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Monthly Archives: September 2017

I can still crank out a 20 on the old Trek…

Well, close to it.  Monday….

Chuck and I split at 4:55pm on the nose – he had a meeting to get to for robotics so there was no small talk.  It was all go from the second we pulled out of the driveway.  The weather was perfect again.  Sunny, warm, with barely a breeze.

I was thankful for the lack of wind, too.  We hit 20 mph in the first quarter of a mile and we didn’t see anything that slow (excepting intersections) till we were ten miles into the ride.  Even when we stopped for intersections, we were on the gas immediately as soon as traffic cleared.

We cut a mile off the 17.6 mile route at the beginning to get Chuck to his meeting so I had to figure out how to get that mile back… whilst, and at the same time, taking two-mile pulls at 22-24 mph.  They got shorter after twelve miles.

The surprising thing to me was how well Chuck and I worked together.  We ride together quite a bit lately, but the teamwork was impressive.  No surges, nothing but smooth, fast transitions.  20+ mph around corners where possible, then back on the gas.  Two small hills, 19.5 to 20 on the way up, 24 on the way back down.

18.65 miles in 56 minutes and a little change.

What d’ya know, the old bird’s still got it.  Wait!  Crap.  This is the old bird:

On the bike.  Crap.  Meh, still got it, and I’m not old for at least 24 more years

The Great Bicycle Helmet Debate:  To Wear a Helmet or to Not…

The human head is said to have the same consistency as a watermelon when it hits the pavement…

That is a photo of my friend’s helmet.  While we were riding at what they consider a leisurely pace up to Otter Lake, the A guys were doing their weekly Saturday hammerfest to the west of us.  Their ride is one of those where they will tell you ahead of time, “Don’t show up hungover and bring your good legs”.
The man who normally wears that helmet is a better, faster cyclist than I am.  Hell, he’s better and faster than you too.

The point is, the guy knows how to ride, and well.

On that Saturday ride, there was a slight surge coming up to a stop sign, followed by a slowdown.  One of the front guys slowed a little faster than the rest of the group anticipated which brought the group together too quickly.  One of the guys darted left to miss a wheel and hooked my friend’s front wheel.  My friend went down, hard.  He broke his hip, which really sucks.  On the other hand….

Zoom in.  On the other hand, his wife won’t have to change his diaper for the rest of his life because his brain isn’t mush because he was wearing that helmet.  No brain injury was found after a CAT scan.

If you pay attention to the great helmet debate, you will be inundated with faulty arguments masquerading as reasons to avoid helmets, about torsional impacts and blaming the helmet for making injuries worse from the “helmets are unnecessary” side.  Most of these arguments will be made from a theoretical point of view by engineers and/or mathematicians and/or the ignorant masses who follow them.  They’ll even say wearing a helmet causes more accidents or increases their severity because if people didn’t wear helmets, they’d ride more like sissies (the old “remove airbags and weld a 4″ knife blade to the steering wheel to improve driving skills” argument).

I suggest speaking to someone a little more “hands on” than a theoretical mathematician.  Try a Sheriff’s deputy, a firefighter, EMS technician or, if you need some letters before or after a person’s name, a doctor – preferably a neurologist.  Each and every one, without fail (especially those relegated to the scraping of brains from the road after accidents) will recommend you wear a bicycle helmet.

As to the whole torsional argument, if you look at that first photo, you can see the skid mark in the helmet.  My friend had no neck injury.

Now, I’m not saying there aren’t instances where a helmet would add to an injury – there certainly are those rare cases, but it’s like the great seatbelt debate.  For every one instance wearing a seatbelt caused harm, there are hundreds where having one on saved the motorist (or where not wearing one killed the motorist).  For every one instance where a helmet added to the severity of a bike accident, there are hundreds where the helmet saved the wearer from a catatonic state, diapers, and drooling on themselves for the next decade while their body rotted inside out – and it literally doesn’t matter how slow you’re going.

My friend’s season is done, not life as he knows it.  He’ll spend the next several months recovering, but he will be back.  There’s no doubt, if he hadn’t been wearing that melon armor, he’d be looking at a much longer recovery period… or worse.

To wrap this post up, I do want to make one thing clear:  I do not advocate for government bureaucracies making a bunch of rules and regulations regarding how bicycles are ridden and whether or not helmets are worn….  Bicycle helmets, like motorcycle helmets, should be the choice of the rider – in every case.

I just happen to be a person who won’t leave home without his melon protector.  Ever.  Not wearing one is too stupid for me to even grasp.  I would be without three friends if we weren’t so adamant about always wearing them.  Three of my friends, dead or drooling.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is no debate.

Choosing which type of cyclist I want to be

We rode 70 miles on Saturday, tailwind on the way out, headwind on the way in.  It was a great, fun ride, but it was tough.  Headwind on the way home always is.  My buddy, Mike was toasted, my wife was smoked.  I was ready to be done, but I was still technically “okay”.  I slept well Saturday night, I will say that.

Rare for a weekend ride, Big Joe came out to ride with us.  He was hurtin’ for certain too, but Joe is a diesel; terrible on the hills, but when he gets a head of steam and some flat, he’s strong.  He’s gold on downhills too because he’s a big guy (he rides a 62 cm Trek Domane).  They say being second bike behind someone is a 10-30% advantage…. Joe’s a 30% guy, no doubt about it.

Diesels all have the same kryptonite though:  up.  We will come back to that…

I was happily surprised when Joe pulled into the driveway for Sunday’s ride.  

Cycling is all about the friendships for me.  I love going fast, but I like laughing and talking with my friends as we are at it.   For yesterday’s ride, one of the A guys texted and asked what we were doing.  He knows how to play nice, so I let him know our plans.  That’s when he dropped that his BCB (best cycling bud) would be there too.

Greg alone, we can expect a little faster than normal, but like I said, he plays nice.  He’s very fast, and he’s one of those guys that makes fast look easy.  It’s a little unnerving, but cool at the same time.  Add in Dave, though, and something crazy that belongs on Outrageous Acts of Science happens…  The two of them together, and tongues will be dangling, sweat dripping, and snot slopping onto top tubes.  It’s like one feeds off the other and fast happens.

I was the only one of us B guys who knew both would be riding with us on Sunday, until we were a few miles into the ride.  I assured everyone that we were staying together, that nobody was getting dropped.

My wife and Mike still dropped off early, opting to forego the pain of hanging on.  Phill, Brad, Joe and I stuck with it and we got exactly what was expected.  

I stayed up front with Greg, Dave and his wife on their tandem (they have an awesome Co-motion Macchiato) so my friends would have a better draft.  I didn’t do any time up front, though….  

We got to our first tailwind stretch of any length and that’s when things got messy.  I was holding Greg’s wheel easily, between 24 and 27 mph.  Dave was behind me, and Phill, Brad and Joe behind them.  I counted shadows to make sure we were all there a few times, when I could, but I knew cohesion wasn’t going last.

I stayed with the group until a turn, and faded off.  I knew at least one of us was off the back.  It was too many many miles, too fast.  Sure enough, Phill and Brad were there but Joe was nowhere to be found.  I pulled off to the side of the road and waited.

A few minutes later, Joe shot the corner and I started rolling again, watched for him over my shoulder, and picked up the pace as he caught on.  He thanked me but said I didn’t have to wait, that he knew the way home.  I simply said that nobody was riding alone today and we pressed on.  

A few miles up the road we caught up to everyone at a convenience store and we took a minute to grab something to drink and fire down some grub (my favorite are bananas).  From there we pressed on.  Eventually, Greg headed north and Dave and his wife pulled away.  The four of us rolled on together.  Phill split off for home, then Brad, and it was just Joe and I.  Joe pulled three, I took the last three and we pulled into the driveway with a 19.97 mph average.  Considering how slow our first ten miles were, that was nothing short of impressive.

I’m not all that impressive a cyclist (and at my age, how much does that really matter?).

I know I can be a good friend though, and that’s the type of cyclist I want to be.  

The cool things you see….

Yesterday morning….

Some of the cool things you see on the way to a 70 mile bike ride.

We Interupt this Blog for an Indian Summer….

My friends, the weather is just too nice and it is not going to last.  We haven’t gotten the frost yet, but this is Michigan and I have a funny feeling we are going to pay for the last couple of mild winters this year…

Long story short, I’m out…

Doing this:

Making hay while the sun is shining…. I’ll be back Monday morning, 7am EST as usual.

Who Needs a Light Racing Bike – and Does Weight REALLY Matter?  No-yes it Does…n’t

The age-old argument, bike weight, and who needs what…

I have a 16 pound bike, it weighs just slightly more than one of my bowling balls.  Less than one bowling ball and my bowling shoes though.  I also have a 20 pound bike.  Still pretty light, but put four pounds of sand in your back pockets and go climb a hill.  You’ll know the extra weight is there.

Whether you’re climbing a 3% hill at 19 mph or an 8%’er at 12, you’ll feel the weight.

Where we can get into the weeds (and quite possibly get lost in there) if we’re not careful, is in determining who needs a 12 pound, $13,000 bicycle.  The important word in there is “need”.  If you’re a pro, you don’t need that bike.  It’s too light for the rule makers.  If you’re an aspiring pro, you don’t need that bike.  Again, it’s too light to be UCI legal.  To make it easy, if you’ve got an extra $13,000 to $15,000 sitting around, burning a hole in your pocket, you need that bike.  Go for a Trek Emonda or a Specialized Tarmac and have a ball.  For the rest of us, anything can be made up for with “want to”.  In fact, if I had a dollar for every time I was on my Trek and zipped by someone on a $12,000 time trial rig, well I’d have a really nice carbon fiber bottle cage for my bike.

The point is, the bike isn’t nothing, but it’s not all that important until you start talking about sustaining speeds north of 25 mph (40 km/h) and climbing hills at rates that even the abnormally strong don’t climb hills at.

HOWEVER….  The “Lose a Few Pounds” Fallacy…

I have one last thing to cover in this post, and that’s the silly notion that if I just lose a couple of pounds, that’s easier than dropping the bike’s weight.  First, you’ll never notice losing a couple of pounds on a climb.  You’re used to dragging your carcass up a hill, so losing a couple of pounds will still feel the same.  Losing ten or fifteen, well you’ll notice that, but I climb just as fast at 180 as I do at 176.  On the other hand, when I switch from the Trek to the Venge, I’m instantly faster, on everything – including the descents…  Riding is simply easier on the lighter bike.

So, while there is a smidgen of truth to the “lose a few pounds” hypothesis, it really doesn’t hold water when you’re huffing and puffing your way up a hill…  Where that hypothesis does work is at the extreme.  If you get into riding at 250 pounds and ride yourself down to 180 by the end of the summer (it’s been done), well in that case, you’d climb one hell of a lot better by the end of the season.

That clarification out of the way, I’ll stick to my initial statement.  You’re going to notice three pounds off the bike a lot more than you’ll notice three pounds off of you.  Trust me.  Or don’t.

That said, need is a big word, and I don’t need an ultra-light bike.  I just need more time to ride what I’ve got.

Cycling, Average Speed, and Finding One’s “Good Enough”…

Cycling, Average Speed, and Finding Your “Good Enough” (because I was lucky enough to find mine).  Maybe I should have titled the post “How I Found My Good Enough”?  Meh, anyway, as I was saying…

Fair (trigger, heh) warning, if you think this is going to be one of those “in the end zone, spike the ball” posts, I’m going to disappoint you – or if you enjoy someone else’s struggles, it may put a smile on your mug).  This is going to move more than Peter Sagan in a bunch sprint.

Getting my “good enough” was all about figuring out where I wanted to fit in the cycling world.  It was about figuring out where I wanted to be in relation to the others I ride with.  I make no bones about it, the only excuse for not being fast enough to hang with people who race for fun is “I don’t want to”.  It’s not that “I” can’t, or even “you” for that matter.  It’s not that we don’t have a good enough bike, it’s not that we’re too fat (or even a few pounds too heavy).  It’s all “want to”.  You either have the “want to” or you don’t – and no amount of butt-kissing or lying will change that.  The proper “want to” will fix anything.  Too fat?  I’ll have to knock off the sweets and burgers so I can keep up.  Problem solved.  It may take some time, of course, but if I want something bad enough, I’ll figure that $#!+ out.

My “good enough” centers around a group of friends.  Some of them are older, a few are younger.  Generally speaking, we’re all about the same fitness level, though a few of us are a little stronger than the rest.  The real trick is that we ride well together, and we ride together often.  We go on road trips together, dine together, and we laugh together.  A lot.

My “good enough” is not just riding with my friends though.  My “good enough” is riding well with my friends.  It’s being able to bridge gaps to help a friend who has fallen off the back, or chase my friends down to help one or more back (my friends have done this more than a few times for me as well).

My “good enough” is just a little bit better, so I can be of decent use to my friends because if we learn anything in recovery, it’s that you’re not really living until you’re of use to others.

My good enough is being a guy my friends want to have around, so we can have moments like this….

And see things like this…

As long as I’m fast enough for all of that, it’ll do for my “good enough”.

A B Group Best for the Tuesday Night Club Ride

There are great evenings for a bike ride, and then there are nights like last night – so off-the-hook awesome…  the only description left is perfect, and last night was that.  Impeccably sunny, warm (but not hot), and no wind.

I can’t remember ever enjoying such a spectacular draft.  Ever.

We rolled out fast, right out of the gate, north of 21 mph within the first mile.  It got hectic from there, and we picked up several dropped A guys along the way.  It was obvious their group was really fast last night too.

Unfortunately, some of the A guys that we ended up with couldn’t grasp that we don’t quite ride like the A guys.  We don’t attack on hills or at stop signs.  We had three tandems last night, and we take care of them in those places.  They normally don’t, and we ended up having to reign one or two of them in a couple of times and I’ve got a plan to implement that will hopefully isolate riders who can’t (won’t or don’t) play nice.  More on that another time….

Beyond that little hiccup, the ride leading up to and after the intermediate sprint was fast and excellent.  I think I was second in the intermediate and third in the finalè, behind A guys in both cases.

As my faults go, I am finding I have to practice more patience when it comes to the group stretching out during those attacks.  I love seeing the group work together, to see two ten-rider-deep lines cruising down the road in unison.  When those lines break up a bit, I tend to rush to close the gap rather than wait for the group to naturally come back together.

That said, the final sprint was fast, fun and a little hectic.  When the dust settled, the main group crossed the line after a little more than 29 miles in 1:18:23.  A full minute better than our previous best from last year.  A 22.1 mph average.

*Photos are from different rides, at 23-26 mph, it just doesn’t make sense to mess with a camera, even off the back or to the side.

PS.  To all of my friends, Mike, Chuck, Chuck, Phill, James, Dave, Matt, Mike, Jonathan, Toby, Brad, Karen, Big Joe, and all of the others who contributed last night, congratulations fellas.  We done good, that was the ride of the season.  Thank you for reading, riding, and making last night a fast one.

I Really Screwed Up with the Person who matters most to Me….  Solved Saddle Issues, and what EVERYONE needs to know about Racing Bicycle Saddles.

My wife has checked out four saddles in the last month.  The one that came on her bike originally, two other Specialized Riva’s (one stout and one squishy) and an Avocet Touring WII.  For those who know women’s saddles, that Avocet is worth its weight in gold.  Seriously.  It is coveted like no other saddle, even more than a Brooks.

My wife hated all of them, and it drove me nuts that I couldn’t figure it out for her.

While on DALMAC I spoke to the owner of our local shop about the problem, and it became a big problem.  There’s nothing worse than not being able to get comfortable in the saddle.

My wife, at the end of her rope, went into the shop to discuss options the other day and that’s when the owner pulled out a Specialized saddle measuring pad.  She measures out at 150mm.  We checked, every saddle she’s tried has been stamped with a 155.  Trying to fit 150mm wide sit bones on a 155mm saddle is like trying to use a 10mm Allen wrench to tighten down your brake cable (it’s a 5mm bolt).  While impossible is a good word to start with, painful works.  I should have thought of this.  I had the same problem when I bought my 5200.

We bought her a Ruby 143mm.  The clouds parted and sun shone.

The saddle has less padding that the other options but it fits properly.  

Unfortunately, there are some language/lingo issues that we just couldn’t bust through that, with the benefit of hindsight, could have made the diagnosing quicker.  

Second, I naturally assumed, being a woman, my wife’s hips would be wider than mine.  They were, but only by a few millimeters.  That was a bit ignorant on my part, though in my defense, she’d been riding the bike for two years…  

Finally, I assumed that she’d already done the width test.

As it goes, all’s well that ends well, but I can’t help but feel like I let her down by not figuring this out sooner.  That measurement pad should have been the first thing I suggested.

So, my friends, if your saddle feels like it’s too wide to fit between your legs (and I mean that literally), get measured.  It probably is.  The test takes two minutes and can mean the difference between riding in pain or comfort.  Simple a$$ that.

The Great Water Bottle (Bidon) Conundrum: How Big is Big Enough, How Much is Enough?!

I have always carried max-load water bottles on my bike.  24 oz. or better.  I figured, I ride so far I may as well use maximum capacity bottles because I don’t want to get caught out…  Then I was offered a couple of minimum capacity bottles, old club bottles that have been tucked away in storage for years, just a few weeks ago:


Just look at those tiny little fellas….

I took those two baby water bottles on DALMAC.  376 miles over four days with maybe a few rest stops per day on the way up.  I never ran out of water (or Gatorade, whichever I was carrying).  All these years I’ve been lugging around those massive water bottles for no good reason whatsoever – I’ve done just fine with the 16 oz. bottles.

My attitude toward the smaller bottles started changing when my wife went through a breast cancer scare.  I was sporting pink water bottles wherever I rode, just to let her know she had my undeniable, unwavering support.  Those pink jugs were of the smallish varieties as well.  There were a couple of times where I got down to the last few swigs, but I never really ran dry either.

My reality is this:  Those big 24-26 ounce water bottles are quite unnecessary.  Unless I’m  planning on a long ride with no stops, in warm weather, it doesn’t make sense to bother with the extra pound or more.  As is usual, I’ve heard that the big bottles are unnecessary but I didn’t believe it.  I had to find out for myself.  And I did. 

I’ve blown some serious cash over the years on water bottles, only to find out I’ve been lugging around extra weight for nothing. 

Again, for touring or long rides with no stops, you’ll need the high capacity bottles.  For anything else, I prefer the smallish bottles.