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Monthly Archives: July 2014

The Noob’s Photographical Guide to Cycling Efficiency: The Position on the Bike

I’d been wondering, since I bought my Venge (almost a year ago now), what I looked like when I ride it.  I’ve seen my shadow when the sun’s just right and when I look at that I seem to be pretty flat (or aerodynamic), but I’ve never really known for sure (if the sun is just a little off I was surprised at how skewed my shadow is).  I was out riding with my wife yesterday, talking about position and bike setup and I got the idea that I should have her snap a few photos and see where I really am…

When I started cycling I cared more about the speed and fitness than the comfort.  In fact, the idea of being comfortable while getting fit seems a little silly to me.  Fit hurts, at least while you’re trying to get there.  With my first road real road bike, one that fit (58 cm and I’m 6′ tall), I was sent home with something I didn’t like a whole lot.  It was comfortable, sure, but the stem was too high so I almost sat on the bike like I was riding my mountain bike.  The bike shop owner kept talking about comfort and not worrying about looking like “the guys on the Tour” as if that mattered to me (anyone who’s tried knows that you can’t on a budget anyway and I was on a budget).  Now I’m no engineer but it doesn’t take one to know that if you’re sitting upright on a bike, this will be slower than if you’re leaning down, using your head and shoulders to cut through the wind rather than your entire body.  After my first couple of weeks with the bike I started making changes.

I had the stem slammed as low as it could go and the saddle as high as I dared when I found my Venge at the shop.  My “Ferrari”.  I knew I wanted just a little more drop from the saddle to the bars so I could get just a little more aerodynamic and after all of the research I’d done for blog posts I knew that the answer was a smaller bike.  I picked a 56 cm frame and had it dialed in…

The following photos are the result and they offer a fair representation of what a non-pro, noob enthusiast can aim for in their own setup.  I have written about aerodynamic positioning in the past, here for lowering the stem for a good position, here and here for what is important and what isn’t (from a noob’s perspective) and here for a short rundown on the order of what to concentrate on.  Then, here’s a post on how to choose the right size frame (it matters, my Venge is a 56 cm frame – my proper size is 58-59 – the smaller frame allows for the higher saddle and the lower bars – on the other hand, go too small and you’ll be in trouble as well).  The goal of this post is to save those noobs who value aggressive speed over “comfort” from being taken down the wrong path.

First, a few caveats:
1)  I had a Specialized’s top of the line fitting performed in which all aspects of my body and how I ride were checked and incorporated into the setup.  With the exception of a 1 mm tweak to the saddle height (which has since gone back to where it was), nothing has been changed since.
2)  I am considered “flexible” as far as cycling goes but I still can’t touch my toes (though I can touch the ground a few inches in front of them).  In other words, you don’t have to be all that flexible.
3)  Riding efficiency was slightly more important to me than comfort, but it turns out that riding low seems incredibly comfortable to me – much more than riding upright – less pressure on the back and bum.
4)  I used to have back issues before I started cycling – a lot of lower back pain…  It has since abated and I go for months with no pain whatsoever and I believe that my position on the bike does have something to do with being more comfortable off of it.
5)  I took more than a year to adapt my body to riding with the bars as low as they are now.  My first fitted bike only had a 2-1/2″ drop and I’m 2-1/2″ lower than that now.  I did this slowly, over time, lowering the stem one spacer at a time and getting used to the new position before I moved another.

So, if you clicked on all of those posts I linked to you’re probably looking at something like 4,000 words – let’s make this easy with a few photos…
First is bike setup.  Here’s a photo of exactly how my bike is set today (bottom):

Venge

Now, I have two positions I ride in on the hoods (the hoods hold the brake levers [for noobs]) – low, with my arms bent at the proper angle which is better for when I’m out front, or high when I’m protected in a draft.  The speed of the ride determines position as well:  When we’re between 24 & 28 mph I’m low so I can fit under or into the draft a little bit better.  When we’re between 20 & 24, I’ll take the higher position so I can see better):

You can't ride like this with a gut in the way...

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The bottom photo, while quite comfortable and good in a draft, is inefficient solo or out front.  Not horribly so, but I resemble much more of a sail than in the top photo.  Notice my arms are not locked in that bottom photo too – they’re bent slightly.  Only lock your arms if sore shoulders are desired – after a century your shoulders will feel like someone drove hot nails into them.

Finally, there’s the drops.  I have two positions in the drops as well, the one in the photo below and another where my hands are back by the ends of the bars…  I don’t ride there often but it does provide a nice change when I’m into the wind, flying solo – I never ride with my hands back there in a group – too far away from the brakes.

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Not exactly Chris Froome or Fabian Cancellara, but it’ll do.

The photo above is not a cheat where I picked the lowest position I could get in so I could look “cool” by the way (as a poser would)…  I picked the position that I normally ride in and still be able to see a couple of car lengths ahead of me.  Going down a steep hill or into a strong wind I’m much lower.

 To wrap this up, I don’t know why the upright position is pushed so much, but if speed is what you want, low is fast.  Don’t be afraid to tell the shop to set your bike up how you want it – then wear the wheels out.

 

 

A life centered around food, or fitness?

After riding ninety miles at speeds most people can’t hold for nine, I was spent. I drove home using the cruise control so my legs wouldn’t cramp up on me. I downed a liter of Gatorade and a half-liter if water in the hour drive home. I arrived just after my wife left with the kids for a family cookout/birthday celebration.  Rather than get in the shower first and risk it waking me up, I opted for a nap first.  On waking 35 minutes later, I called my wife who started home to pick me up.  I showered and dressed and we headed back to the cookout (my wife offered to pick me up so we could ride together rather than separately).

The cookout was just like any American cookout. Brats, hotdogs, noodle salad, that bean and sour cream dip and tortilla chips, soda and deserts, brownies and cake and ice cream and more cake…

Now if you don’t know already, 90 miles is worth about 5,000 calories, give or take. On top of that, I’ve got my normal 2,500 daily calories that I need just to keep on the right side of the grass, pumping air.  To put this in simple terms, I get to eat like Michael Phelps from time to time.

So I filled my plate with a couple of Kogel’s dogs, some of the bean dip and chips, some mostaccioli, and a couple of veggies.  When I was 95% done, I felt full and much better.  I dumped my paper plate in the garbage and was done. No desert.

If ever there was a day to go wild on some cake and ice cream, that was it but I didn’t.

While I do love food and I love me some desert, the reality is this:  When I’m full, I’m done.  Even though I like to eat food that I find tasty, food is now my fuel.  Food makes it possible for me to pedal like an animal. Cycling makes me happy while the food is fuel for that which provides my enjoyment.  Too little and I won’t have the energy I need to ride.  Too much and I’ll be fat and slow, unable to fit my gut into my tuck forcing me to carry extra weight and to ride more upright, thus less efficiently (see below).  The wrong food and I’ll burn out early.

My life used to be different.  I used to exercise to be able to enjoy sin-foods.  Over the last few years I’ve evolved though.  While I’m not pure as the driven snow by any means, I am more mindful.  Careful.

Back when I started my little fitness experiment (it just happened to last fourteen years) I wanted to lose weight, yes, but the main goal was to be able to eat what and when I wanted – common among the overweight, or more aptly stated, the overindulgent.  Over time though, I came to understand and feel how adversely the wrong food affected what had become more important than being able to eat – my daily bike rides.  It was a slow process, the desire to eat better.  It was creeping, unexpected and insidious – but it took hold nonetheless.  All of a sudden when I’d grab a Coke off the shelf at the gas station I would think, “this bottle means five extra miles and for what”? The soda went first.  Then most of the deserts.  Then candy (I will always have a soft spot for moderate candy consumption).

Thus I did a dramatic about-face.  What had been my goal, “whatever and whenever”, became a distraction to something bigger – what used to make me “feel happy” now gets in the way of what truly brings me joy:  Riding a bike.

You can't ride like this with a gut in the way...

You can’t ride like this with a gut in the way…

One Helluva Ride – It’s Aptly Named…

I participated, along with close to 1,500 other cyclists in One Helluva Ride yesterday. The ride goes through Hell, Michigan (look it up, it’s really a town in Michigan) and thus, the name. This one is known to be a tough hundred miler… It shouldn’t be too surprising, as the name alludes to, it’s hot. What is surprising is that this is NOT a flat and with the exception of yearly trips down to the mountains, all I know is flat. In short, One Helluva a Ride is aptly named.

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I headed down early, left the house early enough that I’d have an hour and fifteen to spare. The moon was out and it was 65 degrees, heading to just shy of 85 and with rain expected in the afternoon, humidity was pegged. I stopped by a Mickey D’s for a quick on-the-go breakfast…

I arrived plenty early and there were already bikes everywhere

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The goal for today was to take it relatively easy. My buddy Mike was tired, Chuck was just coming back from a cold, so that meant I’d be the domestique for the day.

The first twenty miles went by exceptionally well, enough that I got a little cocky. Once we got out into the boondocks the rollers started. Then they turned into hills, then climbs.  Even though they were tough, the ride was quite breathtaking – including about four miles through a perfect tunnel of trees:

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By the time we hit the metric century mark I was hurting. At 65 miles we pulled into the same state park that they held my wife’s triathlon at for lunch.

Chuck was in trouble, Phil was hurting and I was in rough shape from spending too much time up front at 22-25 mph though I felt I could go after some food. Just a simple turkey sammich lunch but I needed the food and it was good. After eating and on the way back to the Gatorade line I heard a woman behind me talking to another about how she couldn’t do more than “x” miles on a ride because she couldn’t help but listen to her “inner voice” tell her she couldn’t do it.  I love people who call this negative Nancy their “inner voice”.  I turned around with a smile on my face and I ask,

“Would you like to know how to beat that”?
She responds, “What”?
I say, “That voice that tells you ‘I can’t'”.
She says, “yeah”.
I jumped in…”You need to learn two words and please excuse my language but they’re “Fuck” and “You”

I went on to explain myself succinctly and you could see the light bulb appear over her head…  It never fails to amaze me how many people think that inner voice must be heeded, even respected.  Early in sobriety they teach us that the “inner voice” needs to be kicked around rather than respected.  Look at it this way, if someone else spoke to me the way my “inner voice” does, I’d kick their ass so why, for the love of God, would I respect that?  The idea that “I can’t” get beyond a certain distance is almost entirely mental.  The notion that I can only ride so fast, within reason, is mostly mental.  I can go a lot harder than the committee would have me believe.  I squash that negativity because I’m a lot stronger than I’m usually willing to give myself credit for.

So with that, Mike asked if I’d be up for taking a shortcut for Chuck.  He was fading fast so Mike asked if I’d stick with them if they knocked ten miles off.  I decided I would hang with my friends to help rather than ditch them for my ego’s sake just to be able to write here that I did the full hundred.  I did my best to pull as long as I could, often taking two or three miles up front per turn and did a much better job of taking it a little easier on the hills so our little group was actually able to stick together (though Phil did ride me a little for wiping him out after a hard, slightly downhill, three mile pull where we were topping 25 mph).

We pulled into the home stretch with 90 miles and almost exactly 4-1/2 hours of ride time, a 20 mph average.  I am supremely happy with this, considering the degraded nature of our group, all of those damned rollers and the fact that I spent so much time up front…  There was enough climbing that I had to use the cruise control for the ride home to keep from cramping up (completely hydrated, well fed and plenty of electrolytes added – I simply worked hard).

Oh! I almost forgot… When you’re putting out max power, you hit a rest stop and you’re standing there wondering what to grab… Try a nectarine if they have them.  I like peaches as it is, but nectarines are simply amazing as cycling food – I ate three and simply put, they made me feel a lot better.

So, a 16 mile ride today (later on, after noon but before the Tigers game) will cap off my biggest single week ever at 225 miles.  I’d planned on being at 250 but I knocked 15 miles off of Friday’s ride to let my legs recover (and I’m infinitely glad I did) and I’m cutting today’s ride a little short because I’m beat and I can feel it.  Still, I’ll be 17 miles over my previous best week and the level of effort for the week was absolutely best ever in my life.  Seriously.

One final note on a new pet peeve:  Guys wearing their long hair in a bun.  Yes, you look like a girl, only ugly and that facial hair scruff does help differentiate the fact that you are, in some form, a male but geez Louise, you look stupid.  Cut it out.  Nobody, no matter how much money you make – as if that had anything to do with anything – can pull that off.

A Noob’s Guide to Saddle Sores and Cycling: Saddle Sore to Sore No More in Three Days – without a missed mile on the bike

Saddle sores and cycling go hand in hand, especially when you don’t use a chamois cream – and I don’t.  I do believe that bike setup has a lot to do with how often we get them but every once in a while they’re due to an increase in miles and a lapse in, um “placement”.

So here I am on Tuesday night, halfway through my 30 mile club ride (37 with the warm up) and I realize that I’ve got a problem:  I can’t get comfortable on the saddle.

To many, this means several days off of the bike.  Not for me.  With my wife and kids away on vacation there was no way I was taking time off the bike… And I’ve got a century coming up tomorrow that I’ve wanted to do for years (lots of climbing).

Enter Aquaphor, my magic saddle sore no more healing ointment.  Applied liberally to the affected area twice a day and the soreness is almost a memory three days later – with no time off the bike.  In fact, I’ve increased my normal weekday training route by 25% with the wife and kids away.

So, if you’re new to cycling or a seasoned vet, if you find yourself with a saddle sore, give Aquaphor a try.  It’s great stuff.

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Running to Her Dreams and I’m A Runner and So Can You – Very Inspirational Blogger Awards

The woman who writes Running to Her Dreams and Andy at I’m a runner and so can you bestowed the Very Inspirational Blogger Award upon me a short while ago.  Unfortunately I’ve been far too busy to give their generosity its proper due so I’ve put if off until I could at least acknowledge it fairly…

Thank you both, from the bottom of my heart (technically the top and middle too), I appreciate it greatly.

Now for the rules:  I’ve linked their posts, now seven things about myself…

1.  I’m working on a super-secret, new, inspirational company.  Trademarking has taken forever so I’ve had to keep it close to the vest until everything’s done (on the advice of my attorney).

2.  Outside of the blogosphere I believe in humility – I just don’t advertise it because only idiots and jerks have to tell you they’re humble.  Oh, and while I may be a humble fella, I do have a very healthy opinion of myself.  It’s a delicate balance.

3.  I can’t get over how cool it is that I love who I am.  It was like, all of a sudden I woke up one day and thought, “wow, you’re okay!  You actually turned into something good”…  It’s an awesome feeling..

4.  Quitting stuff is hard and even though I’ve had a lot of practice at it, I wish I was a little more pure as the driven snow.

5.  I have a hard time remembering names because I figure, “what’s the chance I’ll ever meet you again”, so I file that info in the “not important” bin.  90% of the time I’m right, and the other 10%, I’m that guy:  “What was your name again”?  It sucks and is one thing that I don’t like about me.  On the other hand, if I do remember your name, you know you’re important to me.  In fact, if you’ve been away from blogging for a while and I sent you a little “hey, how ya doing” message…  Yeah, you’re something else.

6.  I hate doing new things until I find out I love them…  Take Laser Tag for instance.  I was going into that dreading the evening.  “Oh, how silly and nerdy is this going to be”…  I’ll be damned if I didn’t have a blast.

7.  I hate swimming in cold water.  Freaking hate it.  While we were on vacation on Lake Michigan I actually thought about skipping getting into the lake because the water was pretty chilly.  I got to thinking about how bummed I would be if my dad refused to get in the water with us when I was a kid (my girls were all over me to go swimming with them) so I bit the bullet and got in.  I wish I was less of a wimp when it came to cold water – I wish I was more like my girls.

Now, for the blogs that I find Inspirational:  First, I really dig Andy and Running to Her Dreams’ blogs (linked above) so if you don’t already follow them, give ’em a look and I really enjoy Chatter Gets Fit.  Then there are my old standby’s, Elisariva, All Seasons Cyclist, bikevcar, Sandra at Promise to Dad and so forth (see my blogroll).  I have a couple of new one’s to add to that list:

First is a woman who goes by “Phoenix40213” and writes the blog The Rebirth of My Life.  We all know I have a soft spot in my heart for those who are recovering – from just about anything.  So it seems she’s starting on the right path but only time will really tell.

Then there’s Pandora at soveryslightlymad…  The reason that I find her inspirational is a bit of an inside story that I won’t get into here.  Just know she’s cool.

 

 

 

 

What Is the Ideal Cycling Weight? It’s not Simply “As Light as Possible”

A quick caveat:  The weights I’m about to discuss are for men.  The ratios I will be suggesting, for women, should be slightly less – figure two tenths lighter, and you should be good.

Chris Froome (sorry about your luck brother) is 6’1″ and 157 pounds

Marcel Kittel is 6’2″ and weighs 190 pounds. He is big, he is strong.

Andy Schleck reportedly is 6’1″ and weighs 150 pounds

Fabian Cancellara? 6’1″, 180.

Alberto Contador? 5’9″ and 137 pounds.

Vincenzo Nibali:  5’10” and 134 pounds.

Cav:  5’9″ and 152 pounds.

Andre Greipel:  6’0″ and 176 pounds.

(A simple Google search produced all of the weights)

So what is “technically” the ideal cycling weight?  If you look at the pros, arguably not the best place to look, ideal weights can seem impossibly light unless you look at some of the sprinters.  A comment from a female cyclist on my post yesterday about Trek’s new ten pound bike prompted this post.  The notion, that one should concentrate on losing weight before worrying about buying a light (expensive) bike is a pervasive one amongst us cyclists…  Even I bought into it for a time, but as I’ve adapted my weight over the last couple of years my thinking on the subject has evolved quite a bit.

In 2012 I was close to Andy Schleck’s weight/height ratio, within a tenth of a pound per inch of height.  Not on purpose, mind you, I just didn’t know how much I had to eat to maintain what I thought was a decent weight, so I went from 171 pounds all the way down to 149 before my wife started ringing the alarm bell.  I started eating more, still less than the average American, and brought my weight back to 160 pounds (still a bit light for my wife’s liking).  Today I’m closer to Andre Greipel or Cancellara – a tenth of a pound under their weight/height ratio to be exact, at 171 pounds again.  My weight is distributed completely differently though…  I don’t have the love handles anymore and my “gut” is all but gone and my legs resemble more the tree trunks they should as a cyclist.  I also added a bit in the upper body as well, to square out my shoulders.

Now, here’s the interesting part:  I’m faster and I climb better at 171 than I did at 150-160.  Part of this has to do with time in the saddle.  At 150 pounds I hadn’t even fully gotten into my full training load yet.  I hadn’t learned about cadence yet, had an aluminum bike that was too small, and didn’t know much about cycling at all.  On the other hand, and to borrow a metaphor, I can dance up hills at speeds that destroy stronger cyclists that I ride with.  Give me a hill and the lead in a train and I can split up a good group in a matter of minutes – and most of this reality has to do with how I train daily, accelerating up hills rather than simply climbing them.  In fact, when I’m not in the lead going up hills, I find myself often coasting up hill intermittently to keep my position in the group.

So, I’ve tap-danced around the initial question in the title long enough…  What is the ideal weight for a cyclist?  Let’s get technical:  If you’re a pro climber the general rule is two pounds per vertical inch of height…  A General Classification (GC) contender in the tour, is generally slightly heavier at 2.0 – 2.2 pounds per one inch of height.  Nibali is 1.91 and Schleck (a climber/GC contender mix) is 2.04.  Contador (another GC’er) is at 1.98 while Chris Froome is 2.15.  Sprinters are a little bit heavier.  Cav is 2.2, Greipel is 2.4 and Kittel is all the way up to 2.56 pounds per vertical inch.  We, however, are not pros, we’re cyclists – enthusiasts or otherwise…

Now, here’s the important “rest of the story”:  Once you get down to that mystical 2 pounds per inch, rider health becomes very tricky.  A person’s immune system has a tough time keeping up with one’s environment when you’re that light.  In other words, as I’ve seen reported and heard from those in the cycling industry with far more experience than I have, there is a zone that runs between 2.2 and 2.6 pounds per vertical inch where rider health is easier to maintain.  Dip below that and health becomes an issue – colds are more frequent and the flu can be brutal.  Go over that 2.6-2.7 mark and health (and speed) becomes an issue again.  Now, if you live in the mountains and love to climb, that 2.2 pounds per inch should be a good target.  You’ll be heavy enough to maintain health, while still being able to kill it on the hills.  I live in flatter lands but still love a good climb so my target weight is slightly higher…  I like 2.275 and my wife likes 2.4 so I shoot for the middle ground, 2.35 to 2.375 – hey fellas, happy wife, happy life.  Now, if you want to have a little bit of bulk, you’ll want Kittel’s 2.5-2.6, but you won’t have his perfect hair and you will, more than likely, have to work harder on the climbs to stay in contact with the group (there are absolutely exceptions to this rule of course).

The point to all of this is the “rather than spend money a lighter bike, concentrate on losing weight” meme.  This concept, while true as a sound bite, is not meant for everyone…  It’s meant for noobs and those who have weight to lose in the first place.  You technically could ride my bike at 225 pounds – but you’d be at the upper limit and have to change to a heavier duty wheel (bike plus cargo max is 240 pounds).  At 225 though, you’d crush my rims on rough pavement (I have light weight racing wheels that have a suggested ideal rider weight of less than 200 pounds).

I, Joe Blow cycling enthusiast and blogger extraordinaire, am exactly 2.375 pounds per vertical inch and I’m just big enough to look awesome at the beach, and light enough to maintain a decent speed…  I fall in between that 2.2-2.4 pounds per vertical inch range.  Any heavier than that and I’m starting to look a little portly.  Now, there are obvious additional factors to be accounted for – a person’s frame can add as much as 10% to the overall weight and get you closer to the 2.5/2.6 pounds per inch so care must be taken to keep from getting too thin…

Now, at 170 pounds, yes I could technically ride a 21 pound bike and be better off than with my 17 pound Venge if I simply lost five or six pounds – in fact, a lighter me on top of a heavier bike would improve my center of gravity as well, but the simple truth is, I don’t have any weight to lose…  However one chooses to go though, one way or another, you’re going to pay.  You’ll pay cash for a light bike and you’ll pay in sweat for a lighter you.

However, if there has to be an “ideal” weight for male cyclists, 2.2-2.4 pounds per vertical inch would probably be it.

Now, even though all of the weights/heights in this post were based on men, it’s easy enough to figure out where women would ideally want to be as well…  And because I’m probably a little bit stupid, I’ll delve into this, it should be loads of fun:  1.9 to 2.1 pounds per vertical inch.  So if you’re 5’5″, you’re looking at 120-135 pounds, max.

God help me…

UPDATE:  There have been several “worried” comments about the interworld, surprisingly from males in the 2.0-2.1 pounds per inch (ppi) range.  Folks, please read the part of the post in which I wrote “there are exceptions to the rules”.  Heck even I know a guy who busts the 2.2-2.4 rule.  The weights in this post are a generalization of what is said to be “healthy” across the cycling and real worlds.

Trek’s Ten Pound Production Road Bike, The Best Road Bike for the Serious Cyclist – Top Ten List, Discuss…

I had an interesting conversation yesterday with a few of the guys I ride with regularly.  Now we are the serious cyclists they talk about when they write articles about serious cyclists (and the best bikes for them)…  I ride a Specialized Venge Comp, my buddy Mike a Trek Madone 6.2, my other buddy Mike an S-Works Tarmac (14 pounds dripping wet) and there were two guys (whose names I don’t know, but bikes I do) who ride a Madone 4. something and a NielPryde Diablo…  All serious race bikes and only one or two of the guys actually race.

The discussion centered around the new Trek Emonda, a complete bike that weighs only ten pounds, out the door.  The cost?  A little more than a sub-compact car – or a Custom Harley Davidson Sportster 1200 (brand new, including taxes and tags – technically, you could buy a new version of my bike and the sportster and still save a grand or so).  And so the discussion went, how much is too much and is it worth $15 grand…  It turned out that we all want one, but we weren’t willing to spit out the cash either.  We’ll come back to the Emonda in a minute though because, for serious cyclists, this bike is going to be HUGE

So, what does the serious cyclist want in a bike? The answer will vary with every individual cyclist but I think noobs, myself included not too long ago, take the whole “super-bike fever” too far and for all of the wrong reasons. First, and anyone who has spent a decent amount of time on a bike will agree;  a great bike may ride well but nothing is better than time in the saddle and thousands of miles…  Not only that, the bike isn’t the status symbol, real status is determined by how you ride what you have, not what you have.  If you ride a Pinarello Dogma like crap, it’ll show.  Sure you might get an older lady to compliment you on how pretty your bike is but she won’t know the difference between a Trek 1.2 and that Pinarello.

With that out of the way, I like a blend of comfort and speed.  My Venge achieves this excellently – it won’t flex where it needs to be stiff without being too rigid…  Personally, I don’t need (or even want) the stiffest, lightest bike they made.  On the other hand, the dude on the Madone 4 wanted no flex and had even considered buying a well equipped aluminum bike – great for speed and acceleration but man, that’d be gnarly over 100 miles.  My buddy Mike with the Madone 6.2 wanted a nice bike built for speed (his rain bike is a 5200 as well, interestingly enough) while the other Mike, on the S-Works Tarmac is all about the speed and is fast enough to justify the $12,000 he has into that bike (I believe that’s what he quoted – upgraded wheels and bar).  The guy who rides the Diablo pretty much stayed out of the fray…

Then I ran across an article at Men’s Fitness that gives their suggestions for the “Ten Best Road Bikes for the Serious Cyclist”.  They go pretty much by price, starting with a Tarmac SL2 and ending with the Scott Plasma…  They cover all of the big three (Specialized Tarmac, Cannondale Caad 10 and Trek Domane 6.9) and the two other big American brands (Scott – which is HUGE in Europe and Giant) and include Bianchi, Cervelo, PlanetX, Orbea and the Pinarello Dogma frame rounds their list out…  While I don’t have a problem with top tens, as far as this one goes I don’t know how a top ten bikes list wouldn’t have a Venge, SuperSix Evo or a Madone on it…  Or a Cervelo S5 for that matter – and therein lies the rub for top ten lists.  They’re impossible to get right!  I wouldn’t trust Bicycling Magazine to a top ten list, let alone Men’s Fitness.

However, let’s get back to that Emonda for just a minute, because this is one special bike…

There are ten models that range in price from $15,000+ to just $1,500.  Where it gets impressive is the SL8 and SL 6 models…

What if I told you that you could have a 15 pound, DuraAce equipped race bike for only $4,520?  That’s really the price folks.  What if I told you that the Ultegra 11 sp. is less than $3,200!  Seriously – and it weighs only 16.3 pounds!  Folks, I paid $3,000 for my Venge and I got a 17.5 pound bike (with pedals, cages and bottles 18.3 pounds) and I only got 105 components…  I had to upgrade my wheels to get down to 16.5 pounds and that cost another $370.  So figure I’ve got $3,500 into my 105 equipped Venge and I’ve got a 16.5 pound bike…  For $300 LESS, you can have an Ultegra equipped bike, ready to go with race wheels and knock off two tenths of a pound at the same time…  Ladies and gentlemen, had I not just bought my Venge eight months ago, this bike would be sitting in my bedroom.

TrekEmonda SL8 DuraAce - 4,500 or maybe the LS-6TrekEmondaSL6Yeah, the six…  I like the paint job on the six.

Cycling, Weight Loss and Intensity: Relax, this won’t hurt a bit…

“Weight loss, exercising with intensity to get in shape?  Relax, this won’t hurt a bit”…  Said no one ever in the history of humankind.  At least, never by anyone who A) Knew what they were talking about or B) Wasn’t trying to sell you something that wouldn’t work.

I was approached the other day by a newbie to the whole fitness thing…  Trying to get active and lose some weight for the first time since he was a kid and he asks, “So when does this s#!t stop hurting so much?  I thought the idea was that you feel better“!

My friend was talking about running, but cycling is only a little bit better.  You won’t have the same impact to the body of course, so only your muscles and your butt and your neck/shoulders and the rest of your body will hurt if you’re doing it right.

The pain will go on as you build your body and it gets used to the daily challenges you’re putting it through.  Some days will hurt more than others, but sure enough, once your body gets used to what you’re putting it through, the activity stops hurting as much.  However, when you introduce new challenges, guess what?  It hurts again.

I’ve had some time to reflect on what it was like when I started running all of those years ago and I can remember it hurting for quite some time after I got going.  After the first few months I got used to the effort but there was always something…  Ramping up the miles in the spring hurt, twisted ankles hurt, getting ready for the Crim hurt, half marathons hurt, injuries (though few) hurt…  Then I took some time off to heal up some leg issues (I have a size 11 foot, but short toes, so by actual measurement I’m a size 10 – I was running around in shoes that were a size too small for my arch…  Let me tell you, that can do some damage).

During that time off, I noticed something interesting though: inactivity hurts a lot worse than being active.  In fact, I had no idea how much pain I used to live with until I got back to being active.

So, like everything else, we want a solid answer to a question that can’t be answered solidly…  How long does the pain last?

Based on my experience, initial shock to the system will last anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months, depending on the activity you choose – running being the most intense – this one will greatly depend on how much effort the person puts in and how well the body recovers before the next session.  As far as cycling goes, it took about 24 hours for my legs to come around for the first two weeks or so but after that, I could recover from my hardest efforts, at least enough to get back on the bike and go for an easy spin, in about twelve hours.

Now, from there it gets dicey.  When I ride, especially now, in the heart of our season, I’ve always got something that aches a little bit.  For the last two weeks it’s been my right forearm, and I have absolutely no idea what’s going on (nor do I care – it’ll work itself out).  Somehow I hurt it bad enough that it hurts to shake hands (and I shake a lot of hands).  On top of that, I developed a little saddle sore somehow over the last two weeks and it was very difficult to find a comfortable spot on my saddle last night.  So I’ve got a bum wing and a bum bum going into my biggest week of the season (quite possibly my biggest single week ever, about 250 miles if I project it out to the end of the week).  Most people would take some time off, especially for the saddle sore, but I’m not most people.  I’ll be back out on the bike this evening and I’ve got a century on Saturday that I’ve wanted to do for years (the One Helluva Ride – it goes through Hell, MI) so one way or another, I’m on the bike.  Now, is riding uncomfortable?  Yes, indeed it is, but I’ve got my Aquaphor treatment started and I’ll probably be just fine by the time Saturday rolls around…

My point is this:  The physical activity that I put my body through does hurt from time to time, but it doesn’t hurt as bad as hating what I see in the mirror when I’m fat and out of shape.  I’ll put up with a little pain here or there to stay active.  To quote the Marines, Pain is Weakness Leaving the Body.  If you’re looking for a pain free way to lose weight, you’d better get used to eating like a bunny rabbit.

Artificial vs Natural Peach

Grand Haven, Michigan – One Cool Place for Cyclists

We headed over to Grand Haven (technically Spring Lake) for the first time this weekend and I can’t ever remember seeing so many bikes in one town.  Everything from racers all the way to the leisurely couple riding to wherever it is they were going.  Bikes were literally bikes everywhere.  Originally the title of this post was going to name Grand Haven a Mecca for cyclists, but I couldn’t go through with it…  Grand Haven is awesome for cyclists if it’s not all that pretty of a place to ride around – I’ve been to plenty of prettier places to ride, though the traffic and infrastructure are made for cycling.
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We stayed in a house on Black Lake so we didn’t (quite) have the cost into staying on Lake Michigan, but it was only a mile trail hike through a beautiful, if mosquito infested, State Park forest.  The mosquitos weren’t all that bad in town, but on the edge of town, or by the forest where we stayed, they were the worst I’ve ever experienced…  In my entire life.  Walk outside and you were covered by dozens within seconds.  Stay out for a few minutes and they were unbearable.

The downsides notwithstanding, there is one unbeatable advantage to where we stayed:  Lake Michigan.

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While Sunday was overcast, Monday was absolutely beautiful.  Temps in the mid seventies and the water temp was in the low seventies…  Cool by most standards but hey, it’s Lake Michigan – it’s supposed to be cool with an average depth of 280 feet.  The crazy thing was that even though temps were relatively cool, it felt quite warm (thankfully we didn’t have much wind) so getting in the water was not all that difficult and once we were in, it was flat-out awesome.

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We stayed and played in the surf for hours…  We were out there for maybe an hour and I was struck by how lucky we are to be able to swim in a freshwater lake that the only side that you can see is the shore you’re standing on.  Sure the surf isn’t like the ocean, but it is spectacular nonetheless.

Alas, work beckoned and I was forced to leave early.  I’d have loved to stay the rest of the week with my wife and kids but being the boss in Realville isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  That said, with Mrs. Bgddy and the munchkins out west, the only thing I’ve got to do is work…and ride my bike.  That’s turning a frown upside down right there.