Joe is a good millennium friend of mine – meaning we’ve kept contact through the internet, having never met face to face. I believe he has something in the post linked below. I wanted to share it with those who regularly read my blog. Please read on…
It has been a long time since I’ve penned anything on this blog. I’ve enjoyed creating and sharing my videos here to try to show just how much fun I am having living an active and healthy lifestyle. However, I’ve had something brewing on my mind that I felt could be better communicated with a […]
My wife came through again. As I was loading my car I saw a screw sticking out of the tread. Now, I happen to know the pan head was just a shade more than a half-inch long so I had hopes it hadn’t penetrated the shell of the tire. I went into the garage and grabbed my trusty cat’s claw and went outside to see if I could pull it. As I gently started to pry it loose, a hiss escaped. I tapped it back in and prepared for having to skip my ride to get my tire fixed before that screw came out on its own… Long story short, my wife let me take her vehicle to the club ride and took mine in to get it fixed on her way to pick our eldest daughter up from band camp. The ride was on.
We’d changed the location of the ride because our normal route had been chip sealed over the last week. Newly chip sealed roads are impassable in a double pace-line. It’s WAY too dangerous.
I pulled into the parking lot at 5:30. I did not like what I saw… serious fire power from the A Group and me. I knew my friends were on their way, though. I just hoped it was enough to make a decent B Group – the route we picked has some real hills on it. The parking lot, before long, was teaming with cyclists – many more than I’d assumed would show up. We ended up with a great B Group and a stacked bunch of A’s. We rolled out together but the A’s were by us and up the road after a mile.
And that’s when our ride got fun… and hard.
We had a bit of a tailwind so the pace wound up to 26-mph in a hurry and it stayed there – even up hills we were incredibly fast. Because of the hills we handle this route a little different than our normal Tuesday night – we have several regrouping points throughout the 31 mile route and we needed all of them.
We entered a secluded lake subdivision that features a long, winding loop around the lake. Plenty of up, a lot of down, and brand new pavement the whole length of the road. It was incredibly fast, but provided one of those situations that makes you glad to be a cyclist on a fantastic bike. It’s hard to describe, the emotional charge, where you’re down in the drops because it’s so fast you don’t dare peak your head out of the draft and cranking it around a winding road where you have to lean deep into the corners and look through the corner, a couple hundred feet ahead for the next change in direction… it’s just badass – and we had that in spades.
We exited the subdivision and charged out onto the main drag again with a tailwind. And then, after a few miles, we turned around and had to pay the piper. To say I was winded was an understatement, but we had a couple of horses up front who took some enormous turns, giving me the opportunity to recharge a bit. I needed it, because I knew what was coming.
We charged up the road and made a right, heading down a partially gnarly street with potholes littering otherwise decent asphalt. You had to keep your wits about you and we at the front did our level best to point out the holes to those behind us. Thinking back, I don’t remember hearing anyone hit one, so all went well. At this point, Chuck turned off for a shortcut and I announced I was going with him, but several in the group piped up, pressuring me to stay on for the main climb. Peer pressure is a bitch. Before I got too deep into the shortcut turn, I checked my six and whipped ’round to catch the draft at the back of the group.
A left turn and Denton Hill loomed in the distance. At four tenths of a mile and an 8-10% grade, I stayed with the tandem and we climbed that sucker in 2:28, averaging 237 watts up the hill. It sucked, and I was down to my last gear to spin up the steeper section but crested it we did and tore off down the back of the hill into town at 40-mph.
We hammered all the way to the parking lot, pulling in with a 20.8-mph average. I was more pleased with that than our normal 22+ average back home. Our normal route only has 480′ of elevation gain. The route yesterday more than doubled that at 1,122. We were all smoked after that ride, but it was smiles, hand shakes, and fist bumps all around as we loaded our gear into our vehicles to head for home.
I was struck, for the remainder of the night and into this morning, with how blessed I am to be able to ride like that with a group of competent friends, and to have the life I do. This is the main benefit I get from cycling. I hate to use the word, but it fits, a little bit; there’s nothing better than feeling lucky to be you, and that’s what cycling does for me.
My friends, there once was a time I thought a lightweight race saddle was going to be a relatively hard saddle that had to be put up with, rather than enjoyed, over a long haul.
I had a beautiful Selle Italia 110 gram saddle on the Trek, then on the Venge, that was close to fantastic but it was in the realm of the hard saddle that had to be put up with when the mileage bounced over 50. It was nice enough, and was a huge weight improvement over my 274 gram Specialized Romin saddle that goes on the Venge. It was an even bigger advantage over the $25 mountain bike saddle I had on the Trek, though that mountain bike saddle was comfy.
The Selle Italia started out on the Trek at the beginning of the year, then went over to the Venge when I decided I wanted to get all weight weenie to see how light I could make it. I loved it on the Trek, early in the season. It wasn’t great on the Venge, though. I just couldn’t get comfortable in it on the longer rides. As I put more miles on my butt throughout the season, I became less and less fond of the saddle on the Venge so I switched it back to the Trek. That magic I’d felt early in the season was gone. With 4,000 miles on my hind end, what was once fairly wonderful became a bit like riding on barbed wire after a metric century. The saddle had to go – I’m not paid to ride and I’m not putting up with an ultra light saddle just so I can say my Venge weighs 15-1/4 pounds instead of 15-1/2. Better, it’s the difference between 18 and 18-1/2 pounds on the Trek. Folks, 18 pounds is 18 pounds, and I need something I can be comfortable in on the long haul rides, because that’s what the Trek is for.
On a fluke I happened on a sale on the Bontrager/Trek website. They had the Montrose Pro on overstock sale, $100 off. I paid $120 for mine – a fantastic deal for a high-end saddle.
The profile is almost a perfect match to the Specialized Romin on the Venge that I absolutely love. A little less rise on the nose, but otherwise, a spot-on match.
After the storm, the clouds parted and the sun shone…
After a couple of test rides I took the saddle and my Trek up north on a road trip with two of my best cycling friends. 77 miles on day one, 67 on day two. The saddle is my new favorite. It’s a fantastic balance of bounce and padding – and my 5200 needs a little help in that regard. It’s a pretty stiff ride for a carbon fiber frame and fork.
There’s about 50 grams difference between the Montrose and that previously mentioned Selle Italia saddle, and it all went into padding in the perfect places, and no more than absolutely necessary.
I am not all that flexible (I’m no spring chicken) and I ride an aggressive setup, so having the right saddle, that allows my hips to rotate a little so I can get low enough, is a requirement. That’s exactly what the Montrose’s profile does.
I’ve always wanted the 5200 to be just a little more comfortable than my Venge so I’d ride the Trek more… and I’ve always felt that was impossible. The Specialized is fourteen years newer so the technological ride advances are huge. Not only do they make today’s bikes light and aero, with a little manipulation of the lay-up, they can make today’s frames stiff where it’s needed for power transfer, but compliant where that’s needed for ride quality. Not to mention, the Trek will only fit a 24mm tire while the Trek will easily fit a 26… more volume in the tire means a better ride.
The Trek has one thing going for it over the Venge; the Trek is just a touch more vertically compliant than my Venge. Vertically compliant means I’m not quite as low-slung on the Trek. Add the Montrose Pro to the mix, with 24mm wide tires, and what was once thought of as impossible is now a reality. My 5200 is slightly more comfortable.
The Montrose Pro is a fantastic saddle and decently light at around 160 grams. It’s an all-day saddle that, once properly set, keeps me comfortable for hours. I am perfectly pleased with it and can’t recommend it highly enough.
The ad ran locally during the TdF for our local bike shop. We did something like ten takes, up and down Denton Hill to get everything in. Considering the theme of my post yesterday, the message in the commercial fits right in.
The tale of two road bikes. One is an old, round tube reinvigorated relic on semi-aero alloy wheels.
The other, an air carving blade of a steed… Aero carbon fiber wheels, aero spokes, aero fork, aero cockpit, seat post, top tube, down tube, seat tube, seat and chainstays…
Does aero matter in terms of feel and ride, as far as a recreational cyclist goes?
The answer is simple – aero absolutely matters… unless you don’t have an aero bike. In that case, it doesn’t, because you won’t know any better. Technically. I’ve got both, I ride both, I’m just as fast on the heavier, non-aero Trek as I am on the lightweight aero-everything Specialized… with a few simple clarifications.
- It’s true, the Trek is just as fast as the Venge – the Venge is just easier to ride fast, which means the Trek requires a little more oomph to keep it rolling fast. Not a big deal on the 30-mile Tuesday Night Club Ride… a little more of a pain in the butt over a century, especially a fast one. Still, my fastest ever century was done on the Trek.
- The Specialized is a little more comfortable that the Trek. Technological advances in carbon fiber have increased the comfort in the right places while increasing the stiffness where it’s needed for speed.
- It all boils down to “want to”, after you’ve got a decent set of wheels on a bike.
- A high-end bike won’t fix low-end legs…
- Once you’ve got that lightweight, aero super bike, guess what you’re left with? No excuses.
- Speaking from experience, one will learn to accept that the excuses are gone, but it’s a bit of a let down at first. Then you realize you’re on a kick-ass state of the art bicycle version of a Ferrari and you’re like, “Meh, screw you excuses”.
When you’re looking at people racing for a living then that little bit of an aerodynamic advantage really adds up over time. If you’re simply an avid enthusiast out for a good time on two wheels, it’s really not all that necessary to be all-in-aero. Skip the skin suit (though I have it on authority they’re quite awesome, I’m pretty svelte but WAY too fat for a skin suit). Skip the time trial helmet with the magnetic sun visor. 80-mm deep-dish wheels? That’s overkill, too. 35 to 50-mm will do.
Happy as a clam on my non-aero Trek 5200
On the other hand, folks, if you just gotta have the newest, most aero steed on the market, there’s no doubt it’ll make “fast” just a little easier. That’s what aero does. Nothing more. It certainly won’t jump you from, say, the B Group to the A’s. To jump that far, it all boils down to good wheels and want to.
It’s rare enough to find one person who is crazy enough to put up with you…
Late spring of 2011, May, was a boring one for me. Fresh out of winter and early spring, running season was in full swing. I was running three days a week, usually a 5k, a 5-miler and a long run of 7 to 13 miles on the weekend. The weekend run, at a friend’s house on a lake, with a decent group of friends was fun enough, and often followed by a swim. I was bored with running.
Out on a half-marathon loop, I saw my salvation sitting in a yard as a part of a garage sale. I asked the owner to hold onto it for a few hours until I could get back with some cash… I bought a POS Huffy mountain bike at a garage sale for $20. I had the notion I’d start doing triathlons to liven things up a little bit. On a Huffy. Mountain bike. Ah, ignorance is bliss.
The following Saturday (two weeks removed from my purchase of the mountain bike), I’d worked up to a point I wanted to ride over to the running club, run, then ride home. 10-1/2 miles, 49 minutes going out, 48 coming back. Whilst at the running club, a friend looked at that Huffy and then at me. He said, “You rode that over here?!” I nodded. He let me know the bike was roughly two sizes too small and offered to sell me his back up to his back up mountain bike, a Trek 3700 for just $125.
Once I threw my leg over that top tube, my life changed forever. What a feeling! I went from bored to outrageously happy in a matter of weeks. I felt like a kid again, every time I went out for a ride. It’s been famously said that we spend the first nine months of life trying to get out of the womb, then the rest of adulthood trying to get back in there… Well, not unlike that saying, I spent the first 18 years of my life trying to be an adult, then the next 22 trying to figure out how to feel like a kid again. Cycling was my fountain of youth.
By the time July rolled around I was riding four or five days a week. I did two Olympic length tri’s that month. My average mileage per ride also increased steadily. I went from four miles a ride in May, to 12-16 miles in July (with a couple of 26-milers).
I only ran five times the whole month of August. On August 30th I took my first road bike out for a spin and it was on. That January I purchased my Trek 5200 after the owner of the local bike shop had a chuckle because the Cannondale I’d bought was two sizes too small… With that carbon fiber delight under me, running went from the back seat to hanging out in the trailer. I ran just 214 miles in all of 2012. I dropped that to 70 in ’13.
April 3, 2012 was a day that changed my whole life. Till that day, I was riding solo, almost exclusively. April 3rd was my first club ride. I was dropped before we hit mile 8, when the group surged to 28-mph. I just couldn’t hold on to the wheel in front of me. Fortunately, there were a few others who couldn’t… Matt, the owner of the local bike shop, and Phill. Matt had dropped first and Phill shortly after I did. I caught Phill rather than wait for Matt. He guided me around the route – I’d have been hopelessly lost without help. That leads me to my most important rule about riding with a club: Don’t be the first cyclist to drop if you don’t know where you’re at. Phill became one of my best cycling buds over the years. We’ve been riding together ever since.
I picked up my Venge at the end of 2013. My toys were getting more expensive… and vastly more fun.
Over the course of the next few years I flipped, from riding 98% of my rides solo to 90% of my rides with a friend or more. My wife got involved in cycling and puts in more miles than I do, now. My friends and I go on road trips together, at least three or four every year.
As I close in on 60,000 miles on two wheels since I first bought that old Huffy at a garage sale, I know happiness because I know what it’s like to truly feel like a kid, but with all of the advantages and responsibilities of being an adult.
I get the best of both worlds, and it is good. I’ll pass 60,000 miles some time next month, maybe even on DALMAC, which would be fitting indeed. Cycling, for those just looking to lose some weight, is a great hobby to get into. For those looking to turn back the hands of time a little, it’s even better.
For those few of us blessed enough to find immense joy and friendship in making cycling a part of our lives, well, life doesn’t get any better.
The Finale to Our Perfect Road Trip; Interlochen State Park to Traverse City and the Old Mission Peninsula
We rolled out yesterday morning with 68 miles in mind, a nice route into Traverse City, then on to the Old Mission Peninsula. We did skip the lighthouse as that would have added another 20 miles and we simply didn’t want to ride that far.
The ride into Traverse is exceptionally busy with traffic but with a nice, wide shoulder, we didn’t mind at all and kept an easy 20-mph pace with little vehicular interaction. Traverse City itself is very bicycle friendly with bike lanes on most major streets, though the traffic, again, is thick and you have to watch out for parked motorists opening their car doors. They haven’t yet taught the Dutch Reach in the USA.
Once on the peninsula, though, everything changes. Traffic is a little thick for the first few miles, but it thins out considerably as you work your way north… and you’ll still have those famously wide shoulders for much of the peninsula, anyway.
The scenery is nothing short of stunning.
For our day, we had perfect weather. Impossibly sunny, not too cool, but not too warm (Chuck and I started out in arm warmers, but Mike toughed it out in short sleeves) and just beautiful. Thankfully, with the previous days’ miles wearing on us a little, we didn’t push the pace at all so we had plenty of opportunities for photos and for rubbernecking.
We stopped at the Bad Dog Deli for lunch, (try the Southwestern Chicken Wrap – it’s fantastic), and finished cruised back to the park. Don’t eat too heavily, though… the climb out of Traverse is a doozy.
What a getaway.
Chuck, Mike and I cruised on one of the nicest routes I’ve ever ridden, in near perfect cycling weather, for 77 miles yesterday. We even had a tailwind for the last third of the ride. When does that ever happen?! I got to see Sleeping Bear Dunes for the first time in person… and we even had a quarter-mile 22% climb in the park (!).
We had a great chili and brisket hotdog dinner (yes, beef brisket hotdogs are amazing) and ice cream over at the Interlochen School of the Performing Arts while Peter Frampton started his farewell tour. And it was an outdoor show so we didn’t have to buy tickets to snag a listen for a few songs.
Oh! And I almost forgot the cherry rootbeer at Cherry Republic, where I had a cherry bacon burger that was simply fantastic, for lunch…
nother 65 miles today…
The best cycling weather yet this year, and I’m on a cycling road trip with two friends.
It’s going to be a little chilly, starting out in the upper 50’s (14-ish C), but after some partly cloudy hours this morning, the clouds move out and it’s a sunshine party with perfect temps in the upper 70’s (25 C) and wind speeds from calm to 4-mph (6-km/h). Seriously…
And with only one goal; get some miles in. We’ve got 75 on tap for today and a 100k or better tomorrow… Perfect.
I’m also considering talking to a priest about giving Mrs. Bgddy a shot at sainthood. There’s no doubt, she’s awesome.
More tomorrow. I’ve gotta get ready for some miles, baby!
I could make this post short. Very short. One sentence… heck, one word: Practice.
At the One Helluva Ride a couple of weeks ago, I hit a pothole so deep I think I saw a kangaroo at the bottom of it. Dead nuts’ed it, too. That happens in a pace-line from time to time if you’re not looking up the road like you should be (ahem). Amazingly, I didn’t pinch flat and I didn’t bottom out the tire on the rim, which surely would have wrecked the rim (thank you, Serfas, for the awesome prototype tires). I did, however, develop a little bit of a knock in the headset whenever I hit a decently sized bump thereafter. When I got home I took a 4mm Allen wrench, loosened the three bolts in the proper order, and tightened down the headset. It took, literally, two minutes. My Venge is just as quiet and smooth as ever. How many cyclists would either not recognize there was a problem, or take the bike in to have it looked over, taking it out of the stable for up to a week – for a two-minute solution.
Two weeks ago I developed a creak in the headset of my 5200. This one was a bit more troublesome because it’s a dreaded threaded headset. If they’re not kept clean and lubed, they creak. So I took my wrenches in hand and went to work. Sadly, I made a rookie mistake. I tried to tighten the lock nut (the top one) by pulling down from the right side of the bike, instead of standing at the front of the bike and pulling toward me from the left side of the bike. The wrench slipped and took a nice chunk of paint out of the top tube. I got the headset to quiet down but my pristine refurbished 1999 5200 had a gnarly top tube paint problem. Into the shop it went – some things are better left to the pros, like one who has a airbrush paint setup, not a novice with a can of spray paint.
I picked it up the other day, along with a glorious new Bontrager Montrose Pro saddle. At the beginning of the season I’d tried out a friend’s Selle Italia SLR minimalist carbon saddle. I thought I liked it on the Trek. Unfortunately, that was in March – way early in the season when I don’t have 4,000 miles on my tuchus. Fast-forward to July and that little hunk of carbon, as light as it was, was far from comfortable after 50 miles – and my Trek is my long-range bike. The Montrose Pro is 50 grams heavier than the svelte 110 gram Selle, but that fifty grams all goes to padding. It’s also contoured to match my aggressive bike setup and my lack of flexibility.
So, on went the saddle and figured I’d run my random orbit polisher over the repair on the top tube. While I was at it, the rear brake cable was a little ratty from collecting a year’s worth of sweat. May as well take care of that too. And come to think of it, it’s big miles season here in Michigan, so maybe some new shifting cables were in order… as long as I was doing the brake cable anyway, right?
Well, to thicken the plot, my buddy, Mike called me while I was on the way home Thursday and said we should go on a road trip up north next week for a couple of long days in the saddle. I had planned on taking my sweet time on the Trek, but now all of a sudden I only had a weekend to get it done. I love my Venge, but it’s not my climbing bike. My trek is set up for hills, and our “up north” has plenty of hills. I tackled it after work Friday. Three hours, bike polished (the whole bike, not just the repair), new helicopter tape for the cable housings, new rear brake cable, new shift cables, dialed in, and ready to ride.
I took the bike out for a 100k yesterday, and my repairs were flawless.
Now, I’m fortunate. Or blessed, or lucky, call it what you want… to have two bikes. I have a level of freedom to tinker that many don’t because if I mess something up and have to look to the local shop to fix it, I’m not taking time off to have my bike fixed. I could have easily taken the Venge up north next week. Without question, it would have been fine, even on the hills. I would have simply had to work a little harder with fewer climbing gears. Instead, I’ve got both bikes sorted out and I get to pick and choose.
My first answer to my Title is, if you want to become a decent bike mechanic as a cycling enthusiast, buy a second bike. A rain bike, if you will. A backup. Have a bike waiting in the wings, just in case, frees one up to tinker with impunity. My wife has her gravel bike that she absolutely loves. I’ve got my Trek and my gravel bike.
The second answer, the real answer, is practice. It makes perfect.
The third is patience. Have some. You will need it. The first time I tried indexing the shifting on my Trek 3700 mountain bike, I messed it up so bad I almost had to take it to the shop to have them fix my mess (don’t mess with the set screws on the derailleurs unless you REALLY know what you’re doing!). The three minute repair took three hours. Once I looked at Sheldon Brown’s detailed instructions, I had it fixed in 15 minutes.
The fourth is buy the Bike Repair app. Pay the Four Bucks, it’s worth it. Wrenching on a bike is a specialized talent. Not only do you have to know what to loosen and tighten, you also have to know the proper order of the process steps. Do the steps out of sequence and you’ll likely make your bike worse. Having all of the steps in front of you will help immensely, and speed up the process.