While hunting up north (“up north” is a term used in Michigan when we break from the lower quarter of the State to get away to the expansive, quiet north) over the weekend I had some time to think, especially on Saturday…
I was sitting in my blind waiting for a deer to mosey by and my mind started wandering to an honest assessment of where my life is at. This often happens near every one of my sober anniversaries and this next one hits at the end of the week, number twenty-four. During that assessment period I started thinking about some things I could be just a little better at… Having laughs with my wife, about how I treat her, being a little more frugal, and then there’s some room for improvement in the effort I put into my work… It’s not that I’m falling short on any of these issues, I honestly think I’m putting in a good effort. The rub is that I know I can do better.
Then there was yesterday… Sunday was the first day in almost 20 years where I didn’t worry about having my phone on me at all times. In fact, twice I left it back at the camp without thinking about it while my friend and I were out traipsing about the woods. My job is mostly to blame for this but the blog has something to do with it as well. To tell the truth, it was really nice to not care for once – and that’s where Saturday and Sunday came together for me.
On arriving home yesterday afternoon I talked to my wife about everything that I’d come up with while I was up hunting – after dealing with a few kid-related fires that needed to be put out. At first she played devil’s advocate to make sure I was serious about letting the blog go and once I explained everything in detail, she warmed to the idea that I might be more attentive, or perhaps less consumed would be a good way to put it…
So, I’ve made a commitment to let the blog go for the next year’s worth of 24-hours and see where things shake out. I’ll be deleting the app from my phone once the fervor from this post dies down. While this may be so long, it won’t be “I’m outta here for good”. I’m going to dabble with the blog from time to time and I’ll start looking into that book so many have been pushing me to put together (though I have ego issues with that idea – truth be told, I’m not all that important… even to myself. That creates a bit of a conundrum when looking at writing a book – or even putting one together from the posts I’ve written – about oneself).
Finally, to Shay-lon and the deutscherwanderwolf, thank you for the blog awards, they’re greatly appreciated. Second, to my friend’s Sue, the Tempo Cyclist, the Ragtime Cyclist, Dan, Titanium Henry, Elisa, Andy, Gail, Sara, definitely the Unironedman, Andy, MJ, Wayne, Stefan, Paige, Sandra… and somebody shoot me for being stupid enough to start naming names because I’ve failed to include a couple of dozen of the bloggers I should have – actually, no. Don’t shoot me. Scold me or something, but don’t shoot me. Anyway, to all of my friends, I hope to see you around. If not, good luck and Godspeed my friends.
God only knows what’s in store for me. And I’m okay with that.
The Fit Recovery Cycling Dictionary defines the word Recovery thusly:
A return to a state of happiness in terms of mind, health and strength.
If you went by the fact that I consistently write of my recovery from alcoholism as the basis for this blog, you would only be getting the part of the picture of what recovery is. Drinking was but a symptom of a much greater breakdown of my life that was in desperate need of repair. Obviously alcoholism was the beginning of my recovery, alcoholism created the desperation I needed to get the ball rolling. From there, once I embraced a program of recovery, taking to the task of repairing the rest of what was wrong with me became a natural progression. A funny thing happens once a miserable person like me tastes freedom and happiness: We want more. The simplest path, I found, was to lead a clean, honest, decent life in which I never crossed a goal line. There is always room for improvement. This keeps me on a path of constant improvement, seeking only happiness, balance, and to be of use to my fellows. While it’s not always easy (especially trying to keep the focus where it belongs – on me and my issues to fix), it is incredibly rewarding. The important point here is that recovery isn’t just for alcoholics and addicts. Recovery is for anyone who wants a return to happiness, health and strength. The only question that remains is how bad do we want it.
So I was all fired up about taking my Venge out for a ride yesterday evening. A few days from now, with the end of daylight savings time, my evening rides will be effectively over. I’m quickly running out of days acceptable enough to ride the good bike.
My ride started out fantastically. I was up shifting like a madman. 12, 14, 18 mph… 2o, then 22 where I settled down, into a mild breeze. I’d have been struggling to hold 19 on the Trek – a decent set of wheels makes a big difference.
Heading north I came upon our roundabout. My second favorite part of my ride because I’ve only had to slow down twice since they put it in and I can shoot through the intersection faster than cars can navigate the tight turns. It’s a rare day I have an advantage over a car.
Entering the roundabout (shown in the photo coming back the other way):
I saw an older Impala coming toward me from the right. I clearly had the right-of-way but I couldn’t see the driver’s face… I have this crazy rule I live by; If I can’t see the driver’s face I assume they’re going to do something stupid. Much to my chagrin, I sat up and slowed.
Sure enough, she didn’t even tap her brakes. If I hadn’t been paying attention, or if I had assumed she would yeild, I’d be a grease spot a fire fighter would be sweeping off the concrete with the aid of a couple bottles of Coke.
I let my momentum carry me right up to within a few feet of her door and I yelled, “Hey!” She jumped in her seat and quickly turned her head with a perfect “Oh, F***” expression on her face. She was so zoned out, she didn’t even see me till I shouted.
My friends, riding under the assumption that everyone behind the wheel is an idiot won’t guarantee safety, but it’s saved my bacon more times that I care to recount.
I continued on with my ride, not even shaken. The remainder was exceptional, glorious, and fast. Coming through town on the way back I held north of 26 mph for two miles after having to stop momentarily for two stop lights.
I finished the 16 mile route, stops and all, in 48m:36s. A 19.8 mph average.
While I could have made a big deal about the poor driving skills displayed by that young lady, or chosen to remain shaken by the event, the way I choose to ride made neither necessary or even reasonable. All turned out well in the end.
With the exception of the 2o second altercation at the roundabout, the remaining 48:16 was absolutely wonderful. I got my fast on and that had me smiling all night long.
Technically it’s the sound of a decent cassette body but that makes for a lousy post title….
I walked into the bike room to prep my Autumn/Rain bike for an evening spin… and there was my Venge just hanging on the wall. I looked back at the Trek. Then back to the Venge…
I can’t take riding the 5200 again. It’s a great bike, don’t get me wrong, but my Venge is a rocket ship by comparison…
I’ve got to feel that easy speed again. The responsiveness when I press down on the pedals.
I always laugh to myself whenever I read that familiar refrain: “You don’t need to spend more than $800 on a road bike because…”
You may not, but I did, and for that I am grateful.
Daddy’s taking out the big gun tonight. I reached over and plucked the Venge from its hook. The lightness of it, the ease of pulling it off the wall. A wry smile stretched across my face. Age, and a great job, has its privileges. I set the Venge on the carpet and wheeled it out to the living room….
Tick… tick… tick… tick…
Honest, my pulse quickened.
Whoever says, “It’s just a stupid bike”, never rode a high-end steed. Not like I do.
Riding my Venge is everything that’s good about being an adult, a sober one at that, and making a good living. It’s the best money I’ve ever spent on a toy.
…..And tonight I’m going to enjoy that feeling once again.
Because I can.
The bar tape says everything you could want to know about a cyclist….
The other night during the warmup before the club ride, I noticed that the tape on my Trek rain bike had loosened up under the hood on the left drop.
For many, it would stay like that till they could get the bike into the shop or some electrical tape would be hastily wrapped around the bar tape to keep it in place. For me, it drove me batty the night I realized the issue, there was no way I could ignore it. The next morning I put my steed in the car before I left for work, and I left 20 minutes early so I could fix it before work:
For cyclists, the bar tape is more penetrating a tell than a psychic could hope for. The tape on my Trek is well-worn, not perfectly wrapped but pretty darn good. It starts from the bottom and winds around the drop, rising towards the stem. The electrical tape is tight and of the highest quality because daddy knows electrical tape (I buy the more flexible, high-grade 3M tape because it lasts longer in practical electrical applications). The right side, in the photo above, is also about a quarter-inch in from the left (I’ll have to fix that, didn’t realize it till I was looking at the photo on my computer – it’ll take three minutes).
There are two important things to note:
First, note the top of the bar, how the coils run towards each other from either hood. Most rookies make the mistake of starting the tape from the same side of the drop… Outside on the left bar, inside on the right, because most people are right handed. This will leave both sides with the same slant in the coil. I was guilty of this my first two go arounds. One must begin each side, opposite. For instance, start from the underside of the drop and wrap to the top and inside on each drop. On my bars I wrapped, starting under the bar, outside to inside. I also chose to start at the bottom of the drop and wrap up than start at the stem and wrap down… Choosing the latter route, one can completely avoid the electrical tape finish and that looks really cool but works against the way your hands move on the bars when shifting between the bar top, hoods and drops. Additionally, starting at the top with the wrap the way one grips and holds themselves up when in the drops can work to unravel the bar tape rather than strengthen the coil if the wrap is started at the bottom.
Second is the coil itself. Notice that my coils are equally spaced but not absolutely perfect? This says I am not a bike mechanic (or Chinese and wrap bars for a living… Those folks wrap a mean bar!). This says that I have some give-a-shit but shouldn’t quit my day job and I’m okay with that.
Take the fact that my tape is worn. This says, no matter how clean the bike or drivetrain, the bike is ridden… a lot. This is obviously a good thing.
The tape itself says something too. Bontrager (zoom in on the photo, you can see the tiny b’s), middle of the line gel cork. This says that I ride on rougher roads and this probably isn’t my main bike.
Now for the Venge:
Perfect coils, well-worn yet still exceptionally elegant. Specialized Pro D2 tape… It’s the bees knees, leather look and feel with just enough gel on the back to make the ride immaculate. Perfectly stopped before the aero part of the bar starts…. That tape isn’t made anymore but it went on all of the highest-end Specialized bikes up to the S-Works models. The coils are perfectly matched and were obviously done by a mechanic who took a lot of care (Justin cares as much about a good bike as a person can). The tape on that bike shows that the bike is ridden hard yet loved immensely.
What you don’t, and more importantly won’t see on one of my bikes is bare bar due to loose or ripped tape or a crappy tape job. Those egregious errors in judgement do show that the bike is ridden often… by someone who doesn’t care or doesn’t possess the “want to” enough to learn how to wrap a handlebar or to take the time to do it well. It took three attempts to get the right side where I could live with it. The left, the first time.
Now, I’m almost certain I’ll have pissed someone off with these simple observations. Allow me to suggest you’re not really pissed at me as much as you’re embarrassed that your bars are gnarly because you think you should get some hippie cred because you’re fighting the man by not replacing that 20 year-old shit that’s falling off your handlebar… Or something.
Yeah, no. It’s 2o bucks, dude. Nobody at [insert manufacturer here] is retiring off of your 2o.
If you’re serious about cycling, take the time to learn how to wrap a bar. And if you’re at a loss:
It was unbelievably warm yesterday, all day. I’d planned on playing hooky from work but that didn’t work out.
“Oh, yeah, I want to be my own boss so I can set my own schedule! Woohoo!”
“Knock, knock. This is f****n’ reality. You do get to set your own schedule, and as long as you’re setting it to include more time at work, we’re good.”
I chose to wear a Sugoi Zapata jacket… because I’m an idiot sometimes. I like the idea that, other than having to wear a jacket, it’s entirely covered with reflective dots… it’s about as close as you can get to a fully reflective as you can get without giving up an arm, leg or both. I love that jacket… when it’s not 70 degrees outside at the start of the ride.
The problem here is that I didn’t trust the weather report that said the temp would remain stable and only drop to 63 by the time we’d finished. Oops.
I donned that jacket and knew I was screwed within two miles when I started heating up. In reaction I unzipped it, and the jacket became a wonderful, reflective parachute.
One thing that is not conducive to cycling fast is wearing a parachute. Just in case you hadn’t figured this out yet.
Unfortunately, our causal night ride did not remain a casual night ride. And I was wearing a parachute. Oh, and if that wasn’t good enough, and it is, I decided that I wanted to make sure I didn’t get dropped when the pace ramped up so I spent way too much time at the front in the last ten miles. Because sometimes I’m either not too smart or I have a little too much confidence in my abilities as a cyclist.
Long story short, remember that Snickers commercial where the dude playing football turns into Betty White?
Call me Betty. Not really.
I had nothing left for the sprint by the time it was over. I held on the best I could but I finished at the tail end of the first group.
Thankfully, I have very cool, graceful friends and it was handshakes and high-fives in the parking lot.
Either way, it was a blast of a ride and we couldn’t have asked for better conditions. Normally we have to factor in frost bite on the final ride of the season.
I got home from the office yesterday and I had a problem. The temp was in the upper 40’s, it was cloudy and windy with the wind from the north – never a good thing when it’s already cold.
Immediately mind went to yesterday’s lousy ride, because that’s what we mere mortals do. We often to back to yesterday’s crap to fail today. My daughter needed to be taken to her friend’s house for Halloween and if my wife, who was on the phone, had pointed at me to take her, I’d have skipped my ride. Instead, she just shook her head and gave me the “give me five minutes” hand up.
I suited up and headed out the door, figuring I’d just take it easy and roll with it, knowing the return trip home was going to suck.
I started out pedaling easy and quickly took it up to 20 mph with the tailwind. The crosswind is what surprised me… 21 was easy. The next two miles was 23-24 and the all-too-familiar smile stretched across my face. Then 25 and 26 mph, as I got down into the drops. I could feel the effort in my legs though, with the inferior wheels on the Trek. I knew I was going to have the club ride coming up and I wanted to save some. I backed off just a bit.
Then another crosswind followed by a headwind…. and that’s where my ride hit the grind. Damn headwind. I managed 18 but it was some freaking hard work. Crosswind, tailwind, then time to head home but it was a cross headwind. 20 was reasonable but work and I knew I had a tough slog home…
I had no idea what I was in for. The wind was picking up. And the first half-mile is uphill.
I was in full-on smile mode though, so I gritted my teeth through my grin, got down in the drops, put my head down and made the turn for home.
The first mile sucked but I held 18 to 19 mph, even for the first uphill bit. By the middle of the second I was fairly trashed so rather than mess with keeping the speed up, I let up to spin the last two miles home. Too much would have hurt tonight’s ride and I was right on the edge.
The last mile to my house was laughable. In between cussing, I really did laugh.
I finished, took a shower and got ready to head over to my buddy Pete’s for dinner and Trick or Treating for my youngest.
I could spend another 500 words dissecting what was going on in my head but I’ll keep it simple: I wanted to whimp out but I didn’t. I thought it was justifiable but it wasn’t. I thought I’d hate my ride again but I was wrong.
My gut hates it when I prove my melon committee wrong. That one bad ride on Sunday was the seed to a cancer that never was…. because I suited up.