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Monthly Archives: August 2013

What Fit Looks Like: Part 803!

803 miles in August! A new personal best for one month by 119 miles!

So what does 803 miles a month look like?


This isn’t all that big a deal. I’m tame compared to some of the guys I ride with, though considering the other important things in my life, this is pure awesome!

Some notes on my new Venge Comp now that I have some miles decent miles on it:

Specialized hit a home run on the balance between stiffness for power transfer (when I step on the pedals, the thing flat-out goes!) and suppleness for a very smooth ride. IMAO the rumors that the Comp is not a century bike are over exaggerated.

The Venge, and this is unmistakeable, allows me to ride faster than my 5200. It’s not a lot, less than a half mile an hour, but I’m holding a 19.5 mile average – into a 10 mph headwind for the last 18 (solo) on a 46 mile ride on open roads – and I still had enough in the tank to go for a ride with the wife and kids on the fat tire bikes. Dude, that’s superhuman for me looking at it in proper context.

The Venge Comp is quite. Many of the internally routed cable bikes receive complaints of creaks and groans. Not this one, and I’m not the only one to say so. It’s a very solid ride.

Finally, as far as I’m concerned that’s the sexiest damn bike on the market for less than five grand. Period. The red and clear coated composite is absolutely beautiful and screams “that’s right baby, I’m f*ckin’ fast”.

I could not possibly be happier with that bike.


WordPress Family Award… And A Mea Culpa

It’s three o’clock in the morning (unless you’re Hillary Clinton playing Redundant Woman on Word Girl, in which case it’s thee am in the morning) and I’m sitting up perusing Nashbar for a deal on some new cycling sunglasses because my favorite pair evah just broke and I remembered that Sandra over at A Promise To Dad gave me an Award two weeks ago and I failed to mention it here.

So Sandra, my friend, thank you so much for the award, please forgive my dopiness (there has been a lot going on around here lately).

Being a part of the family is what it’s really all about.


So, my WordPress family members, aside from Sandra, are (in no particular order):

Aaron at Steep Climbs, Elisariva, Chatter Gets Fit, Christopher Yardin at Something for Pok, Bike War, fizzhog, fatguy2triguyIowatribobCycling Dayton and bikevcar.

There are others too, but I’ve gotta keep this reasonable!

So, Sandra, thank you for the award sister.  It is greatly appreciated and I’ll put it on the mantel.


Cycling Perfection – A Little Pain, Lots of Gain.

I’m going to come close to 800 miles for the month, a personal best for me by more than 100 miles. It’s a big deal for me not only because of the number of miles but because of the average speed at which those miles were ridden – just under a 20 mph average! The problem is that I’m tired. Even with taking off a day – or even two a week, I peaked about a week ago and I’m having a tough time keeping that pace up.

Last night I did an easy 17 miles at 18.5 mph… On the Venge it’s so easy to keep the speed up, it felt like a 17 mph effort. It was near 86 degrees and I while I did break a sweat, I wasn’t dripping. It was just a nice ride evening ride and I needed that one bad.

Cycling never ceases to amaze me. I am unabashedly grateful that I picked the sport up and enjoy it so much. No matter how chaotic life gets, an hour on the bike and a decent talk with God and I’m good. I can be in a pretty dark place in my head and by the fifteenth mile I’m all but squared away again.

So I’ve got three hours this morning and I only need 49 miles to make 800. More than enough time and 49 miles is no hill for a mountain climber.

Using A GPS Cycling Tracker For Good…

Just a few posts ago I wrote that I haven’t been relying on my Endomondo tracking app as much as I did in my first two seasons of cycling for motivation.  I did add however, that I still use it for a few things such as keeping track of weekly, monthly and yearly mileage, daily and weekly calorie burn and so on…  I find it helpful to know that last week I had to replace about 9,000 extra calories while the week before, it was closer to 12,000.

A new opportunity presented itself after my ride on Wednesday.  I’ve been taking Monday’s off for months but we also got rained out for the club ride on Tuesday so I ended up with two days off in a row.  Generally speaking this is a good thing so I expected to tear it up when I went out on Wednesday.  I pushed really hard, especially into the wind which was fairly considerable on the way out.  I had about four miles with a crosswind that sucked but I thought I did pretty good through that as well.  Then, four out of the last five miles I had the 10-15 mph wind at my back and had my new Venge up to 28 mph, pedaling quite easy.

Even though I hit about every stop light and had to stop at most of the stop signs I was expecting somewhere between a 20 and 21 mph average – I was shocked to see a 19.1 as the average when I shut Endomondo down.  So, the thinking went like this:  “Okay, I know I put in a 21 mph effort and ended up with a 19 mph result (even considering the wind, I kicked some ass).  Either I got SNAFU’d by the lights and stop signs or the setup on my bike is wrong and I’m working hard but inefficiently (a product of a poor setup).

So Wednesday morning I packed my tools and my bike in the car so I could check my setup in my office (fortunately I know all the tricks and can self-perform any adjustments).

Lo and behold, when I could finally look at the ride data Thursday morning I found that it was indeed the stops (and Endomondo’s slow auto-pause) that was the problem, not my effort or set-up.  With the crosswind I averaged between 22 & 23 mph.  Into the wind I was steady at about 20 and with the wind at my back I was anywhere from 24 to 28 mph.  For me, that’s a damned good effort, just a little shy on results because of a bunch of unavoidable stops.

I still checked the setup anyway just because my initial setup was based on the measurements from my 5200 and I initially made sure the saddle height was right by bracing myself in a doorway to pedal backwards with my heels…  The right way to do it is on a trainer where you can warm up for a second and find that sweet spot with your butt – that’s where you want to measure from.  Well, I checked the fore/aft position of the saddle with a plumb bob (just under the knee cap and the bob should end up over your foot, right smack dab in the middle of the pedal spindle), then the saddle height just to make sure…  My feeling well fitted on the bike over the last couple of rides was confirmed – I can’t get it any closer to perfect.   😀

Without Endomodo, because I have an inferiority complex at times, I’d have been pulling my hair out trying to understand what the hell was going on – when there was nothing going on.

Cycling is Not Expensive! Well…

I stumbled on a search query a few days ago that led someone to my site that bummed me out a bit:

“Cycling is expensive”

There is no doubt that cycling can be expensive; some avid cyclists can drop $10,000-$20,000 on one bike, let alone all of the necessary equipment that goes with it. Helmet, shorts, jerseys, shoes, pedals, socks, gloves, glasses and maintenance equipment. Then you still have to worry about a rainy day bike and cold weather clothing!

For most of us though, cycling is just a touch more attainable and unless you’re planning on going pro, it’s more about the engine than the bike anyway. Until today I had a fourteen year-old carbon Trek 5200 that I bought used for less than a decent entry-level bike and it was good enough that I could ride with just about anyone. A couple of pairs of cheap cycling shorts for short rides and a nice pair for long rides, a helmet and a couple of jerseys that I bought on sale and I was good. The rest of the stuff; a floor pump, shoes and pedals, I picked up as I could afford them. For a time I even used my mountain bike shoes and pedals on my road bike. At the time it was what I could afford (and I never got any gruff about it from the people I ride with).

Mountain biking is even more possible on a slim budget. The high-end mountain bikes are just as expensive but the entry-level high-end bikes are truly affordable. The helmets, shoes and pedals are far more reasonable as well. Though you may have to shill for a State Park pass (I buy mine with my vehicle registration), it’s completely worth it. Also, with the right saddle, compression shorts under my cargo shorts replace the need for cycling shorts except on long rides.

The main point here is that while cycling can be expensive, the outlandish cost has never been a requirement so much as a desire and should never be an excuse to stay away. If anything, it’s been my experience that those who have the legs to keep up with the advanced folks on entry level equipment get more respect than those with high-end stuff. In fact, that I had a used bike with $30 cycling shorts, mountain biking shoes and pedals and a cheaper helmet never came up at the advanced club ride that I frequent. Not once. What did come up, on a regular basis, was how well I made use of that equipment.

So, if you want to get into cycling but are put off by the thought of endless thousands going out the door on a bike, fear not, it’s not that bad.

Endomondo Challenges – August 2013

We should all be familiar with Strava and their challenges, enough has been said and written about them. Endomondo, my sports tracker of choice, has challenges as well, but Endo comes at it from more of an overall mileage or calories burned perspective.

Last year and the year before I spent a lot more time tracking them and even took first place in Michigan for October, but this year I’ve had my sights on other things. That said, I decided to check in to see where I stood…

Here’s how I’m stacking up this year:

National Bike Challenge, Michigan: 10th Place out of 200 (Top 5%)

National Bike Challenge, USA: 446th out of 13,580 (Top 3%)

Just Pedal and Win: 526th out of 236,698 (Top 0.002%)

Crank It Up Fit Challenge: 86th of 29,324 (Top 0.003%)

I’ve always tried to stay in the top ten percent, figuring if I’m there, amongst those of us who are nutty enough to actually track our workouts regularly, I’m doing pretty good. Last season, and especially the season before (the first year I started tracking), I relied heavily on Endomondo challenges for motivation to get out and ride when I’d rather have taken a day off – not that I really wanted to, but because I kept listening to all of the advisors tell me that I needed to take more time off.

This season though, cycling has taken a much more sustainable position in my daily life. I don’t get out to set records or personal bests (though I sure do enjoy them when they happen) so much anymore. It’s more about just being out on the open road, either alone or much more with all of the friends I’ve met at the Tuesday night club ride. It was Mike from the Tuesday night gang who invited me to be a lead bike for the Crim. Matt invited me to ride with their invite only group and Phil who I’ve ridden with countless times over the last two seasons, and Mike McD. who I warm up with every Tuesday night and Carla, her husband and kids that my wife and I and our kids ride with on the odd Friday to get an ice cream cone… These friendships have replaced the Endomondo Ether Awards. I no longer need that kind of motivation to ride my bike or to seek improvement though I do still track my workouts.

I suppose at some level I still enjoy looking at what I’ve done. Whether from a big-picture view such as overall miles or calories burned for a week, month or year or from a smaller perspective such as how fast I was able to climb a hill I ride regularly.

The difference this year is that my iPhone sits in a back pocket in my jersey with the sound turned down more often than on its stem mount on my bike. I used to listen for the mile times to gage my overall speed and track exertion. Today I’m more comfortable in my ability to discern what is pushing and what is taking it easy without the tracking software.

This has been my own experience and while I don’t rely on Endomondo as much as I used to, the GPS tracking programs can be fun tools to stay motivated to put the miles in day after day. At the same time, while Endo does still play a part in my fitness, I’ve fully embraced the rewarding social aspect of cycling. Whatever it takes.

An Important Key to Continuous Sobriety

I heard a story the other day, from a friend, about how he’d been let go by a therapist.  Now it takes a lot to get booted by a therapist but it’s not always that big a deal.  Trying to help someone recover from drug or alcohol addiction comes with an investment on the part of the therapist, counselor or even more so by a sponsor or mentor (in certain circles).  I think I may have fired one person I was mentoring in the last 18 years and I’ve heard of it happening dozens of times.  Also, with one guy I had to decline help after several attempts over years availed nothing – for him it came down to this (and this is exactly how I explained it):  Every nut has a wrench and I’m simply not your wrench.  He found someone else and remains sober to this day.  Lesser people would be upset by this.  The thinking would be that I wasn’t good enough to help this guy out but they were, there must be something wrong with me.  That’s silly but thinking often goes that way.  I simply wasn’t the right fit.  It happens, and I’m thankful every time I see him that he found what he needs.

On the other hand, to be fired by a professional, now that’s something.  I’ve been to a lot of counselors and therapists in my day and I’ve paid attention.  When I take steps to work on myself and fix the problems that I create, things go well.  On the other hand, if I look for excuses, if I place blame outside of myself to justify how I “feel” or act, I’m cooked.  This is the only reason I know of that a therapist, counselor or shrink would give up on a patient – the patient simply won’t do the work necessary to fix the problem (and my problem is always me, by the way).

In the circles I run we call this “remaining teachable” and remaining teachable has all to do with the ego.  Some may assume that because I’ve been sober for more than twenty years that I know what I’m doing and therefore can simply rely on past knowledge to continue living a happy and enjoyable, sober life.  That is most definitely not the case.  I must fight, sometimes on a regular basis, the urge to rest on my laurels and become complacent.  Complacency breeds relapse.  If I had a buck for every time I heard, “I figured I had it under control so I stopped doing the work – before I knew it I was drunk” (or some variation of that), I’d be retired in a nice little home on the ocean in Palm Beach.  There is one main chorus that remains a constant, only one:  I am a two-fisted drunk.  When I drink, I’ve got a can in each hand and the case sitting between my legs.  This important truth will not rest, it will not change and it will wait patiently until I let my guard down.  With the opening it was waiting for, with my guard down, it will leap from the shadows and consume me whole, usually before I realize what just happened.  Within a few short weeks I’ll be right back where I left off.  Unemployable, homeless and dying a slow, agonizingly sad death.  Those on the outside will weep for who I once was, those on the inside, those who know me and live with me, will run like hell from the tornado of wreckage I’ll strew about.

To remain teachable means this:  I don’t know every damned thing no matter how long I’ve been sober.  It means I must keep constant vigil over who I am and what I do – hell, call it “staying right with the universe”, so that I can keep my soul bathed in light, relegating that monster to the deepest crevice where only a sliver of shadow remains.  If I refuse to heed this advice I am surely doomed.

Now to change the pace a bit.  In the context above, remaining teachable is easy – it’s that or death.  What about something more mundane?  Let’s say I lead a relatively decent existence but I have to fight with a bit of depression or anger from time to time.  Certainly not wanting to get off the couch for weeks at a time or going off on a tangent won’t kill me like alcoholism surely would!  Therein lies the rub and the glorious nature of being a recovering alcoholic.  To me, all of that shit is a killer.  It all leads to me, drunk in a ditch, dying with a shriveled up liver.  I remain teachable because I know what it’s like to be one step from that gutter.  I can get to a place in my head where flying off the handle in anger will kill me if I don’t fix it, now.  Most people don’t have that luxury so remaining teachable is just some babble or pap on a blog post.  To me, remaining teachable is the key to the Kingdom.

The FSA Pro Compact Crank – the answer to the triple. Kind of.

IMG_3038My new ride presented an interesting opportunity for a fun little foray into “cycling geek mode”, so I decided to take advantage of it.  I have a new type of double on my Venge.  It’s billed as a “Pro Compact Double” and is somewhere between the compact and standard double.  There are several types of standard doubles:  52/42 is the racing double, 52 (or 53)/39 is another.  The compact double is typically 50/34 which is fantastic for climbing, especially with the 11-28 cassettes, but it leaves a little to be desired for top end speed.

My new Pro double, however, gets the best of both worlds at 52/36 – and it shifts excellently, no hang-ups or slow shifts which I thought would present a problem with such a large jump (from the 36 tooth chain ring to the 52).  The extra two teeth don’t really hurt the climbing gears either.

I went over to Sheldon Brown’s gear ratio calculator and entered in my chain rings and cassette sprockets and this is what it spit back out:

52-36 ratiosThe numbers corresponding with the chain rings (at the top) and the gears (to the left) are speeds at a 90 cadence.  Now I compared the Venge to the Ultegra triple (52/42/30) on my 5200:

52-42-30 I’m gaining 2.8 mph of top-end speed and only losing six tenths on the low-end…  What’s really interesting though is all of the overlap in gears with the triple!  But, and this is where it gets important, with the triple I can’t access the low two gears in the big ring or the top two gears in the small ring because of severe cross chaining…  Not without wearing out the chain rings.  The end result is a lot of shifting any time I come up on a decent hill just to get into a decent climbing gear.  By contrast, I only lose the 28 tooth sprocket in the big ring and the 11 tooth sprocket in the small ring with the modified double…  In short, with the modified double, I can climb a steeper hill more comfortably without having to touch the front derailleur.  Now that works great in Michigan.  Where this will get tricky is my mountain climbing vacations.  It appears I’ll be getting a little stronger for next year.  Losing four tenths on the low-end may not sound like much – until you’re looking up at a 20% grade.

On the other hand, it is plausible that last gear was a little bit too easy for my main climb (and that would explain why my legs could take the effort but my lungs couldn’t) but I was to chicken to shift up a gear for fear I couldn’t get the crank around at the 25% sections.  It’ll be interesting to test this out next year.

Light Headed and Dizzy After Long Workouts

Never would have guessed it…

Cycle Faster In Ten Minutes, With No Extra Effort – BUT…

I’m playing the odds here…

Cycle faster in ten minutes, with no extra effort… BUT this is going to hurt. Well, it’d take me ten minutes, it may take you a few more…

Now, anyone who rides fast already will tell you flat-out that this is impossible! But it’s not, technically. So, are you ready to go from 16-1/2 mph to 18, maybe even 19 on your road bike? Almost immediately?

Okay, let’s get to it.

First, call your local bike shop and tell them you want a 10 degree stem (or less) to replace that 45 degree mountain bike monstrosity you have on there now. Then pick it up and come back to me (and for the love of God, please get the right one for your bike – they’re are dozens of shapes and sizes)…

… Got it? Okay, now take your old stem off and while you’re at it, three of the spacers too. Drop that shiny new stem on there upside down. Then put the spacers on top of the stem. Then rotate your bars so the top tube of the drops follows the line of the stem… Then, and be careful here, this is tough: Peel back the rubber part of your hood along the outside (up where your hands go). See that 5 mm Allen bolt head? Yeah, loosen that up and gently slide your hood down so the hood runs on the same line as the top drop tube and stem. Be careful because this could mess with the bar tape.

Now go back to the bike shop and buy some new bar tape ’cause you messed it up and while we’re at it, we may as well re-wrap them. When you redo your bar tape, take your time and do so preferably without the need for electrical tape. If you get it right, that’s instant cred points at the local club ride, for what that’s worth. 😉

You’re now about 25-35% more aerodynamic. Pedal for a minute to get used to the hoods, then get down in the drops and pedal your ass off. You’re now a bunch more aerodynamic. It will hurt because you’re not used to it. Now rinse and repeat – an hour or two every week in the drops should do. Now, I’ve always cycled in the traditional aerodynamic fashion but I have had to lower the stem a time or two. I had to get used to the lower drop too, so it is possible, without injury – I’ve done it.

Disclaimer: This post is meant to illicit a laugh, I’m joking, but only kind of. If your saddle is the same height as the bar top, or (God forbid) lower, this just might work! The only question is are you flexible enough?.. Your shop set your bike up the way it did because the consensus is that upright is more comfortable. Depending on girth and flexibility, this may be so, but I’m not very flexible and I have the traditional saddle to bar drop and it’s not uncomfortable at all – of course, I’m also hard headed and I’ll be damned if I’m going to ride a road bike that doesn’t offer at least a little aerodynamic advantage to a hybrid.

Now, if there is a girth issue, referring to your gut, you’ll have to lose that before slamming the stem – so this may take more than ten minutes. Get on with it, and know I have more faith in you than you do. While you’re at it maybe we should try to fix that too, eh?