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Monthly Archives: May 2019

Making the Most of An Awful Spring

This has been, without question, the worst spring I can remember (and this is going back 40-ish years).  March is always a craps shoot in Michigan, but usually, about midway through the month riding becomes fairly reasonable.  April tends to be wet and a little chilly, but by the end of the month we’re usually running into some pretty nice days.  May is usually quite excellent.  The rain isn’t near as frequent and tolerable temps abound… but not this year.  March sucked.  April sucked.  And May, well, I can’t even believe how ugly it’s been around here.  We’re constantly dodging rain storms and the temperature has been well below normal (by as much as 20 degrees F).

That said, considering I’m working out of town and the crappy weather, my mileage isn’t all that bad – I managed 860 miles for the month – actually, a little more after this evening’s jaunt (more on that later).

Absence made my heart grow fonder

This time last year I was already starting to show signs of over-training.  I had to be careful to get my recovery rides in or I’d have been toast.  I took 20 days off the bike last season (March through October).  This year, I took a third of those days off in May alone – mostly weather related, but work played a part, too.  The break, surprisingly, has done some good.  Most notably, Tuesday nights have been rather fantastic.  We’re turning in 21.5 to 22-mph averages with knee and arm warmers a requirement.  And rather than struggling to keep the pace, I’m quite enjoying myself.  If I had any desire to, I’d almost bet I could ride with the A Group (they’re 24 to 25-mph average).  I won’t, though.  I’d rather ride at a pace I can enjoy.  We’ll easily hit 23 once the wind dies down and the temps climb to a point we’re not fighting against the clothing we need to stay warm.

The big change has to be my enjoyment of riding, though.  Cycling has put a daily smile on my face since 2011, but this year, every time I get out seems like a treat.  I feel lucky to be able to take an hour during the week, or a few on a Saturday or Sunday, to be able to suit up and spin out some miles – almost privileged, though that’s not the best “politically correct” word for the chattering class.  Anyway, as difficult as life’s been I’m still managing to see the plus-side of life.  I’d say my perspective is good.

Anyway, I’m working on some pretty decent posts in my spare time, what little I have, so please stay tuned.  That job I’m working on is really cooking now, and we’re getting close.  I’ll be back to normal before I know it.

The 2019 Horsey Hundred: They Made Perfect, Better…

As has become our annual tradition, now, we rode the Horsey Hundred over the weekend. Quite unbelievably, the organizers took an already perfect ride weekend and made it even better.

I’m funny in that I love a good, challenging, repetitive ride. I can enjoy riding the same route a few dozen times because doing so is like watching a good movie. It takes a few times to really catch the little nuances you miss the first time or two. When I heard they’d changed the routes for the weekend, my heart sank. The normal hundred mile route was both challenging and extremely beautiful. Cut through the heart of horse country and getting into some decently challenging climbs and a couple of screaming 45+ mph descents, I had about as much fun as I thought I could have riding a bike. The routes had everything and I was certain they wouldn’t be able to best what they’d given us.

I was wrong.

This year, rather than heading toward the Kentucky Capitol Building and parts out west, followed by an east route on the second day, they flipped everything. Saturday’s hundred headed out east, while Sunday’s 50 went west (there was also a 70, 40 and 25-mile option – 40 just doesn’t seem enough and 70 works out to a longer day… 50 is just enough that you wish there were five more miles as you hit 40 miles – then you get to the last climb and you’re like, okay, that’s enough).

While the tougher climbs were out, the hundred mile route still wasn’t easy and the roads were quieter and the scenery was simply spectacular. Of course, whilst viewing scenery, it helps if you’re not screaming down the road at top speed in a pace-line… so we missed quite a bit because we ended up with a freaking horse of our own at the front of the group. Put simply, we were too fast for me to take pictures – it was both hands on the hoods.

As is always the case with the Horsey Hundred, the rest stops were plentiful and expertly staffed and stocked. They had everything one could need for a hot hundred miler. Everything from pickles to watermelon, oranges, bananas, Payday bars, sports drinks, water… everything. This year’s route had seven stops over the hundred (we skipped one or two). The Sunday 50 had four and we skipped one.

As I do every year, I am going to recommend this ride for anyone who can make it to Kentucky over our Memorial Day weekend. They have something like 26 countries and 40-ish US States represented every year – and if safety in numbers is your thing, you’ll have 2,500 like-minded friends to hang out with. It’s never so ridiculously packed that you get stuck behind slower riders, but the roads are populated enough with cyclists that we outnumber cars by… a lot. We (my friends and I) rode with a group from London, Ontario Canada this year. People come from all over, and for good reason; it’s only a long weekend, the roads are phenomenal, and it’s one of the best supported rides I’ve ever had the pleasure of taking part in.

Check it out here. Oh, and one more thing… if you come from the colder north, bring some sunscreen and be prepared; it’s HOT.

It’s just a temporary hiatus, my friends… way too busy right now.

I haven’t written a thing in quite a while. My job is taking a lot of time lately, and I’m kicking its ass. Rather than try fitting one more thing into what is effectively a three-hour day, I’ve opted to concentrate on that which is absolutely necessary. I dropped from six hours a day.

My friends, halving my expendable time has been really tough on my family, so it’s absolutely imperative that I spend every last minute I can with them. I’ve chosen them over constant gratification of likes, well wishes and awesome comments.

While I do apologize for that choice, I have no doubt it’s the right one. I’ll be back soon… the job is starting to look like something!

Am I Happy Because I’m a True Believer, Or A True Believer Because I’m Happy? The Best Reason I Know of for an Early Recovery from Addiction.

I’ve been kicking around a tough topic to put into writing for quite some time but I figured I’d just quit stalling and muscle through it and just hope for the best.  I was pushed into this yesterday when I bumped into one of the lead architects on the project we’re working on.  We exchanged pleasantries, and he asked how I was doing in the process.  I gave my usual answer, “It’s another day in paradise”.  His response surprised me.  He replied, “I think you need to raise your bar for paradise”.

Never mind the obvious, that it’s odd for someone so high in the construction food chain to come back with “raise the bar”, but my response truly confounds people – especially when they find out I’m a true believer; this really is paradise – it’s supposed to be.  As we parted ways, I added, “Well, once you’ve been through hell and found out you don’t have to go back, you’d be surprised at what passes for “paradise”.

That’s the key to my happiness.  Well, that and a spectacular wife, but let’s not get lost in the weeds here.

The hardest part of my life – as long as I don’t pick up a drink or a drug – was lived 26 years ago.  I survived addiction, a hopeless state of mind and body.  I chose to accept the obvious and beat addiction through hard work and a desire to stop digging my own grave.  By “hard work”, I mean exactly that.  I didn’t sit back and hope for the best, I followed a plan to fix what was wrong with my character that kept me drinking.  Once that was done, all that was left was to change everything else – and then, once that was done, all I had to do was change how I perceived and reacted to the life that happened around me.  Folks, all of that takes a little practice – real recovery is dirty, messy, hard mental work and it takes decades to get really good at it.

So, looked at from that perspective, every day I wake up to yet another daily reprieve from my madness and my own personal hell.  I don’t have to live that way ever again – and what I’ve got now, when contrasted against what I had, it becomes easy to understand why I see my life as a paradise on earth; I am truly free, and that’s a beautiful way to live.

I got home from work yesterday at a few minutes to 5 and readied my Trek for a ride.  I pumped up the tires, filled a water bottle, and got dressed.  A few minutes later I was cruising down the road in the sunshine, thinking about how good it is to be me… it was a wonderful ride, working on my tan and getting some much needed Vitamin D into my system.  After pulling into the driveway with a smile on my face, I showered, ate some dinner, and fell asleep, thankful for another day on the right side of the grass.

I’ll likely do it all over again today, and it’s going to start remembering my daily reprieve from that hopeless state of mind and body.  I can have my misery back anytime, all I have to do is pick up a drink or a drug.  Choosing paradise has become easy.

In the end, the my answer is obvious; I’m happy because I’m a true believer.  God has done for me what I could never do for myself.  He relieved my of my compulsion to drink and I did the work necessary to make sure I don’t have to go back.  I truly believe, down to my baby toes, that today really is another day in paradise.  That is my choice.

Just a thought.

2019 is Turning Into the Year Of Getting Miles in Where I Can…

This year, overall, has been a little disheartening for cycling.  The weather absolutely sucks and has for most of the spring.  We’ve been ten to fifteen degrees (F) below normal since February, with only a few decent days at “average” temperatures.  Add to that, I’m working out of town enough that getting my miles in is quite difficult.

Friday, I looked at my Garmin 7 day rolling mileage total… 188 for last week.  This week I’m only down seven miles from that.  With all of the crap I’m dealt, that’s not all that bad… better than I expected, anyway.  Two weeks ago I managed 180 miles, too…  Big picture, I’m woefully behind last year.  I have no chance of catching up.  Five and a half months into the year and something like 800 miles behind last year. 10,000 miles just isn’t going to happen.  I was prepared for falling short, though.  Last year was the perfect storm of awesome, there was no chance of a repeat.

The decent side of this story has been, for the most part, the fact that the weekends have been dry.   Cold, but relatively dry, so we’ve been able to get in some decent miles on Saturday and Sunday (62 and 56 miles this past weekend).

There’s light at the end of the tunnel, though.  Today is supposed to be the last day of the radically cold weather.  We jump from 50° F (10 C) to 65 (18 C) tomorrow and it only gets better from there – we actually have the upper 70’s in sight.  We’ll still have some rain to contend with, but at least we’ll be able to put the vests, arm and leg warmers in the dresser for a bit.

Work won’t change for a couple of more months, though.  We’ll have to see how that goes.  One day at a time.  Easy does it.


Cycling and the High Capacity Water Bottles; Not Quite as Useless as Nipples on a Bull, but Close. A Funny Junior Science Experiment.

I will first cop to using the high capacity 26 oz. water bottles for years, thinking I needed them because I’m an endurance cyclist.

I am. I like the long distances and light, racy bikes. Here’s a photo of my Specialized Venge the day I brought it home in late 2013:

Big, Extra oz. H2O bottles

I swore I needed the extra capacity to keep me hydrated. One day I noticed the shorter regular water bottles were used predominantly by the faster crowd. I thought they were dupes.

Then, I bought carbon fiber bottle cages for the Venge. The hi-cap bottles rattled when I hit a bump and it drove me nuts. Eventually, I happened on a small, regular capacity water bottle that worked with the bottle cages. I still carried the big bottles around for the long rides and lived with the rattle, though.

I needed the extra hydration, right?

Look real close at that photo… that’s from last year, on the Northwest Tour with my friends, a 72 mile day.

Well, one day I’d decided to use a regular bottle after filling up a junior. I dumped the contents of the small bottle into the regular and my jaw dropped.

Folks, there was a sip’s difference. A sip.

Don’t take my word for it… try the experiment yourself.

Better, there’s only a sip’s difference between the regular and the high capacity bottle. A sip.

I never used one of those big bottles again, and I’ve never regretted it or prematurely run out of something to drink on a ride.

It’s not that they’re entirely useless, those big bottles. They rattle around in carbon fiber cages. And we can’t have that. If, after completing the experiment for yourself, you still feel you need a big ole water bottle, by all means; have at it. I’d bet you see the light I did, though.

Not All Bikes are Created Equal… Some Parts Just Won’t Work on Older Steeds

I had some lofty plans for my Trek…  My wife is sending me on a road camping trip with my boys up north for three days of cycling fun.  Because my Trek is so easy to fix, it’s geared for hills, and it’s exceptionally comfortable over long hauls, I generally leave the Specialized home for road trips (The Horsey Hundred being the exception to the rule – I ride the Trek on Northwest and DALMAC).

This year, I wanted to take the good wheels off the Venge and put them on the Trek.  Both bikes are Shimano 10 speed (Ultegra on the Venge, 105 on the 5200), so I went after it the other day.

I took the wheels off both bikes, swapped the brake pads (you never use the same brake pads for aluminum and carbon fiber wheels – if you get a flake of metal from the brake track of an aluminum rim stuck in the pad (a common occurrence) and then use that pad on a carbon wheel… oh, dear, that’s bad.

Then I took the wheels off the Venge and put the front on the Trek.  The 25mm rim width was too wide for the 1999 Ultegra rim brakes.  Everything was skinny back then.  Even with the brake cable loose, the calipers wouldn’t spread wide enough to accept the wheel… worse, when I let out air to get the wheel on, the pads, barely cleared the brake track.  In other words, unless I swapped brake calipers too, there’s just no way this was going to work.

I fitted both bikes with their original parts.

My friends, sometimes you just gotta leave well enough alone.  The Trek is definitely good enough with the alloy wheels that I don’t have to mess around with swapping wheels that won’t work anyway.  Worse, I only had about a millimeter each side of clearance at the chainstays to boot.  Had I forced it and used the good wheels on the Trek anyway, the tire could have rubbed the chainstays every time I got out of the saddle.

In this case, my older 5200 was simply made for skinnier tires and wheels.  While I would be able to partially rectify the problem with some modern brake calipers, in the end I’d still have a clearance issue – I’d need 23 mm rims in lieu of the 25’s on the Venge.

This provides a good lesson for those cyclists out there who don’t quite pay too much attention to all of the little details; not all bikes are created equal.  Retrofitting an older steed with newer parts is fraught with issues that are often difficult to grasp or anticipate.

If you’re going to keep from damaging your old bike, you’ve gotta be able to address any issues before you ride.  And, as in this case for me, accept that sometimes it’s best to leave well enough alone.

I’ll just have to take both bikes up north for our trip.

Fix Your Own Broken Spoke Nipple… For Less than a Buck. And in Fifteen Minutes

I always relied on my local shop to fix my wheel issues. To tell you the honest to goodness truth, I am really not good when it comes to truing a wheel. I mean it, I’m bad. I have a tendency to make wobbles worse… or move them from one part of the wheel to another.

A broken spoke nipple is a different story.

I hammered a gnarly train track the other day at about 25-mph. The force broke a spoke nipple, but I didn’t find out about it till I got home. I heard the broken end rolling around in the wheel when I rolled the bike inside.


Normally, I’d take the wheel to the shop and leave it, opting to ride the Trek till the Venge was done. I thought better of that this time, so I went and bought a spoke nipple. I gave the cashier a Dollar and got three quarters back. When performing a repair on a full carbon bicycle, when was the last time you could walk into a bike shop with a single Dollar and walk away with change?!

So here’s what’s required to fix that nipple…

  1. Let the air out of the tube and remove the tire and tube.
  2. Peel up the rim tape with a dull, flat object that won’t scratch the wheel (I used the dull end of a butter knife). Flip the rim tape over the clincher rail just far enough so it stays put at the spoke nipple access hole.
  3. Hold the wheel up in the air, so the spoke nipple access hole is “down”, and shake until the broken nipple end falls out.
  4. Unscrew the broken nipple end on the spoke.
  5. Now, this takes some ingenuity; how do you get the new spoke nipple into the access hole so you can thread it into the spoke?! Take a small Allen wrench, a 1 or 1.5 mm will do nicely, and put a wrap of electricians tape about an inch down from the end of the wrench/key.  Set the spoke nipple on the Allen wrench. Now you can install the spoke nipple into the access hole and turn the wheel so gravity holds the new nipple in place.
  6. Take a flat edge screw driver and hold the new nipple in place.
  7. Thread the spoke end into the new nipple and tighten until you can strike that spoke and the spoke next to it with the screwdriver and they both make the same pitched sound (the exception being rear wheels – the cassette side spokes are a lighter tension than the outside spokes, so they’ll make a different sound when struck – in this case, strike a like sided spoke).
  8. Check the wheel’s true. You know the one spoke to adjust, so if there’s a wobble, tighten or loosen that spoke till the wobble is gone.
  9. Slide the rim tape back in place, install the tube and tire.
  10. Bob’s your uncle.

There’s nothing wrong with taking your wheel to the shop to have this repair done. Wheels have always been tough for me, but in this case, because the wheel was true before the spoke nipple busted, all I had to do was tighten the new one down till the wheel came back into true.

There’s nothing to fear.

Sometimes All I Have to Do is Show Up… Every Once in a While That Might Be a Bad Idea. Case in Point.

Coming home from work yesterday, I just wasn’t with it.  I had an upset stomach, it felt a lot like heartburn (and I don’t get heartburn.  Ever) and I was exhausted.  I sat on my bed with my cycling clothes next to me and all I wanted to do was sleep.  Wiped out is a better term than “exhausted”.

I figured it was stress so I set a goal of just suiting up.  Once accomplished, I set a new goal of getting out the door with my Trek.  Accomplished.

The next goal was ten miles.  Just put in ten miles and come home.  A little more than 30 minutes.  Accomplished.  Ten miles in I still had seven and a half to get home.  The new goal was 17-1/2 miles in under an hour.  Not bad for a recovery ride.  Accomplished.  58 minutes, 30 seconds.  Everything shut down and in the house, I showered up – and that’s when it hit me.  The first real wave of nausea.  Even under the hot water and after a ride just shy of room temperature, I was freezing.  Food poisoning.  Without question.

The rest of the night was a blur, in and out sleep.  I woke up at midnight after falling asleep at 7:30 and had a miserable time getting back to sleep.  I hurt all over.  Sleep consumed me eventually, though, and I didn’t wake up till just before the alarm.  The chills left sometime in the middle of the night, and I felt a lot better.  Still a little rough around the edges, but I’ll live.  It’s 3:45 am and I’m headed for the shower and my 2-hour commute in to work.  It’s going to be a hectic day and there’s no way I’ll be able to miss, so I’m going to suck it up.

If anything, it’ll be interesting.

And that’s a first, by the way – toughing out a bike ride in just an hour before full-blown food poisoning sets in.  Stupid, maybe, but it was actually a nice ride… except when I almost hurled on my top tube after two miles into a dead-east wind.  Woof.

For those who “listen to their body”, I’m pretty sure mine had a curse word or two laced into something about me being stupid.  Better than a swift kick in the butt, though.

A Perfect Ride, and the First In-ride Photos of the Year.

They don’t make many like Sunday’s weather. Impeccably sunny and a barely there wind from the west.

We rolled out in full arm and knee warmers. It was chilly (45° or 7C) but the sun was shining brilliantly so it didn’t take long to heat up. We made it a little more than 20 miles out before we stopped to shed clothing. From the moment I took my arm warmers off, I finally felt like we’d turned the corner on the winter that just wouldn’t give up.

Without question, it was the best day for a ride this year. It’s one of those days that proves all the time spent on that ridiculous trainer over the winter was worth every minute. It was one of those days you purposely try to get lost.

The ride home, with a tailwind, was enough that I had a smile stretched across my face for almost 30 miles.

We didn’t get lost, of course. It was still worth the effort.

A sweet 123 miles for the weekend.