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Monthly Archives: February 2014

What’s the best way to make a bike faster… Answered.

I love the fact that my stats page pops up some pretty awesome search queries from time to time. This one is probably my favorite recurring query:

what’s the best way to make a bike faster

Pedal faster… And harder.

Technically, for those who don’t know already, here’s the important stuff:

1. Get the bike fitted to you.
2. Eat right.
3. Get into the most aerodynamic position you can.
However, the BEST way to make a bike faster boils down to three words:  Frequency and intensity.

Then this:

are chewy sprees good when u lift weights

Ladies and gentlemen, Chewy Sprees are good any time. For more specificity, Chewy Sprees are good:
When it’s rainy
When it’s sunny
When it’s cloudy
When it’s warm
When it’s cold
When you’re happy
When you’re sad
When you’re angry
After a long swim
After a long ride
After a long run
After all three of the above in succession
After Fartleking (had to)
After weight lifting
On days off
… Must I go on? I think not.

UPDATE: Sue added in the comments, that getting someone to push might help too. This is a fabulous idea, though lassoing a pro would be even faster

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Teaching as an Adviser: Parenting Your Older Children

Secondrate Cyclist

When my children were young everything was pretty cut and dry. Everything was more hands on, and time seems to stand still at certain points; while in the same instance, I would turn around and they would be five years older. I have made my share of mistakes and my share of what I feel are accomplishments. But that is neither here nor there. The issue now is moving from an authoritative position to an adviser.

Protection of your child, physically and mentally, will and should always be there. The hardest part that is allowing mistakes to be made as the children become older and holding advice if it is not solicited. Moving to the role of an adviser does not mean that you are a constant flow of information, but more of a tap that is to be accessed when needed, even when you know what should be done…

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What to Look For in an Entry-Level Road Bike

Spring is in the air, even if it is still well below freezing (20-40 degrees F below normal), and the new batch of soon-to-be cyclists are starting to peruse the web for tips they can use to help them pick the right road bike.  I had a search inquiry pop up in my stats yesterday that really piqued my interest:  “fast entry-level road bike”  Now, while there are, for all intents and purposes, fast bikes, when we’re looking at entry-level road bikes, it’s more about building fast legs than being able to pick an entry-level road bike that’s faster than another.  That said, there are certain steps that can be taken to improve one’s odds of becoming fast on an entry-level bike.  The important point here is that if you can become fast on an entry-level road bike, when you upgrade to a mid-range or high-end road bike, you’ll be a bit faster and a lot more comfortable.

To start this out, there are several important factors to look at when picking out a brand and the type of components you want.  I delve deeply into just what to look for, if you have interest, here so I won’t get too deep into that in this post.

For an entry-level road bike, as defined by cost:  $800-$1,800, you get an aluminum frame with a carbon fork and a range of options for components from the cheaper (and heavier) Shimano Sora line, all the way up to the 105 or even Ultegra line if you’re willing to go to the upper end of the range above.  If you’re planning on racing your entry-level bike, racers I know suggest nothing less than Shimano 105 components.  I own bikes with 105 and Ultegra components (one step up) and while the 105’s are great components, the Ultegra line is simply fantastic.

Now, I’ve got enough bikes and I’m deep enough into cycling that I can’t foresee the need for an entry-level bike in my future, but if I had to choose one, I’d go for the Specialized Allez Expert ($2,400 – Ultegra) or the Secteur Expert Disc ($2,000 – 105) because I like the geometry and the component line.  The frames, especially the Secteur, are very close to my Venge and I don’t know what it is about the Venge’s geometry but it fits me like a glove – I am amazed at just how comfortable I am on that bike.

That said, in an entry-level bike, all of the major brands offer a decent range of models if $800-$1,800 is what you consider affordable, neither will be appreciably “faster” than the next when comparing similarly priced road bikes.  The important differences in cost at that range is in the components.  The better the set of components, until you get to the very upper end (Dura Ace), the lighter they are and better they work.  This isn’t to say the low-end components don’t work, they do.  It’s just that the better components work better and are generally less finicky to keep in tune (my experience  suggests Ultegra is the best in the Shimano line for weight, durability and excellence in staying tuned though 105 is an excellent line as well).  The big difference is in crispness and speed of shift, not whether the components “work”.

More important will be the setup of the bike – and this is important if you want a fast bike.  Most entry-level bikes are set for comfort rather than speed.  To explain this entirely is a bit more technical than I care to get into for this post, but the manufacturers leave the fork long and use spacers to raise the stem, and thereby, the handlebar.  A higher handlebar means a more comfortable, less aerodynamic ride.  To set up an entry-level bike more like a race bike (higher saddle, lower bar) you can either experiment by placing the stem below the spacers or you can have the fork modified to limit the number of spacers below the stem.  Also, it helps to order a bike on the lower side of your size range:  At 6’0″ tall, my range is 56-59 cm frame (depending on the manufacturer of course – for Specialized and Trek I’m 56-59).  I own a 58 cm Trek that’s got a bit less of a drop and my race bike is a 56 cm frame.  For examples, I’m going to stick with Specialized because I own a few of them and I know the geometries.  We’ll be looking at 4 bikes:  The Allez (entry) geometry matches up with the Tarmac (mid to high-end race bike) and the Secteur (entry) matches up with the Venge (high-end race [though it does not match up as closely as the Allez and Tarmac – you’ll see]).

First the Allez and Tarmac:
Allez  Tarmac

But let’s look at the Allez superimposed over the Tarmac:

AllezOverTarmac

Click to embiggen

All that needs be done to change the Allez’s geometry to get close to the Tarmac is to drop the stem.  Now, if you’re looking for speed, you simply order the smaller sized bike in your range…  You’ll have to hike the saddle up and you’ll drop the stem down and voila!  You’ve got an aero setup on a $800 bike.  Let’s look at the Venge and Secteur:
Venge Secteur
And superimposed:

Click to Embiggen

Click to Embiggen

Not quite as close, but you get the idea, same theory – you get the smaller bike in your range, slam that stem and the cyclist will be in a much more aerodynamic position on a relatively reasonable bike.

Then all that’s left is to ride your bike…  A lot.  You get fast, upgrade your wheels considerably (wheels on entry-level bikes are crap – if you want another easy way to gain speed, this is where to start), and you’re well on your way…  To buying the Venge.  This is the crappy thing about cycling – once you get that entry-level bike, if you find you love the sport, you’ll be upgrading as soon as you have (or can borrow) the cash.  Why do you think I own the Venge.  😉

It is what it is.  Happy Hunting.

 

PS:  Steven Burkard, in the comments section below, added that buying a used bike is advisable as you can buy a nicer race bike for close to the same cost as a new entry-level.  I agree, as I did the exact same thing and ended up with my Trek 5200, full carbon with Ultegra components for less than I’d have paid for the most basic Trek or Specialized entry-level bike.  Be sure, if you’re in the market, to try that route as well.

 

On Being Okay With Who You Are…

Caution:  This post contains simple, honest language that is not cloaked in nonsensical, feel-good gibberish.

When it comes to running a marathon, I’m a wuss.  Now please don’t head off to the comments box to let me know I’m not actually a wuss.  I know this, I’m not a wuss in general.  In fact, when it comes to cycling I’m tougher than most.  When it comes to the desire to run a marathon however, it’s just not there, I’m okay with calling myself a marathon wuss.

I know, and am quite happy with, who I am in spite of this.  I would even go so far as to say that I’m satisfied.  Not that I can rest or retire on this, but I’m sexy and I know it, to borrow a line, and that’s good enough.

This is all well and good but being okay with oneself comes with a price tag:  Honesty.

If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone offer the notion that I (or anyone else) should be happy with a fat body, I’d be rich.  And if I were to actually take that advice and eat myself to obesity, I’d be miserable – there is no dressing that up.  I simply can’t grasp the concept, it seems silly (and childish).

Reality is the problem here.  I look at it like I would recovering from alcoholism.  It isn’t rocket science, I simply can’t drink like other people, so I don’t.  Being happy fat would be like trying to “be okay with who I am” while I’m drunk in a ditch.

“Oh, hey, I know you took a piss in the hamper last night, then tried to ear f**k me before you passed out with the plunger sticking out of your @$$, but hey, you just need to be okay with who you are”.  Said no wife to her husband ever in the history of Mankind!

Who could be happy like that, and exactly how ignorant would you have to be to believe it?  How gullible?  Well, the thought of being fat isn’t quite that bad, but being fat will kill you even quicker than being a drunk:  My aunt died before she hit fifty and I have no plans on following her lead.

Looked at from the another angle, I own some very nice clothes.  The notion that I could be as happy as I am now if I was as big as Rob Ford and had to buy my clothes at the tall and fat store is simply preposterous.  Impossible. I will not be happy with a waist size greater than my inseam. I will not be happy as a fat man.  I will not be satisfied if I am overweight.  I refuse.  My friend (and probably one of my biggest inspirational fellows) Jim calls the attempt “Telling each other lies at the donut shop”.  He’s one tough old coot who still runs and rides regularly.

I suggest it’s about time we bury that cliché.  Don’t attempt the impossible, instead why not look at it another way:

Fitness, much like happiness, is an inside job and is not achieved overnight. Trimming down takes time and effort so motivation and focus are crucial.

Be satisfied in doing the next right thing at any given moment to get where you want to be.

If you’re not doing the next right thing, look at the bright side:  You know where to improve.

Last night I had to go to the corner store to pick up a few items for dinner.  I, rather stupidly, walked down the cookie aisle where I passed the Oreos.  As I reached out for the container I thought, “is this the next right thing?” and withdrew my hand.  A dozen cookies would last five or ten minutes and take weeks to recover from.  Not today.

I Heart Darwin… Michigan Man Shoots Himself in the Head

I love the News show The Five – it’s just like NPR in reverse:  Four conservatives gang up on one liberal.  The one difference is that the liberal on Fox is Bob Beckel, not some squishy conservative like David Brooks on NPR.  Last night Bob Beckel’s “One More Thing” centered on a story about a Michigan man who was attempting to show his girlfriend that guns were safe by pointing three of them at his head and pulling the trigger. Bob mischaracterized the event by saying the man was showing off three unloaded weapons.

Well folks, the last one obviously wasn’t unloaded because when the man pulled the trigger, it fired and the man died.  Bob used this event to leave with the notion that having guns at home is not safe.

Now for the rest of the story:  The man had been drinking much of the day.  Well I am shocked and amazed, but it gets better:

“(The situation) is pretty unique, as I have never heard of anyone testing out  the safety of a gun by pointing at their head and pulling the trigger,”  Undersheriff Michael McCabe told the Oakland Press.

Well imagine that, seems to me the Theory of Natural Selection explains this one just about to a tee.  Now allow me the dalliance of pointing out a few things that dope did wrong:  First, when “demonstrating pistol safety”, one does not treat a pistol as a toy or a prop.  It is neither.  Pistols have one purpose and one purpose only:  To fire a bullet out of the barrel at a very high velocity when the trigger is pulled.  It is not a toy.  Period, end of lesson one.

Second, and this is literally the first thing taught in a weapon’s safety course:  You never place your finger on the trigger unless you are pointing at a target that you intend to shoot.  This would mean your own noggin – unless you intend to put a hole in it, don’t place your finger on the trigger.  Period, end of lesson two.

Third, and this goes to:  “To Thine Own Self Be True”, if you’ve imbibed in an adult beverage or twenty, you tend to become stupid the farther into the bottle you go.  You do stupid things in other words.  The last thing you want is to be stupid with a pistol in your hand.  That’s the second thing they teach you in gun safety.

Finally for the lessons, when handling a pistol, or any kind of firing weapon, ALWAYS ASSUME IT’S LOADEDThis point is not rocket science.  Clearing a weapon prior to inspection and locking the slide back (or sliding out the cylinder [the round piece that holds the bullets] for a revolver) is always advised.

Having a pistol in the home, Mr. Beckel, is not dangerous if it is handled with the care it deserves.  Little boys play with “guns” in the back yard, heck my two daughters, my wife and I play with Nerf “guns” all of the time (and we’re quite the crack shots actually).  Pistols and revolvers are not toys, nor are BB-guns and pellet guns.  Using an utter idiot, drunk no less, as a talking point example for why pistols are dangerous, is almost as stupid as putting a loaded pistol to your head and pulling the trigger to show your girlfriend that it’s safe – with three kids in the house.  C’mon Bob – you’re better than that, and interesting that you chose to leave the drunk part out of your One More Thing, one ex-drunk to another.

If you can’t do a push-up, is it still a push-up? And why do you care?

Picture this in your mind… Or look in the mirror next time you do a push-up…

You’re (or you see someone) in the set position, arms in close but at an ungodly angle. Butt a foot higher than your head. You make, with the ground, something short of but close to, an isosceles triangle.

Ready… Set… Few more seconds, okay… Ready… Set.. Go. You bend at the elbows and lower your chest exactly one and one half-inch. You push and strain to reverse your momentum… Your face turns an unhealthy shade of red… Then purple… And boom, you lock your elbows. Now for number two! Rinse and repeat four more times.  I saw this just last night before my daughter’s swim class (older kids).

Now that, folks, ain’t a frickin’ push-up. I don’t care what the excuse is, it doesn’t matter.

If you’re running around claiming you can do fifty push-ups when you can really only do fifty 1-1/2″ chest drops, you have an honesty problem. The fact that someone else chuckles as you’re doing them is surely a little rude, but c’mon man! Get on your knees and do the easy ones till you’ve got the strength and form to do them right… or something!

Now, this isn’t to take away from those who are trying to improve, but for the love of God, try just a little honesty!

I am a fair cyclist. Above average speed but I probably won’t get to the next level because I’m not willing to put in the effort, nor do I have a desire to get used to feeling that uncomfortable when I ride.  A 22 mph (21.7 actual) Century on open roads is good enough!  I don’t want to work any harder to get faster.  Period.  The point is, I’m happy with how I ride.  What someone else thinks of my being happy is none of my business.

The same goes for any other of the cardio activities.  Running, cycling or swimming…and push-ups too. I read a post yesterday in which the author was “fuming” at the suggestion made by sub-four hour marathoners that a fifteen minute mile is not running, that the cutoff is 4 hours.  She had a point too.  Humorously enough, I think I’ve come down on both sides of the issue depending on my mood and the day.

First, this is why I love cycling. Buy the equipment ride in a straight line on the correct side of the road and you’re a cyclist.

There are exceptions to this of course… If your bike has platform pedals, you “ride a bike to stay/get fit”. If you ride a mountain bike exclusively you’re a “mountain biker”.  The exceptions are purely my opinion though, as is the whole sub-four hour marathon debate.  It’s all opinion.

I don’t think the debate is the problem though.  What gets people fired up is the arrogance.   The “it doesn’t matter” crowd is angry with the “sub-four (or eight minute mile) crowd’s arrogance – and they are arrogant.  Humorously enough, the “it doesn’t matter” crowd, if they’re honest, will see that their opinion that it shouldn’t matter can be just as arrogant.

This debate boils down to one simple concept: Whether or not it should be law that anyone who is chronically late set their watch/clocks 10 minutes fast.  A compelling case could be made; think of all of the tardiness that could be cured, instantly!

On the other hand you have the normal people who are regularly on time and point out that setting the clocks fast ten minutes is a step below selling snake oil.  The practice is silly.  After all, you still know that the clock is set ten minutes fast!  How easy are you to fool that you can look at the clock and not know this?

Who cares?

The reason I picked the clock analogy is quite simple.  Mrs. Bgddy has every clock in the whole house, and her car, set at different times.  The bedroom clock is seven minutes fast, the mini-van is set twelve minutes fast, the cable box is set at the proper time because you can’t adjust it, as is her phone.  I find the whole thing hilarious – and believe it or not, I still get caught by both the mini-van and bedroom clocks every once in a while.  Here’s the important part though:  I love my wife – the sun rises and sets on her.  Because I love her, I choose to see the humor in the whole clock thing.  I could choose to get angry, to take offense, but what would that solve?

My wife is set in her ways, allowing myself to be frustrated over something so trivial would only hurt me.  I must always remember that I chose my wife – all of her wonderfulness and all of her faults.  In fact, had it not been for her faults, she may have picked a better husband.  Think on that for a minute.  The trick is using the same thought process for others – because I didn’t choose them.

I must maintain my own honesty – and I honestly don’t care what the difference is between a runner and a jogger.  At least today I don’t – because being happy is more important that who thinks what about whom.

Several years ago, on the phone with a very good friend and mentor, I was complaining about my wife.  We had gotten in an argument and I left rather than lose my temper.  I was whining about what a pain in the ass she was and how she wasn’t being rational and so on…  He said, “Jimmy, sometimes you want to throw them like a dart but you just gotta love ’em”.  I started back in, “Yeah but…”  And he interrupted me, “You just gotta love ’em”.   I started in again, “but…”  “You just gotta love ’em”.

I finally get it Mike.

Mountain Biking Essentials: The Chain Stay Protector

Ah, spring is about us and it’s almost mountain biking season up here in the great frozen north that is Michigan.  Mountain biking is a fun, cool side-sport for a devoted road cyclist.  I’ve always looked at it as being able to turn back the clock a little bit and behave like a kid – a chance to play in the dirt, jump my bike and other unrefined behaviors that one typically won’t take part in on the road.

This comes at a price however.  Being a cycling enthusiast of epic proportions, I love a good-looking, scratch-free bike.  In most cases, a clean paint job and mountain biking do not go hand-in-hand.  If I’m doing it right, I will crash from time to time.  On the other hand, there is one place to minimize unnecessary damage:  The chain stay (see photo).

Lizard Skins Chain Stay Protector

The one thing I noticed, and hated, when I first started mountain biking was how loud it was going down a rocky hill.  The chain would smack mercilessly on the chain stay as I bounced down the hill.  While new bikes do come with a nice little sticker over the top of the chain stay, with the amount of abuse I threw at that bike I knew it would only be a matter of time before I wore through the sticker and got into the paint and aluminum – or worse, if I hit a bump hard enough the chain would gouge into the softer material of the chain stay.

That’s about the time that I noticed my buddy Tim’s bike didn’t make all the noise that mine did – he had a Lizard Skin chain stay protector on his bike.  I picked one up that afternoon and cannot be happier with the way it quieted down my ride and kept the chain from scratching the chain stay.

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that they do present another problem:  If they’re installed loose over the chain stay, so that they can move or slide about relatively freely, a chain stay protector will collect dirt and wear the stay where it’s not protected by that sticker.  Care should be taken to install them correctly and to make sure it stays relatively clean so dirt can’t work its way underneath.