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.
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!
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.
All is good in my world.
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.):
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:
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.
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.
Jens “Shut up legs” Voigt will be going for the 1 hr record this afternoon at 1 pm (EST – US). The attempt will be streamed at Trek’s website.
3 hours from now.
UPDATE: He did it! Just over 51 km/h!
A Cautionary Note to After Dark Cyclists… Do your lights and reflectors work as well as you think they do? I doubt it.
I almost killed a cyclist this morning on the way into the office. He was travelling down the center of the lane with no reflective clothing on but he had a tail light, head light and his bike’s top tube and down tube were both wrapped in some kind of fluorescent rope light and I couldn’t see any of it until I was damn near on his wheel, traveling at 54 miles an hour (speed limit was 55). This is the second time in a month that a cyclist snuck up on me in the dark. I would bet my lunch that this poor fella thought he was lit up like a Christmas tree but his thinking was deeply flawed.
Where to start? Reflective clothing methinks.
I’m a big proponent of removing the reflectors from a bike within minutes of getting it home from the shop. My pedals don’t have reflectors on them either… Of course, I don’t ride in the dark either. Still, my shoes have reflective backs, my leg warmers have reflective zippers and my jacket has a reflective patch on the back. I’m going to figure something out for a better vest though and get it to market. One of those Home Depot construction vests would be great if they didn’t look so goofy but until I figure out what I’m going to do, I’ll be wearing mine at night… After just missing that guy this morning, I realized just how important all of that reflective stuff is in the dark.
Next has to be the lights. He was running the cheapest shit they carry at the local shop. I looked the tail light and head light up online… He had a Serfas Seat Stay tail light which was absolutely worthless in traffic and a Serfas SL-3 LED headlight, which was even worse. In fact, the headlight was so small and not bright, I don’t know how he could see the road in front of him. Now, I also use Serfas lights – the USB rechargeable combo set (ironically $5 cheaper than the two lights above) and as well as I can tell, they work excellently. In truth though, I really don’t know. The only thing I do know is that they’re pretty bright and flashy and considering I only use them once a year and when riding with a group, it made sense that they were good enough. Today’s experience changed my thinking considerably.
Finally, that silly rope lighting… Now, if you’re worried about someone T-boning you or you want your bike to look cool in the dark, then by all means, go with the rope lighting. If you think that it’s going to make you more visible to traffic behind you, don’t bother. It’s virtually useless.
So, if you’re an after dark cyclist I implore you to look at your evening/early morning lighting from the perspective of a driver. In my case, I have my wife who I’m certain will help with this. Over the weekend I’ll hook up my lights to my bike and hit the road with her trailing in my truck… Then I’ll do the same for her so we can see how visible we really are. Or aren’t and adjust from there. One thing is for sure, I’ll post my results here.
In closing, I stopped a half-mile up the road to flag the guy down but he pulled into a small manufacturing plant before he got to me. I got back in the car and drove to the parking lot to let him know that he was virtually invisible.
UPDATE: A friend of mine who goes by Fatguy2Triguy found fully reflective cycling apparel by Sugoi… The ENTIRE jacket lights up like a Christmas tree when it’s hit with artificial light: Sugoi Zap Bike Jacket. Check it out here…
Tuesday night, September 16th, 2014. 5:47 pm
Mike and I were nervous as two guys with 10,000 miles for the season between them get. Phil was just getting back from his warm-up but we’d been back from our eight miler for a while. We cruised around the block a couple of times to keep our legs moving. The parking lot had started filling up as we completed our first lap. Neil Pryde Diablo, Trek 5200 US Postal Service race edition, Mike’s S-Works Tarmac. Colnago, Trek Madone, my Specialized Venge, Cannondale Evo, Blue… The high-end carbon was out tonight but that wasn’t what was troubling us, my buds and I all push high-end carbon too. On completing the second lap, Mike chuckled, “You see that? We’re in for it tonight.”
Cat 3, Cat 4, Cat 4, Cat 3, Nationally Ranked Time Trialist, Sprint Triathlon AG National Champ, Cat 4, Cat 4… You get the idea, 25+ racers and just six avid enthusiasts. That’s a lot of horsepower – it’s usually it’s 50/50
I’m sitting up by the starting line, left foot out to the side, firmly planted on the asphalt. Right foot clipped in with the crank arm at 1:30. Right thigh and cheek on the top tube with my forearms resting on the bar, decked out head to toe in my Tuesday best, trying to look nonchalant while my mind raced. So be it, I thought. I’m giving it everything I’ve got and let the cards fall…
We roll out. I’ve got my plan together, starting at the back and I’m not going anywhere near the front. Call me a wheel sucker if you want, pulling this group would be suicide. We roll out… 10, 15, 20 mph into the wind, 22, 23… I’m on the left side so I know I’m going to pay for the first eight miles or so with a crosswind when we turn north. Too many for an echelon and there’s no way all of those horses are going to break that group up to form one. And pay I did… When we rounded the corner at 19 mph and just a mile and a half in, that was the last time I saw anything close to 22 mph.
23, 24, 25, 26.. 27 and 28… “Man, that damn wind”, I thought. “What I wouldn’t give to have picked the right side.” “That’s alright, only six more miles and it’ll be my turn to soak in the shelter”, I tell the committee in my melon.
Three miles later, still pushing between 25 & 27 mph, and the committee starts up at me again. They want me to sit up and take it easy for a while. Surprisingly though, the speed where I’ve been hanging out, about 10 guys back, was consistent – no seesaw and I was getting a great draft… I was feeling pretty good. So I fired back at the melon mess-up brigade, “Sit down and shut the f*ck up” (fortunately you can talk to yourself like that still).
A sharp left… And there’s the shelter. The hard work paid off. At 27 mph I wasn’t exactly sipping a Gatorade, sitting up, no handed but it was at least a bit of a rest.
I have absolutely no idea what time it is, we’re going 27 freakin’ miles an hour for God’s sake
We’re dead into the wind now and thank The Lord, we get to the rollers. Folks, you know it’s fast when you’re looking forward to a hill so you can rest a minute…
We make a sharp left and now we’ve got the wind at our backs, for the most part. Unfortunately, now we’re into the bigger hills. Thank you, baby Jesus, the pace actually eased up… It’s that downhill coming up that you have to worry about. Normal speed down that hill, pushing it, would be about 29. We’re pushing 35 and I simply cannot believe that I’m still with the main group at these speeds… I can’t ride this fast! But there I am… I noticed a couple of my buds having trouble a mile or two back and I think they dropped off and I can see Mike, a few riders up, starting to slouch, to slow down. His shoulders drop… I’m way out of position, behind one of the wrong guys and a gap starts to form. I could have made it at that point, a sharp burst and I’m right there but it’s time to fall off anyway, time for us to kick it for home because it’s at this point our Tuesday night ride turns into a race…and we managed to pick up a horse to boot. Justin, an ox of a mountain bike racer who was riding with the remnants of a cold. We held a 21 mph average for a couple of miles, about enough for me to get a little antsy and a couple of stragglers to catch up and then it was on… We went from 21 to 24 in the space of a quarter-mile and Justin held it there – and I knew he’d be there for a while. Behind him, I thought Mike and I were the two strongest so I took second and Mike took third (for those who don’t know, the farther back in the draft you are, the better the draft is, the easier it is to keep up). I’d forgotten about the second Mike though – he is every bit the match for the two of us…
As we neared the final mile and after taking a decent pull up front, I faded back to gear up for the sprint. The pace was decently hectic, between 24 and 25 mph and the two Mikes (and I) were looking like they were getting antsy, darting to the front to wind it up… With about a half-mile to go, the second Mike made a move that I mistook for his finale, so I went too and it was a huge mistake. Too soon. I sputtered out with two tenths to go and the gang went by. Ride and learn.
When I started cycling, I was happy with a 20 mph average. Two years ago that was 20.5 to 21. Last year we bumped that up to 21.5 and I was ecstatic, over the moon… Then three weeks ago, a breakthrough: 21.9 mph. Just shy of 22 and I couldn’t believe it. I was getting faster!
We finished last night with a 22.3 mph average.
P.S. Again, for those who don’t know, cycling isn’t like running – an average pace is much harder to keep on open roads and with a bigger group, it gets even harder. We have to ride around 25 mph to keep the average at 22.
I was working on a post that I’ve been putting together for about a week now when I received an email that said:
THREE OF LIFES SECRETS ……..
” Nonresistance, nonjudgment, and nonattachment are the three aspects of true freedom and enlightened living.”
So said the slave who stayed on the plantation rather than escape to the North. So says the prisoner who is too afraid to get out of prison to create a better life.
Thank God the Founders of this country had big enough balls to say, we deserve better.
If you’re not keeping up with me here, let me try a different angle: So said every boss who claimed you were only worth $1.50 an hour.
While I do understand the sentiment behind the email, it is nonsense. Nonresistance is a dangerous way to live one’s life. To simply accept that freedom can be snatched up on a whim begins an ugly journey down the slippery slope. The other two ensure we are to remain at the bottom, to be buried by all of those who manage to cling on just a little bit longer by conforming, until they too fall out of favor. After all, as one more bit of freedom is carved away, who are you to judge? Is not non-judgment of imprisonment in the system freer and more enlightened? Why should we, after all, be attached to freedom? Non-attachment is much more comforting from your padded cell.
We can take this a step further and even deeper down the foxhole: Should rape victims not seek justice? After all, maybe they should choose nonresistance, no? Maybe a battered wife should simply say, “Meh, I’m choosing non-judgment today.” Or the old lady whose house is broken into, “I think everything is okay because I’m not attached to that $200 I had set aside to pay for my medication, better to be nonattached, non-judgmental and nonresistant.
That putrid phrase has been uttered in one way or another by every dictator who has ever said from on high, “Do as I say… And pass the caviar. Freedom for me but not for thee.”
I have a confession about my ride yesterday: For the first time since I’ve been cycling, that’s three and a half years now, I didn’t want to go. My friends all bailed for one reason or another, it was unseasonably cold and cloudy and both the Lions and Tigers had games on TV. I hemmed and hawed for what felt like an hour, trying to come up with a good excuse that I could hang my hat on… I’m an early morning weekend cyclist, I told myself (as if I would buy it). No wonder I was having a tough time. I don’t want to be cold, I thought. When I’d had just about enough of my BS I started getting dressed. Knee warmers, shorts, arm warmers, jersey, long sleeved jersey, vest and wool socks – it was 45 degrees. I pumped up my tires, filled a water bottle and headed out the door.
I still went out for 30 miles. Nothing to write home about but it’s not all that bad either.
Truthfully, I’d planned on 40 but the initial 20 into the wind really sucked the life out of me. I’d managed a 17 mph average into town and I stopped by a couple of friend’s houses to see if I could refill my H2O bottle but nobody was home at either house and I was running low on water and energy so with the wind at my back I decided to see how fast I could get home. I was averaging between 22 and 26 mph, depending on the terrain (slight uphill vs slight downhill – either way it was pretty flat).
In the end I got in a great workout. I didn’t enjoy it very much but I got it done and that’s the important thing.
Sometimes getting out the door is hard. We’ve got things to do, places to be, people to see… All too often we can find reasons to skip a workout, even if it isn’t very good but the simple truth is this:
I’m not going to trade feeling like crap for the rest of my life so I can feel like a lame-ass today. Either way, I lose.
I was hoping for 120 miles, give or take, from Friday through today but it didn’t quite work out… I was hoping for 30 miles on Friday with Mrs. Bgddy but we cut that short due to rain. A 6% chance of rain turned into 100% about a mile into our ride. Add to the drizzle, unseasonably cold temps and it was just gnarly.
I made my miles yesterday, 30, but only got half today, another 30. On Tuesday we talked about meeting up for what’s become a regular 60 miles but it ended up not working out. My wife wanted to get a ride in this morning too so that meant a later start for me and we’ve got a sportgy in about three minutes with the Lions playing Panthers and the Tigers up against the Indians… Good Lord, I can hardly contain myself. Still, 76 solo miles for three days is good enough for government work.
Love to go into more detail but the opening kickoff is already in the air and the first pitch is only moments away…
Fall isn’t all bad!