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Monthly Archives: May 2014

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For the Last Time… Cycling Is NOT Expensive…

Well, I wrote “the Last Time”… It most certainly won’t be, but I digress.

Cycling, and I mean going all in as far as I could afford – and going as far as I have chosen to certainly isn’t necessary – has cost me, if I’m fair about it…  hang on a second… carry the one… $8,500 give or take a buck or two (or $2,833 per year though that yearly cost will be going down now that I have…well, everything).  Now, we’re not even talking about my wife and kids yet, that’s just me but that figure takes everything into account:  Four bikes, aero bars, parts, fittings, pedals, shoes, socks, shorts, leg warmers, arm warmers, jerseys, jackets, sunglasses, helmets and head covers, minus food (add in the additional food and we can call it an even ten grand).  That is a lot of money, but if you think that’s expensive you’re not, I guarantee you, taking everything into account.  You’re not looking at it in its full context.

You’re not taking into account what I won’t be paying for.

Thanks to Obamacare, my deductible is something like ten grand.  I won’t be blowing that (given the choice, which would you prefer to blow ten thousand bucks on?  Bikes and gear, or your healthcare deductible?!).

Let’s see, I won’t be spending $15,000 on COPD surgery (whatever that is).  I won’t be paying $3,000-$15,000 for an angioplasty.  I won’t be paying $40,000 for a joint replacement.  You get the idea?

Let’s dig a little deeper.  I’m not paying $20,000 a year for a Cadillac health plan because I’m sick all of the time…  More like $6,000 a year (for the math challenged, that’s a savings of $14,000 each and every year…give or take a buck or two).

I won’t be blowing a few grand a year on a shrink.  I won’t be blowing money on Weight Watchers.  I won’t be blowing money on gastric bypass, diabetes, etc. etc. etc ad infinitum.

Now let’s see, blow my entire retirement package on healthcare because I’m fat, or spend ten grand on bikes and gear, having the opportunity to ride the McLaren of bicycles every day, then just for fun, take a ride on the monster truck of mountain bikes every now and again just to shake things up…  Hmmm.  Let me think about that one real hard.

Look, I’m not saying I’m a saint and that I won’t ever get sick because I ride a bicycle.  The simple truth is, however, that $8,500 I spent on cycling is a wiser investment on my future and the cost pales in comparison to a gold-plated healthcare plan.  And we all know that obesity is the number one easily preventable healthcare cost known to…everyone.

So yes, cycling costs a pretty penny (it’s certainly more expensive than running), but when you look at that cost in context and consider that you don’t have to take it as far as I chose to, cycling is cheap baby.

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I have a confession to make…

My mother-in-law and step father-in-law have matching Trek leisure bikes… They’re six or seven speeds and they look… Well, like leisure bikes.

So we, the whole family, decided to take a trip down to the Clare side of the Pere-Marquette rail trail, the West side, and I went out to the shed to grab the bikes to load them up; you know, to help out…

I couldn’t pass on the temptation to take his bike for a little spin – to confirm my prejudice against them of course…

My word, it was like riding a La-Z-Boy recliner!

I’m going to have to say a dozen Hail Mary’s, six Our Father’s and flog myself – 50 lashes with a wet noodle – and pray that the lasciviousness of that momentary lapse is removed and that I’ll be forgiven by Middle-aged Baby Jesus, who is obviously a roadie. God forgive me, I feel…dirty!

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I’ll write up a real post on the festivities in the morning as the rail trail is one of Michigan’s finest cycling achievements. It was a rockin’ good time. A perfectly sunny, mildly breezy, 79 degree (f) day. It was perfection for a two-wheeled excursion.

Shimano 105 Operating Instructions?

To the person who searched the web for Shimano 105 operating instructions…

First, thanks for visiting my blog. Welcome, and I hope you found everything you were looking for and you have a great time on your new bike. Ride the wheels off of it!

However, you may want to visit a couple of my other pages:

First, my Noob’s Guide to Cycling and then my Maintenance page.

You have a lot to learn Grasshopper, good luck.

The Number One Reason to Buy the Best Bike You Can Afford…

There are a lot of opinions out there about high-end bikes vs. entry-level bikes vs. Big Box specials (Huffy, etc.).  When I started cycling, I was into only my fourth year of owning my business.  The five year mark is a big milestone – something like 95% of small businesses fail in the first five years, and I can guarantee you, I don’t want to go back to working for someone else so I kept every extra penny I could in my company. 

I was making decent money but we didn’t have the cash to drop on what I thought was an expensive ($1,500) bike.  I started off with a $400 used bike I found on Craigslist to see if I’d even like road cycling, I already loved mountain biking and triathlon but I wasn’t sure how that would translate to the road.  Within two months of having that first road bike I was hooked but it was too small (I ride a 56-59 cm frame and I had a 54 – noob mistake).  I bought my Trek 5200 shortly thereafter (a 58 cm frame), used, from the local bike shop (it was their loaner) and put a lot of love into that 13-year-old, full carbon, bike.  I spent hours cleaning it up, repairing chipped paint and tearing it down and regreasing everything.  While it is used and old, it is a legitimate race bike and it was absolutely the best I could afford at the time.  I paid $750 for it (not bad for a 20 pound bike with the full line of Ultegra components).

Then came my Specialized Venge, the bike I splurged on.  Now, the leap could be made that I could have saved $1,100 if I just went all out and picked up the Venge first but what can’t be argued was that the money was not wasted.  First, now my wife (who is 2″ shorter than I am) has a great rain bike (the Cannondale) and I have a tremendous rain bike in the Trek, that I’m comfortable on and know my way around.

That said, when you take into account all of the money I’ve put into cycling over the last three years, we’re talking about a pretty penny (or 800,000).  First, I don’t look at any one of those pennies as wasted and here’s why:  I don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t cheat, don’t lie… I eat right and work hard.  I deserve one thing to splurge on. Due to the choice to take up cycling, I’m so fit that at my last checkup my doctor said:  “Jim, whatever it is you’re doing, just keep doing it”.  This didn’t occur by accident or just because I have good genes (I do)…  It’s because I took a need to be active and a mid-life celebration (others call it a “crisis”, but considering my past, reaching anything beyond 30 is a miracle so I’m celebrating mid-life). Finally, cycling is just a cool hobby and if you’re going to drop some cash on a hobby, cycling is cheap compared to most adult hobbies.

Now where this can become controversial is with the type of bike I chose for my “A” bike, the Venge. The Venge is a straight up aero race bike. It has, by necessity, a stiff frame. As I do not race, have no desire to and the only thing I enjoy more than a good 100k ride is a good 100 miles and at an overall average pace of 21-22 mph, we’re not exactly burning up the roads… to put it simply, one of the squishy bikes (AKA endurance bikes) like a Trek Domane or a Specialized Roubaix probably would have made more practical sense. Without getting into the minutiae of the type of carbon used on my Venge’s frame (which is a bit more forgiving than the S-Works frame), those who hold that view have a point.

There’s one small factor that changes the whole, entirely: Desire. To call what happened occurred when I first laid eyes on my Venge “love at first sight” wouldn’t be right or fair to my wife. It was more like “lust”. If I was going to blow a bunch of money on a nice bike, not only did I want a comfortable ride, I wanted something that I liked to look at as well… And that’s exactly what I got. The Venge, for me, is the perfect balance of speed, comfort and sexy.

So everything considered, what’s the Number One reason to drop some coin on a nice bike?

Because I love me – and I’m worth it.

Happy 3rd Cycling Anniversary: It’s Been A Big Week… Cycling and Sobriety

Today is my third cycling anniversary, so that means that my brother from another country, BikeVCar, is celebrating his shortly as well – in addition to celebrating he and his wife’s first child.  Happy anniversary my friend.  As for me, I’ve never been happier.  Cycling has made every aspect of my life happier.

It’s been a big couple of weeks… I’ve picked up an absolute ton of work and one of my guys had his vehicle motor blow up on him.  Because of that I made a decision: I went to my local car dealership yesterday and bought my first brand new vehicle – ever, so I could sell my old truck to my supervisor.  The only question was should I pay it off when I pick it up or make payments for the tax advantages of doing so (it’s a company car)… They’re polishing and gassing it up so I can pick it up later on this morning.

I’m going to keep this post pretty short because I’ve got a lot of work to do to get ready for this holiday weekend but something struck me as I was heading out to my Thursday night meeting: I wish my dad could have seen this.  He’d have been proud to see me waltz into a dealership, sign my name on a piece of paper (no co-signers, trying to come up with financing or high interest rates) and drive out of there with a new ride. I’ve always been pretty cheap so having a new car seemed pretty silly.  I always thought it much better to buy a used car and let someone else pay the depreciation, but my dad was always a new car kind of guy.  He placed weight on the quality of life inherent in being able to drive a new vehicle.

So rather than dwell on his being gone, I called my mom and told her about it.  We talked and had a good laugh reminiscing about my dad and a few recent political items that drive her nuts and how ironic it was that she’d shifted to an understanding my father would have cheered.

If you’ve followed this blog for any time, you know that my drinking past was a terrible mess. To keep this simple and short for those who haven’t, I was one step from the gutter before I got sober. By that I mean as close to homeless as one can be without sitting in a gutter, morally and spiritually bankrupt.  It took years to learn how to be responsible, productive member of society, to learn how to have a fun life without king alcohol.  It took decades to build a really good life for myself. It took risks and sacrifice and gray hair and the support of the most awesome match of a wife I could ever have asked for. It took getting off the couch when I’d rather have slept in, it took digging in when getting hammered to escape would have been easier… It took “want to”.  Every now and again I get one of those moments where I can look back over the last 20+ years and say, “wow, this sobriety thing is pretty awesome”.  This is one of them.  Even though my dad passed away knowing I’d be okay, this day would have put a smile on his face.  It does mine.

Want To Ride Faster? Buy A Bike… For Your Spouse.

Absolutely, positively, the most difficult “cycling for more speed” tip I’ve found to adhere to is this:  Your easy efforts are too hard and your hard efforts are too easy.  I’ve read that simple tip from pros more times than I can count.

The hard efforts being too easy is simple enough to understand and do something about, it’s the other part of that equation that I have a tough time with.  My easy efforts, on average and historically, have only been a couple of miles an hour slower than my hard efforts – and therein lies the rub.

The problem I’ve always had, since day one, is that when I’m about an eighth of a mile into an easy training ride and my legs loosen up a little bit, I get to thinking I should be putting more of an effort into my ride, that I might be misusing an opportunity to accomplish something if I go any slower.  To make matters worse, 18 mph really did seem easy. Unfortunately at 22, I was really working.  If that wasn’t enough, I get the ego involved as well.  My ego chimes in and says, “you’re not going any slower than 18 and that’s about all we have to say about the matter”.  The trick to the recovery ride, as I’ve seen aptly stated from a pro, is that while you keep your cadence right around 90 rpm, you should be embarrassed if one of your friends sees you riding that slow.

So this year my wife catches the cycling bug (thank you baby Jesus!) and we start riding together once or twice a week and her working pace is around 15-16 mph.  This means simply by riding with my wife, my easy days are really are easy.

So here we are, it’s only mid-May and I’m flying – my legs feel awesome and I’m already able to do things that I wouldn’t think of trying in the peak of my season last year.

Admittedly, attributing a fantastic jump on the season to riding with my wife is highly subjective.  There are several things I’m doing better this year.  First, I have my nutrition and hydration down to a science where last year I was just getting everything figured out.  Second, my weekend long rides are quite a bit longer for this early in the season.  Twenty-five miles longer, every week.  On the other hand, the weather this year has absolutely sucked until this week.  In fact, yesterday was the first shorts and jersey club ride of the season (!). That’s right, mid-May, the first Tuesday this year that arm and leg warmers weren’t required.  Of course, now we jumped right into summer, but beggars can’t be choosers.

Still, what I cannot deny is that my easy days are easier and the reason for this is that I’m riding with my wife.  Without her, I’d still be at that 18-19 mph average.  So, if you’re training and you have a tough time keeping the lid on your enthusiasm or if you have a problem with your ego burdening you with guilt for riding too slow, get your spouse on a bike and ride with them so that they can provide you with the distraction and reason to take it easier and enjoy the scenery.  Of course, the only problem there is that eventually they may become fast as well and you then may have to worry about the easy days becoming a competition…  But let’s deal with one problem at a time, eh?

Gluten Sensitivity: It’s In Your Head.

Are you one of those folks who, even though you don’t have celiac disease, feels much better having shunned gluten from your diet?

Unfortunately the science shows there’s a 100% chance that’s either in your head or something else in your diet, entirely.

I know, you’re going to say that an Australian scientist showed that gluten sensitivity is real. Unfortunately that very same guy just reversed that study with a new study that showed respondents, not knowing whether they were on a gluten free, low gluten or standard diet, reported the exact same symptoms for all three diets… And the best part is that the scientist went all “next level” on the study. If you wish to know just how far he went, check this article out.  In a stroke of genius, the scientist also made each person their own control.

Here’s the important sentence: “In contrast to our first study… we could find absolutely no specific response to gluten.”

So there you have it folks, that gluten sensitivity is in your head.  You don’t really feel better than me, you feel better than you, because you quit the gluten.  The power of the mind is an amazing thing. Your brain makes it so.

The important thing, ladies and gentlemen, is that you can once again enjoy that burger on a bun.