After sucking a tandem’s wheel all weekend long, Mrs. Bgddy and I took ours out for what was supposed to be an easy recovery ride – 30 miler.
Recovery ride pace on our tandem is probably around 17 mph, about the same as the single bikes, maybe a shade faster.
After a wonderful 155 miles over the last two days down in Kentucky on terrain vastly more hilly that we’re used to, a good recovery day seemed the perfect way to cap a wonderful long Holiday weekend. With vast amounts of sunshine and a perfect 65 degrees in the morning, a day off a bike was absolutely out of the question.
The first mile was at recovery pace.
The second mile and the 29-1/2 that came after were something other than recovery. We ended up finishing with a 19.2 mph average.
I learned quite an interesting lesson on the tandem today. While I am strong enough to make the bike go faster, without my wife helping, I’m not strong enough to will us along for very long. We have to work together. For the first half of the ride I figured I’d try to help the process, whereby my wife would simply know when to push a little harder by seeing body language rather than an actual use of words. It didn’t go well. I did get a hell of a workout in, on the plus-side.
The second half, after a constructive talk, went much better. We were cruising easy between 21 & 23 mph and I wasn’t working near as hard as I had to for the first half. We seemed to hit a band of effort where we were working together and cycling got a lot better in a hurry.
The truth is, as with most things related to cycling, I want the payoff – speed – to materialize without having to figure out the intricacies. On a solo bike, this is quite simple. You just pedal harder and faster. On a tandem, where I have to rely on my wife to work with me when her goals differ slightly from mine (my wife wants to be fast too, sure, but she wants to enjoy riding the bike first – which means my trying to power through every little change in elevation presents a conflict).
One thing I can say for certain, I’m glad my wife and I are where we are in our marriage now, opposed to trying a tandem 15 years ago… With a solid foundation of love and understanding beneath us that only came with time, experience and acceptance, learning to work together on a bike is a lot easier than learning to work together in a marriage.
My wife and I dropped off the kids at my mom’s house Friday morning and hit the road for Georgetown, Kentucky, our second year on what has become a “can’t miss” road trip in our cycling season.
We were meeting our usual Horsey Hundred friends Diane and Adam, Mike and Chuck. This year, Matt and his wife, Barb came down.
For the Saturday ride Matt, Mike and my wife did the 100k because Mike’s hamstring was bugging him. My wife had to be talked into the 100k, she’d intended on doing the 40-something mile route while Matt was more than happy with 100k…
The ride starts in Georgetown, goes through Frankfort (as you can see) and loops back around past the Jim Beam distillery (heh again) before heading back to Georgetown. Not before hitting several mountain passes, however. While the climbs weren’t huge or long enough to be all that tough, I’d say roughly 2% of the hundred two miles is on actual, real, flat ground. The rest you’re either going up or down. It is not an easy century. It is exceptionally beautiful, fun, fast (at times – we hit 45+ mph many times) and takes place on the best road surfaces I’ve ever had the pleasure of riding. We ended up completing the course in 5h:40m but the last two miles were slowed by all of the other routes converging and a huge amount of cycling traffic… We had an 18.2 mph average as we passed 100 miles on the nose.
The $70 entry fee covers dinner after the big ride and they put on a decent spread that included some of the best noodle salad (heh) I’ve ever eaten, some bullshit quinoa slop that I skipped for obvious reasons, pulled BBQ chicken sammiches, stir fry and an excellent salad bar. We ate well and rehydrated.
Later, we all went out for a late afternoon snack and got together again that evening for ice cream at Culver’s. Falling asleep that night was easy, even in the hotel bed.
Then came the Sunday ride. We were all together for that, except Matt and Barb who chose to ride later and shorter than the 53 mile route we chose.
We rolled out at 7:15 am. The Sunday route is a lot easier as far as climbing goes and Diane and Adam took it a little slower. The pace was perfect for an enjoyable Sunday ride. I was even able to snap a few photos between hills.
Truthfully I was amazed at how soon we were done. Just under three hours and they were among the most enjoyable 50 miles I’ve ever ridden. Plenty of hills, lots of tight, fast corners that required technical cornering skills and a perfect pace. Just five tenths of a mile per hour slowly than Saturday’s century. I was actually bummed that it was all over.
Road trips are, undeniably, one of the coolest aspects of cycling and something that every cyclist should try, provided you have the friends in the first place. There’s just something amazingly special about sharing effort over a lot of miles with a tight group of friends, then refueling with them, sharing stories and laughs about the day’s ride.
The S-Works Venge ViAS Di2. $13,000
The Venge Comp (2013): $5,000 including 1,460 gram wheel set, FSA carbon wrapped stem, S-Works Aerofly handlebar and S-Works carbon crank and spider upgrades.
Venge ViAS Di2 weight: 17.8 pounds
Venge Comp weight: 16.8 pounds
That’s right, my Venge Comp is a pound lighter than the ViAS. And I have $8,000 less into it.
Venge ViAS Di2 aerodynamics: Dude. Off the charts.
Venge Comp aerodynamics: Pretty damned good, though the wheels are obviously lacking, especially compared to the Roval 60’s (though I could put the Roval 40’s on my bike with no weight penalty – that’s just a matter of fundage).
While the front end aerodynamics of both bikes are quite close, with the obvious exceptions being wheels and brakes, and the fact that there are no exposed cables on the front (which looks even better in person imao), the back end aerodynamics of the ViAS are simply off the hook. If you could draft a twig on my Comp, you can draft a piece of cooked spaghetti on the ViAS.
Now there’s an important question in there and “Is the aerodynamic advantage greater?,” is not it. Of course it’s greater, any fool with eyeballs can see that.
The question is, “Is the aerodynamic advantage worth $8,000“?
See, what we do know about aerodynamics is that you actually have to be fast in the first place to make it work. We know this is so because we know that, as speed increases, so does air or wind resistance. The trick is wind resistance increases exponentially as speed does (and thus the power needed to push it aside). Thus the need to cut through it.
The truth is, you would have to be exceptionally fast in the first place just to notice the difference between a ViAS and my Comp. For that reason, this is a very personal question that must be answered.
I’m fast, there’s no doubt about it. I’m not that fast, though.
While the Venge ViAS is a stunning piece of engineering, it’s exceptionally more pleasing to the eye up close and in person that it is in photos, I’m not fast enough to justify $8,000 more than what I’ve got into my bike already.
That said, if I had $13,000* sitting around that needed to be spent to justify my taxes (legally, of course) and if i weren’t teetering on S-1, I’d snap one up in a second.
*If you watch eBay you can find gently a used Venge ViAS from $7,000 – $9,000. Now that price point is a little more enticing.
That’s right ladies and gentlemen, I just hit fighting weight.
No change in diet. Burgers, pizza, even a soda once in a blue moon (nothing, and I mean nothing, is better than an ice cold Coke 50 miles into a 75 mile ride)… It’s all good.
Simply miles, time, and choosing to refrain from overeating.
I am a lean, mean, cycling machine.
I received two compliments yesterday, from a new customer of mine and an acquaintance. Yet another from one of the guys I ride with, Tuesday.
For a rare few, it makes sense to me that fitness can be a little more difficult than sensibility, time, and effort. For the rest of us, myself included, it’s all good times and noodle salad as long as I stick with the program.
Life isn’t always easy but is good. One day at a time.
My goals have always been fairly simple. Break 3-1/2 hours on a 100k bike ride. Crushed it. Break five hours on 100 miles. Smoked it by more than 23 minutes. Then there were broader goals. Look better shirtless, lose 10 pounds… Again, simple.
What I did avoid, and will continue to avoid, is talking about intentions. Another fitness pitfall that I won’t partake in is making plans for the sake of procrastinating.
What comes first? The intention, the goal or the plan?
This is the concept I live by: Action comes first.
The problem with creating goals and plans or working with intentions is that I often have a tough time thinking outside of my little box. I can’t make a plan to lose weight if I don’t actually know how to do it. I can’t set goals if I have no idea what I’m actually capable of to begin with. No, I have to buy the bike before I can set a goal to ride it 100 miles. In fact, I had to ride it around the four mile block before I could make a goal for eight miles. Heck, I had to buy a better bike before I could even make a goal for 15 miles (my first bike was about 3 sizes too small).
Everything I’ve accomplished with running, triathlon, cycling and overall fitness, and it’s a lot, has been done with action first.
When I saw a double-chin in the mirror, I didn’t formulate a plan to start running. I didn’t buy a bunch of crap (clothing, shoes, etc.). All of that came after I dug out an old pair of leather tennis shoes, put on some loose shorts and a cotton tee shirt and started running. With cycling, I grew bored with running so I bought a POS bike at a garage sale for $20 and I rode it… That day. I didn’t formulate a plan of attack. I didn’t make a bunch of goals I didn’t know if I could or couldn’t live up to… I just rode – and the plans and goals came later.
I didn’t waste any time trying to figure things out, I just did them and sorted the rest out in the wash. Eventually I learned how to make goals for events and how to train for them. I learned how to enjoy my time with friends that I met through running and cycling…
Action always comes first though.
Oh, and don’t get me started on intentions. They’re about as useful as politicians. I look at intentions as my dad suggested long ago: Put an intention in one hand and shit in the other. Tell me which hand fills up first.
Ride hard my friends. You only get one body, one model year. Treat it well.
I ride with a fast club and we’re getting faster. I can’t keep up if I take a turn at the front anymore. On the other hand, I can’t avoid taking my turns either. I try to, it just doesn’t work out. I feel like I’m letting everyone else down for staying at the back.
Trick is, once we hit 28-30 mph and stay there, my miles are numbered. I have two friends who are better at hiding than I am who can make it a little farther with the group than I… Funny thing is, in a “B” group ride, I have no problem spending time up front and those two still hide a bit. This is not about my two friends though, it’s about me…. My problem is that I won’t hide.
I was dropped last night somewhere between 10 & 12 miles. We were at 28 mph dead into a 10-12 mph wind. Dude.
I’d worked my way up front again and I was hit a quarter mile after I hit second bike back. No way I was pulling through so I signaled for the guy behind me to move up and pulled out of the line, letting the group go. If I can’t handle taking my turn, I’d rather be off the back… The group had been reduced by half already anyway – and to put this into perspective, with that kind of headwind last year, 23 mph was fast.
I decided to chill out and enjoy the ride back rather than push it. With the Horsey Hundred coming up this weekend, trying to hold an average simply didn’t make any sense. Besides, I’ve been riding that route for something like four years now and I’ve never really bothered to enjoy the route. It wasn’t necessarily a slow ride but I wasn’t exactly tearing it up either – I kept it between 19 and 21 mph and took it easy up the hills.
I rode alone for the next fifteen miles or so before one of the normal Sunday crew caught up to me. We rode side-by-side at an easy 22 mph and talked about the group the way it is right now, and both of our lack of willingness to push hard enough to keep up with them… For both of us it comes down to “why”? Why push that hard to go that fast? Why not take it down a couple of miles an hour, have a good ride, eat some pizza and call it good? Instead, our ride has turned into the Tuesday night Cat 3 race…
This brought about the idea that maybe we “B” guys should simply start five minutes after the “A” guys so we don’t have to deal with being splintered up over 20 miles. I think I’m going to start lobbying hard for that.
UPDATE: Geez, I almost forgot! The “Stung” part of the title… I was stung in the face about halfway through the ride last night! Now, normally it’s just a little pain and you push through it, right? Well, I’m mildly allergic to bee stings (more so with horsefly bites). I’m riding down the road, a smile on my face and BAM! Right under my left eye. Interestingly, the sting only hurt for a minute but I started experiencing cramping in my feet and my back hurt like someone hit me with a 2×4 by the end of the ride. I ended up feeling fine a couple of hours later and was never in any real danger, but it was weird.
Yesterday evening was perfect for cycling. Now, allow me to be very clear here: Any day that it isn’t raining, snowing, sleeting, hailing or blowing beyond what can be considered “Gail-force winds” is pretty much a great day for a ride (notice I left out freezing?).
That said, a great day should never be confused with a perfect day.
A perfect day for a bike ride is thusly described for those troglodytes who don’t ride a bicycle: The good bike was cleaned and lubed early that morning. Not a cloud in the sky. Temperature between 75 and 79 (a perfect 77 in this case). Single-digit breeze between 4 & 7 mph (just enough to feel but not enough to be difficult to cut through).
Last evening was one of those unicorn days. And. It. Was. Freaking. Awesome.
Of course, you can’t win them all… the roads I was stuck with having dropped my girls at swim practice, sucked but I was okay with that. I sucked it up.
Instead of my normal 17 mile course, I extended it by a few to make it an even 20. After a hard 120 mile Saturday and Sunday, and the club ride for tomorrow, I was forced to take it easy and stick to simply spinning my legs ’round. I was a little fast but dammit, it was a perfect day! It’s amazing that I kept it to 18 mph!
Actually, I wanted to blast it so bad that I had to have a fairly continuous smack down going on the committee.
A good, hard day’s work followed by an awesome perfect bike ride… It can get better than that but a lot has to go right.
Keeping my mind occupied so I can enjoy a productive, sober life used to be an order of magnitude harder before I got into fitness. Gratitude was fleeting. Tolerance may have been our code but I didn’t practice it well.
Anyway, with a big long weekend coming up, I’m feeling pretty good about life on two wheels and in general lately. As long as I do the next right thing and “keep my side of the street clean”, good things happen.
My wife and I are growing vastly more competent on our new tandem.
Our test ride (23-1/2 miles) was a little rough and slow because the bike setup was simply “eyeballed”. Still, it was obviously enjoyable enough for us to buy the bike.
Our second foray (44 miles) was awesome for the first 3o-ish miles and a meltdown thereafter. We were both sweating the idea that maybe we’d be better off sticking with solo bikes.
Then we went on two rides during the week, Wednesday and Friday (16 and 30 miles respectively) that were aimed at getting us working together. They succeeded and wildly exceeded my expectations. Our outlook on the tandem improved exponentially.
Then came yesterday’s 50 miler… It started out awesome. We were headed into a stiff cross headwind but we were cutting into it fairly well between 19 and 21 mph. We were working excellently together and our pace was fantastic. I learned too… Where I would normally have worn knee and arm warmers for 58 degrees, I left them home. My wife and I were hiding behind another tandem but we took a nice long turn up front too and I wasn’t having to work as hard as last Sunday’s jaunt. Mrs. Bgddy was cranking out good wattage. I’d also spent some time thinking, the day before, about how I could be a better, more efficient captain – and I came up with a good one. During the group rides I had a tendency to try too hard to hold a wheel. Wind simply isn’t the same on a tandem and there’s a little more room to let a gap form because it’s not all that hard to make it up in a few pedal strokes. The ride went smoother for my lack of urgency – so much that Mrs. Bgddy actually commented about 20 miles in that I was doing a much better job of captaining the bike. Excellent news.
Then we hit 30 miles and my wife started to bonk. It got messy, quick. Not necessarily between us, but she was fading fast. There were even some tears. It got so bad, I was at max power trying to hold the other tandem’s wheel and could barely keep up. When I started running out of juice, I told my wife I was was fading and needed help. She was good for a couple of miles.
I offered for everyone else to go on ahead but they slowed the pace and let us stay with them. The rest of the ride was uneventful and she even came back quite a bit for a strong finish.
We pulled into the driveway, ate, napped and showered… and talked about the ride.
It seems we found my wife’s limit on the tandem – 30 to 35 miles (on a solo bike it’s 40). This will increase as time goes but we’re going to have an interesting time trying to extend her rides in the meantime.
The meltdown did nothing to tamp either of our enthusiasm, of course. We simply know we have some work to do.
I was prepared for this, I’ve lived it for years, trying to get the hydration, nutrition and effort right. What my wife went through was no fun but she’ll be stronger for it in the end. Concentrating on the positive, the first 30 miles were an absolute joy and I am looking forward to getting comfortable with the longer distances (30 miles is nice but it’s not enough for a weekend ride).
All in good time.