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Monthly Archives: May 2014

Bike Rack Shopping? Do Your Homework.

I’m purchasing a new Saris Freedom 4 bike, 2″ hitch mounted bike carrier for my new SUV. I found three others online that looked promising, a SportRack on REI, a Swagman XTC 4 at Jenson’s, a Shadow 4 at Nashbar (backordered until July) and the Saris on Rackattack-dot-com. The Saris was not the least expensive (the Shadow 4 on Nashbar was at just $200). The Swagman and SportRack came in next at $350 followed by the Saris at $400*.  I also checked out the Yakima and Thule versions but they were well over $600 (you have to purchase the 2-bike and then the add-on).

The interesting thing about the Saris is that on the website, it shows the price of $399.99 but adds that the MSRP is $499 – I’ll get to that in a minute.

Now, I read the reviews on the $200 Shadow 4 and there were two things people didn’t like…  It was heavy and it didn’t have a tilt mechanism so one could access the liftgate.  I don’t mind heavy but I do mind not being able to access the liftgate with the rack on the vehicle.  I have two small kids so you can be guaranteed that once everything is loaded, you’ll have to open the trunk at least twice – so having to remove the bikes, then the rack itself, is unfortunately not an option, even if I’ll save more than a hundred-fifty bucks.

Now, I’ve written before about how important my local bike shop is to me so I decided to give them a shot as well, just to see where everything shook out…

I’m getting the Saris Freedom 4 for just $10 more than the Swagman and SportRack.  The MSRP for the Saris, somewhere, may be $499 but it’s $399 in Michigan, minus my club discount and I’ll be getting that rack delivered to the shop, for less than I can buy it online and only slightly more than I can get the other models (same price after shipping).

I’m not unaware of the fact that I get a very good deal at my local bike shop but the fact remains, I got a better deal than I could have gotten online.

The point is, while I didn’t bother with eBay, online stores aren’t necessarily the best deal and if you’ve built a rapport over time at your local shop and aren’t getting the same service, I’d suggest finding another shop.

Cyclist v Gravel

My Triumphant Return… To Golf

Today I make my return to golf.  I’ll pick up the clubs for the first time in three years and I must admit, I am excited.

Three years ago, jeez, almost to the day, with my dad on Alzheimer’s slippery slope and unable to golf anymore (which absolutely tore both of us up emotionally), I put my clubs up on the shelf.  The last time I took my dad golfing, not knowing what he was doing, took aim at me twice.  Dammit if he didn’t almost hit me the second time too…  Turkey was always, even in his decline, fairways and greens.

In any event, a week or two after I made the decision that my dad just wasn’t fit to golf safely anymore I went on an outing with a friend of mine, a salesman from my favorite supplier, at a premier golf resort up north called Tree Tops and the whole time I was there I couldn’t help but think that my dad would have loved being up there (we’d always talked about playing Three Tops, rated one of the best par three courses in the world and the home of the pro par three challenge).  In short, that experience broke my heart so I decided to hang up my clubs.

At one time, before I had kids and when I had the time to practice daily, I was a pretty good golfer.  Not good enough to compete but I was getting there – I was what they call a scratch golfer which meant I could shoot par on a decent course.

To make a long story short, an acquaintance has come down with cancer and the prognosis is not good.  Some friends of his put together a golf outing today to raise money for his care.  After some thought, and now that my dad has passed, I decided that it’s time to pick the clubs up again so that I can carry on playing the sport that my dad so loved – and today is the first day of my comeback.

I am not under any delusions, I’m going to suck today, but it’s still going to be a fun day.  Perfectly sunny and 80 degree temps, a breakfast and lunch, golfing with my step father-in-law and that very same friend who I went up to Tree Tops with three years ago.  If this is as fun as I hope, I’ll be refitting my dad’s old set of clubs to match me (I have to add an inch and a half and have the loft and lie changed to match my height and upright stance).

UPDATE: It was an absolutely spectacular time… Even had a couple of birdies and drove a par 4. When they say, “Drive for Show, Putt for Dough”, well let’s just say I’m a show horse. Can’t putt to save my life but I can get the ball down the fairway. I didn’t play great but I was much better than I expected I would be…and I didn’t have any downer thoughts about my dad. Definitely triumphant – and it was for a fantastic cause.

10 things you absolutely must do to become a slower runner

This post is one giant laugh-line.

We Run and Ride

By Christopher Cudworth

Here is a runner practicing the art of going fast. This is not what you want to do. Here is a runner practicing the art of going fast. This is not what you want to do to become a Slower Runner.

You’re sick of running fast.  Admit it. You’d really like to know how to run slower so that you can avoid the pressure of always having to train and try so hard to get faster.

Plus, there’s nothing like going slower to gain a little more attention and be seen during races. Those runners who go flying by at 5:00 pace? You only see them for a few moments. What kind of fun is that? You want to give race spectators something to share. To savor. You’re like a fine wine pouring slowly out of the bottle. So take in the bouquet. Slow it down even more.

But be prepared to make some sacrifices. Becoming a slower runner truly is an art form. You can’t just…

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A Cycling Adventure Just Out the Front Door…

We were up in Harrison at the in-law’s house for the long weekend and brought the mountain bikes up as we’re surrounded by dirt roads. I suggested the road bikes because the road leading out to asphalt is rideable, but my wife wanted to stick on the back roads – and it’s a blessing because my legs needed some recovery time.

The weather, thank God, has finally come around and we’re in the middle of a stellar snap of mid-70’s, abundant sunshine and low-winds.

So after breakfast Saturday morning my in-laws took the kids and Mrs. Bgddy took advantage by heading out the door for an adventure ride – riding roads we’d never experienced before. About halfway around the circuit I saw a road going back into some clear-cut, two-year regrowth, State land. Well, a logging road, so it was a two-track in poor condition… In other words, perfect conditions for breaking in the Rockhopper. I pleaded with her to come along for the adventure and she finally acquiesced… We went through mud, over logs and through some fun and excellent mountain biking terrain and the new 29’er handled it fantastically… What a difference over my old 26″ bike! First, the Acera derailleurs are nice, the beefier SR Suntour shock is smoother and the extended wheelbase is limo-smooth by comparison. After a mile or so we hit a dead-end in the road and had to portage through the newly sprouting forest to get back to the main road to finish our circuit. It was a great ride, a little more than an hour.

Then on Sunday, on the Pere-Marquette rail trail, we took another quick detour to scope out a trail that led off the main trail. It turned out to be not all that spectacular but it was definitely a sweet ride up the hill…to see nothing but open field and road.  We turned around and headed back.

There once was a time, a few years ago, that I only stuck to routes and trails that I knew.  Partially due to confidence, but also because I was very goal and stat driven… I didn’t want getting lost to interfere with my numbers. This year is entirely different as I’ve completely dropped my tracking software so I could concentrate more on the enjoyment I get from cycling. Gone are the days of not trying out a new road or a new trail because I had to keep my foot (or feet in this case) on the gas… They’ve been exchanged for a new sense of adventure that makes biking, at least for me, a lot more enjoyable.

Oh, and did I mention that my miles are up from last year (a lot more long rides with the guys on the weekend – normally I’m not into those until August) and I’m faster as well. I have no data to back the mileage increase up, but I’m also not getting dropped on the “A” club ride and I’ve actually attacked off the front a few times – something I could never think of doing last year.

My point, I suppose, is this: I spent three seasons tied to my stats and while that served a purpose because it kept me motivated, the stats also held me back from enjoying some of the adventure inherent in cycling… And the adventure part is SWEET. Sure, every once in a while I’d ride sans tracker and add the data in after but those days were few and far between. I was under the mistaken impression that if I wasn’t on the gas at every possible moment, on every ride that didn’t call for “easy”, that I wasn’t building my fitness and speed, thereby hurting my chances of improving. What I’m finding is that effort is indeed important, but it doesn’t have to be every minute of every ride… As long as my “want to” is in the right place, I have a lot more wiggle room than I thought.

What Is A Respectable Time for Cycling 50 Miles? How About 100?

Every once in a while someone finds my blog and helps me by giving me a great topic with their search term… To the person who queried, “What is a respectable time for cycling 50 miles”, I tip my cap to you.

The easy answer is 2-1/2 hours with a little help.  Three or four others would be enough. For a larger group, 20+, 2:20-2:25 is quite decent.  In my humble opinion, you can get away with a few more minutes if you are flying solo though, maybe 2:35 to 2:40.

Sadly, when it comes to the century there’s no rest for the weary. Double the fifty mile times but don’t count a couple of breaks to refill H2O and/or Gatorade and a nature stop or two – maybe even time to grab a bite to eat (see below).

Now, for the clarifications:  This is my estimation of “respectable”.  It’s what works in down-state Michigan.  The times given are not just me slapping down my fastest times and saying, “well here, this is respectable because this is what I can do and it’ll make me look kinda cool” either.  I’m actually faster than what I’ve listed, I’ve done a century in just over 4-1/2 hours (4:36) so don’t get the impression that my opinion is based on my best times – to publish something like that would be cheap, dishonest and egotistical to a point I’d smell my own funk (and nobody likes that…).  In addition, we’re not talking about a whole lot of climbing here.  I only had to climb 1,600 feet (and not all at the same time) on that 4-1/2 hour century…  On the other hand, 1,600 feet isn’t exactly a flat course either and we did have most of the climbing at the end (bastards!).  Either way, the climbing will slow your average down a bit.  You should also take wind into account.  The more help you have, the less wind will matter, but the simple truth is, you can’t make up speed and time lost on a demoralizing headwind with a tailwind and descents because you still have traffic and traffic signals to deal with – that and the freaking wind will, almost without doubt, shift on you within a few miles of heading back the way you came – that’s just how things work.  Then you’ve got the type of bike…  This post assumes a road bike.  You should be a little faster on a TT bike and quite a bit slower on a hybrid or a mountain bike.  Then there’s age.  Once you get past your early sixties, the speed drops considerably for all but the exceptionally fit.  Finally, I go by moving time only.  In a perfect world, we’d have support guys and girls falling back to grab water for us and we’d have a crew standing out there with feed bags specially prepared for us and we’d all be able to pee at the side of the road (or in our shorts, for the love of God) without having to get off our bike.  You know what?  That wouldn’t be perfect.  I like the rest stops… but you get the point.

With all of that said, these are not easy times to hit but they’re not all that tough either with a fair amount of saddle time.  If you’re having a tough time hitting a 20 mph average pace you can do one of two things:  First, you can train harder, maybe lose some weight, eat a little better (more fuel, less crap), attack the hills a little more, etc..  Or, you can just accept where you’re at and be happy, because in the end, you’ll be the only person who really gives a crap about how fast you can ride a bike over 50 or 100 miles.  The important thing is that you ride it and have a good time.  In my case, while I can take it easy now and again, especially when I’m out riding with my wife, I am not truly happy unless I’ve got a little bit of speed going.  I’m happiest when I’m putting in the effort but that’s all about personal choice.  The point is this:  Do what makes you happy.  If it becomes too much work and not enough fun, back off a little bit and call it good.

The hardest part in that last paragraph will be, and read this very carefully, what you believe others think about how fast you ride.  I structured that sentence in the manner I did for a very specific purpose.  If you don’t read that sentence and think, “Well worrying about what someone else thinks about how fast I ride would be bat-shit crazy”, you have a much larger problem than how hard you can push the pedals on a bike.  While most people will push themselves to ride to the best of their ability (myself included), in the end the important things are happiness and the enjoyment of becoming, being and staying fit that matters most.  The rest is just window dressing.

The perfect day for a bike ride…

Sunday was the nicest, best, most spectacularly awesome day in at least seven months for a bike ride.  Perfectly sunny, only mildly breezy and 79 marvelous degrees.
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Even my In-Laws went with..

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After four or five miles the in-laws took the kids back and out to lunch and Mrs. Bgddy and I kept going.
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I found an off-shoot trail and called for a quick recon adventure:
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We stopped to check out the aquatic wildlife after turning around to head back:
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water snake

water snake

swan

swan

baby painted turtle

baby painted turtle

The Pere-Marquette Rail Trail is one of Michigan’s best cycling assets… Especially the section that goes from Clare, West…  Hardly any foot traffic and only sparsely populated by cyclists so you can ride as fast or slow as you like.  Doesn’t get any better than that (unless you take the skinny tire bikes).

We were out for something like two hours though I have no idea how many miles we covered on the mountain bikes, to tell you the truth, I don’t quite care…  Sunday was the perfect day.