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Monthly Archives: March 2017

The Fifth Commandment for the Cycling Enthusiast; That Dirt is Well Earned. Be Happy….

I took to cleaning the hubs on my Venge wheels a couple of weeks ago.  I carefully removed the wheels and disassembled the hubs only to find clean parts.  Ridiculously clean.  Beautiful.  I cleaned off the old, wiped on new lube, and put everything back together.  I haven’t tackled the hubs on my rain bike yet though.  They’re old-school tech so I’m assuming they’ll be a little trickier to mess with so I’m a little skittish.

I was talking to my friend, our LBS owner, about being unnerved at what I’d find once I took the old hubs apart…

Matt replied, “Don’t worry about it.  That dirt was well earned, be happy.”

I live for those little perception changing moments.  I’ve always hated getting my bikes dirty, but in one simple sentence and my attitude changed.  Just a little, and only for certain equipment.

I won’t be going out looking for gnarly conditions, but maybe getting a little dirty isn’t as bad as I made it out to be (on the proper bikes).  I also have to remember that which is most important:  I won’t get my bike dirty sitting if I’m on the couch watching life pass me by.

The dirt is well earned and I am happy.

The First Commandment for the Cycling Enthusiast.

Thou Shalt Enjoy the Ride.

Life is usually not short.  Eighty, ninety, even a hundred years is a long time.  I plan on making it to the latter so I still have 53 years, or so, left.  This is not going to be one of those overhyped, inelegant posts designed to motivate.  Someone.  We don’t quite know who though.  Anyone!

No, my friends, the real Ten Commandments are quite simple and I’ll attempt to follow that same, most excellent guide for my Ten (maybe Fifteen) Commandments of cycling;  Keep. It. Simple. Stupid. as the saying goes.

The point then, is simple:  Enjoy the ride.  Nobody’s getting out of this alive.

30 for 30 Days of Cycling; Fitness, Meh. Fun, Indubitably

I’m not to 30 yet, only 28 days, but I’ll get there tomorrow easy enough.  My fitness is awesome, I came out of winter ahead of where I was last year and mileage is building easily, so when I wrote “Meh” in the Title I did it to convey the simple message that the fitness, six years into my cycling experiment, is not the important part.  When one eats as I do and rides as much (and as fast, or “vigorously”) as I do, being fit is kind of unavoidable.

Yesterday I took the good bike out for a spin with my wife and friends, almost 18 miles in a little more than an hour, for a recovery ride after Tuesday’s 38 mile club ride and warmup.  Wednesdays typically end up being a solo ride or a spin with my wife, so it was an awesome treat when my buddy Mike called and asked to tag along.  After I spoke with him, I called Phill and invited him too.  That made an even four.

We chose a route with a lot of back roads and subdivisions so we could spend the most time side-by-side.  The only time the laughing ebbed was when we were sprinting for City Limits signs.  Sprinting is probably not something you should do on a recovery ride, but I really didn’t care, it was all about the fun.

Yesterday was one of those days that made me pause to think about how “lucky” I was to be “inspired” to buy a bike six years ago.  I never could have guessed my life would be so much fun, though unlike investments, prior history is an indicator of future performance – in terms of addiction recovery.

Just a thought.

The Noob’s Guide to Cycling:  Being Prepared for Cycling in Nasty Weather and having the Right Bikes

I have my blogging “career” to thank for having a rain bike.  In my first months of owning a road bike I noticed that many of the bloggers I read had a secondary bike reserved for nasty weather.  A bike that could be abused(ish).  A bike that could be ridden guilt free, or as close as one dares come to that, in crappy conditions.

Beyond the simplicity of N+1 or S-1, whichever the case happens to be whereby a simple notion, that you don’t have enough bicycles, can have one in a poor house or “just one more bike” away from separation from one’s spouse, is just a little too much.  I say this tongue in cheek, of course, but only kinda.

That said, for a person of fair means, what is the minimum number of bikes necessary?  Four.

Better, are there any shortcuts?  Absolutely, we can get that total down to two.  Read on…

Now technically I own five or six, depending on your point of view… my tandem being one and my wife’s Cannondale being another, but let’s not confuse this more than is necessary.

Four.  The “A” Road Bike, a Rain Bike, an “A” Mountain Bike and a Muck Bike.

One could make a fair case for a Cross Bike or a Gravel Bike – or you can simply pump up the tires to 45 psi and pedal a little harder on the mountain bike.  Again, let’s refrain from veering this bus into the ditch, eh?

The A Road Bike is not a necessity as much as it is a viciously grand luxury.  Now that I have one, I need one.  The A Bike can be ridden in the rain but only if absolutely necessary.  You can beat the snot 0ut of it and as long as you replace parts often, you’ll be fine.  That’s really the point of a rain bike though.  Replacing parts on the A Bike is really freaking expensive – likely more expensive than owning a second beater bike…

The rain bike, if one has the means, is the most important bike in the stable.  It protects The A Bike from crappy conditions.  Presumably, the rain bike will have cheaper components making it less egregious to replace excessively expensive parts (e.g. $275 for a couple of chain rings for the A Bike vs. $50 for the Rain Bike, etc.).  The rain bike should be sized appropriately and the setup should match the A Bike as closely as possible, though one may choose to play with the rain bike setup in advance of making changes on the A Bike.

Repeat for the mountain bikes or cross bikes.  Mountain bikes are an essential piece of cycling equipment, on par with, oh just for example, oxygen.  Well, perhaps that’s slightly overzealous… but not by much.  I think.

If one happens to be a roadie, as I clearly am, think of mountain biking as “crosstraining”.  If one prefers getting dirty (heh), think of road cycling as crosstraining on the cycling equivalent of an F1 race car.

The point being, I have a beater bike for each discipline to protect the good bike so it lasts longer.  Riding in the rain in Michigan is a dirty, gritty thing.  Grit tends to find its way into places that don’t do well to have grit in them.  Grit it chains grinds down chain rings.  Grit in bottom brackets affects the bottom bracket bearings.  Grit in wheels will eventually affect how the wheels spin.  Etc., etc., etc….

I promised earlier we could get this down to two bikes though, so let’s get right to it, because this is doable.  My wife is an excellent example for why it can be important to just go with one road bike.  I bought her a very special road bike that takes all of the best of a Time Trial/Triathlon bike and puts a drop bar and aero bars on it:

This is the Specialized Alias Comp.  It’s a really nice bike and I paid something like $2,600 for it.  Unfortunately, she loves the geometry so much, she has a tough time readjusting to a normal road bike which is much more stretched out because the seat post angle is significantly less steep – so much so that we gave her rain bike to our daughter.  My only option for a rain bike is to buy her another, more expensive, Alias so that she can use her A Bike as her rain bike.  Eventually that will happen but we don’t have the cash right now, so I went with a nuclear option…

If I keep the bike’s pieces clean and replace bearings as necessary, the bike will last.  The chain will have to be cleaned more often, after every rain ride, to keep the grit from killing the chain rings and the bearings will have to be changed much more frequently.  Fortunately, the bearings aren’t too ridiculous and cleaning the chain and drivetrain only takes ten minutes.  Other than that, the only other big item is replacing the cables every year instead of every other year.  Not a huge deal.

The wheels are an issue though.  The wheels that came on my wife’s bike are okay but they aren’t great (same with my original wheels).  With extended use in the rain though, they’re going to deteriorate more rapidly, so I got her a new set of A Wheels for her birthday.  How nice?  Well they’re not $2,000 carbon clinchers but they’re as nice as the wheels on my Venge.  Same cassette, same tires…  So when my wife is faced with other than optimal road conditions, all she has to do is switch her wheels.  It’ll take, if she takes her time, two minutes.

Do the same thing for the mountain bike and you’re down to two bikes.  In fairness though a Muck Bike is significantly less expensive than a second set of wheels so in this case, a third bike could be arguably less expensive).

Gracie says, “Yo”.

In my experience, and let’s be honest and clear, this is the experience of a cycling enthusiast, not a casual cyclist, it’s best to have a decent rain bike (or two) that I don’t mind getting a little mucky.  I’m not thinking about how much I’m killing my bike if I get stuck out in the rain – just on having a good time while I’m out there.

The Dominator; New Bike Dominates All, According to Bike Radar…

…  Perhaps the greatest bike ever built!

The Dominator is the product of research and passion. The designers had both opinions and dreams. They had a pencil and a laptop with an external mouse and they sketched things on paper and shaded it so you know they are serious. One of them rides a fixed gear bicycle to his office. His laptop has an ENDURO sticker over the illuminated fruit logo.

The Dominator is raced by a team. They have not won many races but their kit looks like that successful team you’ve heard of. You know the one. They provide valuable feedback about bicycles that need to be both comfortable and fast.

The Dominator’s frame is very advanced and clever. It is the result of lots of discussions with a factory who specialises in making frames. Many iterations have been viewed on the screen of the ENDURO laptop and slightly changed. In the press release the designers will mention how they explored three hundred and twenty variations to achieve this perfection. This is how you will know that they are People Who Ride Bikes just like you.

The Dominator’s frame is laterally stiff, but not in an unoriginal way. It has unparalleled responsiveness, but not like those other bikes. Its bottom bracket is beefy, chunky, muscular and massive, but it has the narrowest Q-factor ever recorded. Your heels will touch one another when you are dominating on the Dominator.

The seatstays are pencil thin, something the designers understand well because they have a pencil. The chainstays are large and boxy, something the designers understand because they have seen a large box. The Dominator’s cables are internal and external. They are subterranean and fibre optic. One of them is a hose when the need arises.

The Dominator’s top tube is both flat and round. Its cross-section is a diamond because it takes pressure to make diamonds and the designers understand pressure. They didn’t have to be crazy to work here, but it helped.

The Dominator’s headtube tapers more than anyone believed possible. The lower bearing is the largest thing in existence, the upper is an infinitely small dot, a singularity of low friction steering precision. This is a bicycle that goes both where you point it and everywhere.

The Dominator has a fork which is aero. The shape of the fork blades is inspired by both nature and science. They are dimpled to eliminate micro vortices, smooth to eliminate macro vortices and sticky to collect flies for important nutritional research.

The Dominator has handlebars. They are ergonomic, economic, antibiotic and pedagogic, because they teach you the value of holding onto things.

The Dominator’s seatpost is skinny because nothing looks as good as compliance feels. It is stout because ignorance is strength. The saddle mounted on the special seatpost has cut-outs for your perineum, your sit bones, your genitals and a tyre lever.

The Dominator’s wheels are stiff, but not too stiff, and not really that stiff at all. They use standard proprietary parts and they are wide to make the brakes feel useful. The front wheel is tubeless-ready.

The Dominator climbs like a homesick angel. It descends like a heat-seeking missile that has detected heat at the bottom of the hill. In a sprint, the rear triangle and the front triangle remain connected to one another and the bicycle moves forward quickly with each successive pedal stroke.

The Dominator is the greatest bike ever made. It is available in all colours, and none.

That about sums up a lot of the bullshit out there.   In other words, buy a Venge, knock the horns off, wipe its ass and ride it like a rented bull.  Or a Cervelo, or a Trek Madone, Willier, Salsa, Giant, Passoni….  You get the idea (my humble apologies if I didn’t include your bike brand of choice).

Can Smoking and/or Nicotine Stunt, or maybe Dull Happiness?

I finally quit nicotine after so many years on stop-smoking aids I lost count (mainly the nicotine gum but I found the lozenges made it easier to actually quit after more than a decade of the gum with occasional relapses with cigars).  I called it quits a little more than two weeks ago now and it’s not all bad.  The withdrawals sucked, but after a while I kind of mellowed out and all has been well.  This gets a little interesting though.

I want to concentrate on something that occurred to me on the way into the office this morning.  We’ve been riding outdoors quite a bit lately and I’m beginning to realize just how much my hard work over the winter is paying off.  Riding is feeling very good right now.  What’s been really nice, though, is the little endorphin rush after each ride, followed by the sense that all is right in my world.  That’s exactly what I was feeling on the drive into my office this morning.  My first thought, at feeling that rush of “everything’s okay” was, “Wait a minute, we shouldn’t be this high on life right now, we don’t want our highs to be too high so our lows won’t be so low” – this is an old recovery trick.  Once I learn that I can control my “highs”, I can learn to control my “lows” as well.  After that, it’s almost all good times and noodle salad as long as the balance is maintained…  Unless, of course, you like being a walking manic-depressive horror story.  If that’s the case, well, good luck with that.

My second thought was more important though.  My second thought was, Why am I feeling so good?! 

That was when the epiphany hit.  I’m off nicotine.  I used that shit to dull my bad mood swings and anxiety for decades.  If it was good at that, and believe me it was, then it must have been dulling the good vibes as well – because I genuinely feel really good the last few days.  My recovery is progressing along excellently.  I’ve never been so in love with my wife.  I feel like the luckiest dad in the world.  Work is work, but it’s going well… and I’m putting in some great miles on the bikes lately.  I should feel this good – everything is working.  On the other hand, when I was on nicotine, whether in the form of gum, lozenges or tobacco, as well as I did in life, it never felt as good as what I had this morning, out of the blue.

The only thing that makes sense is that the nicotine was dulling the good at the same time I was using it to mitigate stress.  I believe this because I don’t have anything else left to quit.  I don’t have anything fogging up the works if you will.  Too often we hear about the benefit of nicotine, smoking or stop-smoking aids, but how often have we heard about the equal and opposite reaction?

Maybe I’m slow to the party, but I just figured it out.

UPDATE:  A couple of people misunderstood the time line of my quitting nicotine…  I quit smoking cigarettes more than 15 years ago.  I’ve done stints, on and off, with cigars and even chewing tobacco but quit all of that years ago as well.  I have, however, been stuck on nicotine pills and gum – stop smoking aids, for years.  I figured the lozenges and gum were better than actually smoking.  It was, too – it’s just tough to come off of them too!  I hope this clears up any confusion.

Feeling Fabulous Again… Finally!

I went for a ride Thursday night.  It was cool out, just barely above 40 degrees and it was a little windy out but that’s pretty much Michigan in March.  Getting ready, I was trying to convince myself to skip riding outside and just ride the trainer inside.  I couldn’t do it.  While it wasn’t great outside, I’ve simply been cooped up too long.

Fortunately, I’ve found, recently, that the true answer to cycling in the cooler temps is more about wind breaking than it is about warm clothing.  Two light layers under a light windbreaker is warmer than two or three thermal layers (at least down to freezing – 32 F or 0 C) that don’t block the wind.

I decided to roll outside.  That made four of the last five days with a ride outdoors (I was six for seven over the week!).

I run into the same thing every spring – it’s cold, wet or windy outside and I’d rather just spend time on the trainer but I’m so tired of the trainer I suit up, ride outside, and end up glad I did (but only after I’ve warmed up over two or three miles).  Such was the case the other day.  This brings up another interesting point that pertains to the trainer vs. outdoor road riding:  They’re two very different things.  There is definite value in spending time on the trainer but it’s simply not the same as putting rubber to asphalt.

The difference is full body movement over sitting stationary on the trainer.  Over the course of a week I went from feeling good to feeling spectacular.  I feel loose again, calm, and undeniably happier.  Then there was the mental side, and truthfully I have to be careful here…  I feel so good lately I don’t want to come off as some silly or too giddy fanboy, but I’m simply one heckuva happy dude now that I’ve been able to ride around a little bit (if your idea of a little bit is 108 miles in four days).  After a long winter being stuck inside, a week in the outdoors on two wheels fixes a whole lot of perspective.  I’ll just leave it at that.

Be Careful on the Roads, My Friends.  With Spring, Silly Season Begins.

I was buzzed on the road the other day – and the motorist did it on purpose.  I know this because I followed him home and had a conversation with him.

Here are the facts:

  • I was not on the right edge of the road, potholes and road disrepair made that impossible, though when the road improved I moved over.
  • Once I moved to the edge of the road (6″ from grass), that’s when the motorist moved to pass.
  • The motorist, in a pickup truck, passed me within six inches without crossing the yellow line.
  • I was riding at 21 mph.
  • The speed limit on the small village road was 25 mph.
  • On being passed so close I followed the motorist home.

I could have taken this two ways at this point.  I opted for that which had the most potential for good results for cyclists.  I chose to talk to the man.  Maybe “appeal” would be a better word.

I stopped in the road in front of his house (rather than be confrontational and pull onto his driveway which would technically be trespassing if he asked me to get off his property) and asked, “How about you give us some room out there?”

His response was that he had to pass me that close because there was a double yellow line and he couldn’t cross that and he couldn’t be expected to wait behind me at 10 mph [Ed. Seriously].

I responded, “But I was going 21 mph, not 10”.

His response was priceless, “But the speed limit is 25 mph, what am I supposed to do, wait behind you?” [ED. He buzzed me over 4 mph].

I said, “Look, you could have crossed the double yellow to get around me safely and no cop in his right mind would pull you over for that.”

He continued his protest, “Look, man, you’re no cop so don’t quote the law to me.  I couldn’t cross the double yellow and had to get by you.”

I don’t have to point out the idiocy in his thinking.

I said, “Look man, I’ll tell you this.  What you did could have killed a less experienced cyclist and if a cop had seen what you did, that’s felony  assault with a vehicle and you can take that right to the jail cell.”

At that point he started walking back toward his house and said something unintelligible about “seeing me on the road”.  I responded by saying that he would be guaranteed to see me out there because I’d be there”.

This brings me to what I should do now.

First, I’m heading over to the local police station this morning to have a conversation with an officer about that wahoo.  He’ll get a visit at, at some point, from an officer who will explain the law to him and that you can’t pass a cyclist within inches because he’s going four miles an hour under the speed limit.

Next, this whole thing was my fault – and I actually made it worse for future cyclists with that guy.  I rode too close to the edge of the road – I gave the motorist just enough room to squeeze by me and he took the lane I gave him.  It never ceases to amaze me that the rare motorist (and I do mean rare, in 8,000 miles I may see one or two guys like that in a full year – every single one drives a pickup truck) will buzz a cyclist simply to be an asshole.  It’s not only that he’s risking the cyclist’s life, but he’s willing to risk prison time just to be a little penis (and I mean tiny).  I should have kept my part of the lane, so that the motorist had to cross the yellow to get by me because eventually he’s going to see an average cyclist out there and do the same thing, thinking everyone can maintain control like I did.  That motorist could leave this experience believing what he did wasn’t that big a deal and end up killing someone else.

So before that happens, and being the president of our cycling club, I’m going to use this Spring to make a public service announcement that seeks to simplify what the law is (at least in our State) and let’s motorists as well as cyclists, know what is acceptable and what isn’t.  This is the main reason I’m going over to the local police station this morning, because one way or another I’m going to get law enforcement involved in this effort as well – so I can produce something that will help ease tensions.  That’s what decent people do.  They don’t whine, cry and throw temper tantrums.  They find ways to make things better for everyone.

In the meantime, my friends, be careful out there.  This is the silly season where motorists realize, yet again, that not only are we cyclists not going anywhere, we’re multiplying – and that seriously pisses some of them off.

One final point for the hateful motorists out there who would swerve for a chipmunk but not a father of two on a bicycle:  Your hatred of cyclists is misplaced.  Don’t hate us because we ride.  Lobby your politicians for wide shoulders to get us off the road.  It’s their failure that puts us on the same asphalt.  Think about this long and hard; Do you really think we want to be on the same road surface as your ignorant ass?!

The Noob’s Guide to Cycling:  Why We Check and Clean the Rim Brake Pads

See that hole in the brake pad?


That little chunk of metal used to be stuck in it.  This is why we regularly check the brake pads.

Imagine the damage that could have been done to my rim had that been left in there.

Now, there’s a tell that’ll let you know you have a potential problem but it requires you pay attention and recognize tiny differences in feel and sound.

Put simply, the brake will feel and sound as if you’re braking under wet conditions, without the wet.

Checking the pads is about one of the easiest things you can do as far as bike maintenance goes.  Open the brake release, remove the wheel and shine a flashlight at the pads.  If you see a piece or metal, simply dig it out with the tip of a knife or a razor blade.  Then lightly sand the pad down with a piece of sandpaper.

It’s about as simple as you get.  Unless you hail from Canada…  Then it’s aboot as simple as you get.

Ride hard my friends.

The Eighth Commandment for the Cycling Enthusiast…

Thou Shalt Ride more than Once on the First Nice Day of the Spring…

I hear and obey.  Thank you, Father.  May I have another?