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Monthly Archives: July 2014

Sometimes you just gotta roll…

I hate the winter. I hate rest days. I hate sick days. And I HATE rain days. I hate days off of my bikes.

Now, by rain, we’re not talking about a light rain, most anyone (me included) would ride in that. We’re talking about, “Hey, did God resurrect Noah when that movie came out?” rain. We’re talking, “Jeez, was that lightning or is Zeus pissed off again?”

I’m all for riding in that crap if I’m already out there and it just pops up but I’m not going to start with it like that either.

Today was one of those tweener days. One of those, maybe I’ll get lucky days, and after two days off in a row for “take shelter immediately” weather and some of the best, hardest work in my life, I didn’t care if it was a tweener day, daddy was getting his perspective straight today.

What a shock, an hour later (and a bunch of dodging rain drops) and I feel relieved. Happy. I feel good.

Thank God for bicycles… and cycling shorts, shoes, cleats, clip-less pedals, cycling jerseys, shades, dome covers and gloves. It will get better than this if I keep doing the next right thing, “it” always has… If it doesn’t though, if this is as good as it gets, that’ll be good enough.

I’m going to stop and call Hallmark before I blow all of my gushy stuff here. Good Lord!

Keep coming back, it works if you work it. I know it to be true.

Wheel Maintenance – When It’s Time to Throw in the Towel

I threw in the towel yesterday on my nagging rear wheel.  It’s developed loose spoke-itis.  This problem started out about four weeks ago with a nagging spoke and I wrote about that on this blog.  A longtime commenter who goes by the nickname “Saltyvelo” suggested that I keep my eye on it because if a spoke loosens up, it tends to become a continual problem.  Not only was he right, the problem spread to a point where every spoke on that wheel is susceptible to loosening up whenever I hit a minor bump – I can’t go 40 miles without having to re-true the wheel and that’s a big problem when you’re in the middle of a century…

Originally I got the bright idea that applying Loctite to the threads of the spoke nipples would be the way to go and bandied around the idea of trying it myself.  Then I hit Google to research what now seems like a rare but not  uncommon problem.  I was glad I didn’t go the Loctite route as it is said to be exactly the wrong thing to doAs I understand it, the spokes come loose (as mine do) because there isn’t enough tension on all of the spokes (see page 55).

With the research out of the way I had a decision to make…  Do I take it to the shop or try to fix it myself?  This line from the book The Bicycling Guide to Complete Bicycle Maintenance & Repair for Road and Mountain Bikes:  It takes a good bit of experience to be able to sense when a wheel has reached its optimal level of tightness so don’t expect to get it right the first time you try.  Here’s my dilemma:  A wheel that’s too loose can come out of true, seen it happen.  A wheel that’s too tight is susceptible to “sudden collapse” or catastrophic failure.  If you’ve seen the photo on my homepage, the one that shows me climbing one heck of a steep mountain road, you’ll begin to understand why I’m a touch nervous.  I’ll be heading for the mountains in a few weeks and when I’m going down the mountain, well let’s just suffice it to say I don’t like using brakes.  I like to go fast.  As neither catastrophic wheel failure nor a bent rim due to a loose spoke at 50 miles an hour sounds very fun, I figured it might be a good idea take it to the shop and have a pro rebuild the wheel.

So, yesterday evening I headed to the shop with my Vuelta and my old DT Swiss 4.0 and had the cassette swapped from one to the other so I’ll still be able to ride my bike while the wheel’s being redone (should the rain ever let up while I’m not sitting in my office) and they said they’d have back in a few days.  They’re going to completely disassemble the wheel and rebuild it from the ground up using spoke prep.

I suppose my point to this post, if I must have one, is that wheels present an interesting conundrum…  I take my relative safety very seriously and the most important thing on a bike that a cyclist needs to work perfectly, is a wheel (brakes and the chain are high up there too, especially if you’re riding in a group but I can handle both of those on my own, they’re easy).  If I was not planning on heading to the mountains for some exceptionally spirited descents (45-50 mph), I’d have given fixing the wheel myself a shot.  On the other hand, once I started factoring in those excessive speeds, I’m just not as willing to trust the wheels to, “yeah, I think should get it”.

 

How I Achieved A Bumper Week on the Bike

I’ve just achieved my highest mileage week ever on a bike (well, I included a 5k run in the mileage too).  This, of course, after I had broken my highest weekly total just two weeks ago (I think it was two weeks ago, not tracking my mileage with an app has made keeping the timetable straight a little difficult).  When I started cycling three years ago I’d struggle to get 100 miles a week, last week I topped 236.

Before you get the idea that I’m taking time off work to get this done, I did this amidst a 50 hour work week. and with only one weekday ride taking more than an hour.  Here’s how this works…  Monday I worked from 6 am to 4 pm.  I got home at 5, my wife went out for a ride and then after dinner, I did mine (at 7 we had two hours of daylight left).  Tuesday is our club ride that starts at 6, 35 miles there.  Wednesday looked like Monday, another 16 (50 minutes give or take).  Thursday was just four “checkup” miles at 6 pm, two on the mountain bike and two on the road bike to make sure I got some changes right followed by a 5k run at 7 pm.  Friday was an early morning 16 miles with Mrs. Bgddy sandwiched in between a lot of work and 45 minutes on the tractor cutting the grass later in the day.  The big mileage occurred over the weekend, 46 and 100 miles on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.  Do the math and that’s 236 miles, or conservatively, 11,000 calories (or 3 pounds if you prefer).

Now, I’m not suggesting I, or anyone else, could keep this up on a regular basis with a family and full-time job.  The reality is that I’ve spent a lot of time on the bike and I’ve had to keep a pace that averages close to 20 mph to do it and still have time to get the rest of my responsibilities done.  These last few weeks have been a blessing taken advantage of, but the simple point is, it can be done – depending on where priorities lie.  I was once at a place where I didn’t care if I was fit or not.  After putting on a whole mess of pounds I arrived at a point where I needed to get fit.  Follow that with the point where I wanted to be fit and the whole ball of wax culminates in me needing that hour a day during the week to “feel” right with the world.  I was going to write that I need it to “function” but that really doesn’t do it justice.  That 50 minutes a day during the week, wherever I can fit it in, is time taken to clear my mind of the days stresses for just a short period so that I can return and face life’s challenges with a clear melon.  That bike ride helps me to feel good, even through tough times.

Unfortunately, it’ll be no rest for the weary as we’ve got some serious rain blowing in starting tomorrow evening and extending through Friday.  With three days off coming up, I’ll ride this evening and then tomorrow if possible and worry about time off while it’s raining.

As for that century yesterday, you know, the one I was so confident about killing?  Oh my God, the first 75 miles were awesome!  I spent the first 50 up front (or close to it, one or two wheels back) and even dropped off of the group to help a friend back who had to stop for a “nature break”.  There were a couple of other instances where I’d drop back a hundred meters or so to bring those who’d fallen off the back as well.  I was on top of my game…  Later, after lunch, another friend was tinkering with his Go-Pro camera mount so I held back by a half-mile so he could ride the first half to catch up, then I could give him a draft for the rest.  By the time I hit that 75 mile mark, all of that time cutting wind, in addition to the hard 46 on Saturday, took its toll.  I was cooked.  By mile 80, I was spending more time at the back and started breaking the last twenty down in my head so I could keep with it.  At mile 90 I was feeling ugly but I just kept thinking, “only thirty minutes to go”.  I tried to put ten miles in its perspective because in the scheme of things, the way I ride ten miles isn’t much.  On the other hand, put that ten miles on the back side of 90 and all of a sudden it gets a little tougher.  However I want to slice it though, I just cracked out two back-to-back hard, long rides for the first time and even if I did spend a little bit of that time hanging on by my teeth, I made it smiling – teeth in tact.  A small second lunch, a huge dinner, and about seven hours of sleep and I’m feeling pretty good again.

With the Assenmacher 100 just three weeks away I’ll be ready.  Life is good, on two wheels.

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The funny stuff kids say…

I picked my seven year-old from her friends the other day and we’re heading up a hill in the truck and she says, “you know daddy, this wouldn’t be very fun going up on a bike but it would be fun going down.”

A few minutes later we’re heading down a long hill and I say, “See Josie, it would be fun going down but then you have to go back up right after.”

I expected that to be the end of the conversation but she said, without missing a beat, “Yes daddy, but you would be able to carry the speed from going down the hill up this one.”

That’s my girl. I’m a proud papa.

Cycling: Developing Confidence

We were supposed to be four on our fifty miler yesterday but there was a crossed communication somewhere and it was just Phil and I. The idea was to ride northwest to Columbiaville, turn around and head back. We waited at the meeting spot till 8:15 and headed out. I had an energy bar and a Gu Roctane for spare fuel and my normal two water bottles, one filled with a Hammer Perpetuem mix. More than enough for a fifty mile ride. We headed out at a healthy, steady pace just over 21 mph and held it easily for the first 12-1/2 miles when we stopped to assess our location and figure out where we wanted to go from there. We picked our route and off we went.

Unfortunately, when we got to our chosen road we were greeted by construction signs and a really nice hill to climb. I wanted to climb that hill, about 3/4’s of a mile long and steep, especially at the top. The last bit was a small ring climb and I don’t get to see too many of those so we hit the hill and figured we could turn around if the construction rendered the road impassable. When we crested the hill there was a short descent and it looked like the asphalt had been stripped for about a mile – only a hill for a mountain climber. We took skinny tires to dirt, deciding to press through it. That one mile turned into two, then four, then six miles. Progress was sluggish at best but we finally pushed through to a paved road finally. After a quick wheel wipe we rolled out hard and before long, we were back on track.

We rolled in a little shy of our fifty mile target but adjusting for our dirt road debacle, we rolled in slightly above a 20 mph average – an excellent effort split evenly between the two of us. No onboard fuel consumed. Forty-six miles on a bowl of granola cereal. Not bad.

In a few short hours I’ll be heading out for a century at just under the same pace and I’ll be one of the horses. I know I’ll kill it, and as a bonus we’ll be stopping for a light lunch at the halfway point.

A couple of years ago I’d have been taking the day before a century off to make sure I was well rested. I used to fear the “bonk” but in three years of cycling, somewhere around 16,000 miles, I’ve only bonked once, on a 108 mile solo ride that I did fail to fuel properly for (back then I needed a lot more to fuel a ride, I’ve grown much more efficient in terms of food requirements and I’ve found a better source [ERG energy bars] which means easier and less frequent onboard munching).

Today, it’s not just about hydration and nutrition though, even if that is a big part if keeping the crank turning. Today I have confidence in my ability. I’ve put in the miles to know I’ve got this, I’ve pushed through adverse conditions countless times. I know that at some point, the effort today is going to hurt. I know it’ll be hard. I also know I’ll push through it as I have so many times before.

While I do have confidence in the fuel and my equipment, I have confidence in something much more important:

I trust the engine.

A Big Fitness Weekend…

I ran on Thursday for the first time in more than a year.  It wasn’t anything special, I ran with my wife and a friend and it was only a 5k.  I also put in a couple of miles on my mountain bike to test out some changes I made to the setup (inverted the stem, then lowered it two spacers so I could add some reach to the cockpit) and then a couple of more on the road bike to test out the new crank…

Yesterday I went for a quick ride with my wife, we had a small window through which to fit sixteen miles before she had to hurry off to a board meeting.  Afterwards, I had a pile of work to get through after which I took my father-in-law golfing (a quick nine holes – we walked it).  Today I’ll be riding with two of my friends, a fast fifty before taking care of a lot of yard work.  Then, tomorrow morning I’ve got an easy century planned (yes, there is such a thing – we’re planning on an 18 mph average so I’ll be staying up front for most of it) with a few other friends.  So in four days I’m looking at north of 170 miles on top of work.  The trick, of course, is the 5k and walking the golf course – neither of which I’m used to.  My legs are pretty sore.  I’ll push through it though.

Now, some folks who follow this blog will rightfully say that this isn’t all that big a deal.  On the other hand, there are others whose jaw will drop.  Personally, I’m just happy to have the desire and ability to do all of that.  I remember my first days of trying to get fit to lose weight thirteen years ago when I couldn’t even run a 5k let alone walk nine holes the next day.  I remember the first week of cycling, when four miles at 15mph on a mountain bike was kind of a big deal.  I remember my first century, when an 18 mph average was something I hoped for with help.  Today that’s an easy day, one to look forward to as a fun ride with friends.  I like to look back at my first club ride, where under perfect conditions (decent temp, no wind) I managed 19 mph over that 33 miles.  I’m 2 mph faster today in rough conditions – almost 3 mph faster when the conditions are decent, with a seven mile warm up just for fun.  I can remember, not too long ago, when 100 miles in a week was a big deal.  Today that’s more like 220 miles (240 this week).

Better yet, I remember the bad old days, when I hated what I saw in the mirror.  “Dumpy” would be the best way to describe me back then.  I remember how I used to think it would be a lot of work to get healthy again.  I used to think it would “suck”.  I used to think I would hate every minute of it.

I like to look back on the bad old days and chuckle about just how wrong I was calling it work.  It makes me laugh that I thought I’d hate it.

Sure it was rough at first but I wouldn’t want to do without my daily workout.  In fact, I’d be quite miserable without it.

Funny how the perspective evolves.

Have a great day on the road.

On dopey drivers and the Doppler Effect

Now THIS is funny!

We Run and Ride

By Christopher Cudworth

Musical symbols for retard. My companion and I were pedaling up Illinois Highway 2 between Dixon and Oregon, Illinois, minding our position next to the white line along the road when a small silver car came buzzing past with the windows wide open. The driver yelled something at us but we could not hear exactly what he said.

See, there’s this thing in physics where sound gets distorted by speed and distance. You might be aware of the Doppler Effect when a train goes by. You’ll hear the horn and it will go something like ___Nyyyyyyyyeeeeeeettttttttoooooooooooowwwwwwwwnnnnn_____

I’m no physicist of course. But I know enough to know that yelling out of a car window results in about the same sort of sound distortion. Which means that dopey drivers yelling things at cyclists out their car windows think they’re making some really cogent point about the fact that they hate the idea…

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Tour de France 2014: Stage 18 – Pau to Hautacam

Racing Lines

Bonjour! Stage18 was the third and final day in the Pyrenees. It was a decisive stage, with King of the Mountains and Green Jersey, not to mention Yellow, really set for this year. All they have to do is stay in the saddle until Sunday and all will be well! Nibali crossed the line with quiet authority after another incredible performance. Here are my drawings:

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At Long Last, My Venge is Back… And QUIET.

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My clicking Venge is finally back, sans “clicking”.  Assenmacher’s Cycling Center, my local shop has worked tirelessly to get it right over the last two months on rain days.  Three months ago or so, just eight months after I bought the bike, it developed a mild ticking that sounded like it came from the crank but as anyone who has had an annoying noise pop up on their bike, they all sound like they’re coming from the crank.  When I first reported the problem, the owner of the shop offered to work on it through rain days so I wouldn’t miss a ride.  Whenever rain was expected, I’d drop the bike off and they’d work on a few new possible issues.  We looked at the cassette body, where the spokes cross on the wheel, the bottle cages, the steering assembly was taken apart, cleaned and put back together, the entire bottom bracket/crank assembly was disassembled, cleaned and repacked, the chain was replaced (that one was at my request, even though the original chain has a few months left on it), the derailleur assemblies were looked at, the seat post/saddle assembly was cleaned and reassembled…  Folks, the shop completely tore the bike down and rebuilt it trying to figure this out.  We even swapped out the wheels, front and rear, to make sure it wasn’t in the wheels.

Nothing worked.

Finally, I dropped the bike off yesterday to leave it overnight.  Rain was in the forecast on Wednesday but it was clear that it would only be cool and cloudy but I was so desperate to get this resolved, I opted to drop it off anyway and ride my backup bike (though I opted for a dirt road mountain bike ride instead – I needed to get some miles in on the dirt bike).  When I showed up yesterday afternoon to see if a culprit had been identified, they were no closer.  Matt (the owner) and I disassembled the crank again and decided to try plumber’s thread tape where the left crank arm joins with the drive assembly – now that showed some temporary promise!  I got two silent revolutions out of the crank before the ticking started again – we were getting close.  That’s when we decided to start looking at the crank itself.  It turned out that they had a 54 cm model on the floor with the exact same crank assembly.  Rather than waste more of his money on the bike, I stuck around and swapped the old crank for the new one from the 54.  Sure enough, the bike was silent.  Then I took my old crank and put it on the new 54.  There was the clicking again.  Then we decided to isolate the exact offending part, so I put the old left crank arm on the new right crank/chain ring assembly on my bike…  No clicking.  Then the new left crank arm on my right crank assembly on the new bike…  Clicking.

It was the right drive assembly where it joined with the left crank arm.

Now, before you guys get any ideas, the chain ring bolts have been disassembled, cleaned and lubed twice, and then done a third time with lock-tite just to make sure it wasn’t the chain ring bolts.  When we took the crank assemblies back apart, the splines on my old right side showed us something…  The lube that we’d applied on the splines was black, even though the crank had been through less than 50 revolutions which meant there was movement when torque was applied to the assembly (shown below from a different FSA BB30 crank assy):
FSA BB30 Crank Assy
See the splines on the right (with the two washers on them), and how they mesh with the left side crank arm?  The wear was showing in the valleys of the right side.

On getting all of this straight the owner of the shop contacted the proper folks and was asked to send the assembly in for inspection.  This, believe it or not, is a problem because that means I’ve got a bike with no crank in the peak of the season.  I assumed, of course, that I’d simply get the new crank off of the new bike and we’d be good, right?  Well not exactly because then the shop’s got a bike that was on the shelf but can’t be displayed any longer.  Technically my bike is supposed to be sitting in shop limbo until FSA and Specialized figure this one out before sending me a new crank.  Thankfully, my local shop is awesome and they opted to give me the new crank so I can still ride while this mess gets sorted by the powers that be…  Now, I’ll refrain from comment, disparaging or otherwise, about this until more is revealed because I’m sure neither FSA nor Specialized have any idea how much time went into tracking this down but I will say this; Dude, I paid a shit-ton of money for that bike.  It’s under warranty and we went to extreme lengths to rule everything else out.  I can’t imagine having to leave that bike at the shop until they get their part figured out, nor can I imagine that they’d take more than ten minutes to figure out, “hey, this crank crapped out”.  More later.

How to make yourself feel like crap: Clothing Edition

And to think, I was going to write a post about my awesome mountain bike ride yesterday… One of these days I’ll learn.  This is going to be a touchy subject so please, bear with me…

I am very careful about the clothing that I buy and wear nowadays – it wasn’t always like this.  I used to shop at Sears or JC Penny’s or Macy’s (then Hudson’s) and thought all clothing was pretty much the same.  For the most part, they make clothes for larger people than me, for people whose inseam is smaller than their waste size.  When I buy a shirt from one of these places, what I normally end up with is way too much material around the waist – I look like I’m wearing a shirt that is a size or two too big.  Enter Express.  Their clothes, while more expensive, are made for a thinner crowd.  Now, I can do one of two things:  I can pony up and feel good in what I’m wearing or I can be cheap and feel ugly in what I’m wearing (or I can find another store that caters to a thinner customer).

I used to choose the cheap route and no matter how hard I tried, I always felt like a skin-flint.  I felt ugly and I’m a damn fine-looking guy.  What I was doing, specifically, was wearing clothing that highlighted my flaws.  When I looked in the mirror, that’s all I saw – my one and only flaw.  It was my little sister, fresh out of college with a degree in fashion who finally helped me out of my jam.  She was the one who turned me on to Express and the fact that I needed slimmer fitting shirts in the waist.

Folks, there is only one person on this planet that can “make” me feel “less than” and that’s me.  Any other person on this rock who would say something off about how I look is simply confirming that which I already believe to be true.  The same applied when I was heavier (though I did something about that before it got out of hand).  What I was doing was setting myself up for misery.

There’s another aspect of this that can work against us as well.  How often do you wear something that otherwise looks gnarly because it “hides” one of the things that you dislike about your figure?  “Well, this swimsuit is nasty but it hides my big ass”.  This is a double whammy waiting to happen!  Not only are you self-conscious about your big ass but you’re self-conscious about your ass and you’re in a piece of clothing that you know is ugly because it hides your big ass.  Ladies and gentlemen, in this instance, you’ve so set yourself up for failure you don’t even need any external input.

The point is this:  If you already feel bad about yourself, why make it worse with what you wear?  Why set the world up to confirm what you hate about yourself?

This is human nature, that’s why.  In the case of the swimsuit, the names were left out on purpose, but this is a person I know in the real, non-blogosphere, world – and I didn’t sit idly by…  I said something to her and it went like this:  “You know, you’re a beautiful woman and that swimsuit is not meant for you, it doesn’t fit, why do you wear it?”  She replied, “Well I don’t like my butt and it hides it well.”  My response went something like, “You deserve to look as pretty as you are, find something that fits the rest of you and hides your butt at the same time.  You’re worth it.”  Now, I’d have argued that her heinie wasn’t all that bad to begin with but that never works out because she’s already got it in her head that it is.  There’s no way I’d be able to fight that City Hall, so I rolled with it.

Guess who showed up with a new swimsuit that hides her butt and looks like a million bucks on her?

Learning to shop and dress to match one’s body style is, alas, often just a Band-Aid.  It’s not always perfect and it certainly isn’t easy.  Finding the right places to shop takes time and effort and worst of all, it takes time in front of a mirror, often looking critically at that which we’d rather ignore.  The question is, how good are you at actually ignoring it?  If you’re anything like me (and honest about it), you probably aren’t.  No matter what, it’s always nagging you.  However, put the right set of clothes on any body type and it will make all of the difference in the world.  The important thing to remember is that we can complain about “society” until we’re blue in the face, it won’t do a bit of good because no matter what society’s slight, the real pain lies in society confirming what we already feel.

Then buy a bike and ride the wheels off it so you don’t ever have to worry about that crap again.