Within one week of bringing my Venge home I knew something was off with the wheels that came on the bike. Within one month I had a new set of wheels on the bike. I bought a set of Vuelta Corsa SLR wheels from Nashbar for something like $370, delivered to my door. They were fast and light and I loved them. A Lot. Normally a sub 1500 gram wheelset goes for anywhere from $600 (on sale) to $1,100. The Corsa SLR’s were less than $400 and weighed in at 1456 grams. Do some research and try to find a better deal. I have and unless I buy some cheap knockoff wheels with cheap hubs, I’ve never found a deal that came close.
Last year after hitting a pothole the size of Kansas on DALMAC (on the last day, thank God), I found several hairline cracks in the rim at the spoke nipples after coming home. I immediately ordered a new rim from Velocity (almost the exact same size as the Vuelta) because Nashbar wouldn’t sell one rim, only a full wheelset. Vuelta was no help because their deal with Nashbar prohibits them selling replacement parts. The Velocity rim was exactly the right size – the shop was able to reuse all of existing parts (hub, spokes) to lace up the new rim.
I removed the stickers because I couldn’t even get replacement stickers for the wheels… And I’m not about to have mismatching wheels on my bike. In any event, I’ve had a problem with busting spoke nipples on that front wheel quite regularly over the last couple of years, specifically when I’m trying to power out of a sharp turn, accelerating to stay with the group. I push down on the left pedal (hard) and pull up on the bars for leverage and ping…
Well, after a glorious warmup on a perfect night at the club ride, just 6-1/2 miles in, after a sharp turn, I popped another spoke. The rim was so wobbled the bike was completely incapacitated (even with the brake release opened up). My wife ended up riding back to get the car while I sat there with my bike, sitting on the top tube.
I ordered another Velocity Fusion hoop to match the one I’ve got on the back while I was sitting on my top tube. I know what the problem is – those Corsa rims are too light and they’ve got a lot of flex to them. When I really crank down on the pedals the rim flexes and the alloy spoke nipples can take the pressure and snap (Yep, I’m a badass for a B rider – chuckle). So for now I’m going to have the spoke nipple replace and I’ll use that rim for the next week until my Velocity hoop comes in… Just in time for DALMAC.
So, for a weight penalty of 136.8 grams, I’ll have a 1,590 gram set of bomb-proof wheels… though sadly I’ll have to answer that my bike weighs 17 pounds (barely) when people ask, instead of 16. Still, better to have a 17 pound bike one can ride than a 16 pound bike sitting on the side of the road.
Next up, these beauties…
Velocity Quill Pro wheelset… 1,395 grams of awesome – The only question is when… My wife needs new wheels a lot more than I do, hunting season is coming, and money is too tight. Still, I will have them. Sooner or later.
The moral of the story (unless you weigh less than 160 pounds – which I most definitely do not, closer to 175) is this: Cheap, light wheels = bad news.
The Truth about Coffee; Number 47
If you can see through your coffee, it’s tea, not coffee.
It is a well-known fact that coffee and cycling go together like carbon and fiber.
It is also an established reality that a study will be released in the next month or two that purports to show coffee is bad for you. It is also an established reality that another study will be released shortly thereafter that shows the exact opposite.
Next time someone starts bloviating about the soundness of some grand scientific scheme, remember this; Scientists can’t even figure out if coffee is good or bad for the drinker.
In any event, you can have my Eight O’clock and French press when you pry then from my cold, dead hands. Drink up and be well, my friends.
Caffeine is still the only legal performance enhancing drug on the market. Make that a grandé for me.
Beyond all of the puffery about suffering when it comes to cycling, if I’m riding at the edge of my ability, usually around a 23 mph average (or 25-27 mph on flat ground, a little slower uphill and a lot faster downhill) I have to take short turns up front and I simply get to a point where too much is too much and I fall off the back. Usually about the time I can’t be of use to the group. That’s when I’m riding with the A guys.
I don’t enjoy working that hard. It is what it is.
Put me in with the B guys and I’m a different animal. I can spend a lot more time up front and we’re usually just below or right at that magic happy-zone where I’m fast, but not so fast I can’t sustain it over a goodly distance.
One of my good friends, Phill, said to my wife on her first weekend ride with the gang, “One thing we know about Jim is when it gets to the front, it’s time to go.” As a cyclist, that’s one hell of a compliment, especially considering I never realized my friends thought of me like that.
When I ride, I want to give my best when I’m up front because anyone riding behind me will have to ride one-third as hard, even less the more bikes behind them. When I go to the back, it’s usually with my tongue hanging out, and I hide in the draft to recharge until it’s my turn to do it all over again.
The kicker is that I do not complain about being tired, hurting or being “off” on a particular day, unless we’re in the final few miles. The main reason for this is that if I do complain, I give voice to those fleeting thoughts that generate in my melon that say I’m too tired, hungry, heavy or slow to keep up. Giving those thoughts credence makes them real, and once I start that snowball rolling downhill, there’s no stopping it till it hits a wall. On most days I simply decide not to build the snowball, let alone start it rolling downhill.
This gives my friends (especially my wife) the impression that I don’t have those thoughts or struggles. I do have them. When they pop up, I just remember that old line in Lethal Weapon 2, delivered by Captain Murphy to Riggs and Murtaugh, “I don’t give a f***.” This has its limits, obviously – it’s not like I can hang with the A guys. Of course, to that I can cart out that line again. I really don’t. I am content with who I am – and that’s far more enjoyable even, than being faster.
Now, the next thing to look at is this: If my friends think I’m stronger or faster than I do, maybe they’re right.
The Assenmacher Pre-ride: Everything is Awesome! Till it isn’t. The Art of Not Quitting When the Going Gets Tough.
Some days I can’t tell if it’s that I’m dedicated, if I’m a glutton for punishment, or possibly a little dim.
I rode my bike over to the shop rather than drive, for the Assenmacher 100 pre-ride yesterday. The shop is only five miles from my house. No big deal, right?
Adam and Diane showed up in my driveway a few minutes early but I was ready and rarin’ to go. I donned my brain bucket and we rolled. We kept an easy pace, around 18-20 mph. We got to the parking lot to several people in various stages of preparing for the big ride.
I am at the upper end of our B Group. Our average at the 30 mile (33 lately) club ride varies between 20-1/2 and 22 mph. We can hustle, but our A guys are fast. They average 24 to 25 mph. Most of my friends think I’m stronger, tougher and faster than I really am – or maybe they think I’m tougher than I do, that might be closer. Only two of my closest buds, Chuck and Mike, know me to a “T”.
The first 30 miles of the hundred went by in a flash but by the 40th mile, I was struggling.
“Are my legs hurting already!”
Ten miles later…
“My legs should definitely not be this tight. Damn… I’m beat! Why am I this tired?! Maybe I should cut it short with Diane and Adam, or cut out with Brad and Phill.” (They all had things to do that afternoon…)
It became a mental battle… and I was A) not going to lose and B) not going to quit… I’ve got the big ride next week and it’s going to be a lot faster, though with a much deeper field, and plenty of time to recover in between turns up front. I knew if I quit though, it’d play on my mind all next week.
I have a few tricks to share that I use to win that mental battle that would have me quit every time I feel a little rougher than I should. Know this, I wasn’t in my best form yesterday… I really could have justified cutting the ride short.
- I am not responsible for the first thought that enters the mush in my thick skull… I am responsible for the second. Example: “My legs shouldn’t be this tight, I should cut it short”. My second thought, the one I can control, was “If I quit, I’m going to be a mental train wreck next week. Just keep pedaling, you’ll come back in a bit.”
- I break the ride into sections. Example: I started struggling at mile 40. I know if I can make it to 80, I’m good. I’ve got enough fuel in my back pocket that I can’t bonk, so it’s “Just get through the next ten or twenty miles.” Or “Get to the next stop”…. I know when I get to 70 or 80 miles, I can do 20 or 30 in my sleep.
- I like to focus on what is going right rather than dwell on what isn’t. Example: Legs are tight, right? Well I’m going to focus on breathing well, more on exhaling and getting the CO2 out. Getting CO2 out, and thus fresh air to replace it in, will help my muscles make it through. Another example: The two A guys riding with us complimented me every time I took a turn up front, and I took some good ones. “I am stronger than those BS thoughts.”
- Remember the successes… “I’ve ridden some excellent long miles this year. I am stronger than this momentary struggle. I will come back from this.”
- When all else fails, Coca-Cola. And Gatorade. And Payday candy bars. The sugar and caffeine gives me a nice “everything is better” jolt. The peanuts are good long-burning fuel. Dude, don’t underestimate the power of a Coke and a Payday when you’re struggling. Manna from Heaven.
Long story short, I used every one of those tricks on that ride, and I came back. I did every last mile and felt so good by mile 75 that I was able to spend some serious time up front, pulling for my friends. I took a three, a four, and even a five mile turn up front. I not only came back, I came back with a vengeance… and a Venge. ‘Cause that’s what I do.
The five mile ride home sucked by the way. I averaged 17-1/2 mph… with a tailwind. That said, we got the hundred done in 5h:05m.
Incidentally, I touched on something earlier that deserves its own post but I’ll partially let the cat out of the bag… My friends think I’m stronger than I do. I know when I’m hurting. I know when I just want to slow down. I know when my legs are tight and a little sluggish.
My friends don’t. All they see is a guy who always takes his turns at the front, who always gives them his best.
It occurred to me a while back, if my friends think I’m stronger than I do, maybe they’re right and I’m wrong. Chew on that a bit. I have, and doing so has produced some interesting results.
Sometimes fitness comes down to Proper timing… Others it’s more about making time work for me. If all else fails, it’s about taking what I get and running with it.
The weather yesterday sucked. It had rained all night long and when I woke up at 3 am it was still coming down. I had a couple of cups of coffee, watched some TV and took a nap around 6. I checked the radar again at 8 and it was still ugly. I woke up again, for good this time, at 9. It had stopped raining while I was looking at the back of my eyelids. I checked the radar and it was spotty.
Brad called at 9:30 looking for someone to ride with. He’d seen that it was supposed to break up for the afternoon… so ate some breakfast and took another nap (who says you can’t catch up on sleep?).
I woke up at 10:30 to a work call, bright eyed and bushy tailed. I checked the weather. It showed a three hour window before the thunderstorms returned so I called Brad back. Ten minutes later I was on the road, rolling toward Brad on the rain bike.
We did 35 miles, on the nose, and encountered about 30 seconds of sprinkles though the sky was looking pretty ugly several times. With 25 miles in, we hit a stretch of damp roads – we’d managed to ride around a rain showers.
Our pace was a little slow at just under two hours but that was the idea. We’ve got a big century tomorrow.
I had a nice lunch and an excellent steak dinner, taking some time to tend to some simple household chores so my wife can come home to a reasonably clean home.
Some days I have to take what I can get. I’d wanted 60 miles but that just wasn’t in the cards. Better to squeeze in what I can than come up with a donut shop lie* – that I just couldn’t get a ride in because [insert excuse here].
*For those who don’t know, a donut shop lie is a lie told to the folks sitting at the bar in the donut shop that usually starts out “I can’t watch my weight because…” The teller of such a lie doesn’t quite believe the lie but hopes the bobble heads at the donut shop will buy it, thus improving the self-esteem. Chuckle.
In the 23 years I’ve been sober I’ve been exceptionally active for 18 of them. I was into rollerblading for a few years, then I was a runner before I got into cycling. One activity/sport I don’t write much about, that I was an avid participant in, is golf.
They say if you want to be a pro golfer, you’ve gotta be able to beat all of the golfers who beat everybody else. I was one of those who could beat everyone else. In the height of my dedication to the sport I was practicing every day, playing three or four days a week, and working with a pro a couple of days a week. Over three years I got pretty good – not great, but pretty good.
Then came kids and everything changed. Money was short, time was shorter, and my priorities changed, happily. One thing that didn’t change was my golfing with my dad every Friday afternoon. I’d split out of the office about 10 am, pick him up at his house, and head out to one of three of our favorite courses. This went on for years without fail.
Alzheimer’s took that time with my dad from me. Before long, he’d become discombobulated and aim at me from time to time – I really had to stay on my toes. Shortly thereafter his play slowed down considerably and it was time to pull the plug. It wrecked me to stop taking him out. When he died, I hung up my clubs. I’ve only been out a handful of times since.
Most days I don’t miss it, I’m much better on a bike than I am with a set of clubs. Every once in a while though…
I went out yesterday with the salesman of my main supplier, a guy I’ve been golfing with for 18 years now, on an outing that his company sponsored. It was the first time since last year I even held a golf club. I hit some excellent 5 wood shots, some glorious 3 wood shots (the driver evaded me for the day and I eventually stuck with the 3&5 woods), sank some long putts and hit a few good iron shots. Muscle memory is awesome.
We had a great time and finished five under for the day. I was able to contribute well for having struck a golf ball for the first time in a year. I had enough of a good time to think I should at least practice enough to not lose my swing. Golf is funny that way.
Sadly, we used up all of the sunshine on the golf course. We’ve been hammered by thunderstorms since. While I don’t mind a bit of rain, I don’t do lightning and thunder – and I’m certainly not starting out in that mess (getting caught out in it is a different story). No miles yesterday and today’s going to be pretty tough too but we’ve got a century on tomorrow and the weather’s supposed to clear up by then. I’ll be back where I belong – in a saddle.
When I came back from vacation, almost as soon as I walked in the door, I jumped on the scale to assess the damage done by a week of excess (only in the form of food – let’s say I didn’t push away from the table very often).
I was happily surprised. Only three pounds. I went from a steady 180 to 183.
The next day I wrote that I would probably lose that excess in a week, now that I was back to regular cycling mileage.
I was off by one day. It took 8 days.
Humorously, and I apologize if this is TMI, but I’d be willing to bet that two of those pounds could have been attributed to being “regular” again.
Physical activity is awesome that way.
In any event, it’s been 2-1/2 weeks and I’m down five. For 2-1/2 weeks I’ve been out-riding a good diet, to the tune of dropping another belt loop.
Cycling is awesome that way.
Notice, my friends, how many glum faces and fat bodies there are in that photo – and that’s after 3 hours and change cycling over some excellent hills.
Other than Ron (the guy on the Cannondale with his hand on his hip), there are no perfect bodies in there either. Mine is good, I’m the guy on the right, Chuck’s is better (third from the left), Travis has the upper body of a Greek statue (the guy in the hand bike)…
We are not perfect sculptures, save Ron, but we are happy, joyous and free.
Nobody in that photo imbibes in alcohol. Not a one smokes. Not one vegetarian. Not a gluten-free fella in the lot. None of us turn up a nose at a burger or roast beef sammich, or even the rare desert. We are balanced. In that photo are two business owners (a bike shop and a construction company), a GM retiree, a farmer, a teacher, another retiree and an hourly employee. We come from all walks of life and run the middle-class pay scale. From lower to upper.
The only things we really have in common are that we love a good bike ride and we’re not fat (on the BMI scale, we’re all in the green).
This is not rocket science at work.
We’ve all developed good, balanced, healthy eating habits and we literally ride our asses off (well, technically we rode the fat off of our asses, a cyclist’s ass is actually quite bulbous for all of the miles in the saddle).
Going back to me, though I know this applies to many of the others as well, I am not a happy man at 180 pounds. I’m happy at 170. I don’t have a positive body image at 180. I do at 165 but my wife likes 175 so I go with that. I certainly don’t have a positive body image at 185 or 190. I have a bit of a gut at 195, and a double-chin. There’s no peace with either. At 190 I start pushing the BMI line into “overweight”. There is no chance of positivity because if I am overweight, I am doing something severely wrong. I know it, and no amount of bullshit, donut shop lies or fluff will change that fact.
Not even positive action will change my perception when I’m overweight. Action only gets me through the day. I can find temporary peace in this: “I did my best today”. My body positivity is a temporary reprieve that resets every morning when I wake up in the morning.
What have I done today to get achieve my goal weight? What have I done to maintain my fitness? What will I eat today to continue on my most excellent path?
As long as I’ve done my best at all of those, my reprieve continues.
Just for this 24 hours, I will live, eat, and exercise well so that I can enjoy peace with my body. I can’t change yesterday.
And tomorrow never comes.
The first thing we need to clarify about lubing a bicycle chain is that all chain lubes are not created equal.
The second is that, to my knowledge, there exists no “one lube fits all conditions” lube on the market.
Back in the day when I started riding a bike, more than 40 years ago now, oiling a chain was pretty simple. You squirted some 3 in 1 oil (or, God forbid, WD-40) on the chain and called it good. Those days are thankfully in the past because today’s equipment is much lighter and a lot more expensive to replace. A great place to start, to ensure longevity of major bike components, is the proper lubing of the chain. First, the chain will last longer. I regularly get between 4,000 and 5,000 miles on a chain – checked with a chain measuring tool, I don’t wait for skipping and noises to signal a need for a new one – where normal recommendations are for a new chain every 1,600 miles or so. Second, all of the components that drive the bike will last longer (jockey wheels on the rear derailleur, cassette sprockets and chain rings). To put this in context, a good lube will cost ten bucks for a year’s supply. A chain costs $30-$40. Jockey wheels are cheap but a cassette runs $35-$120. Chain rings can run anywhere from $65 to $300 and consider that those chain rings are aluminum, not steel, like the chain (a softer metal).
The proper lube for your conditions.
I ride, regularly, three bikes.
I have my good bike that rarely sees a drop of rain, let alone adverse road conditions. That chain gets a wet lube. Wet lubes aren’t useful in sandy, dirty, dusty or wet conditions. I use Finish Line Ceramic Wet Lube. It’s quiet, light, loose and fast. It also attracts dirt and washes off in a good rain.
I have a rain bike – a bike that I pull out when there’s more than a 25% chance of rain while I’m out riding. This bike, because it will be used in adverse conditions, gets a dry lube – Boeshield T-9. A drop is applied to each roller of the chain and allowed to dry overnight. This lube holds up in a rain storm and because it’s a dry lube, it won’t attract near the grime the wet lube would. This is also the lube I use on the moving pivot points on my derailleurs. I also use T-9 on our (my wife and my) tandem.
Then comes my mountain bike. This bike gets pummeled. Mud, dirt, snow, rain… It gets everything thrown at it. For that bike I like to alternate between the T-9 and Finish Line’s Ceramic Wax Lube, depending on my mood.
Now, to clean my chains, which I do as needed depending on conditions or every 300-400 miles whether needed or not, I use a couple of different techniques. I never apply new lube over old without at least a cursory chain cleaning. The Ceramic Wet Lube is simple: A wet, dish soapy rag, wrap it around the chain and spin the pedals backward while holding the rag tight around the chain. While continuing to work the pedals backward I wipe down the jockey wheels on the rear derailleur. Next I shift to the smallest chain ring at the front and clean off the big ring (I rarely use the little rings so they don’t get “dirty”). Once the chain is clean I take the rear wheel off and clean in between each sprocket on the cassette. Put everything back together and after letting everything dry for an hour or two, I apply new lube to each roller.
For the dry lubes, it’s a little more labor intensive. A wet, soapy towel won’t cut it. I take the chain off, soak it in degreaser, then wipe it down (all of my chains have a Missinglink and I have tool that makes pulling the link apart a snap). Once every other chain cleaning (or when the chain has dirt or grit on it from riding in the rain) I like to take an old toothbrush to it to clean in between the plates of the chain. Not entirely necessary but it beats replacing chin rings, chains and cassettes. For a quick clean up when I don’t have the time to do it right, I use Finish Line’s Spray Cleaner and Lube… Spray it on the chain, wipe it off, give it a minute to set in/dry, relube. Ten minutes.
Don’t take my word on my choices, they’re simply based on what my local shop stocks and recommends (and about 30,000 miles of experience). Try different lubes and ask what the folks at your local shop recommend. The conditions you ride in dictate the lube you use.
And remember: WD-40 is only good for loosening rusted bolts, stopping squeaks in door hinges and use on ultra-cheap production bikes that one would buy at big box stores. It doesn’t belong on a bike that you plan on using for years to come… unless you’ve rusted some bolts.
I read a post yesterday about the World Naked Bike Ride. In Montreal. Ah, those Canucks [Oh, my… I did a little research (chuckle), I guess it really is kind of a World Wide thing… as long as you don’t include certain parts of the world. You know, because in certain parts of the world they’d kill you deader than a doornail, especially women, for riding a bike naked) – basically, it occurs only in developed societies that will put up with such nonsense].
Anyway, it’s about what you’d think. Paraphrasing: We need to ride our bikes around naked because, err… umm… environmentalism, silly!
Oh, I had a laugh at that, you know I did.
Then there was some pap about desexualizing the human body (technically, if we all got fat, wouldn’t that achieve the same thing, only faster and more effectively?). Anywho, here’s my comment on the post, because it made me laugh even harder as I wrote it:
I clicked on the post, because nude. And cycling. ‘Bout as good as it gets, eh? I also got about what I expected too. More lame excuses to run around naked, just because. The notion that riding a bike in the buff is about environmentalism is laughable. Oh, and that bit about “desexualizing the body”? Good luck with that, and pass the popcorn while you’re at it.
But whatever, you want to bare the breasts? More power to you, I’ll look at ’em. You know what they say about boobs, “Once you’ve seen one pair… you want to see the rest of ’em.”
Hat tip to Ron White, of course, for pointing out the blatantly obvious. Either way, if it ever gets to a point where I am the last sane human on this planet, I will admire boobs. I will support boobs. I will support women with boobs (and without for that matter) and their willingness to leave the shirt at home should they choose. And if you think my eyes wander to the cleavage now (as is the case with both men and women – scientifically speaking), you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. The day will never come when I treat my wife as an asexual being. She’s my smokin’ hot babymama (in the Elvis sense of the word) for life – though I may slow down when I hit my 90’s. I know there will be people out there who won’t take my view of things and humorously enough, will try to make me out as a child for my view. They are the anti-science, anti-reality children though. The adults are quite happy running around the house nude, as long as the kids are away at grandma’s house.
Of course, beyond that, lets talk about naked cycling and… chafing. Good Lord! Somebody wasn’t thinking!
To wrap this ridiculous post up, they actually have one of these silly things in Portland, Oregon. There’s a website for it and it looked like there were about twelve to fifteen riders – I didn’t want to look too close. Sheesh. Anyway, there’s also a Wikipedia page set up for the whole thing, with photos even… Let’s just say at least one of them didn’t get the memo on the whole “desexualization” thing.
Someone searched this, to get to a post of mine: “How much slower is a toad bike than a stationary bike”. This earth-shatteringly important question is worth my serious commentary.
First, let me say that, while toad bikes are definitely slow, actually teaching a toad to ride a toad bike is much slower.
My work with toads, while rarely noted on this blog, is extensive… we have a pond in the back yard. Now, as I’ve said, toad bikes are slow but even slower is trying to jump through all of the regulatory hurdles needed to actually build toad bikes. Folks, it’s nightmarish.
That said, toad bikes, contrary to popular misunderstanding and as slow as they are, are decidedly faster that a stationary bike. Dude, a stationary bike is for stationary.
A simple Google search of the Definition of “Stationary” turns up the following:
sta·tion·ar·y ˈstāSHəˌnerē/noun. 1.
Now let’s be very clear here. We can’t make a bicycle for stationary as stationary doesn’t have legs. Just wanted to get that out of the way. Oh, and technically that would be stationery, not stationary. Crazy, I know.
So, that sorted (or would that be sordid? I digress), the actual definition of Stationary is:
adjective. not moving or not intended to be moved
So by definition, even taking into account how slow toad bikes are, because a stationary bike doesn’t move at all, a toad bike would still be faster.
For the sake of brevity, I won’t even get into why we should concentrate on toad biking in a safe environment for the toads – they’re just too small to be safe on the roads.
Next up I’ll examine, in far too great a depth, what’s faster; a stationary bike or a fountain bike. Gotta love that part of the Stats page that shows some of the search terms used to get to your page.