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Monthly Archives: October 2017

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The Last Perfect Day of the Cycling Season

It’s a rare day that we know that we are up on the last great day of a season.  Rarer still, that the day lands on a weekend.  That the last perfect day of the cycling season arrived on a Sunday is like winning the lotto – a second time.  That’s exactly what happened this year.

We rolled shortly after the sun came up, we had a decent breeze from the south.  We had a small group to start, just Mike, Matt, Mrs. Bgddy and me.  We picked up Phill and Brad along the way and met Greg, and Dave and Sherry on their tandem, shortly thereafter.

I ended up pocketing the arm warmers and rolled the rest of the ride in comfort, only wearing a short-sleeve jersey and bibs.  This late in October, that’s exceptionally rare….  Perfect.

It was a perfect way to spend a perfect morning with friends.  Just short of 56 miles on the day.  The pace was perfect as well, about 18.6 – not too shabby for a windy day.

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One more Reason Being a Cyclist is the Best Thing EVAH!!!  In One Equation….

From Tony at One Regular Guy Writing about Food, Exercise and Living Past 100

For men: 66 + (6.2 x weight) + (12.7 x height) – (6.76 x age)
For women: 655.1 + (4.35 x weight) + (4.7 x height) – (4.7 x age)

For me, once you include the special multiplier, the number works out to 2,952.

That’s how many calories I get to eat in a day.  Sometimes I go a little over, sometimes I’m under.

I am, obviously, outrageously active:

1.2 points for a person who does little to no exercise
1.37 points for a slightly active person who does light exercise 1–3 days a week
1.55 points for a moderately active person who performs moderate exercise 3–5 days a week
1.725 points for a very active person who exercises hard 6–7 days a week
1.9 points for an extra active person who either has a physically demanding job or has a particularly challenging exercise routine

I picked “A very active person” even though I’m probably “extra active” – better to err on the low side, I figure.

My number, should I choose a sedentary lifestyle, would be slightly over 2,000 calories.  Great if you love eating twigs, leaves and seaweed.  Not so much if you’d like to fire down a burger now and again.

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How Many Bicycles do Cyclists Need to do Everything and Go Everywhere?! And the Bike that Revolutionized Cycling

Two months ago I had all of the bikes I’d ever need.  I’ve got a mud bike, a mountain bike, a racing road bike and a rain road bike,  and a tandem (for rides with my wife or daughters).  I could go anywhere and do anything.  Or so I thought.

Then we, my wife and I, bought gravel bikes and our cycling world changed for the better…

Yesterday, we took my wife’s gravel bike in to have a few items looked over and she started talking about fat tire bikes for winter cycling and I almost fell over.

I actually feel like I’ve got too many bikes.  Me.

To go anywhere and do anything, an avid cyclist can need up to… let’s see, carry the one…  Six bikes.  A road bike, a gravel/cyclocross bike, a time trial bike, a mountain bike, a fat tire bike, and an all-arounder or touring bike.  Figure an average cost of $2,000 each and you’re really talking about some money!

There is one glaring problem with the whole “how many bikes” mess:  If you want to do any one thing well, you simply need a bike specific to the discipline.

  • I can do a triathlon on a road bike, there is no doubt.  If I want to do my best at the sport, though, I would need a time trial bike.
  • I can ride my mountain bike in the snow but if I really want to be as stable as possible, I need a fat tire bike.
  • I could ride a time trial rig in a group but I have to be at the front of the group or slightly off the back at all times (because all but a few highly skilled cyclists can pull off a TT bike in a group – call it 2% of all TT cyclists.  The problem is, the other 98% all think they belong in that 2%).  No, you need a good road bike for group rides if you’re going to be good at it.
  • The gravel bike could be thought of as a luxury, until you try to put 28mm tires on your road bike, only to find that the sides of the tires rubbed all of the paint off of your chain stays (today’s road bikes are beginning to allow for wider tires, but not the aero bikes, because clearance has to be tight to keep the bike aerodynamic).
  • You obviously need a mountain bike with suspension for those tough trails.
  • The touring bike is necessary for the zombie apocalypse and commuting – so that obviously can’t be done without!

Six bikes…  And we haven’t even cracked the necessity of rain bikes yet.

We can narrow this down though.  I think I can get this down to three or four.

  • Dude, you don’t need a triathlon bike because the run and the swim mess up a perfectly good bike ride!  A bike ride shall never be proceeded or followed by a swim or a run.
  • Take the fat tire bike and give up the mountain bike.  You can ride the fat tire bike on trails or in the snow.
  • Road bike, rain road bike, and gravel bike….  That’s four.

Now hear me out (or read me out, but that seems rather odd, written).  As a roadie, the gravel bike is one of the most versatile bikes on the market – and it is completely revolutionizing cycling.  A decent gravel bike can be a mountain bike, a cross bike, a road bike, a commuter, and a touring/zombie apocalypse bike.  The gravel bike should be one of the most important on the list of bikes one needs.  With a decent gravel bike, you can put knobby or slick tires on it, add some aero bars for a triathlon, or panniers and a rack or two for touring.  The gravel bike can do almost anything well.

Had I to do it over, knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t buy either mountain bike, nor my rain bike, nor my first road bike (my Cannondale).  I’d have gotten the gravel bike first, then the Venge, then the tandem.  Instead of all of the bikes I now own, I’d be down to three.  Well, maybe the first mountain bike for a mud/muck bike.

Of course, they didn’t have gravel bikes back then, so there’s that.  The point is, I thought I needed a lot of bikes to do everything from ride single tracks to ride with the club.  The reality is, if done conscientiously, all of those bikes can be narrowed down a little bit to keep the clutter and cost to a dull roar.

Dirt Roads, Road Bikes, and the Peace and Quiet of Relative Safety…

As cycling goes, I have been a roadie since the day I rode my first road bike… Actually, it would be better to say that I was a roadie from the moment I put a set of slicks on my first mountain bike and found out they don’t put high enough gears on them.  I love the speed.

I don’t love the interaction with traffic, though I put up with it because I like the elegance of the sport.  And the speed.  Did I mention I love the speed?

When my wife and I bought our gravel bikes, glorified compact racing road bikes with a more relaxed geometry and wider tires – oh, and disc brakes, my expectations weren’t very high.  By nature, gravel riding is going to be a lot slower.  Well, I wasn’t wrong, but I wasn’t right, fully, either.  In fact, a lot of what I thought gravel road cycling was going to be was wrong – even though I’ve spent much of the last two winters riding on them.

Even though we live on and near some of the best paved roads for cycling one could hope for in a urban/suburban area, traffic is still a concern.  We strike a perfect balance of just far enough “out in the country”, and close to everything.  We’re a mile from farm country and ten miles from Flint.  On a Sunday morning, we can ride for an hour on the paved back roads without seeing a car.  During the week, though, after I get home from the office, I can’t ride for five minutes without getting passed….  Until I started riding dirt roads.

Last evening, I ride at 5 pm on the nose, I made it a little more than 17-1/2 miles in one hour and was passed by three cars.  On my normal paved road route, the number would be closer to 30.  Figure 1-5% of motorists are of the variety that will buzz a cyclist to be a jerk and you begin to see how a tenth of the traffic would be a good thing.  Not only that, people who drive on dirt roads aren’t in as much of a hurry – rush too fast and all you do is beat the hell out of your vehicle – so it’s even more rare you’ll see someone do something stupid just for the sake of being stupid.

Then there’s the bumps and potholes.  Most cyclists would think these are bad, right? I did!  Well, a set of 28mm tires and 45-50 psi and they’re not so miserable.  Better, the bumps make motorists pay attention.  If you’ve never driven your vehicle on a dirt road, try sending a text whilst driving down said dirt road.  You’ll hit so many gnarly potholes, your phone will end up in the back seat somewhere before you get three words typed in.  Most motorists are going to wait till they hit the pavement to respond to that text because they won’t want to kill their car on the bumps.  In this case, bumps are a cyclist’s friends – at least as common sense should dictate.  There’s always an exception to the rule.  Always.  Sad?  Maybe, but whatever works.

Anyway, back to my ride last evening – 17-1/2 miles in an hour and a few seconds…  I’m cruising down the road and as I heard my third deer rush off, deeper into the woods, I realized just how different the sounds are on a dirt road, compared with pavement.  Cycling on dirt roads is quiet.  It’s just the wind, the wildlife, and the whir of the chain and I’m cruising down the road.  It is slower, there’s no doubt, maybe 3/4 to 1 mph slower on the average.  I think the peace and quiet is worth the loss of speed though.  I get to sort my thoughts rather than being required to pay keen attention to where the next car is coming from and how close it’ll get to me – or where the car behind me will try to pass in relation to the car coming at me.

Perhaps I’m maturing as a cyclist a little bit, or perhaps I’m finally growing tired of motorists…  Whatever it is, dirt roads are quite nice for the daily workouts.  I don’t miss the pavement as much as I thought I would.

Hold the Phone on those 28mm Slicks on Dirt Roads!!!  A Surprising Ride on the Gravel Bike

When my wife and I brought home our gravel bikes, we did so knowing we were getting better rubber for them, immediately.  The bikes come with 700c x 28mm Espoir Sport tires – the Espoir is a paved road tire, or so I assumed.  A friend of mine even commented about the “lack of hair” on them when I published my post on bringing the bikes home.

Well, I ordered the hairy tires yesterday and I’ve got a while before they come in… and I’ve got a brand new bike with eight miles on it, sitting in the bike room….  No chance I’m leaving it in there till the new tires come in.  None.

I expected to be sliding all over the place once I hit the dirt so I stayed on the hard pack… Then I hit a few bumpy patches, as dirt roads do indeed have bumps, so I got over into the loose slop on the side of the road.  I braced myself and scooted my butt to the back of the saddle – and didn’t wobble a bit.  I sat normal on the saddle, nothing.  Stable.

It made no sense.  You’re supposed to have knobby tires on dirt roads.  Right?

I had to get into the serious loose junk, 3-5 cm deep, before the bike got a little squirrelly – but at that point, even knobby tires won’t do much anyway.

The Espoir sports were so good I’m actually considering canceling the order for the new tires.  Its going to be years before I need another set if we stick with the original tires.

To be fair, the Espoir tires aren’t exactly treadless slicks, either.  They do have a tread:

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One, especially this “one”, wouldn’t assume that the little bit of tread on those tires would be worth anything on a dirt road, but all I can think of is the advantage my wife and I will have over everyone else riding knobbies…

Interesting indeed.  As is always the case in these cycling situations, more research is necessary.  MUCH more research.

 

Tuesday Night Club Ride: Wind Edition…

Take a guess at who finished with the A guys last night.  He’s got two thumbs and looks like…

This guy! More on that later (it’s not as sexy as it initially reads)…

We rolled out at 5:15, after only a three mile warm up, so we could get back before dark – with a southwesterly wind.

Cross headwind, cross tailwind, cross headwind, cross tailwind…  FULL FRONTAL HEADWIND.  The A guys were leading the whole gang out.  I did my best to do my part but my turns at the front were short.  The guys at the back had it a lot rougher than I did.  There was no place to hide so guys were getting spit off every couple of miles.

Thirteen miles in, I’d had enough too.  One of the guys came by after sucking a bunch of my wheel and said, “Ya sissy”.  I just let him go, knowing that wasn’t the last I’d see of him.

A few miles later, guess who got himself dropped.  We stopped at the regroup spot to wait for the others to catch up.  I pulled even with him, a wry smile on my face and said, “If you’re going to make that sissy $#!+ work, you actually have to stay up there.”

“Yeah, they made me a sissy too”, he conceded.

We rolled through town, made the left to head back north and rolled.  A few miles later and the A guys caught us (we B folks take a shortcut).  That happened half a dozen times this year, maybe more, and every time I let them go.

Not last night.

I jumped on the back with six or seven miles left to go…. and I sucked wheel like a champ.  Originally I was going to take my turns, but when one of the A guys came back from the front, he pointed in front of me and said, “I want that wheel so you don’t get me dropped”.

I was on the edge, so the offer sounded quite reasonable.  I’m not one of those who would let a gap drop people, I’m a responsible member of the group, but whatever.  I took him up on it.  I felt guilty at first, but I got over it as we topped 28 mph – and the wind had died down.  28, no tailwind.

29 up a slight incline.  I knew I made the right choice.

Before I knew it, they were setting up for the sprint… and I let them go.  I wasn’t going to suck wheel that hard then jump on the sprint train with fresh legs.  No way.  That crap is for racing.

The guy who’d called me a sissy earlier wasn’t on same morality bike I was riding.  He charged up from the back and three of the A guys boxed him out to let the others (who had worked for it…) have their sprint.  It was comical.

Later, after the ride, I thanked each A guy that hadn’t left for letting me suck wheel.  I apologized and explained myself, that I was on the edge and didn’t want to get anyone dropped.  As you could imagine, they were very cool about it.

They weren’t so cool about the guy who jumped into the sprint.  He didn’t win any new friends last night.  Too bad, that.

Final thoughts on the night:

  • A 24 mph average on that track is freaking fast.
  • I love it when karma works.
  • I love it more when I get to see it work.
  • Every time I ride with the A guys, I’m glad we made the B group.  Every time.
  • That’s not to take anything away from them, of course, my idea of a leisure activity is simply a little less intense.
  • Wind sucks.  It splits everyone up.
  • Being secure in who I am is the best guard against others saying stupid stuff (see also, karma).  Those who hope for a day when people aren’t jerks may as well hold their breath for world peace.

Getting a New Bike Ready for the Road…  In this Case, a Road Bike

I rode my new gravel bike six miles yesterday, and knew it would do (setting Mrs. Bgddy’s bike up at the shop took till after 6 and it we didn’t have much daylight left).  It is not perfect, but good enough for me to work with.  That meant some changes were in order.

I did my wife’s first, so I could focus as much attention on her bike as I would on my own.  This is an important step for me, knowing this and acting appropriately on it.

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When it came time for mine, I set it in the trainer and gave it a spin.  The stem was a shade off, cockeyed to the right.  I took the stem all the way off, stacked some of the spacers on top, to lower the handlebar and lined everything back up.

Next the reflectors went.  I don’t go out early in the morning or later in the evening without lights so reflectors are useless.  I go big on being seen – active, not passive.

I adjusted the derailleurs where I wanted them.  The shop did a good job, I do better.

The brake levers were set perfectly. Just the right amount of squeeze so I moved on.

Saddle was next.  Height first, fore and aft second.  Then a double-check on the height because I moved the saddle back quite a bit, more than a full inch.

Next I tackled the mechanical disc brakes.  Now THIS part can get messy – I had a tough time getting the tandem set-up right so I approached this with some trepidation.  First, to center the caliper, I loosened the bolts that hold the caliper to the fork (the front was rubbing, the back was perfect so I left it alone).  I loosened the quick release and placed a twice-folded piece of paper over the disc, then replaced the wheel and tightened it back up….  The fit at the disc/pads was snug.  Then I depressed the brake lever and while I held it, I tightened the bolts.  I loosened the QR, pulled the wheel, removed the paper, replaced and tightened the wheel and gave it a spin…

Still rubbing.  At that point I knew the problem is with the disc.  I pulled out a tiny adjustable crescent wrench and used that to gently bend the disc so it ran true – you use the brake caliper and pads as your guide….  Here’s a photo, with my bike upside down, to show where I look to see which way to bend – this is the front wheel btw:

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Once I’d straightened the disc, the rubbing ceased.  I checked the rear brake again, just to make sure, but it was perfect.

Then, one final item that separates the initiated from the noob….  I’d already checked the rear derailleur and indexed it so I knew the set-screws were adjusted properly.  I removed the wheel, then the cassette, and took the silly spoke protector off.  If your bike’s set-up is right, the only thing they’re good for is collecting dirt.

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Bob’s your uncle, the bike is ready to tackle all of the dirt roads I can throw at it (well, after some better rubber, those slicks won’t do on a dirt road).