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Monthly Archives: August 2017

The difference between riding hard in pain and riding hard to enjoy it….

Our B Group finished the annual Assenmacher 100 miler in 4:55.  It was awesome and we all had a good time.  The conversation was lively, a few of my friends and I were able to drop back and help friends out who lost parts of their bike on potholes (two water bottles and one drop bar mirror) get back to the group…  I participated in each of the three instances.

I know of no better compliment in group cycling than to be asked by your friends to help one of them bridge back to the group.

At no point during that ride did I want to sit up and soft-pedal home.  It wasn’t easy, of course, but I wanted that five hour century.  Our whole group was at least 20 strong and we nailed it….

We had time for moments like this, whilst still being able to hammer out a decent pace…

With the mild breeze, I managed to head up to the front of the group and snap a succession of photos for the group on the way back….

We stopped, at least momentarily, at each of the rest stops for a quick bite to eat and to refill water bottles.  We finished strong, smiling and together.  There were laughs and fist-bumps a plenty.

Contrast that with the A Group.  They had a different experience.  Their finishing time?

4:17 and some change.  23-1/2 mph average on open roads… And they only stopped twice in 101 miles.

Speaking with many from their group, who were sitting in the shade on the sidewalk when we pulled up, you were hard-pressed to find anyone who actually had a good time.  One friend of mine said that he rode for a hundred miles and didn’t enjoy one of them.  Another said they were riding so hard he didn’t have time to eat anything on the bike.  My friend Chuck dropped after just 30 miles saying they were nuts (we caught up to him at the 30 mile rest stop and he rode with us the rest of the way).

I have no doubt some in our group struggled at times.  One would expect that in a sub-five hour century.  Sure, we were a little slower, but at least we had fun – and that’s exactly why I choose to ride with the B Group.  I’d rather be a little slower and enjoy myself than be fast….  And I’m one of the lucky few who could be fast enough to hang with the A guys.  I choose not to.  This isn’t to say there’s something wrong with racing or riding that fast, there isn’t.  The key for me is to be happy and enjoy my time on the bike – and if I’m going to have fun and enjoy the ride, I know I can’t do it at 23+ mph.

To thine own self be true.

That said, a 4:17 on that course is really impressive.  Damn, that’s fast!

To Ride or Not to Ride? That is a Question.  Or is it?

It is the day before the big ride.  100 miles, you’re shooting for a five hour century.  Do you ride the day before or take the day off?

If you’re a runner reading this post, you’re shouting at your screen, “Take the day off, dummy!  You gotta taper!”

If you’re a cyclist and you know how to stack rides, you know that the best thing to do is ride, easy and at a moderate pace.  The second-worst thing you can do is ride hard, and the worst thing you can do is take a day off.

We don’t have to taper in cycling, dear.  It sounds wonderful and lovely but it’s all but entirely unnecessary.  

We rolled out at 7:18 am.  The days are growing shorter again, so we’re starting out a little later to let it brighten up a bit.  There was nothing spectacular or noteworthy about our ride, other than the fact that it was fun…. 

So here I sit, rested and ready to ride.  I’m on my second cup of coffee and I know I’m as ready as I can be to ride my best.  

If I’d have ridden hard yesterday, I would be fighting tight legs for the first ten or 20 miles.  Worse, with a day off, it would take half the day to spin my legs back up.  

I’ve taken two rain off since the beginning of July.  Thankfully, in my world the answer to the question in the title us almost always “To ride, of course.”

Thanks for playing.

Taking the Time to Deck a Road Bike Out Proper…. Notice that was Time, not Money?

Setting up a road bike, the right way doesn’t necessarily have to cost an arm and a leg.  A good budget doesn’t hurt, but we can work around it.

First things first, pick a color scheme.  I was all over the map.  For a while, I really liked red, white and blue…

The bike above wrecked my infatuation with that color scheme, so I went traditional….  Then I bought my Specialized and everything went red on black.

The Venge was easy, and I went the high-end budget with that bike.  $110 for the water bottle cages, $450 crankarms, $165 stem, $300 handlebar, etc..  When you spend that kind of cheese, it’ll look good.
The Rockhopper is all stock.  Simple.

The Trek 5200 took some work though.  The paint had been through the wringer and was even scratched off in several places on the frame.  The original 1999 5200 is…. well, gaudy.  I had to decide, go original (gaudy) with a bunch of stickers, or do I go old school understated.  I obviously chose the latter.

The white brake cable housings went in the recycling bin ($10).  Almost more important than looks, the real reason for switching cable housings is little known…  I went with Jagwire 5mm cable housing.  Standard back in the day was 4mm, the extra millimeter gives a lighter feel at the shift lever and a smoother shift.  
The next little “attention to detail” piece, another bargain ($12), was the seat post collar.  The original collar was a standard aluminum piece with no coating or color.  It simply didn’t look right on all of that beautiful black.

There were two places I didn’t skimp on price when I rebuilt the Trek.  The first was the seat post.  I went from aluminum alloy to carbon fiber, but not for vanity….  The original seat attachment device had teeth that meant the saddle had settings.  My comfort spot was literally between teeth.  One click down and I was pushed to the front of the saddle.  One click up and I was getting some gnarly nether region pressure.  The Easton post was the only one I could find that gave me unlimited adjustability.

The second was the headset.  I went big with a Chris King headset.  The old headset was smoked.  Dead.  It was so bad, once it was removed from the bike to paint the frame, it couldn’t be reinstalled.  King components are known for their longevity and I plan on keeping the bike for a long time.  The best one word description is butter.

A couple of years ago, the front wheel blew out at the brake track.  Luckily, I’d upgraded the Venge wheels and the original wheels fit perfectly on the Trek’s new paint scheme ($0).

Finally, other than adding a couple of black, plastic Bontrager bottle cages, I had been searching for a saddle to fit this bike.  It hasn’t been easy because the Trek is a bit of a harsh ride.  On a fluke I tried a mountain bike saddle that Matt had laying around his shop.  That saddle transformed the bike entirely.  For $30, and it even matched the red of the Trek stickers.

Rounding out the changes to the Trek, one of my shifters gave out after 18 years of hard life.  If I had an unlimited budget, and I don’t, I’d have upgraded to a 10 Speed drivetrain.  That would have run, maybe $600 – $800 after it was all done.  Instead, I went with MicroSHIFT shifters, 9 Speed, for $75 and left the original drivetrain alone.  Perfect 

My final budgetary concern for the Trek was doing all of the work myself.  I saved hundreds of dollars (if not a cool grand), including stripping the bike down and putting it back together for the new paint job.  The knowledge gained was priceless.

To put a bow on this post, one can blow a small fortune fixing up a bike, but it doesn’t have to be that way, with a little forethought and some planning.

Either way, ride it hard… and ride that ride with a smile.

I would be a Runner BUT…. Reason #36

#36 in my list of reasons why I’m no longer a runner….

Dude, I love toys

There are obvious advantages to running, especially for the expendable cash strapped, because cycling can be stupid expensive.  On the other hand, done wisely, it’s not all that bad either.  The trick, of course, is obtaining the wisdom before one runs out of cash.

I once enjoyed running myself, for quite the stretch of years….

Nowadays I like my toys though.  

A Bike Ride can Fix ALMOST Anything….

The billboard on the bike shop says, A bike ride can fix anything.  

Ummm… close.  I like the saying, of course, because a bike ride fixes a lot for me.  It fixes obesity, it fixes my enjoyment of food, it fixes my melon committee, and bikes definitely assuage my need for a midlife crisis hobby (a bike ride ticks every box).  There are things a bike ride can’t fix though.

A bike ride can’t fix stupid, that’s for sure, and there seems to be more than enough of that to go around lately.

A bike ride can’t fix cancer, but it sure will help on the front end.  A bike ride can’t fix Alzheimer’s, again, except on the front end…

Nuances aside, I look at what is right in the notion that a bike ride can fix anything:

A bike ride will definitely fix a bad day, there’s no doubt about that.


Tuesday Night Club Ride:  It really is about the Engine Edition

29 miles and some change.  1:21:35.  Do the math and that’s 21.1 mph for an average.  

I did that in the saddle of this:

That’s a 17 pound, lean, mean sprinting machine.  Four years ago it was the most aero road bike on the market.  

The entire ride was fun and just challenging enough.  I was the lead out for the intermediate sprint, and brought them in at 28.8 mph.  For the sprint to the finish, I took the whole ball of wax by jumping way too early and holding everyone else off.  It just worked out that way.  It was either get swallowed up or go.  I went.

None of what I just wrote has anything to do with the title.  My best time on that route is 1:19:40(ish).  22 mph.

See if you can pick out the thing that doesn’t belong in this photo*:

Dude, it’s a 26’er too.  He had to hide a lot, of course, but he stuck with us for almost 30 miles on a frickin’ mountain bike, often in his last gear.  A 21.1 mph average.  On a mountain bike.  Awesome.  

It really is about the engine.

And knowing how to hide when you’re overmatched.

* Typically I won’t snap a photo close to the back of the group.  I don’t recommend doing so as it’s unsafe.  In this case, I took a chance with the odds, backed off the group a little bit and snapped the photo, quickly repocketing my phone.  The total elapsed time to snap the photo was a little less than it takes to get a couple of swigs of water and replace the water bottle.

One Good Reason to Add Cycling to Your Weight Loss Plan: Number 231

Reason Number 231 to add cycling to your weight loss plan:

I lost two pounds riding my bike.  Sunday.

A finely tuned weight loss machine. WARNING: Operating this machine may cause excessive smiling and could lead one to feel like a kid again….  No extra charge.

Enough said.

A Century and some Bonus Miles… Just because.

Our 8 am century started at the bike shop so naturally, being an avid cycling enthusiast, I look at that as an opportunity for some bonus miles.  It’s only five-and-half miles from my house….  Um, yeah.

In the history of Michigan cycling there may have been maybe four days as suited for a hundred mile bicycle ride.  Four.  Ever.

My first five miles and change were to the grocery store to pick up a couple of bananas.  I’d forgotten to pick some up the night before, and I never start 100 mile ride without a spare banana in my pocket.

No wind, cool to start (enough that arm warmers were nice), but warming up to the low 80’s  under impossibly sunny skies.

We rolled out, taking a few minutes to form up and all of a sudden it was on.  We went from 18 mph to 22 and stayed there.  For five hours.  Until we had a 3 mph tailwind around mile 56…  Then we wound it up to 23-25.  At 65 miles we were sitting on a 19.1 average.  Not bad for a Sunday ride.  We pulled into the parking lot just under 19.8 (19.78).

I started struggling at around 85 miles.  I was a mess at 92 and I wanted to lay down in the ditch and take a nap by 95…

Thankfully, Diane needed a restroom stop so Matt and I pressed on in the baby ring, spinning easy till the group caught us a few miles down the road.  That was the break I needed and completed the ride with a smile on my face, and with the group between 20 & 24 mph.

I’d simply spent too much time up front.

For the final five and change home, I took the shortest route possible after taking a few minutes to compose myself.  I shifted into the baby ring and took it real slow.  First time I wished I’d driven to the shop.

I did sleep like a baby last night though.

I was going to leave this post at that but after thinking about it a little bit, I thought I would add some perspective to what I was thinking at certain times in the ride, before and after.  My biggest mistake (in cycling) was in thinking that others don’t struggle like I do on a long ride.  At some point over a century, most are hurting at one point or another.

I struggled at the 45, 80 and 90 mile marks.  When the 90 mile pain hit, I almost sat up and soft-pedaled home.  The group stopping couldn’t have come at a better time.  My struggles at the 45 mile mark were due to an abundance of time up front.  It was starting to get a little chippy at the back so I decided I wouldn’t drop more than four bikes back.  Eventually, I had to make happy with going to the back.  That last five miles really hurt.  I just kept my head down and plugged away.

After a little lunch and a nap I felt right as rain….  A five hour century for us mere mortals hurts.  It’s hard, and a lot of times we may want to quit.  If, however, we either stick it out or take a few minutes to slow down and get our composure back, we find that we can come back and we have a lot more left in the tank than was thought.  This is not the same as far as running goes – once you’re done, you’re done.  There are extenuating circumstances, of course.  Overheating, bonking, etc..  Those situations should never be taken lightly, but for a mild case of the “I don’t wanna’s”, that can usually be pushed through.

One final point…  You might be wondering, “who in their right mind would ride bonus miles on a day they rode 100 miles?!”

This is a fantastic point.  Next week I ride the same course, only with more people so the pace will likely be a little faster (but with a little more time in the draft).  I’d rather go into that ride knowing I did eleven more miles just last week and survived that just fine….  It’s a mental game, and I guarantee you that I’d have a tougher time next week if I sat up yesterday.  Instead, I’ll go into next week strong of mind.  Sure I struggled a little, but that goes with the territory.


A kind note to people who use their vehicles to intimidate cyclists….

We have cameras now, @$$holes.


47 seconds in.  I was third bike back.  The driver was looking right at us.  We had to take it from 23 mph down to about 5 mph so we didn’t hit the little Johnson.

Now here’s the fun part:  The license plate is a little obscured on the uploaded video.  It’s plain as day on the original.  I’m taking it to the police to file a complaint on Monday.

How I wish I could be there when that motorist gets a knock on his door.

From now on, whenever you buzz us or try to cut us off, or threaten us with your vehicle…. We have cameras now, there’s a good chance you will be caught in HD video and your highlight reel will make it to the police.

This has been a public service announcement.  Have a nice day.

The Easiest Way to Make it in Recovery.

The easiest way to make it in recovery is simple.  It’s just hard as hell.

Choose what is right over what is easy…. or worse yet, what will feel good in the short term but lead to disaster in the long run.

Mrs. Bgddy and the kids are in Indy for Drum Corps International and I am bach’ing it.  The easiest thing to do, the thing that only seems like it would feel good, is to sit home alone, ride my bike every morning, and only leave to pick up a meal at whichever restaurant would strike my fancy.

In fact, while I’m at it, maybe I should let my eyes stray and walk on the wild side a little bit, no?  Maybe I should flirt with a pretty girl, that would surely make me feel alive and exhilarated!  While I’m at it, I should go to where the pretty girls are…. like a bar.  I can just have a cranberry juice and club soda (with a twist of lime – try it, recovering folk, it’s delicious).  Yeah….

That’s how we think, we drunks.  And that’s how we die by the sword.  That’s how we relapse.

I went to a meeting at noon, and while it isn’t my favorite (oh how I love preachy old farts who love to explain how you should do it, rather than what works for them), I can usually get something really good from the meeting and I can give my level-headed attitude and non-cluttered view of the program to it.  If nothing else, I can get a laugh while an old crusty is trying to explore what he believes it must be like to be Mick Jagger (or maybe Keith Richards?).

I digress.

Then I call my friend, James, because I had a few first thoughts creep in that I didn’t like.  Those first thoughts never turned into second thoughts (I never entertained the first thought, so it doesn’t count in my world. I look at it as my ex-drunk melon being stupid so I throw that thought in the garbage).  We go out to dinner, talk about recovery over a wonderful steak at Black Rock (and a couple of cranberry juice and club sodas).  Then we go grocery shopping at a local highfalutin grocery store and head home.

I sleep like a baby, knowing my marriage, my sobriety, and my life is intact.  My last thought as I drift off is of how much I miss my wife, of how fun it is to be in love with her.

That’s how I live to love another beautiful day.  I do what’s right over what my warped mind thinks will feel good.  Every time.  The alternative involves a sword.  And death.