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Monthly Archives: July 2017

God, Please give Me the Strength to not do Anything Stupid Today….

I try to keep my prayers simple.

“God, give me the strength to not do anything stupid today”.

“God, if You please, this is how I plan to proceed [on anything].  If my plan is not Your will, please put some roadblocks in my way.  And if You could, please God, make them big because I tend to be dense and I don’t want to miss a it.”

As a practicing drunk I made a lot of stupid decisions.  I would swear off booze, then celebrate my second day of being off booze by going to the bar to see my “friends”.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to fill in the blanks of “what happened next”.  I’d wake up the next morning in a puddle of my own puke, wondering what happened to my wonderful resolve.  I had surely been done with booze.

Stupid is as stupid does.

I work an honest program.  Honesty in the self-interpretation of my mind, my feelings and my actions is paramount.  I almost threw intentions in that mix but most of us know intentions are full of crap, so let’s not even bother.  I may intend on not being an @$$hole, but if I am indeed an @$$hole as seen by my actions, guess what?  Yep, I’m an @$$hole.  Intentions are a lazy excuse.

The world tends not to think like this.  We shy away from honesty.  We shade it and call it “gray”.  We hear excuses on a daily basis.  Hell, many of us give excuses on a daily basis.

The excuse is a sure sign of a loser.  “God, may I always remember that excuses are for losers.  Please help me to remember my true nature so that I may avoid those people, places and things that lead to my downfall… so I don’t ever have to sink to making excuses again.”

“God, may I always remember:  If I sit in a barbershop long enough, eventually I’m getting a haircut.”  “Please help me to remember that I don’t need a haircut today”.

Perhaps I’ll skip sitting in the barbershop today.  The saying goes, To thine own self be true.  My spin on that is “To mine own self be true”.

One day at a time, my friends.  It’s either one day at a time or five to ten.  I leave the choice to you.  Just remember, it’s always a choice.

Leaving it all on the Road

I rolled out with my wife and friends at 8:02 yesterday morning.  Why the 02?  Winston texted me at 7:56 that he was running late.  Punctuality is not his strong suit.  He pulls like a tiny Clydesdale though, so what’s two minutes between friends, eh?  Nothing.

It was a perfect day for cycling.  60 degrees to start (15 C) and not a cloud in the sky, and no wind.

At 8:03 on Sunday morning we had 5 hours and 18 minutes – and 99.75 miles – to go.  No hill for a mountain climber.

At some point, around 20 miles in, the guy at the front missed pointing out a hole in the asphalt.  It was hard to see, as the road had simply sunk in a 6″ round hole so there was barely a shadow.  I missed it but several behind me didn’t.  Lynn didn’t.  He was taking a swig one handed when he hit it.  He lost control and endo’d down a 10-15′ deep ditch.  It was something out of a TdF crash video.

Amazingly, he was okay.  A little scratched up and his bike was going to need new bar tape and his shifter lever straightened, but he was back and riding after we formed a human chain to pull him out of the ditch.  Seriously.

We sorted him out and once we were certain he was okay, we rolled on.

From that point, there were a few issues that popped up.  One of the guys was struggling to keep up so Winston and I dropped back to bring him back to the group.  Chuck’s rear wheel decided to start rubbing his frame so he dropped out of the group to wait for a ride to pick him up (he ended up letting a little air pressure out of the tire and that gave him enough clearance to finish but he was out there for 45 miles on his own – talk about gutting it out…), and Lynn’s adrenaline from the accident finally wore off and he slowed down and dropped off the back.

In the end, we all finished and my buddy Mike took the sprint at 99.5 miles.  I took the final pull, starting at 95 miles, and kept it between 21 and 22 mph until we hit 98-1/2.  The idea at that point was to ramp it up to see if I could drop everyone else and cruise over the line alone.  I was so close too.  I dropped everybody but Mike and Brad – they managed to stay on like dug-in ticks…  I came over a little rise at 25 and accelerated to 28 heading back down what could barely be called a hill.  Brad ran out of gas but Mike got me by a half a bike length.  Unfortunately my strategy was a little lacking.  I didn’t have anything left – no more gears left in me to answer him.

In the last ten miles I’d pulled all but three of them.

There once was a time, not too long ago actually, when an 18.9 mph 100 miles would have been a bummer.  I was always shooting for that 20 mph average.  Those days are long gone.  Nowadays it’s more about spending time with my friends and building memories to laugh about as I get older.  If I feel I need to work a little harder, all I have to do is stay up front.

Lynn and Chuck left a lot more on the road yesterday than I did (I still feel a little selfish for not waiting for Chuck and letting the rest of the group go).  It was still a heck of a lot of fun and I left enough out there for government work.

I’ve been tagged, ‘er something…. ?

Shay-lon Moss tagged me because she wants me to share some things about myself.  Normally I don’t mess around with blog awards anymore because the posts take a surprising amount of work and I don’t do well accepting accolades or recognition.  That said, Shay-lon has tapped me a few times and I figured this one should be responded to, so with that, thank you Shay-lon.  I appreciate you.

How long have you been blogging? Coming up on seven years now (!).

Do you enjoy doing tags? First one for me. Typically I have a tough time with blog awards and such, but this isn’t so bad.

Do you follow the blogs that follow you? Not necessarily. I check them out first. If I like what they write, I’ll follow them. Then, if they don’t like a post or comment on one of my posts, I unfollow them a week later. Oh, and vegan/vegetarian blogs… there are only two or three I’ll read. Typically speaking, let’s just say we will never see eye to eye.

Describe your blog in 5 words?  Opinionated.  Recovering.  No BS.  Grateful.

How many posts have you made on your blog? (Not counting this tag) Thousands…. I was up to 3300 at last count and deleted a bunch of my older posts, so I really don’t know how many I have written. It’s a lot.

On a scale of 1-10 how much do you enjoy blogging? I tried quitting once and I found it impossible to stay quit. Giving up that pressure release valve of writing wasn’t easy. 7.5

Post some links to blogs you enjoy reading:

90in9: I’ve been following this blog since the beginning and I think it fair to say the author and I are pretty tight, in a brother/sister sort of way.

The Second Rate Cyclist: He’s first-rate to me, a brother from another mother.

Travel Tales of Life: Sue, the author of the blog and her husband are top notch. Her blog is spectacular.

The Dreadmill and The Unironedman: Friends from across the pond, one of whom is a friend of a friend.

The Tempo Cyclist.  My little brother from a New Zealand (one time British) mother.

Shenrydafrankman.  My brother from a mountain biking mother.  Steve is my friend, much in the Grumpy Old Men mould.

There seen many others who I appreciate greatly, but I could to for hours adding onto this list and that’s hours I don’t have.  There’s riding to be done, baby.  

Everyone Needs a Jerk Every Now and Again….  Or Alternately, Chew on this, Punk.

A commenter on a post I wrote several years ago about how I got to a point where I attained the ability to ride at an average pace of 23 mph called BS on me.  “CyclingGains” wrote:

I want to see Strava stats other wise your full of shit. What’s your strava?

Of course, I responded in my normal tactful way:

First, f*** you. Second, I’m on Endomodo because STRAVA is for p***y primadonnas. I’ll post proof in a new post, punk.

Now please remember, I quit tracking my rides a couple of years ago so I had to go back a bit… So, CyclingGains, this is for you:

Now, that’s only 21.7 mph for the hundred because we broke off at the 58 mile mark, at the lunch stop.  We had an average of 23.8 at that point:

Go ahead, add that up, punk.

Here’s another random Tuesday night:

Tell you what, go home and pedal harder and you can be fast too.

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Road Cycling: What Matters, What Doesn’t and What is just plain Sexy

What is important in cycling, and what isn’t, to your average road cyclist….

This game is pretty simple and easy, as it pertains to your average (even above average, technicslly) road cyclist. For example, skin suits don’t matter. You’re not fast enough to need a skin suit if you have to pay for your cycling clothing. Not only that, if you don’t have the physique of a pro cyclist, chances are you’ll look a little gnarly in one. A lot can be overlooked in cycling clothing.  It’s tight-fitting, it is what it is.  Not so with skin suits.  Sorry.

See? Simple.

Shaved legs matter. Shaving the guns saves a lot of time – they’re big-time aerodynamic when shaved down (No, seriously, science says so). They look better too. You won’t realize how off a Yeti looks in a pace line till you see one. Then you’ll be like, “Ohhhhhhh-h”.  Shave the guns.  Treat them well.

Shiny, baby!

The bike…. doesn’t matter. At least to an extent. Steel frame, aluminum, titanium, bamboo, wood, graphene, or good old-fashioned carbon fiber. If you like it and it feels good to you, you’ll probably be able to make it go fast.

Doesn’t matter, I’m just as fast on either bike, though speed is more comfortable on the fourteen years newer Specialized.  Oh, and there’s a four pound difference between the two.  Four pounds.  And I’m just as fast in a group.  I just can’t pull as long up front…. and yes, I can feel the four extra pounds on the bike.

Components matter.  Seriously, especially if you’re trying to keep up with a group.  Modern integrated shifters are a must, Shimano 105, Campy Record (maybe Chorus), or SRAM Rival at a minimum.  9, 10 or 11 speed.  Etcetera.  You will not be just as fast with old down tube shifters.  Don’t kid yourself.

The helmet doesn’t matter… as much as one’s diet.  A $300 aero helmet won’t fix a decidedly un-aero body.  Push yourself away from the table, eat less and pedal harder.  After that, the helmet really does matter.  Also, don’t bother with a ventless aero helmet unless you’re competing in a time trial.  In a group, they’re silly.  Go for something a little less suffer-inducing.

Wheels matter.  Wheels don’t have to be carbon fiber to be good.  It helps, but isn’t required.  A good set of aluminum wheels will go a long way to helping you be fast.  Those carbon fiber aero wheels only start to shine above 25 mph.  You don’t have to push quite as hard to maintain your speed.  Look for good hubs and good bearings first, then worry about carbon fiber if you still have money to burn.

Your ego doesn’t matter.  Check it at the start line and enjoy being a part of the group.  Or don’t, and wonder why you never get invited to unpublished group rides.  Also, just as a side note, don’t blow the group up to show everyone how fast you are.  If you find yourself off the front, go to the back and get a handle on the pace.  Once you know the place you can pull again.

The saddle matters.  Fizik has an app for that.  Seriously.  I’m between a snake and a chameleon, though I ride a bull saddle on the Venge.  Go figure.  Specialized has a special fitting process, it’s very nice, if obtrusive….  You’re going to spend an @$$-ton of time on your saddle so make sure you have one that agrees with your heinie for each bike.  ALL SADDLES ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL.

The shoes don’t matter.  Comfort over carbon fiber.  Comfort matters.  Carbon and real leather are a bonus.  Don’t sweat it if you can’t afford $400 for cycling shoes.  Want to trumps carbon fiber soles.

The number one thing that matters….  The number one thing that matters is want to.  Peter Sagan is the best cyclist since Lance Armstrong (and arguably A LOT better because Sagan is clean) because he has the most “want to”.  I am as fast as I am because I push to the edge of my “want to”.  I could be faster, but I don’t want to.  Embrace, then wrestle to the ground, your want to.

Be a friendly, good representative of the sport…  That’s sexy.  We are quite often the object of scorn on the road.  Represent the sport well.  Being a good ambassador now could save someone else’s life later.  If you’re confronted with an ugly motorist, be a Penguin of Madagascar:  “Smile and wave, boys.  Smile and wave.”

Look good, feel good, ride good.  That’s sexy too.  Not proper grammar, but it works.  You don’t have to be a supermodel to look good on a bike.  It helps, but definitely is not a requirement.  Dressing the part will go a long way, no matter your body style/type.  Remember, don’t feel self-conscious if you’re not perfect yet.  You’re out there doing what needs to be done to get that body in shape.  That’s what really matters.  Always.  If you don’t look, feel, or ride good, fake it till you make it.  

Ride hard my friends.

I Don’t Need 100 Miles and Five Hours to Unwind when Only 16 Miles and 48 Minutes will Do Fine.

After a stressful day at the office, I need a way to separate it from home. Not only do I hate bringing the office home, let’s just say my wife is less than appreciative having to deal with a frazzled me.

Governments and health care professionals recommend 30 minutes of exercise a day. I’ll admit to exceeding that by a bit, but it takes what it takes and 30 minutes just isn’t good enough for me. I’m sure only the politician would find a way to complain.

So off I go, shortly after I arrive home… I suit up, pump up, sort the hydration and roll.

48 to 52 minutes later, I’m ready to be me again, I’m ready to be home. It’s a rare day I ride to stay fit anymore – “fit” was why I started cycling. Nowadays, I ride to stay sane and happy. A decent physique is simply a perk that comes with putting a smile on my face and getting centered to be present for my family.

I was talking to a young fella at the bike shop the other day who brought in an old Nishiki for repair. He bought the bike to commute two miles to work but quickly found that he was making the journey seven miles to spend more time on the bike.

He was struggling for words to explain the next bit on his mind. I smiled and filled in the blank by finishing his sentence…. Riding takes you back to the best part of being a kid again. We laughed at the bond two people share when they’re on the same wavelength and went our separate ways, both of us smiling.

While there’s no doubt I love a good, long ride on the weekend, I barely have an hour on weekdays…. That’s enough though.

The Realization that Your Work is Done, the Bikes are Perfect, there’s Nothing left to do.

Of course, now that I write this post I’m sure to be @$$ deep in bike problems in three…. two…. one…..

I walked into the bike room Friday afternoon, looking for something to tinker with. Bar tape, indexing of a derailleur, a minor brake adjustment, even wiping one of the two bikes down.

Nothing. Chains are clean and lubed, the bikes are immaculate, the brakes are perfectly centered, front and rear derailleurs are perfectly indexed…. Headsets are perfectly square and tightened down. Actually, speaking of squaring a headset/fork/handlebar, I can give you a simple cheat to get your stem and handlebar perfectly lined up with the fork. First line your stem up to your tire, eyeball it like most normal people do, then mount the bike and look down at the bar top and how it relates to the front wheel hub:

If you’re more than a quarter of a degree off, you should be able to see it easily. Line the front edge of the handlebar with the hub and tighten the stem screws down.

While this is obviously a good place to be, this is actually a sad time for me. I don’t need anything. I’ve got great wheels, nice, clean bikes, saddles that work excellently on each of my bikes – and everything is mechanically sound, my components match the bike they belong to and my colors are perfect throughout the stable… I’ve even got five kits in rotation, all but one matches the paint scheme of the bikes – and that one is a 2012 Colorado Challenge jersey (the year I bought the 5200 in the photo above) and I’ve got my USA Jersey for 4th of July rides…

There is one glowing bit of awesomeness that rises higher than simply having a few nice bikes though: All I have left to do is ride.

That’s a really good place to be..

A 25% Chance of Rain, but a 95% Chance of Awesome:  A Sunday 100k

Sundays are my favorite days to ride.  No chance of a work call and the one day of the week, I wouldn’t much care if I got one.  That’s what they make voicemail for.  For that reason alone, it really bums me out to miss a Sunday for rain.  We had a spectacular route picked out for the day too, but the forecast wasn’t good.  When Sunday got here, though, TWC said we had a window.  A small one…

The mist lightly brushed my face as I walked out from under the roof of the front porch.  Fog too, and it was looking a little thick.  I still hooked the bike rack up to my car.  The Weather Channel promised we would be okay till at least 11 anyway, and that would be just enough to get our 100k in, with stops.  Even so, I don’t melt in water.

This is why I have a rain bike.  It doesn’t matter if I get caught out – it’s one less thing to worry about.  One less excuse.

I pumped up four tires, got four water bottles filled and squared away, got all my gear loaded, then my wife’s bike and my Trek loaded on the car.  We were off shortly thereafter.  Fifteen minutes later we were in the High School parking lot getting ready.  Fifteen minutes after that a dozen of us were in formation and rolling.

The ride was awesome, fun and more than three hours.  We didn’t get a bit wet and the ride was a blast.  As is almost always the case.  

I am so incredibly grateful for living in our little slice of rural Michigan.  We’ve got maybe ten weekend routes of 60 miles or better, only one the requires actually driving to, where we’re far enough out in the country that we rarely have to worry about traffic.  We’re close enough to everything but definitely far enough removed from the hustle and bustle of big city life.

Sunday’s ride was typical, really.  Good Times and Noodle Salad… just like life should be.

How to Pick and Set Up the Perfect Rain Bike – and Why Every Cyclist Should have One

Across the pond in England, they call it a winter bike.  I call it a rain bike, my dedicated, “better than 15% chance of rain” bike… because not only was the good bike expensive, replacement parts are freaking ridiculous.  We call it a rain bike over in the US because they don’t get snow in the UK like we get snow, and there’s no riding a road bike in the snow.  Skinny tires are hard enough in the rain, dude!

The quintessential modern American Rain Bike

Ideally, the responsible way to pick a rain bike is to relegate the old A bike to rain bike status when you get a new A bike.  At least that’s how I did it until I bought my Specialized.  

My first rain bike was a Cannondale, all aluminum with a chro-mo fork…  Riding on an actual railroad rail would only be slightly less comfortable:

I could still make this beast average 20 mph though

Ultimately, the rain bike will be set-up quite close to the A bike – and thus why I like relegating the old A bike to rain bike status.  The closer the two bikes are in set-up, the more seamless it will be to transition between the two when the weather has a chance of getting nasty.

Now, say money wasn’t an object (it is) and I wanted to keep the Trek as an heirloom bike, updating the components.  My A bike is a Specialized Venge:

It just so happens that I know the next best thing to a Venge is an Allez.  There are minor differences of course, but I should be able to match the set-up on the Venge easily.  Let’s say I had a Tarmac for an A bike, I would go with a Secteur or Roubaix.  Those pairings in Specialized’s line-up match up in geometry fairly close.

Now, let’s get into how I know this, because most people won’t know how in God’s name to figure out which geometries work within a bike line:  I took a factory photo of an Allez, made it transparent, and placed it over a factory photo of a Venge.  The only difference to work around is the head tube height on the cheaper Allez models.  Now, if you have a shop owner who builds frames, they can look at the published geometry numbers….  I don’t have the time to apprentice for him so I can learn how the numbers work.

 Beyond that, because my rain bike has a vastly different geometry from my A bike (they’re even different sizes), I transferred the numbers from the A bike to the rain bike then took both bikes to the shop to have them compared.  I’m as close as I can get the two bikes.  I paid attention when the Trek and Venge were fitted to me, so I know what to measure and how to change the set-up.  Simple as that.

One more thing to consider….

There’s a neat reason I like my 5200 for my rain bike:  Easy Access Repairs.  I have completely stripped down and put back together my Trek.  I can change a brake or shifter cable in minutes.  I have internal routing on the Venge so it’s a little tricky should a cable fray while I’m up north on a road trip in the middle of a four day tour.  This is a tiny point, though.  Barely worth mentioning, but still, a fair point indeed.

In the end, I want my Venge to operate flawlessly for as long as possible so I prefer to have a rain bike should we be heading out under a chance of rain.  The rain bike takes the abuse so the A bike can shine. 

Worse case scenario, and this is what I really appreciate, with a rain bike in the stable I never have to miss a day on the bike with my friends should the A bike go down and have to spend some time at the shop for a repair.

Of course, there is one other non-option:  Take a day off every time you think it’s going to rain…. but that’d be silly.

UPDATE:  Ian, in the comments section, offered that a good idea for a rain bike is to go with a cyclocross bike.  This way, gravel roads are opened up as well.  It’s an excellent idea.

36 Miles in 1:45 is Hard Enough….  It’s Harder with the Brakes On.


We rolled out early, 7 am on the screws, and I had a nice smile stretched across my face.  The sun was just coming up, it was a wonderful 70 degrees (21C) with no wind.

That’s my favorite thing about summertime cycling.  Days where the only wind is that which I create with forward motion.  On a bicycle.


It’s a pretty simple route, a hybrid out and back with a loop, but all of the good stuff is saved for the second half.  We started out tame, between 20 & 21 mph, but it got hectic pretty fast…. specifically when Winston took the lead for something like five miles taking it up to 22-24.  Once he relinquished the front it calmed down a little bit, but not by much which suited me just fine.  We may only get a half-dozen days in a year where we don’t have any wind and, if you didn’t already know, when there’s no wind the draft is ridiculously awesome.  22 mph at the back of a decent pace line (we had seven or eight) feels like 15.

All of a sudden, it felt like I was working way too hard.  We were coming down a shallow but long hill (less than one percent) and I had it cranked up to 26-27.  I broke the group up and turned the corner to head home and my wife got behind me….  After 20 seconds she asked Chuck if it looked like my wheel was wobbling.  Chuck agreed and I had a look.  It wasn’t quite hitting the brakes but it was wobbling pretty good.  I kept pedaling and reached back to open up the brake release.  Then the proverbial wheels fell off.

The wobbling increased over a couple of bumps and before long I was hitting the brakes twice every time the wheel went around.  Fortunately I carry a spoke tool so we stopped to tighten up the offending spoke.  Unfortunately, the spoke nipple was broken…  I just put everything away, dropped my pouch in my back pocket and rolled on, wheel hitting brake.

When it was all done, that was the hardest I’d ever worked for a 20 mph average over 36 miles, but man did I have a good time…. and we were back home before 9 am.

This little tale ends interestingly.  I took my wheel into the shop to have the spoke nipple replaced and the wheel trued.  When it was all said and done, two nipples were broken and five more had to be replaced.  I was lucky the wheel didn’t fall apart on me!