My little brother is a teaching professional tennis player in Georgia, USA. He’s also a firefighter and paramedic, because being a tennis pro is great but a little less than fulfilling for a grown man with three kids and a grandbaby. Anyway, through tennis, he has considerable contacts for apparel and shoes. He had me for Christmas this year and all I asked for was a red and black cycling cap but he sent along a pair of Swiftwick socks along with a bad@$$ Castelli cap.
Folks, I’ve got the best in wool sockwear and Swiftwick socks are, amazingly, better. They quickly became my favorite go-to socks for cycling and everyday use. They’ve got men’s and women’s cycling covered, though their cycling socks don’t appear to be any different than their everyday use socks. They’ve got most other sports covered as well with everything from zero to seven inches at the ankle (for the long sock people). I’m partial to the four but the five and seven have their uses.
Anyway, especially if you live in a cooler climate, check out Swiftwick. They aren’t cheap, but they feel spectacular on your feet. I couldn’t possibly be happier with mine.
I was more nervous than a long-tailed cat in a roomful of knitting grannies on rocking chairs when our governor decided to shut construction down. I wasn’t worried about work, we’ve got Millions on the books for when we go back. I’m going to be busier than a one-legged pirate in an ass-kicking contest. I was worried about how my home life would go. There were so many variables! Meetings, money, family dynamics, my daughter’s boyfriend… but my biggest fear centered on how my wife and I would do in the same house with little to no break from each other.
The meetings, I’d work that out. My recovery has always been (and as long as I intend on staying sober, will always be) the most important thing in my life. Without recovery, I have nothing. I’ll give up everything good in my life for a bottle. Without fanfare or fail.
I’ve done what I needed to do, including riding my bicycle to my sponsor’s house and/or shop, fourteen miles from my house, just to sit out in the driveway to talk with him for a bit about how things are going. I’ve done a few zoom meetings and, while they’re better than nothing, they leave a lot to be desired for me. I’ve also attended a couple of bandit AA meetings, but I won’t make much of that in writing. File that under, “Motherf***er, don’t tell me I can’t go to a meeting for my sobriety. Some shit is just too important.”
The money was easy; we had enough to ride this out in savings as long as we didn’t spend frivolously. We were in much better shape than many, through diligence and not being too stupid. We received a stimulus check from the feds a couple of weeks ago and that helped bridge any gaps, then unemployment kicked in and now we’re doing very well. I’ve maintained contact with the president of the company I work for and he’s ready to roll as soon as COVID restrictions are lifted. I should also add, for posterity’s sake, that we chose the path that would bring in the least government money. Not the most, the least. I canceled two other options that would have had us swimming in cash.
The kids would take a little effort, but they’ve been great and we’ve managed to come up with an enjoyable routine. They’re doing online school now, so we don’t see much of them until they’re done. We eat dinner together, almost daily, then we clean up and play games together until it’s time for bed. Not much in the way of television, either, though I watch more than my fair share of movies (I have a ridiculously large collection).
My main worry was with my wife. I’m a very good man, but I’m a handful. When I have an office to go to, we get a break from each other. We have the whole, “absence makes the heart grow fonder” thing, even if it’s only while I’m at work. I was worried she’d grow tired of my presence around the house pretty quickly.
And I wasn’t wrong.
What I hadn’t seen coming, though, is we worked it out and our ability to work through the issues and come to a place where we’re both happy surprised me. In the end, my worry was unfounded and this mess has had a tremendously positive effect on our family unity.
Then there’s the cycling. Oh, happy days, the cycling. My March wasn’t my best, but the weather for the month absolutely sucked. It was cold and nasty most of the month and I still managed to squeeze 728 miles into it. April was the big deal. The weather wasn’t much better but I was able to get out most of the days and only put in five days on the indoor trainer. I took two days off during the month and the other 21 days were spent out on the road where I was able to average better than a whopping 45 miles a day. Put all of that together, (and two more rest days for today and tomorrow – rain, lots of it) and I’m sitting on 1,046 miles for the month. 951 outdoor, 95 indoor, though I still may ride the trainer tomorrow, to get my legs spun up for the weekend. Many of those miles were spent riding with my wife, which made it all the better. If that wasn’t good enough, and it is, I’m down more than ten pounds since April Fool’s Day.
Friends, it doesn’t have to get any better than that. This is so far beyond good times and noodle salad, I can hardly quantify it. The main axiom in recovery was ever thus; trust God, clean house, and help others. When I do that, good things happen.
And so they have.
Saturday’s ride was going to be interesting. I had a feeling my wife was a little crispy from Friday’s ride so I had to choose between easy:
Or comfortable and a little harder…
I chose a little harder, but more comfortable. Anyone who tells you an aero bike with aero wheels isn’t any better than an old round tube bike with a good set of alloy wheels, well, they’ve never spent any time in the saddle of the aero bike. The difference can be made up for with “want to”, but it takes a lot of it.
We rolled out and had a glorious ride on a fantastic day to be outside. We held an 18.5 mph average for 26 miles but my wife was cooked after that effort and we still had almost 14 miles to make it home. We stopped three times after passing 26 miles, but she held on like a trooper. We finished with a 17.7 average.
And then, going through my Strava feed, a friend who happens to be a beast on a bicycle, we call him the Watt King, commented on another friend’s ride about seeing him on the road and chasing him down though he was really struggling at that point. Once he sees someone up the road, he simply must chase the cyclist down. Seriously, Watt King.
He went on to comment about his inability to turn off that drive to chase another cyclist. Chase mode. I can relate, though nobody will ever call me Watt King. I’m more like Baron von Watt… of Flint. Michigan. Anyway… I added,
I’m the same way. Drives [my wife] nuts when I get into chase mode. I’m no greyhound, more like an English bulldog, but whatever. Chuckle.
For those not in the know (I wasn’t, I had to look it up), the Baron is at the bottom end of the hierarchical food chain. Thus, the English bulldog; determined, yes, but chubby and with short legs that limit the speed capabilities of said pooch.
Later, I went and played tennis with my daughters. Two months, I’ll be 50… and I can still hang. COVIDcation just keeps getting better. Oh, I could participate in all of the angst and scariness but there’s more than enough to go around. In the end, there’s nothing I can do about any of it except enjoy the day I’ve been given.
So I do. I love my recovered life.
After my post yesterday, amidst my revelation that, through a technicality, I’m now being paid to ride my bicycles, I’ve decided I’m a professional cyclist. As well as an author. Albeit not very good at either, but let’s not get lost in the woods, eh?
So anyway, Specialized and/or Trek…. I’m up for a free bike or two. Also kit. Lots of kit. Chuckle. Thanks in advance, but I won’t be holding my breath!
Professional Cyclist, baby!
Has a nice ring to it… at least till I go back to my day job.
I am a big fan of Outdoor Magazine… well, check that, most of Outdoor Magazine. Eben Weiss is a cranky wanker who writes about cycling in such a manner, I can’t even read his articles anymore. Anything with his mug under the Title, I just close it and move along.
That out of the way, I recently read a great article that listed their Greatest Running Tips of All Time – from 40 years of writing about running.
That got me reminiscing about my running days a little bit. Fondly, even. And thus, my single best running tip of all time…
Buy one of these:
No, I’m not trying to emulate Eben. I’m entirely serious. Buy a bike and ride it. A lot. If you’re a trail runner, buy a gravel bike. If you’re a road racer, buy a road bike.
Now, I’ll share why.
First, a bicycle will help one fix their running cadence, especially for slow runners. Your turn-over should be just as fast running as it is on a bike. Most runners in the 8 minute+ per mile range are half that. On a bicycle, you want your cadence to be in the 90-rpm range, ideally, perhaps a little lower but certainly not below 75. In both sports, a higher cadence is more efficient (to a point, of course). Cycling helped me get the feeling for a proper cadence. In a few months (May to July, I went from an 8 minute mile to 7. And, by fast runner standards, I was on the chubby side (170 pounds, 6′ tall).
Second, a bicycle is an excellent cross-training tool. Especially for those “active recovery” days. Just watch your pace on the bike. You actually want it to be active, yes, but more important is the “recovery” part.
Third, and this is the best part; a bicycle is an amazing recovery tool for after your run. While training for triathlons, I’d ride down to where the running club met, run with the club, then ride home. It was ten miles to get there, then I rode the long way home, another 18. Instead of being sore the next day, I found myself up and at ’em and lively. My recovery time, especially after long, hard runs, was cut from days to hours.
So there you have it, my single best running tip; buy a bike. There’s only one problem: you might just realize, as I did, that the swim and the run were messing up a perfectly good bike ride. It wasn’t long before I ditched the running shoes for cycling exclusively.
COVIDcation took a turn for the good today!
Something struck my funny bone as I was cruising home at 23-mph with a fantastic tailwind. The sun was shining, I’d taken the arm warmers off miles earlier… I was having a great time.
It occurred to me, being on unemployment, with a job to go back to as soon as our governor lifts restrictions on construction… Our governor is literally paying me to ride my bike!
I finally found someone
dumb crazy awesome enough to pay me to ride my bike!
I’m livin’ the dream, baby! WOOOO!
iSSi Road Carbon Pedal Review; A Lot of Good, Mitigated By Some Not So Good That Can Be Worked Around
I recently picked up a set of iSSi pedals because my Look Keo Classics were shot. I wanted red pedals because they look fantastic on my Specialized but Look discontinued theirs years ago. The price was right on the iSSi’s, too.
First, I’d like to take a minute to gush about iSSi’s cleats. They’ve got a split design so you can replace half of the cleat at a time, ensuring exact spacial replacement of the cleat every time. You literally can’t mess up replacing the cleat. This innovation is a game changer and I’ll never by Look’s cleats again. Moving along…
I was stoked to take my Venge out the other morning with the brand new, impressively sharp Especially Red iSSi carbon road pedals. I aired up the tires, and wheeled the Specialized steed out the door. I clipped in to take a small test loop before my wife waltzed out the door… and the inside of my foot hit the crank arm on the first half-stroke. I hadn’t even clipped in my left foot yet. I stopped and removed my toe cover… still rubbed, but just barely. I ended up switching to the Look’s from my rain bike for the ride, figuring I’d have to take the iSSi’s back.
Later that day, after my ride and I was cleaned up, rather than take the pedals back because the spindles are too short, I adjusted my cleats inboard as far as I could – three millimeters (making sure to keep the same alignment[!]). This gave me the clearance I needed. The 55-mm spindle black pedals would fix this but I didn’t know about all of that before I purchased the red pedals I wanted in the first place.
I also had to adjust the tension spring to release the cleats a little easier, but once that simple step was done, the pedals are butter. At 266 grams, they’re light – only 10 grams heavier than the competition, and two-thirds the price. They’ve got an exceptionally wide cleat bed and a stainless steel plate to prevent wear on the pedal bed (the problem that led to my Keo’s demise).
After my first real ride on them, there’s a lot to like. They solidly attach to the cleat – better than look pedals. With a Look pedal, they feel like there’s a little bit of slop that I’ve never liked. The iSSi’s provide a solid connection with no slop – and somehow they managed to make the float work better at the same time. I can’t explain how they made the improvements, but I definitely like them!
I’ve gone for several long rides, both on the Venge and my rain bike, with the cleats pushed to the inside of my shoes to allow for the required clearance and I haven’t noticed any change in “feel”. I do like the additional space I’m afforded for shoe covers, though.
With just a few rides into them, less than 200 miles, I can say without question that I like the pedals and considering the cost and weight, I feel like I got a heck of a good deal. I love my red pedals on my Venge, but I’m happiest about feeling like I won with the purchase. In the end, that’s what buying something is all about.
UPDATE: After a few rides, I got the funny feeling my saddle was too high – which didn’t make sense, of course, because I haven’t changed the saddle height on my Venge in almost seven years. Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling so I pulled out the tape measure and sure enough! The iSSi pedals ride about 2 mm lower than Look Keo Classics.
My first go was with Mrs. Bgddy. The temp was a little on the chilly side to start, though I quickly found myself slightly overdressed. Overdressed in a comfortable way, though. It was nice to be a little warm and sweaty after the unbelievably cold and crappy weather we had all week long. I was thrown by the fact the wind was only in the single digits… with the clouds parting and some yellow orb shining in the sky, through the breaking cloud over! It was crazy!
It was also spectacular.
I was on my Venge and just having the time of my life in what felt like warmth but in truth was only average temps. That bike is so flipping fast next to my Trek, it’s almost silly.
Anyway, I took all of what headwind we had pushing north for twelve miles. We managed to hold a decent average, too. We turned left into a crosswind and that’s the first time my wife said, “Go ahead and do your hills and catch up to me.” I’ve gotten used to chilling out with my wife, for the most part, but she doesn’t like the hills and I do so I shot off ahead to do the extra mile. It took the better of xix miles to catch her, but with the tailwind on the way back, it was fun. We headed into a subdivision loop and on the way in, she sent me up to do the loop twice while she did it once. She said she’d head back and meet me in the second. Well, I saw one of the guys from the bike shop in the neighborhood, so I stopped to talk to him for a minute, then I saw the gym teacher from the elementary school, so I talked to him for a minute… and when I came out of the sub onto the main road, I could see her up ahead puttering along with the guy from the shop… toward the City Limits sign.
I put the hammer down to catch them. I put my head down and my hands in the drops and powered through the cross-headwind at 24-mph, only looking up now and again to make sure the road ahead was clear. I was gaining on them and fast but I didn’t know if I had enough to catch them before the sign. It was going to be close. I caught and overtook her with fifteen feet to go… she shouted something like, “Son of a BITCH!” as I passed her, laughing my @$$ off.
After, we stopped at a bridge for a photo before heading home. I asked my wife is she would help me keep my average and she reluctantly agreed. I told her I’d pull every last foot of the four-and-a-half miles home. We pulled into the driveway with a decent 18.6-mph average.
I had a light lunch, knowing we were going out for dinner (we buy takeout and eat in the car)… and I got to thinking about riding with my buddy, Chuck. Technically, I don’t exactly know if it’s legal, but at worst, it’s a gray area. You’re allowed to exercise with someone if you maintain six feet, but six feet is useless with cycling. On the other hand, I know Chuck had COVID already, and we’re pretty sure I did, so whatever… We decided to ride side-by-side to give us the best distancing – and we passed about six police vehicles from three different branches (local, sheriff, and staties) and every one of them waved at us as a friendly gesture, so I’m assuming we were good.
The wind had picked up, too, so the ride north, along the exact same route we’d done earlier, was a little tougher. I realized about nine miles in I’d forgotten to restart my Garmin at Chuck’s driveway. I hit the start button as soon as I realized what I’d done. A mile later we were into crosswind, then tailwind and we hammered it straight home. I pulled into the driveway with an 18.3-mph average and another 31 miles.
A day so nice, I had to ride twice. And it was good.
Thankfully, more of the same for the weekend, though it’s time to get busy with some household chores I’ve been putting off till the unemployment checks started coming in… Not that I don’t trust the bureaucracy (I don’t), but I wasn’t going to any unnecessary money before I was confident I could. We had our stay home order extended another two weeks into May, so I’ll have some time to get some things accomplished. I hope our governor knows what she’s doing… construction doesn’t like sitting idly by like this. Getting things cranked up gets messier the longer stoppages go on… but that’s a worry for another day, long in the future.
For now, it’s another day on COVIDcation. Humorously, I’ve always wondered what I’d do with a teacher’s schedule and a summer off*. Two months is as close as I’ll ever get, and I like it. Though I have a tough time getting out of my pajamas before noon…
*My friend, the Unironedman suggested in the comments that I “throw teachers some love” and that they “earn their holidays” with their hard work. Folks, please don’t mistake my wanting to experience a teacher’s paid summer off to mean I don’t think they earn their living. I’ve always wondered what it would be like is all.
A Bicycle was Invented as Transportation. 200 Years Later, It’s Still Just Riding a Bike, Only Better.
The bicycle is still used as transportation – a human being on a bicycle is one impressively efficient machine – but there’s an enjoyable nature to the bicycle that just shouldn’t be missed…
Pull up to the start of a long bike ride, or better, a bike tour, and you won’t find a frown in the crowd (well, maybe one, though I’ve never seen one). Ride along and the happy mood of the people you’re with should be a welcome surprise the uninitiated. Like anything in life, a bike ride is not always perfect. There are personalities to navigate, and this must be done in a state of stress on one’s body. Therefore, at the end of a day, when it’s all over it’s handshakes, hi-fives and laughs… if required, apologies and forgiveness. I’ve made my fair share boneheaded mistakes and I’ve made my amends promptly, whilst said crow was still warm. I’ve forgiven my fair share, as well. The unity of the group is always more important than petty squabbles that happen in the middle of a long ride when nerves are taxed to begin with.
Friends, what happens on a long ride or a tour is what should happen everywhere in life. We should only be so lucky. Just a thought.
I was planning on riding at 1 yesterday afternoon… until I checked at 10 and the weather prognostication took a turn for the ridiculous. Yesterday, the high for the day was supposed to be 48° (about 9 C). If it made it over 36° (3 C) I’d be utterly amazed. And the partly cloudy forecast with (late) pm showers turned to cloudy, then rain… then a chance of snow mixed in.
I decided I wasn’t going to mess around lest I get stuck in a snowstorm that was possible around 12:20 because, while it would have been easy to choose to ride with my wife on the trainer inside, we actually ran into a day with single-digit wind. I simply had to ride outside.
I wanted to take the Venge, too. I wanted to so bad, because it was going to have to be a fast ride and I wanted to take the fast bike. I couldn’t do it, though. The Venge doesn’t see rain, let alone a chance of snow. I prepped the Trek to go and rolled out the door.
Two pedal strokes in and I was hammering for the halfway point. I had most of the headwind at the beginning of the ride so I was trying to keep my pace up so I could have a decent average. I’d been putting in a lot of “fluff miles” where I really wasn’t challenging myself and you always run the risk of slowing up to that easier pace (or at least I worry about that). I plowed my way to 21-mph within a half-mile and held the pace. I turned into the wind and managed to get to 20 where I kept it till I started up a tiny little incline and it zapped me a little. Then I got into a mile-long stretch of the worst road in our county, before heading north again, and picking my pace up.
Five miles in, my pace had slipped and I felt like I was working way too hard for the pace I was managing (around 18-mph). On the positive side, trying to keep a decent pace just above freezing is not easy for me. No matter how perfectly I dress, it always takes between 1 and 1-1/2-mph out of me. I did two laps in a small subdivision and halfway through the second, was thinking about a third (it’s a two-mile circuit), when I took notice of the graying sky. I looked at the time on my Garmin… snow was due at 12:20 and it was only 11:40. The sky was turning ugly, though. Then the first flake fell. I beat a retreat for home, the long way, and with a slight tailwind.
My ride got less ridiculous in a hurry and I made some progress on that average. The last four miles were a mix of foul crosswind and a mile of tailwind and it was starting, ever so slowly, to snow. I pushed those last few miles as hard as I could but I was starting to tire out. I pulled into the driveway with an 18.3 average which, for all of the twists and turns in the route, with the cold, I was pretty happy with.
No question, though, I need some hard miles. The easy miles are taking a toll I don’t want to pay. And they won’t happen today. We’ve got rain, sunup to sundown.