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Daily Archives: February 19, 2014

Eleven Miles

Eleven miles. On a bike, it’s nothing. A warmup for a Century. Not even a half an hour at speed, thirty five minutes if I’m taking it easy.

It was 40° and mostly sunny at noon today. I walked out the door to stretch my legs and knew there was no way I was putting in a full day at the office. By 2 o’clock I had everything pressing done and the Cannondale in the back of my truck. By 2:15 I was on the road heading home.

Even though I’m not one hundred percent following my short cold, there was no way I was missing out on the nicest day in four months for a bike ride.

I packed a bunch of registration forms into a small backpack (to drop off at the LBS), geared up and was out the door. For the first time since before I started cycling I didn’t bother with the activity tracker. No waiting for the GPS signal, no countdown. Just clipped in and went. I was grinning before I passed my neighbor’s driveway, less than a hundred yards from mine.

I’d been waiting, praying for this day since my dad passed away.

I could handle the sadness, the loss, the fact that my dad, the awesomest dad I knew, was in a diaper when he died – that strong man, the guy who taught me to be a man, had to have his ass wiped for him… I could have handled all of that if I could just get my ass in a saddle, on the road, for a ride. If I could just escape for a minute, get my grin back.

It’s amazing what will pass for a beautiful day to ride after the one of the gnarliest winters my State has seen since I moved here… In 1975.

It’s also amazing what a silly little eleven miles will do for a fella’s disposition. My prayer was answered, I got my escape, I got centered, reconnected, renewed, whatever you want to call it – I’m back.

One of the first thoughts I had when I learned he’d passed, after the relief and asking God to take care of my pops till I get there so we can hit one of Heaven’s golf courses was, “geez, this couldn’t have waited for spring”? I know how silly that is, how selfish it is, and I dismissed it as such immediately… But still, I can throw a bike ride at anything and be better for it after.

Whatever, it is what it is and I got my fix. I feel better, last vestiges of a cold and all.

Wow, that got a bit deeper than I’d intended when I set about writing this post. On a lighter note, the Cannondale upgrades surpassed my expectations. The saddle, a Specialized Aria (I think) is perfect and the new (old) wheels from the Venge smoothed the pavement right out. Getting used to the drops will be a challenge, it’s a straight up pro setup – 5″-6″ [ED. I was guessing when I wrote this post, I measured it:  6″ on the nose] of drop from the saddle nose to the bar top, almost a foot down to the drops… My back is just a few degrees from flat on the hoods. It is flat riding in the drops. That said, I will get there (more on that tomorrow), and I can tell you, I finally, really like that bike. Of course it helps that the rest of the setup is right – the saddle is back as far as it can go and the new 110 mm stem is exactly the right length so I fit on that little bike quite well. I am supremely glad that I hung onto it and kept at trying to make it right. It’s the perfect wet weather/road steed.

UPDATE: Man, I slept like a baby last night.

The Decision to Unplug the Cycling…

I’ve been somewhat of a stats junky ever since I started cycling.  I am not a competitive cyclist, I don’t race and don’t have a desire to.  I don’t sport a $2,000 power meter and don’t ever plan on wanting one.  I do, however, track almost every single mile I ride throughout the year on Endomondo through my iPhone – all 5,000+ miles.  With Endomondo I get a full breakdown of average speed, current speed, time and distance and with the help of the Cycle Computer App, I’m able to get a fair guess at average wattage.  When properly used and analyzed I believe it’s helped me immeasurably, get to a point where I’m able to cycle with some of our club’s faster cyclists (even if I haven’t been willing to put in the effort to catch the real racers in the club).

I have to, whether I like it or not, bring my phone with me on the vast majority of my rides so I’ve never really looked at hitting the GPS button on the phone as that big of a deal.  That attitude began evolving last year.  While I always brought my phone and tracked the miles, it spent most of the time silenced in my back pocket – and I still managed to log the fastest long distance miles I’ve ever ridden (Fastest was 58 miles at just shy of 23 mph on open roads, obeying all Michigan traffic laws).  While I spent most of those miles sheltered, ten to fifteen riders back in a pace-line, we were still averaging 26-28 mph when we had straight shots.  That’s fast baby – and miraculously I didn’t need to hear the miles chiming off every 2 minutes and 10 seconds to actually ride that fast (I’m being flippant of course).

Then, just yesterday, I read a post written by a blogger who is quickly becoming one of my favorites about the “Quality Controller“:

Some cycling companions are, to put it bluntly, numbers monkeys. When they invite you out on a ride you ask them ‘what’s the plan, where are we going’, and they will give you a forensic breakdown of the distance you will cover, the height you will gain, the kind of average speed you can expect to travel and even the gradient of some of the climbs.

But for some, for the Quality Controllers among us, all this is superfluous.

They will take you out for a ride, and you will be out on the bike for no more than an hour and a half, but you will cover 25 or 30 of the most varied, interesting and downright pleasurable miles you have ever had the good fortune to pedal. You will ride along dappled country lanes, up onto wide and breathless hilltops, down sweeping valleys, and through villages of exquisite English beauty.

I am currently a “numbers monkey” but Matt Assenmacher, the owner of our local bike shop(s) is the quintessential definition of the Quality Controller [I’m editing the quote for space]:

With each significant landmark you pass your friend will regale you with history and culture, describe the geographical features, or simply tell you a funny story. He will then whisk you along to a café which treats it’s cyclists like minor celebrities…

And as you pedal happily along, basking in the sheer joy of riding your bike with this man, you look across at him and notice…surely, it can’t be right…he has no onboard computer, and a map in his back pocket…

And finally, the most important part:

If you push him, your friend will give you stories of times he has spent engaged in some of the hardest riding, clocking up the most tremendous mileage possible. The Quality Controller has done it all and got it out of his system, and is now committed to quality.  He doesn’t look down his nose at those who log mileage and engage in fevered competition with each other to the top of the next climb – he has lived that life – but knows now that his role in life is to ride quality miles, and pass on his serene knowledge to those who choose to listen.

Now I admittedly still have a lot to learn and I absolutely don’t want to throw away the decent base that I’ve built up – I still want to be as fast as I am now, but I want to be a quality controller too, and there is one fantastically pressing reason for this:   My wife.

It turned out that my wife, while not quite the carbon-phile that I am, is really getting into cycling in a big way, she’s talking about triathlons and centuries this year.  Also, while the kids are in school on Friday’s my wife and I go for a 20 mile (give or take) ride stopping off at Wendy’s for lunch on the way home.  Even though I loved the speed of Tuesday night rides, Friday quickly became my favorite ride.  We don’t exactly tear it up, but I think that’s kind of the point – I do tear @$$ around the neighborhood almost every other day and it’s a breath of fresh air to ride easy and try my best to be my wife’s “Quality” guy.

So that, added to the rest of what I’ve been kicking around for quite some time…  I’m going to unplug the cycling, completely.  No more Endomondo, no more worrying about whether or not I’ll make the top ten in Michigan for the National Bike Challenge, no more challenges and no more watts.  While I haven’t done it all, I have taken Endomondo as far as I think I need to.  It’s time to start focusing more on the quality of the ride rather than how fast I can get back to my driveway.

UPDATE:  It appears as though I may have caused a bit of confusion with this post.  Two of my friends posted comments about headphones (or ear buds).  I never ride with either as I believe it’s far too dangerous.  I have a phone mount for my phone that clips on to my stem so I can hear the speaker when the miles chime off.  I discourage and am, in fact, quite against anyone using headphones or ear buds on a bike.  If you do, it’s your choice, but I think it’s stupid.