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Monthly Archives: October 2013

Sweet Lorraine…

One of the great things I’ve really gotten right in my life is to remain teachable.  I haven’t been so pampas to believe I know all since I was 22 years-old.  When an old-timer offers his wisdom, especially about love and enjoying life or sobriety, I’m all ears.  So I’m watching the news the other day and they showcase a new song written by an old-timer to his wife of many decades who’d passed away.  In his mourning he wrote this song and submitted it for a contest.

Tonight I shared it with my wife for the first time.  I’ll just say it was a special moment.  I so love that woman.

So fellas, buy this song and share it with your wife.  We only get one shot at this, we have to make it count.

The WordPress Family Award And Versatile Blogger Award Pt. Two

Simone over at “From Meltdown to Ironman” bestowed upon my blog the WordPress Family Award.  I am, as always when receiving recognition for this blog, grateful.   The first time I was given the award I wrote about it here.

Simone is some kind of special though…  Check out her photography skills here.   I wish I could take pictures like that, what an eye.

Also, Sandra at A Promise to Dad bestowed upon me the Versatile Blogger Award.  This is my second go at that one as well…  Wait a minute!  Sandra, you nominated me for the first one!  Goodness, color me blushing.  Thanks again Sandra.  😀

I think for this go-around with the WordPress Family Award I’d like to nominate a few I haven’t featured here (with the exception of chatter – I’ve given him more than one award because I dig that dude).

Chatter Gets Fit

Cycling Dynamics

Fat Guy 2 Tri Guy

PushMyLimits

Chris Collins at NZmultisports

Bar Science

And

Kevin Kidder at Cycling in NY

wpfamilyaward

A Cycling Season in the Books

This season was far better than I ever could have imagined.  A shiny new steed, my 5,000 mile goal virtually in the bag (less than 200 miles to go in two and a half months), and personal bests abound, better than a 1 mph gain on my Tuesday club rides (I went from 19.6 – 20.6 mph in 2012 to 20.6 – 22 mph average speed on open roads) including my fastest century ever, by about a half-hour:

  • One hour 23.64 miles (38 km)
  • 10 miles 24m:28s
  • 20 km 30m:58s
  • 50 km 1h:20m:37s
  • 50 miles 2h:10m:03s
  • 100 km 2h:44m:25s
  • 100 miles 4h:36m:00s

All things considered, I’m quite pleased.  I went out for my normal afternoon ride yesterday and I realized about two miles in that my Venge, after a bunch of tinkering with shifting cable tension, much-needed new wheels and a few saddle adjustments, I’ve got it absolutely dialed in – it’s perfect and feels exactly how I’d imagined a high-end race bike should.  It’s so perfect, I abandoned thoughts of upgrading some of the components to shed a little more weight.  Unless I can get components that already match what I’ve got on the bike it simply wouldn’t be worth it.

As far as fitness goes, there’s no doubt I’m stronger (at least as far as cycling goes) and much more able to ride a long haul.  My confidence was way up from last year also, when I consistently struggled mentally to get a long ride done (call it 80+ miles).  While there have been times when I’ve thrown in the towel on the Tuesday night club ride, I was hopeful that I’d be able to start keeping up this year but never under the delusion that it was a lock – I am, after all, trying to keep up with legitimate racers.   There’s definitely room for improvement and I can work on that.

Finally, and I kept the best for last, my wife really picked up cycling this year.  I’ve been doing everything I can to not only be supportive but keep my distance as well so she could develop her own enjoyment of the sport.  Curbing my enthusiasm at times, especially when she starts talking cycling, has been a little more than difficult.  That said, it certainly appears as though she’s been fairly bitten and riding with her has been vastly more enjoyable than I ever anticipated.  Between riding in the mountains on vacation and our little treks while the kids are away, being able to ride as often as I have with Mrs. Bgddy has really helped me with my end of the marriage.  We did well before cycling but what we have now is next-level awesome.

This certainly isn’t the end of cycling for the year by any means but as of Tuesday, I’m calling the season a wrap.  From today through the Thanksgiving Weekend (end of November), I’ll keep heading out as often as I can but I’m certainly not going for any personal bests.  Then, come December 1st (or so), it’s time to prepare for an even better 2014.

Cycling on Dead Legs: Too fast, too often.

I wrote about my group ride earlier today and I almost put this post on the end of that one but this is going to go on my Noob’s Guide page because it’s just too important.

I have been struggling with sore legs for about a week now and they’re slowly showing decent progress to coming back.  I would say the easiest way for me to gauge how I’m doing, at least at this point, is to flex my leg muscles – if that hurts (and by hurts, I mean knots and cramps, it hurts ). This is partly due to the cold, I’m sure.  I had a tough time getting going this spring too and it was a very cold spring.  It wasn’t until we started getting into the 60’s when my speed jumped back to normal.

The other part is due to over-training and I know exactly how I got myself in this predicament.  Since I started riding I’ve used an active recovery strategy…  One hard effort followed by an easy effort (17-17.5 mph average solo), then a decent effort (18.5-19.5 average) followed by another hard effort.  Alternating meant I could ride darn near every day without toasting my legs.  Last year I would go two weeks on one day off and I ended up dead tired a few times so this year I changed my plan and took every Monday off whether I needed it or not.  I stuck with the exact same rotation too and it worked masterfully.  I rocked out an 800 mile month in August with ease and felt fantastic.

Then I bought my Venge at the end of August and this began my undoing.  The bike is only marginally faster than my old 5200 and the components are actually a grade lower…  Even with 13 years of technological advances the old Ultegra components are still a little bit smoother than the 105’s.  That notwithstanding, the bike is about two pounds lighter (three now) and a ton more comfortable to ride (something with the geometry that I haven’t quite figured out yet – but I’m working on a blockbuster series of posts that will expose the weakness in the Trek).  With the Venge, those 17-17.5 mph easy efforts became 18.5-19 mph and I justified the lack of active recovery rides by riding with my wife once a week on Fridays (16.5 mph on average) through September – once school started.  I needed two active recovery rides a week to stick with my schedule.  So, for August, I made it 800 comfortable miles.  September was a 650 mile month (with minimal active recovery) and that behavior followed into October where I was on pace, at least until last week, to put in another 800 mile month as of the 15th (397 miles) – and that’s where my month hit a wall.  I’ve been going six days a week, close to full-out every day, for a month and a half.

While it had been fun, I’m paying for it.  I spent a week with something that resembled restless leg syndrome and I’ve had to make sure I was never too far from a bottle of Aleve to ease the soreness.  Now, for certain, this isn’t a hydration thing, this isn’t a nutrition thing and I don’t think it’s a bike fit issue (I did tinker with my saddle five weeks ago but ended up only 2 mm back from where I started and it’s been great for four weeks now).  I took it very easy last week, dropping the mileage from 200 the previous week to only 88 last week over just four days.  Two hard rides, one medium effort and one easy.  The extra two days off helped but I’m not quite back yet.

So for this week, I took Monday off as I have for the last few months, and I rode hard yesterday.  The weather forecast is for cold temps but not much in the way of rain so for the next three days (at least) I’ll be concentrating on slow active recovery rides and see where I’m at on Saturday. 

To confirm my suspicions, I braved the sparse flurries and howling winds for a very easy spin (17.5 mph into the wind, 18.5 back home with the wind) and I feel better than I’ve felt in two weeks.

More to come…

Note to self: Cold gets colder when the sun goes down.

We were down to our last club ride of the year (we ride next week but we’ll take it easy – it’s a night ride) and it was ugly outside. Balaclavas, full finger gloves, thermal tights…one guy even wore snowmobiling gloves. I was pretty decked out myself – though I was in a bit of a pickle… I brought my cold weather jacket but I worried it would be too much – too sweaty, so I opted for a jersey, arm warmers and a light long sleeved jersey.

The warm-up didn’t give me the warm fuzzies either – I wasn’t exactly cold but it took almost four miles to warm up. I went back and forth but decided to leave the jacket in the car in the end because I figured I’d warm up once we got started. Oops.

My no jacket cut-off is 50 degrees. Anything below that, I’ll have to leave the long-sleeved jersey in the car and wear the jacket. I froze. Even at 22-24 mph (into a 15 mph wind) and taking each of my pulls up front I didn’t break a sweat. It was not good. After I took a pull up front (in which I stayed just a little too long) we hit the first decent set of hills and my legs tightened up…I’d had enough of the pain. I quietly slipped off the back, turned around and took a shortcut.

I ended up catching my buddies Brad and Joyce on Brad’s tandem and rode back with them at a fairly easy 20 mph. I say “fairly” because anyone who knows anything about tandems knows they don’t climb well. So while I had to push to keep up on the descents and flats (I rode beside rather than behind them – except where traffic was present) but climbing hills was, well I’ll just say it was easy.

We finished with just over 25 miles and I managed to hold a 20 mph average with stops. It took me 45 minutes to stop shivering.

On the positive side, my Venge felt amazing on the new wheels. Sections of cracked asphalt that used to have me cursing under my breath are no longer such a big deal. Also, even though I was woefully under-dressed, I did have a pretty good time (it sure beat sitting on the couch).

Over the next couple of weeks I’m readjusting my diet to reflect the fact that my riding will be sporadic at best. Michigan weather changes on a dime this time of year so I’ll be dodging a lot of rain days, and horror of horrors, it’s time to start thinking about riding on the trainer in my office again.  Damn.

I didn’t realize how much I had spent on my bike until…

I didn’t realize how much I had spent on my bike until I saw a gently used, full-size fifth wheel (25+ feet long or 8 meters) for sale – for the same amount as my bike (suggested retail)…

You be the judge.  This (on sale for a full $1,200 less than the retail cost of my bike):
FifthWheel

Or this:

IMG_3302Actually, I’d choose the bike again – it makes perfect sense to me.

This is meant to be an interactive post…  Please add your experience in the comments section.  When did you realize you were verifiably nuts?

Un-Bach’in’ It

Mrs. Bgddy called me Saturday morning and gave everything she had into getting me to drive up to her mom’s house.  I went on a guilt trip and even had her resort to pleading… I won’t lie, it was raining out and I seriously wanted to take advantage of laying about the house.  On the other hand I really missed her and after a few “pleases”…  I told a bit of a mis-truth and said I couldn’t see driving 2 hours to get up there just to have a nice dinner and drive home another two hours so I could get my ride in and make it to bowling Sunday afternoon.

After finishing the conversation and hanging up I got to thinking that my decision to stay home would be far less enjoyable than heading up – and if I was worried about timing I could bring my bike, stay the night and ride Sunday morning…  That would work, then I could head home and just go straight to bowling.  Perfect.

I quickly threw my cycling gear together, packed a change of clothes, my shoes and helmet, my lights (just in case I had to ride early), dropped everything in the car and then got my bike.  When I got that in I was struck by the notion, because Mrs. Bgddy complained about not being able get her run in due to the weather, that I could pack her bike too and we could go out for an adventure together.  That would make perfect even better.  I packed a pair of cycling shorts, tights, arm warmers, a jersey, her helmet and shoes into a gym bag and wedged her bike in (with a couple of blankets between) in the trunk of my Escape.

Two hours later, after my wife had told my girls that I was staying home, I pulled up to the warmest reception I’ve gotten in quite a while – and my wife and kids are known for some fine receptions, even for something as simple as coming home from the office.  There was a veritable parade of people who came out – my daughter’s first, then my wife, then her sisters kids…  My word, the hugs [and one kiss – 😉 ] alone were worth the drive!

The trick, heading up north without my wife knowing that I was on my way, was that by the time I’d gotten half-way there the rain had turned into clouds mixed with sun and I was passing by one of my favorite cycling destinations:  The Pere-Marquette Rail Trail.  I’d written, a while back, about possibly having some over-training issues so I had a serious struggle going between stopping for a quick 20 before finishing my journey or just heading straight through.  In the end, heading straight through won out – I wanted to get to my in-law’s house and adding an extra ride while trying to take it easy for a few days just didn’t make sense.

So yesterday morning, after breakfast and my wife’s amazement at how much weight she’s lost over the last couple of months (her cycling clothes are starting to loosen up), we headed down to the state park where we started out.  Right or wrong I was a little ambiguous about how tough this ride was going to be when my wife noticed that the first several miles were downhill.  She was worried about the ride back and having enough gas…  While she’s more than competent on a bike and she has been riding with me in the mountains (on the smaller hills), she’s never been on anything like what we were going to experience on this ride – 1,400 feet of elevation gain and another 1,400 feet of descent over 20 miles – we even hit a 10% hill…  This was a lot of climbing for her but she handled it like a champ after I explained some of the finer points of maintaining control for the length of each hill – a lot tougher than anything she saw down in Georgia and almost double the length she was used to riding.

I lost out on my opportunity to sit around and be useless but the weekend turned out to be a lot better for it.
IMG_3318

 

Carbon Vs. Aluminum Wheels – and the Chinese Knock-Offs…

I keep a slush fund for hunting.  Not much, only $100 a month, but come October, if a buddy wants to take a few days out-of-town to take a shot at a deer, I’ve got the cash on-hand to go without having to worry about whether the car needed tires or not.  When I got to hunting season this year to find no trips in cards, I had some money to spend and I chose to get a new set of wheels for the Venge.

The most I wanted to spend was $500 so carbon clinchers were effectively out – or so I thought.  Aluminum clinchers offered a wide array of options but there was a caveat:  I wanted a lighter bike afterwards.  I did some research and decided the best bang for my buck would be Vuelta Corsa SLR wheels from Nashbar – I wrote about them yesterday – and I was mere minutes away from cancelling that order.  The wheels were backordered and according to an email I received from Nashbar, I had months before my new wheels would arrive.  The wheel purchase became interesting when I saw a guy with new carbon clinchers on his Storck…  They had no stickers and he claimed he got them on EBay for $600 – and that changed everything!  I thought I had plenty of time so I started checking EBay.  It wasn’t long before I found the wheels I saw on that Storck (simply Google EBay 23mm carbon clincher wheel set [the 23mm part is important, the majority of the wheels that will pop up if you leave the “23mm” out will be 20.5mm wheels]).  You’ll come up with a list of 38-50mm carbon clinchers, no brand stickers ranging in price from $370-$480 but the wheels in that price-range come with the label “from China”.

Now I’ve heard that almost all carbon road frames and wheels come from either China or Taiwan so the label didn’t bother me too much.  On the other hand, what caused me to pause was the fact that I don’t play around on a bike.  When I ride, I ride as fast as I can – especially downhill, so I’ll be relying on my wheels to carry me down a hill upwards of 50 mph.  At those speeds, unless you’re exceptionally lucky, you don’t just walk away from a crash so “I heard” simply wasn’t good enough.  With two small kids and a wife to provide for, I’m not going cheap unless I can be relatively certain of safety.  I checked with a semi-pro racer who works at my LBS and he confirmed that with some exceptions in finish and processing, they’re quality rims and pointed out the customer satisfaction ratings of the sellers (99.5-100%).  I couldn’t argue with that but it still wasn’t enough.  I checked out several message boards and found that with a few exceptions, people were generally quite happy with the knock-off wheels.

What things boiled down to, at least as I saw it, the big-name wheel companies (Enve, Zipp, Mad Fiber, Reynolds etc.) require common sense safety measures in the manufacturing processes that ensure rigidity.  For instance, a big name wheel company will ensure that a seam doesn’t occur on a spoke hole or they require that the spokes are molded into the rim…  These requirements slow production and increase cost, but also improve safety.  In addition, you’ve got an amazing amount of markup in each wheel set.  So the question is do you want to pay $2,000 for a wheel set that you can get for $500 without the stickers.  The trick is to be an expert on rims and wheels – if you’re an expert you’ll be able to pick out flaws and return a poorly constructed wheel if you get one.  Otherwise, it’s pretty much buyer beware, though it appears that poor customer experiences are quite rare.

Now, I was only minutes away from canceling my aluminum wheel order because I found a set of 38mm carbon clinchers that weighed in at 1400 grams, had a decent hub and came from a well-respected seller.  I even had the customer service number up.  Just before I punched in the number I received an email that my wheels had been shipped so I decided to stick with those because of one flaw in all carbon clinchers:  They don’t handle heavy braking well.  This is mainly due to user ignorance or error but I’ve read of a few instances where seasoned, competent cyclists damaged their rims on a decent by over-breaking down a steep descent…  In other words, while the carbon rims may be cool, I wouldn’t want use them when we go to the mountains for our yearly vacation/cycling adventure because I regularly ride steep hills that I am not familiar with so I’m harder on the brakes.  The last thing I want to have to worry about is whether I’m braking too much going down an unfamiliar hill, a couple of dozen miles from the house we’re staying at and poor cell service.  No thanks.  To still further cloud the issue, these problems normally happen to those who weigh substantially more than I do (they range, from what I saw, from 195-220 pounds) so it could simply be one of those “given all of the right (bad) circumstances”, failures happen.

On the other hand, carbon clinchers will eventually be mine because they’re perfect for the vast majority of cycling I do here in southeastern Michigan.  Easy rolling hills, hardly any braking.  Now I’ll just have to decide on whether I’ll pay retail price or get the Chinese knock-offs.  I have a funny feeling I’ll be going cheap.  😉

The Key To Getting Fit in Three Words…

click and drag from one arrow to the other…  >

Quit bullshitting yourself.  You don’t believe that crap you’re trying to sell yourself on anyway.  You can do it, you can make the commitment, you can work that hard, you can succeed – unless you believe the lie that exercise can be effortless.  It’s nasty, dirty, sweaty, hard work.  Learn to love it, or let me know how that tree bark salad tastes. <

Vuelta Corsa SLR Rims – The Venge gets some new shoes (and goes on a diet)!

The fact that I love my new Venge has been made more than clear – I’ve never been happier with a purchase with two exceptions:  My wife’s engagement ring (and her wedding ring) and our house.  There was, however, one nagging rub…  The wheels that came with the bike.  They are heavy – and I’m talking about more than 4-1/4 pounds!  Of course, if you have a 1975 Schwinn, well 4-1/2 pounds for both rims would seem awesome.  When you’ve got a 2013 race bike, not so much.  If that wasn’t reason enough for a new set of rims, the original DT Swiss Axis 4.0 rims had a considerable amount of slop in the hub – so much so that whenever I hit a bump it would make a slight rattling noise.  When I brought it up to Matt at the shop, he asked me to try to get used to it because it wasn’t much and that little bit of slop meant that the bearings had less friction – less friction is fast.  What ended up happening is that every time I hit a bump I couldn’t help but have “piece of s#!t rim” flash through my head – and I hit a lot of little bumps.

I set out finding a reasonably priced wheel that would relieve me of that and knock a pound off of my bike’s weight a few weeks ago.  Naturally I started at Nashbar.  I buy a fair amount of gear from them and have yet to be disappointed with anything I’ve gotten there (five jerseys, cycling sunglasses, Pearl Izumi toe covers to match my shoes and a few other items I can’t recall at the moment).  I ended up settling on the Vuelta Corsa SLR wheels for only, get this, $320.  After I ordered them I was almost immediately beset with buyers remorse for not settling on a more expensive, slightly more “aero” wheel (FLO, Easton or Fulcrum) – for only $200 more I could have had either one of those…  I also considered a pair of the Chinese carbon clincher knock offs…  But in the end, I decided to stick with my gut – and the Vuelta’s.

Well, they showed up today out of the blue (I wasn’t expecting them until next week) so I was quite fired up to see if they lived up to their promise.  Folks, the Vuelta rear wheel is lighter than the front wheel that came with my Venge.  Seriously!  I took them over to my local shop because I know absolutely nothing about new wheels – other than how to true them.  The guys at the shop got me all set up and while they were switching the cassette around we did the impromptu pick ’em up weight test.  After Walter got the index adjustment done and everything back together, we stuck my bike on the scale…  With cages and pedals, 17.3 pounds – less than five hundredths of a pound shy of a full pound lighter than the DT Swiss Axis 4.0 wheels…  Oh, and do they make my bike pop:

IMG_3302

Well once I got the new wheels on I couldn’t help but take it for a test ride, especially considering the weather was quite nice (if a little cool).  20 miles of sheer bliss.  They’re worlds smoother, especially on rough pavement, they spin up so easily it’s almost unfair and I could unquestionably feel the lack of that extra pound in the wheels.  Like anything on a bike, the wheels have a break-in period so I’ll have to put a little bit of a lid on the enthusiasm until I pass that phase (call it 50-100 miles), but for a relatively inexpensive rim, they’re very nice.  The original price, according to Nashbar, is $550 but I got them on sale for $320.  Their a fantastic price to weight investment…and my Venge looks like the badass it should now!

IMG_3311 IMG_3314 IMG_3315

UPDATE 11-17-13: I’ve got hundreds of miles on the Corsa’s now and I’m still as happy with them today as the day they went on the bike. True, fast and forgiving. They were an excellent investment. I couldn’t be happier with them.

UPDATE 8-16-14:  I’ve got thousands of miles on the Corsa’s now and I finally ran into a problem with them.  After hundreds of bunny-hops, I started getting a loose spoke every now and again.  Over time, the rear wheel wouldn’t stay true for more than 25 miles.  I had the wheel relaced and it was good until I climbed my first hill.  The back-and-forth loosened up a spoke.  After tightening the spoke and finishing my ride, when I got back I checked every spoke on the rear wheel – three loose.  I tightened them up, then trued the wheel.  Then I tightened each spoke 1/4 turn, all the way around the whole wheel…  And viola…  No more loose spokes.  Even though the wheels are hand-built (in the US btw), the spokes might loosen up over time and it’s a little tricky to get the tension right.  Now that I’ve gotten the wheel strung right, I’m back to worry-free riding.