Chatter, a blog friend if mine, in a recent post brought up a new problem for him that confounded me once before. Hydration. If you don’t stay hydrated when exercising you’re done for. In fact, I know a guy who used to brag about “pissing crystals” after a long ride. Well now that he’s a little older, he tried that on a 45 mile ride a while back and passed out. On his bike. He hurt himself but thankfully just enough to wake him up.
Rookies and noobs might get the impression that if you just drink a lot of water and you’ll be okay. This is an oft made mistake. You read that last sentence correctly, a mistake. Don’t get me wrong, water is good but it’s not complete. There’s more to it than just H2O.
Which brings up another blog friend’s recent post about another problem I ran into very early into cycling (but after I’d been running for a decade with no trouble). The post centered on how she recently found out that Propel is nothing more than flavored water. The other side to this coin is electrolytes. Cycle long enough and fast enough and you will burn through your body’s store (I can go through my reserves in as little as five hours). Where I went astray is that I was just drinking water… Not only did I deplete my “reserves”, by drinking a lot of water I diluted what little I had left.
Therein lies the rub my friends, and where this gets really fun is that I absolutely LOVE water when I’m cycling – and this is about the only time that I really enjoy it.
So, here’s what happens when I don’t use some kind of electrolyte replacement solution: First, I bonk a little bit. While it hurts, I can push through this to an extent and maintain some composure and most of my speed. The downside is, it sucks and hurts quite a bit. Next up is cramps, and not just little baby cramps, we’re talking about legs start locking up cramps. Now, I’ve only gotten to the cramps one time – I learned my lesson after that.
Point is folks, it’s summer time. It’s getting hot, so please… Take your hydration seriously:
Butt remember, while water is awesome, you need the electrolytes too.
I am meticulous about the maintenance on my Venge. It is cleaned on the outside every week. The drivetrain (including the derailleurs) is completely is cleaned and re-lubed every other week (keep in mind, I put in enough miles to warrant a chain cleaning every other week – 350-400 miles). I even take the crank assembly apart once every month or two to clean and relube it (it’s quite easy, takes about 15 minutes from start to finish). The bike, with no exceptions, looks showroom new after almost a full year and 5,000 miles on it. In fact, I’ve taken great pride in how good it still looks after all of that use. It also helps that it’s never seen rain (a few drops, yes, but I ride my Trek if a chance of rain above 20% is in the forecast). In other words, my Venge only sees the best of road conditions.
As I wrote in a previous post, I had my bike in for a yet unknown mechanical problem (clicking in the drivetrain) and when the mechanics started running out of ideas to pin the cause on they took the headset apart:
I’ve never done this, on any of my bikes because A) I didn’t know that it had to be done and B) I didn’t know how. After all, the whole steering assembly is sealed, no? Well no, it isn’t as it turns out. According to one of the shop’s main mechanics, the top was clean but the bottom was quite caked with road dust. I apologized and explained that I had no idea I would have to do that, then asked how to do it. I almost wish I’d hit YouTube first… The threadless headsets are so easy to take apart (at least the part that has to be cleaned and re-lubed), it’s slightly ridiculous.
Basically, you take off the stem cap, then the stem and the fork comes right out. You wipe it down, lube it back up and you’re good to go. That’s it. Well, thankfully with cycling I’m always learning something new. At least it keeps things interesting.
So, for those who wish, here are a couple of YouTube “How To” videos:
I had a new couple of guys follow my blog today and I wanted to help broaden the viewership of theirs…
Check out LeJog NS 2014 – these two guys are nuts (you thought I was bad with the cycling bug)…
Try 1,000 miles – NON-STOP!
Please stop by and wish them well.
My buddy Mike is up north till Monday so that meant I was on my own… well, not really, but I had no reason to take it easy or stick around till we split off for our shortcut (we knock off just shy of three miles from the 33 mile route the “A” group does) so I was looking at this club ride as playtime.
Now, on club rides I’m almost always conflicted: On one hand I want to stick around till the Cat. 3 race starts (23-25 miles into the ride). On the other, for two full seasons I have struggled to keep up with that group, I worked on strategy and my fitness to do it… I would hide in the back after twelve miles or so and I took succeeding at staying on till the race that breaks out over the last eight miles very seriously… Until this year.
For March through May I chose to cut twelve miles off of my ride so my wife could run with a friend of ours and prep for a triathlon. The last seven or eight miles were ridden alone every Tuesday night and I had some time to think about a few things. My attitude changed a little bit over those couple of months…
I changed my mind about doing whatever I could to hang on, about hiding at the back, even for a few miles, so I could be ready for the tough sections. To put it simply, clinging to the back lost its appeal, mainly because I wasn’t really getting much faster. This year I started attacking the group early, trying to stay with the big dogs and taking more turns up front. This has made the ride a lot more fun but at the same time, meant that I cook myself early, twelve to fifteen miles into the ride, but I didn’t mind it so much.
Well last night was interesting… I started up with a big ten mile warm up (usually I’m between five and seven). After, the club gathered we were a smaller group than normal that had a lot of horses and fewer of the guys like me – fast, but not quite fast enough to keep up when things really get going. I took my pulls up front, and they were good, but when I went to fall back, the guys who hide would open a hole for me only three or four guys from the front… This is trouble for me. I can pull, hard, but when I don’t have six guys from the front to rest and recharge, I spend too much time close to the red and I burn out.
Even so, I figured what the heck, you don’t get faster at the back so I’ll pull till I’m cooked and drop off the back. When holes opened up, I filled them and did more than my share pulling the group. A lot more than my share. Sure enough, I got to a point where I started to get angry when the hole opened just two guys from the front.
For those not in the know, the farther back one rides in a tight group, the better the draft is on non-windy rides (crosswinds make this reality a lot trickier). The better the draft is, the easier it is to maintain speeds over 25 mph for long periods of time. The closer to the front you get, the harder one has to work and at those speeds I start flirting with the red line in third position. In second I’m working and up front I’m at the line for a half mile and in the red for another half before I have to fall back and recharge. If I don’t have five or six positions to recoup I can’t recharge enough to keep it up… I simply spend too much time draining the battery.
So last night I drained it and fell off the back but before the group was 1/4 mile down the road I looked at the backs of several wheel suckers who’d managed to stay on without doing a thing to help… I decided to try to get back so I dropped the hammer, trying to close the gap. I closed it to maybe an eight of a mile but it was just too much and I didn’t have enough in the tank to do it so I resolved to ride the rest at a decent pace and let them go.
Within a half mile a group of four, three guys and Carla, our only regular fast woman, caught me. I latched on and we worked quite well together, holding a decent pace for the next twelve or thirteen miles. We chose the long route while a couple of other stragglers that we’d caught from the main group chose the shorter one… And that’s when the wheel sucking started up again. I was the horse and Carla was a close second, followed by two other guys (the last one, humorously enough, on a Pinarello Rokh 30.12 [it’s a $4,000 race bike]). Sure enough, I watched the guy on the Pinarello, as soon as he got up to second position of the four or five of us, tootle off to the back – and on the rare occasion that he did pull, it was for about 20 seconds.
Now this has never bugged me before (mainly because I’ve done it a time or twenty, though not so egregiously, especially in a small group) but last night I was fit to be tied. To add fuel to my fire, we caught my favorite Tri-bike guy and he managed to hold on for quite a few miles (again, middle of the pack, even the main group when we were all together, on the aero bars). I tried to bury him but the rest of the group couldn’t hold on when I made the move(s). We did lose him finally, on a section of hills. Now, before the shrieking begins, I value my safety before someone else’s feelings. You get crashed then tell me how wrong I am.
The rest of the ride was dead into the wind and we ended up with a 20.5 mph average. Not bad but not all that great either (if all four of us had been working I think we could have pulled off 21, easy).
So, I’m explaining this whole thing to Mrs. Bgddy last night and she ever so gently (chuckle) reminds me that not only do I love other cyclists looking to me to be the horse, I’m happy to be that guy, so she had a tough time understanding why I was mildly ticked off… Ladies and gentlemen, when she’s right, she’s right.
In the end, it’s Tri-bike guy and the fact that I burned out… Combined with a little anger at myself for not falling back to get the respite I needed. Probably the latter most of all. Funny how that works, eh?
In my last post on cycling “aero” I went through quite a few components to cycling aerodynamically, including the necessity of “aero” in relation to the speed a cyclist is able to sustain. The main gist of the post was to make sure you’re fast enough to make aero work for you before you bother dropping the cash because everything “aero” is top-dollar. Looking at the helmet alone, most bicyclists would gasp at the notion that a cyclist would pay $110 for a helmet. That’s middle of the road. A decent aerodynamic road helmet (not the Time Trial helmet) costs more than $200.
So let’s say you’re at a point where you can cycle fast enough to justify aerodynamic equipment, a 18-20+ mph average… If you’ve got an unlimited budget, go hog-wild and get everything. Bike, wheels, clothing, helmet…everything. You’ll spend anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000. On the other hand, lets assume you’ve got a budget to stick to. What to concentrate on first?
First, without a doubt would be your position on the bike. This is inexpensive for the most part and it’s relatively simple. Also, because it is cheap, even if you’re slower you can still add anywhere from 0.3-1 mph to your average by addressing this so it might be worth it. If you’re in an upright position and you create a 45 degree angle with the ground, or more, start lowering your handlebar a little bit at a time (check with the proper people to make sure your back will be okay riding low, but from my experience, it helped mine). To do this, simply start swapping the spacers on your stem from below the stem to above the stem. After, you may even want to buy a new stem. Swap that 30-45 degree stem for a 10 degree (and make sure you get the right length – and if you have no idea what I’m talking about, check with your local shop setup guru). Once you get used to that setup, flip the stem. Now, at this point you’ve got a decently aerodynamic setup on your bike but you’ve got a few spacers above the stem still. You have two ways to deal with this: First, just leave it the way it is – if you’ve got plans on riding that bike into your later years in life, you may want to have the extra room to raise the bars back up later on (this is what I’m doing though we’re only talking about two spacers). Second, you can take the bike to the shop and have them cut the extra off the top so all of the spacers above the stem can be tossed out. In the end, this is the cheapest, way to get faster. There’s only one little problem with this one: If you haven’t already, you have to lose the gut first. It gets in the way.
Next would be the helmet, mainly because that’s a cheaper upgrade. It’s said that a good aero road helmet is worth the same advantage as a front aerodynamic rim over a standard rim. Then the clothing… Assuming you’re now fit as a fiddle and you don’t have any mind/body issues that would keep you from dressing in form-fitting clothing, wearing tightly fitting jerseys and shorts make a very big difference. From there, I’d go with the wheels. These are exceptionally expensive but can be transferred from one bike to another. With the wheels, be careful with the Asian knockoffs. There’s a reason they’re that cheap, even if the brand names are crazy expensive – if you have no idea what I’m referring to here, check out my post on the subject. Finally, tinker with getting an aero handlebar if you so desire – they make a difference, but a very small one.
Now for the big dog, the aero bike. This one’s going to set you back some cash so choose wisely. The most affordable aero-bikes start at around $3,000 (Specialized Venge, Giant Propel, Trek Madone 5.2, just to name the Big Three). Now, if you have the money to invest in the bike, you can get an upgraded model with a sweet set of aero rims rather than buying them separately – generally speaking, the Venge and Propel are great startup bikes ($3,100 and $3,000 respectively while the Trek is a touch more at $3,550 but instead of Shimano 105 you get Ultegra components… Now, on the Venge’s side, if you add another $450 you get the Ultegra line plus a far superior set of wheels). Generally speaking, this step is for avid enthusiasts and those who race. I am the former, and then some, so when I saw my Venge in the display area at my shop, I had to have it. The bike is my perfect “midlife crisis” toy. I didn’t care a lick about the aerodynamic properties when I bought it, I did so because it looks awesome. I don’t have carbon rims for it or mess with a carbon “winged” handlebar, nor do I plan to in the foreseeable future, because like anyone who has actually ridden one of these beautiful steeds, aero might be good for a few tenths of a mile an hour here or there but what really matters is what’s pushing the pedals.
I ride with a guy who has a POS aluminum Cannondale with shot wheel bearings who can absolutely destroy me on my 8 month-old, full carbon, high-tech, wind tunnel loving aero race bike.
My Venge is ill. She’s developed a nervous tick. Under light pressure, cruising pressure, there’s either no noise or a very slight tick on the left side (non-drive side) it’s technically a “tick, tick” at the top of each pedal stroke (both sides)… Under a heavy load it’s several ticks in succession through the full power stroke, both sides.
Before we get into this, it’s not (and I know it’s not because I’ve taken steps to eliminate all of these): The pedals (put them on the 5200, no clicking). The cassette: Took it apart, it’s lubed and tight. The chain ring bolts: Lubed and tight. It’s not an installation problem with the crank itself: All of the parts are, there are only three to the whole crank assembly, installed properly and lubed. It’s not where the spokes cross (rear wheel is two-cross on the non-drive side) the shop owner tried this one. It’s not the pulleys on the rear derailleur.
So, with all of the easy items checked and rechecked, lubed and relubed, all verified by the shop, the problem is beyond my knowledge. We’re leaning towards a bottom bracket bearing issue but we’ll have to see. After dropping it off at the shop Monday afternoon, I dropped by to pick it up before yesterday’s club ride, expecting a simple explanation of the noise, figuring I’d missed something. No such luck. They’d taken the bearings out and lock-tite’ed them into the frame, and rechecked the entire crank assembly. Then they took apart the steering assembly, cleaned it, re-lubed it and put it all back together… Nothing. Basically we they couldn’t figure it out either. So while I was there we even swapped out the rear wheel with another bike, triple-checked that the seat post bolts were tightened to the proper torque – all to no avail. Tick, tick, tick, tick… Tick, tick, tick, tick… A few milliseconds in between each tick.
I’ll be calling the shop later this morning to figure out what the next move is.
There is a misunderstanding or ten out there about cycling and food, chief among them is that you can eat anything, or more importantly as much of anything as you might want, if you put enough miles in on the bike.
The main problem is that there is some truth in that misunderstanding and I’ll just go ahead and call it a myth. The truth is, when you’re putting in 150-200 miles a week in, you can eat some food, in fact you have to. Ridden fast enough you’re looking at upwards of 11,000 extra calories or 1,571 extra calories a day. Add that to my basal metabolic rate, the amount of calories I need to eat every day just to stay on the right side if the grass and I’m looking at just shy of 4,000 calories a day to maintain my 165 pounds.
When you consider that many diets call for as little as 1,200-1,600 calories for a daily intake, almost three times that is a lot of food. Unfortunately there’s more to it than that: If you think you’ll get to eat a piece of Death by Chocolate cake whenever you want, you’ve got another thing coming…
First, if you want to lose weight, you’re obviously going to have to operate on less food. I’m maintaining my weight because I’m as light as I want to be. To lose weight I tried to operate on around 3,000 calories a day which would mean a loss of two pounds a week. This is not easy. On 3,000 calories a day I was hungry most of the day except after dinner. After losing fifteen in just seven weeks I started bumping my intake up to slow the loss down… I got too skinny. The problem is in fueling the riding, maintaining the speed and trying to lose some pounds at the same time. It’s a delicate balance that required eating precisely at the right times and in relatively small amounts compared to how I eat today (this has to do with fueling muscle recovery, maintaining a daily cycling schedule by mixing in the proper active recovery rides and loading up before and during the long rides).
When I achieved (what I thought was) a good weight, I had to learn how to maintain it. This simply meant eating more but I went through an important metamorphosis in how I looked at food, entirely…
Once I got to a certain point with cycling, I wound up looking at food only as fuel. Done well, you come to see that certain things you thoroughly enjoyed at one time are really quite useless. In my case, things like donuts, soda and candy are worse than just useless. See, I like to ride fast. Very fast. I try to ride with the local racers at least once a week (and succeed for about 23-25 miles). The problem with crap food is that it makes lousy cycling fuel. Take donuts: As cycling fuel they’re a waste of stomach space. A donut is good for about eight or maybe ten miles. A banana, on the other hand, is good for twenty or more. Candy? Five miles, if you’re lucky. That aforementioned Whopper? Fifty miles, easy. Now, soda is tricky. Seventy miles into a 100 mile ride, an ice-cold Coke tastes like pure Heaven and that jolt of sugar and caffeine provide both instant and prolonged relief. The sugar is obviously the instant but the caffeine, according to studies I’ve read (meaning I read the actual studies and abstracts, not the often mistaken reporting on the studies) caffeine helps the body convert from mainly burning carbs as fuel to burning mainly fat once you’ve depleted yourself of easy-burning carbs. I’ve felt this work and it is awesome. However, off the bike, it’s a useless waste of calories and my biggest problem is that I really like Coke. I try to maintain a 70 mile rule now when it comes to that oh-so-wonderful beverage. If I’m not in the middle of riding 70 miles, no Coke. That means no soda with dinner, no pop when I eat out, none. Abstinence is the only way I can keep from over-doing it.
Now here’s where this becomes mind-boggling (or mind-blowing as the case may be): I earlier stated that on a very active week, 200+ miles at an average pace of around 19 mph, I can eat “just shy of 4,000 calories a day” – technically that’s something like 3,960 on my most demanding of weeks (normally I’m around 3,400 calories a day when I’m riding between 120 and 150 miles a week). According to a study, they found the average American’s calorie intake, when under-reporting is factored in, is around 3,300 calories per day. This is the average American who, I guarantee you, is a whole lot less active than I am… Eats only 660 calories a day less than I do on my heaviest of training weeks and only 100 calories less when I’m putting in 150 miles on my bicycle. Cutting through the BS, I only eat slightly more than the average person and am probably on the order of 20 times more active. What I see as a lot of food, as the average person sees it, isn’t all that much. Therein lies the rub.
If you’re having a problem losing weight and you’re exercising a lot, not only will you have to recalibrate your thinking the way I did, you’ll have to change the way you think about how much is “a lot” as well because you’re most likely quite far from reality.
Clarification: The numbers quoted above are for men only, because I happen to be one. For women it’s much worse and more difficult. The average woman, who rides like I do, should consume (according to government recommendations) 2,000-2,400 calories a day if they’re very active… Add the crazy mileage factor and you’re only talking about maybe 3,000 calories a day. In other words, the most a woman can hope to eat would have me wasting away to nothingness before your very eyes. This breathes life, yet again, into the notion that when I talk about “a lot” and what others who can’t lose weight “think” is a lot, we’re talking about very different amounts.
This dose of reality is brought to you by Fit Recovery. I apologize in advance for bursting any bubbles.
Ah, Louis, you are awesome. Your bikes are sharp and beautiful. Your high-end jerseys are amazing; they’re bright, comfortable and look good after years of hard wear.
It’s the new shorts, Louis, that leave a lot to be desired. See, I don’t own a pair of them, I’ve always ridden a different brand but I have this good friend who wears them exclusively and swears by their comfort. Now before I get going on this roll, your ability to produce wonderful products is truly inspirational… But your shorts, brother. Something must be done about your shorts. Here’s the deal, and I’ll try to be, um… Well, funny: Cycling, once you get to the 20+ mph crowd, is mainly dudes, for whatever reason. When you get to the club cyclists who are crazy enough to spend more than a hundred bucks on a pair of shorts and who own several pair, it’s 9 to 1 guys. Cycling that fast isn’t easy either, as I’m sure you know. It takes a lot of concentration, right? Can we agree on that?
Sweet. Now, when we studs are blasting down the road at 40-45 kmh with just 15-30 cm between tires and we’re concentrating on keeping that razor-thin line tight, what would be the worst thing to see right ahead of you? Well, besides the headlights of a Buick, one on either side of your front wheel?…
Um… Yeah, the answer, Louis, is: Ass Crack.
Louis, your shorts are see-through brother, and not just a little bit. Seeing the butt crack of my best cycling bud while blasting down the road, is horrible. They’d be awesome on my wife but it’s discombooberating on anyone butt. Butt I digress… Big time. You see, that whole team Sky thing, with the see-through kit, yeah that’s gnarly lookin’ even on the pros. It’s a joke actually… But your shorts are even worse! Sky’s kit at least has that solid black patch that covers the crack.
Your butt crack-showing shorts are going to cause accidents. Worse, I’m going to have to figure out a way to tell my cycling buddy that when he rides he’s mooning the guy behind him (see, I’m smart enough that after I rode behind him for the first mile in a warm-up seven miler the other day, I didn’t make the mistake a second time). Point is Louis, we’re taught to say no to crack. So please, help us in that endeavor.
No more crack, baby. We need a little more coverage on those cycling shorts ’cause unless you’re gay, guy ass is the one thing that can mess up a really good ride. Some shit, Louis, is not supposed to be seen on a bike ride. Help a brother out, PLEASE! I’m begging you.
Today was one of those rare, perfect mornings for a bike ride. 68 degrees, not a cloud in the sky and not even a hint of a breeze. Having all three, temp, sun and no wind converge may only happen in my neck of the woods three or four times a year.
Unfortunately we’ve got a full day today. My eldest has her last swim meet of the year and then we have our anniversary celebration dinner tonight so a short ride was all I could fit in and then throw in the long ride tomorrow…
I set out with my mind made up on a 16 miler and with my long ride planned for tomorrow I set a target for an easy 53-54 minutes. After all, I want to have some spring in my step tomorrow morning, right? Well I held that pace for all of 500 feet. It was just too nice. I settled in at about a 2:50 pace and just cruised. I couldn’t waste a wind-free day.
About ten miles in and still feeling fantastic, I decided to throw in another four miles and make it an even twenty. I may pay for that at the beginning of our ride tomorrow, maybe for a few miles… but I just couldn’t help but get the most out of a perfect day.
I finished the 20 in under an hour, smiling. Best laid plans are awesome until they meet a perfect day for cycling. Then it’s Katie bar the door.
Mrs. Bgddy and I will celebrate Seventeen years of marriage tomorrow, this year having been the best of all of them (Including the initial honeymoon year). This is a big deal to me… Not only is seventeen years of marriage something to celebrate, to have the latest one be the best is exceedingly cool.
Now, I’m not going to gush poetically about my wife, I’ll keep our celebration private, but I did want to make a couple of points about our marriage:
First, if you’ve followed my blog for any length of time you’ll notice that I celebrate a lot. I celebrate my sobriety date, the entire month of November. I celebrate birthdays, my cycling anniversary, my wife’s special days, my kid’s special days, our anniversary, successes at work… and when I’m not celebrating special days I’m celebrating life in general. Sure I have down times and times when I’m struggling, I’m not perfect (I’m very much human) but I have one specific advantage that helps me to celebrate life in a manner that’s tough to grasp for many people: My alcoholism, or more specifically, my recovery from it. Alcoholism was killing me. It isn’t like cancer, a disease that destroys the body. Alcoholism is in some ways much better and in others, much worse. Alcoholism isn’t just a disease that kills the body, it destroys the soul. It has the host give up everything the person loves in life, everything that is good, before it kills you. Some say that the disease strips all that is good from a person, and while I understand that take, I choose to look at it a little differently: That I gave everything away for a drink (or several as the case was). Looking at it this way puts the onus on me, where it belongs. Viewed this way, I am not a victim of alcoholism, I was a willing participant. While it can suck to give up the ability to be a victim, it is also freeing simply because taking ownership of my choices means I can do something to correct it. With the help of other recovering drunks who were made whole before me, I was able to reverse the destruction. Put simply, recovery from the disease that could have destroyed me became the very thing that makes life so sweet. It became a fantastic reason to enjoy life.
Second, my wife and I work very hard at our marriage. Things weren’t always so good and cheery – there was a time where we were very close to divorce. My two biggest faults here were that I wanted to enjoy the married life while still maintaining the freedoms accorded only the single. To put it simply, I wanted to have the best of both a married and single life. This is a selfish way to look at marriage and I continuously have to maintain vigilance so I don’t slide back to that behavior. The other is a little more complex. My wife had her faults and as a reaction to those faults I held back (rather than celebrating them because were it not for her faults, she’d have chosen a better man). I never invested myself fully in the marriage for fear it would end up like so many others, in divorce. While this may not seem like such a big deal, holding back is like purposely introducing cancer to a marriage. A few years ago, with all of our faults on the table, we decided to stop the finger-pointing we had one simple choice to make: Stay together or divorce. We both chose to stay together, which meant quitting those practices that kept a wedge between us. We both chose to work on walking the right path every single day, to the best of our ability and it is paying off.
Life is, indeed, good.