, at about 160 pounds (currently 164 – vacations, sheesh) and I run my tires right at (or slightly above) the recommended 125 psi and I pump them up before every ride. Also, as I mentioned earlier, I rotate the tires every thousand to fifteen hundred miles and store my bike indoors (not in the garage, in my home or office). Finally, I do wipe my tires if I ride through an area that has fine loose gravel covering the road (an inherently dangerous process). I mention this only to illustrate that I take proper care of my tires to get that kind of mileage out of them. Also, if one were heavier, one would naturally expect that their experience may be different.
Last August I wrote an equally glowing 1,500 mile review of the Espoir Sport tire, this is simply an extension of that post, and my initial 500 mile review. The Espoir Sport has vastly exceeded my expectations – and is the reason that I’m considering a new Specialized bike after I’ve worn out my current bike. If they put as much care into their high-end bikes as they do their reasonably priced tires, I can’t help but win.
I, of course, am not claiming that the tire won’t flat, I am passing along my experience – and that they have not for me. Not once.
I paid full price, minus my club discount, for the tires at my LBS. this review is unsolicited.
UPDATE: I bought a new Specialized Venge that came with Specialized Turbo Elite tires… I did suffer one flat – I hit a rock that was hidden by a leaf. No damage to the tire. Otherwise, they performed excellently as well and they are much more suited to hard cornering. An excellent tire and fantastic value.
An index adjustment on my (or my wife’s) rear derailleur used to be a cause for concern and consternation…and about an hour’s time to mess it up, then get it back into working order. Of course, that’s only if it didn’t take two (!): One to mess it up and realize it’s beyond my ability to fix, then another one to take it to the shop to have my mistakes corrected before I attempted to throw the bike like a frisbee.
Today, it’s a one minute adjustment (or a ten minute process if I’m replacing the cable altogether). In other words it’s not such a big deal. This post should make something that the cycling noob will fear, simple.
First, if your bike isn’t shifting quite right, we start with the barrel adjuster. When you shift, if it’s an “index” problem, you’ll notice that your bike is tough to shift either up or down the cassette (up refers to an easier gear, down to a harder one). Cables stretch amongst other things, so your bike will require some adjusting from time to time.
Now, without turning this into rocket science with bikes, you turn the barrel adjuster on the rear derailleur 1/8 to 1/4 turn in the direction that the derailleur is sticking. So, if your derailleur won’t shift up the cassette to an easier gear, turn the barrel adjuster counterclockwise – or in that direction… Then check to see how it worked by shifting through the gears. Still sticking? Try another 1/8 of a turn. Still? Try another 1/8 – if that doesn’t get it, you’ll have to go through an entire index adjustment. Conversely, if your bike won’t shift down, you turn the barrel adjuster in the direction it’s sticking, or clockwise. Just remember, turn the adjuster in the direction it won’t shift.
That’s as tough as it is, so don’t sweat it next time your bike is shifting a little rough. Pay attention to which way the chain won’t go, then give the barrel adjuster a turn in that direction. As long as there isn’t another problem causing the sluggish shifting (sweat corroded cable, cable sticking in the cable housing, etc), you’ll be right as rain.
For the full index adjustment, I’ve covered that once before. It’s really not very difficult.
One final thing to remember… Don’t mess with the set screws! Unless you’ve recently installed a new cassette (or crank/chain ring for the front derailleur) the chances that the set screws are off are somewhere between slim and none.
Riding in the mountains of Tiger, Georgia with my wife yesterday…
A bit of history first: I fell in love with cycling in the mountains the very first time I tried it – within a mile I knew I was doing something vastly more enjoyable than flatland cycling, which I already loved. Once I actually figured out how to climb a mountain road, well it was all over but the shouting at that point.
For the longest time I just accepted this love for riding in the mountains without bothering to “put a face on it” or attempting to figure it out in other words. It’s not that I didn’t care about the exact reason or the ‘why’ of it, the way I saw it, some things are better left undefined. The mystery became part of the fun of it. After all, what kind of nut likes the climbing a mountain on a bike? I’m one of those nuts, go figure.
So back to today and I’m on a nice leisurely ride with my wife, hitting switchbacks just a little too fast for comfort but not so fast as to be all that dangerous, whipping my bike back and forth negotiating the downhill turns. I thought about my last two solo rides bombing down the bigger mountain passes, then climbing our mountain road the first three days of our trip down here. I thought about how little protection there is, a tiny saddle with a couple of millimeters of padding to keep my butt where it belongs, my pedals that act as a pseudo seatbelt. And then the 23 millimeter tires between my bike and the road…
I thought about my goal for tomorrow – it’s a huge goal but not for length, I’ve ridden 83 times farther at one time than I will tomorrow. 83 times! But when I roll passed the finish tomorrow, I’ll be just as happy as if I’d ridden 125 miles. One mountain climb. 1.5 miles total, 1.2 miles of climbing, at an average grade of 18%.
The full picture took a minute to develop… Riding in the mountains is – let’s see… The ride is as long as I want to make it. There are no lines (there never are at the start of the extra mile) and no waits. There’s no overpriced food at every corner, no cheap commercial kiddie crap to be bought… There’s just me and the road. The only thing between me and utter exhilaration is my desire to turn that crank one more time. The only thing between sheer satisfaction and sitting on the couch with my thumb up my butt is to strap on a pair of shoes, snap on a helmet and pumping up a couple of tires…
Cycling in the mountains is like riding my own, personal roller coaster.
I set out this morning knowing that this was my last shot to climb the mountain pass to the house we’ve vacationed at for the last two years.
Last year I could only make it a quarter of a mile up the pass that, excluding to flat sections, averages 18% for somewhere between 1.1 and 1.2 miles. To put it mildly, it’s a bear to climb but I love a good challenge.
This year I managed about 1.1 miles of the 1.5 mile climb on one occasion and eight tenths the other two. Today was my last day in Georgia and my last shot. I skipped my morning sixteen miles so I’d have the best chance at making it to the top.
Mrs. Bgddy drove behind to offer support and snap a few photos to document the event:
I started out brilliantly, keeping my pace steady to keep my breathing steady and I was still in good shape at the one mile mark. It went downhill from there. I gave it everything I had and then a little bit more and I still came up a few hundred meters short. Fear got me. I was 150 meters into the last segment and I was starting to hyperventilate. The trick is, there’s no break in that last 400-500 meters. From where I was in that last photo, there’s nothing but up, 20-25%. My legs were already starting to shake and feel a bit gooey, my breathing was spiked and I was hurting bad… So I called it good. I had nothing left:
Pulling into the driveway I would be a liar to write that I was completely satisfied with my result, but I was and still am satisfied with my effort. I’ve never worked so hard to attain a fitness goal. I’ve never pushed myself that far… But it was still just a little short. Oh well, it’s all good. I sure had a blast trying this year and I still did about five times better than last year.
Running To Her Dreams bestowed upon me The Best Moment Award. This one comes with a simple set of rules but is heavy on the social implications…
“Awarding the people who live in the moment,
the noble who write and capture the best in life,
the bold who reminded us what really mattered –
Savoring the experience of quality time”
The only requirement that I could find (these awards vary) is to post a victory/acceptance speech of some sort (though I’ll nominate a few others later on in the post). Unfortunately, ex-drunks don’t do victory speeches for we are the lucky lot who understand that ultimately, victory is only achieved when one is fertilizing grass – on the wrong side… It can seem sad, if you choose to look at it like that – after all, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to say “I’ve made it”? Well, yes and no, but I don’t think I’m going to get into the philosophical meanderings today… I’m on vacation and I’m going to be busy having a whole entire day of best moments in about fifteen minutes starting with a bike ride, then the entire day on the lake and then a nice dinner out and an evening of cards.
I will, however, pen a quick acceptance speech. I accept the Best Moment award on behalf of ex-drunks everywhere who enjoy their new lives one day at a time. I am not special. I just don’t want to live in hell any more – and when a person can honestly recall what hell looks like, finding a Best Moment on an otherwise dull day is usually quite easy.
My special nominees:
The Springfield Cyclist, Tracy Wilkins
Aaron at Steep Climbs
Simone at meltdowntoironman
and Kevin at Cycling in NY
I may do an expanded list in the near future – there are quite a few more who inspire me, but I’ve gotta get rolling folks.
Today’s ride was all about speed. Top speed down hill, max speed climbing…
I took it pretty easy yesterday, in terms of pushing myself, and when I set out today I had every intention of doing the same but somewhere in the first mile something clicked and I decided to tear it up for the first twelve miles – absolutely as fast as I could manage. With all of the climbing, wet roads and switchbacks my normal 20 mph average is impossible (or idiotic, take your pick) but I did manage 17.5 over that twelve miles… Considering the fact that I’ve been between 12 & 14 with Mrs. Bgddy and 15 alone, a jump of 2-1/2 mph had me quite happy.
For the final four miles of the day I hit the main road that starts almost at the top of a nice hill. A short two minute climb to the top before I turn around and shoot down at just under 45 mph (44.5 today) before another short climb, a descent (38 mph), another climb and then the last decent down to the marina (33 mph). At the bottom, I turn around and head back to round out a nice 16 miles.
Generally speaking I’d have liked to have gone on a long ride or two but to be honest, we’ve spent so much time on the lake, swimming, tubing and generally horsing around that I’ve had no desire to wear myself out. After all, I love riding but I’m not missing flying through the air on a tube behind a boat for the nap required after a fifty miler in the mountains:
To round the week out I’m going on an easy ride tomorrow and then for Saturday I’ve just got 1.5 miles on the agenda – straight up our mountain.
I so needed this.