I’m in a very weird place this last week. Times are great for getting work, I have a lot of business, but I’m a lot short on manpower. In fact, it’s one of those, “it’s never easy” periods in my life. Of course, I could whine about how difficult things are, go out on a prodigious bender to escape, flushing twenty-two years of sobriety down the toilet (the escape is what most drunks chase, usually to their demise)… I could, but that would be stupid because any idiot who has tried that in the past can tell you that it doesn’t work. Believe me, I used to be one of those idiots. In fact, the drunk approach makes everything harder and worse – every time. It’s that simple.
So, I can’t curl up in a ball and suck on my thumb or I can’t suck on a bottle of whiskey, ending up curled in a ball, sucking on my thumb. What to do, what to do!
Look, in context my problems are really quite awesome. I’d choose mine over another’s problems nine-point-nine times out of ten. Even so, once in a while I need to take an hour to step back and change my perspective and to do that I go for a bike ride. Sometimes it’s an escape, if only for an hour. Others, it’s just a way to stop thinking for a minute so I can come back with a fresh perspective. Either way, a bike ride is an opportunity to break some endorphins out of their cage and that’s always a good thing.
The prodigals at the Weather Channel were calling for a pretty crappy day – warm, but rainy. When I got to the office (around 6:15 – I had to meet one of my guys) it was foggy, misty and just plain ugly. By the time the afternoon rolled around, I’d had enough, I was beat down. Long about three in the afternoon, the rain stopped abruptly and the sky started to clear. By 3:30, the sun was breaking through the clouds and I didn’t care that it was supposed to be a rest day. I packed up my computer, completed a few last-minute tasks and got my butt out the door. I pulled into the driveway close to 4:30, unpacked the car and headed straight for my bike clothes. It was warm compared to the last month, in the high 40’s and the wind was blowing like crazy but I didn’t care, I figured I’d take it really slow and call it a recovery ride. The goal was to take a full hour to do my normal 16 mile route.
Into the 20 mph west wind, keeping my tempo down wasn’t too difficult, in fact I even managed to keep a lid on my warmth-and sun-charged enthusiasm with the crosswind, only hitting between 15 and 18 mph depending on headwind or crosswind. I did get into trouble about nine miles in when I finally had a little help… With the wind at my back I turned up the heat a little bit, ranging from 24-27 mph… There’s just something about a tailwind when I’m on a bike – comparing it to something illicit wouldn’t do it justice, but suffice it to say, I can’t control myself.
I pulled into the driveway with a couple of minutes to spare but in truth, I was a lot closer to that hour than I figured I would be when I clipped in. That ride was exactly what I needed to get back to a place where I could be proactive rather than reactive. I had a nice dinner with my family, watched a few minutes of TV and then enjoyed one more advantage of daily bike rides – I slept like a baby. Today is a new day and I’ve got what it takes to do what needs be done and I will… Then I’ll go for another ride this evening – whether I need it or not.
The Club Ride: The View From the Back of the Pack… I tried to talk myself into failing all day long – it turned out to be premature speculation.
All day long I was trading blows with my melon committee (that’s self-doubt for those late to the party) about how the club ride was going to go. I knew, of course, that I was going to get dropped – I ride with some ridiculously fast people and pretty much everybody gets dropped at one point or another – the only question was when and/or how spectacular the collapse would be.
It was chilly getting the bike set for the ride. That, of course, means I would be dressed perfectly once we got rolling. It was cold enough that I could have opted for knee warmers on top of my leg warmers but there’s a trade-off for the additional comfort: My legs don’t operate as well because they’re a little too bound up. Cloistered legs are simply not something one can get away with on Tuesday night. That’s the night the horses ride and while I’m no slouch, I’m no horse either.
We started with a bit of a tailwind, a touch over 20 mph and I’d made a decision on the seven mile warmup that tonight I was going to go against everything I am. I was going to hide. Not only that, I was going to hide on the proper side of the wind. Normally I take my turns up front. Normally when a hole opens up before the back of the line, I fill it and pull again too soon. I run out of gas too early.
I picked the right night to make the right choice.
I started out in the lead with my buddy Mike as I always do. We pulled for better than a mile at 21 mph before we pulled off and headed to the back. We turned north a half-mile later and it was on. 24 mph. 25. 26 and we stayed there for fifteen miles. I only took one more pull in those fourteen and, though people were dropping off like flies, I managed to keep contact, bridging a couple of gaps as guys fell off. The pace was furious but as we approached the hills I was surprised to feel pretty good. Climbing the hills I had plenty of leg. On flat ground I had to work hard to keep the pace but I told that voice in my head that said, “This is too much, too hard, too fast.” To shut up. I thought, “I’ll feel better in a minute, just stay with it…” And the committee got into line.
At the twenty-mile mark, with all of the tough hills out of the way, still with the lead group, four of us split off and took our usual three-mile shortcut. We were still at a crazy 22 mph average (at least crazy for a 38 degree (F) night in March, but rather than try to maintain it we let it drop a bit – we kept our speed between 20 and 22 on the flats, kept the climbs to 18-19 and rode the downhill sections hard.
We crossed the finish line, just under 30 miles at an average pace of 20.6 mph. On one hand, two years ago that was the best I could hope for mid-season in shorts and a jersey, without all of that cold weather crap slowing me down. On the other, this being an honest program, hiding for the first twenty, with the exception of one and a half stints up front, felt a little too much like cheating. I don’t like hiding. I don’t like knowing that while I may have had a great ride and held some really difficult speeds, I didn’t do more to help the whole group. I suppose the proper way to look at this is to try to combine my two strategies into something that works, where I take a couple of more turns at the front so I can be happy about doing my part but hide enough that I can still be of some use on that last ten miles.
Either way, after giving in to the committee earlier in the day, I managed to snatch a small victory from that part of my melon that says, “You can’t”… And that’s all good.
So, what can you expect if you ride a bike, just one hour a day, four hours on a weekend day and eat smart?
This answer is going to be incredibly short, beautiful and inspirational but it will require a few things from anyone who wants to go from flabby to fit.
For only a tiny minority, weight loss may be a form of rocket science. For only a fraction, who may have special problems, this won’t work. The chance you’re in this group is somewhere between slim and none. I’ve never met one though, and that’s how rare they are. There are also those with food allergies and mental issues that will have to be worked around. Those with a perfect life are even more rare than those who require the rocket science weight loss plan.
First and above all, you will have to be honest, with yourself and others. If you choose to bullshit yourself (or others), you really may be f@©ked and there’s an excellent chance you will die fat. Of course, that’s a choice too but chances are, because you lack the capacity to be honest, you’ll blame this on some external force that only you will believe.
Second, you will have to work. You’ll have to sweat. You will have to give it your best effort (refer back to honesty). Half-measures end in half-results and disappointment (that much isn’t rocket science).
Make sure your expectations line up with your effort. Remain dedicated while remembering that this is a one day at a time thing – you will have off days, second thoughts and difficult times. Do the right thing, right now and you’ll get through the difficult stretches. Let go of the rope on your personal @$$-kicking machine, perfection is not a requirement but progress sure helps.
Excuses. The only people who believe your excuses are you and the person selling you your donuts.
With that out of the way, I’ve heard of people losing as much as 80 pounds in a season. Eighty pounds. That’s a little on the extreme side but if you’re just looking to twenty or thirty, that would be easy when compared to 80. It’s not all that difficult either. Get your basal metabolic rate, stick to that, and ride every day. Every calorie you burn on the bike comes off your butt though your job would have to be taken into account as well. I have a desk job so you might as well call that sitting on the couch, if you’re more active at work, take that into account. Decide when you want to ride – before work, after work, even at night… Then just make sure to eat within 30-45 minutes after your ride and eat responsibly as normal. As far as effort is concerned, if you’re cursing you’re riding hard enough. Mix hard, medium and easy efforts. The order should be hard, easy, medium – rinse and repeat. Hard efforts should have you back at the house bathed in sweat and winded. Easy efforts should, once your fully committed, have you embarrassed to be riding so slow (keep the cadence up though). Medium efforts should be right smack-dab in the middle. Sweating and breathing heavy but able to sustain the effort. If you can, ride in the morning on an empty stomach. There is evidence that this helps train your body to burn fat. I never bothered with that but it’s definitely work a shot. The one good thing that I did stumble on was long rides. If you want to lose some serious weight, train for and do as many long rides as you can. Intervals are great if you’re short on time, an hour a day is better than nothing, sure – but if you want to drop some pounds, you can’t beat four or five hours on a bike at least once a week.
So, to that answer. If you manage to find the time to ride a bike on a regular and consistent basis, you can expect to look younger, feel younger, sleep better, be happier and live longer (assuming a Buick doesn’t take you out first). Oh, and if you’re a sober fellow, as I am, you can expect for the fitness to help you enjoy your sobriety that much more (at least that’s how it works for me). Of course, on the other hand, you could find out that you hate cycling altogether. That’s a possibility, I suppose. It might be worth the try though.
It was for me.
This one just happened to me on Saturday… Entirely out of the blue. Friday’s ride it was fine, Saturday, squeaky.
You’re riding along and you notice a squeak when you pedal, forward or backward, and it’s driving you up a f@cking wall (or you don’t even notice it till someone asks you why your bike is so squeaky). While riding, you think it’s coming from the back of the bike but you’re not entirely certain…
What do you do?
A) Panic, bikes aren’t supposed to squeak! You take a shortcut back home, throw the bike in the car and immediately take it over to the shop. On arriving, they inform you that they’ll have it figured out and fixed next week, sometime.
B) Clean and lube the chain. When that doesn’t do it, you figure skip it, the universe has given you a squeaky bike so you’ll grow to love it’s squeakiness. You also blame yourself for thinking a squeaky bike into being and forcing the universe’s hand. (LOL)
C) Take your dirty steed to the power wash. Obviously the dirt on the frame is making the bike squeak. You liberally blast the hell out of every nook and cranny of the bike and let it air dry, only to find that now everything on the bike squeaks so you refer to B.
D) Don’t panic. Finish your ride strong, shower, eat, take a nap and bust out the lube and cleaning products after you’re refreshed.
My friends and I put in just shy of fifty miles yesterday. Today was to be right around forty, but it was cold. The mercury was just peaking its head out of the bubble when I woke up this morning: 17 degrees (F or -8 C) though I could see the skies were fairly clear and we weren’t scheduled to start until 9:30 am… Maybe we’d get lucky and it would warm up in a hurry.
No such luck. It was a balmy 19 when we were unloaded the bikes. The wind started whipping before we hit mile ten. The sun was out, thankfully, but it stayed cold. The. Whole. Damn. Ride.
I on my Venge and Mrs. Bgddy on her Alias, we cranked out just over 38-1/2 miles in 2-1/2 hours.
With the sun out, even though it was 15 degrees colder than yesterday, it wasn’t all that bad, actually more enjoyable than yesterday when it was so cloudy we had to resort to clear glasses.
We finished just after noon – and it was still only 27 degrees (-2 C).
I very well could have stayed in bed this morning and whined about the cold… Then I could have whined this summer about not getting enough miles in over the spring when they’re “easy”. Call it compound whining.
Instead, I got to get 38 miles in with my wife and five of my friends…Because it sure beats whining that I could have put in the miles come June when the real riding is in full swing.
If you’re into cycling, you already know how wonderful the sport is. The speed, with respect to road biking and every part of mountain biking. Being hungry and able to eat better than a small bird, the bikes themselves… Let’s face it, it’s all good.
However, there is one tiny aspect of cycling in a group that makes life grand, that puts a spring in my step like no other: The arm flick.
As the cycling season kicks off in fly-over country (and yes, Chicagoans, you are fly-over country too) it is time to disect every little aspect of cycling as if it were a form of mythical awesomeness, not just riding a bicycle.
The arm flick may seem to be, to most casual observers of the Tour de France, simply a gesture used to get the cyclist behind to move up in the rotation. Oh, ye simpleton. The arm flick, especially when used in a club ride, means so much more.
That lone flick of the arm, in a fraction of a second says, “My brothers and sisters, I have laid myself bare. I have given you my everything oh sweet friend, and have no more to give. Please, oh kind friend, take my position that I may replenish my constitution in your life-giving draft.”
That’s a lot of meaning in a simple flick of an arm!
That is not all however, my most excellent friend. If you are lucky enough to cycle with your mate as I do, the arm flick becomes an unspoken language of tenderness, caring and – dare I say, Love itself.
Used on the couch, it carries such meaning as “Honey, my dearest, please take remote in thine hand and clickest thou over to the game to allow me the opportunity to ascertain the contest’s score”.
Or, “My handsome hunk of a human heating coil, scooteth thou over and shareth thine sweet warmth that I may fall into life-regenerating sleep.”
It can say, “Dearest woman, I have given my all in support of our humble home by laying plunder to countless billions of blades of grass, that you may enjoy our palace grounds… Wouldest thou make me a sammich?”
As any husband can relate to… “My steady rock, thine pillar of awesomeness, wouldest thou see to this most lengthy of lists, manual chores that are too technically difficult, with need of tools and sweat of brow, that thou may recieve some honey on retiring this evening…”
Or any wife… “Dearest love, giver of thine love to me and life to our wonderful children, my beautiful wife, a tragedy of tragedies…I seem to have run out of clean underwear! Wherest hath thou placed the folded laundry?”
Or even, “Sweet man, my ample bosom longs for your tender caress, get in here, big shooter!” (Thanks to Mrs. Bgddy for that one).
So, as we in the upper hemisphere begin to celebrate the oncoming summer, use the arm flick well and often… And as soon as I come up with a witty one-liked, I’ll make a tee shirt out of it as a part of my soon-to-be released apparel company.
Now, what do you use the arm flick for?
I had a job about five years ago that called for some beautiful and exceptionally expensive ceiling tile. The tile came with a specialty cleaning product that we used to pretty up the tile in the event fingerprints were left on the tile:
Now, if you know anything about acoustical ceilings you know the tile in those to photos are wildly expensive. The owner spent ridiculous amount of money on those two ceilings but I’m here to tell you, they looked awesome when we were done (especially the first one). In any event, we were supplied with a lot of polish for the tile. I left some on site and brought the rest back to my office where it sat for several years.
Last week, my wife picked up a bottle of the polish and asked if we could use it for anything or if we should get rid of it… I read the spray bottle:
Hmm… Plastic Cleaner… Then I got to the small print in the red bubble: Carbon Fiber. I knew exactly what I was going to try the stuff on. Last week, Sunday, was Venge Day around these parts and it just so happened that about one mile into our 47 mile ride, I rode through some unavoidable cow manure (a farmer sprayed his field within hours of hour ride and failed to wait for the sprayer to quit spraying before he pulled onto the road – there was no avoiding it). After my nap I cleaned off what little remnants were stuck to the frame and pulled out the Brillianize… The results were nothing short of astounding (and keep in mind, this bike is more than 1-1/2 years old and has in excess of 5,000 miles on it):
That photo was taken with my iPhone too – it’s not even a decent camera. I simply followed the instructions on the package and ten minutes later, well it looks better today than it did on the showroom floor. And the best part is the stuff is relatively cheap (between $5 and $6) for a bottle that should last years. A simple Google search will turn up about a dozen places to buy it, and I cannot recommend the product for cleaning and polishing a carbon fiber bike highly enough. It’s fantastic.