I read a post the other day that jumped to the incorrect conclusion that cycling is a sport for skinny men in super-tight clothes. It’s not, but skinny helps. Gender? Not so much, cycling is all about legs and drive…
What you see, and assume:
You see people, generally men, like me, thin and muscular, tree trunks for legs, ripped calves that show every nook and cranny of every muscle under taught skin. You see us in clothing that seems impossibly tight and possibly a bit too revealing. You see us on bicycles that cost enough money that you cannot possibly imagine wanting spend that kind of money for a freaking bike. You see us pushing those bicycles, often in packs of ten to thirty deep, at speeds you have a tough time wrapping you head around over distances that you think border on the insane (or stupid).
Most importantly you assume that all of this, including the speed, just comes naturally.
After you see this spandex spectacle, you naturally jump to the conclusion that you’ll never be able to attain such things and therefore we are some exclusive, elusive or even pampas and sexist group.
To make things worse, after you finally decide to get off the couch and try to jump in on our club ride (the advanced one, with the high-priced carbon, with a bunch of guys whose jerseys match their bikes), you are dropped within the first few miles and assume that we don’t care about the new guy/girl.
To a degree, you’re right, we (they) don’t care about you, but not because you’re a woman, or you’re fat or you’re a noob. Most advanced groups, including the one I ride with (which happens to be a lot friendlier than most I’ve heard of) don’t care much to help you fit in or keep up. Once you get into the faster groups the dynamic changes, the onus is on you to keep up. In the good groups, your ability to ride your bicycle well and help the group is your ticket in. If you can’t fit in and help the group, you will be left behind. You will not be welcomed in.
What you don’t see or are failing to grasp…
Personally, if I have the legs on a particular day, I will help a noob by dropping back to give them a wheel and a chance to get back to the group, but that’s a rarity indeed… Normally I’m just trying to hold on for dear life myself – as are most in the back, so if you fail to keep pace, the chance that there’s a horse back there to help you is somewhere between slim and none. I should know, I’ve only ever managed to finish with the lead group in our ride (where the field is winnowed from 30+ cyclists down to five or six), one time in two years. In other words, damn near everybody gets dropped.
More importantly, you’re failing to understand that cyclists don’t grow on trees. I started out big like you – twelve years ago with running. I picked up cycling 2 years and 5 months ago. Funny, I didn’t see you there with me on any of the 818 training workouts I’ve completed in that short time (do the math, there are only 885 days in that span). You didn’t see me at the end of that first season when I bought my first road bike, a $400 used Cannondale that was two sizes too small but I still managed, with an overly padded and cheap $30 saddle, mountain biking shoes and pedals, to get that thing up to a 20 mph average over 12 or 13 miles – and with cheap $30 cycling shorts and a crappy jersey (all I could afford at the time) too. It felt like I was riding on barbed wire after ten miles on those shorts, with that saddle. But I still stuck with it, and learned not to push through the pain, but to accept it, because the farther I rode, the more it hurt. How about that first winter when I bought my first legitimate (used) road bike, a 13 year-old Trek 5200 that I set up on a trainer in my office so I could stay in shape for the next season… Even that bike had an inadequate saddle that I suffered on for months before I could afford a decent replacement because it was too wide for my butt.
Where were you?
Where were you while I was out riding half-way around the freaking globe (.458 to be exact, or 11,404 miles), training to get dropped every week on a brutal Tuesday night ride? Where were you when I was puking on the side of the road from the effort? Where were you while I was scrimping and saving so I could finally afford one decent jersey that I bought on sale and off-season? Where were you when I finally could afford a decent pair of shorts and a nice cycling jacket. Where were you while I was absolutely busting my ass, playing real Monopoly with money I didn’t have and couldn’t afford to lose, so I could finally afford the bike of my dreams? Where were you while I was out shedding the last little bit of fat so I could look good in those tight ass clothes like the rest of the assholes?
You were on the couch eating Doritos and a Big Mac, fries and drinking a Diet Coke, and now you just want to up and run with me so you can feel better? Better yet, you want me to wait for you? After your incessant whining and/or bitching that cyclists are a sexist lot, that we’re mean and pretentious with our skinny asses and our tight clothes… You want me to wait for THAT?
Good luck with that. Call me after your first 3,000 mile season and you’ve managed to pop your head out of your ass. We’ll talk about it. Then put in another two seasons because it takes about three to lose the weight and get fast enough to hang with the fast crowd.
In the meantime, please don’t compare what you feel inside to what you see on my outside. I worked my dick off for what I have and you can’t possibly fathom what I’ve sacrificed to be fast enough to get dropped by a bunch of racers who sacrifice even more, on a weekly basis from the comfort of your couch.
You are right about one thing though… It isn’t fair. Of course, it isn’t easy either. If it were, anybody could do it.
UPDATE: Do check out the comments section immediately below, this is a lively topic.
After my post on saddle position, fore and aft, the other day I decided on my 75 mile Sunday ride to run a little experiment because, while the setup on my Venge, as I’ve had it since day one, is quite comfortable – arguably excellent, I still feel like I have to arch my back just a little bit to get into the drops. I wanted to see if I couldn’t stretch myself out just a little bit to remove that tendency to arch my back while still maintaining a comfortable ride…
I’m going to show you two photos that I took.. One at the start and the other at the finish. First, from the morning:
Now from the Afternoon:
I added the black line to show the fact that in addition to moving the saddle back about a 8mm, I nosed it up a little bit. Now, the general rule is that you start from dead level and work from there, which is where my saddle was. Guys nose the saddle up slightly while women nose the saddle down, if level is somehow unacceptable. I rode about 40 miles in the normal position – one that I’ve checked and re-checked to make sure was right as far as my leg position over the pedals, and 35 miles with the saddle moved back, closer to where the shop had it set up originally when I brought the bike home.
Now, you may wonder why I would do something like this when I already had it set up just right (or my approximation of just right). First of all, it just made sense after my post on the subject, and second was just to shake things up to see if I could do any better – nothing ventured, nothing gained.
So here are a few things that I noticed along the way – besides the fact that I should have moved it back 4mm instead of 8:
1. Moving the saddle back and nosing it up just a little bit opened my hips up a ton. This, at least to me, seemed just a bit counterintuitive because I figured raising the nose would close my hip angle – in fact, it made moving the saddle back much more bearable.
2. Muscle group use completely changed. I used my quads a whole lot more than normal and was really feeling that yesterday, so in that sense, the change is a very good thing. The thinking here is that I want to use the bigger muscles and moving the saddle back absolutely accomplished that.
3. Stretching out made breathing much easier and therefore I was able to push a little harder and maintain a much more rigorous pace.
4. On the down side, with my natural line of sight, hands on the hoods and looking down at the hub, I could see the front hub behind the back edge (closest to me) of the bar top – from what I’ve read, you shouldn’t be able to see the hub at all or if you can, it should be in front of the bar top… In other words, if you’re riding on the hoods, the bar top should obscure your view of the front wheel hub or you should be able to see it slightly in front of the bar). This translated into having to reach just a little bit too far for the drops and not being able to get as low, comfortably. Also, though I had little problem riding on the hoods, the bar top felt a little more natural than it should have in comparison, and riding in the drops was a little less comfortable on my upper back and shoulders but much more comfortable on my lower back (this is important and I hope to write something up on this later if noteworthy).
So the final takeaway is this: The change was a neat idea that had a lot of really good side effects and one bad one. I’m going to try to keep the good and work the bad one out, by moving the saddle up 4 mm, leave the nose slightly up as it is now, and see how I like that after tomorrow’s club ride.
Generally speaking you wouldn’t want to make any major changes before (or during) a long ride – but in my case, I was comfortable enough in my abilities as an amateur wrench that I could get it back to where it was if it had caused any problems – and I made sure the change wasn’t so drastic that I’d end up hurt. The ability to do this only comes with experience, so tread lightly.
PS. I started writing this post on Sunday. Last night was clean and lube night, so while I was working on the road bikes I moved the saddle up a few millimeters… I’ll post an update after the ride this evening.
There are many simple rules in life that are not mandated, but wise to follow. For instance, never take advice on how to drive drunk from an ex-drunk. It’s very simple really, if they had any clue how to drink responsibly, let alone drive (namely leave the car at home and take a damn cab), they wouldn’t be EX-drunks. Another would be never take the advice of a politician, unless it’s, “we politicians need to do less so we screw up the country less”, in that case, they’re right.
On the other hand, when someone offers their experience for my benefit, I always give it a fair roll around the melon. Sometimes I can use it, sometimes I can’t, but I always give it a fair shake because these are the people who actually care.
That said, I like to write, from time to time, about good times and noodle salad (As Good As It Gets). I come at life from an interesting perspective having been a recovered drunk for the last couple of decades and only being 43 years-old. I made a pretty fair mess of my life and the prospects weren’t looking too rosy when I quit drinking, so to have made something out of myself, to have become a decent, contributing member of society (rather than a drag on it), is a pretty big deal. This was made possible by the fact that I didn’t just stop drinking, I completely changed my life, how I looked at things, my thought patterns and how I handled responsibilities (I actually handled them for once).
With that complete change in attitude and outlook came immense benefits, far too numerous to mention here (I’d be well into writing something that had as many words as the Bible or a dictionary). One of the benefits really stuck out at me the other day when a new blog friend posted a comment on my tongue in cheek look at how women can help their men get fit, here. In that post I wrote this: “…there’s one other way to reach your man in a meaningful way – at least one that will work. Nagging is not the answer.”
Weronika (pronounced Veronica) responded thusly:
“LOL the group of retiree males with whom I ride… they claim cycling helps them get away from their wives. I think they’ve suffered too much nagging and not enough cleavage. Poor guys. Their wives need this post.”
Veronica is right, but those guys have a part in this too… So I responded.
Now I’m going to break here – my response to her comment is not kid-friendly so if you’re under 20, please don’t bother going any further… (more…)
Well, yesterday was my big foray to the Pere-Marquette Rail Trail. With birthday parties abound and hunting season right around the corner, it was the only weekend day in the foreseeable future that gave me enough time to squeeze it in. Unfortunately it was also a bowling night – and there was no way I was going to throw my team under the bus, trying to bowl after a 200 km bike ride so I cut it back by 50 miles to 75 – and thank God I did because the weather sucked.
The forecast was for cool but sunny weather, which I could live with, and winds out of the north. Nope, we got cold and cloudy with winds out of the northwest. This presents a problem when the first 31.5 are directly west. Oh, and the last 60% are uphill.
Right away I knew that a jersey and the arm warmers weren’t going to be enough. With temps in the low 40’s, that’s just too cold for me – and riding 60-90 miles from my home, there’s no way I’m putting in for a suffer-fest with no local help to call if I run into trouble. I opted for my Specialized cold weather cycling jacket and full finger gloves.
I paid no attention to time but I was pretty wiped out when I pulled into Clare. The original plan was to go for 80 by putting another 10 into the wind on the trail that picks up again just west of Clare. Unfortunately I was wiped out enough that I became a little discombooberated and got pretty lost. I tried to turn around and head back but I made a wrong turn somewhere and didn’t figure it out until I started heading out of town. I was just about to consult my Endomondo map when I figured it out and got back on track. Now, the final straw that had me head back to the trail was that I was going to spend 20 miles, just over an hour, in the middle of nowhere – nowhere to refill the water bottles, no nothing, and the temperature was dropping.
I got back onto the trail and stopped for a minute for a gel and some Jelly Belly Caffeine beans (and some H2O)…
The next five were fairly uneventful… When I saw this:
I felt like I was chasing the sun all day but for the first time it looked like there was hope. With just 18 miles to go in the first 63, sweet Jesus, the clouds broke.
75.4 miles in the books. I got back in enough time to get in a quick nap before heading to the bowling alley… First game, average. Second, above average. Third, yeah I completely ran out of gas. It was ugly…127. Oh well, good enough for government work. It’s now 9:30pm and daddy’s out.
In my first post on the voluminous topic of cycling related soreness I covered saddle height. Next up is the fore/aft positioning of the saddle which can have a dramatic affect on how much power you can put to the pedals. Too far either way and you not only end up using the wrong muscles to pedal, you’re leverage will be blown. That’s only part of the equation though; you also have to consider how you fit in the “cockpit”, or the space between the bars and the saddle. Now, forgive me for being the broken record – normal cycling pain is muscular pain. If you hurt, structurally, more than likely it’s the bike or your gear. There are, however, a few ‘saddle time’ pains to watch out for – meaning the more time you put on the saddle, the more “used to” the bike you become, the less you hurt, but that’s for another post.
Let’s deal with the pedaling power first because it’s very simple. There’s a bone just under your kneecap that, if you’re thin enough, sticks out just a bit. If you drop a plumb-bob from the leading edge of that bone just below the kneecap, with the ball of your foot right over the spindle and the crank arms parallel to the ground, the point of the plumb-bob should end up directly in the middle of the pedal spindle (the shaft that screws into the crank arm). If the point is forward of the spindle, move your saddle back. If it’s behind the spindle, move the saddle forward. If you have your saddle at the right height, this is said to be the proper leg angle (though I’m sure there are rare instances where this is not the case – a professional fitting will flush that out). This gets your leg in the right location to really push down on the pedal. If you’re too far back, you’ll be pushing out. Too far forward and you’ll be trying to push back (I can only imagine how bad this is on the hamstrings!). Adjusting the saddle for fore and aft is that simple.
Now, there’s another item to look at as well, and this has to do with your stem length and the drop from your saddle to your bars (3-5 inches or 7.5-12 cm) is good for fairly efficient cycling (though you must be flexible enough to take this, if you’re not it will hurt). BUT, if your butt is too far forward you will have to hunch your back when you get down in the drops unless your stem is entirely too long – and we’ll get to all of that in a minute. Also, if your saddle is too far back you’ll have to stretch out too far, reaching for the hoods. What happens in this case is that the cyclist will typically choose to ride on the bar tops, away from the brakes. The main problem with the former is that when you’re crunched into the cockpit you will have trouble filling your lungs with air – your diaphragm won’t work as efficiently. Too far away and you’ll be limiting yourself the the bar tops (because it just feels “better” or more “natural” – it may, but it is wrong).
Finally, we get into the nooks and crannies of the problem, uh if you will. Saddles are funny, simple things. The idea is to place your two “sit bones“:
If you can’t sit on the proper part of the saddle, you will know pain intimately. If the saddle is too far forward, you’ll end up cycling on the nose of your saddle (the skinny front part). If you look at the diagrams above you’ll be able to see that this will create major problem. Hot spots aplenty! You’ll be blocking some very important blood flow. The same can be said if your saddle is too far up. In that case, your tendency will be to ride in a more upright position – meaning getting to the drops when you’re pulling the group at 24 mph into the wind will be near impossible for more than a few short seconds.
Now, and this will go to a later post, a very large key in this equation is the stem length. You’re wondering how that thing holding the handlebar could be such a big deal? Allow me: If the stem is too long, you’ll have to move your saddle forward to keep from stretching out too far which will cause your knees to be too far forward on your pedal stroke which will rob you of power. This is not something you can overcome by “practicing” or “getting used to”. Too stretched out is too stretched out. The same can be said of a stem that is too short – you’ll have to move the saddle too far back and you’ll be pushing at the pedals instead of down on them. This big rat’s nest of a paragraph explains exactly why a proper fitting is so important. To make it even more confusing, the parameters change for different types of cycling. You’re more upright for touring and mountain biking while road cycling and triathlons (at least with any speed) require more of the classic aerodynamic position on the bike. Everything on that bike has to work to get you in the proper position on the bar ends, hoods or in the drops and over the pedals. The classic injury here is numbness and “hot spots” in the nether-regions if you’re setup is off.
Now, to keep this simple, first you check saddle height and get that set. Then you check the for-aft position with the plumb-bob (or a 4′ level works in a pinch – against the outside edge of your knee and the outside edge of the pedal spindle – that leading foot should be plumb when the crank arms are parallel to the ground).
Once that is set, your stem is the rest of the equation. If you have to reach for the hoods (you’ll know it, riding on the bar top will be more comfortable than the hoods), shorten the stem. If you’re crammed into the cockpit, lengthen the stem. The length of the stem is easiest determined at a bike shop – I do not have the equations to figure out the stem length. The best I could do would be trail and error… “I’m too stretched out with a 120mm stem so I’ll get an 80 or 85mm…”
Now, there is a little bit of wiggle room with the saddle, but not much. Remember this though: if the saddle goes back, you will have to lower the saddle. If the saddle goes forward, you’ll have to raise it.
If it isn’t apparent by now you’re probably not paying enough attention so let me remind you that I LOVE riding my bike. I spend an inordinate amount of time carefully crafting my words to get this across. But sometimes a picture can capture a feeling more than any amount of words,carefully crafted or not, can describe. The Bike Shop Hub posted this pic on Facebook the other day and they nailed it. This is exactly how I feel every time I push off for a ride.
(Written Friday Evening):
Today was a day filled with a little bit of luck, a little bit of work and a ton of fun.
Mrs. Bgddy and I caught a break in the weather and went for a 20 mile easy ride. Her legs are a bit tired from putting in a record week on her bike(s) and I’ve got a big 115+ mile weekend so I was more than happy to take it easy for a second day in a row.
Rather than stop for lunch we decided to finish our ride and head out to pick up balloons and party favors for my eldest daughter’s birthday party tomorrow evening. We grabbed a quick bite at our favorite, Q’doba afterward and then ran home. I caught a few z’s then got some work done.
This evening, my wife took the birthday girl to see Greg Louganis speak so that left me and my youngest to fend for ourselves. Well, desperate times call for desperate measures… We went to Fudrucker’s for burgers! After all, when you’ve got a couple of pounds worth of miles to put in, you’ve got to fuel the effort! Out we went. Now that kid lives to sit in the back and hammer my wife and I every chance she gets, for slug Bugs. Well this was daddy’s night and I hammered that kid.
We got to Fudrucker’s without any bruises or hurt feelings and had a fantastic time talking about school, math and even played a few rounds of “I spy” waiting for our food. Dinner was stellar as always and so was the conversation, though I won’t lie, man that kid can talk! Cripes, I was exhausted by the time we rolled into the driveway.
So here I sit, chilling in my spot on the recliner couch watching the Tigers while my little girl is watching “Bee Movie” on my laptop in my room. A fantastic start to the weekend.
Okay ladies, this post is for you, well technically your husband too, but hear me out…
First, allow me to thank Mrs. Bgddy for not only demonstrating flawlessly what it takes to keep her man fit, but also for being such a good sport for the good of my blog and women all over the free world!
With that out of the way, besides their stomach’s, there’s one other way to reach your man in a meaningful way – at least one that will work. Nagging is not the answer.
The argument could (and probably will) be made that we men should be above such trivial behavior. Those who would make such an argument are wrong. You can work your tail off with traditional discussions and arguments and get nowhere… Or, as Mrs. Bgddy demonstrates so eloquently, flash a little cleavage and get the job done. Ladies, it’s up to you! Help your man become fit as an ox, for humanity!
This post was conceived (if you will) and written for a laugh and should not be taken seriously. Of course if you’re a little daring and willing, this will work. Mrs. Bgddy and her cleavage appear knowing full well why these photos were taken and what they would be used for because she rocks. If this angers you, it’s probably because you don’t.
I was contacted in June about contributing to a “a new ‘extreme’ outdoor sports and travel website. The site is also an environmental and social and enterprising in design”. I was asked, humorously enough, to provide a post on mountain biking. Being a roadie at heart, writing a piece on mountain biking was going to be next to impossible – so I punted.
The resultant article, I thought, was pretty good – about being a professional and a cyclist. Not a professional cyclist mind you, but a professional and a cyclist:
“I am a professional and a cyclist, although not a professional cyclist. I am a husband, father of two wonderful little girls and the Director of Operations for a commercial construction company and an avid cyclist.
Like any professional, I could spend most of my upright life in the office, attending to this emergency or putting out that fire…”
You’ll have to click on the link for the rest. I’m pretty stoked to be picked up in the UK (and wait till you see the picture they used!). Of course, now that I’ve seen the site, the next post for them is going to have to raise the bar a little bit. If you get a chance please give them a look-see. OutdoorBuzz
Too cool man.