I have a bit of a problem, and before I even get into this, it’s a good problem to have… I give myself five sick days a year, on top of a couple weeks of vacation. The problem is, I don’t get sick often. It’s been two years since I burned a sick day because I was actually sick, so by and large my sick days go unused.
For the most part.
Every now and again, as a cyclist, I bump into a perfect day for a ride and the standard 16-17 mile evening ride won’t do. Yesterday was one of those days.
This past winter was ridiculous as weather goes. Last year I was able to log 400 outdoor miles between January and February. This year, a measly 183, and a third of those were in the last four days – in other words, we’ve been stuck inside for a long stretch.
Yesterday’s forecast called for mid 50’s (12 C), mostly sunny skies and a mild breeze. The mild breeze part was a little off but the sunshine and mild temperature bit was right on. We rode at 8:30 in the morning, call it 38 (3 C) and rising. My buddy Mike, my wife and I fought the wind for eighteen miles before letting it push us home. As one would expect, that eighteen miles into the wind wasn’t the greatest but the return trip was a blast.
The abundance of sun had taken the temp from just above freezing to 56° (13 C) in just an hour and, for the first time in four months I was warm on a bike ride. It was spectacular.
36 miles and some change, a little more than two hours, and a fantastic morning. It was so awesome I went into work after showering up. I was never very good at taking time off anyway.
It never ceases to amaze me, that little weight drop when the outdoor miles begin after the big thaw…. Chuck went to Arizona for a month and it appears he sent us some nice weather.
Saturday was a peach of a 32 miler, Sunday was way too windy for cycling, and I played a little hooky at lunch yesterday because it was almost 50 degrees. The sun was so brilliant, I thought I was in the wrong state.
If you remember that photo of our front yard half-flooded the other day, the photo above shows that the rain soaked into the ground pretty well. Let’s just say our water table is replenished. After yesterday’s short lunch time ride I showered up and got dressed, only to realize I needed a belt. As long as I choose my food wisely, cycling is like cheating. Just one more reason to love riding – cycling ROCKS!
Freaking Unbelievable: Our First Ride of the Season (Before the Season Technically Begins) is Just what the Doctor Ordered. Um, Literally and Figuratively.
We rolled out at 9 am, shortly after I pulled into the driveway after dropping the kids off for a swim meet. The temp, a balmy 35° – and that’s in Fahrenheit, not Celsius. I think that works out to 2C or something. Rather than rolling out on the tandem, I decided we oughta take the singles out… I’ve been itching to take the Trek out for a proper ride after I changed up the cockpit.
There were six of us, a decent group for a day just barely the good side of freezing. We kept it really tame, considering one of the guys who joined us is a serious mountain bike racer.
Folks, we just rode. 32 miles, 18 mile an hour average. The cool part, at least for me, was that the Trek’s cockpit change really felt great. See, on the Venge, when my wife takes a turn up front, I can get low enough in the drops to actually get a draft off of her when she gets down on her aero bars. Worse, she doesn’t know it but she has a tendency to put the hammer down because she can’t see her computer – getting a decent draft is fairly important behind her:
That wasn’t the case on the Trek – the front end was just a little too high, so my head and shoulders were out of the draft. Now I can get down low enough that I’m entirely in the draft.
32 miles for the first ride of the new season – and I could have easily done 40+. This is going to be a great year – I haven’t lost a beat from last fall.
There was an unfortunate part to our ride. We started out with the wind at our back. We fought the wind all the way home, which meant that we were a little chilly by the time we pulled into the driveway. On the other side of that, we spent more than an hour and three-quarters in the fresh air. Forget about all of the weight benefits and the cardiovascular benefits… A ride outside does the soul good. As the day went on, I felt more grateful for having gone out. After a long, cold winter with a bunch of snow, there’s nothing better than finally getting outside.
If you’re interested in nursing, read the linked post…
I spend the cycling off-season getting the bikes ready for the next year. New cables, new chains – in this year’s case, new brake calipers on my wife’s and my A bike. I also attended to some simple projects like having my name put on the Trek and hooking that bike up with a more aggressive front end. Best I can tell, we’re ready to go.
I thoroughly enjoyed this winter. While I rode most every day on the trainer, I enjoyed the simple schedule and putting in some miles in front of the television – unquestionably boring, but the flexibility in the schedule wasn’t so bad.
Different this year, I got a lot of good maintenance work done on the bikes and that, surprisingly, kept me engaged and constantly looking forward to the coming spring. My wife’s bike is in fantastic shape and probably got the most meaningful upgrade of all of the bikes. The new brakes are going to vastly improve the handling of her bike. The Venge was fairly straightforward, and the Trek jumped in stature from just my “rain bike” to a righteous classic steed. Other than wheels, in the distant future, the bike is as good as I can get it.
So, with the temperature outside finally topping freezing (it’s been colder than normal for most of the winter) and looking like they’ll hold for the foreseeable future, cycling season starts today. In just under two hours my friends will start showing up and we’ll roll out….
For those who are cooped up for the winter, you know how good this day feels; It’s finally time to get some fresh air!
I was driving to my normal Thursday night meeting after dropping my daughter off at a band concert and I passed the local shop. Much to my surprise, the “Open” sign was still lit when the shop should have been closed. Being that the owner is one of my favorite people in the world, I signaled and turned into the parking lot, only to see my friend, Chuck’s truck in the parking lot as well. I went in and they were setting up Chuck’s newly painted 2008 Specialized Tarmac – he also upgraded the componentry to last year’s Ultegra and put a new Aerofly handlebar, so the front end is now cleaned up… Put simply, the bike looks awesome, especially compared to where it was before the paint job.
Chuck is understandably stoked.
He was also a bit on the bummed side. Unlike my set of Aerofly handlebars, Chuck’s are the riser variety, that has 25mm of rise built into them:
So he’s atop the bike, spinning away on the trainer to make sure the fit is right, and Matt asks if I want to help fit him… I automatically freeze, because, not to put it mildly, I’m navel lint next to Matt, but offer a lame, “He looks comfortable”. Chuck stops pedaling and dismounts. We start talking about the position of the handlebar and how he’s thinking he might want to lower it a little bit to counter the rise in the bar because there are only a few centimeters’ drop from the saddle to the bar. That’s when I added, “Absolutely, slam that stem. Drop that bar all the way and don’t bother waiting”. Matt suggested that he wait and make sure the initial setup works, first.
What’s the right way to proceed?
Folks, the most important thing in cycling (especially if you want to do so with any speed), without question, is that the bike fits the rider. This goes double for the noob cyclist. Until you’ve spent a butt-ton of time in the saddle, it’s best to go with the shop’s set-up until you get some miles on your heinie.
That’s not the end of the discussion, though, especially for the cycling enthusiast.
Here it is, the second most important thing…
Once you know your way around bikes, the second most important thing is that the cyclist looks at his or her bike and can’t help but think, “My bike is awesome“. Whether we’re riding an old classic, a 2008 Tarmac, a 2013 Venge Comp, a classic Trek 5200, or a brand spankin’ new Trek Madone 9-point-Sweet Jesus on a pedal bike, if the cycling enthusiast thinks they’re riding an inferior bike or they’re not confident in their bike’s set-up and/or looks, they’re going to be lost.
Chuck knows those bars must come down to be in the “cool kids” club and whether that is technically right or wrong has absolutely no bearing on the fact that Chuck thinks that’s gotta happen. It just is what it is, so make it happen. There’s no sense fighting it.
My bikes have been tinkered with so that they are as cool as I can afford to get them. Stems were slammed, angles were toyed with, saddle tilt was adjusted (and is still being monkeyed with on the Trek), and I’ve spent thousands of hours in the saddle getting used to an aggressive position so I could be one of the cool kids. More important, whether someone else thinks I am a cool kid is irrelevant because they’re not pushing on my pedals.
The only question left is whether to start tinkering right away or to play it safe.
I have, up until this post, always maintained that a little restraint is wise – go a little bit at a time until you hit that spot where you’re so low you’re not comfortable, then raise the bar 5mm and ride it. That’s how I did it, and that’s generally how I would recommend it be done. On the other hand, we have to add the cyclist’s experience to the context as well, and Chuck is a great example. He’s been riding for a fair amount of time, he’s been riding the same bike for years. He knows that bike and he knows what he wants. In that case, I say go for it… Why wait when we’re only talking about swapping some spacers?
On one hand, absolutely, we want to be comfortable on our steeds. On the other, once we’ve put in our saddle time and know what we want, go for it. Don’t wait, don’t put it off. Worst case scenario, if you don’t like what you’ve done, lowering a handlebar isn’t permanent until you have the fork cut down. You can always undo or modify what you did to make it work… and the best time to do that is when you’ve still got some days left on the trainer before it’s nice enough to take the “A” bike outside.
You’ve seen that view before on this blog. Most of the year it looks a lot like this:
We had a nice temp the other day but there’s no riding outdoors. Roads are flooded out, the wind was howling, it’s simply gnarly for as comfortable as the temp was.
Back to the refrigerator yesterday though… It may be back to chilly but it’ll be perfect for some early spring cycling later on this week. And the roads will be cleaned off from the rain. Glass half full, or better!
In the meantime, there’s nothing wrong with the trainer. Works great. Even hammered out two rides yesterday, in between work.
When in doubt, double up.