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Monthly Archives: January 2021

Remembering My Dad

I miss my dad every now and again. When something good happened, my recent promotion and raise is a good example, I’d take him golfing or out to dinner. When my girls accomplished something new we’d all go out… Then there are the hard times. It used to be when I had a rough go I could call him up and bounce things off him to get a sense of direction.

A blogger I follow was lamenting the fact he’d gotten a flat on a ride the other day and had to have his dad pick him up. He wondered how sad it was the task fell on his dad after all these years.

All I could think of was how much I wished I could call my pop and ask him to pick me up… for anything.

Folks, hug your mom and/or dad if you can. When they’re gone, they’re really gone and all you’ll wish for is one more hug. Well, maybe wait for the vaccine, first. That way your mom doesn’t try to karate chop you as you go in for that hug. I did call my father-in-law a couple of times yesterday over Duo to talk football and his 38-year anniversary, and that was just about good enough. I’m in-law lucky that way. I won the lotto, actually.

Just a thought.

Enjoying Cycling As Safely As Is Possible, Without Looking Like A Doofus In the Process; Think Peacock, Not Possum.

Cycling on the roads is inherently dangerous.  You’re out there with cars and trucks and in a collision with either, you’ll always lose, so sticking out is always advisable. You want to stick out – to be visible on the road.

Sticking out like a sore thumb? Not so much.

We’ve got a guy who used to show up every now and again to ride with us who was so dangerous, we had to be aggressively mean to him to get him to either, A) think about the others in the group or B) leave. He chose the latter. To be very clear, the guy had no business in a group. He was a danger to himself and others every time he rode with a group bigger than one. He was also a disheveled mess – I believe he actually wore his helmet backwards. More than once. He also rode in cotton T-shirts tucked into his shorts. On a triathlon bike. In a group. He stuck out, alright.

That’s the bad kind of “sticking out”. There is a saying in golf that works in cycling, to an extent: If you can’t play good, look good. Never mind the improper English, there’s something to the saying. For cycling, if you can’t ride fast, look fast” (or perhaps, look good slow) is a little closer.

It’s fairly obvious what will stick out and what won’t as colors go. Think “bright”. Black isn’t great, gray is worse, but if you’re riding in a group that’s fairly large, you won’t have much to worry about. Reds, whites, pinks, oranges, bright blue, the neons… these are all winners in the “Hey, look at me” colors for cycling. Also, and this is my favorite, people who like to fancy themselves “intelligent” love to tell you not to wear red because “science” says it blends in too well. Don’t wear black because it “matches the road”… First, don’t fall for “studies showed”. Studies may have shown that red blends, but who are you going to trust, studies or your lying eyes? Red sticks out better than neon yellow in many settings, for God’s sake. Blue and white are also fantastic.

So what if you absolutely, positively have to wear black? Black does stick out a little bit in the sunshine but it’s not great in the shadows or on a cloudy day. Gray, is even worse. The equalizer is a taillight. A taillight can make a big difference if you have to dress all Johnny Cash on the bike.

Some things to look out for – things we seasoned cyclists notice in an instant that’ll show a noob’s noobishness:

  • T-shirts. Cotton is for the couch after the ride. Cotton is the third worst fabric to wear on a bicycle behind only rubber/neoprene and plastic. Who would wear a wetsuit on a ride? Exactly. Nobody…. except the guy would would wear a T-shirt. Tucked into his cycling shorts. Shorts and T-shirts are great for puttering around in town to head to a restaurant. They are not for a pace-line. And you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to look good. The Black Bibs are phenomenal at just $40. Jersey deals abound online if you look closely. Enter “Cycling Jersey Sale” into a search engine and go to town. Just look out for the junk… stuff that has a really weird name is usually a dead giveaway. Specialized, Trek/Bontrager, Pactimo, Castelli, Gore, Primal, Funkier, Giant, Cannondale, Pearl Izumi, Louis Garneau, Bellweather, Giro all have decent cycling clothes. Jerseys have three back pockets to carry essentials (onboard fuel – gels & bars), spare tube and tire levers, etc.. Cotton is horribly uncomfortable when wet or sweaty.
  • Underwear. Especially ladies. You DO NOT wear underwear unless you want to feel like you’re riding on barbed wire… or just wait till you step into the shower after the ride! WOOO! That’s pain, baby!
  • Plastic rain jackets. We all have to learn this once on our own. You can wear a plastic rain jacket in Canada in the middle of January with just a light layer underneath and you’ll sweat to death inside of 30 miles. A plastic rain jacket won’t keep you warm in the rain. It’ll cause you to melt.
  • Dirty clothes. Second-day cycling stuff doesn’t work. You sweat too much and once you remove the garments, bacteria grow. You want to know the meaning of the word pain? Wear the same shorts three or four days in a row without washing them. Just be prepared financially for a long stay in a small hospital room. If you make it to the hospital. You have been warned (and this isn’t hyperbole).
  • Choose your colors wisely. “Peacock” doesn’t apply to bibs/shorts. Unless the bibs match a kit, stick with black. Maybe a colored band at the bottoms of the legs, but otherwise just black. Socks, however, are your chance to show some flash. There aren’t many rules on socks except this: don’t wear those silly compression socks that ride up to the knee till after the ride.
  • Be yourself! Wisely.

UPDATE: For a further “how it’s done” scroll down to Brent’s comment. There are a few great tips in it.

Lifeproof Fre with the iPhone 12 Mini Review: There’s Some Really Good… and One Really Bad Issue with Facial Recognition (But with a Fix)

First, it should be known, I have a profound respect for the Lifeproof phone protection case. I’ve had one on every phone I’ve had since 2012. My phones have survived an underwater jab against a rock (though the case did start leaking, the screen and phone were fine – didn’t even crack the screen), a 20-22-mph fall from atop my bike whilst taking photos of the Tunnel of Trees up north of Harbor Springs, and several snorkeling excursions. I won’t buy a new phone without a Lifeproof case – even though my phones are insured – because I can do this:

With the iPhone 12, they’re “oops” proof. Supposedly they can stand being submerged for a short time but in my normal, casual use, I’ll never fully test that feature out (we’ll see what happens when I get caught in a rainstorm this spring/summer out on my bike)… anyway, this takes away much of the worry for needing a Lifeproof case in the first place. Except for the snorkeling excursions because we’ve got another cruise coming up in 2022 and I’ll absolutely need the case for that. When I upgraded my phone this year, because our office has an Apple setup I finally bit the bullet and went back to an iPhone (I traded in my 6 way back when because of a Wi-Fi connectivity issue that was supposedly in my head. That is, until the entire Verizon tech department couldn’t get my iPhone to connect to their Wi-Fi service while I was in the store. I’d been using a Samsung Galaxy since. They gave me an in-store credit of $400 and a new Galaxy 5 with their apologies.

So my 12 mini arrived and I didn’t even unbox it until my special-order Fre case showed up almost a week later. I got a third of my valuable info transferred over (the rest was lost to compatibility issues, of course – oh how I missed Apple). Fortunately, it was the unnecessary two-thirds that wouldn’t transfer. All of the important contact stuff went. I tested my Lifeproof case as we always do with a submerge test, they put the phone in and set up everything, including facial recognition.

And there is the one problem I have with the combination. When you place the phone to your ear to talk, oil from your skin will transfer to the protective face and cloud it. Unless the forward facing camera is perfectly clean, your face will be distorted to the camera and it won’t read. On top of that, with the way the protective face sits away from the screen and is glued to the frame, there’s a distortion of image that happens with the forward facing camera so unless the camera is perfectly positioned, your face won’t be recognized. It does help to do the FR setup with the case on. This means the facial recognition features don’t work most of the time. Anything that’s really important and relies on that will have to be manually unlocked most of the time. Simply put, that’s unacceptable. The only other answer is to use the speaker phone and keep the phone away from one’s face… but I vehemently refuse to be one of those knuckleheads. I have more respect for myself, the person on the other end of the line, and others around me than to be that guy. There’s a trick to it. There are two dots glued to the case face to keep the clear face away from the glass. Those two dots have to be wiped off and the FR will work as it should.

That said, there are also some really nice features to the case. The toggle for the sound/vibrate switch is nothing short of genius and the button operation is vastly superior to anything else I’ve seen.

The case will still be necessary for snorkeling photos and for road trips but I’ve since mothballed it to await my next cycling road trip or snorkeling trip. I opted for a amFilm Glass Screen Protector and a Raptic Air Case with a 13′ drop rating because I wanted something sleeker and a little more, you know, mini.

So, the question is, would I buy the Lifeproof case again? At around $80, that’s a lot of money for a phone case, especially for an insured phone, but my active lifestyle makes a reasonable argument for one. I’ve put my phones through a lot of abuse and I’ve never busted one. Not even a chipped or cracked screen.

With the iPhone Pro, Max and Mini, the only flaw with the case, the problem with facial recognition, can be fixed in a matter of seconds with a fingernail and soap and water, so the simple answer to the question is “yes”, I will continue to rely on lifeproof cases because they’re the cat’s pajamas.

The Noob’s Guide to Cycling: Fixing a Shifter Cable in Minutes and Reasons to Take Up the Task In the First Place

There are few things that will affect a bicycle’s mechanical shifting as much as the cables. Get one little thing wrong and your bike can shift horribly until that tiny mistake is fixed. In many cases, the affect may be worse; it’ll be minor. Not enough to bother with changing the cable, but the bike just doesn’t quite shift as well as it should. Even something as simple as a frayed cable end can pooch your shifting. Relax, though, even the vaunted internally routed shifting cable is fixable in minutes with the right tools, equipment and knowhow.

A front derailleur’s main cable problems that will require a new cable are:

  • The cable was installed/looped incorrectly at the derailleur bolt which can cause the cable to fray when it’s tightened down, among other problems. If the cable is frayed at the bolt this can/will cause the pull to be slightly off when the shifter is engaged and this will cause problems in shifting and adjusting the derailleur. A frayed cable can even affect the trim feature in your shift levers, meaning you’ll get chain rub on the derailleur cage at the big and/or little cogs of the cassette (you’ll likely think this is a set screw problem… check for a frayed cable where the cable is clamped to the derailleur, first).
  • A kinked cable… if your shift cable is kinked, shift quality will be affected – and the cable can also kink inside the shift lever if cables aren’t changed every couple of years or so (the end can also break off inside the shifter which is not good).
  • The cable/housing is old, rusted, dirty, grimy, etc. etc. Dirt, grim or rust will cause the cable to develop friction in the housing which will ruin shift quality.
  • As a bonus, if the housings are too long or too short, this can adversely affect shift quality, but this gets a little tricky in that the shifting problems aren’t glaring. A bit slow going up the cassette, or maybe down… often just enough to make you wonder what’s going on.

A rear derailleur’s cable issues are a little more diverse. They are:

  • See 1 through 4 above.
  • The housing loop at the rear of the bike is too big or too small.
  • The cable guide(s) are gummed up underneath the bottom bracket (sports drink leakage and sweat are the main culprits here).
  • Item 1 is particularly daunting with the rear derailleur. The cable must be on the correct side of the screw for the derailleur to work properly. Typically, look for a little groove for the cable to rest in on the derailleur nub where the bolt goes into. Look up your derailleur type and download the setup instructions if you’re not sure. I searched “Shimano 105 10sp Rear Derailleur installation instructions”:

Now all that’s left is to complete the switch of an offending cable. First, if you can afford a few extra bucks for better cables, I recommend the stainless steel cables. They’re the cat’s pajamas and improve shifting immensely. To me, they’re well worth the money. Second, for interior cable routing I like to use cable liner (not cable housing, cable liner) to make the process painless and simple (amazingly so). I’ve got a 10 meter roll of the stuff and use it often.

First, we’re going to undo the bar tape down to just under the hood. There’s no need to unwrap any further – all you’re looking for is access to the bottom of the hood, where the cable housing enters the hood lever body. This is easier if you’ve got access and can see what you’re doing. Next, undo the cable from the derailleur and if there’s a frayed end, snip it off far enough up that you hit good cable. Then, slide the cable liner over the cable and keep feeding it till the liner comes out the other hole in the frame. If the liner won’t easily feed over the cable, you can fasten the liner to the cable with a piece of electrical tape and pull the cable and liner through that way. Tape the liner to both holes where it enters and exits the frame to secure it. Next, with your hood rolled up from the bottom, feed the cable out paying attention to the hole where the cable will go back in. This step will vary between shifters – if you run into questions, search online for the owner’s manual for your shifters.

With the old cable out, take some light lube on your fingers and wipe down the new cable (this step can be skipped if using stainless cables – most manufacturers actually recommend not using a light lube on the cable with new housing – this might need its own post and a pro interview it’s so controversial). Feed the end into the lever hole until it pops up by the cable housing end. This can be a touch on the tricky side getting the angle right. Then, carefully guide the cable end into the housing – I like to use an ultra-thin pair of needle-nosed pliers, they guide the end of the cable perfectly into the housing so I don’t have to mess with pulling the housing from the hood to guide the cable in by hand (a 2 mm hex key works well, also). Once your cable is through the first section of housing, you simply run the cable through the liner you ran through the frame earlier. You don’t have to worry about fishing for the wire or using magnets (and good luck with a magnet and stainless steel btw). Properly connect your cable to the derailleur and adjust the barrel or in-line adjuster. Wrap your bar back up, clean up, and Bob shall be your uncle.

Changing a cable is a daunting task when you’re new to bike repair. It’s a scary undertaking. You will improve with practice, though. New cables used to take me hours – it was a task reserved for a rainy weekend day when I had a clear stretch of time. After years of practice, I can change a shifter cable after work and before my regular evening ride.

Physical, Mental and Spiritual Fitness and What They Mean to Recovery from Addiction

Last Thursday was a glorious January day in Michigan. Normal temperatures for a January day are in the high 20’s (call it -2 C) but last Thursday, it was a fantastic 41 degrees (or 5 C on the nose). Under normal circumstances, and that day was normal excepting fantastic weather, I’d simply not show up to the Zoom meeting with my sponsor. He knows I’m riding outdoors on a day like that.

Driving back to the office from an on-site meeting I was struck with a thought that said, “call Greg”. It was that simple, and I heard it, I didn’t simply think it. So, having had this happen in the past, I did without hesitation (I wish I could say it was always without hesitation), figuring I would leave him a voicemail letting him know I was riding outside and not to expect me (he rarely picks up on the first try). That day was different. He answered on the second ring. I greeted him cheerfully as I always do, but he wasn’t in a good space at all. I’d never heard him talk like he was. He was struggling hard.

Two years ago, he was helping a semi-truck driver clear debris from the road that had fallen out of another truck. An old-timer in a pickup truck hit him hard enough he wasn’t expected to live. He did. His recovery from the crash has been anything but easy and he was down about how far he’d slid in terms of his ability to work. He’s worked his entire life and derived a lot of self-worth from his ability to easily make a buck (actually, piles of bucks). At this point he can only be on his feet for an hour or two at a time before he needs rest, or even a nap.

I listened intently and waited until he was finished. Then, completely out of character, I said, “You’re Gregory f***in’ C******. You are my sponsor and the man I look to when I don’t know what else to do. You will get through this. It’ll be baby steps at first, but this is no hill for a mountain climber.” That snapped him back a little bit.

We talked a while more and when he was good and done he said, “You know, this call couldn’t possibly have come at a better time. I can’t even tell you how much I needed this. Thank you.”

I offered that the pleasure was mine and we exchanged pleasantries before hanging up.

The moral of the story is this: Listen to that voice. It’s a gift and whomever that voice is about needs the other side of that gift.

Then…

The other night I wasn’t looking forward to my workout. I had intervals and pushups on the schedule and for one rare minute I actually thought about taking a day off. Surely a day off could be justified! I thought better and dressed. I thought, “Screw it, I’ll just do an easy 45 minutes and call it good.” I suited up, fired up a movie and started pedaling. I was slow for exactly three minutes. 15 to 16-mph was too easy. I up-shifted. Picked up the pace… up-shifted again. 18-mph, 19… 22, 23… and a rest for a minute or two… then I put the hammer down. 27… 28… 30… I held that for a minute then backed down for a couple of minutes. Then another interval, rest, then another, and another. I was done after 30 minutes and spent.

A friend of mine has a pain cave with a saying on the wall that says, “If you knew you couldn’t play tomorrow, how hard would you play today?” My answer, of course, is “very hard“. If I took it easy every time the mood struck me, though, where would I be when it was actually time to play? I’d be sitting on the couch watching the world go by! Well, not likely, either, but you get, the idea. And a nice use of the Shatner comma.

I’ve got another recovery post brewing, but this one’s gonna be tough…. stay tuned.

The Hylix Specialized Venge Seatpost: It FITS, and I Like The Saddle Attachment Bracket Better Than The Original…

I cracked my Venge seatpost during a seated sprint late last season. I heard it go as I passed 33-mph trying to hold off a friend going for the Durand City Limits sign. It was actually quite the excellent battle. I didn’t have time to stand when I noticed my friend trying to pass on my left. I’d started ramping the pace up a more than a mile earlier, expecting I’d have dropped everyone (or at least convinced them not to bother trying to come around). Jonathan, however, had been busy much of the summer and hadn’t been riding much – he was feeling spunky. I put everything I had into the pedals. It was about the third revolution I put some serious @$$ into it and heard the faint crunch. I did pull away from him well before the line but there was damage…

The owner of our local shop had a look at it and said as small as the crack was, it’s orientation on the seatpost, and with all of the good surrounding fiber, it’d likely last me decades without a problem.

So let’s say it lasts a decade. How many Venge seatposts are going to be floating around out there in a decade, now that the entire line has been discontinued? That’d be approximately zero. A few weeks ago I decided to try to locate a replacement. I struck out with a Chinese exception on eBay. My extensive search produced the Hylix Carbon+Ti Seatpost for my bike and a couple of others.

I hesitated to pull the trigger for more than a week, hemming & hawing about whether or not to risk it. I imagine I could have gotten an original from Specialized for a few Hundred Dollars, but the allure of saving more than $200 and wondering if I’d someday have to mothball my favorite bike finally proved to be too much. Even if I doubted it would fit properly.

I bit the bullet and ordered the Hylix and crossed my fingers. The link above is to the seller I bought mine from. 100% flawless sale.

It came in the other day and I dig it immensely. The saddle clamp is tricky at first glance, but once I figured out how to use it, I like the idea better than the original. We’ll have to see how it works out on the road before I’ll render final judgement. After the visual test came the fit test. It fits exactly as well the original. The carbon layup is sharp and it’ll do nicely once it got its Punisher sticker.

The packaging was more than adequate and the matte, naked finish is quite cool. On the other hand, it won’t quite match my bike as it is, no matter how cool that may be…

I’ll have to think that a bit, though. The naked, no paint look is growing on me… it matches the wheels, too. I ended up swapping out the seatpost last night after looking closer at the crack in the original with a magnification app on my phone. It looks like the damaged area was growing. I may try to have the original repaired, though I think that’ll take a little more than some epoxy… In any event, the new seatpost is on the Venge and the saddle’s been dialed in and I gave it a go on the trainer last night to make sure the saddle clamp would hold the saddle solidly. The only minor wrinkle is that, unlike the original saddle clamp which is self-centering, you have to watch to make sure the Hylix mounting system holds the saddle straight. Mine was off by a lot the first time I set it… it won’t self-center perfectly. That said, once it’s in and cranked down it’s solid. I didn’t experience any problems with the saddle moving throughout my 45 minute workout. There is also one component that the replacement post exceeds Specialized’s: The Hylix’s 7x9mm oval mounting clamp better fits the rails of a carbon saddle.

In any event, you can see more care went into the layup and construction of the original Specialized seatpost (lower right photo, the original is on the left). The side wall on the original goes thin while the Hylix sidewalls are almost the same thickness as the ends. Interestingly, the layup for the outer layer is quite close to the original.

The important part is, the Hylix seatpost fits as well as the original. The only question that remains is how well it holds up to my @$$ on the road. If it’s near as good as the Ican wheels I’m rolling on my good bikes, I’ll be a happy cyclist.

The CycleOps Trainer Tire: The Best $40 I’ve Ever Spent on a Tire. It’s So Good (AND QUIET) I Still Can’t Believe It.

I was sure my CycleOps trainer tire was going to be a gimmick. Surely it would start squeaking within a week of installing it on my trainer wheel… and I’d be relegated to writing the “well, it was quiet while it lasted” post, dejected. My high hope was maybe it wouldn’t be as noisy as a standard road tire…

Let’s back up a minute. I own a normal, “dumb” trainer. On purpose. It’s not entirely dumb, though. It’s a CycleOps Magneto trainer and it is unquestionably “neat-o”. The harder you pedal, the more resistance it gives you. 18-mph is just as hard or harder on my trainer than it is outside. With that much resistance in the flywheel, though, normal tires end up squeaking after I melt them during intervals (I’ve melted Specialized tires at a mere 23-mph). Once they’ve melted, they’re done. Every pedal stroke elicits a tiny squeak as the tire tries to stick to the flywheel. I installed a Bontrager tire several weeks ago, an AW-2 if memory serves. A terribly slow but undeniably reliable road tire, I figured if anything could work quietly on my trainer, this would be the tire. It was spectacular. For two weeks… and then the squeak appeared.

Exasperated, I remembered the shop had a couple of CycleOps tires made by Kenda specifically for the trainer. I went in for a visit hoping they still had one in stock. As luck would have it, $40 trainer tires are not high on the COVID demand list because there were four on the shelf – a painful purchase, but I needed quiet. After a couple of weeks, I have to say, I’m nothing short of impressed.

I hit 30-mph during intervals last night, several times – a full-on effort in the 50/12 gear as fast as I could pedal and not a squeak. Not even when I’d dropped down to an easy gear for recovery. In fact, I just walked over and felt the tire surface – it feels the same this morning as it did the other day. No sticky melted rubber.

The CycleOps tire by Kenda is legit. It takes everything I’ve got. And quietly. Without protest.

Stress, Grinding Teeth at Night, and the Immense Body Pain a Bite Splint Corrects

I’ve, for decades, clenched and ground my teeth at night. I have a stressful job and I’m not going to change that because I make a lot of money for a fella who drank his way out of college long before his degree. I have no doubt my career will be responsible for years off of my life in the end, but the trade-off is worth it and I do what I can to mitigate the damage by living the rest of my life awesomely.

For the longest time I had a very expensive, well made sports bite splint that I wore at night. After having a bridge installed because I’d broken a tooth in half grinding my teeth at night years before, that splint was useless. I bought a two-pack of the set-yourself variety from the local pharmacy but the first one I set was poorly done – my bite was slightly off when I set it so it was less than comfortable by the time I woke up in the morning. Besides, you go from a pro-quality bite splint (the same kind Patrick Mahomes uses) to a boil and bite model, it’s a big fall in quality. I ended up throwing both of them in the trash and going without.

And so it was for a few years. As I’ve cruised through my 40’s, into my early 50’s, life was good. I’m clean and sober, fit, healthy, and happy… but “rise and shine” was more “rise, get moving and loose, then shine”. I put it to “getting old”. My lower back was so sore and stiff on waking I’d have a tough time putting on my fleece pajama pants in the morning (my arms were almost too short). Once I got moving, though, everything was okay.

Then I cracked a tooth grinding at night. Then another. I decided it was time for that second boil and bite, but this time I wouldn’t mess up the bite when I set it. I took my time and nailed it. My jaw is comfortable when I wake in the morning and isn’t out of place or stiff. I wear the splint religiously through the night now.

And that stiffness in my lower back is completely gone. This morning, as I was whipping on my fleece pants I thought, “Wait a second… that shouldn’t have been that easy”. And that’s when it dawned on me… when I wear my bite splint at night, I wake up loose. When I don’t, I’m tight and stiff until I get moving in the morning – I feel my age.

Here are some of the benefits of wearing a bit splint at night I’ve noticed now that I think about it a little bit:

  • I sleep deeper, often through the night
  • Fewer late night trips to the bathroom (say a 50 to 66% reduction)
  • No to vastly less lower back stiffness
  • No shoulder and neck pain on rising in the morning (this was pain I didn’t even know was there till it was gone – it was mild)
  • I feel a decade, maybe more, younger on rising in the morning
  • I wake up fresh

Friends, it’s hard to tell if you grind your teeth. I made the mistake of thinking stress reduction techniques might help – and they did with stress… right up till I chipped another tooth. I tried everything from prayer to positive thinking to relaxation techniques. While they did wonders for my outlook on life and my overall attitude, they didn’t touch my clenching and grinding. Only a bite splint could help with that.

Usually your dentist will be the first to notice you grind your teeth. If that is the case, don’t be like me. Don’t hesitate to do something about it. It won’t “go away”, it’s doubtful mindfulness techniques will work (though they absolutely help with overall attitude), and it will only get worse – especially when your teeth start to crumble. The expensive bite splints many dental establishments will sell are preferable (having had one myself), but even the inexpensive options available at your local pharmacy will correct the problems associated with teeth clenching and grinding if properly set. If you find your jaw uncomfortable on waking, you’ve likely set the bite incorrectly the first time. Try again until you get it right.

Trust me. A good night’s sleep is worth it.

My First Legit Ride of 2021… Just Me & Chucker.

I sent a text out to my friends that we’d be riding at 2, knowing it was likely only going to be Chuck and I. Most of us are early cyclists. Chuck and I, because we’re working stiffs, are a little more… ah… flexible with the time we’ll ride. The others, they like to get out early or ride their trainers in the winter, to get the workout out of the way. The problem we had yesterday was that we were on the back end of a two-day warm front, followed by rain turning to snow ahead of the cold front the evening prior which froze the roads. They were dicey in the morning. However, temps were due to climb to just above freezing by noon. This is why we set the time for 2pm.

I started getting ready a little early so I was out in the living room to see it my clear driveway – nobody else was coming.

I rolled my Trek out the door, that’s right, the skinny-tire bike in January, just a Chuck pulled up. Garmin and taillight on and we rolled out. The roads weren’t entirely dry but they weren’t a bit icy, either. We’d picked the “Deer Loop”, so named because my wife and buddy, Mike had a deer run into our group causing Mike to fall backwards off his bike, breaking his tailbone. From my house it’s a 35-mile route heading out west and south before heading back north and east. We like it because we’ve got eight to ten inescapable miles of moderately trafficked road and 25 out in the middle of nowhere.

The pace started out quick right out of the gate and I could feel the effects of too many easy days over the last couple of months. I’d dressed for an easy ride so I started sweating almost immediately. Thankfully, with my new jacket, sweating doesn’t mean what it used to (freezing). I still stay comfortable while I’m dripping wet. The pace was interesting. We were taking three-mile pulls between 18 & 19-mph into the wind, but it wasn’t what you’d call “horrible”. I felt it at the end of those three, though. Chuck, who’s been riding outside daily, even in the snow, is in better shape than I am (or at least that’s my perception – he’s been turning in slow miles outdoors while I’ve been hammering the trainer pretty hard these last two weeks). The southerly miles weren’t near as bad but I didn’t get many of those… it was mostly east-to-west for my miles.

We stopped at the Gaines gas station we always do about 14 miles in and had a decent 17.4-mph average. I was hungry from the effort and was just about to break into my pocket food when Chuck emerged from the store with a couple of Payday peanut bars. We cracked a couple of jokes about licking salty nuts outside the gas station beating licking them on the couch (as a dog licks its nuts… sadly, I don’t actually possess the flexibility for this, but it makes for a funny double entendre – someone asks, “what are your plans for the day?” “I’m gonna sit on the couch and lick my nuts”… said deadpan, it’s freaking hilarious).

We rolled out after finishing our peanut bars, just three miles of headwind left in the ride. The wind was picking up a little, too. We did, however, manage to bump that 17.4 up to 17.5 when we hit quartering tailwind, though. The pace bumped to a relatively easy 20-mph, and relief. Kind of. The effort stayed the same commensurate to the amount of tailwind so there wasn’t much of a break. Our pace ticked up quickly once we hit glorious tailwind. Within five miles we’d cracked 18-mph. Seven miles later we were bumping on 18.5… and I was running out of gas. With six miles left, and it being my turn up front, I thought about sitting up for a minute or two of that first mile. I decided I wasn’t going to get any stronger sitting up so I told the complainer in the melon committee to sit down and shut it. Then came the quartering tailwind section and I didn’t drop my pace accordingly. By the end of that two miles my tongue was dangling… and I mean that literally. When I flicked off the front after that pull, I was hit. Chuck laughed when he came by, seeing my tongue lolling out of my mouth.

The last four miles, one quartering and three tailwind, were no rest for the weary. We hammered toward home near 23-mph as the snow started coming down lightly. We cracked 18.5-mph with a shade less than three miles to go. Chuck headed for home while I turned up my road to head to my driveway, hitting the Garmin at 35.4 miles in 1:54:21, good for 18.6… I was cooked, but at just above freezing with all of that gear on, and our first hard ride after months of taking it easy, that was a really good result.

I started falling asleep on the couch before we even ate dinner. After, we played a couple of family games of Euchre, then watched the last of the Packers game, then the start of the Bills before I wandered off to bed with my tablet to watch a bit more of the Bills while my wife and daughters watched a movie on the TV. I don’t even remember how much of the game I made it through before crashing, but it wasn’t much. I slept like a baby.

Bicycle Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder: Behold! Bike Pron! And The Great Paint Debate!

My riding buddy, Chuck, is awaiting his brand new Specialized Tarmac SL5 (hydraulic disc, Ultegra Di2, etc, etc). He’s also got a set of Roval 50’s on the way as well, because he decided late that he wanted the SL7 instead, but that would have kicked him to the back of the que and likely meant he wouldn’t get his bike till the spring of 2022 when leaving things as they are will mean his 5 will be here in a couple of months (some time in March).

Chuck’s issue, beyond the badass Roval 50’s, was the blue paintjob. I, on the other hand, prefer the silver for one spectacular reason that I’ll get to in a minute.

I have been locked into black and red for a long time, since 2012. Oh, sure, I can get away with a blue jersey now and again (I own three, but only one I wear regularly on the Trek), but for the most part, if I want to look good atop the good bike, I’ve gotta be in red and black.

Chuck, if he had gone with the blue Tarmac, would have been locked into blue black and gray for the next decade, possibly longer. On the silver SL5 he can wear anything and get away with it. White, blue, red, black, gray, silver… he’ll get away with anything he wants.

Now, having been locked into red and black for so long, there are worse color schemes out there – in fact in the 2021 Tarmac SL5 line, even. The other two SL5’s are a terrible peach/pink and a baby blue to $#!+ brown paintjob… I don’t know how they got those by the big wigs, but having to always hunt for red and black can be a little monotonous. God only knows what you’d wear on the peach bike, but on the baby $#!+ model, you’d be stuck with throwback AG2R kits… until you sold the bike (or had the ugly bastard repainted red & black).

In the end, bicycle beauty is in the eye of the beholder. While there’s a lot we can do to influence that beauty with proper a proper setup, paint schemes are left to the owner. Unless you’re the owner of this:

If that’s your bike, I’m sorry, first, for poking fun. Second, take your palm and firmly smack your forehead.