For two years now I’ve had the ultimate race bike. Pared down of course, I couldn’t afford a freakin’ $8,000 race bike at the time… I could, however, afford a $3,000 race bike with a few new bells and whistles. My 2013 Venge Comp (with Aerofly Handlebar):
Ah, to be in the upper crust of cycling’s evolution… Life was good. Then came 2015 and news of the new Venge ViaS. All of my friends, of course, asked how long it would be before they’d see one on Tuesday night:
Now granted, that’s a pretty sharp lookin’ bike. I want one! I just don’t want the divorce that comes with it, so I’ll try to make a little more money over the next year and see if I can’t bonus my way into one. Stranger things have happened (like my Venge).
But we’re not done! Lo and behold, Trek just came out with an ultra-fine new Madone that hides the brake and shifter cables as well! Behold the Madone 9.9:
Now THAT’S a BIKE! And I could get my hands on the Ultegra model (the 9.5) for almost two grand less than the Venge!
Alas, it’s still a sad day. I was at the top of the cycling world, ladies and gentlemen, for exactly one year and three months.
Now if you’ll forgive me… I need a minute, I think I’m getting misty.
*This post is tongue in cheek of course. Please don’t think that I’m seriously bemoaning the fact that I can’t have the newest bike. I’ll live. Besides, it’s all about the engine anyway.
If you’re not sweating buckets when you ride your bike, you’re either on a recovery ride (if so, kudos to you) or you’re not riding fast enough. Being fast takes effort. If you do it right, a lot of effort.
Unfortunately being a cyclist, at least a fast one, makes one stink. Bad.
There are a few tricks of the trade though, and I’m here to help:
First things first is the melon protector. Sweating in the dome cover is inevitable, as Agent Smith told Morpheus. Well, maybe Smith wasn’t talking about cycling but you never know. That sweat, left to fester unchallenged will do some gnarly things to one’s smelling holes once you place that festered brain bucket in its place to ride. To combat this, while you’re in the shower, lather up your helmet, rinse it and towel it dry (and the little foam pads). Funk eliminated. Some people can get away with only washing the cranium cover once or twice a week, I wash mine after every ride.
Second. Wear deodorant. You don’t have to smell like a French whore when you go out for a ride (wait, that cuts both ways…Touché).
Third, and most important of any hygiene tips: Throw that godforsaken unsented laundry detergent in the garbage can – or save it for your street clothes. My wife, God bless her, went through a ten-year-long “unsented detergent phase”. Unfortunately that meant my cycling clothing smelled like sweaty ass and balls within a few weeks. Folks, sweaty ass is bad enough but throw in the meatballs and it gets gnarly in a hurry.
After two years of feeling self-conscious, I finally pleaded my case to my wife. I said, “Wife, oh wonderful wife. Sweet, tender friend… I’m tired of smelling like sweaty ass and balls. Wouldest thou please, for the love of God and all that is Holy, consider picking up some f@€k!n& Tide?
My soulmate, my best friend in the whole world, looked at me like I was friggin’ nuts. However, once I got down on one knee and began to weep, she knew I was serious. And…
Now of course I’m playing loose with the facts and the conversation. My cycling clothes did have a rough tinge to them though, and I was tired of it. My awesome wife has been using the Tide for about two weeks now and I couldn’t be happier.
Finally is the one thing that goes without saying… Dude, shower up after you ride. Unless you live in California. In that case, rub some dirt on it and hang with Governor Brown. Or something. Hey! Kids’s diaper wipes! We use those at hunting camp, they should work to save water. That’s how I roll folks, that’s a lot of “give-a-$#!+” right there!
Happy trails. Or, um, roads.
UPDATE: Michael Cowart dropped in with a comment that it also helps to refrain from leaving the cycling kit laying around for days on end before washing it. This is a very good point because even Tide and Febreeze have their limits.
UPDATE Number II: The Tempo Cyclist added that wet wipes are an excellent item for commuters to keep handy as well, in the event your office/job doesn’t have a shower facility.
UPDATE Number III: My buddy Titanium Henry chimed in. Dude, wash the shorts after every ride. Trust me. Go ahead and read for yourself…shenrydafrankman, scroll down.
I am reblogging this post not only because it’s awesome but because of that Bianchi right there. That bike just replaced the Trek Emonda as the lightest production bike available…by about the weight of a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder (bun included) or the Royale with Cheese for those on the Metric System.
As a special note, look closely at the chain rings.
We’re stopped at the end of the road our home is on, waiting for the group to show up, signifying the start of our ride. One of my buddies was already waiting at the intersection. We’re catching up on what’s been going on in our lives because it’s been a bit since we rode with everybody, especially Chuck. After a few minutes Mike, Mike and Diane (on their tandem) roll up. We latch on and our ride is underway. A few miles later we pick up Phill and we’re a set group. We cruised along at a decent pace, between 19 & 20 miles, knowing that once we picked up Dave and Greg there would be more than enough hard miles. Dave and Greg are Cat 3 racers and we are not. Greg had raced Saturday so they wanted to take it easy and asked to join us. Their “taking it easy” is right around our “best” effort, but like a mosquito drawn to a bug zapper because of the pretty light, we agreed to hang with them.
The plan was for a sixty-plus mile ride but my wife was going to cut out early to tend to a few things at home. Definitely not the best scenario but she made it work. We met up with Greg and Dave, guessing, around ten miles (about ten miles sooner than anticipated) and it was on. Dave and Greg took turns pulling in the oddest pace line formation I’d ever taken part in. Dave would take a turn at the front then fall to the back and Greg would come rushing up to the front to take the lead… After a few miles, Dave and Greg would swap positions again. What became evident quickly was that the person riding second bike, even though they were protected, at the pace we were riding, was going to have to switch out from time to time as well so they didn’t burn up early. So it went like this, roughly: Second bike would hang on for one of Greg and Dave’s turn up front or between 4 & 6 miles. After Greg went back, whoever was second bike would drop back as well.
We were heading into a rough headwind for the first half of the ride, between 20 & 22 mph so I was secretly hoping that Greg and Dave would be spent. I was wrong. They took us up to 28 and kept us there for several miles. I was second or third bike through most of that and I was feeling quite excellent, but some of the guys further back were starting to struggle – which was a good thing, because I was at that point where I’m still good but I know I’ve only got a few more miles in me before I’m a quivering pile of sweaty mush, just trying to hold on at the back. They pulled it back to 26 and I recovered nicely. We had a few miles heading west with a crosswind and then Dave and Greg went off on their own to put in some extra miles. I ended up with 52-1/2, right on the nose. Mrs. Bgddy got in a solid 36 miles at an 18 mph average (I only made it up to 20.5 myself, even with all of those miles above 25 mph).
It’s all about distance and intensity…
After I had a few minutes to calm down and make myself some lunch, my wife modeled some new clothes she’d bought a few days earlier. When she got to the last piece she asked, “…And guess what?”
She held up the tag that had the size on it… She hadn’t worn that size since she was pregnant with our second daughter. My wife, while she was hot before, is smokin’ now. She’s smack-dab in the middle of the exact same experience I had with cycling, though she’s hung on to sanity a little bit longer than I did. When I started riding, I went gangbusters right out of the gate. My average speeds and distances increased quickly so that by the time I was a year into riding I was having to make sure I was eating enough.. Then through my second year I had to eat even more. With speed and distance comes weight loss. The more effort put into it, the easier it is to peel off the weight and cycling isn’t like running, where you have to take a day or two off between runs. You can ride on a daily basis which means more and more calories burned, more weight lost and results come fast and furious. I don’t want to steal any of my wife’s thunder though, so I’m going to ask her to put a post together about her experience.
Suffice it to say, yesterday was a very happy day at our house.
Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat… Well, a few things:
1. Yup, I am a nut. Technically, they call us “avid enthusiasts”. But nut, “freakin’ nut”, or even “freakin’s” older, dirty cousin works. I don’t mind if you think I’m crazy, I’m happy. It makes sense that a good portion of the population thinks I’m a little off.
2. I really do feel great, but I’ve tried this before and ended up burned out. I like the term “dead legs”. That’s what I had two years ago.
3. The idea for this little experiment came from Tour de France coverage last year. They were talking about what the cyclists would spend their “day off”: Three hours on the turbo trainer to keep their legs spun up.
I have noticed that it is harder to get my legs spun up after a day off, or worse, two days in a row off… Two days off is so bad that I’ve resorted to starting off with a mid-tempo ride, around 18 mph, before trying to get into the speed the next day.
4. Now if they can ride at average speeds up to five or six miles per hour faster over distances triple that which I’m capable of*, day after grueling day, and spend their day off on a trainer. If they can do that, there has to be a way for me to do the same thing, only slower and over fewer miles.
5. My bikes have been through a meticulous setup process so that I’m riding in a manner which won’t mess with my body’s mechanics… Everything lines up right so I am efficient and not working some parts of my body against others.
*Speed and capability is a tough concept to put down on paper/ether… I’m certainly capable of riding 200 km (125 miles). That’s not a big deal. I can also ride at 25-26 mph (if I have a group to ride in). The trick is putting those two together. Best I’ve ever done is a century in 4-1/2 hours. That’s fast, but not that fast. Though we have to deal with stop signs.
So let’s get two years ago out of the way first. My average speed was around 19 mph for a week of riding. Maybe even closer to 20. My hardest efforts were between 20.5 – 21.5 mph average. Medium efforts between 19.5 & 20.5 and “easy” days were at 18-19. The easy and medium days were way too fast. This led to my burning out after 13 days. I had to take a day off and rest because my body just couldn’t take that much effort without a rest.
This year, my hard efforts are faster but the easy days are much easier. 16 mph as a ride average, isn’t unheard of on the easy days. This isn’t a day off but it’s close enough for government work. Going slower on my easy days has made a world of difference in how I handle the faster days and how my legs can recover. More important, how I feel when I’m not riding. In this sense, active recovery is actually recovery, not just another ride.
Today will be my 14th day in a row and my legs feel great. Just one day off for the month of June. I’ll be fast and nimble and just rarin’ to go. We’ve got a 60 miler (or more) planned so that will get me to (or slightly over) 800 miles for the month with two more days left (Monday and Tuesday)… I should be able to horse in another 55 or so.
Finally, there are a few things that I don’t do to maintain that torrid pace… I don’t stretch, foam roll, get massages (though my wife throws in a mean back rub now and again). I also don’t try to fuel my muscles with beans, leaves and friggin’ tofu. I eat meat and potatoes and french fries and more meat and pizza. I’m not knocking the beans, leaves, twigs and granola lifestyle; whatever works for someone else, go for it. I also don’t take (or need) pain medication other than an Aleve every now and again, I feel spectacular.
The trick lies in the easy days. As long as my easy days follow this simple rule: On an easy day, I should be embarrassed if one of my friends see me riding that slow. I do two or three of those a week, mixed in with some good, tough days.
Here’s the schedule:
Monday: Easy, 16-20 miles.
Tuesday: Hard 30 with an easy 8 warm up.
Wednesday: Easy 16-20 miles.
Thursday: Medium 16-20.
Friday: Easy 25-35
Saturday: Hard 50-80 miles
Sunday: Medium 40-60 miles.
Do the math and that’s a whole lot of miles. I get my speed and the shorter days during the week mean I get my stress-pressure valve release so I can perform at a high level at work and still keep my legs spinning for the harder efforts on the weekends and Tuesday. Again, the key is the slow days. If I try to do too much on the easy days, put a fork in me. I need a day off every week in that case.
To wrap this up, this is my fourth year of cycling. There is a possibility, if I honestly assess myself, that my legs were just too immature to handle this schedule two years ago. Whatever the case, what I’m doing now works.
UPDATE: I just got back and showered up… We hammered out 52-1/2 tough, windy miles at a little over a 20 mph pace… Not that big a deal unless you know that we took it easy for the first fifteen miles and at 16-1/2 we were only pulling an 18 mph average. We spent a lot of miles heading home, north of 27 mph. I felt fantastic all the way into my driveway. Oh, and I have enough left in the tank to go out and get my other 7-1/2 in with my wife and kids so I can have 800 for the month…
This brings to mind one of my favorite Anti-New Thing statements: I’ll taper when I’m dead.
That’s right folks, the road bikes are sitting it out for a couple of days. Traded for some good old-fashioned mountain biking.
Nothing spectacular, some outrageous hills, 32 mph descents, and some fun time looking for ways to get my bike dirty rather than for conditions that are appropriate to keep the Venge clean. It’s big gears, fat tires, slippy gravel and sand, dust and grit.
I obviously prefer the refinement of road cycling. The high speeds, the ultra-light bike, the comfortable kit and the itty bitty tires. There’s just something about road cycling that makes me want to get after it. Much more than with mountain biking.
I decided early yesterday morning to finally do something about the reach on “Revenge”. The stem was just too short and that messed with my shoulders and made my hands go numb after as few as five miles. I went to the shed to look for an old stem and found one that would work with my skinny handlebar and would give me some reach.
Once I put the new stem on, it was a completely different ride. I’m closer to evenly balanced and stretched out a bit more so I can breathe.
Today is a happy day for us as well. Our daughter is coming home from camp today. We’ve missed her quite a bit.
As for “what’s up”, I think I’ll keep it simple and leave it at that… And go enjoy my day. Peace, and lots of miles, Jim.
This post is a long time in coming. I’ve finally had enough and it’s time to explain a few things so hopefully the those who don’t ride can understand better why we ride the way we do. And it’s Lycra now, spandex is too ’80’s, by the way.
1: What’s with the running or rolling through stop signs?
There are several reasons behind cyclists rolling stop signs, and we’ll get to those in a second. What is unacceptable is a cyclist shooting through an intersection with a stop sign with traffic present, to beat a vehicle to the right-of-way. This is stupid, ignorant and dangerous but it does happen. If you are a cyclist who tries to beat cars to the right-of-way so you don’t have to stop, you are not intelligent and you’re giving us a bad name, please stop. Oh, and the tie goes to the vehicle that can squish you. That said, the intersection is the most dangerous place on a roadway for a cyclist. We try to get through them as quickly and safely as possible. Personally, I’ll track-stand to a stop and then go, but I’m known to blow a stop sign or two to get through an intersection before a car gets to it (where it’s plainly clear that I will have the right-of-way if we both come to a complete stop, simply so we can avoid the whole, “You go”, “No, you go” situation. Where this gets tricky is the right of way. If I’m getting to the stop first, I have the right of way. I stop, unclip, touch the ground and go through because the other car waits for me, right? In a perfect world, yes but in our world, no. As soon as I push off, the car that was late to the intersection goes because they’re impatient. Instead, I track-stand to a stop and go through the intersection before the car has a chance to stop and start up again (always keeping my eye on the car to make sure the driver actually stops). Call it creative stopping. However I slice it, I want out of that intersection as quickly, but safely, as possible and coming to a complete stop, touching the ground and restarting is exceptionally slow.
2: While we’re on stop signs, why does a whole group of 20 cyclists go through an intersection all at once, even when they stop? Shouldn’t they have to each stop and go through one or two at a time?
This is a bike hater’s favorite argument but it’s not very well thought out, if technically correct. If you’ve got several cars traveling to the same destination together, you would expect that each car in that caravan will stop at the intersection, allow the other three vehicles clear before going through themselves. So, shouldn’t all 20 cyclists stop at the intersection, pull up to the line one or two at a time, wait for traffic to clear, two go, the next two stop, wait for traffic to clear and go, and so forth? Again, we have to refer back to getting through the intersection and out of the way as quickly as practicable. Now, let’s be clear, what I am proposing is nebulously illegal. If a group is stopped by officers, there is a chance they’ll be ticketed. In our neck of the woods, as long as we stop as a group, the local police allow us to proceed as a group. However, let’s look at this rationally: If a group of cyclists comes to an intersection and we stop, we wait for the intersection to clear and we go as a group, we can entirely clear an intersection, the whole group, in less than ten seconds. On the other hand, if we go through two-at-a-time, then wait, two more, then wait, two more, then wait… We can clog an intersection for several minutes. Not only do we take a ridiculously long time to get through an intersection, you’ll have the lead guys slow-pedaling down the road to wait for everyone to catch up which will stretch the group out and make it more difficult for the vehicles behind them to pass.
Now, here’s where this gets really interesting: Think about being a motorist behind that mess of slow cyclists taking several minutes to clear an intersection. It would be worse, take longer, than waiting for a train to go by. You think motorists are mad at cyclists now. Good Lord, that would be madness, anger and aggression on a whole new level. In a group setting it only makes sense that when it’s safe to do so, the entire group goes through at once and gets out of the way. It’s the safest and quickest way for us to get out of motorist’s way so they can get to a place to pass us. Is it legal? No, but pick your poison: Wait a little bit and pass us after the intersection, or wait a whole lot longer. I can tell you, as cyclists we don’t want motorists waiting any longer than they have to. The longer a motorist has to wait for us to get the hell out of the way, the less likely it is we’ll be hugging our wives and kids after the ride and the more likely it is we’ll end up in hospital bed.
3: Why don’t cyclists ride on the gravel shoulder, off of the road or why don’t they pull over, off the road when traffic is present?
Now, there may be rare instances when pulling over to let traffic by might make sense. If I’ve got several cars behind me waiting to pass on a winding mountain road, it would make sense for me to pull off the side of the road to let the cars by if safe to do so (and I have done this in the past). However, we cannot stop going uphill. Why? We can’t start back up safely, going uphill. It’s too unstable and shaky. We have to wait for a flat spot if we’re going to pull over, otherwise we have to start downhill and try to turn round, in other words, pull a U-turn on a winding mountain road, to head back uphill. This is simply stupid and impossible to do safely. In this case, a motorist must try to think a little more like a cyclist. If we’re going to pull over to let you by, it’s going to be on flat ground or on a downhill section. To get to the gravel shoulder, we are required, as cyclists, to ride “as far right on the road surface as practicable” except when debris or uneven pavement make doing so not practicable. The gravel shoulder is not “the road surface”, the whole shoulder is debris and it is not safe, especially for a road bike, to travel on. Also, “as far right as practicable” is determined by the cyclist, not the motorist. We see the road with a clarity that you cannot possibly understand. Hitting a pothole might mean a new wheel for a car. For a cyclist it means several weeks in the hospital and possibly reconstructive facial surgery. Gravel, for a car, is a minor nuisance. For a cyclist (or a motorcyclist for that matter), it can mean an utter loss of control and a serious accident. We have to be very careful when choosing when and where to pull off the road, if we do so at all. What doesn’t make sense, ever, is a cyclist pulling off the road for a lone motorist or two so they don’t have to slow down for a few seconds to wait for traffic to clear so they can pass. My friend and I were honked at by a motorist in an SUV, he started honking about a quarter-mile back and laid on his horn until he was right on our backs, before he passed in the oncoming lane. No other traffic was present for more than a mile in either lane. We were less than a foot, twelve inches, from the edge of the road (or more than “as far right as practicable”) yet he expected that we would pull off the road because he blared his horn. He then stopped his vehicle, blocking the entire lane, to yell at us for not pulling off the road. He yelled out the window as I passed to his left, entering the oncoming lane, “Do you wanna get run over!” Um, no not really. I also don’t want to share the road with a dumb, obnoxious old man who has no clue. Unfortunately, I have to play with the cards I’m dealt. Finally, and this is important, I cannot safely ride on a gravel shoulder. I have to consider whether the ground is stable (when was the last rain, will my tires sink? Etc.), whether erosion makes the shoulder unsafe… The shoulder, is never a safe alternative, especially while I’m moving forward on a bike. If you want, or expect, a cyclist to pull off the road onto the shoulder so you can pass, that desire is ignorant, impatient and wrong.
4. Why do cyclists ride where my wheel should be on the road?
Believe it or not, this question has a very simple answer: Safety. See, “as far right as practicable” means “what is safe” for the cyclist. If I hug the white line on roads with anything but the widest lanes, I might give a motorist just enough space to squeeze through without having to cross over the yellow line. That motorist also might not have enough room and hit me with his/her mirror. That’s a broken arm or back at a minimum. More than likely worse. If I ride where a vehicles tire would normally be on the road surface, motorists must pull into the oncoming lane to pass. While this admittedly sucks for motorists, it’s vastly safer for me. In other simpler terms, if I leave a keyhole for a motorist, they’ll try to fit a car through it. I’ve seen this happen by the way.
5. What about running red lights?
I can’t imagine any scenario, ever, where running a red light would be wise for a cyclist. I never have and never would purposely run a red light. Too much bad can come from that, no matter how clear the intersection looks. Cyclists who blow traffic lights are in the wrong. Every single time.
6. Why don’t large groups ride single file instead of two-abreast?
Many motorists become upset just thinking about a double pace-line cruising down the road. Passing that can be daunting. On the other hand, think this through a bit… How would you like to pass a single-file line of cyclists twice as long? Now you know why we ride two-abreast. Riding single-file takes twice as long to pass and requires a greater passing distance while still requiring opposing traffic to be clear because a motorist cannot get around a group. We’re actually making it easier for you to pass us when a large group of cyclists rides two-abreast.
Now lets look at a smaller group or just two cyclists… When I ride with my wife, I commonly ride next to her on the back (quieter, less traffic) roads. I try to ride in the middle of the lane (that’s the middle of the lane, not the middle of the road) while she’s just to my right, usually right where she would normally belong on a road. We talk about life, plans, whatever comes to mind. Now, when traffic becomes present, I’ll speed up and pull in front of my wife so we’re single-file. If opposing traffic is nowhere to be seen, sometimes I’ll stay right where I am. The truth is, before you get all upset, no matter whether I’m riding directly next to my wife and we’re taking up half of one lane, or we’re single-file, you’re still going to have to pass us in the oncoming lane.
This changes on busy roads, of course, because two single cyclists riding two-abreast is thought of by many as rude. We don’t want to give the impression that we’re blind to the notion that we’re a pain-in-the-ass so we choose to single up. We believe that this is the reasonable thing to do.
The point of this post is to actually show that we’re not really being @$$#0£€$. Many of the reasons we ride in the manner we do are actually either designed to make motorist’s lives less stressful or to save our skin. We gain nothing by pissing motorists off. In fact, messing with motorists increases our chances of never being able to see our kids again, or more aptly stated that they’ll never see their mom or dad again. We have no desire to poke a tiger with a stick to see what happens.
Oh, one other thing… What about “spandex wearing Lance Armstrong wannabes”? I actually had this one hurled at me recently. Look, can’t we keep this civil? It’s not like I would call you a fat, lazy couch monkey.