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Monthly Archives: May 2018

My Best Non-DALMAC Week Evah!

Under normal circumstances, once the season gets going, 200 miles is a good week for me. 250 is exceptional.

After Saturday’s 28 miles with Chuck, in between rainstorms, I was sitting on 246 miles and I had a 56 miler yesterday morning. It turned out to be 57 and change.

I don’t think I’ve ever rocked out a 300 mile week outside of DALMAC.

Back when I started riding, 100, I thought, was pretty cool but unsustainable. 200 was crazy miles for a week, as far as I was concerned just four years ago. 250 was almost too hard to do. Topping 300 was thought to be near impossible for me.

Of course, I had to take three days off work to do it, but 304 is in the bank.

Now it’s time for a day off.  I’m freaking tired!

Cycling and Back Pain; My Experience and Why I Wish it would be Looked at Scientifically

I can’t explain why my back likes cycling so much, but the results of 47,000 miles in the saddle are in, and they’re good.

First, I have a confession to make; if you guessed that I ride the bike I do, set up as it is, for reasons connected partly to vanity, you’re not wrong.

No doubt about it, my bike is sleek and awesome. So is my other one. And my other one. Oh, and let’s not forget my mountain bike…

Variations on a theme…

Anyway, getting back to the point, I ride in an aggressive posture. There’s a lot of drop from the saddle to the handlebar on my bikes. The mountain bike is the only one where the drop is a bit closer to normal.

Where this becomes important is that I have a really bad back. I have suffered physical back pain for most of the last three decades, unless I’m riding a bike. I used to define good weeks and bad weeks by how many Aleve I had to eat (because of my being an addict, I never accepted narcotic pain meds even though they could have been justified – I’d end up eating them like candy, it’s my nature). Two or three pain relievers a day for six days of the week was a really bad week. Two a day for three or four days in a week was average. One or two days a week was a good week. Before cycling, there was no such thing as a week without an Aleve (before 1994 it was Advil or Tylenol but I didn’t want to have to go through the pill amount conversion).

Today, after seven years of cycling regularly, my back isn’t cured but it certainly is manageable. My Aleve habit has dropped from as many as 20 pills a week down to one or two – or even none most weeks. On my recent mountain climbing cycling sabbatical I didn’t take a pain reliever. Three days, 160+ miles, climbing hills I’m not used to climbing, and I didn’t need anything for pain. My last day off the bike was April 14th, it’s currently May 20th.

I don’t do sit-ups, I don’t do core exercises, I don’t stretch… I just ride my bike with a smile stretched across my face, and it’s all good.

I’m sure there are contributing factors that explain my results, but I don’t know how to explain the fact I’m not all that flexible (I’ve never been able to touch my toes) but I can ride my bike comfortably with the aggressive set-up I’ve got, and doing so actually makes my back feel better.

In the end, I’m sure the lack of belly fat has something to do with it, as does the fact that I still get a great core workout riding. I think there’s one other thing at work here. It’s more a law; A body in motion tends to stay in motion unless acted upon by an outside force. Conversely, a body at rest tends to stay at rest…

What I Learned about Climbing Hills, Gears and Shifting on My Cycling Sabbatical


Last year, my friends Mike and Chuck went on a three-day trip up north to Boyne City where a few hard sportives are held every year, the series is called “Mountain Mayhem” and it lives up to the name, at least for flatlanders from southeastern Michigan. I was bummed I couldn’t go last year, but this year the stars aligned and I made the trip with them. Camping, good food, great friends and all of the cycling I could handle – with great weather as well. And more climbing than I could shake a stick at.

Mike has always struggled with hills. He sucks at climbing them. The dude is exceptionally strong on the flat ground, but you put anything more than 5% in front of him and he drops off the back like a lead weight. I’ve tried to work with him in the past, because I can see why he struggles plain as day, but he’s tough to bring around.  He’s one of my best friends on this rock, but that boy is stubborn.

This year, though, I got through to him after the second day of the sabbatical.

I rode behind him leading up to many of the hills on day two and I watched how, and more important, when he shifted. I was typically three gears lower (easier) than he was, and about 30-45 seconds faster at shifting to easier gears.  I would spin right by him as he started grinding his way up a climb.

Anticipating hills

I anticipate hills and assume I’ll need an easier gear than I likely will. I don’t have a Garmin so I have to go by look and it’s better to be in too easy a gear and shift up than be in too high a gear (especially up front on the chainrings). Say I’m looking at a 10%’er as I round a corner. I might very well be able to climb it in my middle ring and the biggest cog in the back (42/25). On the other hand, with eight cogs behind that on the cassette, why not be prepared and shift immediately to the small ring up front (30t)? Mike stayed in his middle ring and ground up the hill. I’d shift to the baby ring long before and spin right by him with a smile on my face.

There’s no big d*ck prize for grinding up a hill in the biggest gear.

Contrary to popular belief, there are no points for grinding the biggest gear up a hill if you’re the last one to the top every time the road goes up.

Shift early into the baby ring.

Anticipate a low gear because you’ve got a full cassette of harder gears that you can up-shift to if the climb is easier than you thought… downshifting to the baby ring in the middle of a steep climb could end in a dropped chain – in fact, that happened to Mike.  Twice. That’s often followed by a descent to a place where one can turn around and climb the hill in the right gear rather than trying to start out from a stop on a 10% grade.

Now, Mike and I were both riding triple cranks – in fact, we were both riding Trek 5200’s with 9sp triples, so anticipating a hill is a bit of an urgent a matter.  Trying to climb a hill in the middle ring can be an absolute bear if you guess wrong.

Sitting down to dinner on day two, Mike and I had a talk (and Chuck backed me up and filled in some blanks I missed).  I led with the “no big d*ck prize for climbing in the biggest gear” comment and I got through to him.  The next day, Mike followed me up many of the hills and shifted when I did, especially into the small ring.  Lo and behold, he was right on my wheel up most of the toughest climbs, including a couple of brutal “granny gear” hills.

After the ride, I mentioned to Mike how much better he’d done.  Chuck chimed in, right on time, “Well look at that, you can teach an old dog new tricks.”

I don’t know how long that small victory will last, but there are more than enough hills out there to find out, and you can bet we’ll ride them.

My Butt is Hooked on a Saddle: Cycling and the Importance of a Good, Hard, Saddle

I’ve had a semi-squishy saddle on my Trek for the better part of a year, now and at one time I thought it was the cat’s pajamas.  Mind you, this wasn’t the 4″ thick, eight pound saddle people put on their leisure bike.  No, this was a 10mm padded saddle (give or take).  It’s too much.

1999 Trek 5200T

I ride a hard saddle on my good bike.  It’s not impossibly hard, it’s got a couple of millimeters of padding on it, but that’s not much:

Lately I’ve haven’t felt quite right riding the Trek even though I didn’t change anything on the set-up, but that was the bike I wanted to take up north for our cycling sabbatical for the triple crankset (when going exploring for mountains to climb, it’s typically a good thing to have as many gears as possible with which to climb said mountains).  I did something a little crazy… because I knew the stinging pain I was feeling after 40 miles in the saddle was due to too much padding.

I had an identical saddle to the one on the good bike on the tandem, so I put it on the Trek.  The day before the trip.  Without testing it first.  Not exactly smart, but I’ve put tens of thousands of miles on that Specialized Romin saddle – I knew it would be right and I knew exactly how to set it up for level and fore/aft (-2.1°, exactly 22-1/2″ from nose to handlebar center).

And my heinie was happy.  The whole 160-miles-in-three-days trip.  Not one stinging sensation – and in a place one definitely doesn’t want stinging sensations!

So, common thought typically suggests that one, if one is uncomfortable on a bike saddle, should buy a thicker saddle, with more padding.  This is entirely opposite that which should be done.  It is common misperception that racers and road cycling enthusiasts ride on those impossibly tiny saddles to save weight or to look cool.

We ride on those tiny-ass saddles because they’re vastly more comfortable over long miles at high speeds.

The trick is finding the right one and setting it up properly.

Cycling Sabbatical Day Three: Saving the Best for Last

Wednesday was to be our final hoorah in Boyne City, the last day of our cycling sabbatical to Boyne City, Michigan. We’d originally planned on a 40 miler on Monday and 100k’s for Tuesday and Wednesday. We were, all three of us, spent after Tuesday, though so when Chuck announced he’d come up with a good 40 miler for our last day, I was a little bummed and a lot relieved. I figured I’d be hurtin’ for certain so, with a heavy heart, I said, “Cool with me”.

We rolled out early so we’d make it back for our checkout from the campground, but with the understanding (between Chuck and I) that we’d go for a bit of an adventure and go off-route for a bit. We left Mike out of the loop, or more correctly we didn’t exactly explain what was going to happen, because Mike has, historically, freaked out when we deviate from a planned route unless he knows exactly where he is. Let’s say he vociferously sticks to routes and cue sheets.

Mike and I are flatlanders. I like to climb when the opportunity presents itself, but where we live, the opportunity doesn’t present itself much. Chuck, who travels extensively, is a mountain goat, no two ways about it.

It was chilly out, about 45° (7 C), too cold to go without arm warmers. We did, however, opt to forego the knee warmers because the trick was just staying warm for the first ten miles – unlike the day before, we weren’t shedding the arm warmers after the first climb, though.

The wind was mild all day and the sun was amazing… and we hit every hill that we’d missed the previous two days. Scofield Road (East Jordan), Old State Road… and we went off-route and got a little bit lost. Not bad enough that we couldn’t find our way back with the help of Google Maps, but bad enough that we had to turn around and go back the way we cam – which also meant we got to go down Old State Road which was spectacular.

We saved the Wall for last, just north of East Jordan. It’s a three-mile climb to it, then something like a quarter-mile, topping out at 18%. It’s a monster of a hill and one I walked the first time I did it. I had the Trek (and its triple) this time, though. It was some effort (I re-split both of my thumbs gripping onto the hoods) but I muscled up that sucker. I was about half-way up, thinking, “man, this sucks! I’m gonna walk”. Then, “What are you thinking?! Get your ass up that hill”… and so I did.

The last ten miles were over a bunch of rollers, some quite steep, but the major work was done. We rolled into Boyne City and stopped at a bakery down by the water for a coffee and a white chocolate and raspberry scone. We had a passerby snap one last picture of our motley crew…

We ended up with sixty-one and a half miles in just over 4 hours and over 3,000 feet of up. If I remember correctly top speed was right around 45 miles per hour.

It was a perfect cycling sabbatical. Good friends, good weather, good times and great laughs.

Cycling Sabbatical: Day Two

Rarely will we see such a perfect day for cycling. It was cool and damp to start but arm warmers were shed and pocketed after the first climb, ten minutes into the ride.

After, the weather was perfect, if a touch windy at times. Impossibly sunny, and a perfect 55 – 65° (13 to 18 C).

With a perfect day on our hands (and more up than we could shake a stick at), we didn’t worry about average again. We just had fun, laughed, talked and reminisced. It doesn’t get any better than riding with a couple of good friends.

69.9 miles, a little over four hours, 15.3 mph average and 4,000 feet of up (My phone picked up 3,650, Chuck’s Garmin 4,003)

Cycling Sabbatical… WOOHOO!

My wife went on a twelve-day cruise with her mom and sister a couple of months ago. I had it reinforced that solo parenting is hard, as I had the kids*. In appreciation, Mrs. Bgddy sent me on a camping/cycling sabbatical to Boyne City, MI USA for a few days.

Unlike lower Michigan, up north we have elevation change. My slowest speed yesterday was about 6mph. Top speed was over 47 (76 km/h). 33.6 miles at an average pace of 15 mph (24 km/h) – slow by normal standards, but we had over 1,400 feet of elevation gain in those 33 miles. Normal for us is 800′ in 100 miles. We aren’t here to hunt down KOM’s anyway, this is a fun trip.

So here we are on day two. It rained last night but it’s cleared out for the big miles to start later today. We’ve got a 100k (62.5 miles) on tap.

The view from our campground.

*Single Parenting: You can’t possibly cover all of the bases two people working together can so you have to make impossible choices what to cut – my heart goes out to all single parents, I don’t know how you hold it together.

Squeaking in Miles where I can….

The Title of this post was almost, “I may be a Mile Junky”, but it’s an honest program.  I’m in the midst of a whirlwind of cycling miles.  We barely squeaked in a cold 30 miles on Friday, getting doused on the last mile by a 40° rain (4 C).  See, rain, when it’s 70° (17 C) or warmer isn’t so bad.  At 40°, it’s just down-right sucky.

My friend Jonathan and I got in another 39 on Saturday after it finally dried up.  Yesterday, another 57 – still a little wet, but much improved in terms of temperature.  I ended the week with 238 miles of almost sheer bliss, cutting the grass, and cleaning my wife’s bike up for Mother’s Day, as she requested…  It was so wet out when we left, we had dried-on worms all over our bikes.  In fact, I managed to get one glued right onto my shifter cable separation plate beneath the bottom bracket and it froze me out of my big ring on the Trek.  It was almost comical – especially while we were out and McMike ran over one of those worms, his tire lifting it off the road and shooting it directly onto my glasses.  It was a perfect bullseye.

The weather around here has been odd.  Normally we’re well into the dry season and getting our miles in is easy.  Unfortunately, we’re either dodging raindrops or waiting for them to dry up before we can head out – it’s like we’re four weeks behind in our weather.

Either way, for how crazy it’s been, we’re (meaning we as a group, my friends and I, not the royal we) doing pretty well with what we’ve got.

Today, though, is special.  My wife is sending me away with my two friends, Mike and Chuck, to go camping and riding.  We’ve got a 40 miler planned for later today, and a 100k for tomorrow and Wednesday.  It’s going to be a lot of miles on really tough roads (we’re heading for the hills, as they say).  And for once this year, we’re looking at fairly good weather, nice temps, and mild winds.

Folks, that’s as good as it gets.

You never know when You’ll run into a Great Bike Ride… So I’m there for every Ride I can be.

I should clarify, ahead of time, and this could be a bit of hypocrisy if you want to be persnickety about it:  I can’t start a ride in the rain and have it be a great ride.  I just can’t make my mind bend that way.  I have to wait for it to dry out, take the day off, or ride on the trainer.  Rain starts while I’m already out riding?  Now that’s a different story.

Yesterday was our crappiest day, I think, since there was snow on the ground.  Sadly, that wasn’t all that long ago, but let’s not get lost in the weeds on this trivial fact.  It was raining when we fell asleep on Friday night and it was raining when we woke up yesterday morning.  The rain was supposed to stop at 8am, though, so we made plans for 11.  Three hours was surely enough time for things to dry out, I figured.

It was still sprinkling at 9.  At 10, it was misting, and no closer to drying out than it was at 8.  Jonathan, a pastor of a very large local church, and an excellent guy to ride with, texted to see if the ride was still on.  He’s always on a tight schedule and doesn’t have the same flexibility as most do on the weekends, so I asked if he could move the ride to 1.  He said he could so I sent out the text…  And at 1pm the roads were close enough to dry for government work, and the Trek.

Mike had called earlier, he was taking the day off – he’s very rigid about riding first thing in the morning.  He hates riding after 9am.  My wife rode on the trainer to get her ride in, she doesn’t like waiting, either.  Five minutes to 1pm and Jonathan was the only one here, just he and I.

It was damp and a little bit chilly, but not bad enough that extra layers were required.  Leg warmers, bibs, jersey, long-sleeved jersey, headsweat, toe covers and full-finger gloves were plenty.  We rolled out.

We had some tailwind heading out but kept the pace reasonable, between 20 & 23mph.  The asphalt was mostly dry but we evaded a few wet patches before heading south with more push from the wind.  The ride home was going to be interesting.  We stopped at a normal gas station friendly to cyclists, then continued on to loop around and finally head into the wind.  We’d decided at the gas station to take it easy the rest of the way, to refrain from burning it too hard to get back.  It was starting to warm up and the sun was trying to break through the clouds.

We arrived at the home stretch but decided to head into town and add another five miles onto our 33-ish miles that we would have had.  The conversation was great and it had turned into a fantastic day for a bike ride.  Phenomenal, really.

We stopped by the bike shop for a minute, but they were absolutely slammed with spring business so we shortly after hello.  Five short miles later and we were in the driveway with just shy of 39 miles, a smile stretched across each of our faces.

When we departed, I had no idea we’d run into a great ride.  I was pretty sure it was just going to be a run-of-the-mill ride and I was glad to be wrong.  Run-of-the-mill would have been fine, no doubt about it, but if I hadn’t shown up for run-of-the-mill, I’d have missed great.

Specialized’s Therminal 2.0 Arm and Leg Warmers; Excellent

I picked up, marked almost half-off, the full set of Specialized Therminal 2.0 arm, leg, and knee warmers from Specialized’s website.

My last set, love it as I did, was put through the wringer. I hammered the warmers over seven years, putting them through gnarly weather and tens of thousands of miles of use.

As far as I’ve seen with the useful life of most cycling clothing, I’d have been happy with half the time I got out of my old set. The old arm, leg, and knee warmers were fantastic.

The new 2.0’s are better. They seem better constructed, they’re warmer, and they let through less cold air.

Sadly, when we rolled out yesterday, the temp was cold enough to require both arm and full leg warmers – actually it was colder than I like for leg warmers, I’d normally have gone for tights but I wanted to give the leg warmers a fair run in cold weather… 40° (4 C) and windy. And my legs were comfortable the entire ride, even into the wind.

Wearing my last set, I’d have been cold enough my legs wouldn’t have worked at their peak level. Yesterday I felt great the whole ride. Perfect.

I highly recommend them at full price. They’re a steal when marked down.