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Monthly Archives: August 2015

1,000 Mile August!

I need a nap.  I had to take the tank again yesterday so I had to leave one of my water bottles at home to fit my tools – long story.  In any event, 51-1/4 miles in 2h:44m. Other than the roads being wet, it was a perfect morning for a bike ride.

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So, originally I was going to take this afternoon off, you know, to “taper”, but I decided against that to keep my legs spun up… And because a ride this afternoon will mean a perfect 31 for 31 day month, averaging more than 50 km a day (33 miles) – 1,037 miles total, without missing a minute of work or shirking my any of my responsibilities.

Besides, it really was a taper week anyway:
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You’ll see what I mean by that next Monday…  Chuckle.

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Where’d Those Hills Come From?! Cycling Out of My Element Just 30 Miles from Home

Saturday morning, late August.

We started out at 7:30.  It had stopped raining at 4:30 am.  I know this because I was awake.  Unfortunately rain was still in the forecast but we had a three or four hour window so I chose to take my rain bike, a ’99 carbon Trek 5200.  I’ve got my Venge completely ready for my four-day 380 mile tour next week and I’m not about to ride it in conditions that would have me stripping the whole thing down to clean it up…

There is one thing I like about the Trek, even over the Venge at times.  It has a triple.  The Venge, even with its pro compact, just doesn’t have the climbing gears the Trek does.  On the other hand, the Venge, with all of my tools and two full water bottles, is lighter than the 5200 with nothing on it.  My buddy Mike calls our 5200’s (he has one as his rain bike too) “The Tanks”.  There’s a four pound difference between my Venge and 5200.

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20.5 Pounds

 

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16.6 Pounds of Awesome

Mike and Chuck, on the other hand, had their “A” bikes which meant I was going to work today… I tried to block the negative side of that thought out and concentrate on the positive aspect – I was going to get some work in today.  Avid cyclists know exactly what that last sentence is getting at.  If you don’t get it, keep coming back and pedal harder.  You will.

The asphalt was mostly dry and since the last time we took this route they’d repaved it.  It was some beautifully smooth sailing.  They even added a decent shoulder so we rarely had to deal directly with traffic.  Even so, our journey wasn’t without its entire asses (much more than just the stink-eye, they were the entire ass) who felt it necessary to lean on their horn for a quarter of a mile, then crowd us, giving us a whole foot as they passed.  Ah well, a day in the life.

On we rode, along the normal southeastern Michigan terrain, a little up hill here, a little downhill there… Not Ohio or Florida flat, but considering I’ve logged some good miles in Kentucky, North Carolina and northern Georgia, we’re pretty flat up here in Michigan.

Then we came to the GM Proving Grounds… Now there are some decent hills there. Nothing we can’t climb at 15 mph but they make you work, that’s for certain. However, we didn’t turn where we should have to start up the second hill… we kept on, heading south. Up a hill, down a hill, up again. We turned into Kensington Metropark. We stopped at the first place we could and I checked the radar. The rain was moving in on us but we had two hours or so before it hit us… Plenty of time – kind of.

Kensington has a Rollerblade / running path that I used to frequent until they slapped a ridiculous speed limit on it (10 mph, my best time for the 8 miles was 24m:30s, double the speed limit). Kensington is anything but flat. In fact there are two awesome climbs that had me in the baby ring. Not the granny gear but pretty close.

Remember I was on the tank, the rain bike? Yeah, I felt every extra pound on those climbs. I managed, I kept up, but it hurt and I had to work hard to do it.

We spent about a half-hour in the park before turning for home. I knew we’d have another decent, long climb when we went by the Proving Grounds again but I wasn’t prepared for the one we hit just before that… All of a sudden, there it was, a real monster.  Had to be a mile long and better than 10%.  Not quite granny gear worthy, but close. The next three miles were darn near all uphill and the tank was weighing on me.

Ten miles from home and the sky to the west started darkening. It was going to be close. Last year, riding with Chuck and Mike was tough. They were the hammers and I was along for the ride. This year I caught up a little bit. It’s more like three hammers now, so we each took long turns up front. The miles ticked off and the sky grew ugly.

Then we hit the home stretch and took it easy for the last mile. 58-1/2 miles, 18.4 mph with some major climbing. We packed up, hit the road and not three minutes later the sky opened up. Unbelievable.

970 miles on the month and we’re doing 50 this morning. Decent weather report, decent temp, and a bunch of friends. Another perfect weekend.

Almost Enough… Is there such a thing as too much Cycling?

As of 2014, my best month was 803 miles, August of 2013 and I was only over 800 miles in a month one time.  I may have broken that last year but I wasn’t tracking mileage so I can’t be certain.  This year I smashed the 800 mile mark in three of four in-season months:  879, 850 and I’m over 910 miles so far in August (sadly with rain in the forecast for today, I may not be able to break a thousand for the month now.  I’m not going to ride in the rain and risk a cold right before my big tour next week – I’ll have to see how things work out… We got our ride in! Finished 10 minutes before it rained! 970 miles, I’ll hit 1,020 tomorrow – PERFECT!).

My best cycling bud, Mike, moved just two miles from my house last year and I had a feeling that was going to bode well for my mileage this year.  I wasn’t mistaken.

Not only that, as if a gift from God, my wife and I started riding together on a regular basis.  We’re up to four or five days a week now.  There’s nothing better than getting fit and Sexy with your best friend, especially when that person also happens to be the woman you’re married to.  She’s really taken it to the next level as a cyclist and is the talk of the Tuesday night advanced group.

Finally, I decided that all of that stuff about taking days off was hype.  After all, if the pros can handle a three-week tour at speeds vastly greater than I’m willing to ride, why can’t I ride every day.  Not only have I not suffered “dead legs”, they feel better this year than they did the last two.  The trick has been embracing slower rides in lieu of days off – slower being about five or six miles per hour slower than my average when I’m giving it everything I’ve got.  I’m a 22 mph average guy, so we’re talking 16-17 mph for an average on the slow days.  The idea being that I knock off enough speed that “I’d be embarrassed to have my friends catch me riding that slow”.  These slower rides aren’t without purpose though, just to crank up mileage.  When you combine slower speeds and a normal cadence (80-90) on a bike ride, the end result is energizing the legs.

In any event, I read a post the other day that pointed to studies on how much is too much and I’m telling you right now, those who push for limiting how much cardiovascular activity one engages in are not going to like the results of that study.  In fact, the results showed “the more, the merrier”, at least to an extent:

“Risk continued to drop with ever-increasing activity levels: 37% lower at two to three times the minimum guidelines and 39% lower at three to five times. But at that point – the equivalent of 450 to 750 minutes of moderate weekly activity – the association plateaued. There was no additional mortality benefit for even more exercise, but neither were there any negative associations.

Folks, 750 minutes of moderate weekly activity is 12-1/2 hours, just shy of two hours a day.  Not only is that a lot, it’s fair to say that I am… (I’m trying to think of a politically flattering way to say this – in other words, say that I’m a bit of a cycling nut, but with positivity)…  Uh, I am…  enthusiastic about my penchant for cycling (yes! that’s it) and 750 minutes a week is actually quite close to my rarefied air, between 200 and 250 miles a week.  I’ll take 40% less likely to die and the plateau and my daily miles.  That’s like winning the lotto for a guy like me.

Now there’s no doubt that we have to be very careful with our passion for sport and one should always do their due diligence when it comes to their health and wellness.  When we’re talking about exceptional levels of exercise there are risks.  For cyclists, we have to watch bone density.  Going out for a run every now and again helps negate that.

That said, the studies examined in the linked post show that, at least until the next study comes out, it’s all good. Go for your ride, baby.  At least for now, you’re probably not going to get to “too much”, within reason of course.  Chuckle.

 

“I Don’t Have the Time for Fitness”, and Other Donut Shop Lies…

You’ve either heard it or said it.  “I don’t have time to go to the gym.”  “I don’t have time to work out.”

I’ve heard them all and said a few myself, including “I don’t have time to go to the gym.”  These are donut shop lies, the lies we tell others while we’re sitting on the stool in the donut shop.  I did, of course, have time to go to the gym.  I hate the frickin’ gym and there’s no way I’m wasting my money on a gym membership.  At least that’s honest.

I do, on the other hand, have time for fitness.  This is my cycling mileage for 2015:

2015 Mileage

That works out to about 5,300 miles.  Or, to break that down by calorie consumption, 300,000 (give or take).  That works out to about 85 pounds worth of calories.  My average speed over those miles was, on the low-end, 18.5 mph…  Divide 5,300 by 18.5, divide that by 34 weeks into the year…  8 hours a week.  On average.

8 hours a week, albeit 8 fast hours, and I can burn through 85 pounds in 8 months.

To be fair, I hardly put in any miles in January and February and my late spring and summer months are stacked, so that should be taken into account.  Still, my longest week on the bike only worked out to two hours a day on average.  Let’s look at this by day though, because this tells a great story too:

Mileage By Day

Mileage By Day II

I didn’t include this last week or so because I’m tapering a little bit for a big four-day tour next week…  Still, when you look at my mileage production by day, most days are an hour or less with some really long days mixed in there.  A couple of hours on Tuesdays, a few hours each on Saturday and Sunday.  On the other hand, and again to be fair, there’s no doubt I’m a little kooky about cycling so let’s dial it back for normal folks…  Call it an hour a day, six days a week…  Carry the one…  Okay, it works out to a pound and three-quarters a week.  You’re going to take the winter off (and watch what you eat over the winter, ahem)…  That’s three months, call it twelve weeks…  70 pounds in a year, an hour a day, six days a week.  If one were to ride a bike, call it an easy 15 mph pace (12 mph on a mountain bike) and if one were to limit one’s caloric intake to just what they need to sustain a sedentary lifestyle (that means you eat less and eat decent non-garbage food), you could technically drop from 300 pounds to 230 in a year.  You could go from 250 to 180.  Or, like me, you could go from 175 to 165 and not worry so much about what you eat (except for during those winter months).

The point is, I recommend freeing yourself from telling lies only you believe – those donut shop lies.  Anyone can get fit.  All it takes is a little willingness, a touch of honesty and a whole shit-ton of good times.  What, you were expecting “hard work” weren’t you?  Hell, if it was all hard work I’d be sitting on the couch with you.  I ride a bike because it’s fun and burgers are yummy.

 

Sometimes You Gotta Break the Rules, God Help Me, of Cycling…

I don’t ride with a saddlebag on my bike, haven’t for more than two years.  I wish I could lie and say it was the rules that made me get rid of it, but I can’t, kind of.  Saddlebags are quite acceptable in my neck of the woods, whether or not the guys at Velominati approve.

I got rid of my saddlebag because of Men in Black.  The movie.  Seriously.

I gave my saddlebag to my wife because my bike looked like a Ballchinian with a saddlebag on it.  It looks fine on her bike and truth be told, I’d still be using it if it looked that good on mine.

Last year I rode with all of my tools loose in my back pocket.  This year I have an awesome pack sold by Serfas that holds everything perfectly and fits excellently in my middle-back pocket.  No more sweaty money is an added bonus.

I don’t notice it there on a 50 mile ride. I do on a 100 but I can live with it.

With DALMAC coming up, and taking into account the fact that the four day 400 mile tour* is only SAG supported (no rest stops), I started thinking about what I want in my back pockets…  Food and maybe a rain jacket if rain is in the forecast and money… That’s about it really.  Do I want to carry my tools too?  Function is going to have to trump form for once…

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I dug out my old mount and Specialized tool container…

I’ll give up a little in weight to a standard saddlebag, about a Quarter-Pounder’s worth in the mounting system, but I’ll take water proof when I’ve got my travel tools with me, any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Simple fact is, till I can afford a team car to look after mechanical issues, hundreds of miles from home, with no other option but quit for the day and call the chuck wagon or break a rule that wasn’t intended for the type of tour I’m going to take part in, well let’s just say I won’t lose any sleep over the infraction.

Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.

*DALMAC is a 400 mile tour but the group I ride with cuts the last 20 on the last day off…  There’s a silly little 20 mile loop that they stick on to the end of the fourth day that starts and ends at the finish to make the mileage work out that we lop off.  In other words, after 80 glorious miles along the most beautiful 80 miles of road in our entire State, they throw on a silly loop to make it an even 400.  I didn’t know when I signed up for the ride, but my friends cut that loop off, and I won’t be bothering with it either.  380 miles in four days is tough enough.

Tuesday Night Club Ride: Theory of Relativity Edition

In March, a 62 degree, cloudy, and windy night brings out the shorts and short sleeves.  Arm and leg warmers?  Who needs ’em?!

In August, that’s cold and nasty.  Arm warmers, knee warmers, heck some guys were wearing jackets for God’s sake…  not that I blame them either, I was chilly.  I didn’t break a sweat on the warm-up and barely broke one when we rolled out.  It was cold.  After a month in the mid 80’s and low 90’s, 60 is cold.  After three months below freezing, 60 is glorious.  The theory of relativity, well not exactly but it made for a cool title.

I messed up last night too.  The first ten guys and two women rolled out and caught a lot of the group flatfooted.  There was a fair quarter-mile gap that had to be made up in a hurry and I led that pain train out, dead into a 10-15 mph headwind.  It sucked, right out of the gate.

We caught the lead group within a half-mile but I had to burn quite a bit to do it, that wind was brutal at speed.  I didn’t have much to worry about though.  We made a plan in the parking lot, all of my friends, to drop and ride with our buddy Brad when we got to the river, just 13 miles up the road.  Brad and I rode back from there but last night we talked him into the full 30 mile route and he relented once we promised to take it easy on him.  He’s going through precautionary chemo and it’s a well-known fact that those who are fit, and more importantly, do what they can to remain fit through their treatment, fair better through the planned poisoning.  Well, here we are, the last weeks of summer and we’ve all had a successful summer.  Chuck, Phill, Mike, me…  We’re all rockin’ great miles, we’re strong and fast, lean and mean…  Now it’s time to do what we can to help our brother into winter so he can get through the tougher parts of his treatment.

It took a lot out of me to catch the lead group and I was too close to the front once we did catch them.  I was only maybe five bikes back so not only would I have to fight the wind without much protection, the closer to the front I got the harder it was going to get.  As soon as we turned north at the 1-1/2 mile mark, I headed to the back so I could recover properly before I started taking turns up front.  As I always do, I chose the tough side of the pace line heading north so when we turned south I’d be protected from the crosswind.  It’s a tough choice, really.  Eat the wind when I’m fresh and enjoy protection the protection of the other side of the line later.  The problem is, some of the other guys switch sides once we turn left and I can find myself in difficulty, without protection from the side.  That wasn’t the case last night though, both lines held and it was maybe eight miles before I finally made it to the front for my first turn – another rarity, normally I’ve taken three turns by then.

The crosswind was absolutely brutal up there, cold and gnarly.  I spent as long as I could and as I dropped back, surveying the group, all of my friends were already off the back…  Bonus!  I quietly slipped off the back of the lead group and soft-pedaled to let everyone catch up.  Mike caught me first, then a new guy, Lenny who was followed by Phill, Matt and Brad.  It took us a minute to get the pace right into the wind.  Mike and I were sitting up on the hoods but Brad was stressing with our easy of 18.5 so he kept slipping off the back and Phill and Matt stayed with him.  This meant that Mike and I would often end up fifteen bike lengths ahead and have to slow up.  After the second or third time I slipped back and gauged Brad’s comfortable pace, then went up to let Mike know that 17.5 was the target.

See, the problem with taking it easy is that, well how to put this…  Under stress, the body reacts a certain way.  Certain functions kind of pause or stop while the body works on the task at hand…  By the time we reached the river, I had to go…  So I let the group go ahead and tended to business.  We were into the wind and we had hills coming up – both good for me.  See, most people hate hills and hate wind, so you can make up a lot of ground if you have the heart.  Unfortunately, having the heart isn’t easy.  I climbed my way back to the group within a couple of miles but it hurt getting back.  I probably overcooked myself a little bit.  That was the last difficulty I had, maybe sixteen miles in, until we were rolling into the finish.

With eight miles to go, my buddy Mike was trying to get Phill to box me in so he could shoot off the front (think Tour de France, same thing they were doing to Sagan when he tried to head-butt his way clear – I think he was fourth on that stage).  Mike must have had a guilty streak because he thought I heard them plotting but I didn’t – he coughed up his plan with a chuckle and we had a laugh over the fact that he would have had me dead to rights if he hadn’t spilled the beans…  No way I’d have seen that coming.  We turned east for eight straight miles of tailwind.  We decided on 22-23 mph and I commenced to taking a turn up front that amounted to half of the ride back.  When I arm-flicked Mike up front, I didn’t drop to the back, I took third bike behind Phill.  I knew Mike was going to take at least three miles up front and I had something brewing…

Sure enough, with a bit more than a mile to go, Mike gave up the lead to Phill.  I had just turned say to Brad, “Be ready because I’m going”.  He asked, “You’re going?” and I nodded.  Mike went back, past Brad and that’s what I wanted to see.  Phill started kicking up the pace, beyond 24 mph, up to 25.  There’s a farmhouse, on the left, that marks the Sprint point.  Launch before that house and it’s too far for a decent sprint.  After that house and it’s too late.  Phill arm-flicked me up just 20 feet before the house and I was already, upshifted a gear and in the drops, ready.  I didn’t hesitate.  Out of the saddle, in the drops, I launched forward, accelerating instantly.  I didn’t look at my computer until I was out of gas – 33 mph and I was at the finish line.  I raised my arm and looked back, nobody (including Mike) was able to match me.  They’d made it up to 29 but there acceleration was a lot slower than mine.  Mike later said that he couldn’t match my sprint because he couldn’t get around everybody, and that’s what I was hoping for.  Mike’s competitive streak is greater than mine, and he’d have absolutely matched me had he not dropped back so far.

Back at the parking lot, as we packed our bikes up (and heated up the cars, good God, that was a great October ride in August), we made our plans for the weekend.  It’s going to be another long ride on Saturday followed by a medium-long Sunday.  I might be able to hit 1,000 miles for the month of August…  It’ll be close.

The Easiest, Fastest, Most Overlooked Bike Maintenance Item: The Steering Assembly.

I won’t get into the How To of cleaning and lubing the steering assembly, I’m saving that for an upcoming series, but if you haven’t taken the steering assembly apart and cleaned it lately, think about getting it done.

Mine took ten minutes.

Disassembled, cleaned, lubed, and put back together.  Ten minutes.

I have the newer, since the early 2000’s, threadless stem system.  The older quill stem systems are a little more complex, but not all that bad either.  The threadless stem system is painfully simple though…  If you absolutely can’t wait for the post in the new series, I’ve written about this issue before, and the link has two videos embedded that explain both the threadless stem and the quill stem options for cleaning and lubing the steering assembly.

The problem, of course, is the putting it back together.  There’s a lot that rides on putting everything back together, not only in the correct order but getting everything properly tightened down.  Get it too loose and you could crash or completely screw up your bike.  Too tight and you can ruin the bearings.

The problem is that there isn’t a lot of wiggle room for the do-it-yourselfer – and no room on the loose side.  Even a little loose is exceptionally bad for the bike and is dangerous to ride the bike in such a state.

There is light at the end of the tunnel though, and it’s not a train…

If the bike is a rockin’, don’t bother knockin’.  On second thought…

The trick to making sure you have the tension right is rocking the bike back and forth with the front brake firmly engaged after everything is properly put back together and tightened down.  Pull the brake lever with your left hand and wrap your right hand around the place where the fork comes together with the steerer tube.  Another good place to feel the movement is the spacers just below the stem – I check for movement in both places before I’m satisfied because my bike fits together very well, the parts fit together tight, so it can be tough to detect movement.  Finally, if you want a third, even better way to make sure you’ve got the stem tight enough, with the bike on a rack, with your right hand on either of the locations described previously, strike the tire sharply from the front (just be careful not to knock the bike off of the stand…  If the stem is loose, you’ll feel it.

So, don’t neglect the steering assembly, you’ll be amazed at how much dirt gets in there…  It’s gnarly.  I’ve heard recommendations of twice a year for this item, but after the last time, I might bump mine up to three.