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Monthly Archives: September 2013

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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.
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Part One is here

The initial post that started this is here.

Cycling Is Not A Sport Just For Skinny Men…

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.

Saddle Position: Fore/Aft, An Experiment

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:
Morning 9-22
Now from the Afternoon:
Afternoon 9-22
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.

The Hard And Fast Rules Of Life…

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…)

Chasing the Sun

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.

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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)…

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My Venge is hunting wabbits.

The next five were fairly uneventful… When I saw this:

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Way off in the distance, the SUN

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.

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I warmed up pretty quickly, enough that I had to unzip the bottom of my jacket to let some air in. It was beautiful.

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Immediately after taking that photo I headed over to the car, shed the jacket, put on my arm warmers and headed back out for another twelve to make it an even 75 miles.

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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.