I’ve been keeping fit on a cycling trainer through Michigan’s winters ever since I took up cycling. I’ve even come to look forward, just a little bit, to trainer season. I’m not your average three rides a week cyclist – I ride at least six days a week, usually seven. By the time trainer season rolls around, I’m good and tired and looking for a month or two of easy indoor miles so I can rest up a bit. When January 1st rolls around, though, I like to get right back at it to get ready for the upcoming season.
I simply used my trainer in the hardest setting in the hardest three gears to build up my leg strength for the season. And it worked well. I rarely struggle to get into mid-season shape where others will be struggling to catch up come April.
This year, my wife loaned my trainer to my step-father-in-law who is recovering from knee surgery, so I decided it might be a good time for a new trainer. I picked up a Cyclops Magneto from the bike shop last week and set it up.
The Magneto features a first of its kind progressive resistance that increases resistance as you pedal faster/harder.
After reading about it, I was skeptical. I’ve powered through three different trainers (a Giant, a Blackburn and a no-name pos), so I was fully planning on blasting through this one down to my highest gear… After getting the flywheel up to speed, three pedal strokes later and I was out of breath. I had to shift all the way up the cassette to the gear I use on the road to maintain 22-mph before I could reach a resistance level I could sustain. I think I have
six four gears left before I gear out. Enough I’ll be able to squeeze in some legit intervals.
The amount of resistance is surprising… and excellent. This year, rather than just stay in shape, I should be able to make some substantive gains going into spring.
Folks, if you don’t want to break the bank with a smart trainer, the Cyclops Magneto is more than enough to whip all but the strongest cyclist into shape for the spring. I’m thankful to have bought mine.
The setup was simple enough and only takes a socket and ratchet (or a wrench). I had mine operable in less than fifteen minutes.
Purchase price: $216 and change (after tax – it was on sale at my local shop). List price is $249.
I always pay attention to the Farmer’s Almanac for the winter forecast. They don’t rely on computer models, as NOAA does. Observation along with old-school mathematical equations form the Farmer’s report. My uncle Larry can even determine, with a fair bit of accuracy, the amount of snow we’ll get over the winter by how high off the ground a certain wasp nests.
This year, NASA’s NOAA has predicted a milder than average winter. They won’t predict snowfall, which I find interesting. Telling.
The Farmer’s Almanac, by contrast, is saying it’s going to be a nasty, cold, snow-filled winter for us in the Northern Midwest.
I’m intrigued to see who’s right.
Guess where I’m putting my money.
My buddy, Mike, Mrs. Bgddy and I went up north a couple of weekends ago for our friend, Chuck’s birthday ride. As is par for the course, we took the pop-up camper, our bikes, and enough food to feed an army. I covered the camping in Part 1, here.
There’s a lot to factor in for the road trip, but if executed well, the cycling road trip is a fantastic way to spend a vacation, or in our case this time, just a standard weekend. Once accommodations are sorted, we have to look at the bikes and clothing for the trip.
The preparations make the trip come off without a hitch. If a bike breaks down, it can wreck a trip trying to find a shop to service it fast enough to get you back on the road. So, I always make sure the bikes are tip-top. That starts about two weeks out. I check everything over, make sure there are no creaks that need to be addressed. Shifting works properly? Especially the front derailleur – I don’t have need for a front derailleur at home, but there’s no shortage of hills up north. We need that shifting to work! Wheels, do they need to be trued? Any signs of wear with the shift and brake cables? I check everything over so that when I get to where I’m going, everything works as it should – and even then, there are things that will pop up. On this last trip, as an example, my wife kept dropping her chain when she went to shift up from the little to the big chainring so I had to adjust her shifting on the fly. It only took a quick turn of a barrel adjuster, but if I didn’t know what I was doing, it could have caused trouble.
Mike, on your left, is not properly dressed for the weather. It’s only 44° (7 C), and he’s so cold his teeth are chattering in that photo. My wife’s jersey was a little light, but she managed. Chuck was a little cool, too. I’d layered up. I had a jersey, arm warmers, leg warmers, wool socks, a cap, and a thermal long-sleeved jersey on. I was comfortable the whole ride. When it warmed up to 50, I simply took the arm warmers off and stowed them in my back pocket.
The golden rule is this: you can take it off, but you can’t put it on if you don’t have it. This is much more than just making sure I’ve got the right clothing for the weather, because some days 60° is reasonable and a cause to eschew the arm and knee warmers. Other days, it’s not reasonable at all because you’re starting out in the upper 30’s and it won’t hit 60 till well after you’re done and showered. Also, is it a damp or dry 60? That’ll play into the clothing decision as well. How about wind? This has to be factored in before we leave, because we can’t put it on if we didn’t bring it. The cycling clothing is the one thing I’ll allow myself to over-pack. It’s better to have the clothing and not need it than need it and not have it.
In my case, I’d rather be a little over-warm and have to remove a layer, than be too cold.
I start checking the forecast at my destination a full week before I leave. By the time we’re packing the SUV and camper to leave, I know exactly what I’ll need and it’s packed away – including enough clothing to handle 10-15° colder than the forecast calls for, plus rain gear. I have no desire to be perched on a bike, freezing my tukus off, when I should be having a fantastic time.
There’s no room for ego on the road trip…
My buddy, Mike, was miserable cold most of the day – and he had a vest in his hand before we left. He looked at me after I suggested he at least wear that and said, “Yeah, but are you going to carry it for me when I want to take it off?” He was kidding, of course, but when I laughed at him and said no, he stuffed the vest back in his backpack.
He was so cold that he had to warm up under a hand dryer in the bathroom during our first stop. We teased him the rest the day, and much of the rest of the trip. This is one of those times you don’t want to “be like Mike”.
The other way to handle cycling kit issues is to make sure you only go on rides when or where it’ll be warm and dry, but even then you’re relying on meteorologists. Good luck with that.
I’ve been on more than half-dozen road trips in the last two years and I’ve managed to get the most out of all of them, and it’s only because I’ve been prepared. You’re out there to have fun, not to see how creative you can be hitching a ride back to camp because you were ill-prepared.
UPDATE: My friend, the Unironedman chimed in to remind us all that nothing beats the humble gilet (or vest). I agree wholeheartedly, and if there’s one piece of clothing that automatically goes into the bag for a road trip (other than jersey’s, bibs, and socks, it’s a vest or two).
I was like so many others, overeating my way to cementing a sedentary lifestyle for myself, one meal at a time… Then came decision time. I was young, too. Just 32 years-old, my once furnace-hot metabolism had cooled and I was catching up on 200 pounds. I was a 150, dripping wet, when I sobered up. Some of that fifty pounds was needed. 150 is too skinny for a 6′ tall man, but 200 pounds is when the double-chin starts forming.
Do I get fit or fat? Running (and eventually cycling), or video games and the couch?
First, I never knew how painful a sedentary lifestyle was until I started running. People complain about muscle soreness with running, I did from time to time as well, but no amount of fitness I’ve tried hurt like a sedentary lifestyle.
I’ve run half-marathons (that was enough, thank you), ridden a hundred miles a day, for days on end, 60,000+ miles in my 40’s, and nothing hurt as bad as sitting on the couch. The second worst was getting off it. The third was continuing to choose to stay off it.
Once I got fit, though, once I learned the tricks of running, and eventually cycling, I found my own and my peace. I also found a few missing pieces to the puzzle of my recovery.
After riding with my friends yesterday, a nice, enjoyable 18-1/2-mph, 47-mile ride with my wife and my two best riding friends, I took a nap with my wife… on the couch. We woke up at 3 and went to watch my daughter, a high school junior, perform with Eastern Michigan University and several other high school bands, during and after the football game against Western Michigan.
Our seats weren’t in the nosebleeds, but they were high enough, on the 40-yard line. I took each step with ease, keeping pace with my 13-year-old daughter who weighs about as much as my legs. I wasn’t breathing heavy when we reached our seats, 28 rows up. If my heart rate was over 80 bpm, I’d be surprised.
I went up and down those stairs a few times, just as fast, throughout the game.
Our team (I went to Eastern as a much younger lad) was down, and Western looked to be in control until the momentum shifted when EMU stopped Western and scored just before halftime. Eastern was down 14-10 at the half.
My daughter, at halftime, was the a part of the middle peak of the M in E M U, right out front as the EMU marching band and the six-ish other marching bands present all belted out popular hip-hop tunes they’d learned just a couple of hours earlier. I can’t describe how cool it was to see my daughter down there on the field, at the university that asked me not to come back for my junior year, playing with the marching band that I was too much of a drunk loser to play in… If any evidence was needed that I’d done well with my recovery from addiction, I got a plateful last night.
The Eastern Michigan Eagles came out of the locker room on fire, having made some needed adjustments to their game, held the momentum from just before the half, and took it to the Western Michigan Broncos. EMU won 34 to 27 in a classic come-from-behind victory (they’d been down as much as 14-3 in the first half). Their offense was exceptional much of the game, but their defense really picked it up in the second half. There were fireworks and the ROTC lit off cannon blanks every time the Eagles scored (that was awesome).
For the post-game show, my daughter’s school was chosen to perform their entire show on the big stage. Many fans stayed to watch along with the EMU marching band. And the Swartz Creek Dragon marching band nailed it. Their best performance of the year.
27 years ago, I chose to accept my alcoholism and recover from it. 17 years ago, I chose to accept that, after I’d quit smoking, I loved food and had to get off my tukus and get fit. As it does so often nowadays, all of that awesomeness came together and I got to see why I went to all of that trouble to live a clean, healthy life in the first place.
I could easily look at what I don’t have in life. I could concentrate on where I fail, and I do every day (small failures, but failures nonetheless). I could look at where life fails me, at everything that “isn’t fair”. I could choose to ball up my recovery and flush it for a case of beer and a momentary escape (I never drank half-assed – if I’m going to give up and drink, even hypothetically, I’m gonna do it right). Better, I could have given up everything that’s been good in my life decades ago, because “I’m probably not a drunk, it was just bad luck”…
I could have taken all of my misery back and I’d never have experienced what I did last yesterday.
I choose to live the way I do because being me is awesome.
Michigan weather is a little tricky this time of year. We get a lot of rain and a lot of wind. Oh, and it typically starts to cool down. The awesome side of that coin is that all of the big rides are done, so we roadies can concentrate on other cycling passions. Dirt roads become an escape from angry, paved road traffic. On dirt roads, even pickup truck drivers pass us with several extra feet (more than a meter) to spare, with a wave (that doesn’t include an extended middle finger) and a smile.
Yesterday afternoon was a rare, perfect late-season cycling day – impossibly sunny, no wind, and a perfect autumn 55° (13 C). And Mrs. Bgddy had an appointment, so I had nothing on the schedule.
I’d worked early all week long to get out an hour and a half early Friday (funny thing about work on Friday – it rarely cares that I should be getting out before lunchtime!). I knew the weather was supposed to be nice, but what we got was simply spectacular. I’d planned on riding the gravel bike all day long, but the closer I got to quittin’ time, the more pull I felt to get back to my roots and my trusty mountain bike.
My wife gave me that bike for Valentine’s Day 2015 because it matched my Venge. Folks, that’s love for you.
By the time I’d pulled into the driveway my mind was made up. I wheeled the mountain bike out and prepped it to go. And I decided to ride old-school, like I did when I was a kid, only with better toys. Chuck was up north and I’d be riding solo, so I left my helmet hanging on the hook in the laundry room.
I rolled out and quickly warmed up. The bike was acting a little funny, but that’s to be expected as little as it’s ridden.
As I got farther from the paved roads, the scenery started popping. We’re on the front end of the autumn color fireworks display and things are just starting to look fantastic.
I ended up having one of those rides where you just wish you could get lost. I’d planned on 21 miles, but scratched that to do some exploring of a road I rarely travel.
I’d also planned on shooting for an easy average, something in the 13-14-mph range, but I was feeling too good. After seven miles my Garmin showed 16.2-mph… I chuckled and dialed it back a notch.
The farther I went, the more I wanted to stay out. I really had run into the perfect bike ride.
Alas, all good things must come to an end, even a great bike ride.
I pulled into the driveway with just over 26 miles and a 15.5-mph average.
I was smiling about that ride all night long.
I only need
525 425 (after Monday’s ride) outdoor miles to cross 6,000 for the year, vastly better than I thought I’d be able to do. I’d have been happy with anything over 5,000…
Some of my friends are stuck on the whole “outdoor” vs. “overall” miles difference. As far as I’m concerned, trainer miles count – if I ride ’em, I count ’em. Perhaps that’s because I’m a working stiff. A couple of my, ahem, “retired” friends think that’s “cheating”. Not “Eddy Merckx”, “Laurent Fignon”, “Tammy Thomas”, “Femke Van den Driessche”, or “Lance Armstrong” cheating, more or less a minor infraction.
Anyway, to keep everything straight, I managed to use different apps to track what happens outdoors separately from my overall mileage.
Whenever I’m outside riding and I save my ride on my Garmin, that kicks the workout to Garmin Connect which distributes the ride data to Strava (for outdoor miles) and Endomondo (for the overall miles) and to Ride With GPS (so I can store any routes I want to keep to follow later,for turn-by-turn). Better, when I use my Garmin as a timer for my trainer workouts, it sends a blank ride to Garmin Connect, which then sends the timed ride to Endomondo, and Strava. All I have to do is open the Endomondo workout and enter my miles. No miles get recorded on Strava, but my overall miles are preserved on Endomondo – I have both. I have no idea how I made that happen, technically, but I did.
Anyway, Let’s get to the meat and potatoes of this post. I didn’t know how my cycling life would change when I started my new job after the first of the year. I knew there was no chance of hitting 10,000 miles again and I was quite okay with that, but I wondered how the new job would impact cycling. Would I drop to 4,000? Maybe 5,000 or 6,000 overall miles? I put those thoughts away after I wrote about them the week I started. I figured I’d just go at it a day at a time and see where things shook out. Mileage was impacted, no doubt, but not terribly. Things turned out much better than I could have planned.
There once was a time I used to let my melon run riot with a lot of doom and gloom bad things that I just knew were going to happen to me – I always felt that the other shoe was about to drop. I was promised, decades ago now (almost three!), that if I just stayed sober and worked some steps on a daily basis, if I worked for it, my life would get so good that I’d think it couldn’t possibly get any better. Then, if I kept coming back, six months later I’d realized it had, all by itself. I’ve been there so many times I’ve lost count.
Now, thinking back on that day, I look back and I realized that my life has gotten so good, I enjoy it so much, that I stopped looking at life as though the other shoe was going to drop. I don’t dwell on the doom and gloom anymore. I don’t have to, because good things happen to me today.
And I don’t remember when I stopped. It was a while ago, though. Years.
Imagine that. I looked back and realized my life got even better, all by itself.
It happened again.
My wife and I bought our gravel bikes through the local bike shop. I got a fair deal on them, and we’ve ridden them hard. We may have been able to get a “better” bike, possibly with better components, for the same price from an internet based, direct sale manufacturer. However…
My wife and I believe in our local shop. In fact, we’ve purchased seven new single bikes, my used Trek, and our tandem from the same shop over the last ten years – not to mention the upgrades (oh, sweet baby Jesus in a manger, the upgrades!): Two new cranks (S-Works for my Venge, 105 for my wife’s Alias) , a handlebar for the Venge, then a paint job, seat post, crank, bottom bracket, and a headset for my 5200, dozens of tires, wheels for my wife’s road bike, fenders for the tandem…. plus all of the clothes, and tuneups, and a few mechanical issues I couldn’t sort out on my own…. a new Cyclops Magneto trainer just last night (I know I could have done slightly better online that I did at the shop but only slightly).
We also volunteer heavily, for everything we can that the shop has its hands in, plus for the annual club sponsored ride.
We’ve been good to our shop and they treat us even better.
For instance, my wife’s gravel bike seems to have had a defective wheel (it’s cracked at more than half-a-dozen spoke holes), so the shop contacted the manufacturer who promptly replaced the wheel as a warranty issue, more than a year after I bought the gravel bikes. If I bring a wheel to be trued (because I really suck at truing wheels), somebody will jump on it and have me out the door, with my wheel, in ten minutes if someone is free. On another occasion, they completely rebuilt a wheel for me in two days, right before the biggest tour of the season, so I could have my backup wheelset. Or how about that brand new trainer I just bought? The resister housing was shipped with a loose screw. I didn’t realize this when I put it together, I just knew it shouldn’t be making the noise it was making when I turned the crank. I called the shop, took it in and the mechanic had it fixed in ten minutes. I was out the door and home, round trip, in 30 minutes. Now, could I have fixed that on my own? Likely, given some time and a little bit of want to (which I would have had, rather than go through the trouble of shipping the old trainer back for a new one), but I didn’t have to bother – I had a mechanic to take care of it.
My friends, there’s a lot of good on the internet, but it can’t do that.
Support your local bike shop. You don’t have to buy everything there, but if your shop goes out of business because everyone decided they’ve gotta save a buck online, who are you going to have fix your stuff when you can’t? Good luck sending your precious steed to the internet.
Oh, and just so we’re clear; yes, the store marks up an item a little more than they do on the web, because your bike shop has a storefront it has to pay for. The internet doesn’t have to pay the same rent, or employ as many people, so your internet company likely makes more money on you than your local shop will with all things leveled out.
It’s something to chew on.
This post was inspired by my Tasmanian brother from another mother, the Tempocyclist. Visit him here.