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Monthly Archives: June 2018

A Hodgepodge of Cycling Friends; What Cycling and Fitness is all about

It was supposed to stop raining just after noon on Saturday. Then it was supposed to stop at two. It did stop at three, for a couple of hours… and it started up again. It was supposed to stop again at one am. Then three, and then four… then five, and I’d scheduled the ride for 7:30. It actually did stop just before five, though.

I expected a small group. Winston, an A guy, pulled up first. Then Phill, one of us B’s. Then Mike and Diane rolled up, and Chuck. My wife and I rounded out the rabble, a fairly impressive group considering the wet road. We rolled shortly after 7:30 and headed east, with a mild tailwind. We picked Greg, another A guy, about eight miles out. That was our gang, a full range of above average cyclists.

We started out tame but tame didn’t last long – but the push was measured…

All too often when you get a mix of faster and slower cyclists, the slower in the group suffer and the faster become bored with the easier-than-usual pace.  Yesterday’s ride was almost perfect as that went.  The fast guys, Winston and Greg, spent an inordinate amount of time up front, but at a decent clip.  When they were up front, I was second bike, usually with Chuck, then Mike and my wife were next, then Phill and Diane.  We staggered it perfectly so those who needed the most draft to hang on, got it.  Then Winston and Greg would come off the front and the rest of us would take our turn at the front before the process started all over again.

The end result was a great 57 mile ride with an average north of 20 mph.

As is most often the case with us, it was high-fives and handshakes afterward.  It was one of those rides that makes one grateful for being a cyclist.

After showering up, my wife, daughter, Chuck and I all headed over to the bike shop to volunteer for the final moving day to the newly renovated location.  We’d worked all day Saturday in the rain so it was nice to have a dry day.  We spent a little more than five hours moving bikes, cabinets, and components before heading home for dinner.

I think I was out before 9pm but I can’t be quite sure.  One thing is certain, once my head hit the pillow, I didn’t stir the rest of the night.  I was out.

A perfect cap to the weekend – riding with friends, and helping others out.  That’s what our local cycling community is all about.  Good times, laughs, lots of miles, and helping each other out when it’s needed.  Life doesn’t get better.

The Difference between a 16 pound Venge and a 15 pound Venge

This is a sixteen pound Venge

This is a 15 pound Venge

The difference?

My switch from 105 to Ultegra is complete and dialed in. I’m heading out on a 70 mile ride this morning to test it out. Baptism by fire, baby.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t fit more than a couple of miles to test it yesterday, stinkin’ rained all day. Then it rained all last night for good measure.

The skinny

Okay, so I’ve got a new set of Ultegra shifters and two new 10sp derailleurs. I already had better brakes than the 105 or Ultegra offerings, a better chain, and vastly superior S-Works crankset with FSA chainrings.

The new components won’t make me faster, measurably, in any way. They won’t make me a better cyclist, in any measurable way. They will take my bike from an already skinny 15.9 pounds to, maybe, 15.5-ish, just over UCI legal and not bad for an aero-bike

I won’t climb a bit better or faster, I won’t sprint any better or faster. My bike won’t be any more comfortable and it really won’t look any better.

What they will do is allow me to install my old 105 components on my Trek, hopefully dropping considerable weight on that bike and making the current finicky triple a simple compact double. I will then be able to swap wheels between the two bikes without having to change cassettes, which will be awesome.

In other words, I upgraded the Venge to upgrade the Trek.

I also upgraded the Venge to see if I could. I did all of the work myself. Installed the derailleurs and dialed them in (easy), installed the shifters (very easy), and ran new internal cables (not close to easy) throughout. The trick was getting everything just right and working the internal cables through the frame. I’ve always been afraid of the internal routed cables. The mechanic who works on my Venge is exceptional, while I would more aptly be described as “recreational” in my ability. Not only did I get my bike to work properly, i had to work through a few mistakes to do it. The result is a good job and enough confidence to not be afraid anymore.

That’s a win-win if there ever was one.

Now, casual observers may wonder, “why go through all of that trouble for a few tenths of a pound?! Why not put the new components on the Trek and leave the Venge alone?” Allow me:

  1. I’m an avid enthusiast. We do crazy $#!+ sometimes.
  2. You can’t have better components on the B bike. That’s “can’t”, or in its unabbreviated form, “cannot”. That dot at the end of the word “cannot” is a period.
  3. Dude, a few tenths is a few tenths!
  4. The Venge will shift better. It won’t make me faster, it’ll improve the ride quality.
  5. I could come up with a few more, but the first reason is good enough. The next three are icing.

UPDATE: Money.

What to do if you can’t dial in your rear derailleur…

I’ve been writing about a component upgrade for the Venge over the last few days… I installed 10sp Ultegra derailleurs and shifters, and got done just this morning. The 105 components that were on the Venge won’t go to waste, either. My Trek 5200 triple is about to become a compact double (as soon as my chainrings get here).

So I had everything installed yesterday but couldn’t get the rear derailleur to dial in. Starting, as we do, in the smallest cog, I’d tighten the barrel adjuster to get the derailleur to shift up the cassette. When I got to the second biggest cog, though, it wouldn’t shift back down the cassette. I’d loosen the adjuster to get it to go back down and once I got to the last gear, it wouldn’t go back up. Rinse and repeat for fifteen minutes…

I walked away rather than busting my bike into little, tiny, pieces. To thine own self be true. I am a hothead.

This morning, I came to the realization that there’s only one explanation: there’s a hitch in the cable, inside the frame somewhere. This explains why the derailleur will only dial in one way (either up or down the cassette, but not both). The cable is getting hung up just a little bit…

The trick is figuring out where, because relieving that will be the only way to fix the problem.

I had a fair idea for my problem. There’s a couple of guides that route the cables around the bottom bracket. There are cable guides that cover the cable to keep them clean underneath the bike. When I ran new guides, I ran the one for the rear derailleur long because “if some is good, more should be a lot better”. Damn, I’m such a drunk!…

Anyway, I loosened the bolt holding the cable to the derailleur and stripped everything down. I pulled the housing, cut it in half and slid it back on, using a scrap piece to help slide it through the frame.

I put everything back together, and… Bingo.

The cable housing was bumping into the guide at the cable exit in the chain stay, back by the derailleur. That was holding the cable up just a fraction of a sixteenth of an inch, so the derailleur couldn’t be dialed in both up and down the cassette.

Once I cut the cable guide down. The cable could move freely and everything worked. I had to think logically (often a problem with me) to get around the cable hangup. What would cause the derailleur to dial in one way and not the other? The cable’s gotta be hanging up somewhere. Then, where are the logical places this could happen?

It’s always best to start at what I did different. Chuckle.

Now I get to turn my attention to the Trek… With the bike’s external cable routing, it’ll be a TON easier. I can’t wait to see how much weight I lose with the 16 years’ newer components.

UPDATE! I almost forgot the “why” of all of this! My 16 pound Venge is now a 15 pound Venge! Worth it!

Cyclists and Shaved Legs… Everything a Fella need to Know, and probably more.

I shave my legs because I’m that much of a cyclist. My story in that regard is funny, really. I am a product of too many noob cycling enthusiasts reading way too much into “The Rules”. Once I shaved them the first time, my wife liked it and asked me not to grow the hair back after a hunting trip. I’ve had glistening guns since.

Until Specialized built their own wind tunnel and tested shaved legs for aerodynamics, we amateurs were a bit hit for excuses. Now, having been proven, aerodynamics is a fair reason, but that’s not really the “why”.

The real reason we amateurs shave our legs… here, come a little closer so I can whisper… is because it makes the guns look awesome.

Sure, go on about your massages and your road rash survival prep, sell that stuff to the gullible.

It makes the guns look awesome. The fact that shaving will give you a few seconds per mile of free speed is great, but it ain’t awesome.

That’s not the end of the story, or the post for that matter, because I’ve gone the extra mile for you, my dear reader. I’ve taken that theme and I ran with it, just so I could write this post about my results…

This is a delicate subject, so I’ll treat it like a bull would treat a china shop, if said bull didn’t miss every single shelf in the place. Ahem. Here’s the big nasty…

Um, let’s just put it this way; it ain’t the movement that chafes a cyclist, it’s the hair. The more you have, the more you will chafe, with one exception – and only guys have two (sorry, Lance)… Usually two, ahem.

Now, I’ve tried every option I can think of except a full Brazilian (is it called something else when a guy does it? I’m too old, and not crazy enough to Google it – some $#!+ you can’t wipe out of the browser history unless you’re Hillary). I’ve failed to go all the way because… no. I just can’t do it, man. I did go almost that far, just to see what would happen.

Anyway, here’s the unabashed truth: Boys, leave the boys alone. Going that far isn’t worth the trouble. Keep everything tidy and trimmed, yes, but a full shave of anything dangly is unnecessary and, um, well there are issues when hair grows back. If you start down that road, you’ll chafe twice as bad on a 5 o’clock shadow, if you know what I mean.

Look at me, brah; bloody bad. The key here is to use a trimmer with a guard – and be careful. One wrong move and you won’t be worrying about chafing.

Next, everything in the sensitive zone should be tidy and short as you (and your spouse) can stand it . With long, curlies, comes chafing. On the inside of the legs, I go all the way up until I run out of leg. Since I’ve been doing this I haven’t had a saddle sore worthy of thinking about time off the bike. I shave the guns daily and trim every two weeks (and before century rides for good measure). This assures no burning sensation upon entering the shower.

Because dammit that hurts!

Anyway, one remarkable thing about this TMI post, I don’t use saddle cream. I don’t need it. 160 miles in two days? No problem. 385 in four? No worries at all.

The key is daily shaving of the legs, till you run out of leg, and proper tidying up of the forest… there shouldn’t be one, in other words. Maybe some weeds or cat tails. No forest.

As long as I’m careful and diligent, I am, without question, happier with legs slick enough my sister is jealous. No. Seriously. She is.

Besides, it’s faster, and better for massages (even if I don’t get them). Oh, and road rash. That too.

Crap.

The guns look awesome. Outside of that, there really isn’t a good reason for an enthusiast to bother shaving. U less you, like so many others, put too much stock in the rules. Well, that and everyone else is doing it. Chuckle.

A Perfect Day on the Bike Turns Ugly – and My 27 speed Trek turns into a Fixie…

The Venge started making some weird clicking noises immediately after I installed the new upgrade Ultegra derailleurs last week. I assumed I’d done something wrong with the installation, so I took the derailleurs off, inspected them, re-cleaned everything, lubed the proper parts and put everything back on the bike.

The bike was silent for ten miles before the ticking resumed.

This meant it was probably something else. I threw everything at it. Chainring bolts, seat post, saddle collar, stem, headset, checked every single bolt on the bike… and the problem was fixed. For thirty miles this time. The bright side, at least every part on the Venge is now properly tight (there was a chainring bolt about a quarter-turn loose, and the headset adjustment yielded a smoother operation, etc.) and my derailleurs, and more important, my installation of them – aren’t causing any problems. The clicking wasn’t all that loud, but like all things mechanical, if something doesn’t sound right, keep using it… sooner or later it’ll let you know where it’s at.

Well, I decided to get the Trek ready for a big ride I’ve got coming up next week…. I like to opt for the Trek when A) the weather’s bad, and B) when there’s a lot of climbing involved. It’ll be B for sure. I also like the wheels on the Venge, the good wheels, to go on the Trek. They’re faster and a pound lighter than my other wheels. So I changed everything over yesterday evening… and the click transferred from the Venge to the Trek. My problem is the rear wheel.

Unfortunately, while I was out riding last night, the cassette body froze up on me effectively turning my Trek into a fixie with 27 gears. If I stopped pedaling, very bad things happened. The chain started wrapping itself around the cassette and derailleurs and pulley wheels. Fortunately I was a few blocks from the shop…. They had my cassette fixed (the pin that holds it together worked its way loose and pinned itself against the hub…. If I’d have let it go, or not recognized what was happening immediately, my hub would have been toast.

So I half-expected to hop on and have the clicking be gone. Nope.

I pulled the wheel apart last night, cleaned everything and lubed the parts, checked all of the bearings (which were smooth) and put the wheel back together. I’ll have to check it out tonight after work to see if my click is gone. If not, it’s going to get interesting.

On a brighter note, my cable guide tubing came in so I can put the Ultegra shifters on the Venge and complete that little project before upgrading the Trek with the Venge’s old parts. Good times, man. If I can figure this wheel thing out.

UPDATE: Okay, so we could argue that this isn’t an update, it was written before the post even published, but whatever… I took the Trek out for a test at 6:15 am and I think last night’s operation on the wheel worked. More later (after a proper ride).

Tuesday Night Club Ride; Feeling it Edition

I was a little nervous about last night’s club ride. You ever have one of those days where you just don’t feel right? It doesn’t happen too often to me, but it does happen.

Normally I just plow through it. Last night was one of those nights.

After our 7-1/2 mile warm-up, we sat around on our top tubes and waited for the A group to leave.  I was a little nervous about the ride – I get edgy when I’m not quite feeling it… 30 seconds later, we rolled, a massive group – well, bigger than normal anyway, more than 30 if I had to guess, in a double pace-line.

The pace started out mercifully easy for the first two miles.  Then it was my turn up front and, with the wind in our face, we took it up to 22.  Unfortunately, after we pulled off the pace dropped back down again, but we were still into the wind and the draft was pretty good so I wasn’t about to complain, even if I was thinking it was going to mess with our average.

Another two miles north, then two west and one more north and we were on the vaunted Shipman road… but with a rare cross-tailwind so the pace really picked up.  I was finally starting to feel more like myself.  My confidence came back and a wave and I could sense a smile stretching across my face.  I was back.

The next stretch saw us start the few hills there are on our Tuesday night ride.  The start at about twelve miles and stretch out to mile 20.  I approached the first set of three table tops a little hesitantly but all of that climbing over the last few weeks had really paid off – I spent more time coasting uphill than I should have and had plenty of reserve power.  I was excited for the sprint.

We’ve picked up one of the A guys who is known for being there for both sprints but taking a turn up front about twice in 30 miles – he hides like it’s his mission in life.  If there’s one guy I like to just crush at the line, it’s him, because I take every one of my turns up front, plus a few extra just for good measure.  After an uphill pull at 20 mph, I arm-flicked off the front and headed back at the crest of the hill.  Four bikes back, Big Joe tapped me on the back and motioned for me to get in behind him…  This is good news.  Joe is a diesel and a battle ship at the same time – and he was going to lead me out to the sprint in three miles.  I tucked in behind him and got down into the drops.

With about a half-mile to the intermediate sprint, Joe started ramping it up, big time.  I’ve never seen that guy pull like that, and I was tucked in comfortably right behind him.  He got me up to 31 mph before I launched around him, adding four miles an hour in two revolutions of the pedals.  I could hear my wife yelling and that could only mean that Toby was trying to make a run.  I gave it a few last good turns of the pedals and lurched across the line, first.  I burned a lot of matches on that one, but it felt good.

We formed up again and rolled through town fairly easy.  Mike said we lost three tenths off our average taking it easy through town.  Still, it’s a good place for a neutral so everyone can catch their breath after the sprint and form back up.

The last eight miles were a little odd…  We blew by a group of three and were passed by the A guys at the same time (who’d ridden three more miles than we do – so do the math in a minute, they leave a minute before us but catch us with five miles to go after having ridden three more miles than we do…).  A couple of the B guys went with the A’s, and a few (including me) tried to bridge unsuccessfully.  In the end, there really wasn’t a sprint for the finish line, it was just one big lead-out for two miles.  Still, 25-27 mph is great fun when you’re bucking a cross-headwind.

Depending on whose GPS you looked at, we ended up between 21.4 and 21.6 mph for an average (we obviously count the 21.6) over 28 miles.  The A guys turned in a 24.1 average – I’ll save you the math.  Damn, every time I find out how fast they ride that course, I’m glad we’ve got our little rabble of a B group.  That’s fast, baby.

Anyway, dinner was extra tasty last night.  There were high-five’s all around, especially for my wife who finished with north of a 21 mph average for the course – the only chick strong enough to hang with us last night.  While I have my fun, nothing makes me happier than seeing that look of “holy $#!+, I actually stayed with the group the whole way” look on my wife’s face after a great ride.

The other stuff was great, and you know I love the ride, but my wife made the night.  And that is as good as it gets.

My Secrets: How I’ve Maintained My Motivation for Fitness over the last 16-ish Years…

I feel a little chubby lately. My wife says I look great, but I don’t feel very svelte when I see a picture of me. Such is life.

Too many pulled pork sammiches, methinks…

That said, we have to keep things in context.  I’m only three pounds over my perfect weight of 175 pounds, so it’s not all doom and gloom, either.

…And that’s twenty pounds under my heaviest weight from 2001.

I ride a brilliant amount of miles in a week. I feel cheated when I have to take a day off for rain. I took one day off last month… and I haven’t had to bother with an injury day off in more than six years. I had a bad back but running and cycling fixed that. I used to have anger issues, but riding reminds me of how good I’ve got it and how wonderful life is.

Now, here comes the meat and potatoes…

Cycling is a lot like cheating for me, when it comes to motivation. To this day, I can’t wait to get home so I can don my Lycra and go for a ride. Cycling today, takes me back to my childhood when my bike equaled freedom.  So, for whatever it’s worth, when I throw my leg over a top tube, my worries fade to the background and life becomes just about getting down the road.  What’s odd is that I’ve been able to maintain something of a balance, where normally anything that makes me feel good I usually overdo to the point I have to quit it to live a normal life.  That hasn’t been the case with cycling.

The real test was the ten years prior to cycling when I was a runner.  I never loved running but the endorphin rush was nice.  I was injured a little more frequently, running, maybe once a year I’d have to nurse something back to health (usually my feet – plantar fasciitis), but I never missed a good opportunity to run – and I remained fairly thin through it all.

So here are my secrets to maintaining my healthy(ish) lifestyle over the years:

  1.  I wanted to run a whole lot more than I wanted to get fat.
  2. love good food, so it helps to have something to burn it off.
  3. Running was rarely, if ever, a solo event.  I had a group of running friends and we kept each other honest.  Cycling was a bit different at first.  I could ride alone and I was content.  Today, though, 80-90% of my time on a bike is spent riding with friends.
  4. To me, fat is ugly.  I don’t want to be ugly more than I want to sit on the couch (see also, 1).

Now, for my last, biggest secret…  This is the one that drives me to ride in the cold, to risk getting caught out in the rain, to push just a little harder than normal people:

I know, through actual, real experience (not some over-hyped, misquoted, poorly shaped study) that a sedentary life is vastly more painful than an active life.  It’s not even close, and I see it all around me every day.  Old, fat people hobbling down the sidewalk.  Young fat people parking in the handicapped parking spots at the grocery store, family members who keep cutting what should be benign, fun activities because they hurt too much…  They think they’re just too old to go bowling or swing a golf club.  It’s not age that keeps them down, it’s inactivity.  The more they give in, the more they give up…

My biggest secret to staying motivated is that won’t be me.  When I die, I’m going out tired.

 

I’m Done with S-Works Turbo Clinchers… and it Breaks My Heart.

The Specialized S-Works 26mm road tire is, without question, the nicest, fastest, smoothest tire I’ve ever had the pleasure of riding.  They make my Venge feel like butter, even on chip-seal roads.  I love them like there’s no tomorrow.

wp-image-619140567jpg.jpgI started out with the 24’s, then graduated to the 26’s just to see if all of there was anything to the hub-bub about wider tires being “faster”.  There is, but not because they make the bike faster, they make the ride better so the cyclist can push harder on the pedals more comfortably, in turn making the cyclist faster.  They’re so much better I won’t go back to 23’s or 24’s in the case of Specialized’s tires on the Venge.  In fact, not only do the 26’s ride better, they last longer before developing that telltale flat patch on the center of the tire that contacts the road (same with the Turbo Pro’s).

If this leaves you a little befuddled as to the Title of the post, it should.  Specialized swung for the fences on the design of their tires and they knocked it out of the park.  Deep.  The pitcher didn’t even turn around, deep.

Here’s the problem:  I’ve gone through three tires in the last 3,000 road miles due to cuts in the rubber – all three from hitting rocks (not glass or metal).  Two gashes on the center, contact tread and one on the sidewall, just Saturday.  The two gashes across the center tread being the most troubling – the puncture to the sidewall was just one of those unfortunate things.  All three tires died before their time.

The point is, I just can’t afford to go through the S-Works tires like this.  $160 for tires used to be the budget for my wife and I for most of a season – I’ve blown that by myself in half the time.  The problem, I think, is that the S-Works tires are more of a supple race tire than an all-around training tire.  Specialized’s Turbo Pro tires are much more reasonable in terms of resilience so I’ll be switching back to them, and it breaks my heart.

We simply have too much debris in our roads to ride the S-Works tires.

A Bangin’ Month of May; More Miles than I could (or would) Shake a Stick at

I rolled out last Thursday afternoon knowing I didn’t have to do much to have a great month.  I was already sitting close to a record but I didn’t bother looking it up, I just rolled out.  18.6 easy miles later, and a quarter past six in the evening and my month was over.  30 days on the bike, out of 31, and a whopping average of 38-1/2 miles a day… 1,154 miles in May.  Better, and vastly more rare, I actually Everest’ed for the month – in fact, I almost made it in the five days I spent between my up north extended weekend and down in Kentucky, last weekend which is close to 25,000 feet just in those five days.  Folks, if I hit 15,000 feet of up in a month, that’s a pretty impressive for where we live.  We can do a century (100 miles) and not top 1,000 feet.

That said, 1,154 miles is definitely my best month ever by a bit more than 30 miles.

What made this month so special, though, was the amount of time I got to spend riding with my friends.  The camaraderie, between riding with my wife and cycling buddies, was spectacular.  While I love riding my bikes, riding with friends is where it’s at and there was plenty of that.

Best, there’s a choice that comes with all of those miles…  Either I can choose to drop weight like it’s going out of style or I can eat.  A lot.  To keep my weight up.  I choose a bit of both.  I won’t eat ridiculously, but I’m not afraid of an ice cream cone, either.

Long post short, cycling is strong and life is good.

The Quote is “Don’t Buy Upgrades, Ride Up Grades” Part Two – The Riding Up Grades Part

My buddy, Mike is a crusty, old fart.  He’s also one of my best friends in the whole world.  He, now look at me here, he sucks riding up hills.  He’s so bad I actually feel a little sorry for him, because that $#!+ is all mental – he’s strong as an ox on flat ground and he’s a little crazier than I am on the descents (though not by much).

If there was a guy in our group to identify as the best climber, it’d be Chuck.  The guy’s part goat, I swear to God.  Anyway, I figure if I’m somewhere in his direct vicinity going up a hill, I’m doing well, and I’m usually pretty close to his wheel – but I have to use some tricks to do it.

First, I have to be in the right gear and I wrote about this a few weeks ago…  I know when I’m looking at a baby ring climb (that would be my 36t chainring up front on the Venge or the 30t chainring on the Trek).  I’ve got nine or ten gears on the cassette that I can use for anything from 2-mph all the way up to 22…  I’ve got enough gears to err on the side of the smaller chainrings so I don’t get stuck trying to grind too big a gear.

Second, I shift a lot.  I like to match my speed to the climb and then the cadence to the speed I’ve got heading up the hill.  I know exactly how hard I have to push on the pedals to bury many of my friends (or just get to the top so I can coast and catch my breath).  All I have to do is go one gear easier than that and keep a good cadence (75-90 rpm).  If my breathing gets messed up, too fast, too labored, I upshift a gear and climb out of the saddle until my breathing comes back.

Third, I know this:  I don’t have to be the first up the hill, as long as I’m not the last.  This doesn’t always work out, but I’m pretty good at making sure I’m in the front part of the pack up the hill – better to hammer the hill and recover while everyone else is laboring up.  I think, anyway.

Finally, and for me, most important, I had to find a way to like climbing hills.  This is, without doubt, the best chance for climbing well – if you like it, you’ll do better at it.  That’s how it worked for me.  My buddy, on the other hand, can’t like hills.  He hates them, because he sucks at climbing them, so he hates them even more…  He ends up feeding off of that hate and slowing himself down in the process.  Es no Bueno.

One thing is for sure; if I want to get faster on flat ground, hills will do it.  Ride hard, my friends.