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Monthly Archives: May 2018

The Quote is “Don’t Buy Upgrades, Ride Up Grades”. I prefer a little bit of Both…

My cycling buddy, Mike, who also happens to own a Trek 5200, is in the middle of a dilemma; he’s worn out his chainrings (I think he’s gotten 75,000 miles out of them so it’s about time). Unfortunately, they don’t make those chainrings any longer so he’s going to have to get a new crank. He wants a lightweight one, of course, so it’s going to cost him in the neighborhood of $400-$500 if memory serves… Oh, and he’s upgrading to 10sp triple in lieu of his original 9…

Now, that leads me to an interesting problem of my own – but keep in mind, my problems tend to be pretty good as problems go. Eventually I’m going to have to replace my chainrings as well, they’re getting a little long in the tooth, if you know what I mean.

Another friend of mine, whilst we were riding last Monday morning, asked if anyone was interested in his Ultegra 10sp. groupset because he’d upgraded to 11sp.. I jumped on the set. I’ve already installed the Ultegra derailleurs (they’re butter compared to 105) on the Venge and I’ll put the 105 set from the Venge onto the Trek, and put on a decent compact crank on that. I’m going to break with the triple, though. I’ve loved it dearly but I’m going with a compact double (50/34) instead. The triple is just a touch too finicky for my liking and the doubles are simply too easy to work with.

And the best part is, I saved the original crank that came on the Venge. With a little work, I’m told it can be made to fit the Trek.

I’m going to get away with only having to buy a used Ulregra groupset and a couple of chain rings, and I’ll get an upgraded, lighter transmission for the Venge (I anticipate dropping another half-pound between shifters and derailleurs, meaning the Venge will weigh 15.4 or 15.5 pounds) and a new compact double ten speed transmission for the Trek, and both road bikes will have matching transmissions so wheels will then be swappable in seconds (which will also drop weight going from a triple to a double and then updating the components by 14 years). That’s a straight up winner, folks.

Better, after all of that’s done, my Ultegra 9sp. triple hardware from the Trek is going to go on my wife’s gravel bike.

So, to the suggestion that one should ride up grades rather than buy them, to get faster, I agree wholeheartedly.  On the other hand, I’ll take an upgrade every now and again.  They’re good for the soul.  ‘Er somethin’.

Fit Recovery; Why I’m such a Stickler about that Recovery Part.

I am a hard-ass when it comes to recovery and “how” one goes about recovering. For instance, drug-addled escapism, also known as the marijuana maintenance program, or methadone as another, is not recovery. The latter may be the path to future recovery, but it ain’t there yet. As for the pot program, well you’ll have to sell stupid somewhere else.

Choosing to live dry, while usually noble and certainly preferable to the previous options, is almost recovery. Put simply, if “dry as a popcorn fart” describes you, in recovery we typically try to aim higher than “fart”.

Found God? Hey, if it changed your life and you’re free of your addiction, you’re there. Enjoy it.

Found something else that changed you’re life and you’re free? Sweet! Welcome to the party!

Recovery, Twelve Steps or no, is twofold. One: Freedom from mood or mind-altering drugs or alcohol. That’s a period right there. Two: A repairing of the damage caused during use, and the character defects at the root of the addiction. It isn’t rocket science, baby.

I’ll present my why of it all.

Life without drugs and alcohol, for the first several years, is hard, dude. It takes unshakeable honesty, dedication, tenacity, discipline, and an @$$-ton of want to. It takes a complete change of lifestyle and new friends (I cut off association with every friend I had, and it was absolutely necessary). It requires a cleansing of the soul and a desire to be “better”, for lack of a better word.

Skimp on any of that, maybe a little cheating here or there, I’ve never seen anyone end up happy like that. Hell, I’ve never heard of anyone ending up happy with half measures.

Imagine making chocolate chip cookies. You make a regular batch, but you only use half the flour and baking soda… but you triple the chocolate chips and throw in an extra egg for good measure.

Oh, you can call the result a chocolate chip cookie but it’ll taste like ass and be mushy as… well… chuckle.

I’ve dealt with uncontrollable anger issues (fixed, now, years ago, one day at a time), depression, anxiety attacks… and that was all after I quit drinking. Without help it would have been too much. With the complete change, I’ve come to know happiness and freedom that I didn’t know was possible. It is incomprehensible happiness.

They call the other side of that coin incomprehensible demoralization, and I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. And I mean that literally.

Put simply, recovering with all of the right stuff is hard enough as it is. Happiness and freedom from addiction with half of the ingredients is damn-near impossible. Seen it too many times.

A Wrap on another Horsey Hundred; Still the Best Supported Ride I’ve Ever had the Pleasure of Riding.

My friends, if you’re looking for a fun weekend ride and have Memorial weekend free, you have to do the Horsey Hundred at least once. There’s plenty of up for the mountain goats, lots of down for the speed freaks, and enough routes that anyone can pick two (one for Saturday and one for Sunday) and enjoy themselves. The distances range from 35 to 100 miles on Saturday and 25 to 75 miles on Sunday (we do the 100 and the 53). Breakfasts and dinner on Saturday and breakfast and lunch on Sunday are included and decent.

This year didn’t turn out as I envisioned it would. My buddy, Mike, my wife and I ended up off the back after fifteen miles or so and Mike wasn’t doing well. It was supposed to be hot and cloudy with a very good chance of rain on Saturday. It was hot and amazingly sunny without a drop, and Mike was suffering. We ended up skipping a couple of rest stops and, pulling into the 35-ish mile stop Mike announced he was cutting his ride short… My wife was on the edge too, so she urged me to go on with a couple of friends we’d been riding with when we caught them at the rest stop. I skipped my second stop in a row and rolled out to catch them (they’d pulled out while my back was turned and my wife and I were discussing the situation – I wanted my hundred, my wife, not so much). I had to burn a pack of matches to catch them but I made it to them within a few miles.

From that point my ride got a lot more enjoyable, and faster. The oppressive heat and sun were almost too much at times. I refueled and drank wisely but it was impossible to keep up. Mike S. and I (another Mike we were riding with) ended up pulling Dave, who is normally a diesel that we’d prefer to throw a leash around, but he was having trouble with a pedal – he’d blown the bearings out of his left spd.

My wife, God bless her, after getting done with her 83 with Mike, back-tracked the course and met me with eight miles to go and Mike, Dave, my wife and I all rode in together. Thankfully, I’d picked up her Hundred pin at the Castle stop (there is a castle in Kentucky that used to belong to Lee Majors – the bionic man) because she ended up with 101 miles on the day. Where this gets good for us isn’t only the riding, which is fantastic on spectacular Tour de France quality asphalt, it’s the camaraderie. Several of us went out for first dinner at a Chick-fil-a walking distance from our hotel. We laughed about Dave’s pedal fortune and the lucky stroke that the repair stand had a used pair of pedals to sell him so he could ride the second day. Then we all got together for second dinner and the laughs were awesome. Then we got together again, later that evening for ice cream. The best way to do the HH weekend is with a bunch of friends.

Sunday’s ride was even better. There was still plenty of up, which you’d expect from a ride in Kentucky, but there are more rollers than climbs. Our pace was a lively 18 mph at the 30 mile rest stop. My buddy, Mike had split earlier for the 35 mile route, and one look at my wife’s face while we were refueling, I knew we were going to back it off considerably for the last 23 miles. I explained to my buddies that we were going to ease off the back and enjoy our ride home, to go on without us.

The next 23 were some of the best I’d ever ridden with my wife – possibly some of the more enjoyable I’ve ridden – ever. I pulled for most of it, but I knew exactly the pace my wife needed to make it and we settled in for the push home. We ended up with a 17.3 average to my computer, so we weren’t that much slower than the previous 30 but we didn’t have to burn a bunch of matches to make the climbs, we just did our thing.

So, back home for the Holiday. I’ve got a 50 miler planned for this morning followed by spending the day at a friend’s house on the lake for some swimming – it’s going to be a scorcher today. Through yesterday’s ride, that was 264 miles for the week and 1,034 miles for the month… and not a bad one among them.

Ride hard my friends.

“I’m a Vegan”, She Explained… Part 236

Hey, just a short note for all of you nutty vegan bloggers out there (pun intended):

Ladies, because the vegan landscape is dominated by women, when you write a blog post to share your recipe for cauliflower pizza dough, you don’t have to include the note that you’re a vegan.

We already know. Nobody in their right mind would make pizza dough out of cauliflower.

Fit Recovery’s Cycling Wisdom for the Day Part 1

I’m going to start a new simple series of easy points. Today marks the first:

Clip-on aero bars… Too many bike riders have them. Only cyclists know how, or when, to use them.

If that simple statement angers you, you’re a bike rider.

Photo of a cyclist, properly not using her aero bars in a group

On not Being able to Drink Successfully

A good friend of mine and I had a discussion last night about how you can tell who will make it in sobriety and who won’t.  This is a favorite topic of mine as I was voted the least likely to stay sober in my treatment center class.  I’m one of the few who isn’t only sober and successful, I’m not dead.  Such is normally the case – the one’s who you think don’t have a chance usually do well.  Those you think have a decent chance often end up feeding worms.

There are a few things that separate the winners from the dead or dying:

  1.  In my case, I made a decision, two weeks into treatment, that I would not only give sobriety a chance but I’d give it everything I had.  We often say in recovery circles, as long as I give sobriety half the effort I put into drinking, I can’t lose.  There’s a lot of truth to that simple statement.
  2. That decision has to be a full time commitment.  Nothing, and I mean nothing comes before my sobriety.   There is a simple reason for this; without my sobriety, there is nothing else.  There’s no wife, no relationship with my kids, no job, no house, car or pet… Some will throw in, “except God” but that’s unnecessary.  It goes without saying for those of us who believe in a Higher Power.
  3. The decision doesn’t mean I’m 100% on-board at all times.  Sometimes I didn’t want to drink just 51%… the key is that I don’t ever let it get to 49%-51%.
  4. I had to pick up the phone.  My ego screwed with me bad when it came to sobering up.  I had a hard time asking for help from my new sober friends so I mistakenly thought I should be able to go it alone, a lot like how I drank.  Ignorance isn’t always bliss.  Once I popped my head out of my ass and started calling on those who offered their help, my life got a lot better and happier.
  5. Above all else, the honesty displayed in item 4 is indispensable.  I had to stop looking outside me for something to blame for my predicament and start focusing on my biggest problem:  Me.
  6. Finally, when in doubt, reverse the order and work backwards.  Honesty, ask for help, 51% to 49%, remember the decision…

Sobriety is the only path to a happy life for me.  I am a pickle, and once a pickle you never get to go back to being a cucumber.  I accept who I am and embrace what I have to do to remain happy.  There is no scenario where I am drinking and happy.  Those two are incompatible and as long as I remember that, I’ve got a chance.

Seventy Miles on a Bicycle is a lot Harder when You only Stop Once

I love long bike rides. Wait, let me clarify and define; I love long rides between 50 and 100 miles (80km to 160km). I’ve gone further, to 125 miles (or 200km) once on a solo ride but didn’t much care for it – a little too much of a good thing, even though I managed an 18.8-mph average.


50 miles on a bike, depending on fitness and speed, is hard. 100 miles is really hard, especially when you’re averaging north of 18 or 19-mph. (28-30 km/h), but there’s something rewarding about completing a ride like that. I’ve written before that the 100k or 62-1/2 mile ride is, in my humble opinion, the perfect distance. It’s just long enough that you know you’ve done something special and still short enough that, with the right training, you can get used to doing a ride of that length without grinding yourself into the ground, and with a regular day job. That’s not so much the case with the 100 miler.

I maintain that stopping to refill water bottles and refuel is fair game without counting it against your average speed. The day we get team cars to help with flat tires and hand us water or a Coke, and food, well that’s the day when you can fairly say we shouldn’t be stopping… and that leads me to my one conundrum with cycling with my friends: they’ll go 30-40 miles in between stops, I like them a little more frequent. Say, every 20-25.

When we do supported rides, we’ll hit most of the stops unless the first one comes too soon (I can think of two rides right off the top of my head where the first stop is only 12 miles in and we blow by each of them, every time). That said, when you’re stopping every 20 or 25 miles, it’s east to break a 100 miler down into manageable chunks, mentally… and that’s what I like about the stops.

I can almost do 20 miles standing on my head, so when I hit that 60 mile mark and I start to get tired, it’s easier to just think about getting to the next stop.

And that’ll do till they give me and my buds a team car.

What to Do when Presented with a Perfect Day for a Bike Ride….

I got home from work a little early yesterday and I was cagey. I was supposed to meet Chuck at a quarter after five but it was impossibly nice outside. 80° (27 C), only a few wispy clouds in the upper atmosphere, and a barely there mild breeze. I readied my bike and dressed, wheeled the bike outside at five after… and there was no way I was waiting ten more minutes. I threw a leg over the top tube and rolled, my characteristic cycling smile stretched across my face.

The first mile was a little tougher than I expected it would be but I didn’t care. I headed toward Chuck’s house, figuring I’d pick him up along the way. I showed up at his driveway and his wife’s bikes were hung in the garage, along with his rain bike and his tandem, but his bike was nowhere to be found. I checked my phone, “On my way” 5:14 pm. It was 5:17, he must have gone a different way out of his subdivision so I high-tailed it back to my house. Sure enough, there he was in my driveway. We had a laugh and rolled out.

Traffic was fairly light and we didn’t get buzzed once. Somebody in a white Chevy Silverado, 2017, yelled something out the window at us as we cruised in the bike lane down a busy city street, but I assumed it was “You guys are awesome!” or something like that, because obviously we are.

Chuck has a big ride this evening so we kept the pace pretty subdued and just enjoyed the ride… and the suntan! Normally, by this time in May we’ve had dozens of perfect days like that, but they’re in short supply so we passed my road up like a dirty shirt and kept riding. Eventually, we turned back toward my place as I had some dinner to get ready, but I waited until the last possible minute.

I did what we do when we get a perfect day for cycling; I squeezed every mile I could out of it. Eight extra miles, to be exact. Then I went to a meeting… because everything in recovery is better with a meeting.

My gratitude for being me on laying down to bed was immeasurable, and that’s as it should be.

Tuesday Night Club Ride; Back to Fast… and Gratitude.

I thought back, sipping on my coffee whilst watching the Tigers’ game last night, to my first club ride. My friend, Phill, fell off the back of the pack a quarter-mile after I did after someone attacked at the front and took the pace north of 28-mph. I spent the next two miles chasing him down. I had no clue where I was or how I was going to get back…  I caught Phill and rode back with him and we’ve been friends ever since.

Last night’s turnout was decent even though it was pretty chilly and cloudy.  It seemed rain was a threat at any second though it never let loose on us.  We rode a seven mile warm-up loop at about 18 mph and lined up for the start of the main event.  I’d taken Monday off due to rain and some really tired legs and I was a little worried about how I’d feel.  Those worries were put to rest in the warm-up.  I felt fantastic.  Spry, even.

The A guys rolled right at 6 and we, the B group waited a couple of minutes…  We felt slow at the start even though we worked our way up to and beyond 20 mph.  After two miles we headed north, into the wind.  I was up front, I think with Jonathan, and we picked up the pace to 22-mph and kept it there for our mile.

Lately, we have a tale of two groups; one who does the work and another that tries to hang on at the back.  Not last night.  Last night was a perfect example of a club ride.  Everyone did their share, to the best of their ability and it was smooth.  That’s when I have the most fun.

Making a long story short(er), I came in second on both sprints, but I started each from the front after pulling at 25+ mph for more than a half-mile.  In other words, I’ll take second after being the lead out too.

We rolled across the finish line approaching 30 mph, 29 miles and change, at 1:20:12 or 21.1 mph for an average.  Not bad at all.  It was all high-fives and laughs back in the parking lot, as it should be.

I spent the rest of the night feeling grateful for being me.  Cool indeed.


On Being a Cycling Weight Weenie and Climbing; Bike Weight isn’t the MOST Important Thing – it’s within Reach, really… But a Close Third

If I had a dollar for every pound I dropped off my Venge through upgrades, I’d have three Dollars. That’s not bad when you consider I started with an 18 pound bike.

Sadly, I’d only need another $1,897 to break even…

S-Works crank, FSA carbon-wrapped stem, wheels, and pedals – those were the big hitters that dropped the most weight. Brakes, handlebar, bottle cages, cassette, chain… those were smaller improvements.

All of that money and my 1999 Trek, that weighs three pounds more, is a better climbing bike. With the good wheels off of the Venge, of course.

1999 Trek 5200T

Here’s the kicker; yes, a lighter bike is easier to get up a hill and with enough miles in the saddle you’ll be able to easily feel the difference in just one pound – but gearing is more important.  Don’t take my word on it, look to the Velominati for the historical perspective (and this should be something the “Rule” haters should even be okay with):  “Riding light bikes is fun, but they won’t make you go any faster. Pushing harder on the pedals does.


I’ve lugged both bikes up that hill, and believe me, it’s decently steep. 18% and it goes up for a minute. By the time I get to the top I’m absolutely out of breath. My Trek, with a 9sp. triple, was easier to get up the hill and I think I could have done the climb with a gear left, too. On the Venge, it was the last gear or bust.

That’s really the trick, gearing. With a 52/36 crank on the Venge and an 11/27 cassette, the easiest gear I get is 36/27. The Trek, by contrast, has a 52/42/30 triple crank and an 11/25 cassette. 30/25 being the easiest. I’m sure it doesn’t take much to figure out that 30/25 is going to be a lot easier to turn over when things get steep. It’s enough that the gearing more than makes up for the weight difference in the two bikes. I am much faster up the hill on the Trek. So, I think for the average roadie, gearing would be most important. The right chainrings and cassette will mitigate a few pounds in bike weight. Now, you take my gravel bike against the Venge (or the Trek for that matter) and forget about it. The gravel bike is a beastly 23 pounds. There isn’t any amount of gearing going to fix a seven or four pound difference.

Now, you might be thinking, “wait a minute, a three pound difference in the Trek to the Venge is okay, but the four pound difference from the Trek to the Diverge is too much?” I’m already pushing a gear that matches up with the Diverge on the Trek – there’s no beneficial “easier but slightly faster” gear on the Diverge, so I’d be pushing gear for gear and four pounds more on the gravel bike. Advantage Trek, every time.

Next, without a doubt, is wheels. A good set of wheels will roll better than cheap, heavy wheels and will therefore help one get to the crest of a hill.  Notice, at the beginning of the post, I mentioned that the good wheels have to go on the Trek?  The cheaper wheels that currently reside on the Trek are for training.  I use the wheels on the Venge when I want to go fast.  The wheels matter.

So that would bring overall bike weight to third in the list behind gearing and wheels. So before you drop another Two Grand on making your road bike a couple of pounds lighter, maybe think about putting compact chainrings on there and upgrade the wheels instead.

***My friends, this was obviously an opinion piece. There is plenty of room for different opinions.  I’m just going by my experience.