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Monthly Archives: May 2015

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Feed the Engine Apparel is Up and Flying…  The Long Way Around Getting Sponsored!

I’ve written about my pet project in the past, but in the process I finally found someone crazy enough to pay me to ride a bike:  Me!  It turns out sponsoring yourself is pretty expensive too…

Feed the Engine Apparel™ started with a desire to have a cycling bumper sticker for a century.  I had the 100 mile oval, but I wanted a bike on it so people wouldn’t think I ran a hundred miles because, dude, that’s crazy.

Then, two years ago I wanted Specialized to make a shirt for my Venge…  Pretty simple, a red Specialized “S” on the front and “Venge” on the back.  I tried contacting the marketing division at Specialized and my suggestion went nowhere.

The truth is, being a middle-aged cyclist, what I wanted was clothing that said I was an avid enthusiast cyclist but wasn’t designed for a teenager…  I didn’t want the ridiculous flash – and because I’d be likely working on my bike in the shirt, I wanted black rather than white (which wouldn’t last through one maintenance day).

That got me to thinking.  Why mess with trying to get someone else to make what I want?  Work was good and I had some disposable cash that my father left me, so I decided to put a chunk of it to use.  Rather than invest in someone else, I decided to invest in what I wanted rather than wait for someone else to come out with something I liked…

I pulled out a sketch pad and got to work.

Once I got the design down, I hired a Trademark/Copyright attorney and got my design, company name and tag line Trademarked.  That took a whole lot longer and cost a lot more than originally anticipated but it was finally done around the first of the year.  After that, all we had to do was get a website made, logistics and shipping figured out and marketing straightened out.

Do we mess with a storefront?  How about a warehouse?  Do we go with one of those printing websites and allow someone else to make money off of my ideas and live with their limited style selection?  Uh, no.

Let’s just say the whole process has been an interesting learning experience, turning a passion for cycling into a full-fledged company.  It’s not cheap, it’s not easy and it’s anything but quick.

In any event, we just got our first shipment of shirts in…

Take a look and let me know what you think, check us out here

_MAS0990

Recognize the bike?  And that is me…  Well, from the chin down.

 

 

 

 

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Still Fast… Or, at Least, Fast”er”

Now, because I don’t ride with a power meter, and likely won’t ever bother with the expense, I really don’t have a lot to go on other than what amounts to educated guesses…

My ride yesterday was supposed to be slow but my wife developed a bad clunk in her bottom bracket.  Technically, it was several clunks and it got worse, rapidly.  My initial thought was dirt or grit in the crank, but the way it came on and kept getting worse, combined with our plans for some serious miles this weekend, I didn’t want to take any chances, just to find out it was something mechanical…  I suggested my wife head home immediately so she could take the bike to the shop.  She asked if I wanted to ride home or if I would be continuing with my ride.  I chose to finish my ride, that personal best mileage for the week won’t ride itself now, will it?

I started off with a decent 18 mph crosswind that I thought would hurt me, but quickly wound it up from our 15-16 mph pace to 21 to 22.  About half-way into that first mile, I thought it would be neat to try to race my wife to the bike shop – I had six miles to get there, she had two plus putting her bike in the car and the drive to the shop…  And the race was on.  A quarter-mile later I turned into the wind, figuring 18 would probably be pretty good.  An odd thing happened though, 18 into the wind just felt too easy so I wound it up to 20.  Now that was more like it.  I held that for three miles, then turned north for the last two miles back up to 21-22.  I made it to the shop, a little better than six miles, in less than 18 minutes and beat my wife there by ten more.

I’d called ahead to the shop first, so they were ready when my wife showed up for her bike.  Long story short, it was grit in the crank.  The mechanic took it apart, lubed it up, put it back together and I was out the door, heading home in less than 30 minutes.  Now, the question was, do I take it easy or hammer that last five miles home?  My legs, to start, felt really sluggish after sitting around for 40 minutes but after a quarter-mile I was able to spin them up and I put the hammer down.  22 mph with the crosswind…and then…TAILWIND.  24 felt way too easy, 26…  Still too slow.  27, 28 on a nasty road surface, I had to bunny-hop a few potholes so took it back down to 26 for safety’s sake and flew for home.

I had my head down, in the drops so I my field of vision wasn’t the best.  I noticed a guy walking on the side of the road about 200 yards but decided not to announce the typical “on your left” because I have a tendency to startle people with that and they tend to turn directly into my path as a knee-jerk reaction…  Instead, I worked to the middle of the road (back road, no traffic) and picked up speed.  As I went by, all I heard was, “…  You know what, I’m not going to put that in print – let’s just say the poor fella was startled.  And cursing, but I was rolling so fast that I couldn’t make out what he was saying after the first few words that I’d have grounded one of my daughters a month for loosing.  Well, apparently stealth doesn’t work either.  I suppose it’s not every day you have a cyclist ride past you at more than 25 mph.

I felt like a heel, though not enough to slow down.

In the end, if I look at it as an eleven mile time trial, I’d have easily been between 22 and 23 mph with four miles of headwind, five miles of crosswind and only two miles of tailwind…and I didn’t give it everything I had – I wasn’t close to wiped out when I pulled into the driveway.  This season, early as it is, has been remarkable.  I’m at or above my tip-top shape at the height of last season.  I’ve spent a lot of really hard miles on the road but I’ve also spent many more cycling with my wife at what I consider a really easy pace (between 16 and 18 mph average).  I don’t know how I’m still getting faster, but I am and it is good.

I May Be Done…  With trying to keep track of weekly mileage PB’s.  I can simply accept that miles, in balance, just make life better, and call it good.

Rolling into the 2015 season, my best cycling week ever was around 208 miles, from last August.  I topped that already with a 227 the last week of April (or 240 and change if I went Sunday to Saturday – I can’t quite remember off-hand).

Already this week, I’ve got 159 counting Sunday to Saturday.  With this evening and Saturday remaining (Friday will be a day off).  That’ll be 20 tomorrow and 105 on Saturday in a supported ride.  That’s 284 miles for a full-time dad, boss and husband.

The trick, of course, is the weekend days.  This coming Saturday and last Sunday add up to 187 of those miles, more than 2/3’s of the mileage in just two days.  That leaves just under 100 miles for four days and Tuesday evening is our club ride worth 39 miles.  That’s just one mile short of my best week ever, in three days.  While it seems funny now, looking back on 2011 when I first started cycling and putting in a hundred miles in a week was difficult, with the exception of two big weekend days in one week’s time, I’m actually going to be able to maintain an average rest of the week.  Now granted, I’m counting miles that I haven’t ridden yet, but I don’t need them to make this point…

I am insanely busy with work right now.  I’ve got so much to keep track of, I really don’t know how I’m keeping all of the chainsaws up in the air right now.  But I am.  Taking the weekends, two hours on Tuesday and an hour every other day of the week (minus a day off every now and again) to ride my head straight is keeping me sane and able to deal with life’s problems.

I learned early in recovery that there is only one thing that comes before Sobriety and that’s a loving God, as I understand Him.  Not my wife, not my kids, not my job, home, office, subcontractors, suppliers…  Nothing comes before recovery because without my recovery, everything else is gone.  Well, that one hour a day, two on Tuesday nights, and my longer rides on the weekends are almost as important (though cycling obviously comes after my wife and kids).  I can’t be as good at my job, or as productive, if I don’t have my head squarely attached atop my neck.  I can’t be as happy, joyous and free without some kind of activity that gets the hamster wheel in my head to stop spinning for a while so I can regroup.

Cycling and staying fit, while it does take time, is an integral part of my life’s balance.  While I can, and must from time to time, sacrifice going out for a ride, going more than a day without a good outlet will end up with me ornery and distracted. Two days and I have a tough time falling asleep at night. Before long, my wife and I are arguing about things that are too ridiculous to mention.  After three days (I’ve only ever taken four off at one stretch in the last four years – once) I start to feel sore and have a tough time sleeping through the night.  I simply have to be active if I’m going to be happy.

On the other, there is another side to this equation.  My fitness habit must be held in check, in balance, as well.  Unfortunately, I think getting to 300 miles a week, or even closing in on it, is just a little too much.  But maybe it won’t hurt just this one time.

 

P.S. If that last sentence didn’t just throw up a huge red flag or make you laugh, you don’t know drunks very well.  It was meant to be a knee-slapper.

The Tuesday Club Ride:  Hey, Where Did Summer Go?!

It was “freezing” colder last night than it was Monday.  32 degrees (F) colder.  Add to that a 20 mph breeze and it was a bike ride.  Still, as these things go, it sure beat spending that time at the office, no?  Of course it does, even if it was only 52 degrees and falling at the 6 pm start.

We had a small group, maybe fifteen guys, and start heading west with a NW to WNW wind, and I picked the left side.  This can a source of contention among cyclists when we’re talking about slower cyclists (me) riding with faster groups…  We only traveled west for a mile and a half before making a right hand turn which meant I was in the crosswind.  Those in the right lane were vastly more protected.  My reasoning behind this is that I’d rather work hard in the first eight miles than I would in the second eight when we head southwest… and that worked perfectly last night.  I took all but one of my turns at the front, one of which was way too long, but once we hit that sharp left turn to head southwest, I was in the perfect position:  Protected front and to the side from the wind.

I was the last of the B riders to fall off the back, when they took the pace up to 29 mph after a Cat 3 racer opened up a gap with a cross-tailwind so the pace got hectic to catch him.  I hung on as long as I could, but I was pretty cooked.  When I looked back to see who I’d be riding in with, there was nobody as far back as I could see so I concentrated on a guy who’d fallen off about a half-mile up the road…  I set to reeling him in but even with the tailwind it was brutal tough work.  It took at least 3-1/2 miles, at speeds ranging from 23 to 26 mph, for me to finally catch him but we made pretty good time trading spots up front every mile or so.  We met up, shortly thereafter, with another whose partner had split off at an intersection just thirty seconds earlier that we’d been steady reeling in over the last four miles.  “Great, reinforcements.” he said as Mike and I took the lead.  Even with the tailwind, I was starting to wear pretty thin.  My turns up front started to get shorter and I was losing focus.  That’s when I realized that my buddy, Mike was somewhere “back there”…  It’s a rare day that I can beat him, unless it’s up a hill or in a sprint and I had him on the ropes.

In one fell swoop, my attitude changed and I took a longer turn up front, trying to put some more distance between us.  I used a small downhill to ramp the speed up to 28 mph and was feeling pretty fair, right up until I wasn’t.  At the crest of a hill, I flicked and pulled to the side to latch back on and just didn’t have the legs or the will to keep it up.  Mike and Chuck caught me shortly thereafter, followed by Phill.  I wouldn’t say we took it easy, by any stretch.  We still held it between 21 & 24, but with four guys to split the load, I was in much better shape.

We finished the evening with a 20.5 mph average which was about a mile an hour below normal, but considering the harsh wind, the cold and the fact that we hammered out a pretty good 80 just two days earlier, I was quite happy with how things turned out.  I actually did a lot better than I thought I would when we started.  The real test is going to be the rest of the week…  I’ve got an easy 16 this evening, maybe 20 tomorrow, Friday off followed by 105 on Saturday and somewhere between 40 and 70 on Sunday.  It’s going to be a big week.

What’s the Number One Rule for Buying a Bike?  I Broke It, For My Wife… That’s Love, Baby.

“Hey, honey, it feels like I have a vibration when I use my front brake, can you take it for a spin and confirm I’m not crazy?”

And so it begins.

The number one rule for buying a bike:  Don’t ride anything better than what you can afford to buy.  Ever.  Well, my little tale of woe came about a little differently, I wasn’t shopping for a bike, I was taking my wife’s Alias for a test spin to look into a pulsation in the brakes (almost always a wobble in the wheel as it was in this case)…

Folks, I’ve written more than a few posts in which I go into great detail about just how comfortable my Venge is.  I’ve described it as the perfect blend of stiffness and comfort.  I had a great bike to base my opinion on as well…  My 5200 is way stiffer than my Venge.

Then I rode my wife’s Alias for the first time the other day.  Same 10r carbon fiber, components, wheels, darn near the same bike, but the Alias is a ton more forgiving.  My word, I was on a crappy chip-seal road and that bike made it feel like glass.  My whole body was saying, “Dude, you need to be riding something like this.”

So here I am, trying feverishly to remove any thought of riding that bike from memory.  Trying not to think about how plush that ride was…  Dammit.

While I will not change my posts, especially my two reviews of my Venge, compared to my wife’s Alias, it’s pretty stiff.  I’m going to try to get by on the fact that I always made sure to qualify the ride characteristics with “for a race bike”.  “It’s not too stiff, for a race bike”, etc.

This is why I’ve always stuck by the rule:  Never ride what you can’t afford.  Cycling is far more enjoyable when I don’t know what I’m missing.

Resting Heart Rate:  Does It Really Matter?

When I started cycling, my resting heart rate was about 60.  Nothing great, better than average.  Now that was my real resting heart rate too.  Wake up, grab the phone and check before my first foot hits the ground.

Today, after 20,000 miles on a bicycle, my resting heart rate after two cups of coffee, breakfast and reading a post about Canadian Bureucratic Hoop Jumping (that might make a more interesting Olympic sport than curling!), sitting at the dining room table, I’m at 43.

Don’t take my word for it:

IMG_7481
It’s not some form of rocket science that accounts for such a steep drop.  I thought I was fit before cycling…  The keyword in that last sentence, of course, is “thought”.  I was a runner, after all!  For almost a decade.

When I was running, I never gave it half the effort I do cycling.  I thought I did, at the time, and I’d have vociferously defended my position that I simply wasn’t built to run more than a few days a week and faster than an 8 minute mile.  My position that I was giving it everything I had was, for the lack of a better word, naïve.  “Mistaken” or “Wrong” are a couple more.  I was giving it “my estimation” of everything I had.  My estimation was simply low.

Today, I’m a bit wiser about the whole “working hard” thing today.  I do ride hard.  I look good, feel good but I know I could do better.

I just don’t want to.  Today, I’m happy with where I’m at.  I have to bust my butt to keep it, of course, but I’m content.  I have balance.

So how does this relate to the resting heart rate?  I remember hearing that 70 was average, 60 was healthy, 50 was fit, 40 was exceptionally fit and 30 was professional athlete fit.  Reports were that Lance was in the low 30’s.  Certainly, if I were to work a little harder, I could get into the 30’s, no?

And that’s what suckers us in…  I can lay down xxx watts, I can ride xx mph, I burned xxx,xxx calories last year.  I rode x,xxx miles.

I’m better than you.  Or you, or you.  Or even more interesting, I’m better than me.

Or am I?

I was stopped on the road the other day by a fellow.  More like flagged down.  He drove three quarters of a mile up the road, pulled off the road, got out of his semi truck and flagged me down.  I stopped and we made small talk for five minutes or so about cycling, turned out he was a cyclist too.  He lives close to my home and wanted to know if I knew of any decent groups to ride with.  I told him about our weekend group rides and then about Tuesday night.  That’s when he winced and said he heard those guys were kinda mean to new people, “not like you”.

I told him about the group inside that main group.  Mike, Phill, Chuck, Matt, Carla, Chuck, Mike, Brad…  And my wife will make the group this year if she chooses.  They’re all like me, all fantastic guys and ladies.  I told him about Greg, our Cat 3 racer who will regularly fade back to help stragglers bridge back to the group.  Mike McD (We have a glut of Mike’s on Tuesday night – I might have to start calling him McMike), who told me on only my second Tuesday, “if you get into trouble, find my wheel, I’ll get you back.”  Over the last couple of years and change he’s given me more advice than I could possibly recount in a blog post.  Dave, a Cat 4 who never fails to hammer the group but is just one heck of a decent guy.

After finding out that the truck driver’s pace wasn’t too far from ours, I invited him to ride with us, took his number and told him I’d get a hold of him so he could give us a try.  I committed to giving him a day to see how he likes riding with us – and how we like riding with him.  One Sunday, in the not distant future, will be Vee’s.  No matter how long he holds on or how soon he falls off, I’ll stick with him so I can make sure he gets back okay.  If he can’t hang, but he’s a good guy, I’ll help him to get fast enough to hang with us – if he wants to work hard enough to do it (if not, I’ve got another group in mind that’ll be perfect for him).  This is how the majority of cyclists I know, act.  I’m sure there are a few too aloof to go through the trouble, but none that I ride with.

Resting heart rate, watts, mileage, average pace…  That’s all good, fun stuff, but those things aren’t what makes cycling so great.  What makes cycling great are the cyclists.  Sometimes I get lost in all of the fun little intricacies and thankfully I have friends who are also excellent at reminding me all of “that stuff is f@ckin’ bull$h!t”.

Ode to a Friend:  82 Miles of #I❤️Cycling…  Plus a Few More for Good Measure.

The #person to whom this post is an #ode will know who #she is.

  

We #hammered out the #longest-ride of the season Sunday.  65 perfect, yet cloudy degrees at 8 am, #muggy-to-beat-the-band.

There were eight of us, a #tandem and seven single bikes, in a double #pace-line for most of the first half.  Probably not the wisest idea but whatever, we had a #blast.

We were more than forty miles in before our first stop and I was in more #dire need of a Coca~Cola than I can ever #remember.  As could be expected, out in the middle of #nowhere, the lone party store attendant said he “didn’t have a public restroom”.  Well, two points for not #lying.  If anyone, by the way, tells you the bathroom is “#out-of-order”, there’s a probability of 99.785% that he/she is lying.  

Anywho, being out in the middle of nowhere, we made due.  That was our one and only stop.  About 68 miles in it stopped being #fun-and-games and progressed into work.  By 72, I was holding on by my #ass and I had a five mile stretch coming up where I’d be riding solo as the group was taking the short way home.  I headed to the very back for a bit of a rest so I could try to finish strong.  The strategy worked and with two miles under a #tailwind and 3-1/2 with a cross #headwind, I actually managed to increase my average by a tenth.

82 miles, 19 mph.  I spent way too much time up front, as is pretty much par for the course, but hey, you never get faster at the back.

I walked in the door, #smoked, sat down, took off my shoes and Mrs. Buddy says (paraphrasing), “Well don’t get too comfortable, it’s time for the ride with the kids.”  Crap. I’d hoped for a nap first.  I made a simple hotdog lunch for the kids and I, never even took my bibs off, ate and suited up.

 
I thought about taking the mountain bike for the plush ride but opted for the Venge because Bella digs it.  I did, however, drop the chain into the baby ring and kept it there.  We got in another 6-3/4 miles for just shy of 89 for the day.  

A perfect cap to a great weekend, and the family ride went a long way to loosening up my legs.  #Toocoolman.