I had a problem… until just yesterday – and now it’s worse.
The day before yesterday, my rain bike was more comfortable than the good bike. Just a little, mind you, but it was noticeable.
On the other hand, the wheels that were on the rain bike left a lot to be desired, so it was easy to choose the Venge over the Trek unless there was a chance of crappy in the weather. If I went on a trip, I’d put the good wheels on the Trek… That was a winning combo.
I built the Trek specifically to be my go anywhere, climb anything big tour road bike. The idea for the Venge was that it would be my go-fast bike.
Now, on the good side; the great, fast, lightweight alloy wheels that were on the Venge can permanently go on the Trek. They make the Trek even more enjoyable to ride… and there’s some free speed because of how slow the old Trek wheels
are were, too. Oh, and instead of the Trek being 20 pounds as a 9-speed triple with the old wheels, now it’s down to a svelte 18.4 pounds as a 10-speed compact double with lighter, faster wheels.
Sadly, there is a dark side to this tale that makes it one of woe and First-World, upper middle-class misery.
The Venge, with the new carbon fiber wheels and 25mm Michelin Pro 4 tires, is so ridiculously comfortable I am going to have a tough time refraining from riding it all of the time. I decided, during my first ride on the wheels last evening, that I’d give them their proper break in before I did any kind of review, but I’m very pleased so far and I was expecting to be disappointed. Normally, I’ll take the Trek every once in a while so I don’t have to feel the road as much. With the new set-up, the Venge is borderline obscenely cushy.
All things being what they are, I’ve got a great climbing and tour rig in the Trek and the Venge is simply fantastic now. It’s hard to believe what I was missing. More later!
Oh wait, I think I’m supposed to make this post sound a little more melancholy, right? Nope.
That was how Todd, a friend of mine, one of the strongest local cyclists I know, and an all-around good guy described last night’s club ride. It was almost comical how much water weight I lost last night. It was so hot we drew two tandems and Dave, who normally ride with the A Group.
It was an excellent edition in the 2018 season.
We rolled about 30 seconds after the A guys, I counted seven of them, left. We were two pace-lines and maybe fourteen deep each line with three tandems. Mike and I were up front at an easy 18-ish-mph pace to let the group come together… once they caught on, we took it up to 21-22, into the wind (more of a breeze).
In all, after a few errors in judgement that created some holes, everything shook out and the group came together well. I didn’t even bother looking at the computer much, so I had no idea the pace we were looking at, we just rolled – and with a fairly decent crew so the people who were pulling had ample time to recover before taking another crack at it.
I didn’t bother with either of the sprints, though it wasn’t easy laying off. It was so damned hot and I really didn’t care to put forth the effort. I did bridge to a breakaway group at the intermediate sprint, and I went with the second group for the final, but I was really only playing around.
The truth is, the ride was really quite uneventful otherwise. In fact, the way I see it, it was pretty close to a perfect night on the bike.
I got home feeling quite good about life… only to find my new set of wheels for the Venge waiting in the foyer. They showed up several weeks early.
More on that another day. Let’s just say I’m a happy boy. Initial inspection is wonderful, though getting a new 25mm tire on them has proved damn near impossible. I have to enlist some professional help in order to get them on the road. Once I quit tinkering with them and actually went to bed, I slept like a baby.
I went for a ride with a buddy of mine last evening. Just a twenty-mile loop, nothing special.
The club ride, what will likely be an abject lesson in cycling suffering due to the 90°+ heat and the double-digit wind for 30-ish miles, rolls out this evening. It’s not going to be easy. It never is easy riding into what feels like a furnace.
Wednesday will likely be an easy day, or even a day off for rain. Then we leave for DALMAC. Four days, 385 miles (give or take) and an average north of 19-mph. In other words, we’ve got some big days ahead.
With that table set, I rode over to that buddy’s house at a leisurely pace (18-ish mph). He was finishing getting his bike ready and we rolled shortly thereafter. We rode alongside one another for a couple of miles, then he took the first turn up front, into the wind. He took the pace up to 20-ish. Then I took a turn and kept the pace steady but a little slower. My friend took over again and cranked it up to 22. Then I reciprocated, holding the pace. Three miles later and we’re flirting with 25-mph but with a tailwind. Then, 22-mph into a headwind. And that’s when I sat up.
My friend eventually let up when he realized I wasn’t there anymore (I’d have let him go all the way home at that pace, even though I could have easily stayed with him). When I caught up to him at 18.5-mph I said, “Your idea of a recovery ride and mine are two very different things”. He responded that he just goes by how he feels and he felt pretty good, so he was hammering.
That’s when I realized I needed to write this post, so here it is in all its simplicity… How, and more important, why, I save my good legs for the big days.
That friend of mine rarely has his good legs on the big days (at best he’s 60/40, maybe even 75/25), and that response right there is exactly why. Rather than take it easy on the days meant for taking it easy, he hammers whenever he feels good, which is quite often occurs on the days he should be taking it easy to get ready for the days when he’ll be needed. Not to put too fine a point on it, his thinking is entirely wrong.
There is no benefit, zero, to pushing it hard on what should be an easy day. There is no physical gains to be had, there will be no improvements realized within that week. None, zip, zero, nada. The downsides, however, are enormous. So you ride hard on Monday. Then Tuesday. In 24 hours later you’ve got the biggest tour of the year where you’re going to be required to do more than your fair share to get the group up north because you’re one of the strong, young bucks. That one extra day pushing it “because I was feeling pretty good” could be the difference between you struggling to hang on for the second day and doing your part for the group over the four-day weekend.
Is that assessment a little hyper-dramatic? Probably, but not by much.
The reason the good riders ride at the level they do is that they save the good legs for the big days. Everything you read, from pro interviews down to this blog, will suggest that if you’re going to ride daily, you have to pick and choose your good days. You never saw the Jensie off the front two or three days in a row. He picked his days. Fabian Cancellara, same story. How about Sagan? Even being the freak of nature he is, he’s got his days at the back of the pack (usually when things go up) and he’s usually hiding mid-pack until there are points to get… and they’re all vastly superior to what we weekend warriors can do.
I know when I need my good legs; Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday or Sunday. In the case of this week it’ll be Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Going hard on Monday would be, to put it bluntly, silly (possibly ignorant) – no matter how good I feel.
This is the difference between the successful cyclists, at any level, and those who have to hide at the back and suck wheel when they should be up front pulling the group down the road. There is no greater pariah in cycling than the guy who sucks wheel at the back when he’s one of the strongest riders in that group. If you want to lose friends and influence people, go hard when you should be saving it up because “you go by how you feel”.
Nobody in the group cares how you felt Monday. They care how you ride when you’re with the group – when it counts, and if you think it won’t be noticed that you’re making excuses to hide all day, you’ve got another thing coming.
***Now, I want to take a moment at the end of this post to make an important clarification. In any good group, you’ve got stronger and weaker riders. The stronger do more than their fair share and the weaker do less. There’s nothing wrong with this, and a good “stronger” cyclist will understand that some people are there to be helped. Those people add something to the group, or they spent their decades up front doing their service for the group. Now it’s their time to hide. This is the natural order of things and they are not the subject of this post. It should not be taken that way. As long as each cyclist does their best, under normal circumstances there should be no hard feelings.
I’m at one of those wonderful places in life where it’s just one day at a time, and right now I happen to be on today. It’s not easy, nor is it difficult. I’m just doing the next right thing that’s in front of me.
I’ve been eating right, enjoying recovery, riding hard, getting my work done and enjoying the life I’ve got with my wife and family.
Those are the times to breathe deep and smell the fresh air around you… They never last long.
I fell asleep early the night before. I was wiped out, simple as that.
I woke up at 3:30 in the morning with eight hours. The weather services called for rain but we caught a break. An early window through which to ride. I sent out a text to Chuck and Mike that we could probably shoehorn a ride in at 7:00 as the rain was forecast to start at 8:45.
Chuck showed up at ten to seven, I rolled my bike out a minute later and Mrs. Bgddy came out a few minutes later. We rolled to meet Mike on the road…
Ah, all was well. We were dead into the wind and a little slow, but we were on the gravel bikes. We weren’t exactly worried about speed.
Then I turned my head to the west and saw this (at 7:30):
Ruh roh, Raggy (that’s Scooby Doo for “Uh oh, Shaggy”).
We decided to cut off several miles and head for home… pronto.
The rain started early. FORTY-FIVE minutes early, with just three miles to go. By the time we got close to home it was coming down in buckets. We were hammering for all we were worth. We’d gone out at an easy 12-mph pace. We were north of 20 on the way home.
That’s Chuck, up front and crushing it for home – he still had a couple of miles to go and the lightening was getting closer.
My wife and I pulled our bikes straight into the house to be cleaned up.
So there we were, my wife and I, cleaning our bikes. I was still in my muddy kit, my wife had changed into some old shorts, having a laugh at how messy we were. Mud covered, wet, and generally gnarly.
Mrs. Bgddy had a chuckle about that window we supposedly had. I had nothing to come back with. Seems every time I say we have a window, it closes a little early.
Twenty years from now, we’ll be laughing about that time we got caught out in the rain, trying to squeeze a quick Saturday ride in before the storms hit.
If we’d slept in and sat in front of the TV, knowing the rain was coming anyway, it would have been just another day. Likely nothing distinguishable from any other day in front of the tube.
Ride hard, my friends. Have fun. Rest when it’s time to feed the worms.
My wife and I have occasion to ride the trainers side-by-side throughout the winter. She’s mentioned, on a couple of occasions, that it’s hard for her to look over at me, to see me dripping with sweat, pushing the hardest gear I’ve got… all the while she’s struggling to keep her focus on pedaling the bike. Same thing happens when I ride outside. I’ve got no problem, on the appropriate days, hammering the pedals until I’m smoked. My wife’s always had a difficult time with pushing herself.
I can hammer myself in crappy weather, in wind, sometimes rain, on the trainer when necessary… it doesn’t matter.
The question is how? Or maybe even why, but let’s not get lost in the weeds here, we can stick with how for a minute.
When I get on my bike and it’s time for a real workout, my goal is to get faster. I’m not going to get faster putting in junk miles. I know this down to my baby toes. Junk miles may be fun, oh are the junk miles fun, but in terms of getting fast they’re almost useless. Let me be very clear here, I don’t care if you disagree. I don’t even care if you disagree and you’re right. What works for me is hammering out hard miles with a smattering of easy days in between for rest. Period end of story.
The key to getting and staying fast is holding onto the want to.
The way I see speed, as it relates to cycling and how it worked for me, getting there is kind of an incremental thing. You progress and plateau, progress and plateau, until you get to where the gains are minimal. The hard part is wanting to get faster through the plateaus. Working though those sucks. It’s easy to give up and say, “that’s it, this is it, I’m done.” Once you hit that, you’re not going to go much further until you get over that mental block.
There is no magic bullet…
Cycling and speed are pretty simple. While a good bike and a nice set of wheels will absolutely help you to be a faster cyclist, they’re not entirely necessary. I managed my fastest ride ever on a 15 year-old bike with a rusted out headset and crappy wheels… I just had a lot of people to hide behind. What got me down the road was “want to”. No normal person will ride a bike until they accidently upchuck in their mouth, but that’s how I got faster. I had to have the legs to push on the pedals hard enough to push through the wind to be fast… and until I got those legs, it was all work and a little bit of rest.
There may be an end zone, though.
In my case, I’ve found my magical state of balance. I’ve gotten fast enough that I don’t really
have want to get much faster. What’s become most important to me is that my wife and I ride together. If I get much faster she won’t be able to keep up (nor will any of my friends). I’m in an odd place where I know I could ride faster but I don’t want to for fear I’ll be bored riding with my wife and friends – or worse, I end up accidentally hammering them into the ground because my estimation of effort is beyond their ability to enjoy the pace I’m setting. I have friends who crush the group they ride with and I don’t want to be that guy.
To wrap this little post up and put a bow on it (before I run out the door for a “hurry up before it rains” gravel road ride), getting fast is more about want to than equipment or some magic pedal stroke where you’re pretending you’re scraping mud off the bottom of your shoe. Without want to, that pedal stroke and a buck will get you a cup of coffee, and that’s about it.
It’s your choice. Want it, or don’t.
Ride hard, my friends.
Riding with friends during last Sunday’s Assenmacher 100, one pulled alongside me and asked if I ever get bored of cycling as much as I ride, if I ever have one of those days where I just don’t want to ride. I answered honestly: “I’ve never had one of those”. Ever.
Cruising down the road at 24-mph I explained that cycling puts a smile on my face every single time I throw a leg over the top tube, without fail. I can’t explain it and I really have no idea why cycling doesn’t get old. The truth is, I don’t try too hard to figure it out either, for fear I might come to realize that maybe I should be bored. That would be miserable – so whenever the topic pops into the gray matter, I push on to something else.
Better to not play in the dark corners of my mind where I don’t belong.
As long as I keep having days like those, I don’t see how I could ever get bored, anyway. I’ll go with that.