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Monthly Archives: May 2020

New Wheel Day, 100 KM’s With Friends

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Before I get into this post, I have an apology to make to my friends who are left out from these little rides.  I hate this part of the pandemic.  I have no doubt that, were I to post our rides through the normal text messaging system, we’d end up with 30 cyclists showing up to some of these rides.  Some would be okay with this, others would rather take their toy and go home than be caught in a group so big – and then there are the health ramifications of riding with everyone (if there are ramifications to begin with, there are those in the medical field who say not even a little bit).

Either way, there are going to be hurt feelings and for that, I apologize profusely and repeatedly.  I have no doubt I’ll have some face-to-face amends to make, concerning who was invited and who wasn’t, when this is all over and they will be made.  I would prefer we not have to worry about any of this $#!+ but that’s about as likely as hoping unicorns will save us evil (pronounced E-E-E-vil-l-l).  Sounds great but it won’t work out so well in the wash.  Know this; I hate having to pick, as you would.

That was the salad.  Now on to the meat and potatoes!  The new Fast & Light 50’s are nice.  No weight penalty over the 38’s I had on the Venge before, and they’re unquestionably sharp.  They felt a little faster but more research is necessary.  A lot more.  They were a little twitchy in a crosswind, but once you start getting into that kind of dept in the wheel, you would expect a little “twitchy”.  They weren’t bad and it was nothing I couldn’t get used to in one ride.

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We rolled out in stellar conditions.  A little on the cool side after a late spring cold front blew through the night before and it was a little on the breezy side, but with plentiful sunshine, I realized I’d overdressed with arm and knee warmers pretty early on (mid-50’s or 13 C).

What ensued was one of the most enjoyable 100 k’s I’d ever ridden.  The route we picked was stellar with two places to add miles if desired.  The pavement was fantastic the whole ride with new asphalt or worked in chip-seal over much of the 63 miles.

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Folks, if anything this year is allowed to feel “normal”, this ride did.  It was just like good old times with laughs and great attitudes.  I’d dare say a great time was had by all.

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We rolled into the driveway with 63-1/2 miles and happy hearts.  New wheel day was absolutely wonderful.  As good as they get.  After a wonderful lunch and a great nap while the kids were tuning up for next year’s swim season at a friend’s lake, I cut the grass…

Then, my wife got the bright idea, for Sunday Funday I should get the tandem ready for service.  It’s been quite some time, last season, since we’ve ridden the tandem… and, being honest, I looked for a few reasons to object but couldn’t find any.  It was really a fantastic idea.  I’ve been thinking the last couple of weeks we should spend more time on the tandem.  I spent the last couple of hours of the day getting the bike ready for service today.  Cleaned up, drivetrain nice, tidy and lubed up, brakes checked, and all of the cobwebs gone.

Now that’s a full day!

Dinner was fantastic, and I slept even better.

New Wheel Day Has Finally, After Much Consternation And Agitation, Arrived

It wasn’t easy getting here. A SNAFU led to my wheelset getting lost between Ican’s US warehouse and UPS. I checked the tracking number several days in a row, getting the same message, that the label had been generated and a shipping date would be available as soon as the package arrived at UPS. I was supposed to have my wheels five to eight days after I placed my order and sent my first email on the fifth day. Ican’s representative, took a day to get back to me, but once she did, everything moved into high gear.

My wheels arrived last evening. I’ve always believed a company is best judged by how they do in difficult times – anyone can look good when things go well – and Ican really came through on this one.

Being out in the sticks does have its disadvantages. UPS typically doesn’t get around to our neck of the woods until late in the evening, usually between 7 & 9 pm. This little problem, contrasted against the hundreds of miles of quiet, paved country roads to ride on, is chicken scratch, as they say.

I went for my normal afternoon ride knowing I had hours before I had to worry about UPS showing up. My normal riding buddy was late getting out of work so I headed out for some bonus miles – I ended up with 17, on the nose, sitting in his driveway.

We rolled out, easy at first, but the pace picked up heading into a decent headwind. I was on my Trek with the 38 mm Ican wheels – it’s a vastly improved bike with those wheels. The pace was hot, above 20-mph, so there wasn’t much time for rest. It was getting close to 6 pm and I knew my wife would be getting hungry. The eldest daughter was at work and the younger had a function to attend to, so it was going to be just the two of us for dinner. I left Chuck and headed home, passing by my lovely wife taking my daughter to that function.

Five miles and fifteen minutes later I was in my driveway. Fifteen minutes after that, my wife was home and I was showered and ready to go.

I left a note on the door for the UPS man to slide my package into the backseat of my vehicle and lock the door and we were off to pick up dinner. We have a bald eagle’s nest a few miles from our house so we decided to take our dinner to the nest and eat it there. We watched the mama, a full grown female (she’s freaking huge) fly off and return with a rabbit in its talons for the little ones. Friends, it’s like the Mutual of Omaha just up the road from our house (you’ll have to be pretty old to get that reference).

On returning home just after 8, my Ican Fast & Light 50 wheels were in the back of my vehicle. They’re very light, slightly lighter than my 38’s, and they’re beautiful. A better aerodynamic cross-section than the 38’s and 2 mm wider, they should be as good or better in the wind. They’re also, sadly, tubeless ready, so that means the fit is TIGHT. They’re the toughest wheels I’ve ever wrestled tires onto, but I got it done.

So today will, assuming I didn’t pinch a tube putting everything together last night (I didn’t, just checked), will be my first day on the new wheels. We’ve got a 100 k adventure planned for today. We’ll be exploring some new roads we’ve wanted to investigate for some time. More later, but for now, they’re phenomenal. Here’s a completed photo from early this morning:

UPDATE: Oh, my… they’re fantastic. More tomorrow.

A Day of Celebration… And Something New to Write About: It’s New Wheel Day, Baby!

Last night, before heading out for an evening ride on a day that was supposed to have been a rained out day off, I put my 38 mm Ican wheels on my Trek for good (and changed out my brake pads, obviously). I’ve got a set of Ican Fast & Light 50’s coming tonight for the Venge.

It has long been a rule of mine, if I need something to write about, buy a new bike.

Friends, it works.

Not so drastic this time, though.  A new set of Ican F&L 50 wheels is vastly less than a new bike and I can probably squeak at least a couple of posts out of them.

With the Trek, I’ve been chasing the Venge ever since I brought it home.  The “good” wheels have always gone on the Venge so it’s always been much easier to ride the Venge fast.  The difference between the 38 mm Ican’s and my normal 25 mm-deep alloy Velocity wheels is surprising.

First, we all know (or should be so lucky) the difference in ride quality, going from an alloy frame to carbon fiber.  Well the difference going from alloy wheels to carbon fiber is just as nice.  Carbon fiber hoops (especially being able to go from 23 to 25 mm tires at the same time) make a grin-worthy difference in ride quality.  Second, the speed I’m capable of holding between the two wheelsets is equally smile inducing.  In other words, my old Trek 5200 just got a lot faster.

As for the Venge, the Fast & Light line of wheels has upgraded hubs and uses Sapim CX Ray spokes and wider (25 mm compared to 23 for standard wheels) rims for an improved ride quality and better aerodynamics with my favorite 26 mm Specialized Turbo Pro tires.  Put all of that together in a wheel and my new 50’s will be lighter than the 38’s.  That means I get improved ride quality, better aerodynamics on my aero bike, with faster bearings… and no weight penalty.  It just doesn’t get any better than that, my friends.

So I went out for my ride last night with a giant smile on my face and had a hard time containing my enthusiasm.  I’ve been tired lately – a lot of miles, no rest, and not much in the way of active recovery days (though I did finally have an easy day Wednesday).  We’re going to have fantastic weather this weekend and I only needed 98 miles to hit 1,000 for the month… with a ride Friday (tonight) and the potential for two big days on Saturday and Sunday, I didn’t need the miles – maybe even should have taken a day off.  On the other hand, in six months I don’t want to think back on any days that I could have ridden but chose not to.

So I pumped up my tires and rolled out… and the Trek rode gloriously.  Before I knew it I was at 19-1/2 mph for an average.  I could have sustained it, but I gave myself permission to not want to.  I dialed it back and enjoyed the much improved ride.  Until it started raining.  Well, there was a chance, and in Michigan, if there’s a chance you can get wet, you probably will get wet.  It wasn’t horrible, though.  It was a hot, muggy afternoon and the light rain felt quite nice.

That is, until the rain started picking up.

I cut two miles off my route and made a bee-line for home.  Well, if bees rode in lines that followed roads, anyway.  I also rode out of the drizzle.  About a mile east of where I was when it started and it lightened to a dull sprinkle, then stopped altogether.  It was perfect.  The bike almost had a chance to dry out on the way home, though the sprinkling did start and stop again a few times.

Now this evening’s ride, if my new wheels show up in enough time to throw them on the Venge, will hopefully be something to write about.  We’ll see.

And Finally, A REAL Active Recovery Day.

I’m only 98 miles from my second thousand-mile month in a row. The good aspect in this month is that I was working through most of it.

Over COVIDcation, I put in a lot of enjoyable miles, taking it easy for most of them.  I didn’t know any better so I was antsy a few of those days about taking it too easy riding with my wife.  Oh, how wrong I was and I’m actually really stoked I can relax through March and April in the future.  My early training was… how should I put this… not exactly according to standard practices.  Most people go too easy and wonder why they can’t get fast.  I went hard, all the time, and got fast quick, but I never learned to back off and that’s affected how I ride today.  Let’s say I’ve developed a nervous tick that won’t let me enjoy easy miles because I keep thinking I’m missing out on an opportunity to get stronger – and that’s entirely the wrong way to look at it.  I’m working at correcting this.

Anyway, Wednesday night’s ride was going to be interesting… I struggled mightily in the heat Tuesday night and I think it was just too much over too many days, plus 91° heat.  I was cooked after 24 miles (unfortunately, I the route was 33).

I got a text from Chuck that he’d be ready shortly after 5 and I was ready to go at 4:30 so I left early for some extra miles.  I had my bandit parking lot AA meeting that evening and I wanted to be showered and ready to go and I needed some miles to put myself in a position to successfully hit 1,000 miles for May.  I readied myself and took off.

I should add, I took off thinking I’d corrected a bottom bracket tick from the other day.  A mile later I knew I hadn’t and it wasn’t a bottom bracket, it was the headset.  I went three miles then turned around and headed home to straighten out the tick.  I also re-set the seat post, just in case.  Then I headed over to my buddy’s house to pick him up, bike still ticking.  When I got to my buddy’s house I used his Allen wrenches to try the chainring bolts.  Two were loose.  Maybe that did it, I thought.

Nope.

I got out of the saddle to accelerate and pulled back hard on the handlebar and that caused something in the headset to click into place – I don’t know what the hell happened (everything was properly tight, checked, double checked, etc.) but the tick went away.  And so I was happy.  All’s well that ends well (I re-set and tightened up the headset later, after the ride and after I cleaned up).

I mentioned to Chuck that I needed an easy day and he said that would be perfect for him so we had a mainly sit up and chat fun ride.  We talked about government edicts and being governed over being ruled and a whole host of other fun topics.  Chuck and I play for the same team so, when we’re riding together, we can safely discuss such things normally verboten on bike rides (there’s no politics on bike rides… UNLESS you know for an absolute fact everyone is on the same team – in that case, discuss away).

So we fixed a little bit of the world Wednesday and I was able to get 28 fantastic, easy miles in before heading out to our meeting.

It was a busy day, but I slept like a baby.  Life is good.

One Fine Memorial Day Ride And The Simple Joy In Using Every Gear You’ve Got.

I rode with some my wife and a couple of friends Memorial Day morning. We chose a route that’s normally exceptionally busy with traffic, but we hit a perfect storm of quiet this weekend. First, with COVIDcation and stay at home, that knocked down the traffic substantially. Second, the “up north” of the lower peninsula was opened up late last week so people flocked up to escape. Traffic wasn’t non-existent, but it was as light as I’ve ever seen for that route – and it’s a fun route.

We had a chance of rain in the morning, but it was one of those, “Okay, it’s going to be 90° (32 C), I hope it rains a little” days. We rolled out at 8 am with sunshine and a light headwind. It was 70 (21 C) and spectacular. We started out on the slow side but picked up the pace as we went, up and over rollers, never too easy but I wasn’t ever in a position where I questioned my own sanity, either. It was just a fun, nice ride.  Chuck, the guy up front in the photo below, took the first seven miles up front and I took the next seven and when I dropped back, Chuck was next in line to take another pull… so I said to my normal riding buddy, Chuck, “There’s no free lunch today, buddy”.  Five miles later he took the cue and took us to the buffet at the Golden Coral.  I don’t know how long he was up front, but it was loooooooooooonnnnnnnngggg.

22 miles in, the ride gets fun. We were greeted with a sign that warns of a steep 8% descent. The second I crested I decided to see how fast I could pedal down the hill. I hammered through every gear I had – the last I looked at the computer it read 44.8-mph and I simply didn’t want to pedal any faster. After looking the ride up, I only managed 0.2-mph faster that last bit down the hill, but I found out the fun way exactly what my top end speed is in my biggest gear (50/11). I think I wore a smile on my face for the next hour.

At 24 miles we turned into Kensington Metro-park. Kensington is fantastically beautiful. Nature preserves, a huge lake, a golf course, and more hills than you can shake a stick at – some you actually have to climb. On the way up the big one, I shifted to my last gear, the 34/28, the little granny… Did I have to use the granny gear? Not really, but with that last shift, no matter what happened the rest of the ride, I’d used every gear I had.

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We wound around the park trail after it left the park – they have a speed limit that I could only honor if I were pushing my bike. I would have to kick my own ass for riding 10-mph unless it was up a fair hill. We stopped at a gas station to pick up a couple of Coke’s and take a breather. It was starting to heat up. After finishing our drinks, we headed over to the pickle ball courts so Chuck could say hi to his wife – and we made it just in time for an A-10 Warthog flyover.  It was spectacular.

Shortly after, we headed for home with a slight tailwind.  The closer we got, the faster we went until my wife took the reigns and took a six mile turn between 22 & 30-mph on her aero bars.  It was an awesome pull.  I took over from there and took us home.  We pulled into the parking lot with just under an 18-mph average.  53.8 miles in 3 hours.  It was as good as it gets.

Tuesday Night Ride: Cooked Edition

I have always been resilient to heat. I don’t know why it doesn’t bother me like it does most people and I’ve never bothered to think much about it. I get hot, but am very much comfortable riding in everything up to the mid-90’s (about 115° off the asphalt) I just maintain my grateful attitude about it and watch as others suffer.

Until last night.

A friend and riding buddy of mine has been avoiding riding with friends because he has a sick relative they’ll be visiting soon. It’s one of those “worst case” scenarios so considering the current state of things, his only choice has been to ride solo. I’ve picked up that he’s been bummed about the fact that, as things open up and we’re all finding small groups to ride in, he’s been left out… so I asked if he’d like to ride the Tuesday night route, just the two of us. He cleared that with his wife and we met out at the church. As I pulled into the parking lot, the digital thermometer in my car showed a balmy 91 F (33 C). Now, if you’re keeping track, we went from the mid-40’s to ninety-freaking-one in two weeks. Not exactly any time to acclimatize in there. Still, I had every intention of having a fun, if warm and comfortable, ride.

I pulled my bike from the trunk, got kitted up and went for a four mile warmup. Yeah, warmup, 91°… I know. I felt fantastic and fast, too. Surprisingly so, considering I hadn’t had a day off the bike in more than a week.  I didn’t bother with the full seven mile warmup as that would have been excessive.  Four-and-a-half was good enough.  Jonathan was prepping his bike when I pulled into the parking lot.  There was only one other car besides ours, a E/D Group woman we see regularly under normal circumstances.

Jonathan and I rolled out early as we didn’t want to ride with anyone else.  We started out side by side with tailwind for the first six miles.  We had a 20 average when we hit headwind and I dropped behind Jonathan.  We traded places regularly and were still sitting at a 19-1/2 average when the wheels fell off for me, about 17 miles in.  I was breathing hard from what should have been a fairly small effort.  The heat and 300 miles from the last week caught up to me.  Fortunately, I think Jonathan was struggling in the heat as well.

With just nine miles to go, just maintaining 22-mph with a tailwind was difficult.  I’m having a tough time wrapping my head around how I felt because I’ve never felt that way because of the heat.  My power to the pedals was just ugly.  I got the pedals around but it wasn’t pretty.  With four miles left, I was sitting up, tongue dangling down by the spokes, beat.  I was just happy to pull into the parking lot and climb off my bike.  We’d dropped our average from 20-mph (which should have been easy to maintain), all the way down to 18.8.

I grabbed some dinner at the local Burger King.  Firing that down only helped minimally.  I’d say it was two hours after the ride before I started to feel… less loopy.  I ended up falling asleep on the couch around 9 pm and crawled into bed around 11.

I slept like a baby till it was time to get up.  Tonight it’ll be “no rest for the weary”, though I’m going to aim for an average, on the Trek, closer to 16-mph.  I think it’s time for some active recovery miles because I cooked myself last night.

The Tale of Two Specialized Venges

I made some big changes to my 2013 Venge this year. First, I grew tired of the 52/36 chainset so I swapped the chainrings for a compact 50/34 combo just into winter. After trying the 50/34 combo on my ’99 Trek with an 11/28 cassette and I absolutely loved it. I had enough top end for sprints and plenty of low end for climbing up the hardest hills I have to deal with all year easily (well, easily-ish – 22% is still 22%). I also chose anodized black chainrings over bead-blasted aluminum (a change I like a lot):

New:

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Old:

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Next, I swapped out the Blackburn bottle cages for some lighter cages I picked up that, to tell the truth, looked better on the Venge than they did on my Trek – the newer styling just didn’t fit on my classic Trek.

Next up, I had to finally change out my pedals after six years. I’d worn the Look Keo’s out. I upgraded (and down-priced while dropping weight) to a set of iSSi carbon road pedals. With several hundred miles on them, they’re exactly as pedals should be – I don’t ever think about them.

Another new change for this season is a saddle upgrade. I switched from a Specialized Romin to a Selle Italia SLR Tekno Flow:

This decision was a little trickier to make. A Specialized Romin saddle was my first fitted road cycling saddle.  I’ve ridden one since I bought my Trek 5200… like mid-season 2012, and I love that saddle. The Romin is heavy, though, and I wanted to give a svelte little carbon number a second chance. Its first, last summer, crashed and burned. Now that I’ve got a little bit of experience, it wasn’t the saddle that was the problem, it’s how I had it dialed in that was problematic.

After dialing it in, I’m glad I made the change. I’ve ridden it on short, 20-mile rides, a couple metric centuries, several 40-50 mile rides and one 104-miler. I still have to get a lot more base miles on it, but I’m thoroughly enjoying the saddle while getting those base miles.  Of 199 weekend miles I rode 155 on the new saddle.

And after all that, I took the bike from 15.8 pounds down to 15.5

Perfect.