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Monthly Archives: September 2014

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The View from the Drops…

The view from the the drops is beautiful. Sweet.

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Before this bike I had a more traditional setup, the saddle was only a few inches above the top of the bars. I was plenty fast, around a 20 mph average but the Venge is better. A full 5-1/2″ drop from the nose to the bar top.  That setup didn’t come cheap though… Admittedly I can’t see much in that position but I worked so hard on my flexibility to get there so I feel nothing but satisfaction when I ride, head down, in the drops.  I rode once a week for an hour straight in the drops to get used the position. Then I lowered the stem and again, spent a lot of time in the drops until I got used to it. A couple of months later I lowered it again and continued my Wednesday ride as my designated “drop day”. Then one last time.

Training my body to like that setup was not easy and was anything but painless. There were quite a few times where I thought about raising the bar up a spacer.  I never wrote about that.  I kept it to myself, figuring nobody would want to read about the struggle and I didn’t want to give my indecisiveness any more weight than it deserved, which wasn’t much – but I suppose it makes sense to let that cat out of the bag.  I’ve struggled mightily, from time to time, with staying dedicated to being the best cyclist I can be.  Rather than give up I stuck with it, pushing the pain, doubt and negativity aside.  I had a goal and dammit, I was going to ride flat – except if it meant injury and not riding at all.

I’ve worked hard on several aspects of cycling.  Knowing my way around the components, how to service them and care for my bikes. How to pedal harder and more efficiently, how to climb… I worked on strategies for riding with my club and on developing some fantastic friendships with the guys I ride with.  All of that pales in comparison to how hard I worked on getting flexible enough to ride low and I’ve only written two or three posts on the subject – out of more than 1600. The only thing I’ve worked harder on is getting fast, but that goes hand in hand with this.

The greatest benefit of riding low, out of the wind, is speed. Without that aerodynamic position I couldn’t possibly ride as fast and far as I do, at least without coughing up a lung or blowing up my ticker.  Two months ago I thought I’d finally taken this pursuit a little too far when I dropped the stem the last time…  My first two drop days hurt.

I stuck with it though. I didn’t give up, I kept pushing the length of time… I kept pressing my chin toward the stem cap. The third week was a breakthrough and by the fourth well on my way to being comfortable again.

I can spend as much time as I want in the drops now. Headwinds, crosswinds, taking my turn at the front or even after I’ve dropped to the back so I can virtually be pulled down the road by the group.

I didn’t listen to any of the naysayers who said only pros are flexible or young enough to ride like that. I set my sights, uh, low and went for it…

The view from the drops is sweet because I worked my ass off for it.

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Does Copper Wear Compression Clothing Really Work? My Experience…

I’ve been battling a raging case of tendonitis in my right elbow for the last two or three months – I’ve been in so much pain for so long I can’t recall how long it’s been.  I’ve iced it on and off now for quite a while but I know the real answer is a little bit of rest but short of my arm falling off that’s not going to happen until the snow flies and the cycling season is done and in the books.  Simply. Ain’t. No. Way.

So about two weeks ago, maybe three, I mentioned something to Mrs. Bgddy about how bad I was hurting.  We talked about the proper treatment, rest and regular icing, Aleve and pretty much left it at that.  Then last week I arrived home to a small box on the buffet with a Copper Wear compression sleeve in it.  Now, let’s just say I was skeptical but in enough pain to try just about anything so I could keep my season going.

Now, anyone who knows anything about tendonitis knows that RICE applies:  Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation, so compression is going to help anyway, but the real question is does the copper in the fabric make a difference.

After about five days, wearing it about half of the time (sparingly throughout the day and through the night) and at only twenty bucks for the sleeve, I can honestly say I have no idea if the copper makes a difference and I don’t really care because the Copper Wear compression sleeve works.  In fact, last night was the first night I haven’t worn it and I couldn’t wait to slide it on this morning.  I haven’t had to bother with Aleve since I started wearing it too so any time spent not blasting my liver is great.  While the pain is not entirely gone, it’s at a much more manageable level.  Cycling has become a lot more enjoyable as well because I’m not dreading having to climb out of the saddle or worrying about the sprint finish in the drops anymore.

That’s pretty much the extent of this informal “review”, except to say that I was not compensated in any way, shape or form for this review.  My wife bought my Copper Wear sleeve at a store (I think Bed Bath and Beyond) just like any other normal person would.  This post is based on my experience only and I offer that experience freely.  I make no claim that a Copper Wear sleeve will cure anything including, but not limited to Ebola, rhinovirus, the common cold etc..  It simply made my tendonitis not hurt so bad – and for that I am thankful.

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Road Trip! The Case for Packing up the Bike…

I have been a home body for most of my life. Sure, my wife and I have been on some pretty cool vacations but for the most part, I stick pretty close to home… Cycling has changed me quite a bit though.  My first trip road trip was to the Pere-Marquette rail trail and humorously enough, I went up to see if I could do a solo 200k.  It was anything but easy though I did finish and with an average of over 18 mph which I was quite happy with.

Family vacations now require the bike rack. Trips to the mountains mean it’s time to ride.  In addition, once or twice a year (actually working on the third this year) we take the bikes up to the Pere-Marquette rail trail in Midland and then at least once, I’ll go up myself.

Cycling road trips are where it’s at – you have to be fully self-sufficient, be able to handle any kind of mechanical issue that might spring up, handle staying fueled and hydrated and aware of your surroundings at all times…  On the other hand, as has been oft quoted, there’s no better way to see a new place than from the cockpit of a bike.  If you’ve never packed up your bike for a road trip, there’s nothing like it.

Where has your bike been?

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Rewards of Sobriety

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…Because Genes Won’t Work Unless You Work Them

Oh how I wanted to phone it in today. I woke up at 6 this morning and it was nice to sleep in. The weather was supposed to be gnarly again. I cranked up the lights, cleaned my wife’s chain, cleaned her bike, reinstalled and lubed the chain then cleaned my bike.

Next, I watched Inception because it’s about the awesomest movie ever. Then I cut the backyard grass because even though the forecast showed a 70% chance of rain, the sun was out. It was 11 am and still partly sunny. Two hours to game time and I was in the mood for some lunch – Wendy’s seemed like a winner. The only question was do I get in the truck and drive there or ride my bike. I ran on Thursday, only the third time this season so my legs are still feeling a little toasty.

Well, it was windy as all get out but the radar still showed all clear for at least a couple of more hours. I decided to ride it, after all, it was only four miles…

I quickly got ready, pumped up the tires and got my butt out the door, forgetting to fill up my water bottle. Within 100′ of leaving my driveway it started sprinkling, with the sun shining on me. I was 👌that close to turning around and parking my sparkling clean bike but I pressed on, into the 20-25 mph wind.

Long story short, that 8 mile round trip was extended. After all, why only ride 15 minutes to lunch? I was out anyway. I pulled into the Wendy’s lot on mile 13, took my bike inside and ordered lunch. A double burger, fries and a Coke… Nothing better than a good, rare Coke during a ride.

I ate up, threw half of my fries away (I was full), and hit the road. Unfortunately I realized that I’d just eaten as I passed 21 mph and almost left my lunch on the road so I slowed ‘er down and took it easy the rest of the way home.

I make no apologies or excuses for how I choose to eat, I do eat fun. I do have good genes too, but the simple fact is, I get fat just like anybody else if I don’t put those genes to work.

Besides, that ride was just what the doctor ordered. It was nice. One of the rare times where I just took it easy, looked around and enjoyed being on the right side of the grass and on two wheels. Special thanks to the Fossil Cyclist who reminded me that I need that every now and again.

A Break in the Weather…

This was supposed to be a post about how I was going to have to clean Mrs. Bgddy’s and my bikes because it was raining and nasty.  I woke up to rain, thunder and lightning and the Weather Channel website radar confirmed what was hearing outside, but it also showed something that the general hourly forecast didn’t…  A hole in the nasty weather, and I absolutely took advantage of it.  I rode my normal 30 mile loop, enjoying the first three miles with a helping wind.  The next nine miles absolutely sucked, into a wind powerful enough to keep me between 17 and 18 mph, absolutely working my tail off.  I stopped at my friend Jim’s house to say hello and top off my H2O bottle and got back to it.  Three miles after leaving my friend’s house, and much to my surprise, the cloud cover broke and the sun came out.  I was still into the wind but it had shifted more to the south so it was more of a cross headwind than a full headwind…  Then hallelujah!

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Yes folks, when you suffer into the wind, eventually you’ll have it at your back for a bit.  That 25 is not km/h and I had to pull my phone out of my back pocket to take that photo, I dropped to 25 from 27.  To tell you the truth, I was really surprised that I was riding that fast, it’s not like I had a 20 mph wind to help, it was only 15 or so.  In any event, I would have loved to ride with some of my friends but after the weather report that I was looking at this morning, I was just glad to get out for a ride.
IMG_4984All is good in my world.

Cycling, Speed and Cadence – Why the 90 RPM Cadence is So Important to Cycling Fast

This post is for my friend, Sandra.

One of the tougher things to grasp for slower cyclists who want to get fast is the 90 revolutions per minute cadence.  Why is it preached to pedal so fast?  There are a few ways to explain this but I like to make the attempt to keep things simple…

First, here is the poetry in motion, one of the coolest and most colorful cyclists in the last generation or two, Jens Voigt breaking the world 1 hr. record, riding about 31-3/4 mph in that hour to do it – at 43 years-old:

At any place in that video, take a stop watch and count his pedal strokes over ten seconds and multiply that by six.  What you’re looking for is one count every time one foot bottoms out (count the right or the left, not both), you’ll come up with 100-108 rpm.  Now keep in mind, Jens is one hell of a strong cyclist.  He’s known for putting a hurting on the peloton when he’s racing…  In that challenge, he chose that cadence and set up his gearing to it.  He’s on a single-speed track bike – there is no coasting on that bike.  If you’re moving you must pedal.  And guessing, he was using a 53 tooth front chain ring and a 13 tooth rear cog.  If I use Sheldon Brown’s gear calculator I can see that a 53/13 combo at 100 rpm works out to 31.6 mph so it’s fairly simple to glean from this that at 100-108 rpm he’d be right at his 31-3/4 mph average speed. [Ed. The guys at the shop said he did it with a 55/14 setup]

With “How it’s done” out of the way, let’s look at the important part, “why” – or more to the point, why cycling with a high cadence is so important to generating and maintaining speed.  There is a simple way to look at this, we can simplify the concept.  If you take weight lifting and doing curls with a 30 pound weight, how many single arm curls could you do?  10?  20?  30?  Now, how many could you do with a 5 pound weight?  You could go all day.  Cycling with an easier gear works on the same principle.  Unfortunately, if you’re going to use an easy gear, to go fast you have to pedal that gear at a faster cadence to generate the speed.  Why 90?  Well this is fairly simple.  First, getting up to 100-110 is a bit difficult to sustain but more importantly, if you’re riding in a group and pushing 90, you have a little gear left to respond to a sudden surge, it’s that simple.  At 90 you have enough gear to accelerate.  At 110, it’s too hard to get your legs to spin faster without a massive amount of training.  So let’s look at this, using the gear calculator again, in that light.

Let’s say a typical cyclist uses a 60 rpm cadence.  Here are the results of a 52/36 chain ring combo with a 11-28 cog cassette (11 sp.):
52-36 and 11-28
Now, if you want to average 20 mph you have to push the second hardest gear on the cassette at 60 rpm (I use that gear to hit 31 by the way).  That’s a lot of pressure on the pedals to move so slowly.  Let’s look at the same gearing at 90:
52-36 and 11-28 at 90 rpm
To hold 20 mph you can use the sixth or seventh cog on the cassette.  It’s as simple as going back to that 30 lb. vs. 5 lb. weight for curls.

Now that we’ve established that you can push less weight if you can pedal a little faster, training to do so isn’t exactly as easy as just doing it.  First, gone are the standard platform pedals.  In order to keep your feet on the pedals at 90 rpm, you almost have to lock your feet onto them.  I tried to ride in a group on platform pedals one time and I’ll never do that again.  The problem is trying to keep your feet in the proper location on the pedals at speed – it’s not easy.  So you’ll either need the pedals with the straps on them (called toe clips interestingly enough) or go with the shoes that have cleats that lock into the pedals.  Once we’ve got the pedals and shoes sorted, it’s a matter of training the body to operate smoothly with a 90 rpm cadence.  The easiest way would have to be on a trainer or spin bike where you don’t have to worry about balance and can work a stop watch and count your revolutions out as you go.  I rode for several months before I started concentrating on cadence…  I learned how to pedal faster out on the road.  I fine tuned that on the trainer over the winter.  Another way, albeit a little more risky, is to ride in a group and match the cadence of those in front of you.  If you work at it, training your body to use a higher cadence should only take a few weeks at the most.

Now let’s look at the benefits of the higher cadence – beyond being able to ride faster and hold more speed for a longer period of time.  First and foremost is acceleration.  Jumping from a 90 cadence to 110 in the sixth gear is a hell of a lot faster and easier than going from a 60 to a 70 cadence in the second to the last gear.  Folks, it’s not even close.  I can accelerate on a dime (well maybe a quarter) in the easier gear but I’ll labor to pick up the speed, maybe even have to do so out of the saddle, in a harder gear.  It’s not even close.  Second would be climbing.  When I’ve got that 90 cadence wound up and I hit a hill with it, selecting gears to maintain that cadence is very simple and again with the acceleration – the difference is even more profound when you’re going up a hill.  Finally, and it might take a while to realize this for yourself, you’ll find that once you get used to that cadence, it’s easier to hold a certain speed once you get into that happy zone between 85 and 95 rpm.  Now this will go by feel so it’ll be tricky to grasp at first but if you look at the 90 rpm chart above, you’ll see in the big ring (52) column, the 15 tooth cog is good for 24.4 mph at 90 rpm.  In that gear I can hold 24.2 mph easier than I can hold 23 mph.  In other words, I can go faster with less effort.  Don’t take my word for it, try it for yourself.  Just give yourself a few months to get used to the cadence first.

When it comes down to it, if you still have doubts, look at it this way:  Who’s right, you or every professional who has clipped into a pedal in the last 40 years or so?  Learn to push the easier gear with a higher cadence.  If you’re looking for the “easier, softer way”, that’s it.

UPDATE 2016:  James Smith dropped in to comment that there isn’t really a “one size fits all” approach to cadence and he’s right.  You’ve gotta ride your ride.  If you’re constantly leaving gaps in the pace line and can’t react to a surge within the group, chances are you need to downshift and pedal a little faster though.  Call it a safe bet.

Runners/Recreational Cyclists Beware – A New Scam… Active.com and The Fahrrad Tour in Frankenmuth

I recently signed up for an event through Active.com and got quite a bit more than I bargained for out of that $20 entry fee.  As always, I don’t want to spend a whole lot of time tinkering with signing up for an event so I tend to horse through it…  Well, sure enough, I got bit by Active.com – a complete scam.  So much that I will be boycotting, from now on, any event that requires registry through Active.

See, when you sign up for the event, they sign you up for a “free” month membership with Active.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?  Unfortunately, at the end of that month they automatically bill your credit card for a full year membership (I’d bet there’s probably a way to opt out – my problem with them is they automatically opt you in) that costs $65 US.

So from this day forth, I’ll be publishing any local event that uses Active.com as a sign up so people can avoid them like the plague.

There it is…  The Frankenmuth Fahrrad Tour is the one that nailed me.

In any event, should you bump into Active.com when you’re registering for an event, either skip the event or proceed with excessive caution, those bastards are sneaky.

UPDATE: A credible friend of mine, in the comments section, disagreed with my assertion that the Active.com deal is a scam. He actually likes and uses his membership, so I’m inclined to leave the issue alone, even delete the post to the ether black hole save two things:
1. All I wanted to do was sign up for a 100k ride.
2. If I wanted a membership to active, I would go to their website and sign up for the membership. To automatically sign someone up and force them to cancel at a later date to avoid a $65 charge is shady. Plain and simple.