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Monthly Archives: August 2016

The Body Mass Index is a Tool, though A Greater Tool Exists…

My body mass index (BMI) currently sits at 24, on the nose.  For every pound that I gain over my current 177 pounds, I go up a tenth of a point.  24.9 is the final cutoff between “okay” and “overweight”

Going by a standard, non-gender specific calculator, I’m at the high-end of my proper weight.  If I go by the calculator that factors in age and gender, however, I’m smack-dab right in the middle of perfect:

BMI calculators are tricky things though.  No online calculator can take my larger than average legs into account.  Being a cyclist, my upper body is good but less than impressive.  My legs, on the other hand, are things of beauty.  They’re perfect.  They have to be to get through all of the miles I put on them.  If I had to guess, I’ve got about ten pounds in my legs that most normal people wouldn’t have.

My BMI, being what it is (and those remarks that accompanied my calculations are wonderful), is only a small part of the puzzle when it comes to managing one’s weight.  First and foremost, I don’t go all next level and try to micromanage my weight.  I’ve never had to.  When I figured out, fourteen or fifteen years ago, that I was overweight (I was about nine pounds overweight, going by the BMI calculator), I didn’t panic.  To quote another blogger, I learned to move more and eat less.  It was really that simple.  The weight came off and I was happy again.

When I started cycling though, my weight plummeted.  I was all the way down to 150 and I was too skinny.  I had a tough time seeing it at the time, but I did need some meat on my bones.  Now I try to maintain something between 170 and 175, though I have spent some time this year between 180 and 183.  Still within the margin of error, but pushing maximum density.

There exists one low-tech tool that is of much greater value to me than a BMI calculator:

My belt.  On my black belt, if it doesn’t fit, I’m fat.  If I’m using the last buckle hole, I need to watch my weight.  If I’m using the second to the last, I’m perfect and if I’m one smaller than that, my wife was complaining that I’m too skinny about two weeks prior.

With my macro view of my weight, everything becomes simple…

If I’m on that last belt loop, eat less, move more.  If I’m on the second, keep doing what I’m doing.  If I’m on the third, eat more*.

*Moving less simply isn’t an option – there’s just too much fun out there to have on a bike.


The Joy that is Recovery from Addiction

I don’t remember much of my life before recovery.  I was 22 years-old back then, didn’t know my ass from a hole in the ground.  It doesn’t help that I’ve never remembered my entire 21st year on the planet.  It was one big blackout.  I literally remember nothing after my 21st birthday until after I turned 22 and the People of the State of Michigan decided I should probably sober up.

I know what was out there for me if I’d have stuck to drinking.  The likelihood that I’d even be on the right side of the grass, pumping air at 46 is pretty slim.  I’ve seen too many good people end up in prison, or worse, because they couldn’t or wouldn’t kick getting drunk or high.

All too often, when it comes to recovery, I see things that just break my heart.  The notion that a massage or some good old-fashioned self-knowledge will “cure” a person is deceptive at best, deadly at worst, but usually just plain stupid.

Now maybe I was a special kind of messed up.  Perhaps I was a real, real hardcore drunk?

I needed my entire life overhauled.  I needed to learn how to be honest with myself and others – and that’s more than your “That depends on your definition of the word ‘is'” political honesty too.  I mean rigorously frickin’ honest.  It means, “I know what will happen if I allow alcohol or drugs into my system…  Chaos.” honesty.

I have to do the best I can to be the best person I can or I’ll be lost or dead.  There are no second chances, no more bites at the apple, no more ways I can game the system.  I have to be done trying to figure everything out.  I have to be done trying to cheat, lie and steal my way through life.

I have to maintain a fit lifestyle.  I’m a miserable SOB when I’m polishing the couch with my butt.  Hell, I even hate me like that.

I also had to give up all delusions that I can ever drink alcohol or consume mood or mind-altering drugs successfully.  I’ve tried every combination out there, I just can’t make it work.

Finally, I had to start living a life based on spirituality.  Not, “go to confession and give me ten Hail Mary’s” spiritual.  “Do unto your brothers as you would have me do unto you” spirituality.

I read a post yesterday, written by a doctor, that proposed the key to fixing addiction is fixing poverty and homelessness.  That sounds awesome but it’s not even close.  It’s so wrong, I actually chuckled.  Here I was, a silver spoon in my butt 22 year-old kid, never had a want for anything and fixing poverty and homelessness is going to straighten me up?  How naïve!  That might make a great government grant request but the notion is silly on its face.

Poverty and homelessness are symptoms of alcoholism.  As is dishonesty, as is lethargy, as is a complete moral decay of a person.  Fixing the symptoms only keeps one dependent on the medication.

For me to have a fighting chance, I had to fix the alcoholic, and that takes a little more than a nice bike, a massage, and a place to hang my hat.

As they like to say, if you sober up a horse thief, you’ve still gotta deal with the horse thief.  

Cycling Happiness: Know Thy Limits, Push Thy Limits, Eat Well, Help Others and Be Merry

This very well can be my best cycling season yet.  I’ve got a pile of miles in.  I’m fit. I’m happy.  I’m enjoying cycling with my wife.  We’ve been on a number of cycling trips this year and they’ve been progressively more enjoyable.  It hasn’t been all good times and noodle salad though it has been good… and I’ve eaten more than a few pounds of noodle salad.

First, I told a friend last night at the club ride that cycling is the only thing I know of that makes me feel like a kid again.  That’s only partially true though, because as I kid I had a cheap Murray 15 sp. mountain bike that I beat to death.  Today, not only do I have a couple of high-end road bikes, I’ve got a decent mountain bike as well.  I’m no longer relegated to riding to friends’ houses and around the neighborhood, I take my bikes camping, to explore roads hundreds of miles away with the only care of the day being busting out some miles with my wife and friends.  I get to feel like a kid without the constraints of being a kid.

If I’ve learned anything about cycling, with all of the attempts at riding with the A guys, with getting dropped every week from the group to finally forming our B group, and all of the awesome adventure vacations I’ve been on, it’s this:

  • I have my limits and the closer I get to them, the less fun I have during the ride.  After the ride, now that’s a different story.  There’s always a certain tough guy euphoria after completing a tough ride that I don’t get if I’m not right at the edge.  That said, all things being equal, I enjoy the below threshold rides a little more than what is described as “suffer-fests”.
  • I still have to push those limits because it’s been fairly stated, if you’re not getting faster, you’re getting slower.
  • “Eat well” does not mean eating like a vegan monk.  I still eat a lot of the fun stuff that cycling makes possible, obviously moderation and good choices are imperative.
  • Cycling, especially club cycling, is all about helping others.  By getting out of myself I enjoy life so much more than if it’s spent inside the gray matter between my ears.
  • Some cyclists get their joy from crushing each other on a ride.  They’re not wrong, it’s just what makes them happy.  I don’t have to understand it – and I certainly don’t have to take part in it if it doesn’t do the same for me (and it doesn’t).  Others get their joy from a slow spin… there’s nothing wrong with that either.  Then there are those of us who like fast, without the race.  There are local cycling clubs that represent all types of cyclists.  The best part is, fit people aren’t a glum lot.  Chances are you’ll be able to find people inside a group that you’ll gel with.  Cycling solo has its merits, but nothing beats a nice weekend ride with a bunch of friends.

The important thing to remember is that nobody ever got fit sitting on the couch.  Get out there and ride.



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:

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:


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.