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Monthly Archives: March 2019

The Ten Things You Need to Know if You’re New to Cycling in a Group

Cycling in a bunch is hard, but as fun goes it is without equal in fitness sports. Once a person learns how to ride, and finds a group that fits their fitness and pace, I know of no more enjoyable way to get some exercise in – especially for those in the second half of their life. Cycling has it all; endless toys, simple mechanical maintenance, items to nitpick, computers, color schemes – one can play as much or as little as one likes. Group cycling is one of the, if not the, most social fitness activity(ies) there is.

  1. If you’re new to cycling in a group, pay attention FIRST. Many in the group will likely be socializing. Don’t worry about how they do that quite yet, you’ll get there soon enough. Let’s concentrate on not crashing first.
  2. Don’t ever stop pedaling at the front unless you signal a slowdown first. You will hurt people if you do.2018_NWT_2
  3. Do you remember President Obama talking about bringing a gun to a knife fight? June 14, 2008. Anyway, don’t bring a bb-gun to a bazooka fight. Don’t show up to the A Group club ride on a 7-sp. down tube shifting steel bike unless you’re Peter Sagan strong. Those old bikes were great in their operation in their time, but there’s a reason everyone in the group has integrated shifters/brake levers. They’re the second best thing in cycling next to clipless pedals (clipless means pedals without toe clips… they are, ironically, the pedals you clip into).
  4. While we’re talking about clipless pedals, refer back to that bb-gun/bazooka fight comment again. If you’re going to hang with the 15-mph average group, you can get away plain-old platform pedals. Add some legit toe clips to those platform pedals (not the cheap ones) and you can hang. Riding with platform pedals, it’s not so easy with the faster groups. I tried it. Once. It didn’t go well. The trick is keeping your feet in the proper location on the pedals when you’re turning them over at 90 rpm. It’s simply a mess.20170901_132831
  5. At first, you’ll be focused on the wheel in front of you – the first time someone gets out of the saddle (and every time after that for the next four years), you’ll have a mini-heart attack. That’s normal. Eventually you’ll learn how everyone in the group acts and you’ll be able to predict when things like that will happen.
  6. You’ll also learn to look ahead, to the front of the group, rather than focus on the wheel/rider in front of you. Don’t push that ability too early, but definitely work towards it. As you ride with people more, your spacial recognition will improve to a point where you feel respectfully comfortable around others.
  7. Don’t ever become complacent, arrogant, cocksure, etcetera, etcetera, etc.
  8. Be nice. Don’t look at what the group can give you, look at what you can give the group. At first, that won’t be much, but that’ll change as you’re accepted into the fold. If you aren’t accepted, it’s you. Not them. New members are the lifeblood of cycling groups and clubs. We love new people. We want you to be there. Unless you’re a jerk.20170704_093754
  9. Going back to the beginning, in that opening paragraph – the second sentence, to be specific – I wrote “once a person learns how to ride”. Learning to ride is the single most important puzzle piece to riding in a group. It is helpful to be able to ride in a straight line and keep your speed consistent before you show up for the group ride.
  10. Be happy. Cycling, once you get the feel of a group, will be a source of great joy. You will likely find that there is no greater pleasure in life, done with one’s clothes on, that riding with a group of close friends on a road trip. Life is complex and hard. When you’re on a bike it’s time to let all of that shit go for a while. Your problems will be there after the ride. Just let them go for a bit.

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And finally, a bonus tip: Life is short. Bikes are cool. Ride ’em.

And the answer is…

… Because every now and again you have to listen to No Doubt’s Hella Good on a loop for 2 straight hours.

All Hail Venge Day! Dilly Dilly!

My friends, I shouldn’t have ridden the Venge yesterday but this winter just sucks and I needed a win.

All day long the weather looked beautiful. Beautiful. Visions of me on my Venge, rocketing down the road kept the melon committee excited all day. I couldn’t wait.

On the way home that beautiful weather took a turn for the worse. The temp dropped six degrees inside a few miles. And it started to snow. SNOW!  Not hard, mind you, but snow!

I texted my buddy, Chuck, dejected, to let him know I was riding inside.

I prepped the Trek, changed rear wheels, got dressed and climbed on. The sun came out. F@€k.

Then a knock on the window. What to my wondering eye should appear, but a Lycra clad Chuck and his steed of Specialized cheer! He said through the glass, “C’mon, man! Let’s go! Throw a leg over that top tube and remember to steer!”

I opened the door to let him in. He talked me into riding with him in less than thirty seconds. With the Trek on the trainer, there was no doubt I was taking the Venge. I pumped the tires, went in to change, and was ready five minutes later.

The first pedal stroke (and every one thereafter) was glorious. Smooth and powerful… responsive. Dear God in Heaven, and sweet Baby Jesus in a manger, it was beautiful.

I didn’t stop smiling till after I took the photo above.

All is right in my world today, for tomorrow night (tonight) shall be deemed Venge Day part Deux! Oh yes it shall.

Dilly dilly!

P.S. If you don’t feel this way about something in life (preferably that something is legal, decent and noble), consider that you may be doing something wrong. Just sayin’.

P.S.S. A special thanks to you, Chuck.  I never would have been outside without you, brother.

Just Another Sunday Ride… Then the Big Kids Showed Up.

The weather took a turn shortly after noon on Friday. Rain turned to a mix, turned to straight snow. Fortunately, the ride home wasn’t too bad. Friday is a bowling night, anyway. We woke up to icy, dangerous roads on Saturday. My wife and I put our time in on the trainer.

Sunday looked promising, though. Cold, but it was supposed to warm up under sunny skies. I waited to see the hourly temp pass freezing and texted my friends that I would ride at 11, for anyone who wanted to show up.

I felt fairly confident I would ride alone. 11 is too late in the day for most of my friends. A few hours later, McMike texted to let me know he’d be there. Ruh roh, Raggy. Mike is pretty good at being cool, though. I didn’t worry too much.

Sunday morning rolled around and after an amazing night of sleep, I doubted the weather report’s promise of a warm up. I cleaned my chain and got the Trek ready, anyway. I got dressed…

Then Pickett showed up and $#!+ got real. Pickett has one gear, and it’s a fast one. You put Pickett and McMike together, and fast happens all on its own.

Mrs. Bgddy gave me a surprising pat on the ass and said not to sweat it, that I was rock solid in my training this year.

Then my buddy, Mike rolled up. That would keep Pickett and McMike tame for a minute. Maybe two.

I hit the go button on my Garmin (that’s so much better than fumbling with my damned phone to get Strava going) and we rolled out.

The sun was shining with an easy breeze out of the southwest and it was a balmy 33° (1 C). We were all headwind for the first half and we were still getting our “in traffic” legs so were a little too far to the right, especially with the wind on our left shoulders. Mike was off the back before we hit three miles. I went back to get him while McMike and Pickett held up.

Mike said he was going to head home once we got to Gaines so we took it easy, changed the route and stayed with him. Once he was off, we were on. The pace picked up in a hurry, but on lesser traveled roads, we were lined up in a proper echelon. It was tough out front, but the recovery at the back was good.

I struggled every time I got to the front – I’d be good for half to three-quarters of a mile but 18-20-mph was pretty tough into the wind. I run into the same thing every spring. It takes me a couple of weeks to get my lungs back.

Then we turned around and had the wind at our back. I took the first pull and went for miles at 23 to 26-mph. Then McMike took over, then Pickett. North was a lot easier than East, which was really surprising. The wind was supposed to be west-southwest.

I’d expected to run out of gas, for Pickett and McMike to run me down. It never happened, though. I took a couple of shorter pulls to keep from blowing up, but I stuck it out.

We ended up with a 19-mph average. Which, when you consider the temperature, the into the wind, slow start… well, with all of that it was quite good.

I felt like a Hundred Dollars after I’d showered up and had some lunch.

I Finally Bit the Bullet and Bought a Garmin

For the longest time I was content relying on others to handle navigation duties when we rode. My buddy, Chuck has had a Garmin 520 Plus for quite a while and that comes with turn-by-turn directions. Mike, my other best riding bud, picked up a 520 last year as well.

Well, I couldn’t take it anymore. I ordered an Edge 520 Plus last week. Not only does it have turn-by-turn, it’s got maps as well. Freaking spectacular. One of the shop mechanics had a chuckle at my expense because he could remember, not too long ago, when I eschewed electronics altogether for most of a full season because I was tired of turning everything on before I started to pedal.

Well, now all I have to worry about is my Garmin because it’s hooked to my phone and Strava. So much for unplugging.

You may have noticed in the photo above, I’ve got the SRAM flush out front mount on my Venge, rather than the Garmin mount that comes with the cycling computer. The SRAM mount is half the price of, and lighter than, the Garmin mount. It shouldn’t have to be said, weight wins on the Specialized.

A surprising benefit to the Garmin mount is the cleaned up cockpit… I never stopped to think how much better the front end of the bike would look without my computer mounted above my stem:20190226_180944763507980808725433.jpg

So now my bike is really, really, really complete. I don’t have anything else to do to it, it’s perfect.

Better still, now my wife will have a computer on the tandem because the Garmin comes with three mounts – two handlebar/stem mounts and one flush-out-front mount. And you can choose which bike you’ll be riding when you set the computer up (I have all four of my road bikes programmed in – The Venge, the Trek, the gravel bike and the tandem).

Wait a Second, Who Turned Off the Heat?!

We had two magical days at the proper temp for this time of year – actually one normal and one above.  Sadly, it rained both days.  And then it was over.  Kaput.  It’s snowing right now.

Snow in March, in Michigan, isn’t unheard of.  What isn’t common is halfway into the month and we’ve only seen one decent day, and that one was several degrees below normal.

There will be no outdoor cycling today, though we might have a chance tomorrow as it’s at least supposed to be above freezing… at some point.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, though, and it isn’t a train; it’s warmth and sunshine.  Well, relative warmth.  We’ll be running around in tee shirts but if you happened to be from Florida or Georgia, you’d have your winter jackets on.

We’re a hearty people, as they say.  We’re looking at temps in the 50’s (11 C), and we’ll take it.  Still a little cool, but great for cycling.

In other fun and exciting cycling news, Mrs. Bgddy has a new set of wheels on the way.  They’re really nice.  More on them later.

Our First Tuesday Night Club Ride; What I Missed in Yesterday’s Episode

I’ve been so busy with work lately I can hardly see straight let alone think straight enough to write a decent post. I try, though.

I had a couple of points I wanted to slide into my post yesterday but I just couldn’t figure out how to squeak them in there without muddling up the post – this is how I write, incidentally; I map a post out in my melon first, if it ‘feels’ interesting in my melon, I begin writing.  This was one of those rare cases where the interest was there, I just couldn’t wrap my head around how I was going to get to the points I wanted to make without getting lost in the weeds… I didn’t fight it.  Instead, I decided they were important enough point to just bull in a china shop this in a later post.  This happens to be it.

First, and this absolutely baffles me, it’s amazing what a little shakeup in a bike’s setup can do for the rideability and enjoyment of a bicycle – but it depends on the bike and the change…  I’ve long held that it’s best to find one’s “perfect setup” and don’t mess with it.  Ever.  I haven’t changed a thing on my Venge for years until just this off-season.  My Trek, however, has been changed around quite regularly.  New headset, new stem (which changed the drop and reach), new handlebar (changed the width, reach and drop), new saddle, another new saddle, and finally going back to my old Specialized Romin standby (which is where I plan on staying, btw).  What didn’t change much was the fore and aft location of the saddle, the saddle height, and the angle of the saddle – those stayed relatively close to my original setup (as should be the case).  The only adjustments were for saddle padding (more padding means raising the saddle height to allow for the padding to squish down under my weight).

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My aversion to changing things in my setup goes back to an Assenmacher 100, back in 2014, the first A-100 after I bought the Venge.  A big rookie mistake, I accidentally moved the saddle too far forward by almost a full inch which completely threw off what I’d trained to for years.  This meant my power went to crap because I wasn’t used to the position and I bonked, big time about 48 miles into the ride.  I was a wreck.  Of course, without that experience, I wouldn’t be so prolifically careful about maintaining my setup today.  Well, riding the Trek Tuesday night was some kind of special – I can’t recall the bike ever feeling that good.  I did lower the nose on the saddle by an eighth-turn of the front bolt because the saddle was fighting me a bit when in the drops, but other than that the bike was spectacular.

With that stated, the setup of the Trek leads into the more important piece of yesterday’s post; riding in a group at speed is, honest to God, one of my favorite things I do with or without my wife and with clothes on.  After that long winter’s break, the feeling of being back in the mix with the guys was invigorating.  I was surprised at how much I’d missed it.  About two miles in, or roughly time point in time I realized my hard work through the winter had paid off because I wasn’t struggling even a little bit with the pace, a smile stretched across my face and stayed there until I loaded my bike in the car.  Part of this little tale has to do with the fact that, at just seven degrees above freezing (4 for you Celsius folks), only the hardcore riders were going to show up – those who can really ride well.  Cycling in a group of 20 exceptional riders is simply awesome.  Almost indescribable.

It’s good times and noodle salad, folks.  It’s as good as it gets.

The Tuesday Night Club Ride; And So It Begins

My youngest daughter brought the swamp funk home over the weekend. Mrs. Bgddy is currently buried under a pile of blankets and covers. She says being in the cold (68°, room temperature, or 20 C) makes her throat hurt. Folks, it’s all bad.

So I’m feeling a little of the funk myself, but it was so nice out so I had to ride. That’s not a poetic “had to”, either. I was hoping the increase in body temp would knock what little funk I was feeling out of me. That and sunny with only a 5 – 10-mph breeze. In March (it was definitely cool, but we don’t get sun and a gentle breeze in March).

I left work a little early and got home with time to ready the Trek and get dressed at a leisurely clip. It was so nice out I considered taking the Venge out for its first spin of the year…. The fact that there’s likely still a salt residue on the road changed my mind

The crowd in the parking lot grew quickly to an impressive 20-ish riders. I warmed up over a couple of miles and lined up at the start… and after an inordinately long wait, we were off.

I started at the back of the group so I wouldn’t come out all guns a blazin’. It worked. Three miles in and I was breathing easy and rolling with the pace, which was surprisingly comfortable at 25 to 27-mph, considering the crew – about 3 to 1 A to B guys. We turned into a decent crosswind and that slowed the pace down a bit, then a touch more into a headwind. We were still above 22-mph.

I started to tire out about eleven miles in. That minor cold was catching up to me so I decided to turn off rather than tough it out and make myself sicker. I didn’t burn any matches but I didn’t watch the grass grow, either.

I pulled into the parking lot, alone, with 24 miles on the nose, in 1:13:27, or just under a 20-mph average.

Considering the temp in the upper 30’s (2 or 3 C) and I rode the last eleven miles solo, I was very happy with where I’m at going into spring.

Last night was one of those nights that keeps me coming back. Here’s to the open of the 2019 cycling season! ‘Bout time!

Finally, a Decent Day for a Ride!

It wasn’t warm, but it wasn’t 6°, either… and we were set up for some sunshine. My friends showed just before 10am, and we rolled. We’d push the start time back to allow the temperature to climb out of the basement.

The temp had reached a balmy 30°, just a shade below freezing. As is usual for me, I didn’t much care for the first couple of miles, trying to warm up, but with a nice tailwind to start, I wasn’t complaining, either. We caught up as we rolled on as though we’d only missed a week or two riding together.

We were eight miles in before our first turn… and a cross headwind. Oh, my. You know when you turn into a headwind like that, just a cross headwind, that those last eight miles heading home are going to suck.

We ran into trouble just a mile into the crosswind. Mike and Diane started to drop off. We slowed to let them back but it wasn’t long before Mike was off the back again. Phill and Diane decided to shorten the ride with Mike. I stayed with McMike and went longer.

I knew what I was in for, but opted to keep McMike company anyway.

The next three or four miles into Byron weren’t bad, but we were hoofing it pretty hard, side-by-side. We stopped at the gas station to use the restroom and got right back to it.

The ride back north was fantastic with a cross tailwind. Again, we were side-by-side talking about current events related to cycling and the weather… right up until we headed east for home. Then it got serious.

Riding a trainer will never prepare you for that first punch you in the beak headwind. I expected Mike to take a mile or two and settled in for the draft. He was up front for three-quarters of a mile before tapping out. I rolled up to the front and laughed out loud when I got socked in the bean by the headwind.

We were holding 16-17-mph into the headwind and it was enough to get me to the point of hyperventilation in a little more than a half-mile. We switched places at half-mile intervals and pushed for home. It was gnarly.

Three miles north for a bit of a break and back into the headwind. With a mile-and-a-half left I was “stick a fork in me” done. My legs turned to lead. Bad enough I couldn’t latch back on as Mike went by. We took the pace down to about 14 to spin it home.

It was a tough ride, but you know how this ends; it was better than the trainer.

If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Happy? Well, for One…

I’m reading an interesting article in the Atlantic, normally not exactly my source for information because they’re so ridiculously left-wing extremist, but I happened on an interesting topic so I clicked on the click-bait…  The question they seek to answer is why aren’t smart people happy?

Humorously, they do eventually get around to politics and why smart people believe in capitalism but tend to gravitate to socialism, but even that journey is marred by the one simple reason smart people aren’t happy.  First, the real reason that smart people tend to enjoy capitalism while gravitating to socialism is simple:  Capitalism is the only economic system known that can provide enough money that socialism might seem plausible.  Take away capitalism, which they (the true believer socialists) always do, and you get Venezuela.

Each. And. Every. Time.

And therein lies the rub; it’s simple.  You point a smart person at a simple solution and chaos ensues because smart people can’t help but overthink simple.

And this is why smart people have a tough time with “happy”.  Being happy is simple.  Do good, be good, work hard, enjoy the little things, make some money, and have fun.  All of those things are simple.  They’re not easy, but they don’t take a lot of brainpower to accomplish.  You point a professor at something like that and they have to start looking at self-actualization and a bunch of gobbledygook to show just how smart they are… and the mess crumbles in a heap of morass.

As a shining example, let’s look at the definition of happiness:

hap·pi·ness

Dictionary result for happiness

/ˈhapēnəs/
  1. noun
    the state of being happy.

Folks, there isn’t a smart person alive that can live with a five word definition of something so complex as happiness.  And that’s exactly why happiness is so elusive.

My friends, happiness can be as simple as this:

Or you can read the smart (long, convoluted) version of what I just wrote in the Atlantic, here.