You’re out on a ride and you walk into some wet grass to get to a porta-john. You hit the snack stand at the rest area, refill your water bottles and head for your bike. You throw your leg over the top tube, clip your first foot into the pedal and wait for the call to roll…
“Let’s roll”, you hear, and push off. You clip your second foot in and pedal for the road. You hit 17-1/2-mph and hear, “squeak, squeak, squeak….” every time your right foot hits the bottom of the pedal stroke. Within three-quarters of a mile, you’re mental over the squeaky cleat.
DO NOT DISPAIR!
At the next rest stop, after you’ve eaten your banana, rub the peel on your cleat and where it will contact the pedal. You don’t have to make a total mess of it, just a little goes a long way.
No more squeaky cleat.
Is there a such thing as a “Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad” bike ride? Bet your @$$ there is.
This is my buddy, Jonathan’s description of yesterday’s Friday morning ride; a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad bike ride. As of Thursday, I’d have said a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad bike ride was, strictly speaking, impossible. I’d have been wrong. Thankfully, we’re all relatively okay and as of this writing, nobody is in the hospital. Yet.
Mrs. Bgddy, Jonathan, Mike and I rolled out at a little past 8am. Mike was running late because his wife had just gotten a knee replaced and he had to get her set up with her coffee before we rolled out.
The wind was strong from the southwest and rather than struggle against it, we treated it like a friendly, fun ride. Mike took the first two miles at, say, 17-1/2 to 18-1/2-mph. I was next, for three, and I kept it between 18 & 19. Nothing spectacular, just one of those “hands on the bar tops”, laugh-a-minute rides. My wife took a turn up front, as did Jonathan for a big turn. Mike took a mile, then we turned into the wind. Oh, goody.
Mike tapped off almost immediately and Jonathan was behind me, so that meant my wife was in her favorite third bike spot, followed by Mike. I figured I’d keep a decent tempo, easy enough to stay up there for miles, but challenging enough to keep it lively.
Hands on the hoods and elbows bent to get my chin as close to my stem as possible, I charged into the wind, taking it right in the face. I found a good cadence at 18-1/2 to 19 and kept it there.
Coming up on a hill, we had a car back so I didn’t pick up the pace, but I didn’t slow down, either. I wanted to get to the top so I could wave the car by. Over the wind I heard from the back, “Mike’s way off the back”, from Mrs. Bgddy so I sat up and took it easy so he could catch up.
When he caught back up, I kept the pace at a steady 18. I could have maintained that pace all day, so I stayed up front. Coming down the hill into Byron, I always go for the City Limits sign. It’s one of those I want.
Rolling into town, with a 15-20-mph (24-32 km/h) headwind, I shifted both hands to from the hoods to the drops in one swift move and picked up the pace. Maybe a quarter-mile to the sign I was at 23-mph. 24… 26… now I was on flat ground and full into the gas. 29… 30…31. I could feel Jonathan behind me, though. I had my chin a couple of inches from my stem, pushing for all I was worth. I maxed out at 31-1/2 (50 km/h) and Jonathan was coming around, but slowly. I gritted my teeth and gave one. Last. Push… and he pipped me right at the last second.
I made him work for it, though. I smiled as we climbed the hill into town and offered my fist to bump. We shared a chuckle and pressed up the hill.
We pulled into our favorite pit stop gas station and I went in to use the facilities. When I came out, my wife went in and Mike was eating his banana. I pulled mine out of my back pocket and started munchin’. I was hungry. Next I looked, Mike had both elbows on his handlebar, both feet on the ground. He said, “Woah”… you know that look you get when you’ve been bent over after a workout and you stand up too fast? Yep. But he didn’t come back right away. He almost went down, so my wife and I grabbed him and held him up. All of the color went out of his lips and his face went slack.
Jonathan called 911 while my wife and I tried to get him off his bike, a 168 pound wet noodle. I called a younger kid over to help, who was just going to walk by. Another lady put her child in the car and came over to help. We managed to get him off the bike and sitting down as Jonathan relayed the information to the dispatcher. I handed Mike his water bottle and pulled mine from its cage. I took a sip, and just like that, Mike was back.
He asked what all the fuss was about and said, “Let’s go”. I don’t know what the proper protocol is for a steep blood pressure drop, but I’m pretty sure it’s not “get on your bike and ride home”. On the other hand, it’s Mike, so I followed him and hollered to Jonathan that he should cancel that ambulance.
Mrs. Bgddy and Jonathan handled that and I chased after Mike. Once I caught him, he seemed to be his normal self (more or less). I looked back to see my awesome wife and Jonathan catching up to us.
Before long, there they were. Jonathan said he’d been stung on the knee by some kind of gnarly bee on the way out of the gas station parking lot.
Six miles later I ran over a squirrel. Wait, I have to be truthful here. The freakin’ squirrel ran under my freaking tire. Not a thing I could have done – he ran right for it. The poor sucker even dropped his acorn. I’ve ridden by and around maybe 2,000 of those little suckers and never hit one. I lined that poor sucker up and drilled him, dead center. Thankfully, I didn’t get him with the back tire too – he scurried into the brush on the side of the road.
At this point, we were thinking about hiding under a rock. Unfortunately, the rock idea wasn’t an option because we had some ominous clouds chasing us down.
The rest of the trip to Mike’s house was actually uneventful. Right up until it started sprinkling. Seriously. Seriously?
My wife and I rolled for home. Better to be a little wet and home. The first mile was with a tailwind. The final mile, cross headwind. The sprinkling sputtered out before we got home.
Shower, lunch and a much needed meeting, Jonathan texted to say he was covered, head to toe, in hives from the bee sting.
To close this sordid story of the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad bike ride, my wife was the only one to escape unscathed… until she showered. She grabbed for the hand towel by the sink and a wolf spider the size of a small tarantula fell into the sink.
Biggest wolf spider I’ve ever seen by double. She almost put that monster on her shoulder.
I stayed away from windows, knives and anything moving and big enough to kill me the rest of the day. Are you f***ing kidding me? We haven’t had that much bad stuff happen in five years, let alone one bike ride… and Jonathan is a pastor of a huge church… getting stung by a super-bee that gave him hives over his whole body? And he’s not allergic?!
Technically, I know the why of the hives – it was the activity of riding his bike that pumped the bee sting poison through his whole system, that’s why his body went nuts… it makes for a dramatic conclusion, though.
It had been raining all morning long and I’d resigned myself to a day off. My daughter was diving in County’s so the rain day was probably for the best. Then it cleared up.
I headed home – immediately, if not sooner.
I prepped my bike and rolled, finding that I was going to have a tailwind heading out. The sun was shining between the clouds and it was mercifully mild in temperature.
A guy on a motorcycle passed opposite me so I gave him the international two-wheeled vehicle salute (peace sign, pointing with the left hand and down at about 20°). He saluted back.
I rolled up to an intersection and another fella on a motorcycle went straight through and I followed behind him.
I tucked down in the drops and enjoyed the sunshine and the crosswind. A right with a tailwind, another left and I was into city streets. 25-mph speed limits and relatively safe. Three-quarters of a mile later and I was on city neighborhood streets.
A quick trip through the subdivision and I was thinking about how good it was to be me. There are two banking lefthand corners that are only lefts (or rights coming the other way), so we always hit them fast and lean in hard. They’re why adults ride bicycles, not to put too fine a point on it. I hit the first corner at 25, leaning hard into the corner, looking left through to the straightaway. I felt like an older, slower, fatter Peter Sagan.
Don’t get too cocky on me, you know exactly what I mean.
The second was a carbon copy, only fueled by some tailwind. Through the subdivision to a protected right turn. The cool thing is, that turn banks a little on the inside so if you hit it right, you feel like you’re riding on a rail. I nailed it.
Next up is an ugly intersection. There’s no cheating it, no cutting it short, and no messing around. Traffic comes down that road blind and cars often turn trying to short the corner. I almost got drilled there last summer, a car tried to cheat the corner. If I’d been stopped, one foot down, I wouldn’t be writing this post right now.
The intersection was clear, so up the little hill I went. Into the wind.
Cresting the hill, I saw something on the side of the road that didn’t look right. A heap of something on the side of the road and a woman walking frantically in the street.
That’s when I recognized the motorcyclist from earlier. He was laying back down on the asphalt. I asked the woman if the police had been called as I put my bike in the ditch and kneeled down next to the man who’d beaten me through the intersection five miles before.
He was bleeding slighly from the back of his head and his melon lay unnaturally flat against the road. He was awake, but not what you could call “alert”. He was moving, but couldn’t talk. More of a mumble mixed with a moan.
There were pieces of his leather vest, buttons, and trinkets scattered on the road. His front fender was smashed, and his leg was laying over the seat. The other bent beneath the other. That’s when I heard the sirens. They were fairly close.
I touched the top of his hand and said to hold on, that help was on the way. His arm reached out a bit, but his wrist and fingers were bent in – not unnaturally, but as if he had mild arthritis. Then his other arm, but closer to his chest.
A State Police SUV pulled up and the trooper stepped out. He walked over, so I backed away. Another State Police cruiser, then an unmarked. Another officer came over, looked at the other trooper and said, “He’s posturing”.
I didn’t know what that was until I Googled it after I got home. It’s not good.
The guy who’d hit him, driving a pickup truck with a 16′ covered trailer, put his head in his hands and said, “I didn’t even see him”.
Isn’t that how it usually goes. That’s not a question.
I asked the trooper if he needed me to stick around. He asked if I actually saw the accident and said in could go when I indicated I hadn’t.
I got back on my bike and rolled on, trying to hold it together as I passed a fire truck rolling toward me. A mile later, on a main road again, I saw a cyclist coming at me, one of my friends. He turned around and rode back with me, having just been caught in the rain a couple of miles north of our current position.
I couldn’t shake the look on the guy’s face and the blood pooling up under his head. His praying mantis arms and hands… I said a prayer for him.
I told McMike the story at stop light because I just needed to share it.
I shared it again with my wife when I got home. I Googled “posturing” related to traumatic accidents. It signifies severe brain damage.
Folks, if that motorist had turned in front of me, theres no knowing if I’d survive it. I just know I would have a better chance wearing a helmet. I saw what no helmet looks like, and I don’t want it. Not even a little bit.
I was down to my cruising weight about two months ago. Now I’m just having fun with it. I figure, why not get light going into Thanksgiving this year. Then I can simply watch what I eat the rest of the winter and I’ll be a lot happier, and lighter, next spring (I let this last winter get me a little bit).
I’ve been losing about a pound a week for the last five weeks since I had my yearly physical and I’ve decided to keep that up. The doctor’s assistant called a week after the appointment and said my bad cholesterol came back a little high. She also added that my ratio was good, I just had to watch what I was eating a little more closely.
I took that to heart, of course, and changed how I ate immediately. I didn’t completely cut the
crap tasty food out, I’m simply more mindful about what it is I’m eating most of the time. The way I see it, I’m way too active to be a saint all of the time.
The prescription was pretty simple. Eat smarter, more fast miles. Rinse and repeat. The results have been uplifting, if expected.
Keeping fit, active, healthy, and most important, out of the doctor’s office and the prescription medication trap, is a simple equation on any one of my bikes. (Eat well + get fit) x ride hard = smile more.
So that brings me to my Physician Avoidance and Sanity Stabilizing Unit for Order, Thankfulness and Levity… or P.A.S.S.U.O.T.L.
Or pass you on the left…
Ride hard, my friends. It’s cheaper than the doctor – and I’d rather cough up the funds for the McLaren* of race bikes than fund my doctor’s vacation home… if you know what I mean
*Or a Ford GT40 if we’re talking about the Trek – if you know your car and race bike history, you know putting the two together is quite accurate, historically speaking.
While it was just a touch windier than we’d like it, the “gusts” barely made it to double digits out of the north. Also, it had been hot all day but we had some cloud cover that cooled it down to a perfect 80 degrees at ride time. We had a great group and rolled out with little fanfare after a request from the A Group was conveyed that, should any of us B Group latch on as they passed us in the home stretch, if we would stay to the back and let them cycle through their pace-line so there aren’t any issues, they’d appreciate it. I laughed when the request was first made last week. “Hey, do us a favor and let us do all the work, would ya?” Uh, I didn’t notice any of our group shedding tears as the message was relayed.
The seven-mile warm-up had even been fast – almost 20-mph. That normally bodes well for the actual ride.
We rolled shortly after the A guys with a pretty fair group. Two strong tandems and probably 20-25 solo bikes. The first mile was subdued but when the whole group formed up, it was on.
We had a tight group last night. The group that was staying at the back was fairly small, so everyone who was in the rotation up front was getting plenty of rest between pulls. This always bodes well for a good average pace at the finish – and I didn’t have much time to look at my computer.
The first north leg of the trip is relatively flat with some downhill to help, so it went mercifully fast into the headwind. From the first turn west, the crosswind didn’t hurt too much and from what I saw, there was no need for an echelon (or four). The group stayed together and when we made the turn south, things picked up gradually.
Then we came to the hills. I’ve lost enough weight lately to notice that I’m experiencing less difficulty in getting up the hills with our gang. Last night was the first time in years I can remember enjoying going up – normally it’s one of those things; you have to keep up on the hills to get to the good parts.
I was in the lead pack up the last hill going into the regroup and was ready for the intermediate sprint. Unfortunately I’d picked my place unwisely – or rather, the tandems stayed up front a little longer than anticipated. I became the tip of the spear for the lead-out train. So be it, I thought. I pushed the pace from a decent 27-mph coming down the hill into town, to 31.5. I love a fast lead-out. At the base of the downhill, smoked, I tapped out and went to move to the back. There was a gap, though, so I took a spot in line about four bikes back with maybe a quarter-mile to the City Limits sign. I was just going to sit in and catch my breath, but when the first two went for the sprint, I couldn’t contain myself. I went too, with one other. I think I was fourth in the sprint, but was the lead-out and in the sprint. I was pretty stoked, and when Jonathan rolled by and gave me a verbal pat on the back for the effort… well, it was pretty cool.
We regrouped in town, but when we made the final left to the home stretch, we could see the A Group coming up behind us. Normally we hold them off till we get to the last five-mile straight shot, but the little speech at the beginning put us behind. They caught us at the worst possible time, and with a car passing. They made it around but we were trying to give them enough room to pass whilst still maintaining our pace – it got messy. I was also too far back with too may people to pass to get around and latch on as they went by.
I resigned myself to riding back in with my group. Then Jonathan and Scott went. Then Chuck jumped to bridge the gap (what an effort that must have been!)… The timing was all wrong for me, though.
We came up to the last stop sign and we were only a hundred yards back of the A’s, when they slowed up for the turn. I saw my only chance to get up there and jumped on it. Chuck was just catching on the back and I only had half the distance he did to bridge. Toby went with me and soon enough we were on the back of the A Group. That’s when the hammer went down. There were, I think, counting… six times where I thought I was going to drop. The pace went from 24 to 28-29-mph and with that crosswind, it was a little tricky trying to get a draft and not crash. I found an opportunity to get into the drops and that helped immensely. We stayed above 25-mph for the last five miles and four of the five of us who made the bridge stayed with the lead group all the way in – the last mile we were above 29-mph (46/47 km/h)
I shut Strava down shortly after crossing the line. I showed a 22.5-mph average, while Chuck had a 22.6. Another fastest Tuesday night.
It never gets old.
I’ve dropped a combined seven pounds off two road bikes over the last several years, a little at a time, and can offer a few tips on where to start and where to end – and on what will just end up as vanity watts.
First, the cheapest, most efficient way to go about this is to buy the best bike you can from the beginning. Hands down, that’s the least expensive route. I couldn’t do that, though. When I bought my Venge, way back at the end of 2013, the bike was the first generation of “aero” race bikes. In other words, CHING! All I could afford was the entry-level 105 “Comp” model. The bike weighed in at 18.8 pounds out of the box (pedals and cages excluded).
Okay, now on a “Comp” bike, or an entry-level into the upper echelon of race bikes, the best place they save money is by putting cheap wheels on your fantastic bike. You take that bike and put a decent set of wheels on it and you’ve got a formidable race bike. The original wheels were 1,990 grams or 4.36 pounds (tires and tubes not included). With a little effort, you can find a decent 1,500 or 1,600 gram set of wheels for as little as $300 (Shimano Ultegra 1,660 – Vuelta Speed One 1,520 $300 on the nose and the hubs are spectacular [I ride the old SLR hubs on my rain bike] and those are just two examples). So let’s take my original 18.8 pound bike and knock 470 grams, or more than a pound, off it. 17.7 pounds. The next place to go for me was the handlebar. I wanted the carbon fiber aero handlebar and I got a new stem. The bar saved me no weight whatsoever. It’s the same weight as my old alloy handlebar. The new stem saved a little more than 100 grams (it’s carbon wrapped aluminum which is lighter than straight carbon fiber for structural construction reasons). Not much in weight saved, but the bike sure looked good!
In other words, you’re looking at vanity watts for the handlebar but there’s some significant weight to be saved if you’re savvy about picking the right stem.
Next up was another big hitter when upgrading from an entry-level racer; the crankset. I went big for my upgrade, opting for the S-Works crank. I dropped a little better than three-quarters on the crank alone! Now I’m down into the 16 pound range. Next was a cassette and chain upgrade. There are quite a few grams to be saved there, but you sacrifice a little longevity when it comes to the chain – there is a price to be paid for using lightweight parts. I went with a SRAM 1091R Chain (hollow pins, plate cutouts) and a PG-1070 cassette (one step under Red and still in the realm of reason at $60-$80 – the Red cassettes run $300 (!) but they’re light).
I upgraded the brakes next. I got a deal on some FSA Energy brakes that match the bike like they were made for it. The perfect red on jet black. I saved 50 or 60 grams there.
The next big weight drop was in changing the drivetrain from Shimano 105 to Ultegra. 105 is a great line of components but they’re on the heavy side of the race components. I got lucky and had a friend who upgraded his 10sp. Ultegra to 11sp. Ultegra. I bought his components for a couple hundred bucks. There’s another couple/few hundred grams. That was a game changer, right there. At that point I was flirting with the upper edge of 15 pounds (15.95 give or take).
Finally, I dropped my new 1,420 gram (3.11 pounds) carbon fiber wheels on the bike and another 150 grams down the drain. I’m at 15.75 pounds:
It’s no 13 pound mountain goat but the aero beats weight all week long unless you’re in the mountains (and often even then).
So, going by weight, here’s your order of importance:
Wheels, Crank, Stem, Cassette/Chain, Brakes, Handlebar.
Incidentally, as the rain bike went… This is (almost) how I bought it (I upgraded the saddle almost immediately after I bought the bike – the original was too wide):
She’s a 22 pound triple 9sp. right there. Fast forward a great paint job and upgrading everything but the chainring bolts and brake calipers:
She’s 19.5 pounds in that photo. I put the 105 drivetrain that was on the Venge on the Trek, put the old Venge wheels on it… New headset, new bar, new stem, new carbon seat post (that was a big deal on that bike, compared against the old seat post), new bottom bracket… Throw on the Vuelta/Velocity wheels that were on the Venge and now it’s down to 18-1/2 pounds.
To answer that final question I posed in the title, how light is light, we need to look at things in context. Back in the day, meaning the 80’s and 90’s, a 21 pound bike was exceptionally light. That doesn’t hold true today, of course. Nowadays you’re looking at 12 to 15 pounds for the climbing bikes with the aero bikes reaching from 14 to 18-1/2 pounds (give or take on the high end). If you really want to drop some cheese you can get on a Trek Emonda at 13.7 pounds for $11,500 (disc brakes, SRAM eTap). Or how about a Madone SLR 9 at 16.9 pounds for $12,000 (disc brakes, Dura Ace Di2)? I’m guessing here, because Specialized isn’t as cool and unafraid as Trek, who give the weights on their bikes, but I’d bet the Tarmac Disc is pretty close to that 13.7 pound mark ($11,000) and the Venge ViAS is reportedly 17-1/2 pounds ($12,500).
So, in context, my aero bike is really quite light when compared to the newer aero models. It’s also a little heavy next to the mountain climbing bikes. However I slice it, cost to weight value, my Venge is the cat’s meow at $355 a pound. A new Venge ViAS rolls out the door for $714 a pound and a Madone goes for $710….
The weather was nice on Monday, if memory serves. Not a whole lot of wind, unseasonably cool, but nice.
Then, a high pressure system settled in and then wind died down to nothing.
Tuesday night, the club ride, the temp was a perfect 75° (24 C) with a 3-mph breeze. We (the B Group) turned in our fastest time for the loop. Ever. A 22.5 (or 6) average. Last year our best was 22.1.
Wednesday was too nice to work. Chucker and I played some afternoon hooky and did a route I normally can’t make for a Thursday night obligation. It was a fast one – a 20-mph average on a tough, hilly loop. After dropping Chuck off I just couldn’t bear to put my bike away so I went out for a 16-mile bonus loop.
Thursday was another perfect evening for cycling but I spent a bunch of time on the phone with the club VP sorting out stuff from Tuesday night’s debacle of a meeting. I only had time for a quick loop and my legs were a little smoked.
Friday we started in thick fog/mist on the gravel bikes. It was simply too dangerous for paved roads.
Saturday, we started out in a lighter fog that got worse as the morning wore on. Most of the gang did 36 miles. I stretched it out to 51.
Then, Sunday. Oh, what a glorious day. Wind in the single digits, impossibly sunny… It was the best day of the year for a ride. Maybe the second, best day of the year.
A little on the warm side, but you can see, there was no shortage of sunshine. The six of us cruised for a 100k, though Chuck and I both opted for an eight-mile bonus to take the total to 73-miles and some change.
In all, 265 miles on the week according to Strava.
Sadly, this won’t last. This is Michigan, after all. I’ll definitely enjoy it while it does.