I took last week off the bike just eleven miles short of 8,500 for the year. As nice as the weather was, we didn’t ride one mile. My sister-in-law flew my wife, kids and I down to stay with them in Florida over the Christmas Holiday. It was 29 degrees (-2 C) when we left and 78 when we landed. That was the coldest day of the week. Most of the week it was above 82. Day One was spent at the pool. Day Two:
Wave jumping. Day three was spent at the pool. Day four, we were back to wave jumping again… too much wind for anything else, but with 5-7 foot seas, it was a blast.
Days five and six were spent snorkeling and it was spectacular:
The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. After snorkeling on our last full day, all nine of us went to see Rogue One (phenomenal btw) at one of those theaters that have the leather recliner seats throughout the whole theater. Pure awesome.
Well, yesterday was devoted to playing a few last minute rounds of Spades before flying home…
How do you know when you’re not in paradise anymore?
Almost home (by way of Chicago)…
This all ends perfectly, though. We’re back with one more day left in 2016, and we’re riding this morning. Three hours from now I should be cruising over the 8,500 mile mark. What a perfect cap to a fantastic year.
UPDATE: 19-1/2 Spectacular Miles. The only thing better than a bike ride after a week off!
I don’t write much about it, but I take my phone everywhere I ride. No plastic bags, no pouches, no worries. Almost every photo I’ve posted on this blog was taken with a Lifeproof case protecting the phone that it was taken with. Over the last year or so, it’s been a Galaxy S6. This same phone has taken two tumbles from atop my Venge at speeds above 20 mph. No visible marks on the phone. No busted glass.
My phone still looks brand new (the case, not so much).
Then there’s this:
I won’t tell you how deep I was when I took those photos because I exceeded the recommended 6’6″ depth… Um, by a lot. I was, however, snorkeling, not scuba diving.
In any event, my case did fail on that snorkeling trip but it was only because I went too deep. There was less than one drop of water in the case and after I cleaned it and dried it out, it was ready to go again…. and my phone was not affected by the small amount of water that did make it into the case – I wrote this post on it.
My daughter busted the screen of her S5 recently, my niece, her iPhone, and my kids’ friends all have busted screens. I drop my phone from my bike, take it snorkeling and I don’t have a scratch. I quit caring about being super-cool carrying an unprotected phone long ago… all I care about nowadays is that it works.
I don’t take much time off of my bikes. All this talk you hear (or read) of rest days? When it comes to running, I get it. I could never run more than four days a week without feeling miserable. With cycling, all I have to do is vary my effort and I can ride every day without worry, trouble, injury, or anything else other than a smile (though I do recall two stretches of 30+ days that definitely required a rest day or two).
And I do. If I took 36 days off the bike last year I’d be amazed.
That said, this last week has been spent entirely off the bike. Entirely. No rides on the trainer, no rides on the mountain bikes and not even one mile on the Trek.
I looked at it as a preemptive week off. I didn’t want it or feel like I needed it, I just took it off, because. I’ve spent the week active, with other things….
I have a reason in mind: Come January 1, I’m going to put myself through the wringer so I can see some gains over last year. I finished the year with almost a thousand miles more that I put in the year before… and according to my regular cycling buds (who confirmed the hope I had), I finished the season strong.
Perhaps my timing is a little off as this is eating season, and I haven’t been on a scale in more than a few days, but I’m not too worried. A little hard work and a little hunger, I’ll be right as rain in a few weeks.
Oh, on a funny/interesting/nonsensical note, I’ve got 8,489 miles on the year – and I don’t know if I’ll get those last eleven miles to take me over 8,500 or if I’ll just call it good enough. Incidentally, that’s the equivalent of 3.63 trips from my house to San Diego, California… The miles sure do add up, one day at a time. Three years ago I thought it would be impossible to top 6,000 miles in a year. Not only was it possible, I did it all three years.
This time of year I always go through the same thoughts about cycling… Do I continue to keep track of my mileage or not? Keeping track is 99% useless. The only reason left that I do is that I know that, since 2011, I’ve run and ridden 35,039 miles, and I’ve burned just shy of 2,000,000 calories doing it, or 571 pounds… For whatever reason, I still think that’s kinda cool and if I quit keeping track, I lose those overall stats.
On the other hand, I’m not going back to my old sedentary life. The stats just don’t matter like they used to… There once was a time when seeing the miles add up helped to keep me motivated and excited about the streak I had put together. Those days are long gone. Anymore, just seeing my bike sitting in the corner is enough to get me suited up.
When a pissing match breaks out, the last thing I want to do is jump into the middle of it.
Two friends of mine did exactly that last night. The idea simple enough: Two grown men who think they know what God wants and both are arrogant and ignorant enough to think they’re right.
There’s no way either is winning that argument and anyone who gets sucked in will be collateral damage.
I just picked up my stuff and walked.
Why bother taking that with me through Christmas? Why take sides?
This morning is a bright new day… and I don’t have any baggage from last night.
Know this, I sobered up young. I was only 22 when I put the plug in the jug and I’ve yet to look back at 46. I once had an old-timer ask how I could sober up that early, adding “I spilled more than you ever drank!”
I replied, “Well, if you hadn’t spilled so much you’d have sobered up a lot sooner.”
It was a perfect moment, he had no come-back.
There was a lot of fear back then, on my part. On one hand, I really didn’t want to die a drunkard’s death and my days were numbered and short at that. On the other, I was afraid that my days of fun were behind me at the ripe age of 22. Hell, I was just barely old enough to drink legally when I chose to, with the help of the whole State of Michigan, up and quit.
At first, cleaning up the wreckage of my past was enough to keep my attention. Once the bulk of that was behind me, I needed some fun. STAT!
Now, there’s one important rule that I applied to myself that many who relapse choose to ignore: I must surround myself with recovering and/or sober people. No exceptions. Period, end of rule. Years later, once I popped my melon out of my sphincter and could react to alcohol as I would a forest fire (run!), I could relax a bit as long as I could meet three requirements:
- I had a good reason to be in the proximity of drinkers.
- My program was solid and my spiritual foundation was strong
- I had my vehicle ready for an immediate departure, if necessary. No getting parked in, no excuses.
Well, not so much. I truly believed in surrounding myself with sober people, for too many reasons to count. It just makes sense.
Within months of sobering up I met a guy at work who loved rollerblading and he didn’t drink. He wasn’t sober like I was, but that didn’t matter…. I knew I wouldn’t get into trouble hanging out with him. I didn’t know much about skating but I’d played quite a bit of pond hockey when I was a kid so I bought a ridiculously expensive pair and learned to use them. Matt and I were inseparable most weekends all summer long. I started taking solo trips out to a local Metropark after work and before my meetings. Before long I was putting in upwards of 60-80 miles a week on my skates (my best was 40 miles in one day, over the course of three hours).
It was one of those solo trips that opened my eyes. I wanted to see how fast I could do the 8 mile loop. 24 minutes and 32 seconds. On roller blades. I decided on a second loop but at an easy, enjoyable pace. Two miles into that second loop and I was overcome by a feeling that I was okay. Everything would work out and I was going to make it, sober. I was half-way between getting misty and jumping for joy. I did both.
It was the first time I’d ever felt that way, that I was going to be okay, without chemical enhancement. Ever. [ED The freedom that comes from fully, honestly working the steps came later – it took me a while to fully get through them]
My friends, after being a basket case for years, I can’t describe the joy and relief. Actually, yes I can; I was free.
I didn’t know it then, it took the better part of 15 years to put the pieces together, but that freedom was tied to my being sober and fit. Of course, I had no chance at the latter without the former, but let’s not split butt hairs.
Then there was a period of lethargy, video games, food, and weight gain.
Then, once my butt (and gut) had reached maximum allowable density, came running and the point of enlightenment. I didn’t love running but it was a great escape from the difficulties of life for an hour or two, three day or four days a week. Three of those days I ran with friends in sobriety, and my wife.
It was the escape. In fact, when I looked back on it, that’s exactly how I used alcohol. Well, with the distinction that with alcohol I didn’t want to, and eventually couldn’t, come back.
If you’ve been reading this page for any length of time, you know cycling is next.
Nowadays it’s 45 minutes to 1 hour four days a week, two hours two days a week, and three to five hours one day a week. The only days off are due to rain or having to work late… During the summer months, both are rare.
I ride just enough that when I’m pulling up to my driveway, I’m ready to tackle the world as it is again. I get my escape, but I want to come back.
Another interesting tidbit, almost every one of my cycling friends abstain from alcohol. Only three, of the dozen or so, are sober in context I am. Life is wonderful that way. Sometimes stuff just works out… if you believe in random crap working out against impossible odds. I don’t, but that’s just me.
Trigger (heh) warning: Oops, it think this was supposed to be before the photo of the fat lady singing. If this caused you to pee your pants, my bad. Sorry.
Power Line: Mid-Week in Pictures: Electoral College Graduation Edition. http://google.com/newsstand/s/CBIwzqKgtDI
The Noob’s Guide to Saddle Height – Too High, No Comfort. Too Low, No Power… Some Variations on Getting it Right
I shared a post written by the Ragtime Cyclist a bit ago because it made me laugh. In that post, however, was a link to a BikeRadar article that explained a few different variations on how to achieve the proper saddle height. The biggest problem I’ve seen noobs make, especially on road bikes, is having the saddle set too low.
I was out with my wife at our daughters’ swim practice when I read the post and the linked article so I was intrigued to get home and find out how I measured up using the old heel on the pedal method, then dialing it in by feel over the past couple of years.
The three variations in addition to the old tried and true heel on the pedal and pedal backwards option are as follows:
The 109: Take your inseam, multiply that by 109% and that’s your height from the pedal.
The LeMond: 88.3% of your inseam and that’s the height to the center of the crank*.
The Holmes Method: Requires a tool that measures the angle of one’s knee – skipped it.
*They say there’s a flaw in the LeMond Method: It doesn’t work for people with long femur bones, and you’ll see that in action in just a second.
So, I got home and took a book, slid it between my legs, snugged it against the boys and took the measurement from the floor to the top of the book’s spine. 33.5″ on the nose. 109% of 33.5 is 36.515″….
First things first, set the pedals up so the crank arms follow the slope of the seat tube, like so:
Second, take your tape measure and make sure the tape follows the contour of the tube, like so (if you really look close at the photo, it’s a little off because it’s hard to hold the tape in the right place with one hand whilst snapping a photo with the other). Also, you want to choose and edge that you’ll be measuring with and run that edge up the center of the seat tube:
Bob’s your Uncle. 36.53125″ Less than two hundredths of an inch higher than exactly 109% of my inseam… In bureaucratic parlance: “Perfect – right on the nose”. Or if you prefer fly-over country lingity: “Good enough for government work”. My Venge has the same 36.53125″.
So, here’s the problem with the LeMond Method… 88.3% of 33.5″ is 29.58″. Now, keeping a tape in the proper place at the center of the crank (rather than set on the pedal) whilst snapping a photo actually is impossible. Take my word for it, the LeMond method is 1/2″ lower, and therefore too low. Apparently I have long femurs.
In the end, here’s what’s important: If you have to rock your hips, even a little bit, side to side to get the pedals around, you’ve got the saddle set too high. This will also cause intense nether-region pressure. Even a couple of millimeters too high can cause saddle sores. Worse, too low and you’ll feel like you’re riding through mud. Not a big deal if you’re on a mountain bike on actual, real mud. Not so good on a road bike on smooth, paved roads.
The secret cyclist – http://wp.me/p3JW5y-Gy6
Check it out if you ride a bike and need a good chuckle.
One of the guys I ride with is putting together a brand new Merckx San Remo 76 from the ground up. Bora Bright 50’s (near impossible to get in the US), Campy Record components… It’s going to be pretty awesome, indeed, though he lamented as he walked out of the bike shop with his frame the other day, “Yeah, I’m going to get it built and I’ll have to look at it sitting in the corner till Spring”. His project got me to thinking about my Venge as it sits in the corner…
My bike isn’t that special, it’s the entry-level Specialized Venge with some exceptional upgrades. Still, it is a Venge and there’s nothing bottom of the line about that… As a package, now that it’s done, it’s an exceptional bike, especially as looks go.
Looks are only a part of the equation though. When we’re knee deep in snow and I’m pushing the pedals ’round on my Trek on the trainer, my mind always drifts to rocketing down the road on the Venge. My good bike never gets time on the trainer (or outdoor miles before Spring for that matter) so remembering previous rides has to suffice…
When romanticizing the “inner child” became popular it drove me nuts because I had no idea what they were talking about. Inner child?! What kind of hooey was that?
It wasn’t until I bought a bicycle and started riding regularly that I finally got it. My understanding took a while to develop though. I started cheap as money was tight. Then came a winning streak, and with it nicer bikes. With each upgrade, from a $400 mountain bike to an $800 road bike, to a $2,500 road bike (all retail prices, I bought my first three bikes used and at a fraction of retail price), my enjoyment for the sport grew and my “inner child” got to play for the first time in decades.
Then I saw this, in the most prominent display at the local bike shop, above and behind the counter:
I had to have it. For the first time, and after months of great numbers, I pulled some profits out of my company so I could walk out the door with it, free and clear. I plunked a thick stack of Hundred Dollar Bills on the counter and walked out with my bike.
Now, finally, I have a firm grasp on what all of that hoohah about an “inner child” was all about – actually, I think I get to do that one better; riding a great bike is being able to.play again. Not unlike heading outside to play when I was much younger, but with much nicer toys. It’s not feeding some tucked away, separate part of me, it’s the real deal.
Super-bikes are like any other luxury item… Not having the means to own one doesn’t exclude people from participating in the sport. Not having one doesn’t preclude one from the enjoyment of cycling. As long as one’s bike is clean, in good working order, and ridden well, I’ve never seen someone discriminated against for having a lesser steed. Having a super-bike simply makes the sport that much more enjoyable, and that alone makes them worth it (assuming one has the means).
With temperatures currently about 1 degree F (-17C), being firmly entrenched in some form of hibernation, all I’ve got while spinning on the hamster wheel is a good movie and memories of warmer days, blasting down the road with my friends… and that’s sweet enough till warmer days return.