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Monthly Archives: April 2017

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A Simple Bike Ride can make it all Worthwhile

We had enough in our group yesterday that I didn’t bother counting.  It was a lot.

Starting out it was a wonderful 50 degrees (10C) as people started showing up.  I’d gotten the grass cut on Saturday so the yard was looking quite good… and I was thankful because my driveway started filling up about 20 minutes to 9.  Then my yard along the road.  Then three more rode over.

We rolled at two minutes after nine, not a cloud in the sky and with only a mild breeze.  It was a day made for cycling and I couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face.

I could go on forever about the ride, it was that awesome.  It was also quite fast for April (49 miles, 19.3 mph average) and I really didn’t have to spend all that much time up front till we got to the last fifteen miles.

I went through some interesting thoughts on this ride that I believe are important and I wanted to share them.  They’re a bit of a change in heart.

First, I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I want to ride with the A guys this year.  Do I want to be one of the slower A guys or one of the fastest B guys?  I’d bet you can guess which would be more attractive but maybe not why.

I love going fast and I’ve been trying to get fast enough to ride with the A guys for six years now.  However, the A guys turn every ride they do into a sufferfest race.  We B guys, on the other hand, ride hard but a few miles an hour slower – not too fast to be able to talk and laugh through much of the ride.  There’s so much more fellowship in our B group.  Staying with the B group means riding with my friends and wife and being able to enjoy a vastly rewarding fellowship.  Riding with the A guys means I’ll go fast.  Real fast – and it would hurt.

Second, up until this year I thought all I wanted was to go fast.  I was sure of it.  Right up until I got fast enough to jump groups.  Go figure.  After all of that BS about “it doesn’t get any easier, you just go faster”, I’ve discovered the one thing that beats being fast:  Being happy.

The important aspect to all of this is that, while being fast plays a part in my happiness, riding with my friends and simply having a good time is what makes all of the work, bill paying, and the hum-drum of normal everyday life fun.  That’s really what matters most.

The weekly wrap-up:  211 Miles, 12,557 calories burned (give or take), 11 hours 15 minutes (give or take).  Average pace 18-3/4 mph

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A Sweet Day for a Bike Ride;  No Place I’d Rather Be than In the Saddle

Obviously, any day which happens to be dry, above freezing, and with winds under 20 mph is a good day for a bike ride.  I’m not talking about good.  I’m talking about sweet.

It’s rare, in April, for we Michiganders to get a perfect Saturday for cycling but that’s exactly what we had yesterday.

Single digit breeze, abundant sunshine and reasonable temps.  It started out cool, of course.  This is Michigan, but it did warm up quickly enough.

We put in two hours and 20 glorious minutes for 43 miles on the nose.  

We were heading home, 38 miles on the computer, and I was bummed we only had five to go.  It is what it is though.  I had grass to cut so I decided to settle for the 43.

The good news is I only need 38 miles to top 200 miles for the fourth consecutive week… and today is supposed to be nicer than yesterday!  

It is good to be me.

It Takes Two to Tandem, 2017 Edition

I pulled the tandem out last weekend, cleaned it up and transfered some measurements over from my wife’s road bike.

I’d been looking forward to putting some miles on it since.  I don’t know what it is about that bike but I just love to ride it with my wife.

Wednesday evening was the time.  We had some ugly skies to the immediate south but it was supposed to stay south of us.  My wife and I mounted the steed, pushed off, and away we went.

First, I’d forgotten how much more work the tandem is than my single bikes.  It’s a lot like marriage that way though, riding a tandem:  More work but A LOT of fun.

I had to bust my ass for an 18 mph average but my God, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.

My buddy Mike had decided to join us and provided comic relief by chiming in, “Yeah, I like this [drafting behind a tandem] a lot better!”

I had so much fun, I’d bet Democrats are meeting as we speak to try to figure out how to raise my taxes because it’s simply not fair, in these tumultuous times (that politicians created in the first place), for a man to have as much fun as I did.

There’s just something special about riding that bike with my wife.

Most guys will joke that they wouldn’t want to have their wife that close to their ear but I love it.  While I struggle with keeping an eye on the speedometer and thus, trying to push the pace a bit, I really enjoy being able to talk with my wife while we’re pounding out the miles.

After a few funny reminders that we were on a tandem, we found our rhythm and we cranked out some quality miles.  While I did have to work a bit harder, the balance to that work is being able to cut through the wind.  If you’ve never ridden a tandem, riding one into the wind is truly a beautiful experience.  Where I’d normally be in the drops, trying to kiss my stem cap, on the tandem, it’s simply head down and go.

As we rolled home on the final mile we exchanged fist bumps with Mike and pulled into the driveway.  Dinner was extra good Wednesday night.  And I slept like a baby.

Over the last couple of days I’ve given up trying to figure out why I love riding that tandem so much.  I simply moved on to acceptance.  It’s good enough for government work.

It’s a Good Time for Men to Stand Up for Decency.

Brick Breakers: Will You Stand In The Gap – http://wp.me/p309wl-1Tu

No further comment necessary.  We men must stand for what is right, good and decent.

A Gift from a Friend, from Ireland

I met a blogging couple from Ireland and we quickly became friends, over the web of course.  A while back, the Unironedman commented on a post about a phrase I used being made to go on a teeshirt:  A High-End Bike won’t Fix Low-End Legs

I responded that it already was on a shirt and that I’d send him one.  I also included one for his wife, a spin on Namaste, “Namacycliste“.

He’d asked me to send him the cost and my wife’s paypal account so he could make good on the shipping costs but I simply got busy and forgot.

Yesterday I came home to find a package from my friend in Ireland, which held a wooden spoon that he’d hand made along with a note about where he’d obtained the wood.

Being a carpenter by trade and a wood butcher by choice, words cannot describe my gratitude.  While it came with instructions for care should I choose to use it, it has a place on a special bookshelf in the foyer of our house where my wife and I display our memories.

How to Fix a Creaky, Squeaky Water Bottle Cage… In less than 30 Seconds

My bike is an exceptionally well thought out work of art.  

Everything matches, everything has its place, and everything is as high-end as I could afford.

Now, I realize I lose a few style points for carrying big water bottles, but I ride big miles and we don’t stop if we don’t have to, so complain if you must, I’m okay with it.

With that out of the way, I have two Blackburn carbon fiber bottle cages that match the bike perfectly.  As you can see, the red one is the perfect shade of red too…  Even the Camelbak bottles match. 

Now couple that with my healthy obsession that my bike be perfectly quiet and this gets interesting.

It was with great consternation that I found the red cage creaks when there’s a bottle in it.  It creaks over every little bump in the road.  Just a small creak, most people can’t even hear it when I’m riding next to them…  It absolutely drove me up a wall.  I tried three different kinds of high-end water bottles too.  Purist, Polar, and Camelbak.  The Polar bottles worked the best but they were far from perfect.

It came to a head over the weekend.  I couldn’t take it anymore.  I thought about buying a new Specialized cage I’d seen at the shop.  It was very nice, very carbon fiber and the red was almost as good a match as the Blackburn.  The only problem was getting it by my wife.  That wasn’t going to happen. 

As I rode my solo active recovery ride Monday, every time I rode over choppy pavement, I would place my hand on my bottle and feel where the vibration came from.  The upper lip was the offender.  I thought of trying anything from foam tape to exotic solutions…. then I decided to keep it simple:

Three tiny pieces of electrical tape on the upper flange was enough to tighten everything up perfectly.  

Last night’s club ride was the test.  Perfectly quiet, as it should be.

Fit for 2017: The Good Times, They Roll

I have a few things going on this year.

Recovery is the easy part.  It’s a daily reprieve, baby.  Work is work, it’s still there.  My relationship with my wife is freaking awesome, and with my kids is equally good.

As fitness goes, I don’t even know how I’m doing as well as I am.  I’m well beyond 50 mile shape already.  The distance is feeling a little short.  40 miles is almost too short while 50 is feeling like a workout but once we hit 35 miles I’m having to concentrate on not feeling a little down that we don’t even have an hour left.  I feel phenomenal, even at 46 days without a day off.  Better, I’m having so much fun I can hardly contain myself.

Saturday was our first real “shorts (bibs) and short sleeve” day of the year.  Leaving at 11 am (to allow roads to dry out) we did have some fairly extreme wind to deal with, gusting at times to better than 25 mph and sustained winds from 15-20 mph.  Even with the wind, it was warm, topping almost 75 degrees.  I realize for those in warmer climates, this is almost cause to pull out the spring jackets but for us northerners, it’s time to subject that pasty skin to some rays.  I had a smile stretched across my face the entire 43 miles.  I did mess up a bit though.  I only took one water bottle with me.  It wasn’t enough so I ended up trying to play “hydration catch-up” for the rest of the day.

Sunday was a little cooler but shorts (bibs) and short sleeves were still reasonable and comfortable.   I was a little tired for the start but felt better as the ride progressed.  The wind pounded our group again but we just dealt with it.  We did our time into the wind and then let it push us home.  My best fitness surprise of 2017 came over the last ten miles of Sunday’s ride.  I had been up front for a mile of crosswind when we turned to head east, with a 20+ mph tailwind.  I took a minute to let the group catch up and, on carefully checking over my shoulder that everyone was there, started to turn up the heat.  I took it to 25 and that was a little easy.  Another gear and 27.  I could see a Genesee County Line sign ahead so I really put the hammer down coming down a small hill that would barely register as a “grade”…  37-1/2.  Interestingly, I found out that one can still smile while pushing one’s bike beyond 35 mph.

My buddy, Mike came up for a mile-long turn up front and as we entered Durand I put the hammer down again and took that sign at 35 mph (dead flat).  Rather than drop back after everyone caught up, I stayed up front.  24 mph, 25, 26… And that’s when the howling protests from the back started, asking me to cool it a little bit.  I took it back to 23.5 and kept it there.  I took it all the way home, more than ten miles, only giving up the front for two miles all the way home.  I felt awesome all the way to my driveway – although Sunday’s nap was a fairly deep sleep and I needed it.

The point, however, is that last winter’s hard work on the hamster wheel trainer panned out better than I ever could have hoped.  2017 has started out even better than last year and I’m happy each morning I wake up to have another day on the right side of the grass, pumping air.

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