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Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Best Cycling How To Video I’ve Seen All Year…

The club that I ride with on Tuesday is fast – super fast…at least for amateurs.  I’ve been trying for two years to keep up with the lead pack to no avail, though I’ve come close a few times.

The best way to describe the ride is that it’s an “everybody gets dropped” ride.  They start racing at about the 18 mile mark, attacking up hills, down hills, on the flats…  The ride gets insane in a hurry.  My biggest problem area is a couple of hilly sections that I always have a tough time with.  That section is the bane of my existence.

That said, I saw a video a few weeks that has contributed more to my ability to keep up than any one lesson since I’ve started riding.  Without further ado, enjoy:


ERG All Natural Energy Bars – You’ll Want To Try These

My local bike shop got in a shipment of ERG Natural Energy Bars last week and asked me to try them out.  Rather than take a few for free, I paid for mine so I could review them honestly here.

Normally I stick to three things on long, unsupported rides:  Gu Roctane, Jelly Belly Energy Beans and Clif Bars, but I figured what the heck…  The ERG Bars cost a bit more than I’m used to spending at almost three bucks a piece, but when it comes to on-board nutrition, I’m not one to skimp…  Seven bucks for 100 miles of fuel (between a couple of Gu’s, a bag of Energy Beans and a couple of energy bars) seems pretty reasonable to me, especially seeing as a 100 mile trip in my truck would cost almost $15.

This is from their website:

“ERG! is the alternative to the factory-produced extruded plastic products that are being marketed all  over the world as “energy bars.” Honestly, I started making my own because I just couldn’t eat another ____?____ bar.”

I tried the Lemon/Blueberry bar first and they’re absolutely unbelievable!  None of the nasty aftertaste that come with a lot of the energy bars, no matter how “natural” they claim to be, and they don’t taste like flavorless granola and tree bark.  I ate mine after my Saturday ride 36 mile ride.  I was at the bike shop to pick up a new long sleeve jersey and a pair of cycling shorts and I was quite hungry anyway…  I didn’t want to blow any money on fast food so I figured I’d fire one down to see if it would hold me the three hours until dinner.  Not only did it taste great, it took the hungry edge off.  I only needed eat a banana in addition to make it to dinner…  So I decided to check out the nutrition information and that’s where I got the best news.

My old stand-by favorite energy bar, oatmeal walnut & raisin, contained 240 calories.  Each ERG bar is good for between 370 and 400 calories.  Not necessarily good if you’re on a diet, but when you’re setting out to burn about 5,000 calories over 100 miles, you need all of the help you can get!  This is from the pecan-date bar (the second variety I bought):

Now keep in mind folks, that’s from all natural stuff…  The sodium and sugars are high, sure, but that’s the idea when you’re burning through that stuff.

The company is located in Traverse City, Michigan and takes orders online (free shipping for orders over $20).

Folks, I can’t recommend these energy bars highly enough (at least the lemon/blueberry one’s).  They’re excellent!

Oh, and in case you wondered…  The ingredient list for the lemon blueberry:  Apples, Honey, Roasted Cashews (Peanut Oil, Salt), Almonds, Rolled Oats, Blueberries, Lemon Juice.  That’s it!  You want natural, that’s as good as it gets.

A Grateful Ride…

Yesterday’s ride bordered on spiritual. Typically, while I’ve enjoyed every ride I’ve ever gone on, it’s a rare day that I can have everything and get into it that much. It was a special day indeed.

First, it was nice out. Perfectly sunny and better than 60 degrees (F) when I struck out at around 9:30, unheard of for the last week of September. It was so nice I didn’t even bother with arm warmers.

Second, while there was a bit of a wind from the south, it wasn’t so bad that I struggled, in fact I was able to maintain about an 18 mph average without pushing into the red (though a couple of hills had me huffing pretty good.

Third, an older friend of the family just died the other day and another person much closer is having heart issues lately so all of a sudden he’s feeling quite mortal. If that wasn’t enough, I went down to watch some golf with my dad on Friday and Alzheimer’s is having its way with him. We’re thinking he doesn’t have much time left. Now this would be a whole lot of bad for a lot of people but for me, it is an unmistakable reason to be grateful. All of those cases, the issues would have either been prevented or put off for decades had they been fit… Like me. While I could look at this another way, I’m choosing to be grateful. As my wife likes to say, I am that guy.

After chilling out with the guys and having some chili at the running club, I packed it up and headed for home, the looooong way.  Now, that “bit of a wind from the south”, in the hour that I was hanging out with the guys, had become a nice, steady wind…  The first six miles were into a steady crosswind but my bike eats those up pretty good now as long as I stay in the drops…  Then I turned north, with that glorious wind at my back – and only one stop sign in 13 miles!  I gave it everything I had, just for fun and managed to keep my speed between 24 & 26 mph – that was fast enough that I was still cutting into the air, but I just kept them rolling.  When I rolled into town, I stopped by the bike shop to top off the H20 bottles and say hey.  Now, at that point I was faced with a choice.  Either to get back on the bike and bust it hard to get home into the wind, or spin it back.  The day had two forms of cycling thus far – a medium effort and a very hard effort – I opted for the easy, and that was where the ride got really good.  I was about halfway home in that last six miles and I realized how blessed I am.  The two fellows and my dad I was thinking about earlier – how blessed am I that I have my fitness and my health, or that I chose the hard path?  How blessed am I that I chose to not get fat and stuck with it for all of these years?  How blessed am I that on one of the last days in September I’m out on my bike, in just my shorts and jersey, spinning away to get home?  That’s when I started looking around:
IMG_3226This is what I saw – and you can see in the photo, the sunshine just beaming down – how blessed I am that these are the roads I get to ride on!  Quiet mile-long stretches – and even when there are cars, motorists in my home town are some of the most respectful I’ve come across (with the exception of those in the Southern US – Northern Georgia, North Carolina – they’re next level nice down south).
IMG_3228IMG_3230IMG_3232And the home stretch:
IMG_3238Yesterday’s ride was one of the most enjoyable I’ve ever had, and at the end of a perfect cycling month.  It had everything…  Some hard spinning into the wind, some intense speed:
IMG_3225Lunch with friends, a stop at the bike shop, and a few laughs with more friends there:
IMG_3224It was perfect.


It just never gets old…

I’d been waiting patiently, for a long time now, for that first shoe to drop.  You know, the one where cycling actually becomes work.  Or at least that the fitness side of it makes me feel like the “It’s time to make the donuts” guy…  Yeah, I pretty much gave up on waiting for it to happen, I don’t think it’s going to.

I went out for a second ride yesterday, just 16 miles, but I was absolutely into that 16 miles.  It was gloriously sunny out, not a cloud in the sky all day, and at about 75, the temperature couldn’t have been more perfect for cycling and we barely had a breeze.  Yesterday was one of those days that had me grinning within the first quarter-mile.  I hit it pretty hard right out of the gate and completed the first 10.3 miles in just 30 minutes, including stops – for that route, solo, that’s really fast.  I’ve got six stop signs and two stop lights to contend with in those ten miles.  I hit my favorite right turn, a down hill residential right hander, no stop or yield signs because you can only follow the road along the turn, at more than 23 mph…  It never ceases to amaze me how well the Venge corners.  Compared to my 5200, the Venge should be illegal it can corner so well.  On the 5200 I’d have been on the brakes so I wouldn’t drift into the oncoming lane.  With the Venge, I took it full speed, in the drops and hitting the apex just right so I went from outside to outside of my lane.  Cars slow down to 5-10 mph to make the turn.

I stopped in to the bike shop to say hi to everyone and while waiting for the huge crowd to thin, I picked up an awesome Specialized long sleeve, full-zip jersey and a pair of shorts that were on sale.  On the way out, a fellow had his two young sons there shopping for some accessories and as I walked by I heard him say, “see I told you that was his bike” to the youngest…  I stopped, turned around and asked the little fella, who is probably used to riding a bike that weighs twice what mine does (and that’s if it’s a kid’s Trek MTB) if he wanted to pick mine up.  He looked at me as if I were crazy, so I said, “go ahead, I’m sure you’re plenty strong enough, it’s a really light bike”.  So he came over, all 7 or 8 years of him, grabbed onto the top tube and lifted it up over his head.  The look on his face at being able to lift such a big bike over his head was priceless…  When I was a kid, that would have been a fairly profound experience for me.  Who knows, someday that kid might be pulling my old, tired butt around the course.

From there, having already put in a furious ten after the morning’s twenty with my wife – and due to the fact that the wind blew in from nowhere, I decided to just spin it back easy for the last six miles.  This has been one great year of cycling for me and I’ve let go of the need to improve and embraced more of a maintain and enjoy, end of the season, style of riding.

I love my cycling label – what they call people like me, who have found a love for cycling that most simply won’t or can’t fully grasp…  Who manage to enjoy some pain and suffering with their speed and throw in some distances that most think of as simply silly, while being able to also just enjoy a nice spin with the wife or a game of bike tag with the kids.  Cycling has a special name for people like me:

The call me an enthusiast.

Yup, that’s about right.  If the s#!t fits, wear it.

I’m A Diamond Baby!

I hit Diamond status in the National Bike Challenge (US) yesterday:  5,000 points, or roughly 3,200 miles for the season (May – September):

In the whole scheme of things, this really doesn’t mean much, but it’s still kind of cool.

I end up shaking out, Nationally, at 561 out of 34,450 participants or firmly within the top 2 percent.  Not bad for non-government work.

I suppose this is as good as any for a season post-mortem now that we’ve got only a few decent weeks of cycling left…  With three months left to go in the year I’m currently sitting at 4,250 miles.  It’ll be tight trying to reach my goal of 5,000 miles for the year if I go by what I did last season.  I’m not exactly all that concerned with whether I make it or not though…  I had another fantastic, injury free year, I rode my bike a ton, and I maintained an excellent balance between my marriage, work and cycling.  If that wasn’t enough, I put in a bunch of personal bests, including highest volume month (800 miles), fastest 5 miles, 10 miles, 20 km, 50 km, 100 km and 100 miles and my steepest climb (1.25 miles @ 18% average).  On top of that, my average speed on my Tuesday night club ride, which was 20-20.5 mph last year, is up to 21-22 mph.  The truth is, while the weather often left quite a bit to be desired, I couldn’t have asked for a better season.

As far as my weight goes, I was perfect this summer, never fluctuating more than a pound or two either way.  Maintaining my weight was a huge issue last year, specifically eating enough that I not only wouldn’t lose any more, but that I’d gain the several back that I could ill afford to lose in the first place.  That said, as the weather starts to get colder and wetter, and my mileage starts dipping, it’ll be time to modify my diet again so that I don’t gain any weight over the winter.  This shouldn’t be an issue, it certainly wasn’t last year.  I know exactly what and how to cut down.  It’s as simple as this:  Last year, rinse and repeat.

If I was doing any better, Congress would make a law against it because they were jealous.

You Want A Salad With That?…

This just in!!!  McDonald’s is going to start offering salads or fruit as options to french fries with their value meals…

Well, it’s about time!  So, ‘you want a salad with that Big Mac?

Of course not, are you freaking stupid?  Gimme the fries.  Sheesh.

Now I don’t eat at McDonald’s a whole lot any more because it seems that the quality of the food has gotten worse lately and I’ve bee bored with it for a while anyway (if I have to try to decide, after waiting in the drive thru line, whether or not I want to run in to trade back an hour-old fish ‘o filet that was cold a half hour before…  DAMMIT!).  That said, when I do go to McDonald’s why in God’s name would I get a salad that I could make in the comfort of my home – in about ten minutes?

So, to those higher-ups at McDonald’s:  I get it.  You’re trying to suck a little bit of ass so you can preemptively fight lawsuits, and I’m cool with that because I firmly believe that those who would sue you because they paid for and ate the food that you sell to people to eat are the worst kind of parasitic whores on the planet.  Don’t expect me to opt for that stupid salad though.

UPDATE:  I decided that, in honor of the stupidity of Mickey D’s offering salads with their value meals, I’m going to eat there for lunch – and I’ll get a large too, just for giggles.  I’ve already got 20 miles in today and I’m planning on another 20 this afternoon so what the heck?

Road Bikes – Internal Vs. External Cable Routing

There is a debate amongst we cycling enthusiasts, almost as heated as disc brakes on road bikes, about the pluses and minuses related to internal cable routing on road bikes. Many contend that the only “Aero Bikes” should bother with internal cable routing… This would be the TT bikes and road racing bikes such as the Specialized Venge, Trek Madone and Pinarello Dogma (and many, many others)

Done properly, the cables are housed in the frame to cut down on drag…  As an added benefit, they are also protected inside the frame from sweat, dirt and road grime that would normally rot them out within a season (two if they’re meticulously cared for).  Now, depending on who you talk to, cables should be replaced every season anyway.  I’d have argued that last year but because I can now change the cables and index the derailleurs in about twenty minutes, while carrying on a conversation with my wife, replacing them is a lot less daunting than when I didn’t know what I was doing so I’m more willing to change them.

That said, there are some cons to internally routed cables.  First, if the shop that puts the bike together makes a mistake – and sometimes even if the shop did everything right – the cables can cause internal creaks and groans that can take forever and a day to locate and get rid of.  Also, if you don’t know a couple of tricks of the trade when it comes to fishing lines (tie a string or tape the new cable end to the snipped end of the old cable and pull the new one through with the old one) through concealed places, trying to replace old cables can get ugly in a hurry with an internally routed bike.

That notwithstanding, having several externally routed bikes and one of the best (from what I’ve heard – I have no clue) internally routed bikes on the planet, I can say this:  Give me the internally routed cables any day of the week and twice on Sunday.  This choice boils down to two things for me (click on the photo to enlarge):

1.  Sweat maintenance.  I sweat when I ride because I ride hard.  In fact, I sweat buckets – so when you’re cruising down the road at 25 mph and a drop of sweat falls from your melon, where do you think that drop of sweat hits the bike?  Right on the cable housing zert just in front of the saddle in the photo above.  It also collects at the underside of the frame (under the bottom bracket – yes, I sweat that much) on the stainless steel plate attached to the frame that holds the two shifter cables in place.  Before I was aware of this as a problem, when I took the bike in for a shifting problem (related to sweat messing up the cables under the bottom bracket), the mechanic noticed that the housing end had become infused with salt, inside of the zert that holds it to the frame.  He had to drill everything out, and install a new housing before the brake started seizing.

2.  Rain maintenance.  Now this one hasn’t been, and hopefully will not be, tested on my new Venge because it hasn’t seen anything worse than a few sprinkles, but the rear derailleur housing on my 5200 picks up a ton of rain off of the road.  I have to loosen the cable, clean out the housing and relube the cable, hook everything back up and re-adjust the derailleur after every ride in the rain or the shifting becomes completely pooched over night. Now that’s not such a big deal to me, because I can fix that in ten minutes (including the index adjustment), but to someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing, that’s not exactly a simple fix.  It usually means a trip to the bike shop and a few days off of the bike.
See that little cover where the cable comes out of the frame?  Yeah, that fits tightly around the cable to keep water and/or sweat from getting into the frame – and if you need to clean them, the little screw takes an Allen wrench.  Specialized thought of everything.

In short, while the cable maintenance and repairs aren’t that big of a deal, not having to do them is, quite obviously, much less work and a wee bit less time consuming.  There may be complaints with other bikes, but I love my internally routed cables.

If my bike’s internally routed cables weren’t enough, I went next level:
IMG_5189 IMG_5173

My Truths #182 (use it or gain it)

This is a fantastic post on a really nice blog… Please check it out.

Breaking Bread

I think it’s a fairly well know fact that a person with less muscle will have a slower metabolism (all things being equal). I think this is one of the key reasons that many people gain weight as they age but why and how does this happen?

Consider this scenario: Someone young & strong carries their groceries from the car to the house 6 bags at a time, at some point they cut back to 4 at a time and eventually they have 1 bag in each hand and that’s all they can handle. This doesn’t happen overnight but is a gradual decline. If you think about it I’m sure you can come up with many examples of things that young/healthy/strong  people do that older people don’t (moving furniture alone, taking stairs two at a time, sprinting to catch a bus)

Cardio exercise such as walking and step aerobics are…

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Saddle Location Experiment Pt 3. An End In Sight…

Well, well, well… I had a really interesting ride last night. When I got home I pulled out my 4′ level and set my saddle back to level (from nose slightly up) which got me back down into the drops a lot more comfortably.

Before I tested that on the road though, Mrs. Bgddy and I took the kids out for a 5-1/2 mile game of bike tag. Now, the game is hugely unfair, but we do what we can even it up and make it fun, and safe – we play on dirt roads and when cars are coming in either direction, the game is suspended until all is clear. The cool thing is that since we started this, we’ve gone from a whine filled “are we there yet” 8 minute mile ride to a laughter filled 6 minute mile.

If you’ve been keeping up on the math, since Sunday, I changed my saddle location and the angle three times now.  I changed from what I knew was the proper location (as measured by the standard location methods) because after 700 miles on my new bike, I couldn’t get over the idea that I shouldn’t feel like I was slightly arching my back to get into the drops – this was a hips and lower back issue – upper body was perfect.  When I picked the bike up from the shop, after my first test ride on it, I immediately moved the saddle up (toward the front wheel) about a full centimeter, where I’d left it until Sunday.  During that ride I moved it back about 8 mm and nosed the saddle up just a bit, just to see how I felt.  That was too far back, but I did like the nose up so for Tuesday’s ride I moved it up half the distance (4 mm) but left the nose up, slightly off level.  Moving the saddle up didn’t bode well with leaving the nose raised.  I ended up having a tough time staying in the drops because the saddle angle supported a more upright riding position.

Anywho, when we got back I changed shoes and headed out for what was supposed to be an easy twelve miles to see what I thought of the new-new saddle position in this ongoing look at monkeying with my bike so I could write about it here and so I could maybe use my quads (the big muscles) a little more…  I really liked having the saddle level a lot more for riding in the drops – I only rode on the hoods at intersections the whole twelve miles and I had some fairly shocking and excellent results.  First of all, my legs were quite tired on Tuesday, even after a day off after my solo Sunday 75, but I muddled through with the small group I rode with for a fairly respectable 21 mph average (Warm up:  16 mph + Club Ride 21 mph = 20 mph average overall)…  Which meant they were darn near dead last night.  Bike tag helped loosen me up quite a bit but I wasn’t expecting much when I walked out the door so I put my phone in the back pocket, shut the sound down and just went by feel…

I started out fairly slowly, building to a nice sustainable pace, in the drops.  I slowed considerably at my first 2-way stop and made the turn then got back to that sustainable pace…  So it went for the whole twelve miles – stop sign to slow down or stop at every mile or two, etc…  When I passed my driveway I pulled the phone out and looked at the over-all:
SaddletestSaddletest 2
The dips in speed are all stop signs and ate up a good 45 seconds off of my time – I rarely stop fully, but semi-track stand until traffic clears so I lose a lot of time for having to stop…  The point is, I comfortably held 21-23 mph speeds through much of the ride with little trouble, on half-dead legs and pulled out almost a 20 mph average.  My saddle is staying right where I’ve got it, 4 mm back from what I thought was perfect.  I’ll spend the next couple of weeks making sure I’m comfortable as is, that no hot-spots crop up as a result of moving it back but not lowering it (which is standard by the way – if you move it forward, raise it, if you move it back, lower it).

So, the point to this whole exercise, and why I bothered in the first place:

1).  I learned early on, never be afraid to tinker with the bike and mess around with the setup a little bit if something doesn’t feel right.  I can’t screw it up enough that the shop can’t fix what I did wrong.

2).  While small moves are wisest, every once in a while why not shake it up to see what happens?  I learned something very valuable about my setup because of this attitude and I should be able to ride faster because of it.

3).  Bike experiments are cool.

The first post on the saddle fore/aft location is here.

Part One of the Experiment is Here

Part Two is Here.

UPDATE: Fast again! Now I’m bummed I didn’t try this sooner!

UPDATE II:  After a week at that position I caved and split the difference again.  Now I’m only 2 mm back from where I started but I haven’t found it necessary to mess with it at all since.

Saddle Location Experiment Pt 2.

Last night was my big club ride and as I wrote I would do yesterday, I moved my saddle forward (towards the front wheel) 4mm but kept the nose raised slightly from dead-level.  Sunday I had moved it back about 8mm and nosed it up just as a fun little experiment to see how it would feel because I felt just a little bit arched in the back.  Prior to that move, I had my bike set up so that I was in the perfect position over the pedals and from the drops, hoods and bar tops but I changed that to see what it would be like to be stretched out a little more.

My initial conclusion to the experiment was that the nose up was helpful in opening my hips up but that the saddle was just a little too far back and though it definitely stretched me out nicely, it was just too much.

The change last evening amounted to splitting the difference with the saddle location while leaving the saddle at the same angle (off level, nose up).

My final conclusion to the experiment, unfortunately, will require another move this evening though because my initial reaction to the nose being raised was a bit naïve and incorrect.

This is the important part of the post for those interested…

First, a little bit of background about the ride yesterday…  I was 2/3’s of the way done with my warmup when I passed my buddy Phil heading out with a tandem and several other cyclists from the slower group (15-17 mph average).  My legs were feeling quite smoked still from Sunday’s 75 mile adventure so I wasn’t looking too forward to a 22-23 mph effort with the main group (they ended up over 25 mph – good God!), so I told Mike that I was going to head out with Phil and turned around…  When I got to the group, Phil and the tandem had taken off to blaze their own way at a faster pace – which meant that I had some catching up to do but they were already out of eye-shot and around a corner so I had no idea how much I had to make up.  I reached for the drops and took off as fast as I could sustain.  When I rounded the corner I had about a mile to make up so I set to it.  I was up between 22 & 23 mph until I caught them about 5 miles in.

In other words, I’d just spent about 14 minutes giving her everything I had in the drops so I was able to evaluate how I felt, at least in the drops…  The saddle position wasn’t bad but the nose up had to go.  As one might imagine, having the nose up and being in the drops, as far down as I have them on my bike, put just a little too much pressure on Mr. Happy.

For the rest of the 33 ride we maintained a fairly steady 21 mph and the tandems (we picked up another one) did a lot of pulling so I spent quite a bit of time on the hoods, and that’s where I noticed the plus side of having the saddle nosed up…  It kept me in the perfect position to ride on the hoods.  My back felt straight and strong, there was no pressure as described earlier (ahem).  I felt incredibly well supported by the saddle.

So here’s the latest little twist to the conclusion:  I ride with my bar somewhere in the middle of the average road cyclist and the pros so I have a pretty long way down to the drops.  Also, my hoods do not sit on top of the bend of my handlebars, they extend on the same line (see photo).  Because I do ride so much in the drops and I want it to be comfortable, I have to take my saddle back to level and re-evaluate.  However, for those who tend to ride in a more upright fashion, riding with the nose of the saddle up may be just what the doctor ordered.  Don’t be afraid to give that a try, just remember, we’re not talking about huge moves here.

And speaking of huge moves, Tracey Wilkins, AKA the Springfield Cyclist, commented to suggest that moving the saddle back should be accompanied by lowering it as well.  Also, that smaller moves would have been more, um, intelligent.  He’s right on both counts.  There are two reasons for my divergent attitude.  First, I had my multi-tool with me so I could have moved it back if I’d felt any discomfort (I didn’t).  Second, when this is all over, within the next couple of weeks (after my LBS owner gets back from his cycling vacation in Spain (or was it Italy), I’ll be getting a full Body Geometry, Specialized approved, fitting…  I literally can’t screw my bike up enough that the fitting won’t cure.

Part One is here

The initial post that started this is here.