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Monthly Archives: May 2015

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.

Tour de Crim…  Ten Excellent Miles of Family Cycling.  And a Great Laugh.

I posted a few photos of the four man tandem yesterday that Matt Assenmacher had at the Tour de Crim, a fun ride with obstacle course stops along the route of the Crim 10 Mile running race in Flint, Michigan.  We volunteered last year and again this year.  This year we brought the bikes along though, to ride the course after sending the other riders off.  

This year, my oldest daughter has a new road bike that she is very much fond of.  She even named her Specialized Dolce “The Silver Mamba” (dude, I know, badass name for a bike!).  Anyway, I knew good and well I’d have no problem with Bella and ten miles, that kid could do twenty at 15 mph on that bike.  The wildcard was her younger sister.  She had Bella’s Trek mountain bike handed down and she’s never liked cycling…  Until this last two weeks.

She’d been riding an older, heavier seven speed small kids bike and she went from that to a full-sized (26″ wheels, I think) kid’s mountain bike with 21 speeds that’s twice as big but lighter than her old bike.  First, she wants a road bike like her sister but I told her she was going to have to get a lot bigger and show more interest in cycling before I drop that kind of coin on a bike for her.  Who could blame her though, mom and dad are all “road bike this” and “road bike that”, now her big sister is asking to go on bike rides because she loves her road bike so much…  She wants to be a part of that too.

So today was a big test for the little eight year-old.  Ten miles on semi-open roads, leaving ten minutes after all of the other riders faded into the distance…  And she straight up rocked it.  She climbed all of the hills but one (the first of a nasty rolling triple followed by a gnarly little 1/2 mile mile rise – but she did ride the next two and the gnarly 1/2 mile incline) and soldiered on without complaint.  

Four miles in and we’d caught the back of the pack.  My eight year-old daughter made up a ten minute gap, in four miles.  We stopped for water at the first obstacle course, the girls did the course and we were off again.  We had a police escort for the next mile but we passed so many people we ended up leaving the escort behind.  With three or four miles to go, I left the younger to spend some time in the drops with her sister.  She’s turning into quite the budding cyclist, a no-kidding chip off the old block.

Finally the finish…  My wife and I decided to let Josie, for her awesome effort, finish first.  It was very cool, the little one had quite the smile and for good reason…  

And now for the laugh line.  We were instructed, along with everyone else, to dismount our bikes as soon as we crossed the finish line.  I did not, of course, because I can track stand and wait my turn to get my medal before pedaling through the bottleneck till everything opened up again.  My wife was not amused and kindly, lovingly, ordered me off of my bike.  Immediately.

So the guy handing out medals turns to me and says, “Great job finishing, man.  That’s a tough ride”.  Now, folks, you know me.  I try to be humble but it’s hard to be humble when you’re great.  Fortunately, I’m only pretty good, so humble isn’t out of the realm of possibility.  I simply smiled, accepted my finisher medal, and followed my family to the car so we could pack up our bikes.  Originally, I was going to pass on the medal, forever stuck on short-term thinking.  Thankfully my wife pointed out that 40 years down the road, it would be cool to have one finisher medal from our first big ride as a family.  She’s right.

  
 
They family that cycles together…  

It’s all good.

Cool Bike Photo…  Ever Seen a FOUR Person Tandem?

Before you ask, it easily weighs somewhere between 70 and 80 pounds.  Maybe more.  It’s a tank.

   
       

By the way, I am not lost on the fact that I advocate always wearing a helmet and we’re not.  Got caught up in the moment.

Explaining the Mental Obsession of Alcoholism, for those Who Aren’t Alcoholics…  In 30 Seconds (Or Less)

Many people wonder what possesses an alcoholic to drink like we do, why we can’t just “stop”…  Here’s a vastly oversimplified explanation:

Before I quit, I had a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other.  

The angel was powerless over the devil.  The devil always won.  In turn, I was powerless over that little red bastard.

Working a program of recovery simply gave the angel a 9mm with a fifteen round clip.  

The reality, of course, was a little more complex.  I had a whole committee running around in my melon and once I started entertaining the thought of getting drunk, an argument ensued.  The “let’s get hammered” caucus overpowered everything else.  When I sobered up, I learned how to develop new Kung Fu against that caucus.  Eventually, through A LOT of practice, I learned how to discard that initial thought as useless garbage, rendering the “let’s get hammered caucus” impotent.

I learned how to win…  And it’s worked for decades.  The “devil” side still rears its ugly head every now and again, tries to pry its way into the discussion every now and again but the good side’s Kung Fu is strong.

I will never claim that I won’t drink tomorrow, but I won’t today.  As long as tomorrow never gets here, I’m good (and it never does, not if I’m working in recovery).

Simple as that, and we learn early on:  Keep It Simple Stupid.

One Of, If Not THE, Coolest Things About Road Cycling…

If there’s anything that gets me a little misty thinking about cycling, one thing that I’m genuinely grateful for…  Besides having the bicycle equivalent of a Ferrari, beyond the fact that I can nearly drop weight at will, beyond the clear head and cleansed heart… Way past the hard work, good food, is one thing that wraps all of those other things up with a bow…  It’s the friendships, new and rejuvenated.

I’ve finally got a sport where I can be the guy that people want to invite to the club ride.  That guy who will lay his guts on the road till he’s absolutely whipped, so his buds can catch a good, fast draft.  The guy who can and will pedal 16 miles an hour into a 20 mph headwind on the bar top so he can block more wind for his wife, then work his ass off to keep up once she’s got the tailwind.  The guy who will do his best for the gang…

It’s said that it is always about the bike.  It is, except when it’s about the engine.

The best thing about road cycling, about cycling with a group of friends, is that I get to be one of those guys...  I love being that guy.

It’s the weekend my friends!  Ride hard, eat well, and Respect the Engine™

S-Works Carbon Crank and Spider Review: Will it Make You Faster?

So I’m at the club ride Tuesday night and I’m showing off my new S-Works hollow carbon fiber crankset and spider and a friend smirks and asks, “Does it make you any faster?”

Let me put it this way:  I went from an FSA Gossamer crankset to the S-Works and dropped 3/4’s of a pound – and I didn’t even have to go with the S-Works chain rings.  I was able to use the rings off of my old set:
IMG_7045In a rare stroke of genius, a bicycle manufacturer made their proprietary top-end piece of awesomeness compatible with other products…  They saved me $265 and made it so going this route was cheaper than virtually any other high-end carbon crank set I could have bought.  It took a couple of extra spacers for the bolts that hold the chain rings to the spider, but that’s so minor, it hardly requires mention.  They’ll eventually make the sale on the chainrings, of course.  They have a relatively short lifespan, maybe three chain lifetimes (call it 10,000 or 15,000 miles at the most) – or at least that’s as I understand it.

So, discarding the presentation, which was exceptional (opening the box was like when they opened the lid on the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark [but without all of the people melting]), and skipping to after the installation (which was anything but simple – two special tools are needed to install the crank – and that assumes you won’t need new bottom bracket cups, if that’s the case, prepare for an additional $50 worth of epoxy), the fit and finish are obviously awesome:
IMG_7051Where this gets cool is that the chainrings appear to be just a little bit closer together with the S-Works crank than the FSA.  What this means is that I get a better range of gears in the back without the chain hitting the cage for the front derailleur.  It’s quite an excellent little bonus.


Folks, I’m not going to kid you here.  This a no-blowin’-smoke-up-yer-butt post.  I could have bought an entire high-end entry-level mountain bike for less than what I paid for that crank.  One should expect, for that kind of cash, a crank to work flawlessly and this one did not disappoint.  It’s quiet, clean, light and excellent.

But did it make me faster, and if you buy one, will it make you faster?

Seriously?  Of course it didn’t make me, and won’t make you, faster. But you gotta admit…  It looks frickin’ awesome on my bike!  One important point though, is the weight.  3/4 of a pound is a lot of weight to drop in one component.  I can feel the difference climbing.

Still, that’s a style watt upgrade right there…  And it worked.  

Style Watt Bonus:  Engaged

UPDATE: After something like 600-700 miles on the S-Works crank, it was worth every penny.  And technically it did make me faster…  Climbing hills.  The weight was enough to notice – but keep in mind, I have 10,000 miles on that bike, or close to it.  I know that bike like the back of my hand.

UPDATE Deux:  Another year on the S-Works crankset and I can confidently say it’s the best upgrade I’ve ever bought.  Given the need, I’d buy another without batting an eye.

Diet and Exercise, Why It Works Sometimes and Fails Most:  You Can’t Cure Your Problems With the Same Thinking that Created Them.

Technically, the title could have just as easily been, “Life, Why It Works Sometimes and Fails Most…”  But let’s keep it simple, shall we?

“I am an alcoholic, my name is Jim.  Welcome to the [insert AA meeting name here].  This is a closed meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous.  If you have a problem with drinking, you’re in the right place…”

Or

“[Slurred] Damn right I’m an alcoholic!  Gimme another round of [insert drink of choice here]!”

I can tell you right now, until I had a change in my thinking, my doing was going to be for shit.

For me, that first line has been a solution for a very long time.  I have a great family, we have love, my bills get paid, my work gets done, I play a lot…  My life is good.  The second quote, of course, was the way I thought prior to sobering up, my life pretty much was a cross between a Motley Crüe song, a Country song, and a rap.  Not good.  The People of the State of Michigan could have been taking bets on how soon I’d flame out and cease to be.  Many people would look at being stuck with alcoholism as a hindrance when the reality is, being a drunk and having to recover from it has been the single best thing that’s ever happened to me as a human being.  I consider myself lucky that I can’t take a drink.  See, every now and again AA comes under attack for being any number of things that it isn’t.  I won’t go into the list because I’m not about to give any of that BS credence.  What it really is, down to its core, is an instruction manual for being a good, productive member of society, for learning how to be happy amidst chaos.  It is a fully descriptive, active map for how to be, for the lack of a better word, good.  Not only when it comes to alcohol and abstaining from its intake, but for life in general.

I used to have some pretty major anger issues.   It never came to any kind of physical assault, but I wielded the threat of physical violence like a blunt instrument (or so my wife took it – I always looked at it like, “Hey, I can’t hit you, so I’m going to put a hole in this wall” – my wife looked at it like, “Hey, if you don’t watch your step, this could be your face”…  Semantics).

My marriage was in shambles for a while (even after I started working on the anger stuff).  My wife and I were both seriously contemplating divorce, when it was pointed out, rather ingloriously, that were it not for my wife’s faults, she’d have picked a better man.  That became the beginning of an entirely new way of thinking which became sustainable, long-term action.  My wife and I have never been happier, honeymoon included.  We’ve built a wonderful marriage that still has its up’s and down’s but it’s nowhere near the rollercoaster it used to be.  Also, and this is important, my wife made several key changes too – marriage is a two-way street, not a street and a bike path.

It worked for my weight and physical fitness as well, though this one has proved to be a little more of a struggle, at least until I found cycling, now it’s all unicorns, rainbows and rah, rah speeches. Before cycling, however, getting fit and thin was actually work.  I’ve written multiple times about that come to Jesus moment, when I decided I’d allow myself to get fat rather than bother finding a way around it.  That moment, where I chose to do what I knew to be wrong in every way, shape or form you can look at it, was only a pivotal moment because I had already been clean and sober…  Choosing to get fat was exactly like choosing to take a drink.  Same end result, just a slower march to the demise.

The main point, of course, is that I cannot change anything with the same thinking that created the problem in the first place – I could not have hoped to lose weight and get fit, to turn a complete 180, without a complete change in thinking – otherwise I just end up banging my head against the wall, wondering why nothing ever changes.  If you’re having a difficult time committing to your fitness, changing the thinking that created the problem in the first place is always a good place to start.