We dropped a noob last night. On purpose. Damn Time Trial bike, again. Now I know you ninnies out there are going to complain that we should take him under our collective wings because, after all, it takes a peloton to raise a cyclist… What a load of crap… Allow me to explain.
It was cold and ridiculously windy yesterday evening. The wind was out of the north and it was down right gnarly.
Story of my cycling life. I took too many turns up front, pulled too long… Geez, we might have to get the bow-chicka-wow-wow music going. That doesn’t sound good at all.
Anyway, the second we got a helping wind, the pace went through the roof. Damn, it was so fast. I couldn’t even hazard a look at my computer. I tried to stay on the back after a decent turn up front but I was totally red-lined. I managed a few miles, but when one of the racers motioned me up, I simply huffed, “Can’t do it, I’m maxed out, brother.”
I scanned the crew that was left… My friends were mostly all gone off the back already. All but one. I sat up. Just too much.
I soft pedaled for about a half-mile to catch my breath and let my friends catch me. I tucked in to the back and we set our own pace, about 24-25 mph. I had big Joe behind me and we had the first hill coming up in a few miles so when I hit the front at 23-1/2 mph, I held it for a minute and started cranking the speed up. 24, 25… a mile into my turn. 26. I was feeling really good. 27 mph and I held it there for, geez it had to be two miles, all told it was a crazy-long pull. I had a goal though… Big Joe was next in line and he struggles a little bit on the hills so I figured if I could get him up to the start of the hills, he could control the speed of the climb. It didn’t quite work out the way I’d hoped, but he made it through the first set just fine.
Unfortunately we’d also picked up that dude on the TT bike. We went from a well-oiled wind-breaking machine of an echelon to a discombooberated mess within two miles. Such is the case when you’ve got a noob who has absolutely no clue where to be in a group – then, throw that noob on a TT bike and put simply, it’s a crash waiting to happen. To make matters worse, we’d picked up a second noob who was rightly afraid of TT-guy, so Noob #2 was always out of position trying to figure out where he should be without stepping on the toes of TT-guy. Add a 15-20 mph crosswind and you can imagine how messy things got.
Leading into the third set of hills, it looked like Matt (the most accomplished cyclist among us) had enough… He stepped on the gas, hard. I caught it, Mike, Joe and Phill did too but the two noobs were left in the dust. It was the perfect use of a hill for an attack against a guy on a TT bike – we formed a gap because he was in too tough a gear to counter the charge up the hill and I’d imagine that he probably even mis-shifted before he finally did try to go. The second noob, was an unfortunate casualty.
After the attack, the five of us formed up again and we were able to work together again but it took a minute for Phill to catch up so we had to soft-pedal to let him catch up on the way down a nice little hill. TT-guy used the opportunity to catch us – he wasn’t as far off as we’d thought. Dammit.
The next three miles were an exercise in patience. TT-guy was always out of position, decided he was too tired so he wanted to ride on the aero bars in the middle of our pace line and was getting bucked around by the headwind like a Frankie First Year giving bronco riding a try on a bet. I was feeling rather strong still so I rode up next to him, at 21 mph into a 20 mph headwind, and asked him, “You don’t ride much with other people, do you?” He responded, “No, I do triathlons mostly.” All of a sudden everything makes sense. Over the course of the next two miles, and during his pull, I tried in the nicest terms I was able to muster under the conditions, how group rides work. I pointed out how the echelons work in the wind, why he struggled so much riding out of position, and most important, how his being out of position and in the wrong gear all of the time was screwing up everybody else’s ride. After his pull, I started to head back for a bit of a rest… I let TT-guy in and took up position behind him so I could continue the lesson. Every time he started to drift out of position, I let him know what he was doing. The meant eating a lot of wind as we’d turned east and had a nasty crosswind from the left – with his erratic riding, I simply wouldn’t risk having him crash me to explain how group rides work…
All of a sudden, out of nowhere he veered hard to the right and I said, “See, now if I wasn’t off of your rear wheel, chewing on wind so you can ride with us, you’d have taken out my front wheel and I’d be getting a ride home in an ambulance.” He was fifth position in a six man echelon, down in the f@ckin’ aero bars, and he got hit by a gust of wind because he was out of position.
Folks, it’s that simple and can happen that fast at the speeds we commonly ride at – and that’s exactly why people who ride TT bikes in a club get a bad wrap. They insist, at the beginning of a ride, that they know what’s going on and where they can ride in the aero bars and where they can’t but as soon as they start to tire out a little bit, as soon as the going gets a little tough, BAM, one of us is on the ground with a cracked spleen. They’re not all this bad though. I ride with another guy, Rob, who actually is quite the accomplished Time Trialist. He, is never out of position, only rides in the aero position at the front or well off the back, and regularly helps stragglers who let a gap from back to the group. So we must be cautious, as I was reminded of just this morning as a matter of fact, to refrain from the knee-jerk reaction that all TT cyclists suck in a group. That is most definitely not the case.
After the ride, that’s when I really went to work on TT-guy though. I explained some of the parts of the ride that he might have missed. As an example, I said, “Now do you remember on the way up that one hill where you got dropped?”
He interjected, “Yeah, I’m not very good on hills.”
I cut in, “I know you aren’t – we all do, and that’s specifically why we attacked on that hill. We dropped you on purpose because you’re not safe to ride with.”
He laughed and gave me a joking chuck on the shoulder and added, “Get outta here.”
I said, “No, I’m being dead serious here. We dropped you on purpose because you’re not safe to ride with. Look man, at the end of the day, when the ride is over, I have two small kids and a wife, I don’t need any of them changing my diaper because a noob crashed me on the club ride because he doesn’t know how to ride his bike.”
And therein lies the rub, folks. You’ve got a noob, on the wrong bike, riding with the wrong group (the advanced group), who can’t even hold a straight line (let alone a position in a pace line. Fortunately, I did finally break through the layers and got him to understand, there are two places that he should be in a pace line right now. Either at the front in his aerobars or at the very back of the pack on his handlebar ends. That’s it, until he buys a road bike.
Suckiest ride I’ve had all year.
Cycling with a club or in a group can be a touchy thing. I’ve seen the club, en masse, surge from 23 mph to 30, just to drop one guy in the group. Purposefully – and I’ve been a part of that myself. In fact, I’ve led the charge on more than one occasion. This isn’t without it’s faults, of course, but when an advanced group feels threatened by a novice cyclist who doesn’t know how to ride in a group, he (or she)’s as good as dropped and usually before they know what hit them. The same can’t usually be said for no-drop rides, but I’ve only ever been a part of those when they’re invite only and the “no-drop” pace starts at 19 mph. In other words, I’ve never been a part of a no-drop ride, so I won’t comment on how they work.
This may seem cruel, but it’s far easier to drop someone that it is to convince them they’re wrong or need to work on their skills. That’s what this post is for. Following are some rules of etiquette, that if you’re not willing to follow, you’d better have some strong legs and lots left in the tank or you’re done.
- Do not talk about politics or church on a club ride unless you’re preaching to the choir – in both instances. I had a guy tell me once that I should be taxed more because I was able riding a nice bike and his son had a paltry college loan debt yet to settle (I think it was $15,000). In other words, I should be made to pay for his son’s college because I ride a Venge. I about lost my shit and berated him up one side and down the other because that dope had no clue how much I sacrificed to finally be able to afford that bike. He just made the ignorant assumption that because I have a decent bike I must be wealthy. Ironically enough, several weeks later he asked me for my professional opinion on what his new pole barn should cost (it was six times what I had into my bike). There aren’t too many in our group who like the guy, I just feel sorry for him. It can’t be easy going through life like that. Don’t be that guy, or girl.
- Don’t ride a time trial bike in the group unless you’re an accomplished time trialist (and therefore understand that TT bikes suck in a club setting). We had two guys, in different years, who showed up with their new TT bikes, thinking they’d just ride in the group with their hands on the bars near the brakes… It’s all good, right? Wrong. When the group surges and you’re in the wrong gear, what then? You leave a gap. You continually push too hard a gear (or too easy) and can’t respond to surges and you tax anyone riding behind you who has to make up that gap. You show up thinking everyone is going to say, “Hey, cool bike.” Some may say that. What they’re thinking is, “Oh, great, here we go again”.
- Don’t ride in the middle of the two pace lines unless you are the very last guy (or girl) in line – and when the two come back from the front, pick a lane… If your response to this is, “But I like it in the middle”, allow me to offer my response to the guy who said that very same thing to me: “I don’t give a shit!” Look, I get it… It’s easier to hide in between both lines. The draft in between the two lines, especially in a crosswind, is awesome. Unfortunately the whole group still has to function while you’re indulging your selfish inner child, the rest of us, especially those behind you, have to work harder because they don’t have a clean draft – you’re breaking that up by hanging out in the middle of the two lines. Look, it’s simple: If you’re so slow that you literally can’t hang on to a pace line, if you have to hang out between two lines to get enough draft to hang on, you need a slower group. To hold others hostage to your needs, to make others who may be struggling as well, work harder to cover for you is ultimately plain old selfish.
- Finally, there are a long list of smaller things that could be added to a list, but they can all be summed up: Do your best to be a contributing, decent member of your club. If they’re too fast, that’s okay, hold a good line and open a hole for the faster guys and suck wheel (I do at times during our club rides). And if that’s not working for you either, do what I did: Befriend several of the other guys who get dropped too and form your own group to splinter off the main club at a specific point along the route.
That last item is really the important thing here. In a world filled with selfish jerks, the last thing we need is another one. If we do our best to be a fine, upstanding member of the group, we will be rewarded a hundred times over with good-time rides with friends and memories that will last till two seconds before we become worm food.
I should know. I was a noob, what, like twenty minutes ago.
My Secret to Sobriety and Dieting (or maybe I should just say losing weight): No Magical Herbs or Pills Needed. Just Change the Tape.
I have a tape that I play over in my head. A lot of ex-drunks do/did, it’s quite common. Some people call them thoughts but I have an entire committee in my melon that I have to keep in order, to simplify that down to “thoughts” does the process injustice. Also, and more importantly, people (myself included) often use the thought process to justify their actions or even succumb to that which haunts them. Now that I know better, the excuse just isn’t good enough.
To thine own self be true, but don’t try to bullshit me either.
I never ended up drunk at a bar stool, or worse – in a jail cell, especially toward the end, by accident or spontaneously. Toward the end, I was in a veritable shit-ton of trouble and the last thing I needed was to get caught drunk again. Yet that’s exactly what I did.
When I quit drinking, on November 18th, 1992, I began a process of changing the way in which I process thoughts. See, there once was a time when I couldn’t maintain sway over the committee. The ass-hat in the back who always wanted trouble ruled the roost, and the following is exactly how that worked. I would swear off drinking, yet again for the umpteenth time and everything would go along just fine for twenty-four hours or so. Sometimes less, sometimes more (I made it a whole two weeks; I almost bled out after bursting a blood vessel in my throat and then came closer to checking out Jimi Hendrix style from getting too “sick” during a rather impressive
night on the town binge). Then a thought would enter the gray matter between my ears… “You need to relax, and a beer would help that immensely.” The next thing I knew, I was being cuffed and hauled off to the drunk tank again… But that’s not entirely how it went. It only seemed that way because I wasn’t paying attention. An “argument”, for the lack of a better term, had ensued prior to my stepping foot in the bar. First there was, “No, that’s a lousy idea. You have no idea how far that one beer will go.” Followed by the miscreant’s, “But you need it. Look at you, you’re shaking like a leaf, you’re sick to your stomach, you’re a nervous wreck… We need this.” I could hold off for a few go-rounds but inevitably I’d give in and end up plastered. Once I got that first sip passed my lips, there was no telling how far down the toilet I’d go – and the interesting thing about all of that is you hear people say it’s the first drink that gets you… That’s only partially true. It’s being defenseless against the argument in the first place that gets me to the point where I have a beer in my hand. That’s where I ran into problems… Long before the first round was ever paid for, I lost the argument.
The problem is, figuring all of this out isn’t easy – especially when you’re sitting in that mess and can’t see a way out.
There’s a reason I meld diet into the alcoholism angle too. When I make a change in eating, my thinking follows the exact same pattern. Think about it… “Oh, I can have this brownie, I was careful all day about what I ate…” For some it stops at just one brownie but a craving is set off where tomorrow it’s a little harder to skip it. For some, “one brownie” equals a brownie the size of a pie plate, with ice cream, whipped cream, salted caramel and a frickin’ cherry on top. For still others, that one brownie sets off a chain reaction that lasts until the final brownie crumb from a whole batch is washed down with a glass of milk. Folks, that’s no different than what a practicing drunk does, all that changes is the severity of the consequences. Have you ever tried to justify that pie plate brownie, as described above, as “a brownie”? Remember, rigorous honesty is required if you’re to get better…
Say I eat twelve brownies, or better yet, instead of opting for a decent lunch I decide to go for the big Double Mega Artery Clogger Burger, Large Fries, Diet Coke and a six-piece Chicken Strips, with barbecue sauce of course… Eventually I’m going to get big on a lunch like that – not even I, at 200+ miles a week, can outride that. Over the next five years I get fat. Over the next ten I get old. Over the next five to ten… Well, it’s time to pay the piper.
On the other hand, if I head to the bar and drink twelve beers, I’m going to suffer through all kinds of marital, work, health and legal issues – its unavoidable and damned near immediate. I’d give me two weeks before my first trip to jail. Why, or better yet, how can I be so sure? I am a two-fisted drinker. One in each hand and the case between my legs. I. Will. Not. Change. Ever. I’ve tried a hundred different ways and combinations. I am what I am, so abstinence it is. Rigorous honesty.
Still with me? Now, there is a solution. I have to change the tape that plays in my head – and this is exactly why I have an easy time losing weight… When I quit eating crap, I change the tape. Right friggin’ now. I can shut it down at one 2″x2″ piece of cake (literally folks, that’s a tiny piece of wedding cake) or a few kernels of chocolate covered popcorn (curse you Boy Scouts!) or I can avoid the garbage food trap altogether. Once I’ve changed the tape from “I may as well give in” to, “This is brownie is going to wreck my happiness”, I can win the argument that goes on in my melon.
This takes a ton of practice, and because of that reality, a Higher Power of your understanding wouldn’t hurt (sure helps me), along with a friend I can call in a moment of indecision (or worse, poor decision).
In the end, diet works for me not because I have a prescription for some magic pill, or because I eat the equivalent of a field of some concoction of herbs and roots wrapped up in a neat little pill (all of that crap is hoo-ha by the way). I don’t need diet books or to eat only veggies… Nope, none of that. Because I’m an ex-drunk, I learned long ago I have to cease fighting. I have to give up to win.
To wrap this up, if you read to this point you may be scratching your head… I wrote about winning an argument with a committee member in my own freaking melon! How could that be “not fighting”!?
Very perceptive indeed! When I changed the tape, I got so good at countering that first thought with a positive second thought (or three), that I don’t have to fight anymore. The healthy, good, positive thought becomes natural. Enough practice and I don’t even have to contemplate how good that brownie would taste, I don’t have to entertain that first thought. I just discard it as I would a banana peel after eating the fruit. I learned how not to have the argument in the first place. I surrendered, and won. At the same time.
Try it, you’ll like it. Just remember, this takes practice.
Some people cycle for the beautiful scenery.
Some, for the camaraderie.
Some, for the bikes. After all, a cyclist can own the equivalent of a Ferrari for less than $5,000. When it comes to midlife crisis hobbies, while cycling is anything but cheap, you could do a lot worse – and at least a bike runs on fat…
Or how about the fitness itself? Eat more veggies? Look, vegetables are great, but put a bacon and pepperoni pizza up against a cucumber or tofurckey and chia seeds… Oh, I know, couscous is awesome. Yeah, I’ll have the pizza. Butter-garlic crust. Simple fact is, unless you’re okay with eating like a rabbit (and some are, God Bless ’em), you have to be active.
…And the climbers, who find joy simply in climbing a tough mountain pass.
Then there are the adventurers. Those who load up their bike and head out for a camping week (end). Or maybe just a day-long trip to explore new roads (or 100 mile-long bike trails)…
I love all of it. I have my Ferrari. It’s beautiful, fast and fun. I have my wife and friends, climbing vacations, cycling weekender’s with my wife, beautiful scenery…
…And do we have adventures! Trips this year included Boyne City, Michigan for Mountain Mayhem: Beat the Heat, The Horsey Hundred in Kentucky, my first DALMAC…
But I also love the mundane, the everyday bike ride, the 30 mile club ride that, even though it’s the same route every day, is never the same ride twice. There’s the same 16 mile route my wife and I have ridden four days a week, all season long. There are the weekend rides that we always manage to enjoy but cover much of the same asphalt, week in and week out. Cycling is what I make of it. I can concentrate on its imperfections – I can choose to concentrate on its flaws or the fears associated with those flaws or I can concentrate on the vast array of positives that come with a life on two wheels. For the benefits to my marriage alone, I wouldn’t trade it.
One way or another, my fitness is almost as important to me as my sobriety. Stay sober or die hard, stay fit or die hard. When I was a kid, thinking about how cool it would be to be in control of my own money, to have the means to go on adventurous vacations and do fun things, to enjoy life… I never saw myself doing that on a bike, but that sure is the way it turned out.
Thou Shalt Slam Thy Stem: Part Two, the Reckoning (or alternately, only if you’re young and wildly flexible).
I reported yesterday morning that I’d decided to slam my stem as low as it could go. When I bought the bike, it looked like this:
That’s 20 millimeters of spacers below the stem. The bike was okay like that but I had my saddle two millimeters too high and that was caught during my Specialized Body Geometry fitting.
When we lowered the saddle, I didn’t want to mess with my drop from the nose of the saddle to the bar top so I took one of the five millimeter spacers and moved that from below the stem to above the stem. That worked so well I went another step further and put 10 mm of spacers above and 10 below:
After I got used to that, and when I upgraded my handlebar I decided to take it one step further. 15 mm above the stem and 5 mm below:
There it stayed for a considerable amount of time because that setup was exceptionally comfortable and it allowed me to ride low, aerodynamically.
One of the pompous, yet fashionable, rules regarding spacers and stems is that there shouldn’t be any spacers, especially on a race bike such as mine (even if I don’t race it).
Well, for another post (and a nagging desire to be fashionably correct), I finally decided to slam the stem and see how that felt…
The idea is, if I felt comfortable riding with the stem slammed, I’d take the fork in this winter and have it cut down so I could lose the spacers above the stem. To finally get that last piece of tailoring done.
After 26 miles on Friday, I went into Saturday very optimistic. It only took 14 hard miles with my friend Mike and my wife to question that optimism. 30 miles later and I was struggling mightily to keep pace – 44 miles laid waste to that optimism, and I still had four left to get home.
I struggled with numbness in places that don’t do well to be numb, my legs felt sluggish and sore, as did my shoulders and neck. A case of too much of a good thing is bad. I thought about trying to suck it up for Sunday, thinking maybe another 50 would shake things loose, but while watching the baseball game I had a change of heart.
15 mm above, 5 below, until I can get that fork into the shop to have the excess cut off and lose at least that 10 mm spacer on top.
I came to the conclusion that at 45 years-old, I can leave that last bit of fashion for vanity to the kids who are flexible enough to ride that low. It’s just too much for me, and I’m okay with it.
Fast is a balance of comfort and aerodynamic positioning on the bike. Too much of either good thing, in my case, is bad. Better to be fast and comfortable than slow and uncomfortable for the sake of fashion. At least that experiment was mercifully short.
Yep, 46-1/2 miles later and I know switching back was the right thing to do… I spent most of the ride either first or second bike and even had to dial it back a few times to keep from dropping everyone.
I’ve had one spacer below my stem, just a 5 mm spacer, for going on two years now. I finally decided that it’s time to have the extra cut off the fork, so as soon as the snow flies the fork is going to the shop for surgery.
That led to some serious thought yesterday morning…
“Why don’t I slam that stem all the way? It’ll look cool… Maybe it’ll open my hips just a little more. It’ll look cool. Maybe I’ll be able to ride a little lower, cheat the wind a little more… Yeah.
I’m a little nervous though, after all this time on the perfect bike, why mess with perfection?
What if I mess up perfection?!
Ah, but what if what I had wasn’t all the way perfect. What if lower is better?
…It is. So far, it’s even more perfect. 26 miles after and it’s easier to ride better.
Tomorrow will be 40+, and maybe 50 on Sunday. Then I will know for sure… Though when I finally have my stem cut to size this winter, I’ll have a single 5 mm spacer on top of the stem.
I’ll tell you it’ll be there so I don’t fray the end of the carbon. And that will be a great reason to have a spacer above the stem… But that won’t really be the real reason.
The real reason is, after thousands of miles on that bike in a state of utter happiness, should a guy mess with perfection?
Better safe than sorry. Once you cut it off, you can’t put it back on.
Still, man did that feel sweet yesterday.
I love my problems.
I mentioned a while back that I wanted to drop a few pounds before DALMAC. I did and well, it took a minute, like two more weeks than I’d wanted, but I’m done.
The other day, Mrs. Bgddy said so. Now, she didn’t actually say, “Cut it out.” Close though. See, I know my wife, and “Wow, you lost some weight.” means more than that.
Being with the same woman for more than twenty years, you come to learn that certain phrases mean something more than what the words actually mean on their own. Make sense? If you’ve been married for more than a few years, that makes perfect sense.
In this case, my keen Little Orphan Annie decoder ring says “Wow, you lost some weight” also includes the following: “I love you, my knight in shining armor, but let’s stop at Mark Cavendish rather than going all Chris Froome on me, eh?”
See, and this is kind of ironic (or maybe twisted), I’m like anyone else. I don’t see my body like other people see me, except years later, in photos. Three years ago, I felt a little fat in the gut. I was skinny as a rail:
I gave that jersey away because it doesn’t fit in the arms and shoulders anymore. Point is, I don’t do the whole “scale” thing because I’m thin enough now that it really doesn’t work. My legs are easily five pounds heavier (maybe more), each, than they were in that photo – just in muscle mass alone. If I went by the scale I would drive myself crazy trying to hit an imaginary number. Instead, I rely on what I see in the mirror in addition to what my wife sees. I know if I’m exactly smack-dab, right in the middle of what I think I want and what my wife wants, I’m pretty close to exactly where I want to be… well, call it close enough to perfect for a 45 year-old kid.
With that, allow me to share what I did to get results. First, there was obviously a lot of this:
Then, in my diet, to drop my five or ten pounds… I quit snacking on candy and soda entirely, except for a Snickers or Payday and a Coke on a ride longer than 50 miles. Then, and this was really tough, I cut out lunchtime fast food burgers and switched to a footlong Subway Italian BMT with spinach, green peppers, onions and cucumbers and mayo :D. I know, the mayo’s not the best, but it’s yummy. Also, I went with the full sub rather than the half – half just wasn’t enough fuel for the engine of that bike.
After two weeks I realized I was blowing $40-$50 a week on subs, which seemed a little excessive as one can buy a lot of ham, salami and pepperoni for $40… My wife picked up the 8″ buns. Two subs were too much, so I packed just a little bit more meat in there and stuck with one… That did the trick and the inches burned off, quick.
Now, to be fair, I already had a decent diet, with the exception of my love of fast food and restaurant burgers. I was also, at the time I decided to lose a little weight, not heavy by any stretch. I just wanted to drop a few pounds, quick, to make the hill climbing involved in a four-day 380 mile tour, easier.
Still, as much as I would like to deny it’s true, fast food in my diet is all but impossible to cycle off. I can, and did, ride enough to maintain my weight but there was no way I could lose weight with fast food in my diet. I’ve never liked the saying “you can’t outride a bad diet” (I can’t outrun a bad diet, that’s for sure) because I think it oversimplifies reality for the sake of a cool-sounding phrase. However, I think I have to forego burger joints except for special occasions because I’m much happier with how I look today than I was four weeks ago.
There is no place for a daily burger in my life. Simple as that.
While I’m much happier like this…:
…than the skinny guy in the photo above from three years ago (though I’d take the skinny guy over the pushing 200 pounds Jim any day of the week and twice on Sunday), in the midst of 200 mile weeks, I still managed to put on weight because I’m not eating wisely. In other words, I didn’t outride a bad diet.
So, while I will never push a vegetarian diet, I’ve proven that I absolutely can’t do “anything goes” either, even at 10,000 km a year.