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Monthly Archives: August 2016

How Much will You Pay to Ride a Century? What a Supported Ride SHOULD Cost

As some of you know, I am quite involved in my local bicycle club.  I’m the President.  We put on a local ride every year that draws between 400 and 800 cyclists (this year was just shy of 500).

Before I tell you how much the ride cost, let me start with this:

There are five routes ranging from 25 to 100 miles.  The roads are marked for each route, by volunteers.  Volunteers sweep the dangerous, gravel laden intersections (I am one of the volunteers for that).  Volunteers and club members staff the four rest stops.  We had, this year:  Bananas, homemade cookies, peaches, watermelon, grapes, pickles and peanut butter and jelly sammiches.  We had water and Gatorade as well.  This is at each of the rest stops.  When we were finished we were treated to Coney dogs, watermelon, a bag of chips and just about any kind of soda you could want.  Routes were SAG supported by volunteers and several motorcyclists as well.

Custom cycling caps commemorating the ride were $20 and ride tee-shirts were $16 – or you could get one of each for $30.  These were not included in the price of registering.

Proceeds went to our not for profit cycling club and will be used to fund cycling clinics and programs that have yet to be fully planned (we didn’t make much, but we did make enough to make a difference).

The only down-side is that no roads were closed or monitored by police during the ride.

Pre-registration was $15
Late and Day Of registration was $20.

Watch what you pay and what is stocked at the rides you do.  Make sure you’re getting your money’s worth and not funding some knucklehead’s endless summer.  These things aren’t that expensive to put on.

Cycling’s Marathon:  The Century.  KNOW THY SPEED; The Difference Between Glad it’s Over and Sad it’s Done.

I’m quite excited to write this post.  I’ve had the idea for years now, I just didn’t have the right experience to pull it all together.  Until now.

My friend Chuck finished the Assenmacher 100 with his tongue hanging out, glad it was done.  He was dropped at 70 miles by the group he was riding with.  He said he enjoyed the ride, “especially the end”.

In contrast, I had a fantastic ride.  To say I was sad it was over might be a bit of a stretch, but I finished that ride exactly like I started it, with a big grin on my face.  I was with my group the whole hundred miles and spent a lot of miles helping my friends get to the finish line.  It was smiles and congratulations.  Handshakes and hi-fives.

Chuck and I are very close in ability.  I have him in youth and he has me by a long shot in experience.  Chuck is exceptional on a bike and I’m happy to call him a friend.  I’m lucky to ride with him.

The difference between the two of our rides was just a little more than a mile per hour.  In other words, he finished about 18 minutes before I did, maybe less.

We had one goal: A 20 mph average.  Chuck’s group, and we all knew this, would be on a mission of attrition.  Imagine a hundred mile, everyone gets dropped ride.

Let’s get down to the brass tacks.  Chuck finished maybe 18 minutes before we did.  The A guys caught us at the second rest stop (we always skip the first) at 34 miles.  Then we caught them at the second at 57 miles though they were mounting their bikes within two minutes of our pulling up, so figure they were five or six minutes ahead of us at that point.

We did a slow roll by the 75 mile rest stop so we could check with the volunteers to make sure everything was going okay, that cost us three minutes and we stopped at the 85 mile rest stop where the A guys either take a two minute stop to top off a bottle and split or they skip it altogether.  So we lost another few minutes there…

Chuck enjoyed the ride and was glad it was over.  He got dropped after 70 miles.  I had the ride of my life, spent a lot more time than I normally would up front and was able to help my friends.  I was still smiling as we headed up the last hill before descending to the finish over the last half-mile.

I’ve lost count of how many centuries I’ve done over the last four years, but it’s a decent number, well over 30.  I’ve done the A group thing for a few years and managed a 4:36.  I’ve also done solo centuries up in the 5:30’s and 40’s.  I’ve done small group centuries (four or five of us) and managed to beat 4:50…  After all of those centuries, I’m a lot happier when I’m in a group that holds a pace where I can be a contributing member rather than a cling-on.  My abilities have greatly increased over the last few years but I know my target pace (depending on terrain, of course… hilly hundreds will be slower than flat, by about 1.5 mph).  While I can push that and finish faster, after five years of doing my best to push my limits I’ve learned an invaluable lesson:

While I still remember the finishing time of my fastest century, I don’t remember much of the ride (other than holding on for dear life).  After all of those centuries I’ve learned the best one’s are more about who I finished with than how fast I finished.  While I would never suggest anyone shouldn’t challenge their limits to become the fastest cyclist they can, I will simply say that cycling is more than just average speed or wattage.  At least it can be, if I let it.

Of course, the opposite side of that coin is pretty interesting as well:  If I don’t train to get fast, I severely limit who I can ride with, too.

*If you looked at the couple on the tandem in the photo above, maybe you wondered why in God’s name do they have aerobars on a tandem?  Very perceptive are you.  I’ll reserve comment other than to say, “Dude, that’s bat-shit crazy”.  Perhaps the visors on their road helmets explain the aerobars.

Cleaning the Bike after the Big Ride…  Pay Attention to Detail.

I test-rode a friend’s bike a while back to help the local shop techs find an elusive “creak”.  I found it, and the source (worn out pedal bearing) and in the process found that his rear derailleur was out of adjustment.  Worse, the barrel adjuster was frozen solid.  This is what the adjuster on my Trek looks like:

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His was dirty, and corroded with road debris and sweat.  He never cleaned it and thus, it froze up on him.  The repair took the owner of the shop more than a half-hour and he has access to tools most of us don’t.  Cleaning and lubing the barrel adjuster once every couple of months takes three minutes, if that.  If you look closely you can even see the fresh lube between the cable housing end cap and the barrel adjuster.

The bike looked like this, a while before that photo was taken:

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My Venge presents an interesting problem as well…  The brake cable exits the frame in a lousy spot that is prone to collect sweat and salt from the dried sweat.  I went for a year and a half without cleaning it once and completely froze the bolt into the bolt hole.  It took a mechanic more than an hour to fix that.

Properly cleaning it takes 2 minutes.

Loosen the brake cable nut so the brakes open all the way up.  Take out the bolt that holds the cable housing zert in place:

Clean the bolt hole and all around the zert.  Put the bolt back, tighten the brake cable and Bob’s your uncle.

No stuck bolt, no worries.

I have to pay attention to the little details when I clean my bike if I don’t want my bike sitting in the shop when I’d rather be riding it.  And I don’t. It’s a matter of a little time and energy now or a lot of money over the winter when I have to pay someone to get it running in tip-top shape.  I opt for the former over the later.

Just a thought.

Other items to keep an eye on and clean up once or twice a season:

  • Seat post – mark the saddle height on the post with a piece of electricians tape, pull the post, clean it up, lube it (if it’s an aluminum post and frame or use the carbon fiber equivalent for CF components and frame).
  • Bottle cage bolts – they collect a LOT of gnarly stuff over time.
  • Derailleurs at the pivot points – and give them a good drop of T-9 to keep them lubed and operating tip-top.
  • Bottom brackets and for external derailleur cables, the tray underneath the bottom bracket that properly routes the cables to their derailleurs…  That gets seriously nasty if you ride fast enough to sweat a lot.
  •  Barrel adjusters and cable housings that lead to the derailleurs on bikes that are ridden in the rain.
  • Brake barrel adjusters.
  • Headset – the headset should be completely taken apart, cleaned, lubed and put back together at least once a season (I’ve done mine twice already this year).

If you don’t know how to do any of these, YouTube.  It’s not as difficult as many think.

 

The Best Assenmacher 100 Yet…  No Noodle Salad, but Coney Dogs’ll Do.

Last year for the Assenmacher 100 the whole Affable Hammers gang left right at 8 am.  We started out with 40 and within 20 miles we caught and picked up two more groups.  We had a full peloton of more than 70 cyclists in a double pace line.  

Cars couldn’t pass and motorists became obviously agitated trying to get by us.  

This year we decided to stagger the groups so that didn’t happen.  We also split up the A’s and B’s, not so much to shrink the group but so we could enjoy the ride rather than finish with our tongues hanging out, completely dusted.

It turned out to be an excellent idea.

We had a deep group and the strongest tandem couple on the whole course:

Ladies and gentlemen, we had a 10-14 mph wind in our face for all of 54 miles and they pulled the whole way.  I was second or third bike for 45 of those miles before I finally went back for a rest, and we averaged 19.4 when we pulled into the rest stop at 57 miles.

We fueled up, filled our bottles, and let some water back out and rolled – but not before we took a minute for a group photo:

20 miles after that photo, Adam was done.  Put a fork in him done.  We were sitting at 19.8 mph but had a wicked tailwind.  Dave, the middle guy in yellow and I took the front and pulled for five miles.  I headed back a few bikes and took a spot in front of Adam and Diane so I could make sure they got the best draft possible. 

We were cranking out miles north of 24 mph.

This is why I chose to go along with a B group.  I could have gone with the A guys. I’d have been spit off the back somewhere around 80 miles and I’d still have ended with a 21 to 22 mph average.  I’d have been hanging on at the back the whole time, tongue hanging out, and I’d have been spent.

Instead, we finished the hundred miles at 4:58:10 and I was useful to my friends.

I enjoy helping people I like ride faster than they would if I wasn’t there.  I like being a contributing member of the group.  In the end, being able to say I was useful at 20.2 mph is way better than only being able to say I finished with a 21.5 mph average.  Any day of the week and, in this case, twice on Sunday. 

So, back to the title…  No noodle salad on hand and we had tacos for dinner so noodle salad would have been a little off.  However, two minutes after we pulled into the parking lot I was munching on two coney dogs, and they were good.  

That was good enough.

This will go down as one of my most enjoyable Assenmacher Hundreds.  I worked hard but I had big fun.  And my buddy, Mike, recovering from open heart surgery, was at one of the corners cheering us on.  It was a special day, all around.

One Hundred Miles between Friends.  Because We Can.

My buddy Mike handles the coordination and cleaning of several intersections that accumulate gravel before our big local century.  This year, with Mike recovering from open heart surgery, I took the task and my friend Brad joined me. Normally we have three or four guys but work got in the way.  Brad and I just got it done.

This was after, of course, my wife and I went for a morning 30 miles with our friend Doc Mike (who headed up North for an extended weekend after we rode).  It was a lively, fun hour and a half.  

As many miles as I’ve put in this summer, I’m really enjoying cycling lately. Much more than I could have anticipated.  

I’m only bored with one route.  A route that is chosen for its boring and excedingly safe nature.  Light on traffic, only two busy intersections, and roughly 100 feet of vertical climbing over sixteen miles.  My run into town is more enjoyable but my wife likes the safety of light traffic.  Happy wife, happy life.  I can live with a boring route to ride with my wife – there aren’t a lot of guys out there lucky enough to enjoy cycling with their spouse.

Today though, it’s all hands on deck.  The Assenmacher 100 is here, signifying the final months of the season and the final weeks of the road season.  This doesn’t mean an end to road cycling, just that the big mile days are behind us.

After labor day, all but one of the big rides are done and we can start looking at mountain biking and playing in the dirt as a fun change of pace.

Today my friends and I will pound out a hundred miles and we’ll try to do it in less than five hours.  Just because we can.  And it is good.

A bit of a bummer of a week on the bike…  I think I need to stop thinking so damn much.

I’m sitting on 92 miles for the week as I type this.  If all goes well, by tomorrow that’ll be just over 220 miles for the week.  Saturday and Sunday are always big days.  

The Assenmacher 100 is tomorrow and I’m excited.  I’m in excellent shape, the setup on each of the bikes (after some minor tweaks) is perfect.  I feel good and strong…. and I’m bummed I won’t break 250 for the week.  Missing out on 26 miles of the 40 mile club ride for a busted wheel sucked.

I could go longer today but I’ve got volunteer work to be done for the ride today so we’re keeping it to 30 miles.  I could go longer tomorrow, after the hundred, but I’m not that crazy.

It just is what it is

Here’s what’s really eating at me:  This will be the first month that I didn’t exceed last year’s monthly total mileage.  I’m 814 miles up on last year’s total mileage so far.  So far, that’s a good thing, right?  Exactly!

Hold on, this’ll get weird… and probably a little geeky…  Yeah.

So I’m up on last year’s totals by 814 miles…  I rode 7,614 miles last year…  I can break 8,000 miles when I thought, just a couple of years ago, that 6,000 miles in a year was about as good as it gets for a working stiff – and I managed to spend more time at work this year!

Folks, it doesn’t get better than that, right?!  I KNOW!!!

So what if I give back 100 of those miles this month, next month is an easy 1,000 mile month (I’ll ride more than 450 miles in the first week with DALMAC)…

But that’s just it – I don’t care.  I don’t care if I hit 8,000 miles, I don’t care if my average speed is slower or faster for the year, I don’t care if I get another new part for one of my bikes… everything is perfect the way it is as far as recovery, eating, fitness and weight goes.  I’m a good husband and dad.  I’m fit enough. I ride enough.  I am fast enough.  I am working enough.  I am strong enough.  I eat well enough (without sacrifice).  I have excellent cycling friends.  If that wasn’t the perfect cherry on top, I get to put in a bunch of miles with my wife too!  That is the perfect cherry on top (She’s My Cherry Pie is playing in the corner of my melon).  I am good enough. 

The part that bugs me is this is a little too much perfect.  What bugs me is the perfect.  I don’t do well with perfect.  In fact, I do worse, mentally, with perfect that I do with really screwed up.  At least with screwed up I have something to fix.

Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t know how to handle being okay.  And that’s what bugs me.

After 23, damn near 24 years of sobriety, I still need something to fix.  With this need to fix if I’m not careful I manufacture, through faulty thinking, things to fix.  I think things into being screwed up when they’re not, just to have something to fix.

Maybe I just need to work a little harder at the office.  Put a little more effort into loving my wife and kids…  Work a little harder at sobriety, maybe… 

Oh, I got it!

I need to start working with someone else to help them enjoy their sobriety… a noob.  That’s the ticket!

Geez, who knew success was so tough to take!

Thanks for sitting through that with me.  I needed that.  I fixed a lot, because that’s what I do.  I fix $#!+.

If everyone wrote down their problems on a piece of paper and put that paper in a hat, then we passed that hat around to pick a new set of problems, I’d be the @$$hole looking to pluck out the piece of paper I originally put in there.

Velocity Wheels:  Service Above and Beyond the Call of Duty

I ordered a rim for my Venge the other day, sitting on the side of the road with yet another broken spoke from a lightweight set of wheels that I’d bought.  That was Tuesday night.

Yesterday evening, sitting in a restaurant with my family, my daughter announced that a package had arrived for me.  Less than 48 hours after placing the order, this was sitting next my Venge when we got home from a late dinner:

I placed the order at 6:45 pm on Tuesday. The hoop arrived at 6 pm on Thursday.  I can’t believe that turnaround.

On a fluke, on Wednesday, I emailed Velocity because I’d removed the decal from the rear hoop when I had that wheel rebuilt because the spokes wouldn’t stay tight on the far too flexible original rim.  I asked if they would be willing to send a replacement decal so my wheels could match.

Not only did they offer to send new decals, the guy who responded said he’d thought of a couple of different options that would dress the wheels up if I was interested…

I’ll have to see what comes but if it’s only the Fusion decal I’ll be plenty happy.

In any event, their hoops are bomb proof. A little on the heavy side, but I’ll take 1,580 grams and hassle free over 1,460 grams and in the shop every few weeks to have a broken spoke nipple replaced or the wheel trued, yet again, any day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Now, if I’d only have gone with a set of their race wheels first, they come in at a scant sub 1,400 grams for less than $850.  Live and learn.

I roll Velocity Dyads on the tandem.  They’re solid.  And fast.

If you’re looking for a good, all-around, alloy wheelset, I can’t recommend Velocity highly enough.  Their customer service is spectacular and their product is excellent.

I was offered nothing to write this post and paid full pride for all Velocity rims I own.  The Dyad wheels came on my Co-Motion bike as standard equipment.  I just wanted to pass along my experience.  Oh, and Velocity Wheels are made in the USA.

I will be receiving a free decal or three when they get here, but Velocity didn’t know me from any other normal customer when they offered to send them to me – this blog (meaning my site in its entirety, not the misuse of the word meaning “post”) was never mentioned in any correspondence with Velocity.  In other words, nothing was bartered for their exceptional service as described in this post.

My Trick for Riding Comfortably in the Drops… and, for once, it ain’t the Setup.

Now that Title, if you aren’t familiar with the intricacies of setting a bike up, can be a little misleading.  The setup is as important as owning the bike.

Comfortably riding in the drops, with the right drop bar, is a bit of an acquired taste though.  It’s like strong, black coffee.  A rookie can go for the gusto, but you’re sure to see a face-scrunched pucker and a shiver… you have to ease into it, Batman!  You can’t just go all straight dark roast, you have to work up to that level of pure coffee bliss.  It’s too much awesomeness all at once for a rook.

So, assuming you’ve had your bike setup done, and it’s right, you should be comfortable riding in the drops for an hour, straight.  If you can’t last ten minutes, but feel comfortable with your hands on the hoods, I’m your guy and this is your post.

It is my pleasure, sister or brother.  It’s what I do to stay such a happy guy.

Now, for you folks who were told you should have your saddle at the same height as the handlebar because it’s more comfortable, it’s not.  When you sit upright on a bike that’s designed to be rigid, like a road bike, your back is like the blade of a jackhammer over bumps.  How that is comfortable is beyond me.  When you’re able to have some bend at the hips, your back and arms work as shock absorbers, or maybe dampeners would be a better word.

An Affable Hammer, by definition is a nice, approachable person who rides real fast.  That is us.

Anyway, more important, notice no gut.  Riding real low, like I do, requires a minimum amount of baggage in the guttural area.  You can’t bend around a big gut.  Work that off and you too can go low (I had to, you can too, it just takes time).

Now, we should be all square.  Let’s teach our body to ride comfortably in the drops!

  • Mount your bike.
  • Clip your feet into the pedals as you normally would.  If you don’t have pedals that you clip into, go get some, and some shoes.  Then practice unclipping in the grass and come back to me…  😲😊😆😎
  • Spin for ten minutes to warm up.
  • Place your hands in the proper position in the drops*.
  • Ride for as long as you can.
  • Rinse and repeat until you get to an hour.
  • Lower your stem and handlebar.
  • Rinse and repeat points 1-6.
  • Once you’re comfortable at an hour, choose one day a week as “drop day” and ride for an hour in the drops.

*Proper position for the hands in the drops will vary from person to person.  I prefer to ride with my hands a little higher, closer to the hoods (see below).

Now I can’t vouch for all people, but I can for me: I used to have miserable lower back problems before cycling.  Pain five or six days a week, excruciating at least two of them.  Since I’ve been riding really low, I have one or two days a month with minor pain and no more excruciating days.  Running helped (I ran before finding my fitness joy on a bike), but I never had days where I never thought about my back like I do on a bike.  How low do I ride?

One final note:  Notice the bend in my arms.  That is critical to comfort.  In the first photo, because I was turning to see what my friend was doing riding next to me, I’d locked my arms out.  Locking the arms is bad, you don’t want any part of your body to be rigid when you hit a bump.  It’ll send the shock all the way through your body.  You want enough strength to keep your hands on the bars but enough flex that your arms and legs can absorb the bouncing.  With rigid arms, your hands, wrists, shoulders, neck and butt take a beating on anything but excellent road surfaces.

It took about a year of lowering the bars, maybe two, to get comfortable in that position.  A little bit at a time.  Here’s my first properly set up bike the day I brought it home four years ago:

Here’s that same bike, as it is today:

And here’s my other bike:

I did not get there overnight.  Those bulletpoint steps above are how I did it.  Slowly, over time.  A couple of final tips:

  • My neck did get sore for a time, whenever I lowered my handlebar.  That got better as I became accustomed to the position.  Craning one’s neck to see up the road like that is not natural.  It takes some getting used to.
  • Your saddle will likely need to be adjusted, nose down, to accommodate the increased drop as you lower the bar.  The saddle should cradle you, so it doesn’t push up in the front, which hurts, or slide you off the front of the saddle because the back is too high.  This takes a minute to get dialed in right.  When you do, it’s glorious.

The Truth About Coffee: Number 27

The truth about coffee: Number 27

Coffee is an acquired taste.  You have to work at liking it.

Cycling and coffee go together like good times and noodle salad.  It really is good for you too.  Last I checked, which was a year ago, coffee still retained the title of the most free radical blasting antioxidants of any foodstuff known to man.  Or woman.  By several times…  That Acai berry juice?  Yeah, ten times the cost of coffee and a fraction of the antioxidants.  

The trick to much of the research showing it has cancer causing agents is in testing.  There are 27 chemical compounds in coffee.  Several of them, if injected into a subject in the maximal dosage, will cause cancer over time.  Here’s the trick; you can’t drink enough coffee to meet the dosage.  It’s almost impossible.

Remember the ridiculous claim that a glass of wine was as good as an hour at the gym?  Yeah, more like 11 bottles.  Same principle, just reversed.  It would take 11 bottles to equal an hour at the gym… This is where it gets fun:  There are 625 calories in a bottle of red wine.  You would have to consume 6,875 calories to equal an hour at the gym.

End result?  You’re a fat drunk. 

I did the math.

Coffee is not equivalent to spending time at the gym, it just makes riding more enjoyable…  I drink two cups before every ride, whether I need it or not.  Then a couple of more after.  Then a couple of more when I meet with my ex-drunk friends.  All we need is a coffee maker, a friend and a resentment and it’s a meeting.  We are excited to meet all of the folks who thought wine equals gym time.  I’ll be smiling inside.

Taking the Evil Empire Bike Out for a Spin…

Cue Darth Vader’s march…

My friend Adam, a one-time racer, bike shop owner and general lover of all things cycling except Trek, loves to refer to the high-end manufacturer as the Evil Empire.  Why, I do not know.  The most I ever got out of him was, “Because they really are”.

Not surprising, he sold Cannondale’s and has an emotional connection to Bianchi.

In any event, I love my Trek now that I’ve A) made it my own by completely stripping it down and having it professionally repainted and B) had a new headset installed in the process.  It’s amazing how awesome a bike that steers right feels.

With my Venge down a front wheel, I took the 5200 out for a spin last night.  My decision to take the Trek on DALMAC was cemented on that ride.  I’m going to put the good wheels from the Venge on the Trek, and I’m going to ride that ride with a smile.

I love my Venge.  It’s the vastly faster and more comfortable of the two, but the Trek climbs a little better – and more important, I don’t mind getting the Trek dirty.  I am completely comfortable with stripping the bike down to its frame, with changing the cables and dialing in the shifting.

There, to my knowledge, has never been a DALMAC that didn’t have rain at least one of the four days – and the Trek is made for crappy weather.  Everything is easy to clean and accessible.

Last year we rode in a downpour on day one.  Day two saw no precipitation but the roads were damp much of the day.  By the time we got to camp on Friday, the Venge was a mess.  I cleaned it up the best I could but it was shifting was a little sluggish and with the internal cables, all I could do was hold on and hope for the best.  This year, if I run into trouble, I’ll be able to loosen the cables, clean them and have everything back together in five minutes.

In the end, the Trek is the right bike for that ride, and I like riding it a lot more now that it works like it should!  It just needs good wheels on it.

Cue Darth Vader’s march, one more time.