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Monthly Archives: February 2020

Trek Promises the Moon with the New Domane+ LT Electric Road Bike… Delivers the Other Kind of Moon.

Make no mistake, I’m a big fan of eBikes – I’ve got my eye on one myself, so I can commute to work during the late spring, summer, and fall months.  I’ve got a long ride into work, though – 38 miles one way, so I’ll need I’d want that e-assist to help keep the trip under 90 minutes each way… which means I’m going to need some high-speed help.

Trek is over-promising and under-delivering with their new Domane+ LT eBike.  This is from Trek’s product literature, from an email I received recently:

Of all the things that make rides great, it’s the company you keep that matters most—and the all-new Domane+ LT lets you keep company with anyone. (Yeah, even pros.)

That obviously piqued my interest.  I’m well above average, as are all of the people I ride with, so the idea of “keeping up with the pros” is always interesting… The bike has a max assist speed of 20-mph before the electric motor kicks off, and a beautiful bike falls from the pedestal.  That quickly.

Uh, no.  That bike won’t let an average cyclist keep company with me, and I’m far from a pro – I’m not even a part of the A Group (I’m a B Grouper).  Hell, I’m twice as old as your average pro.

Here’s an analysis of one of our Tuesday night rides – not even our fastest, just a little above average for our ride:


If you look under speed, our average speed for the ride was 22.5-mph with a max of 35.8-mph.  With the Domane+ LT eBike, a rider would have been able to beat me up two hills (out of six – we were over the 20-mph cutoff on the rest).  The whole rest of the ride, the e-assist would be useless because we were over the cutoff the whole time (with the exception of stop signs).  In other words, you’re carrying around an extra 14 pounds of bike weight to beat a 50-year-old B Grouper up two hills.

Good luck with that.  The Trek marketers are way over-promising on the Domane+ LT.  To keep up with us, not including sprints (35+ mph), you’d need the Domane + HP.  With the HP you’d almost be able to keep up with our A Group… also not professional cyclists.  But hey, 28-1/2-mph is nothing to shake a $10,000 stick at, either.

Let me be very clear, I love Trek bikes:


But the Trek marketing team needs to step away from the bong.  They’re over-promising on the Domane+ LT, though.  If you’re an E Grouper and want to keep up with the C Group, that’s the bike for you.  If you’re a C, D, or E Grouper and want to keep up with me, better go with the + HP or a Specialized Creo.

If you want to keep up with the pros?

EPO and/or HGH.

Well, Winter Isn’t Done Quite Yet – and My Trek’s Shifting is Fixed… But At What Cost?!

We got something like four or five inches of snow between Wednesday and Thursday mornings – and it’s messy. Winds with gusts up to 40-mph (that’s real damn fast in km/h) have blown snow back over the roads and with temps in the mid-to-low teens, everything slicked up instantly. The kids haven’t had school for two days. Surprisingly, though, the ride into work both mornings (and on the way home) was actually pretty good. The expressways were clear. Everything else sucked.

Wednesday, between snow storms, I called the owner of the local shop and told him about my front derailleur hanger problem. He was sympathetic and suggested I bring my 5200 in to see if they could find a solution other than “living with” the chain dropping into the bottom bracket when shifting from the big to little ring, in the two biggest cogs in the back. On one hand, I was () that close to installing a chain catcher and just calling it good… On the other, if you can fix a bike without adding weight, the solution must be explored.

Well, kinda. The fix worked – it’s just too expensive for the normal person to want to afford it, unless money isn’t really an object. The answer is to weld some stainless steel wire to the bottom of the derailleur cage and file the mounting hole down 3 mm so the derailleur fits as it should. It’s a little less than an hour’s work for an experienced welder, so you’ve gotta figure the cost at around $120 when you include the shop mechanic’s time, maybe more in a big market. You’ve gotta ask yourself if you really want to blow that kind of money to avoid 45 grams on a $12 – $30 chain catcher you can install yourself in 15 minutes.

However, if you’re good riding buds with your local shop owner, who happens to be an expert frame-builder and brazer, and you do a veritable $#!+-ton of volunteering for the club… well, perhaps you can save a buck or two and the solution becomes worth it. Because the welding fix works.


I was back on my Trek on the trainer last night, cranking out the imaginary miles and all was well. I’m a lot happier on the Trek than my gravel bike. There’s nothing wrong with the Diverge, of course, the 5200 is simply a better all-around ride. Besides, it’s my bike-baby. And spending a ridiculous amount of money on your bike-baby – well, it’s just the right thing to do.

trek 5200_bikebaby8343799961928518319..jpg

…You would ride, too if one happened to you.

Fenton High School to Brighton 64 Mile Loop

Starting new routes on Cycling Michigan for the Southeastern Lower Peninsula. The new blog is shaping up.  Now, rather than simply add posts in a scrolling front page, which would be useless to someone looking to find a route near them, I’ve got enough posts that I’ve started publishing pages based on the region the ride is located (so far, Northwest Lower Peninsula and Southeast Lower Peninsula).  I’m really excited for how this is going to shake out over the next year or so.

Cycling Michigan

First of all, Fenton High School is a fantastic place to meet for a ride for parking alone.  That said, the first few miles of roads on this one are pretty rough.  Remember, this is Michigan, and the nicer neighborhoods aren’t immune.  Now, any time you get into the true southeast of Michigan, you’re going to have to worry about traffic.  We typically like this route for early in the day, either Saturday or Sunday.

You’ll find yourself on as many back, country paved roads as we could find as you wind your way down to Brighton where you can stop at the Great Harvest Bread Company for a treat and a soda or cup of coffee (our favorite place to stop) or Jack’s Custard and Cakes.  If you’re looking for an actual lunch, try the El Arbol Taqueria (I know the owner) or Ginopolis Bar-BQ & Smokehouse or Brighton…

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A Day in the Life of a Recovering Alcoholic/Cycling Enthusiast

Choosing recovery, continuous, active and arduous, has been, without question, the best thing that I’ve ever done for myself.  Without recovery, none of the good things I experience in life would have been possible.  No wife, no kids, no life, no house, cars, camper… bikes (!), you get the idea.  The second best choice would be marrying my wife, followed by having kids.  Choosing to start running was a really good idea, but mostly because it led to cycling…

So, not surprisingly high on the list is buying my first bike.

Any given day, I’m reminded, in one way or another, how lucky I am to be me.  Whether it’s reading a post that reminds me that I was saved from a wretched life or simply that I’m not dead (I was given till I turned 30 if I kept drinking, I turn 50 this year).  I get to think about how glad I am to be married to (and happy with) my wife.  I look at my kids and think about how we chose to bring them into the world, and how they’re turning out to be great people.  The blessings are numerous, and big.

Then there’s cycling.  There isn’t a day that goes by I’m not fondly remembering a road trip with friends, a trip with my wife and friends, or just a ride with someone.  I think about all of the scenery, all of the hills climbed, the speed, the carbon fiber, the joy of turning my feet around to get from one place to another, in search of the next place to have lunch or a snack.  I think about the laughs shared on a ride, before, during and after meals, and I can’t help but marvel at how good it is to be me.

Friends, I could have all the money in the world and it wouldn’t be worth giving up what I’ve got today.

And that’s as good as it gets.

Ride hard, my friends.

Every Day Is Leg Day: Pt 627

A Most Enjoyable Journey in Shifting Perfection: The Front Derailleur Mount for a Trek 5500/5200 and a 50 Tooth Chain Ring… Enough to Make You Madder than Bernie Sanders at a Free Market Over-performance Banquet

There are few things more frustrating in life than taking a once stellar road racing bike, trying to update it with modern parts, only to find that one stupid part that isn’t made anymore gums up an otherwise perfect project.  Enter the humble, bumble front derailleur mount…

If you’ve got a Trek 5200 (or a 5500 or a bunch of other brands, too, this isn’t just a Trek problem) and you’ve tried to switch from a 52 or 53 tooth chainring to a 50 tooth, you may have run into trouble in paradise: you can’t find a front derailleur mount that’ll allow the derailleur bolt to slide down far enough to hit the optimum height for the derailleur cage above the big ring teeth (about 2 millimeters).  If you look at mine, that’s about 5 mm.  That was an initial setup, though, I’m down to about 4 mm currently and that’s as low as I can go without taking a file to the derailleur mount hole.


My 5200 is a 1999 5200 T.  “T” for triple.  I swapped out the 52/42/30 triple for a 50/34 double drivetrain.  I had some trouble with the chain dropping into the bottom bracket until recently, and that’s likely why you’ve landed here – because they don’t make a front derailleur hanger bracket for this.  Don’t fret – it’s almost fixable without messing with the derailleur mount (though taking a file the hole is an option if you’re CAREFUL).  First things first, lower the derailleur all the way down on the mount.  Once you’re as low as you can go, line the cage up so it’s running on exactly the same line as the big chainring.  Next, you’re going to have to get the front derailleur dialed in perfectly with the set screws.

I’m running a 2013 10-speed Shimano 105 system on my 1999 Trek and it works fine, after some tinkering, but there’s a trick…


Now, before we get into this, we all know you never touch the set screws.  Because it’s never the set screws unless you change cranks or the derailleur (I did both, and even though I knew it was going to come down the the set screws, you MUST investigate everything else first – because it’s never the set screws).  I started with the barrel adjuster first.  Nope, still dropped into the bottom bracket – almost, but in the biggest cog, and 50% of the time in the second (on the cassette), it’d drop.  Then the derailleur cage.  Alignment was good and I was at the lowest setting on the bolt-on bracket.  Now we move on to the set screws – and certain death.  Once you mess with the set screws, unless you know EXACTLY what you’re doing, you’re… um… screwed…

I held my breath…

Don’t worry, I knew exactly what I was doing.  You want the chain to be in the baby ring up front and the big cog in the back and set your derailleur cage with the low set screw so the cage is less than 1 mm from the chain.  Normal suggestion is 1 mm… you’re going to take it till the chain rubs the derailleur cage and back it off the chain ever so slightly.

These are directly from Shimano’s 105, Ultegra and Dura Ace front derailleur manual (for my 10 speed setups):

On that second diagram, we’re going to overlook the fact we have 4-5 mm gap between the teeth and derailleur cage and just make sure we’ve got the inside (closest to the bike) of the cage just barely off the chain so it doesn’t rub when the pedals go ’round.  Also, you’ll want to make sure your chain is within tolerance and your chainrings and cassette aren’t worn out, all of which contribute to poor shifting.

Here’s the trick, though:  This isn’t perfect.  You can’t shift to the little ring from the big ring from the biggest (easiest) cog on the back.  You can’t do it.  The chain will drop.  EVERY time.  Even the second cog is a little risky – but will work just fine if you shift properly, taking a little pressure off the pedals when shifting.  The third cog or any cog thereafter?  Perfection.

Now, some will say if it can’t operate perfectly, it ain’t right, so something else must be done.  I respect that.  I’m just not going to live by it.  Shifting to the little ring from all but the biggest cog in the back is just fine with me.  I only use that gear twice a year anyway – and if I can’t anticipate a gear change better than that, I’ve got bigger problems than dropping the chain into the bottom bracket.

Fun While It Lasted; Back On the Trainer for the Near Future…

I probably could have ridden outside when I got home yesterday.  Hell, probably should have.  It was spitting when I got home, but so lightly I’d hardly have noticed, and it was in the mid-40’s (7 C), too.  I know…

Still, I’ve had this interesting problem with my Trek, when I’m in the big ring up front and the two biggest in the back, if I shift to the little ring, it’ll drop the chain into the bottom bracket.  Third gear down on the cassette?  It shifts like a dream.  It’s rare enough I’ve only ever dropped the chain once on the road, but still, I wanted to figure it out.  And it could have rained (the WC forecast said 20% chance – in Michigan 20% = 85%).  There was a big storm blowing in (we’re supposed to get 6″ of snow over the next two days).

I decided to tinker.  I’d ridden outside Saturday and Sunday, I needed an easy spin inside and I didn’t want to get wet.

So tinker I did, and had everything operating as it should in about 25 minutes or so – the fix is for another post – it’s interesting to me, anyway.

I suited up, popped in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, punched the button on the Bose 5.1 Surround system, turned it up to “shake the rafters” and went to work.  With Mrs. Bgddy and the girls off running errands, I wasn’t bugging anybody but the neighbors 300′ in either direction from my house… Heh.  Now, the plan was to be taking it easy – that was my plan – but riding outside over the weekend showed me I should be working harder on the trainer.  I’m being finicky here, but I want to be just a little stronger going into spring.  I shifted up to a harder gear.  I figured I’d do a 30 minute hard workout and call it good.  When I got to 30 minutes, I kept going.  I was hurting a little bit, but this fat ass isn’t going to work itself off, so I figured better to get a full workout in.

My wife has been getting into the steak chili lately and she’s gotten very good at it – better than a the local high-end restaurants who serve it – and that’s what was for dinner.  I scarfed mine down and finished the movie on the couch.  I drifted off some time after the movie ended and I flipped to a cable station.  My Trek shifting like a dream, workout complete, fantastic dinner had… I think I fell asleep with a smile on my face.

Thank You, Sweet Baby Jesus in a Manger for the Beautiful Weekend – First Skinny Tire Hammer of the New Year

Saturday’s ride was a little chilly but amazingly sunny. It was a small group, too. My wife rode, as did Chuck, John and Doc Mike… and Mike kicked our ass. We encountered quite a bit of ice on the dirt roads, so we decided to get onto some pavement for safety’s sake. My wife split with us and headed for home… We had a 14-mph average. Just a couple of miles onto the pavement and dead into the wind, Mike ended his turn up front at 18.6-mph and I went ’round him to hit a wall of wind. I immediately dropped it back to 17.6 and on my way up a hill was () that close to hyperventilating… and here comes Mike, “good job, Jim” and picks the pace up again. I don’t know how I held Chuck’s wheel, but I did. We turned north, with the wind at our back and kept the power up and the pace quickened.  I actually picked up a 2nd Best time on a segment… on my 24 pound freaking gravel bike.  At the end of that glorious sprint north, Mike split off and headed home.  I was next bike and I held our pace for a mile.  Chuck and I ended up with a nice 17-mph average over something like 21 miles.  Man, did I blow some plaque loose on that one!

Sunday was the real deal, though.  Mild temps, 35° at the start (2 C), and perfectly sunny, not a cloud in the sky. It looked like we were going to have a pretty small crew five minutes till the ride time, then a bunch showed up all at once.  I’d set my wife up on her gravel bike with the tires pumped to the max, thinking changing positions to her Alias wouldn’t be a good idea – besides, it was supposed to be an easy-ish ride anyway…  Well, that was a bad idea.  I should have prepped her good bike – I had my Trek, after all.  We dropped the first rider in the first mile – I was chasing my wife down who get a jump on the group.  Diane dropped to ride with Brad, which left Doc Mike, McMike, my wife, Phill and me.  Greg joined us for two miles, then Doc split with him to get some speed work in before a race he’s got coming up.  Six miles later Phill and my wife split off for home to escape the thought of an upped pace from McMike and me.

And we were down to two.  McMike and me.  Even though McMike is 72, being on a ride alone with him is still cause for concern.  He’s a national caliber athlete and he can absolutely smoke the likes of me, 22 years his junior.  Our pace, into the stiff wind, jumped from 15-16-mph to 18-1/2, immediately.  We held that all the way into town where we stopped at a favorite gas station of ours before heading back out to mostly tail and cross-tailwind.  It was warming up in a hurry, too.  I went from comfortable to sweating… the neck gaiter came down and a smile stretched across my face.  It’d been since November we had a day like this, and it was glorious.  We dropped the hammer.  We didn’t drop below 20-mph but for a stop sign or a few seconds all the way home – 17 miles.  With the tailwind, even with all our winter garb on, we were up to 25-mph (and that was my turn up front).  We managed 22 on the final three miles home with a cross-tailwind.  I held Mike’s wheel the whole time (though I struggled a few) and did my even share up front, which was cause for jubilation on my part.  We had a 15-mph average when we split with my wife and Phill.  We pulled into my driveway at 18.6.  This early in the year, I couldn’t be happier with a ride than that.

The whole rest of the day I held a smile on my face.  I felt a love for my wife that I’d have a tough time describing, and I did my best to share it with her.  We had some lunch with our eldest daughter and took a nap together.  We went to the cycling club’s board meeting, then had dinner and went bowling (league night).   My wife is subbing for another team, so we spent all night flirting with each other across a few lanes… I proceeded to roll a 643 actual.  Not bad for a 175 average fella.  We took five of seven points from a formidable team we’d have been happy to split 3/4 or 4/3.

It was as perfect a February Sunday as I can ever remember.  I slept like a baby last night.  I needed it.  Bad.

A Photographical How To; Setting Up a Fantastic Road Bike

There are a few things you need to know up front if you’re going to set up a fantastic road bike.  First, anyone can by a $12,000 bike off the shelf and have it look pretty freaking awesome.  Sadly, it’ll lack panache – it’ll look exactly like every one of its siblings.  It takes some stones to buy a bike and transform it into a work of functioning, lightweight, carbon fiber and alloy art.  It’s the latter we’ll be playing with.

First things first.  Your bike, if you want to make it look spectacular, if you’re fairly svelte and flexible, should be ordered a size below your ideal size frame (consult someone at your local bike shop to confirm, so you don’t make a costly error).  There’s a chance you’ll have some toe overlap on your front wheel, but you’ll learn to deal with it… or you’ll crash.  Hard.  Your bike will also come with a bunch of spacers below your stem.  You will, eventually or sooner, learn they’re unnecessary.  Preferable is one 5mm spacer below the stem and one above.  This should be tested before one has the stem cut, first.  Simply switch the spacers from under the stem to atop the stem until you’re sure you can ride comfortably in that position.  If you can’t, add one spacer at a time under the stem till it’s comfortable.  Then, take the bike to the shop and have them trim the fork for you.  Next, for a fantastic road bike, you’re going to want need 38 or 50 mm carbon fiber wheels.  You won’t believe how much easier it is to maintain speeds that will baffle you with alloy wheels.  Finally, look into matching accessories like bottle cages, brakes, and in the example below, pedals.  Be careful not to go too far, though.  Gaudy happens real fast.

specialized venge_14794811148563167444..jpg

A Punisher decal, somewhere on the bike, is absolutely necessary – if not to let others know what’s up, at the very least you’ll want one on your top tube to remind you that you’re a badass.

The aero handlebar is pretty important as style watts go.  Do they make a noticeable difference in terms of pushing through the wind?  Well, yes, but nothing you couldn’t fix with a little extra “want to”, either.  A big plus is a Garmin Edge 520 Plus or better on a flush out front mount; no wires, no transmitters attached to your fork with zip ties, no magnets on your wheels.

You’ll want a carbon fiber crankset to drop weight.  They’re expensive, but worth the money.  My S-Works crank has been flawless since it was installed years ago.

For tires, you’ll want a minimum of 25 mm wide.  I’m rolling some Serfas prototype tires right now, but if I switch back to Specialized tires, I’ll put on some Turbo Pro 26’s on my 38 mm carbon fiber wheels.  I haven’t decided yet – those Serfas tires are freaking fantastic – they wear great.  We’ll see.

The rest is pretty basic:

My “aero” Venge, at six-years-old, is already getting to the obsolete side but it’s still a smashing bike.  Studies show, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that “aero” is more important than a bike’s weight and a rider’s weight is more important than both – because there’s nothing less “aero” than a gut and a big ass.  A big ass can be ridden on, but a big gut gets in the way of riding in an aerodynamic fashion.  The brake pad alignment is mildly important for stopping, but mainly having them aligned makes the bike look better.  Other than that, the last thing to look at will be the chainrings.  Suit yours to the way you ride and the terrain you’ll ride on.  52/36 is nice, but I’m partial to the 50/34 compact for when I’m climbing hills.

Look, if you don’t know any better, your chainring sizes won’t matter… Sooner or later, you’re going to run into a problem; either you struggle climbing a big-ass hill, or you’re going to have a tough time with gear gaps.  I’ve written extensively about the gear gap problems inherent with a 52/36 chainring combo when paired with an 11-28 tooth cassette (or anything bigger for that matter).

The problem is the jump in “teeth” in the lower (easier) gears.  Each “tooth” on the cassette represents 5 rpm in your cadence.  Well, in a 10 and 11 speed 11-28 cassette, you’ve got a three and a four tooth jump in the last three gears and that three tooth jump just happens to be from 18-1/2 to 22-mph, so you spend a lot of time feeling like you’re in the wrong gear unless you’re at 18-mph or above 22-mph – a horrible place for a cadence hole.  So unless you’re Speedy Gonzalez incarnate, you go with an 11-25 (Shimano) or an 11-26 (SRAM)… but that puts a crunch on climbing – that last 28 tooth gear is really nice when you’ve got a 36 tooth baby chainring.

Or you go with a compact 50/34 chainring combo which lowers the speed of the gap to a more reasonable 12 to 16-mph with the 11-28… then you can have everything, though you miss a couple of mph on the top end.

In terms of what’s important in life, the difference between a 52/36 and a 50/34 is pretty small and I muddled through just fine with the pro compact for years before discovering the benefits of the 50/34 standard compact chainset.  Sure, I had a bit of a tougher time climbing hills and I’m infinitely grateful for that 34 – 28 last gear, but I did just fine without it.

The keys to having your fantastic bike are as follows:

  • Keep it clean, always
  • Take your time and do it right
  • Don’t try to push bad accessories
  • Don’t overdo the colors or mix-match off colors
  • It’s not worth having a fantastic bike if you don’t ride it

Why the Stigma Around Alcoholics and Addicts, IF It Exists, Doesn’t Even Matter.

I’ve written a few posts about the “stigma” some believe is associated with alcoholics and addicts.  Let’s just say I’m not a fan and leave it at that… and there’s one simple reason; I was never a victim in my abusing days.  I have no room for that self-centered mess, but there’s more.

Friends, I earned my stigma and if you’re of the variety who over-indulged in booze or drugs, chances are you earned yours too.  I’ve never seen one of us quit drugs or alcohol on a winning streak, so a lot of collateral damage around us is normal.  Really, if I look at this a little closer, I earned the pre-recovery stigma that said I was not a good human being.  At the same time, I also earned the post recovery stigma stereotype, because of which I became a sought after commodity; recovering people make excellent employees (and employers) because we, if we’re doing it right, try to live a moral, good life.  We also show up for work on Super Bowl Monday.  Sans hangover.

Let’s take a look at what’s really important for a minute, though, if we truly want to be free of our addiction.  We have to embrace the simple idea, “what someone else thinks of me is none of my business”.

Let’s break that down a bit. This reality isn’t a license to be a piece of shit, lest we suffer the stigma of being a piece of shit. It’s not a license to be a drag on society. It is a license to self-assess, to work on keeping my side of the street clean (which means to look at my part in everything I do and correct what I’ve done wrong, not worrying about the other(s) in that equation, and to do the best I can to be the best me possible. Sober.  Clean.

If I do that, someone else’s opinion of me, especially if based on ignorance, is none of my business.

What happens to that stigma then?


Now, if you absolutely, positively have to wear a stigma so you can fight something, anything, know that it’s perfectly okay.  Just know it’s mostly in your head (you’re projecting how you think society thinks of you onto society), and I’m not going to wear that with you, because I know why  one must fight “the stigma”.  It’s ego, and mine is back in the cage with my addiction.  In other words, to use a buzz phrase from two years ago, stigma abhors a vacuum.  Create the vacuum.

I keep my side of the street clean a stigma is none if my business. And for that I am grateful.