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Monthly Archives: November 2015

Cycling: Now is the time to make your leaps for next season… A few tips for the turbo trainer when snow shuts you down.

Cycling season is winding down – it’s not quite dead yet, but it’s not all that far off either.  Assuming you’re not out on the bike through the winter, there are few ways to have a go at next season:

  1.  You can hibernate.  Take some time much needed time off, maybe hit the gym a time or two a month.  You plan on going more often but life gets in the way as it always has.  Thanksgiving through Christmas is eating season anyway…  You can get going after the first of the year anyway, right?
  2. You can do enough to get by.  Spin a couple of times a week to keep your legs, maybe take advantage of a decent day or two during the week to squeeze a ride in and worry about hammering into the spring, later.
  3. Use your turbo time to your advantage to get you in shape to be a better cyclist, right now so you’re ahead of the game going into the spring.

Folks, options one and two are pretty much par for the course but what if you could actually use this time to get used to being better on your bike?  Look, if you’re going to ride on a trainer, there isn’t much you’re going to do to get stronger but what if there were a way to work on riding better?  I opt for that.

A fellow blogger wrote a funny little quip the other day…  He wrote, “Running is hard, until it isn’t anymore”.  The way I take that is we end up hitting our stride once we adapt to the effort.  Make sense?  Well, that’s cycling in its entirety – hitting your stride.  I always look at turbo season with disdain but it’s always useful, and here’s how.

First, having been a runner, I tend to be a masher.  Too hard a gear, too much effort up and down.  Trainer season means it’s time to turn the up and down into more of a circular pedal stroke.  This is simple enough, it’s just a matter of getting used to using the full pedal stroke again (I’ve gotten better in the last four years, of course, but there’s always work to be done, yeah?).

Next, I love to do intervals twice a week.  It’s a shorter but much more intense workout that just turning the crank.  1 minute on, two recovery, repeat 6 more times…. with a 4 minute warmup and 5 minute cool down.  I think, if memory serves, that works out to 30 minutes.  By the time I hit that cool down I’ve usually puked in my mouth at least once.  I did this last year and I went into spring stronger than I’d ever been and I felt ripples from that throughout all of the spring and even into summer.

Finally, I like to devote one day a week to riding in the drops, taking the opportunity of not having to worry about looking up for traffic to get used to being lower than I normally ride.  For instance, just yesterday, I’d ride for a while then rest the top of my head on the stem while pedaling.  I’d pedal till that was uncomfortable, then raise back up to my normal position in the drops.  The lower I ride now, the more comfortable I’ll be come springtime. The lower I can ride, comfortably, the better I’ll be come April because riding in an aerodynamic position on the bike is free watts.

As a last little note, my normal way of getting through Thanksgiving and Christmas is to continue to train but keep my diet the same as it was in riding season.  Not this year.  I made some serious headway into becoming a slimmer, more muscular me this past summer.  I’m not going to throw all of that hard work under the bus.  I took a couple of easy weeks but I’m right back on the ball, making the most of my time and eating better than I ever have in the process.  Thanksgiving dinner will be no different than years past, it’s the one day a year where I really don’t care – I eat like I mean it, but I’m not going to continue that through Christmas.

My $700 Anti-Depression Machine… You Can Have One Too! Just not Mine – I Need Mine.

Depression is a tough problem to work through in the best of times without a little help.  As a sober fellow, it’s even trickier because the medication often prescribed can be abused… and if it can be abused, I will abuse it.  I’ve actually seen the effects of someone doing this and it’s not pretty.  In fact, one of my good friends is now feeding worms because he couldn’t treat his medication properly.  It’s a sad story.  Now, rarely will I advocate for medicine over fitness, but in the case of depression, my bouts with it were minor enough and the cause for which was obvious enough that getting myself back on track was possible without a doctor’s help (medical or mental).  There are those who aren’t so fortunate.  There are those who need professional help and they should, without reservation, seek it.

That said, as numerous studies have shown, one of the best, simple steps to achieving excellent mental health is to stay active.  Whether it be running, hiking, riding, swimming, kayaking, camping, or any of the hundreds of ways to enjoy oneself while being active, as long as you’re moving and enjoying yourself, it’ll help.

Enter my $700 anti-depression machine:


While my anti-depression machine looks an awful lot like my Magic CPAP Machine:


…the two should not be confused.  The Magic CPAP Machine is awesome, of this fact there is no doubt, but my Anti-Depression Machine is something special because it provides the owner with a special ability:  The ability to ride it darn-near anywhere.  Single-track bike paths, over roots and rocks, up ridiculously steep hills, the mountain bike can laugh at most terrain and this is special to fighting depression because, with enough practice, it can make the user feel like a kid again – and the key to happiness is to see the world through the eyes of a child.  Now, I had a great childhood, not everyone was so lucky – but that’s where the magic of the mountain bike shines through…  This isn’t the key to the childhood of your past, it’s your key to the childhood of right now, the one that you always wanted to have but circumstances made impossible.

I encourage you, if your childhood sucked and you didn’t have much of an opportunity to smile, buy a mountain bike, put that baggage in a Camelbak backpack, and ride your ass off.  Chances are better than not, you end up with a smile on your face before long and you’ll come to know exactly what I mean by “your childhood of right now”.  No better time than the present.

My $800 Over-the-Counter Anti-Alzheimer’s Machine…

Anyone who’s had a parent with Alzheimer’s knows the medication that keeps them from falling off the Alzheimer’s cliff is expensive.  My dad’s medication, after Medicare cost more than $800 a month (if I remember correctly – it’s been a while) while he was in the medication donut hole.  The point is, that stuff is expensive.  On the other hand, once you get over the side effects, it does slow the progression of the disease.

That said, it is well known that there’s something else, available over the counter without even a prescription, that costs around $800 but only once (not once a month) and actually works better than the medication, if used on a regular basis:


Ladies and gentlemen, meet the common, every day, bicycle.  Actually, my 5200 isn’t exactly what you’d call “common”, that frame is responsible for more State Championship wins than any other frame made.  Still, studies have shown that regular exercise (no easy task, I know) delays or can even prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms.  The trick, of course, is that one can’t simply start exercising once they’re diagnosed and hope for the best results – you’ve got to maintain your fitness as a lifestyle.  I know, this is hard too…  On the other hand, it’s a lot easier than dealing with Alzheimer’s at an early age.

So, pick your poison.  Fitness now or a medication that costs more than a decent mortgage later.  Of course, on the negative side, you’ll need a new set of tires, a chain and new brake and shifter cables once a year for a grand total of about $100, so there is that…  Oh, that’s $100 a year, not a month, by the way.

My MAGIC CPAP Machine… Only $5,000.

If you know anything about CPAP Machines, you’re sitting there wondering how I got so screwed, paying five grand for a CPAP machine…

After all, a simple Google search will turn up dozens of CPAP machines around $300-$900.



You’re missing something though… My CPAP machine is magic.  Mine works retro-actively in a mobile fashion when combined with a decent diet to ensure I never need a real CPAP machine to sleep:


Of course, what I’ve spent on that bicycle isn’t representative of the cost of a normal bike, mine weighs about the same as a bowling ball – not much when you’re talking about a machine that can top 30 pounds fairly easily…  In most cases, you can get a fairly decent bike for less than the cost of a decent CPAP machine and still forego the mask…  Either way, inexpensive or exorbitant, being able to breathe freely without a mask strapped to my face is worth every freaking penny.

It takes some effort on my part.  It’s still a bike, you have to pedal it, but that’s half the fun anyway.

Try it, you just might like it.

Power Line: The Week in Pictures: Don’t Have to Live Like a Refugee Edition

Power Line: The Week in Pictures: Don’t Have to Live Like a Refugee Edition.


Bicycle Maintenance 101 with Professor Jim: You can’t Break it Bad Enough the Shop Can’t Fix It

The number one rule for maintaining a bicycle is that you can’t break a bike bad enough the shop can’t fix it.  So you may as well get after it.


My steering on the 5200 has been vexing me since, I don’t know, a year after I bought the bike but it never rose to the level I had to mess with it…  Until two weeks ago.  This all started about six weeks ago when I started getting the bike ready for the fall. 

Being my rain bike now, the 5200 sees all of the nasty stuff I won’t ride my Venge in.  That means the lower steering bearing gets massively abused.  I noticed a little play in the fork on my first ride on the bike after getting it set.  Now when I write “a little”, I mean “almost imperceptible”.  I am a little silly about these things.

Anyway, the normal fix for this is ridiculously simple.  It’s a threaded setup (Trek went with threadless the year after my bike was made, in 2000) but it’s just as easy either way.  Loosen the quill stem, loosen the lock nut, tighten the lower set nut, tighten the lock nut, check for wiggle, line the handlebar up, tighten the quill, done.

Unfortunately when the sealed lower bearing is worn out and you tighten the stem up, it’s too tight for the bearing to operate smoothly.  In my case, the steering still worked, it just pinched a little bit so I could feel I the drag when I turned the handlebar.

So I’m sitting there Friday and I decided I’d had enough. The bike is going to be painted in a month or two and, against shop recommendations, I was going to get the steering sorted right now.

Having a bit of knowledge about the threadless system, I commenced to pulling everything apart, assuming it would look exactly like my ’91 Cannondale (that I’d serviced once or twice in the past).  I was mistaken.  I didn’t panic though, because I’ve serviced the threadless headset on the Venge a couple of times now and the 5200 was a mix of the old-school and the brand new.  Quill stem, sealed bearings and spacers… 

I took the fork off, pulled the spacers off, pulled the top bearing out, cleaned it and the head tube.  Then I pulled the lower bearing and gave it a spi… it barely moved.  I knew that meant a new bearing.

While I had the front end apart, I’d been wanting to lose a couple of spacers so I figured I’d take the fork in to the shop with the bearing and have it cut down while I was at it.

I disconnected the break cable and took the worn out bearing, the fork, the two spacers I wanted gone (so the mechanic knew how much to cut off of the fork stem) and the set nut (just in case – so the guys could see that it was a Shimano 105 headset) to the shop, figuring I’d either luck out and they’d have a new bearing or have to order one.

I walked into the shop and explained everything. Mike, the mechanic, looked at the bearing and immediately went to the computer to look for a replacement. No luck, though he said he could clean it and repack the bearings and get it close. Then we picked out a replacement assembly and settled on a Chris King, the only one available in the size I needed.

I picked the bearing up the next morning and had everything back together, properly adjusted (including the brakes) ten minutes after I walked in the door, and now my steering is properly loose and the fork is tight. It’ll easily last until I’m relegated to the trainer for the winter and can take my bike in for its new paint job. I’ll just use the Cannondale on the trainer.

Now, next to the set screws on a derailleur, the steering assembly is about as difficult as it gets. Well, maybe assembling an S-Works crank would be worse… Actually, yeah, that’s a lot tougher – but most people aren’t lucky enough to have to deal with that. Point is, the only really hard part of working on bikes is knowing the proper steps involved in making the repairs.

So look them up and give it a go… If you mess up, just take your steed and ask them to show you where you went wrong. You’ll likely get your bike fixed right away and you’ll learn something.

Just remember, if they hook you up, tip the mechanic.

Winter came just a little early…

Yep, a bike ride on the old Venge is pretty much out of the question today…




We got a little snow yesterday.