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Monthly Archives: February 2019

Musical Saddles Part Deux; I Love It when a Plan Comes Together

I was in for a few surprises when I picked up my Selle carbon saddle.

I thought it was going to take a while to get used to, with the lack of padding. Nope, it’s like butter. Well, very expensive butter.

I thought the cutout was going to be too big. I refer back to that $50 a pound butter.

I didn’t think it’d look good on the Venge (it definitely wasn’t bad on the Trek, if it was a little out of place).

I don’t think it could have gone better, overall.

The test on the trainer was short, because I don’t ride that bike on the trainer, but I think it’s close enough for government work… at least for now. I’ll dial it in on Venge day, if it needs it.

The best surprise was how the Selle matched up with the existing components. The white lines on the saddle brings out the white on the stem and even the quick releases. After I lost the red and white decals on my Vuelta rims, when one cracked on a pothole that couldn’t be avoided, I always felt the white didn’t balance out… now I can finally relax about it.

Happy days.

Road Bikes, Cycling, Gears and Cassettes… All You Need to Know to Make Your Go-Fast Bike Go Fast

A post in which I geek out so you don’t have to….

The cassette is one of the least faffed about components on a bike but has the most profundity in relation to… Okay, not that geeky.

Here’s the deal; the humble cassette can make your bike a dream to ride, or a nightmare.  The sad thing is, most cyclists will just take what comes on the bike without giving it a second thought. Two teeth on a big chainring can mean the difference between the perfectly appointed climbing machine and always feeling like you’re in too high, or too low a gear – and it will have everything to do with the cassette.

My road bikes are the perfect examples, because I set one up to be a climber, and one to be my go-fast bike. Ironically, the go-fast bike is lightest by about three pounds but let’s not get lost in the woods.

So let’s get right into this, folks. The standard these days is the 11-28 cassette, ten or eleven speed doesn’t matter. The bigger cogs jump the same on both, the last two cogs increase in size by three teeth, then four.

I, being naive, bought two high-end 11-28 cassettes last year. One went on my go-fast bike, the other on my climber.

On the climber, the 11-28, coupled with a 50/34 compact crank, was simply fantastic. I had an extra gear on every hill I climbed last year, and I could comfortably pedal up to 40-mph before running out of gears. Each gear had its place and I used every one of them at some point. From 4-mph up an 18% hill, to well in excess of 40-mph down a few hills.

The 11-28 cassette, by contrast, sucked on the go-fast bike. My Venge, being the go-fast bike, has a 52/36 chainring combination up front. Where this gets dicey is in the bigger, easier gears on the back and the big ring up front.

  • 11/28 Tooth (11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 19, 21, 24, 28)

We get into trouble with the bigger chainrings. Specifically, that jump from 21 to 24 teeth. The 21 tooth gear is good for about 21-22-mph. The 24 is good for 18-1/2. When you’re a 21 to 23-mph average rider, that hole between the 21 and 24 tooth gears is in a horrible place. The best way to describe this is that each tooth is worth 5 rpm for your cadence. When you jump 3 teeth, that’s 15 rpm.  This leads one to feel like they’re always in the wrong gear whilst riding somewhere between 19 and 20-ish-mph.


With the Trek and its 50/34 chainrings, the 19 and 21 tooth gears are the cruising gears and the 2-tooth, 10 rpm jump is easily managed.  The 11-28 cassette is perfect on that bike.

It all boils down one’s average pace.  I wrote in the opening that I’m a 21-23-mph average cyclist.  On the weekends we’re often a little slower than that, call it 19 or 20-mph for an average.  If I was a little faster, maybe a mile or two an hour on the high side, the 21 to 24 tooth hole wouldn’t bother me as much as my normal cruising gears would be 17, 19 and 21.

There are two ways to fix the problem with the Venge.  Obviously, swapping the 52/36 chainrings out for a 50/34 combo would fix a lot – if the combo works on the Trek, it’s going to work on the Venge, too.  My buddy, Mike talked me out of that, though.  The Venge doesn’t have the same use as the Trek.  The Trek is my “take anywhere, touring bike”.  The Venge is just meant to go fast, so I opted for the simple cassette fix.  I picked up an 11-25 tooth cassette.

  • 11/25 Tooth (11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25)

No three or four tooth jumps.  I won’t be able to climb as well, but I should be able to handle anything up to short 20%’ers.  Heck, if I lose a few pounds, I should be able to do better than that.  With the 11-25 cassette I won’t have any holes to worry about with the easier gears on the big ring.


In the end, there are several important factors to be taken into account.  If I were riding in hilly terrain regularly, I’d probably stay with the 11/28 cassette and go with compact 50/34 chainrings for the improved climbing characteristics.  If I were a little slower, I could look into an odd gear cassette, maybe a 14-28…  That would get my gear jumps down into a two-tooth range.  If I really wanted to get crazy I could have gone with an 11-21 or 11-23 “corncob” which would mean 1 tooth cog increases but horrible climbing characteristics.  Or, if my Venge was my only bike, I could go with three cassettes; a corncob for flat cycling, an 11-25 for mixed terrain and a 14-28 for hilly days.

Oh, and if the Venge was my only bike, I’d go with a compact 50/34 crank up front.  No question about it.

The point is, if you’re experiencing holes in your gearing that often make you feel like you’re in the wrong gear, cycling isn’t supposed to be like that, and there are simple fixes to correct that – as simple as swapping out a cassette.  The operation takes a wrench, a special nut to remove the cassette, and a chain whip… and about three minutes.

Ride hard my friends.

Musical Saddles

I could have left well enough alone. The new (to me) ultra-light Selle a friend gave to me a couple of weeks ago worked surprisingly well on the Trek. I couldn’t believe how much I liked that saddle on the 5200. I had my eyes on that 140 grams I could lose off the Venge, though – and leaving well enough alone is not what I do when it comes to bikes, in case you’re new here. Getting my aero-bike down to within a few tenths of a pound above UCI weight was just too much temptation to handle (aero-bikes are notoriously heavy because aero trumps weight until you climb – it is a rare day you can have both, but that is the case with the first generation Specialized Venge, if you sink enough money into it).

Rather than go back go the old, heavy Bontrager mountain bike saddle I had on the Trek, though, I’m opting to put the Specialized Romin saddle from the Venge on the 5200. While the Selle is great, when I get the position right with the Romin, it’s as good as it gets.

After my trainer ride last evening, I began the switching over process. I’ll be swinging by the bike shop this evening to pick up a cassette for the Venge (11-25 as opposed to 11-28 – I’ll get into that decision at a later date) and the saddle clamp that will allow me to clamp a 7×9 mm saddle rail to my Venge (sadly, that requires a special part). Once the Selle and the new cassette go on the Venge, with the Romin on the Trek, I’ll be complete for the season. No more changes necessary.

If you ever want to know why I continue to stay sober, read this post again. I LOVE my problems.

Next up on the “problems to fix” list is Mrs. Bgddy…. Somebody has a new set of wheels in her near future…

The Final Trainer Push to the Spring; the Last… err, Last Phase.

Well, if you haven’t gotten the news yet, go ahead and look out the window.  Spring is going to be put off for a minute.  Or several.  In fact, up here in Michigan-land it looks like it’s looking more like 21,600 minutes – at least (that’s 15 days).  All I have to say about this is directed at Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog:  “Kiss my ass, Phil.”

So, after one really nice day on the road bikes and a colder day on the tandem, it’s right back into the freezer.  What to do?

We’re already maxed out on our hardest gear and we’ve been pushing that for a week, so what could we possibly add?


This doesn’t have to be anything too crazy.  If you’re watching commercial TV, it’s easy – your intervals are through the commercials.  With a movie, no commercials, it’s a little more challenging.  You don’t have to get too technical with it, either.  The idea is to get out of the comfort zone that we’ve built up to.  Every once in a while, when you feel good and rested, crank it up for a minute or two – give it a 120 or 130 rpm cadence to get the sweat flowing.

It may not be riding outdoors, but you’ll be more than ready once spring does get here.

Ride hard my friends.

A Great, if Cold, Saturday Ride on the Tandem with My Wife… Or, If You Want to Be Strong on a Single Bike, Ride a Tandem.

Saturday morning was cold, certainly below freezing, but livable. I picked up a pro-grade jacket and vest for just $30 at a bike swap meet a couple of weeks ago and the jacket was perfect for the temperature – the finest I’d ever worn.

Mrs. Bgddy asked if I wanted to take the tandem so I took the cue and got it ready… pedals, saddle bag, air and food (just in case a bike ride broke out).  I really wanted to take the Trek, but I figured the workout would do me good.

We wheeled the beast out the front door and got rolling almost immediately.

It was a weird morning. Completely overcast, chilly – maybe even cold enough to justify the trainer – but it had been so long since we rode outside, I didn’t care. The first two miles were crisp but I warmed up soon enough.

I love riding the tandem.

We both had a boneheaded “sorry about that, I wasn’t thinking” moment – you’d think riding a tandem would be just like “riding a bike”, but it isn’t.  Possibly because we don’t ride it as much, but we always go through a learning curve after we’ve been off it for a while.  We just have to get used to working together again.

On the plus-side, once we got into the headwind, my wife tapped my butt a couple of times to get me to ease up a bit to keep from dropping our friends.

It always makes me chuckle to myself; when I’m up front, I’m always thinking, “You’ve gotta push harder, they’re all just chilling out back there wishing the train was moving a little faster.”

In reality, I was flogging myself for nothing.  Funny how I have that tendency.

OH MY GOD! Riding a Bike is Sofa-King Awesome!!! Dammit!!!

Finally, a day on the bikes, outside! Sweet Baby Jesus in a manger!

It wasn’t even all that warm, though for a late February afternoon, I wasn’t about to complain. Oh, and it was spectacularly sunny!

Mrs. Bgddy waited for me to get home from work so we could ride together, and I’d had a late day at the office the day before, so I played a little hooky and left a few hours early.  The ride was slow and enjoyable.  Even with the layers I had on, leg warmers just wasn’t enough… I should have worn a pair of tights, too.  Still, even a little under dressed, I couldn’t help but smile at being outside in the sunshine.  My wife and I just turned the miles at a leisurely pace and talked over some of life’s happenings.

And then we’d sprint for the City Limits signs.  Of course.

Better, that ridiculously hard, tiny saddle my friend gave me is easily the most comfortable saddle my butt has ever had the pleasure of sitting on. The saddle is nice for riding on the trainer, but outside, on the road, it’s simply amazing. Vastly more comfortable than my old mountain bike saddle that has eight to ten times the padding. Vastly.

As in, jaw-droppingly, fantastically comfortable. I don’t even know how it’s possible on that little tiny thing – especially considering it’s not all that fantastic on the trainer (even as dialed in as I got it the other day).  That saddle is going to be excellent on the Venge.

So, today is it.  We’re heading out in an hour for the last outdoor ride for a couple of weeks.  We’re heading back to outrageously unseasonably cold weather for the next several days…  Tomorrow’s high is supposed to be 47° (8 C), but after 50-mph winds and a cold front, the bottom falls out and the low will be 16°… or “butt-ass cold” for Celsius fans.  Folks, enjoy ’em while you get ’em.


I Am Going to Have to Rethink that “Two Weeks Left till We’re Outside”, Thing…

We’re not getting outside next week. First time since I started cycling, and it’s going to be way too cold to ride outside in the first week of March.

We’re looking at lows in the teens (F) next week, with highs well below freezing.  We’ve even got a couple of days with highs in the teens.

That’s a bit too cold to want to head outdoors.  If the rain holds off Saturday, we might get lucky and sneak out for a quick ride, though. A little context is in order here; there’s an 80% chance of rain Saturday.  A 35% chance of rain in Michigan works out to a realistic probability of rain closer to 97.421%.  In other words, by the time you get up to 80%, it’s simply going to rain, the only questions are when and for how long.  After rain on Saturday and Sunday, we’re into the freezer once again for another week or more.

Spring is going to be put off a bit.

Of course, this isn’t so bad, either.  I’ve been working my ass off on the trainer and it’s paying off.  I’ll just keep doing what I’ve been.  I’m ready for spring, all I have to do is wait for it to get here.

In the meantime, it always does me good to remember the good times.  We’re almost there.