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Monthly Archives: March 2014

Sure Beats the Trainer…

Mrs. Bgddy and I were back out for our Friday lunch ride, first one of the year. It wasn’t too bad out, mid to upper 40’s – the wind was brutal, but my God, after this long, brutal winter, the sunshine was awesome and it sure beats the trainer.

We stopped by the bike shop on the way to lunch and Walter, the shop manager, snapped our photo as the “first ride-ins of the year”:

If you happen to be a member of Facebook, please follow the link and like Assenmacher’s.

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Note the size of the snow bank. They call me an avid enthusiast for a reason.

BTW. In the first photo, Mrs. Bgddy was up front – my wife, because the sun rises and sets on her, always gets the front… Walter had us switch because they’re a Specialized, Trek and Giant shop – Mrs. Bgddy was on the Cannondale. ūüėČ

Don’t Use Cardio to Build Muscle? I don’t think you’re using the word ‘cardio’ properly

I hear (or more often, read) health pros say that we shouldn’t look to cardio to build muscle and I just don’t understand what I’m missing here.

When I was a kid (early-twenties), I had extreme chicken legs. Rollerblading 50 to 60 miles a week and they got quite a bit better.  When I started running, still better. Cycling has grown my legs to a point where I have to buy slacks a size (getting close to two) bigger in the waist so my legs fit, just to have the waist taken in.  My legs, to put this simply, are bad-a$$.

I haven’t lifted a weight since college, 22 years ago.

Statements such as¬†“don’t use cardio to build muscle” or “you need weight training to build the muscle needed to lose weight” catch me up.¬† If those are true, how could I have gotten such spectacular legs. Weight training certainly couldn’t get me there, not even close. There is a simple reason for this: I will ride my bikes. I will not show up to the gym.¬† I’d be no worse off taking a stack of cash equivalent to a year’s membership and lighting it on fire – at least I’d be warm for a minute (we broke a 118 year-old record yesterday, 5 degrees F).

Now, I realize this approach is not perfect.¬† I am not perfect,¬†far from it, but¬†don’t I have a desire to be either and I suppose that’s probably what is important here.¬† What do I¬†want? ¬†I can answer this question simply:¬† I want to stay fit and trim.¬† I want a body that I can fit into slim-fit clothing and I want to have fun getting it…¬† And that last part, having fun, is the most important.

Folks, life isn’t necessarily easy and sadly, it’s very short.¬† I have, over the last twenty years, enjoyed every fitness¬†activity that I’ve chosen to take part in, and because I’ve enjoyed myself, I’ve stuck with it.¬† Whether rollerblading, running or cycling (especially cycling), I’ve had fun staying in shape.¬† For some people, going to the gym is enjoyable.¬† I’m not one of those, so¬†the fact that¬†pumping iron is said to be the¬†easiest way to build muscle is irrelevant.¬† The best way to build muscle and stay fit is the one I will stick with and commit to.

I fit into the cycling community.  I ride well with others and I thoroughly enjoy every minute I spend on a bike.

What works best is what I will stick with.  After, all that matters is duration and intensity.  Anyone who says different is trying to sell you something.  In my humble opinion, of course.

Why Cyclists Wear those Silly Lycra Shorts – and Much More…

We cycling enthusiasts get a bad wrap from time to time.

You see us out riding in those Godforsaken outfits with those silly skin-tight shorts, on bicycles that cost more than your car (or at the very least,¬†our own vehicle).¬† We clip our feet into our pedals with shoes that cost more than your huffy 21¬†speed mountain bike.¬† We do crazy things like ride in the mountains – for fun and sign up for those¬†ludicrous 100 mile rides.¬† You can’t figure who would want to be on a bicycle for ten straight¬†hours.¬† Oh, and we have those stupid tiny saddles on our bikes – they can’t be comfortable.¬† After all, you’ve got one of those extra padded saddles the size of a motorcycle seat and another padded cover over that and your butt hurts after ten miles!

I am one of those guys,¬†a happy¬†enthusiast.¬† One pair of my shorts costs more than¬†some of the¬†bikes you’ll find at Wal-Mart.¬† My shoes?¬† More than all but a few of the bikes in the two-high by 40′ rack.¬† My shoes and pedals¬†cost more than all of the bikes they sell there.¬† Heck, my socks cost¬†more than a used Huffy.¬† I’ve got it all too.¬† Special cycling specific jacket, covers that go over my shoes so I can ride comfortably when the temps really drop, lights for night riding (even though I only need them once or twice a year)…¬† And just one of my bikes is worth more than the vehicle I drive.¬† I also match my outfits to my bikes when I ride.

First of all, I have not lost my mind.¬† There¬†is purpose behind everything we enthusiasts own.¬† Even my race bike has¬†a greater¬†purpose than my¬†just “wanting to ride¬†a cool¬†bike” (though I will cop to a partial¬†desire simply¬†to have a¬†sharp-looking¬†bike).¬† You see, when I ride my bikes, I usually don’t do so simply to get from point A to point B and back.¬† I don’t ride my bikes around the block to lose a pound or two and get my government recommended thirty minutes a day in.¬† I ride my bikes because I love to ride – the longer, the better.¬† I have a mountain bike to play in the dirt and a few weather specific road bikes to play on pavement – and make no mistake, to me it is playing.¬† Riding my bike puts a smile on my face like nothing else that can be done with my clothes¬†on.

Allow me to explain the function of all of this¬† stuff…¬† First, contrary to popular belief, the tiny saddles and those ridiculous shorts work together.¬† The padding is in the shorts, not on the saddle and it’s still¬†pretty thin, only a couple of millimeters, but that’s more than enough.¬† See, I love to ride long distances.¬† I ride with a group of about 40 other enthusiasts on Tuesday nights out in the sticks (minimal traffic), a 33 mile ride that takes less than an hour and a half.¬† On the weekends, I’ll ride anywhere from 40 to¬†100 miles a day depending on how much time I have.¬† Now, the reason those big fluffy seats hurt is they cut off blood flow to your “seated area”.¬† There are two veins that pass right through there and too much padding, plus the pressure of sitting on the seat, cuts off the blood supply.¬† This is why your nether regions start to hurt.¬† My saddles also have a cutout right up the center of the saddle so I’m sitting on bone, not my butt, and there isn’t enough padding to spread out and¬†cut the flow of blood off.¬† So while you’re hurting after ten miles, I’m still smiling after 100.

The shoes and pedals are quite helpful as well.¬† At ten miles an hour, you’re pushing your pedals around maybe 30 to 60 rpm.¬† To go 25 mph, 90-100 rpm is necessary.¬† Having my feet locked into the pedals helps keep my feet centered and¬†on the pedals at that speed and it allows me to pull up on the back stroke and at the top and bottom of the pedal stroke – there’s no wasted effort trying to keep my¬†feet in the proper place on the pedals.¬† Also, and this is important, when I ride at those speeds, over that distance, if my feet are cocked even a little bit at an unnatural angle, I can do some serious damage to my knees and ankles.¬† Keeping my feet locked in keeps them in the proper position (which has been exhaustively measured to make sure my legs operate efficiently and correctly).

Next up is those silly bright-colored jerseys.¬† They are made out of special moisture wicking material that bleeds the sweat to the outer part of the material where it evaporates, keeping us cool.¬† Cotton tee shirts, while infinitely cheaper, saturate, sticking to the rider which, over a short period of time, heats the rider up.¬† Also,¬†cycling specific jerseys¬†have three exceptionally handy pockets in the back so we can carry anything from food to tools or a spare tube in case we get a flat.¬† Now, those two factors alone are incredibly important, but add to that the bright colors and we become much more visible to traffic.¬† When you’re on the sidewalk five miles a day at a leisurely cruising speed this isn’t so necessary but when you’re on the road pushing out five or ten thousand miles a year,¬†being visible is¬†helpful.

Now, for those distances that I wrote about earlier…¬† When I ride my bike, I’m riding two times faster than an average¬†“bike rider” rides.¬† A century might take a normal bike rider ten hours to complete, while my last was done¬†in just over 4-1/2 hours.¬† See?¬† That’s not so bad.

Finally, and to wrap all of this up, is the amount of money I dedicate to my hobby.¬† I have, over the last three years, spent a¬†lot¬†of money on cycling.¬† Between shoes, clothing, tools and bikes (for the whole family), we’re talking about a pretty penny but it’s still only about half the price of a middle of the road Harley-Davidson dresser – and our bikes run on fat while a Harley runs on your wallet.

So there you have it Рwhile much of what I own might seem unnecessary to the average bike rider, none of it is wasted money on arrogance.  Every piece of equipment we enthusiasts own has a distinct and important purpose.  The fact that manufacturers make that equipment look awesome is strictly out of our hands.

When Will I Learn… And the Strong Case Against Platform Pedals.

I had a full-fledged Homer Simpson moment last night¬†just before¬†the first club ride of the season…

I attended the funeral for one of my favorite great aunts yesterday, just before lunch. While it was sad to say goodbye, seeing all of my aunts, uncles and cousins again was awesome Рunfortunately though, that pressed me for time getting to the meeting spot for the ride.

Long story short, I had the 5200 in the back if the truck, gathered my helmet, shoes, gloves and everything else I would need and headed out to the meeting place… I had my bike ready to go when it finally dawned on me, my pedals were on the¬†Cannondale back home.

Well, I needed a day off anyway so I packed up my bike, shut the lift gate and that’s precisely when one of the other guys said he had a pair of platform pedals in his truck.

Man did I feel like a dope, but on the bright side I figured it would make for a funny post so I installed the pedals on my¬†5200 and took it for a quick spin around the parking lot to see if I could hang.¬† Oh dear God…¬† I’ve been pretty rough on the old platform pedals and now my opinion of them¬†is cemented forever:¬† While sticking your foot out to turn, as a twelve year-old would on a BMX bike, makes cornering really fun, riding on them at speed (especially in a group setting) is nothing short of silly and dangerous at the same time.

Now, this was the first time since I started cycling that I rode a bike with platform pedals – you know, standard pedals, no toe clips, nothing to accept cleats…¬† I had to wear my tennis shoes (and yes,¬†I did catch some hell for it, and yes it was¬†hilarious – initial estimates say that it’s going to take at least two years to live this one down).

Humorously enough though, I kept up.¬† Being the first ride of the season, I don’t think anyone had high expectations – even the three racers who showed up were riding their cyclocross bikes.¬† As is quite usual for Tuesday night, we started out at about a 18-19 mph pace…¬† After having ridden the Cannondale for every ride I’ve been on this season, being on the 5200 was¬†wonderful – to compare the improvement in ride from the aluminum C’dale to the¬†carbon fiber¬†Trek, let’s see…¬† The difference between wearing minimalist¬†wooden shoes and a nice pair of $125 New Balance – with the most pronounced heel-strike known to man, for a marathon.¬† I do like riding the Cannondale because I have to work a lot harder to get decent speed out of it, but my composite bikes are like riding on butter in comparison.

After the first mile and a half, the horses took the lead and picked up the pace a bit.¬† We were running about 21 mph and I was holding up pretty well.¬† My pulls up front were pretty short, maybe a half or three-quarters of a mile, but I was quite pleased with how I was hanging in there with those Godforsaken, stupid pedals.¬† I didn’t like was those pedals.¬† First, with no pull on the back stroke, I was limited to mashing the pedals¬†and mashing sucks.¬† It’s unbelievably inefficient.¬† Second, trying to hold a 90 rpm cadence without having my feet locked into the pedals¬†was a serious pain in the butt because I had a tough time keeping my feet in the proper place – my heels were floating a bit and keeping the ball of my foot over the axle was near impossible.

I cut my ride short so I could get back home – Mrs. Bgddy had plans to go out for a run.¬† I ended up with 23.5 miles (give or take) in something like an hour and fifteen minutes.¬† Much better than I figured I’d be able to do this early.

Now if you remember, just one week ago, I wrote the day would never come¬†that I rode with platform pedals on my Venge.¬† Just one week ago.¬† Circumstances being what they are, the only other choice I had was to skip the ride and I didn’t want that, but you’d think I’d learn not to use the word “never” in a post.¬† Ah well, such is life.¬† That said, I hope I never have to ride like that again…¬† Platform pedals , straight up, no BS, suck.¬† Getting used to toe clips or the lock-in pedals may be difficult, but it’s worth the time and¬†effort, no doubt about it¬†– even if you fall over a time or two in the process of learning your way around them*.

I “heart” my Look Keo Classics.

*I am the only cyclist that I know of – in our group or in all of the cycling friends I have on the net – the only one, who hasn’t fallen over because I was clipped into my pedals – everyone does at least once.¬† My days are numbered and I know it…¬†I consider myself very lucky but am under no¬†delusion¬†that I’ll be able to keep this streak going forever.¬† That said, riding with cycling shoes and a decent set of lock-in pedals is worth all of the trouble that comes with getting used to them – and then some.

The Difficulties of Springtime Training in the Upper Midwest

I went out for a fantastic ride on Friday at lunch time – temps in the low 40’s, partly sunny…¬† It just doesn’t get much better than that in March in the upper Midwest of the US.¬† Saturday was back on the trainer for a relatively easy, if high cadenced spin.¬† Sunday the forecast was for mid to upper 30’s and partly sunny so rather than spin indoors I put all of my eggs into an outdoor ride basket.¬† Unfortunately, at 1¬† pm it was still below freezing and the wind was howling pretty good.¬† Still, I sucked it up, threw on the balaclava, jacket, leg warmers, foot covers, gloves and leg warmers and hit it.¬† The first mile was just fine so I started on my 20 mile route.

Unfortunately with all of that crap on, it was tough to tell that the wind was at my back – it felt, at the time, more from the west, or my left so when I hit that second mile heading west I thought I was into the teeth of the wind, that I’d be doing pretty well.¬† Then I turn north again and could feel how much I was being pushed.¬† Even with the wind at my back I was cold.¬† Not mildly uncomfortable cold, cold.

I decided half a mile up that I’d cut my ride to ten miles.¬† After all, with all I’ve ridden in the last week it should have¬†been a day off anyway.¬† At the end of the third mile I made a U’ie, heading directly into the wind.¬† Absolutely miserable.¬† My legs started seizing up with the cold almost instantly – funny how the muscles don’t want to work when they’re really cold like that, eh?

I called no mas at the end of that fourth mile and decided to head back to the house.¬† Rather than waste all of the preparatory time I opted to do intervals till I got back home – big ring all the way into a gusting 25-30 mph wind (it had picked up considerably since I’d walked out of the house).¬† I figured if anything, even though I wussed out, I’d get something out of it.¬† I did – my legs were hit yesterday.

Unfortunately, temps yesterday hit 50, but I had my daughter’s swim practice at 5.¬† To complicate things, we’ve got rain rolling in this evening and snow on Wednesday and Thursday before we hit 50 again on Friday.¬† In other words, I rode even though it was slow and my legs are smoked.

Such is the life when training in Michigan – I have to take the good weather when I can and shuffle everything else around, if possible.

And to make things even more interesting, the Tuesday night club ride starts tonight. Oh, I am not ready for that – I think… To tell you the truth, I have no idea where I’m at. I haven’t tracked anything so I haven’t a clue how I’m doing. I felt pretty sluggish on Friday. Sunday, as short as that little jaunt was, I felt pretty decent. Then yesterday, call it a decent weather kick, I felt quite good. Big ring into the wind, nice and low – and that’s on the Cannondale, with a seven speed racing cassette, there are no easy gears unless I’m in the little ring.

This morning I’m a little sore but I can tell you this: with snow rolling in tomorrow, I really don’t care – I’m riding tonight.

Folks, I told my legs this morning that they will shut up. There will be no protest. No revolt. I am a dictator that way.

And that is what makes me, “me”. ¬†Oh, I know, “you should rest. Recover”.¬† Yeah, I know, but I’ve been resting for four months, and Daddy’s back.¬† I’ll rest tomorrow, I promise.¬† We’re supposed to get 6″ of snow.¬† Gotta love Michigan.

ūüėČ

Look vs KTM

The Problem with Fake Bikes: From Frames to Wheels… A Few Points to Consider

Last August I bought a brand spanking new Specialized Venge Comp.¬† It is, without a doubt, the sexiest bike I’ve ever seen.¬† I love that bike – with the exception of the wheels that came on it.¬† On sale, I spent over three grand on that bike, a little more than I thought I could get away with when it came to Mrs. Bgddy.¬† Within two weeks, I knew darn good and well that I hated the wheels and they had to go.¬† The bike weighed in at over just over 18 pounds and I’d heard of rebuilds of that same bike that were down in the 14.5 pound range, after¬†several thousand dollars worth of upgrades (Crank, stem, handlebar, wheels…) so 18 just wasn’t going to cut it (not to mention, the rear wheel had a loose hub or something – which has since been rectified, easily, and the wheels are on my old¬†Cannondale).¬† I started searching the interwebz and found that wheels were the first place to start.

The wheels that came on my Venge, according to the message boards, weighed somewhere around 2,000 grams or about 4-1/2 pounds and it just so happened that I ride with a guy who said he¬†had just purchased a used¬†unmarked set of carbon clincher wheels¬†for his high-end bike on eBay for something like $500.¬† I began my search with the bigger brands, Zipp, Easton and a couple of others that fellow bloggers recommended first.¬†¬†When I saw the price tag on those new, I¬†checked eBay – for used¬†carbon wheel sets, but quickly found a huge selection of carbon rims from overseas sellers that looked surprisingly like my friend’s, and deeply discounted ($400-$500 for a pair compared¬†with $1,600 -$2,500 which was well out of my price range).¬† Now, I’m guessing, but I’m pretty sure¬†that¬†Zipp and Easton are making a pretty penny on their rims.¬† I wouldn’t¬†be surprised if they doubled their manufacturing cost by the time I got them, but four to five times?¬† That seemed a little steep, it just didn’t sound right – so I took to the message boards again to see if I could get a handle on why… I wear a helmet every time I ride, no matter what, because if I crash (or more likely, am crashed into), I want to give myself the best chance for survival without needing a diaper for the rest of my life.¬† In other, simpler terms, my safety is worth the extra¬†effort and the money.

What I found about the knock-offs, made overseas, did not surprise me:¬† You’ve got¬†a¬†vast¬†majority¬†of people who are happy as you can be and would recommend the wheels to their grandmother, with the remainder, miffed.¬† It’s that unhappy minority that I wanted to know about.¬† Of those few unhappy customers, I found one who was really¬†pissed.¬† He had a wheel break on him after he busted a spoke and kept riding the bike.¬† Fortunately, he provided a photo of the busted wheel…¬† Then I found another fella who had one break on him under fairly normal conditions (he hit a small¬†rock or something).¬† He provided a photo as well, so I compared the two.¬† Both wheels had seams in the carbon wall directly under a spoke nipple.¬† Then I started looking at the bigger brands, Zipp and so forth…¬† None of the¬†photos of the big brands showed a seam under a spoke nipple, the seams fell in between the spokes on every wheel I looked at – and I looked at a lot.

Now, I have absolutely no idea¬†if I was onto something or not, nor did I care to go further.¬† What is important, and what makes sense, is that the knock-off companies simply don’t put the effort into making sure their wheels are made well, they just copy the good rims and in the process, make mistakes.¬† It makes sense that they save on production by skipping a few steps and that¬†the knock-off companies wouldn’t think to worry about the physics of where the carbon sheet layout falls in relation to the drilled holes in the rim, they just cut up a brand name wheel, copy it and crank them out.¬†¬†Add to that¬†the concerns of special brake pads and the rims overheating and¬†delaminating¬†on hard braking and it was just too much…¬†I ended up opting for an aluminum wheel set¬†from Nashbar, Vuelta¬†Corsa SLR’s for just under $375 after shipping and tax¬†and I knocked off almost a full pound from the overall weight of my bike (I’m down to 17.3 pounds now, with pedals).¬† They roll fantastically well and I cannot be happier so I dropped my little¬†“investigation”.¬† Let those who are paid to do so deal with them.

Then I received¬†an e-newsletter from Bike Radar last week and this headline jumped out:¬† “Local bike shops blend real and fake bike kit to mislead consumers

If you remember that story about Caf√© Roubaix and Specialized from a few months ago, the worry of counterfeits played into the story…¬† Now, there’s no doubt the big manufacturers want to protect their market – they don’t want to lose profit to knock-off companies and they surely don’t want us to know how little something really costs to make (out of context too, you have to figure in R&D)…¬† BUT, if you buy a knock-off, you’re not getting the same standard equipment you would get from a real bike maker.¬† Have a look:
Fake Pinarello Fake Pinarello 2 Fake Specialized
Now, where¬†does it look like¬†those bikes are failing?¬† I’m guessing at the seams.

I would be willing to bet my lunch¬†that, even though we all know most of the carbon fiber frames that are sold by the big manufacturers are made in Taiwan, the knock-off companies simply steal the designs and lay the carbon out with¬†little concern for where the seams fall (or even use inferior composite materials).¬† Whatever the problem is with the knock-offs and no matter what they’re doing wrong, I don’t want what happened in the photos above to happen to me – and that’s what really matters.

So this leads me to wonder, what can I do to make certain that this doesn’t happen to me?

First, I know where I buy my bikes.¬† My local shop is an authorized Specialized, Trek and Giant shop.¬† Next, I know and ride with the owner of our local shop, he knows my kids too – so I trust him not to pawn¬†cheap, untested, unsafe¬†crap off on me.¬†¬†I also know that any deal that seems too good to be true, probably is.¬† When I do come home with a new bike, I inspect and photograph¬†the Serial number tags on my bikes and register them.¬† Finally, and not surprisingly, shopping on the web¬†or small hole-in-the-wall shops seem¬†to be the problem, whether for a new or a used bike.¬† I know for a fact, as far as the big manufacturers go, the best way to tell if it’s real or not is to have the bike inspected by an authorized dealer (like my local shop)¬†– but that’s only if¬†I’m¬†buying a used bike.¬† New Specialized, Trek and Giant¬†bikes cannot be purchased from a website.¬† They have to be picked up at a real brick and mortar¬†Authorized shop.¬† If you’re buying one of those three brands online, there’s a very good chance that it’s a fake.

Now I would never suggest¬†that anyone else adhere to my strict guidelines when it comes to purchasing bikes or wheels, a guy’s gotta save a buck and fight those evil corporations, right?

The point is, cycling is a scary enough sport when you trust the equipment (at least the way I do it). I don’t need the added worry of whether or not my bike will rip apart while I’m tearing down a mountain road at 45+ 56 mph.

If you want more evidence to back up choosing a major brand over the knock-off’s, check out this poor guy’s luck:¬† Chinese Carbon Bike Build.

UPDATE 2018: I bought a pair of 700c x 38mm carbon clinchers from Ican.¬† They set me back a mere $400 (and change) and they are fantastic.¬† They’re solid, sturdy, and FAST.¬† I’ve got some serious test riding to do on them, but they’ve exceeded my expectations thus far.

I may have to walk back some of this post… or I can attribute the purchase to publicized quality improvements.¬† Yeah, that’s the ticket.

I have three friends who also ride the less expensive Chinese rims now.  One A guy rides Yoeleo, one C guy rides Superteam and another rides Ican.  All four of us have nothing but good things to say about the wheels so far.

The Noob’s Guide to Bike Sizing: Does Size REALLY Matter?

I’ve made a lot of mistakes when it comes to buying bikes and components, all of them early in cycling because I didn’t trust the owner of my local bike shop to shoot me a straight deal.¬† Put simply, this prejudice, based on the assumption that¬†the guys at the shop would try to oversell me,¬†led to a lot of costly¬†errors.¬† The problem here is that there are shortcuts around certain “principles” involved in cycling – if you’re willing to make certain¬†sacrifices.

My Cannondale, while I do enjoy it now, is a very good example.¬† I bought that bike¬†through Craigslist because I¬†made the¬†assumption that¬†I¬†couldn’t afford to get a bike through the local¬†shop.¬† According to the bike frame size¬†calculator, at 6’0″ my ideal frame size is 58 cm but I can fit on anything from a 56 to a 59.¬† The Cannondale was advertised as a 56, so I should have been just fine…¬† Unfortunately, the size sticker had been removed and either the previous owner was mistaken or Cannondale measured their bikes differently back then, but the bike is a 54.¬† It also has 170 mm crank arms,¬†and a¬†stem that was about 60 mm too short (at least for a guy my height).¬† On the non-size related side, the old girl had down tube shifters and I bought a saddle with enough padding on it to choke a horse (it came without one).¬† The saddle, a Serfas e-Gel¬†was another dumb noob mistake.¬† A great saddle for putting around for five or ten miles, yes, but riding 15 miles a day and 30-40 on the weekends, not so much.

With a little work and a lot of effort¬†I got that little thing¬†up to a 20 mph average, sure¬†enough.¬† This was not easy but, humorously enough,¬†because I didn’t know any better I didn’t think it was such a big deal.¬† Of course now that I have two properly sized road bikes with excellent saddles, it’s easy to¬†compare riding the Cannondale to torture – or if you’re squeamish that way you could call it self-flagellation.

I’ve¬†been back on¬†the Cannondale (my “nasty roads” bike)¬†for two days in a row now after riding my¬†5200 or Venge for two years and I’m here to tell you, I can feel the difference, just in the crank arm length.¬† I’ve got a 172.5 mm crank arms on both…¬†¬†A difference of just¬†2.5 millimeters and I feel like I’m short-stroking every time around on the C’dale.¬†¬†On the road it feels like I’m pedaling a kids bike.

A lot of the other issues have since¬†been fixed:¬† I did some math and figured out I needed a 110 mm stem and bought that, I bought¬†a decent Specialized Riva saddle (padded to accommodate the aluminum frame’s rigidity, but not over-done)¬†a couple of months ago and have the setup very close to my Venge – in other words, with a little cash I could manipulate the bike so I could fit on it.¬† With mistake purchases and some money into fitting my old wheels from the Venge, I’ve got probably $700 into the Cannondale.¬† Unfortunately, if I’d have just gone to the shop in the first place, I’d have been able to get the 5200 (used) for only $50 more and had a properly sized bike – and with modern shifters and a 9-spd. drivetrain instead of a 7-sp.

So, this is the tough part of being a noob enthusiast.¬† Size does matter and in my case, I was too ignorant and in too much of a hurry to learn how to avoid the mistakes from the web.¬† I needed human help – and the funny thing, over the last three seasons:¬† I’ve learned just enough to be dangerous.¬† Fortunately, I have a much better relationship with my local shop owner so he’s saved me a lot of expensive headaches.

So, to my enthusiastic noob friends, if you take away anything from this post, please take this:¬† The more you plan on riding a bike, the more size matters.¬† If you’re just going to putt about for five or ten miles mistakes aren’t as costly.¬† If, on the other hand, you find yourself falling in love with cycling and the miles start racking up, millimeters matter and¬†getting it right the first time, saves a lot of headaches, butt-aches¬†and cash over the long run.

This ties¬†back to my initial mistake:¬† Assuming that the owner of the shop was just trying to make an extra¬†buck off of me¬†while steering my in the right direction.¬† Many of his fixes to my problems were more expensive which exacerbated my incorrect assumption.¬† The reality was that he just wanted things done right the first time¬†which is, often, more costly in the short-term.¬† Unfortunately, had I just stuck with him to begin with I’d have saved $2 for every dollar I eventually spent.

Cycling For Noobs – Some Ideas for How to Bring Them Along… And Get Along.

I wrote the other day that I’ve embroiled myself in a bit of a controversy.¬† At the heart of this is an article¬†written¬†for People for Bikes entitled “Introducing People to Biking (Without Ruining Their Day)”.¬† The tips, almost every one, threw me for a loop because I made a mistake.¬† I’m just as geeked about helping noobs fall in love with cycling as the next guy (as can be seen on my “Noob’s Guide to Cycling” page where I’ve got more than thirty posts – more than 25,000 words dedicated to helping noobs avoid the same pitfalls that¬†tripped me up) but I thought¬†the tips in that article were¬†just plain¬†silly.¬† My mistake was conflating “biking” and “cycling”.

The linked article¬†comes at bringing people into the world of biking from a completely different angle than I do when I write about cycling, from what I would call the “little rose bud” angle.

As I often do, because I’m not perfect and I¬†am¬†immature from time to time (it’s a symptom of being a drunk, and it’s not all that easy to fix, but I’m trying), I went all off on a tangent and will probably end up offending a few people for no better reason than I’m tired of¬†the delicate rose buds¬†and their incessant whining that everyone should treat everyone else¬†like delicate little rose buds so that they can be watered and nurtured and loved, and oh, isn’t it all just so wonderful!¬† I may get misty – or puke.

The important truth is, there are several ways to bring noobs up.¬† For instance, if any of the guys had shown up to the advanced ride¬†on their $3,000 race bikes in cargo shorts with tennis shoes and platform pedals with sandals on to make me “feel better”, I’d have laughed at them on my first day.¬† I worked my butt off¬†to get ready to ride with that group.¬† I put in probably 3,000 solo miles before I even thought I should give that a go.¬† I didn’t mess around, and for one reason in particular:¬† I wanted to ride with the big dogs.¬† I knew it was my job to fit in, not someone else’s to fit me in…¬† And I wanted to ride, not putt about town on a $100 full suspension Huffy.¬† And therein lies the rub.

There are people out there who need to be brought in gently, to be coddled and catered to – and a small percentage of them may wind up making decent cyclists once they break free.¬† On the other hand, there are the go-getters as well – the cyclists, like me,¬†who don’t need any of the hand-holding foo-foo stuff.¬† I can remember my very first day riding with the Tuesday night group, the advanced group, the everybody gets dropped group… this guy comes up to me and starts complaining that cyclists aren’t like runners because he only rides 16 mph and he didn’t appreciate getting dropped, that someone wouldn’t fall back and ride back with him.¬† I was offended and it was everything I could do to leave my response at, “well I guess you’d better learn to ride faster”.¬† See, when a noob decides to get off the porch and ride with the big boys and girls, it’s up to the noob to keep up.¬† Folks, that guy was riding with the wrong group.¬† Imagine me, in the no-drop group, complaining that they weren’t fast enough.¬† Folks, I’d kick my own ass.

A noob might like for me to wait up for him, to change how I dress so he (or she) doesn’t feel like a dork, to ride with platform pedals on my race bike – but that and a buck will get you a cup of coffee, because I’m a guy like me…¬† I don’t care about¬†a noob’s¬†bullshit feeling because I didn’t place any value on my bullshit feeling¬†when I came into cycling (notice I used the singular¬†“feeling” – yes, that’s on purpose). ¬†I worked hard to earn the respect of the people I ride with.¬† I expect the same out of anyone who would hope to ride with me… and I don’t care if someone (or a small group of someone’s)¬†out there doesn’t like it – I’m perfectly okay with you riding with someone else.

Except for one person…

There is only one person out of the seven or eight billion on this planet who gets the patient, tolerant me.¬† I put a ring on her finger and riding with her is more important to me than the speed and awesomeness of cycling.¬† Of course, guess which night she doesn’t ride with me.¬† That’s right, Tuesday night, because that’s my time to be an animal and she respects that I need that.¬†¬†See how that works?¬† My wife respects that my Tuesday night is important to me…

The final point is the bow that wraps this whole thing up:¬† There is room in cycling¬†for all cyclists in the sport.¬† From the toughest pro, all the way down to the most delicate little rose buds.¬†¬†Due to that range, there¬†exists a wide¬†variety of ways to bring noobs into the sport, from slapping them on the ass and calling them Mary to making sure that each and every little thing is perfect and rosy and that the noob’s every whim and fancy is looked after, so they can feel special.

We¬†go-getters can¬†make a deal with¬†the nurturers:¬† We’ll handle¬†the go-getter¬†noobs¬†and you handle the delicate flowers…¬† Just do us a favor, eh?

We won’t expect you to be like us – we won’t smack you on the ass and call you Mary, if you’ll simply return the favor by not expecting us to be like you.¬† You’re just as wrong and arrogant to think I should be like you as I am to¬†hope you¬†can (or would even want to) be like¬†me.

And So It Begins…

The winter fur is in the garbage bin, the guns shaved clean. Leg warmers, gloves, toe covers, arm warmers, jacket, shades and brain bucket – check.

Tires are pumped, bike is lubed and ready.

Spring is here. ‘Bout time.

Time to fix my head in three… Two… One.

…That is ssssoooooooooo much better. Had to fight the urge to try to be in end of April form today but I rode well. I’d give the stats but I didn’t record them, I have no clue. 25.5 miles in: whatever it took – but it felt GOOD. Happy Friday.