Observations on Cycling, Tires and Wheels; The Key to Speed is What You’re Rolling On. Part One; Wheels
I’ve been through several wheelsets on my Venge since I bought it at the end of the 2013 season… counting… five different wheelsets:
Each was faster than the last culminating with the Ican 50’s in that last photo. They are spectacular. The 38’s are excellent as well and I now have them on my Trek. The Velocity wheels are my backup set and the original Axis 4.0 wheels are the backup to the backup and I use the rear wheel on the Trek when I ride the trainer (so I don’t mess up my good wheels).
So here’s where I shake out on wheels. The Rolf wheels that came on the Trek broke all the rules. They were heavy, but decently aerodynamic and bomb-proof. Above all else, they were fast. That said, the improvement in going from aluminum alloy wheels to carbon fiber is almost exactly as good as it feels going from an aluminum frame to a carbon fiber frame. The difference in going from a 25-mm rim to a 38 is a surprising jump in the ease with which I can hold high speeds. The improvement going from 38’s to 50’s isn’t as great. You’ll notice a diminishing return here. The 50’s aren’t that much better than the 38’s and the 38’s are vastly better in the wind.
Speaking of the wind, my 50’s have the proper profile to improve crosswind characteristics but they’re still a little twitchy in 15+-mph winds. The 38’s are stable and my alloy 25’s are the cat’s pajamas. That said, the benefits of the 38’s and even the 50’s are worth the upgrade. Ride characteristics are simply too important and improved on carbon wheels.
Having rolled on good and bad wheels, and everything from 23’s to 50’s, a fast hub is a really good thing. The lower-profile alloy rims require a lot more effort to keep them up to speed. Viewed against my 50’s, my old Vuelta/Velocity hybrid wheelset took a surprising amount of additional effort to keep my speed up (all of my wheelsets have bladed spokes, even the Velocity alloy wheels). While I did just fine for years without carbon fiber wheels, they’ve made high speeds a lot more enjoyable and attainable.
As I’ve said countless times on this page when writing about wheels, good wheels won’t make me faster. They make fast easier. If you’re thinking you can drop $3,000 on a sweet set of Enve wheels and that’ll take you from a 17-mph average to 20-mph, you’re going to be deeply disappointed (and out $3,000). On the other hand, if you can already hold 20 on those alloy wheels, you’ll be able to go all day on a $650 set of Ican FL 50’s. Same goes for their $419 38 mm standard wheelset.
After having put the miles in to be able to feel the difference, carbon fiber wheels are a luxury that make cycling more enjoyable… that’s all, though. There’s nothing I can’t do on a decent set of alloy wheels I can on deep dish cabon wheels.
I had a choice last night; attend a zoom meeting, or ride with friends, a familiar loop in a nice town south of home… I didn’t need a second meeting in a row so I chose the latter because we had another perfect night for a bike ride.
Perhaps conditions were on the hot side of perfect, but with barely a breeze to slow us down, I was looking forward to a fast one.
As things turn out, it ended up being on the moderate side. I was slightly bummed when the relaxing of pace was suggested but I quickly found my attitude much ado about nothing. It ended up settling into a fantastic ride…
Normally we’re hammering the route so hard, we can’t look around. Last night was moderate enough to enjoy looking around a bit.
I even had time to snap the rare photo.
We altered the route to take out the main hill, longer in the middle, shortened at the end to help a new guy who rode with us, a move that was perfectly fine with me.
We rolled into the parking lot with just shy of 29 miles (34 for me, I showed up early and did a five-mile warm-up). I honestly don’t know how we’re getting away with this stretch of fantastic weather. Rain is rare enough during a Michigan summer, but this is spectacular.
We’ve got a nice weekend planned, though Sunday is starting to look a little sketchy. Yesterday the weather service was calling for evening thunderstorms… today, they took the “evening” part out of the description. We shall see.
In other news, I handled what I had to with my sponsor yesterday. My tolerance for self-inflicted mental pain and bullshit is, thankfully, low. And the more I enjoy my recovery (and life), the easier it is to handle anything on my angst immediately. In turn, the sooner I handle this things that crop up, the happier I am. The only key thing to remember after that is this: All of my mental pain and bullshit is self-inflicted.
As long as I can remember that last point, life is good.
A buddy of mine called last night about a 2020 S-Works Venge eTap Disc for sale on Craigslist for the bargain price of $800.
Folks, my 1st Gen Venge is seven years old and I wouldn’t sell it for a penny less than $3,000. A brand new S-Works Venge with an eTap drivetrain is worth, oh, rounding down, $10,000 (it was advertised as having 100 miles on it but surprisingly still had the set stickers on the front derailleur cage – in other words, it hadn’t really been ridden, so the stink factor passed fishy and straight to skunky).
But Mrs. Bgddy wants a Venge. Bad. She also can’t quite let go of her Specialized Alias, either. A Venge at that price, though… now we could afford that and she’d be able to keep her Alias as her rain bike!
Problem is, it was a scam from the start. Not only was that deal too good to be true, at eight times the asking price it would be too good to be true ($6,400 would be a little more than half-price).
The scam goes like this, you reply to the post by email expressing your interest and the supposed owner says eBay’s got the bike and they won’t give them any money until the bike’s been received and inspected over a five day (or whatever they make up) inspection period. Eventually, you get to the scam… you’re supposed to by Paypal cards (or some other) and send them to the seller… and that’s exactly where you get ripped off.
If the sale price of the bike is too good to be true, it’s going to be too good to be true for the crook when they relieve you of your money.
No self-respecting cyclist would let go of a $12,500 bike for $800. That idiot simply doesn’t exist, and that’s how you know it’s a scam… because only a self-respecting cyclist would spend $12,500 on a bicycle in the first place.
This has been a most incredible week for cycling. Saturday and Sunday were a mix of clouds and sun but the temps were a little on the cool side. A high pressure zone parked south of us that’s kept everything as clear as clear gets, since. Light winds, abundant sunshine, and fantastic temperatures (lows in the upper 50’s, highs in the low 80’s [18 & 27 C respectively]) have ruled the roost since. In all my years of cycling and running, I can’t remember a week this perfect… and it’s supposed to stretch all the way to Sunday afternoon/evening.
I rolled out yesterday afternoon a little early. I had to get back for my meeting and Chuck was getting out of work late, so I suited up and headed out for some easy active recovery miles. I was having so much fun, I almost forgot to take a couple of photos before I made it back home.
This is what most of our miles look like… corn fields and homes with the occasional town here and there. Unfortunately, with Michigan being open again and with a veritable ton of pent-up demand, traffic is a little crazy so we’re trying to stick to roads less traveled for the sanity of motorists and our safety.
I met Chuck for the last quarter of my miles and we kicked around current events and retirement plans. Before I knew it, it was time to head home. I pulled into the driveway with just shy of 22 miles and a smile on my face. I’d chosen the Trek for this ride and it feels like 3,000 Bucks in its current configuration.
The meeting was interesting last night. I received a little bit of news that sent me into a bit of a tizzy so I’ve got some inventory work to do that I’ll have to involve my sponsor in. And this is why recovery is so good at crafting fantastic lives… Twenty years ago, at seven years sober, I’d have blamed my wife for doing something she didn’t do and I’d have made a complete ass of myself. Today, I know enough to investigate first, rather than allow contempt to dictate my actions, thus removing all doubt I’m a f***in’ idiot… then, once I’ve investigated, I can look at what’s wrong with me that I had to investigate in the first place.
I know that’s kind of opaque, but hopefully you can get the gist that I am responsible for my own actions, and my perception of events happening around me. My problems are generally of my own making and the inventory, along with discussing it with my sponsor allow me to change my circumstances so that I don’t do that to myself again – friends, you just don’t get that depth of self-understanding on your own, naturally. That’s why I keep coming back. And because I keep coming back, that’s why I’m so happy with who I’ve become. In real life, you never really win by accident.
Good times and noodle salad, folks.
Jonathan, Dave F. and I rolled out for a seven-mile warm-up that stretched into a little more than eight glorious, warm, sunshiny miles. It stretched into eight because we were way too fast on the seven.
The wind was so mild you couldn’t tell which direction it was coming from unless you stood perfectly still. Even then it was tricky. It was a perfect day. We get plenty of good days, a few great days, but a day this perfect for a club ride is few and far between. There are so many moving pieces, it’s almost like the stars and planets have to align. Well, it happened last night.
The B Group rolled out with a new rider, and even though I was excoriated for helping new people out in an unofficial capacity and was roundly barred by my friends from helping anyone else, I chose to flout the apparatchiks and help the new guy with the finer intricacies of group cycling anyway (I expect to be flogged repeatedly with a wet noodle once this post makes its way around – I’ll try to be brave). Anyway, enough of that bullshit.
The new guy was a mountain biker who turned out to be quite strong. After last night, I think “was” might be the proper word in that sentence. The social aspect and speed of road cycling is like a tractor beam of awesome to the uninitiated. Turnout otherwise, amazingly, was a little sparse – we can handle “a little sparse”, though. If the new guy wasn’t enough, my wife decided to show up as well. She was more nervous than a longtail cat in a roomful of grannies on rocking chairs. I wish she had as much confidence in her ability as I do.
The rollout was slow and built up to pace over a mile and some change before we hit our stride. With the mild breeze, it didn’t matter which way we went, we could have fit a bus in our draft. We rolled on, like a finely tuned machine and life was good.
Oh, and an interesting change to bring up! I made a decision last night to change something major for my Tuesday nights for this season. For the last two years, I’ve been all-in for the sprint at the two City Limits signs. Last night I made a decision to dedicate myself to be lead out instead. I’m going to hammer the front and get everyone up to speed so they can race for the sprint this year. I’ll be of service rather than hog the sprints. I did really well last night, too, for both sprints.
There were several points in the ride I felt overcome with a feeling of basic happiness, almost joy just for being me, it was, without question, palpable.
We ended up rolling across the final sign for the sprint with a 21.4-mph average – a decent speed considering the small group. We’d have done a lot better with four or six more cyclists. But, that’s splitting hairs on Wednesday morning. And Mrs. Bgddy made it all but the last mile with the group (which is pretty fantastic).
The ride was as good as they get with what we had.
Bike P⊗rn… and How To Make Your Bike Worthy of Someone Saying, “Bow Chicka-Wow-Wow” as They Walk By…
Look, unless we’re independently wealthy, making a bike sexy can be a strain on the budget. On the other hand, if you know how to look for a deal and you can spread your purchases out over time, the once impossible becomes simple… it just takes a while.
Start with a solid bike, even an old school steed works:
Add a saddle (because that old one is gnarly!), maybe a new stem… and slam it:
Paint the frame, put a new headset on it, a new stem… maybe upgrade the drivetrain… some new brakes, and maybe even a new carbon fiber saddle if you’re feeling spunky and happen to find a good deal… and while we’re at it, how about some upgraded wheels:
Upgrade the wheels again, add some sweet carbon fiber bottle cages, another new handlebar and you’re complete:
I’ve got less than $3,000 into that Trek and it’s top shelf for an old school race bike. It’s quiet, fast, and absolutely fits that “sexy, sexy” billing – customized and detailed down to the chainrings. For this bike, the key was small changes over a long period of time. While any reasonable person would say $3,000 is a lot of money for a bicycle, after my initial outlay of $750 for the bike, I’ve only put an average of $280 a year into it since I brought it home and I transformed it from a dirty, worn out shop loaner to a beautiful work of bright red on black art. It just took some patience (on both my, and my wife’s part).
For a newer bike, the same concept applies, but it’s a little trickier adding panache without going overboard – especially when we’re talking about today’s “everybody’s aero-bike looks the same” trap. Canyon, Giant, Specialized, Trek, Cervélo, BMC… with tiny exceptions, they all look pretty close to the same, so how do you bling out a bike so it doesn’t look like everyone else’s?
Saddle, wheels, pedals, bar tape, cages, brakes, and if possible, stem. Maybe some decent cable housings if you wanted to go a little crazy (red cable housings were a bridge too far for me).
The key here is to get the color coordination of the bike right, without taking a nosedive into wrong… or worse, taking a header into gaudy. Ostentatious is great. Gaudy is bad. Very, very bad.
My color scheme is obviously red on black. Too much red (and I’m real close – I was pushing it with the pedals on the Venge) and you go from “awesome” to “wtf were you thinking”… fast. Another problem is the wrong red – or worse, trying to incorporate another color that doesn’t belong. Unfortunately, red comes in all kinds of shades and I blew a little bit of money replacing parts that worked but we just too many shades off to be acceptable.
For an example of going too far, red bar tape would be, really has been, tempting. I’ve thought about it more than once. Red bar tape on either bike would be too much, though. I’d pass gaudy without a glance over my shoulder and head straight into “WTF” territory. On the other hand, if you were to zoom in on the Trek’s handlebar, you would see black velvet bar tape with red dot accents (it is spectacular):
The restraint comes in knowing I can’t get away with that bar tape on the Specialized. I’ve given it some serious (look at me now, serious) contemplation, but I can’t get there. It’d be too much. That’s the discipline.
As a comparison, or contrast, I felt I could get away with a lot more on the Specialized because, well, it’s not exactly a subdued bike or paint job. The Trek, on the other hand, turned out a little more “stately”.
Do you have a Garmin Edge 520 Plus or better?
You can now have your routes on Strava directly download to your Garmin for turn-by-turn directions with a few simple clicks of a mouse on your Strava homepage.
I’ll skip all the fluff and get right to the fun stuff.
Open your ride calendar on Strava. Click on a ride that you’ll want to follow at a later date. Under “Overview” and “Analysis” you’ll see a pencil and a triple dot. Click on the triple dot and click on “Create Route”. Name your route. Save it. Once that’s done, next to Strava in the upper left hand corner of your screen, click on “Dashboard” then “My Routes”. When you get to your route page, find the route. In the upper right hand corner of the small route map, you’ll see a wrench and a star. Click on that star so it highlights yellow.
The next time your Garmin device connects, the route will automatically download to your “Courses” folder.
It’s that simple. I’ve already done it. You can still do it the old-fashioned way, by downloading the route from Ride With GPS to a folder on your desktop, then depositing that file in your Garmin (I use “Courses”, others use the “NewFiles” folder). That’ll work just fine, but having used the new automatic link to Strava, it’s really nice.
Truly, I jest. I know exactly where the time went. I have a theory that helps slow the progression of time a little bit, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
I felt it when I woke up this morning. I did another triathlawn yesterday, so that made for 68 miles cycling, golf, tennis, 38 miles cycling, cut the grass, and more tennis in two days. It’s been more than a decade since I could get away with that level of activity without paying for it.
I didn’t get much done on the grass cutting front, either. You know how it is, though, when your teenager daughters look at you and say, “Dad, will you play tennis with us?”… friends, there just aren’t many of those days left so I’m going to take every one I can get.
My wife, unbeknownst to me, took a video of me playing “don’t claw my entire hand off” with the cat on the refrigerator – his favorite game next to “hey, you pet me while I eat, sucker.” She played the video back for me and I was amazed at how gray I’d gotten… Wow. On the other side of that equation is a full freakin’ head of hair. No balding patch in the back, so I’ll take that!
Everything good I have, I owe to my Higher Power and my recovery, and this wonderful weekend was one of those occasions to look back and thank God I got what I did and not what I could have if I’d chosen the other path. Most people say something along the lines, “alcohol and/or drugs took everything from me!” I’m not one of those – I don’t subscribe to a passive role. I gave everything up without even an inkling of a fight. It’s the difference between being a victim and accepting my role in it. I’m no victim.
One thing is certain, I wouldn’t be on the right side of the grass right now if I’d chosen different. My parents would have buried me because my liver just couldn’t keep up with me.
I can remember when I was younger, say 20, I just hoped I’d make it to 50. I never thought I’d get there doing it right.
It’s good to be me, recovered.
So, my trick to slowing time down ever so slightly. This is not easy, so come in a little closer so we can keep this betwixt us… I’ve learned to enjoy every minute I possibly can. The theory is perfect, but I’m not so I have to continually work on it. That’s my trick, though – and the more I practice it, the more enjoying life becomes my default, the more fun it is, the happier I am, and the more time slows.
And that’s when it gets really good. One day at a time is all I’ve got, but if I can put a few of those together, before I know it, I’ve got something.
Unlike last weekend’s Triathlawn, this weekend’s actually involved three sports… and a hella sunburn because I’m not above being an idiot now and again. It keeps me humble.
We started the day off with one of my favorite rides for an east wind. For this time of year, we’re usually well into the longer rides but this one is a quaint 57-miler with a nice 2,000′ of up – remember, for us, anything more than 20′ per mile is a fair bit of climbing. About 20 miles into the ride, one of the guys asked if we wanted to add miles by going to the next town north. As you might imagine, late spring, on a gloriously sunny day, on a shorter ride, I’d never kick extra miles out of bed for eating crackers…
Five single bikes and the tandem headed north while three singles stopped at the only convenience store for miles. They were going to slow roll up the trail to meet us but decided instead to roll for home and wait for us there. At 35-miles in, we hit the turn south… and tailwind. It was a weird ride home. Whether a few of us were a little too enthusiastic or some were hurting, we ended up opening gaps up. In my case it was over-enthusiasm. I was having a blast. We ended up dropping the tandem with about ten miles to go – they just popped. That’s a really hard ride to complete at the pace we were going on a tandem. Our fastest two-mile stretch was at 66-miles @ 24-mph, with just a couple miles to go. I was beaming as we pulled into the parking lot with a little more than 68 miles.
The next leg of my Saturday triathlon has a bit of history with it. I was, long ago, a very good golfer. I could drive, straight, over 300 yards and had a decent iron game and a mediocre short game. My putting was crap unless I was on really nice greens. I was very much a “crush it for show” golfer. My dad and I used to golf together often. I’d pick him up every Friday around 11 and we’d head out to one of the local courses for 18 holes. Taking my father out golfing was a highlight of my life and career – and I can still remember the first time I beat him, legit, fair and square, on the 18th hole. I shot par, he bogied on the old course at The Jewel of Grand Blanc. I still have the score card.
As my father’s dementia progressed, as he approached the cliff, he started hitting golf balls at me if I didn’t watch what he was doing. At first, I thought he was joking but quickly found he wasn’t when I had to dive out of the way to avoid being hit. Having to give up golfing with my dad broke my heart. I tried to go out with a long time business associate, to a retreat up north to Tree Tops resort where we played two of the courses and the famed par three course. My dad always loved Tree Tops and it crushed me he couldn’t be there. I only picked up my clubs twice after that, the last time four years ago (or so, I’ve lost track).
Well, a friend who I shot rounds with for years asked me to pick it up again and golf with him, so we started at the driving range just five miles from my house. Amazingly, I’ve still got it. I’m sure they’ll turn my clubs off at some point but I was hammering the ball pretty good with my 8 iron (about 165) and my pitching wedge (about 135). And being a crush it for show kinda guy, I had to let the big dog eat. It took a minute to lose a slight fade, but I did and managed to fly about 240 into a hill with a little draw. Nowhere near my 300 yards of old, but distance will come with time as my body loosens up. 300 isn’t all that necessary anyway, if you can keep it in the fairway… it’s all about fairways and greens. Anyway, I didn’t feel anything negative about hitting golf balls. It was just nice to be out there with my friend.
The final leg of my triathlon was tennis with my wife and daughters. This has become a regular weekend enjoyable way to spend a few hours running around. Admittedly, after the first two legs, I wasn’t doing much running. My back was tight from golf… and I can feel it in my core today. We played for about an hour before I called it, too tired to move. Our home cooked dinner, grilled chicken fettuccine alfredo and a salad, was fantastic. I capped the evening with a cup of coffee and drifted off to sleep watching The Avengers Endgame… Visions of Carl Spackler dancing in my head…
What an incredible Cinderella story. This unknown comes out of nowhere to lead the pack. At Augusta, he’s on his final hole….
I happen to be the owner of a race bike that is worth more than the vehicle I drive. I have a rain bike that I’ve got more money into than most would spend on ten bikes. I’ve got a gravel bike, a mountain bike, and a tandem that almost cost as much as the freaking race bike.
The one thing they all had in common? Squeaky. Creaky. Noisy. F**king. Pedals.
God have mercy on my soul.
I’ve tried micro adjustments of my cleats. I’ve tried cleaning the cleats and pedals. I’ve tried a little drip of light chain lube on the cleats and pedal… nothing works for any length of time.
I’ve gotten to a point I almost wanted to chuck my bike in the woods and walk away.
You pay that much money for a bicycle, the last thing you want to hear going don the road is, reeet, reeet, reeet, reeet, reeet...
And then it dawned on me one day… everyone is going all gaga over wax lube or waxing their chain… wax.
I waxed my cleats and the cleat bed of my pedals. Nothing special, just rubbed cold, hard candle wax on the pedals and cleats and it worked.
First, get the cleat bed on the pedal.
Then the front part of the cleat… get right up in there, too. You want to leave some of the wax on the cleat.
Then do the back of the cleat. Again, get in there…
And that’s all there is to it. Your cleats will be quiet. I like to repeat the process every Friday and haven’t had to hear my pedals in a couple of months. The silence is glorious.