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Monthly Archives: February 2016

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Social Problems with Being a Cyclist: It’s not Only the Genes, It’s the Jeans too…

Being a cyclist, the days of putting on the socks after your jeans are over.  One must learn to dress from the ground up.

Why?

Well, unless you dress in sweat pants, in which case shame on you, getting your feet high enough to put on your socks after you’ve put a pair of blue jeans on is almost as difficult as trying to wrestle an alligator… but with no teeth trying to rip chunks of meat off of your bones.

If you’re a cyclist and haven’t run into this yet, pedal harder.  You will.

Being a cyclist presents one of those interesting social problems that most people simply aren’t prepared to deal with mentally.  You buy a bike thinking once you lose weight, it’ll be awesome because your clothes are going to fit better than they have in years.

So you get on your brand new bike and start pedaling.  You go from four miles being a major journey to forty being a walk in the park.  You drop weight like it’s going out of style and find that active dieting is a lot easier and more fun than dieting like everyone else has to.  You go out shopping for a new wardrobe, then you do it again…

Finally you hit that magic weight, your college or high school weight that you’ve been working for and you rejoice.

The celebration includes going out to buy a pair of skinny jeans.  You are pumped!

You head out to your favorite “I can’t shop there because I’m too fat” store, triumphantly take a pair of jeans that should be your size off the stand, march over to the fitting room, shut the door behind you with a “that’s right, bitches” attitude…  You’ve made it!

And you can’t get the leg over your calf muscle, let alone over your toned, enormous thigh.

That’s a worst case scenario of course… Still, if you think there’s a magic weight where everything will fit right and all will be wonderful, well just remember to put your socks on first.

Such is the life.  It works if you work it.  It won’t if you don’t.

*Disclaimer:  There is a way around this, especially for the ladies who don’t want bulk…  Easy gears and pedal fast.  All of the tone, less bulk.

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Observations on Road Cycling: Stretched Out or Scrunched Up…

I went out for a ride with my friends a few weeks ago and was unceremoniously dropped, way too early with cramping quads.  As I’ve had some time to think about it, there were several factors at play that hampered my performance.

First, as I wrote shortly after it occurred, was a hydration issue.  I’d recently switched from Hammer to an upcoming brand and, put simply, it isn’t enough for heavy exertion cycling – it’s calorie free so there’s no easy fuel in it.  Second, I noticed, on the trainer, how much more stretched out I am on the Trek (and my Venge, they’re as close as I can get the two bikes) compared to the Cannondale I’d been training on while the Trek was getting its new paint job.

I’m a firm believer in the idea that your body adapts to what you train on.  The setup on the Cannondale, to put it mildly, is all wrong.  The crank arms are too short, the frame is too small, they don’t make a stem long enough and the saddle won’t go back far enough to give me a the proper setback to the pedals.  I knew this going into the winter, that I’d be stuck training on a bike that wouldn’t allow me to stretch out as I normally do, but other than the fact that I had to work a lot harder to push an easier gear, I became quite used to the setup.  Now that I’ve got my Trek back and I’m stretched out like I should be, it felt weird on the trainer getting started again.  I’ve since adapted quite a bit, to where it’s comfortable again (it took a couple of weeks).

I had a lot more power going to the pedals and I could breathe a lot easier but man, did I run out of gas fast.  I’ve been training for long enough on that tiny Cannondale that the new ride threw me for a loop.

With that backstory out of the way, It sure is nice being properly stretched out again.  I wonder if this doesn’t go back to the comfort vs. performance argument though.  Fitting in the tighter cockpit was actually very nice…  I wasn’t so scrunched up that it hampered my breathing or made me arch my back, it was just a little bit of a tighter fit.

As a general rule, call it more of a guideline, the idea when setting a bike up is that when you’re riding and your hands are on the hoods, the view of your front hub should be obscured from view by the handlebar or you should only be able to see part of the hub – maybe a couple of millimeters in front of the leading edge of the handlebar.

With the Trek, the hub is entirely obscured by the handlebar.  Same on the Venge (but that’s a guestimation because I have an aero/blade handlebar).  On the Cannondale however, not only can I see the entire hub, it’s a good 4-6 cm in front of the leading edge of the bar – and I have a 110 mm stem on it.  The Cannondale is a 54 cm frame, the Venge is a 56 cm and the Trek is a 58.  I’m 6’0″ tall so 56 is as small as I should go with a compact frame (sloped top tube) and 58 is recommended for a Standard frame.   In other words, to get the Cannondale to fit right, I’d need an offset seat post, a longer stem than they make and a new crankset with 172.5 mm crank arms… and then the geometry would still be a little messed up (but at least better).

Where this gets interesting is that the tighter fit in the cockpit, while terribly inefficient, is more comfortable. This will eventually work itself out with saddle time but getting used to being stretched out again has been a bit of a chore.  In other words, I’ve had to retrain my body to be comfortable stretched out again because I spent a month and some change getting used to the tighter fit of the Cannondale.

Of course, for posterity’s sake, everyone should be lucky enough to have my problems.

Stretched out…wp-1455670742243.jpg

Stretched out…wp-1455453399929.jpg

NOT Stretched out…wp-1452628755835.jpg

 

The Joy of Cycling… If Only It Didn’t COST SO MUCH! Well Now, Let’s Look At That in Perspective….

Being a typical male, hell call me a stereotypical male, I’m cool with it, I like to drop some coin on my hobby de jour. For a time it was running. Then a couple of others that tend to anger the haters so I’ll gloss over those as if they were of no consequence. Now, as has been for coming up on five years now, cycling.

As I’ve made painfully clear over the last four or five years, I don’t drink, smoke, run around or have any other hobbies. I could golf, in fact I’m quite good, but I have more fun on a bike and two big hobbies is too much to ask my family to cope with. I’ve also hinted that, other than our bikes, we lead a fairly humble life. The tough part about coming out and saying that is, well, if you have to tell someone you’re humble, you probably aren’t.

To me, cycling is the quintessential hobby.

While there is no doubt, cycling can get expensive in a hurry, as far as a hobby goes, if you’re going to spend some money, what better than on something that not only will ensure good health for decades to come but will aid in continued mobility? What better than to spend time with others who are following the same path?

I’ll put cycling up against golf, motorcycles, sports cars or any other midlife crisis hobby any day of the week and twice on Sunday. I guarantee you, only one of those hobbies will have you climbing several flights of stairs with your heart rate peaking at 60 beats per minute.

Contrast:

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$5,000.  Runs on fat.

 

Or….

 

I can purchase anywhere from six to forty bikes (depending on exactly how “high-end” one wanted to go) for the cost of that beautiful Corvette Stingray in the photo above (my “if I win the lotto” sports car).  The photo of the Vette is from Cheverolet’s website.

Also consider, while an active lifestyle doesn’t guarantee one’s health, as many detractors are wont to point out, it does, across the board, virtually guarantee better health. With the exception of my Obamacare, which I’m forced to maintain, in the last decade I’ve spent no money at a doctor’s office on poor health. No money on prescriptions. No lost productivity at work other than a few sick days for a flu or two…

In other words, I’ve been able to spend my money on the McLaren of bicycles rather than throwing it at a doctor’s Mercedes.

image

These facts notwithstanding, the reality of what is absolutely necessary when it comes to cycling widely varies and is absolutely open, at least until some hack bureaucrat or dope of a politician decides otherwise, to choice – what may be necessary for me will be an utter waste of money for most other cyclists.  The cost is relative.

I have one goal in mind when I ride alone or with anyone other than my wife:  Go FAST.  While fast isn’t necessarily required for fitness and weight loss, the speed is what makes it fun for me.  If I were confined to a mountain bike, I’d still ride but it wouldn’t be near as much fun and I wouldn’t be as into it as I am now.  For the commuter or leisure cyclist, the bike cost is vastly less than what I need (though clothing for the commuter can get hectic pretty quick).  For mountain biking, depending on how far one wants to take it, costs are half that of road cycling, far less that for clothing, however many of the latest, lightest mountain bikes are far more costly than all but the most expensive road machines.

With that out of the way, one last note:  Ride a bike and feed a tree.  It makes the world a greener place.

The Politics of Cookies and Chemophobia

James Kennedy does what I don’t have the patience to do.  He explains chemophobia eloquently, where as I tend to have a chuckle at the expense of those who think they’re living better than the rest of the world because they choose to eat a more “enlightened diet”, all the while they’re fueled by ignorance and an amazing willingness to throw their money out a window.

On the $$$ fuelling Chemophobia – Part 3 – http://wp.me/p1s2vn-pGV

Imagine two identical cookies sitting on a table.  One is marked “biscuit”, the other is marked “organic, locally produced, carbon neutral biscuit”.  The cookies are identical.  Not made from the same stuff, one ethically and the other non-ethically…  No, the cookies are identical, in other words the only thing that is different is the label.

The quoted study showed people liked the taste of the carbon neutral, organic, locally produced cookie better.  As professor Kennedy puts it:

Manufacturers are taking advantage of this psychological trick by writing meaningless claims of moral superiority such as “natural”, “pure” and “free from {insert harmless ingredient here}” on their product labels to justify price increases at the point of sale.

Better still, later in his post he posts a chart that illustrates “Nine out of the top ten most dangerous compounds on Earth are naturally-occurring”.

He saves the best for (almost) last:

Some studies even suggest that crops on organic farms produce more pesticide within the leaves in order to protect themselves from increased rates of insect predation. Some of these natural pesticides are actually more potent skin irritants than the synthetic pesticides used in conventional farming methods.

As I’ve written many times, I have a friend who is a major player in food distribution and he laughs all the way to the bank when it comes to organic food.  Put simply, it’s an easy way to take a consumer’s money.

So, my friends, be weary of how intelligent you think you are by demanding the new super food of the day.  While you may think your eating habits separate you from the rubes, chances are more than likely you’re right.  Though you’re the rube.

**This said, my wife and I just purchased an eighth of a cow from a local butcher and I can say this:  If I have a choice, I’ll never buy beef from my local market again, especially ground beef for burgers.  I’ve never tasted such delectable beef in my life and they do use special farming methods with their cattle (minimum use of antibiotics, etc.).  I happen to be an experienced, connoisseur of cow and I’m here to tell you, the burgers I’ve made on the grill over the last two weeks are clearly distinguishable from the burgers I make from beef purchased at the local market.  So it’s not all bad – I’m just not about to make the leap that it’s a morally superior cow – or that someone else is a rube for eating what they choose to eat – because that would be rude and obnoxious.

The Incredible Likeness of Beans: Why Food Addictions Aren’t Far from Drug and Alcohol Addiction

When was the last time you heard a person say, or read a post stating, “Wow, I really over did it with the broccoli last night…  I’m going to have to run an extra ten just to work it off.”

Let me help you, since Jesus was born that statement has never been recorded.  Well, maybe in jest.

I never, as an alcoholic and before, sat down to a twelve pack of Coke with the intention of polishing it off.  I have, on the other hand, sat down to a full case of beer (24 ct.) and polished it off…  More than a few dozen times, as a matter of fact.

Far more likely is the person who will have two pieces of broccoli, drowned in liquid cheese, to justify three trips to the fried chicken end of the buffet… Then blame the resulting bloated cramps and swamp ass on the two pieces of broccoli that put him/her over the top. Mention of the liquefied cheese will be intentionally, accidentally left out, of course.

It is what it is.

Food addictions and alcohol/drug addictions share an intensely important trait:  Self-will run riot.  This is why willpower breaks down, this is why diets don’t last and why gym memberships lapse every March.  Put simply, when the self-will is allowed to roam free, you’re pooched.

The assumption is often made by folks who visit my pages that I have a lot of willpower or that I have a good deal of self-control.  This is far from true, in fact I’m working on scientific proof that a potato indeed has more willpower than I do.  I do have discipline and that’s what keeps me out of trouble.  Put in the wrong situations, I’m just as susceptible as anyone else to end up sliding my way to obesity.  In fact, if I did allow that to happen, it wouldn’t even be the first time I decided to quit fighting and get fat.  It would be the second.  The first occurred something like 14 years ago now and I’ve yet to look back.

There is a beautiful aspect to my recovery, both from flab and from booze.  I know how to quit, and I’m damned good at it.  It may take me a while to get there, but once I do, I don’t go back.  How?  I know how to quit fighting the sickness (whether of mind or body).  The correct way to quit the fight is best described as this:  I know if I put myself in a position to fail, eventually I will fail.  The odds are stacked against me and my recovery Kung Fu is only so good.  On the other hand, if I avoid putting myself in the position to fail entirely…  I win.  I don’t have the fight.

Sadly, the length of time I’ve got since my last destructive idea doesn’t necessarily ensure that I’ll continue on my current path either.  Like my recovery from alcoholism, my desire to stay fit and trim is based on a daily reprieve.  Either I continue doing the things that keep me fit or I start sliding back to my old “stinkin’ thinkin'”.

This is the discipline…

Or maybe the fear that if I slip I just might not make it back.

You say tomato…

Reasons For, And Against, Buying a Lesser Model Race Bike to Upgrade It…

I wrote a post the other day that contained a photo of my Specialized Venge with text bubbles that showed each of my upgrades and what I paid for them.

2013VengeComp

Please allow me the opportunity to explain how that bike went from a stock $3,700 bike to what you see in that photo.  First, I got it on sale, end of season so I only paid $3,100.  That’s a 2013 though and aero race bikes were just starting to light up the cycling world so I had to pay a “Cool and Popular” upcharge for it.  Today, the same exact bike I bought, though it now comes standard with the Aerofly handlebar, is $2,800.  That said, $3,000 was a little beyond what I could honestly justify for a bicycle but I fell in lust for it when I saw it sitting on display in the shop.  I ended up pulling some of the profit out of my corporation to pay for the bike and the bribe I gave to my wife for letting me buy it in the first place.

Over the next two years I went about upgrading it.  First the wheels, which were sorely needed.  It was amazing to me the crap wheels they put on a $3,700 bike.  It makes sense, really, when you look at it from a certain perspective.  Put decent wheels on that bike and upgrade the components from 105 to Dura Ace and you’ve got an $8,000 bike right there (well, there were quite a few other changes too, as it turned out), right?

Well, if you’ve got the upgrade parts, a good stem and handlebar, the crank, the Dura Ace components and the wheels already, then buying the Venge for $3,100 and slapping on the parts you already have makes sense.

What I have up there is what happens if you A) Don’t really know what you’re doing so you can’t take advantage of picking up parts on eBay or other auction sites, and B) Definitely don’t have the patience to do it like that anyway…

Specialized Venge Pro_2016

This is from Specialized’s website, this morning.  Now, if I paid retail for all of the upgrades I’ve got on my bike, I still end up with a better crank and a lighter stem on my current bike for a couple hundred under that price right there.  On the other hand, the components on the Venge Pro are Dura Ace and those are carbon fiber rims on vastly superior hubs that weigh less than my alloy wheels…  In fact, those wheels retail for five times that the wheels I’ve got on my bike.

There’s another way to look at this:  In order for me to equal the bike above, I’ve gotta put a bunch more in upgrades to get to that level.  Done wisely I might get away with another $2,000.  More than likely it’d be closer to $3,000.  Or, in other words, you can’t win the upgrade game playing by the industry’s rules unless you really know what you’re doing and can wait for the opportunity to get a deal on the pieces you want to buy.  You’re better off buying the higher priced bike than trying to upgrade to it over time.

That said, it really doesn’t matter.  The wheels are a pretty big deal but the Dura Ace components are not.  Sure, they’re a little bit lighter than my 105’s are, but they’re not going to operate much better…  Well, not enough to justify the cost anyway.

In the end, while trying to upgrade to a better bike is far more expensive in the long run, sometimes that is the best way to go when the finances dictate it.  As in my case, it’s far better to pay a little more over time and not have to finance anything.  All things in context though, if the money I spend on cycling was that big a deal, I’d still be running.

Road Cycling Maintenance: Running a Cable for a Font Derailleur

There are two tricks for installing a cable for your front derailleur.

First is getting the tension right, which isn’t all that tough… If you start out in the right gear.  Before you take off the cable the front should be on the smallest chain ring. This is wrong:

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This is correct:

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The second trick is properly routing the cable over the derailleur bolt. Something as simple as running the cable on the wrong side of the bolt will mean your bike won’t shift. There is a little ledge, call it a finger, the cable runs over:

image

From there it runs under the washer:

image

Once you get the routing correct, it’s just a matter of pulling the end tight with a pair of needle-nose pliers and tightening the bolt.

When I did that cable, I didn’t even have to index the derailleur, it worked perfectly.

If you don’t know your derailleurs, take a closeup photo that shows how the cable runs at the bolt before you remove the old cable so you can look at it after you run the new cable.