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Monthly Archives: February 2021

And Just Like That, A Real Ride Broke Out

I thought I put together the perfect text to 37 of my closest riding friends. Perfect. Time, distance, even the pace. Easy, pre-spring, you know, 16 to 17-mph average, the hope bit.

In hindsight, it might have been better if I’d posted the intended pace before the time of departure. We adjusted the time twice which worked out as it had rained overnight. The clouds just started breaking up as the original start time ticked by. I saw Winston pull up just before 11. Then I saw a red Chevy Blazer I’d never seen before. Pickett got out. Then McMike pulled up.

You know that part in Ocean’s Twelve that look on Brad Pitt’s Rusty Ryan when he realizes Catherine Zeta Jones’ Isabel Lihiri stole his cell phone? I had that same look on my face. Same one.

The roads were still wet, but drying as the ticked 11 and we rolled out. With the route we picked, it was 100% headwind for the first half and 100% tailwinds home. The headwind 17-1/2 miles started out brutally. Chuck and I tried to keep the pace reasonable but every time Pickett got up front, he’d drop the hammer. McMike would drop it back a half-mile an hour, but it was still rough. I was relegated to short pulls if I was going to keep up, but I gave it everything I had and I was panting hard as I flicked off and dropped back (very much normal – it takes a week to get my lungs going again). Within three miles, the roads were drying out considerably but the pace, climbing to 21-mph into the wind, was rough. Winston, on his new gravel rig (honestly, it’s about time – his old rig had rim brakes), was struggling enough to mention it. In all my years riding with him, I’d never heard him complain once (unless he was hungover and making a joke about it), so I cruised up as Pickett passed 22-mph and asked him to dial it back for Winston, then went back to my place in the pace-line.

Winston gave me the, “thanks, brother” and I told him it was my pleasure to slow the line down and blame it on him. Chuck laughed out loud. Slowing Pickett down is an exercise in futility. McMike has two gears – “fast” and “really fast”. Pickett has one: bury the needle.

Thirteen miles in, with at least three of us riding with our tongues lolling out dangerously close to our spokes, I heard a glorious sound – Chuck was up front, I was second, then Pickett, McMike and Winston… Pssst, pssst, pssst… someone flatted. It was Chuck’s rear wheel. We pulled over to the side of the road at a driveway and he set to changing it. We had a few laughs in the process and thanked Chuck for picking up a piece of glass so we could have a break (!). Fixed and rolling, we stopped for a minute a mile later at our usual gas station and then were off, back into the wind. Getting my breathing back together was exactly what I needed. The last three headwind miles went by quickly. And then… tailwind paradise.

We weren’t full mid-season flying, but we were close enough for government work. I’d noted our average at the end of the headwind section at 18.6-mph. We were going to do a lot better than 16 or 17 (25 to 30 km/h) for our final average. When I got to the front, I’d hold the pace (22-24-mph or 35-38 km/h) for my mile and flick to the back – it was glorious.

Most clouds were gone at this point and it was just straight up sunshine, mild temps and tailwind. It was, without question, the best conditions I’d ever ridden in during the month of February. And we didn’t let up one bit until we pulled up to my street with a 20.0-mph average for the 35-1/2 mile ride. I didn’t have much left in the tank. Chuck was so wiped out, he didn’t even stop for fist bumps, he just went straight home. Winston said he couldn’t have made it another 100 yards.

And my wife was waiting at the end of our driveway as we pulled up (she and my daughters had a ladies morning out getting their hair done… how cool is that?). She said she looked me up on Life 360 to see when I’d be back and it said I was “driving” down the main road to get to our street, rather than cycling (the app usually differentiates between driving and cycling).

As one would expect, I’m going to have a smile on my face over that ride for at least four days. Maybe longer. Today is Sunday Funday on the tandem. We’ve got a 50/50 chance of rain just before noon we’re going to try to beat.

The Winter Makes the Cyclist’s Heart Grow Fonder

If yesterday was in late November, there’s no chance I’d have had much fun. I was a little underdressed. I should have been a little smarter about it – worn the light tights over the leg warmers and bibs, different upper layers… the only things I really got right were my hat, my gloves and choosing toe covers rather than full overshoes. Oh, and my sunglasses. It was spectacularly sunny and a little breezy out of the south – don’t let the direction fool you, though; any wind this early in the season picks up cold from the snow still on the ground. It was a little better than 42° (5 C). But it was my second ride outdoors in our leadup to spring and I’d been cooped up way too long as temps outside bottomed out to -17° (-27 C) just a short while ago.

Heading north was fairly easy and not too chilly, but anything east, west, or south and the wind cut right through my layers. I quickened my pace on the way over to pick my riding bud up, heading east with a crosswind off my right. I was pleasantly surprised at how easily the crank was turning over. Much easier at 20-mph than 18 was on the trainer (I knew it). If I kept the pace up, I could stay comfortably numb, as the song goes. I had to stop twice to adjust the rear derailleur after switching from my trainer wheel to the normal outdoor wheel. I got it nailed on the second try – perfect, crisp shifts, every gear up and down the cassette. I pulled into Chuck’s driveway with a 16-mph average.

He was ready and we were off in a matter of minutes, starting slow but building. I had us up to 20-mph with the crosswind and kept it comfortable. We were up to an 18-1/2 average in no time and a sly smirk stretched across my face. It had been a productive winter. You know that first ride on the good bike where you’re wondering if you did enough on the trainer to hit the ground rolling in the spring? I was relieved. I’ll have a better time getting up to Tuesday night speed this year (once I work off some of the last month’s dinners – I was sitting in good shape a month ago, but I let some really good food get in the way).

I was chilly much of the ride, but just the right side of chilly. It wasn’t terrible, but I didn’t have to throw my outer layer in the wash, either. Not enough sweat to soak through. Even so, it was a wonderful evening on the bike. The Trek was perfectly tuned (more on that later – I learned a few things over the winter) and quiet. Not one out of place creak the whole ride. Better, I felt excellently comfortable the whole time. We ended up with a 17-mph average and I felt I could have ridden all day at that pace (though I am feeling it a little this morning).

I’ve got group rides planned for today and tomorrow and I’m feeling quite lucky to be able to ride this much so early in the year. Normally we’d be waiting, rather impatiently, for another week or so.

More later. In the meantime, my God is the fresh air and sunshine fantastic after a nice, long stretch indoors. I have a love/hate relationship with the winter. I pretty much hate the whole season. But I love these first few rides outside as I remember what I’d been missing now that we’re on the road bikes. Puts a smile on my face just thinking about it.

Our First Big Weekend Outdoors… Finally! I Can’t Wait!

This afternoon, by the time I get home from work and ready to ride, it should be mildly breezy, mostly sunny, and 40° (4 C).  That may not seem all that much to shout about, but for Michigan at the end of February?  Folks, it’s fabulous and cause for celebration.  I readied the Trek last night.

Michelin Pro 4’s, 25 mm ready to go, wheels are good, headset is clean and ready to roll, bottom bracket is good to go and the cables are all new and perfectly trimmed and my Garmin head unit and taillight are charged and ready to go. I couldn’t be more ready to get my butt outside.  Just a single day outdoors this early in season would normally be considered a treat, but it’ll be even warmer tomorrow and we might even be able to squeeze a ride in Sunday in warmer conditions still (rain moves in tonight, dries up for tomorrow, then Sunday will be sketchy).

Truly, this hasn’t been all that bad of a winter by any stretch, but February has been brutal – bad enough to justify all trainer miles up till Tuesday when Chucker and I finally rode together outside again.

So, the 2021 season will start a little early this year, by a week or so, and after Tuesday’s ride on the gravel bikes, I’m good and stoked to get the Trek out the door for a stretch.  As The Cars put it:

How to Plant a Seed for Recovery In Addicts and Alcoholics…

If you have an addict or alcoholic who desperately needs corrective action, but you don’t know what to do, allow me to offer you this:

Plant seeds.

Tiny, pernicious seeds. The inspiration for this post comes from an ear worm I’d suffered through lately from an Alice In Chains song. Here’s the worm:

What’s your drug of choice?

Well, what have you got?

I don’t go broke

And I do it a lot

I do it A LOT!

Sadly, Layne didn’t go broke.  He did do it a lot. And he did die, at just 35-years-old, of an overdose.  Rumor has it, the condition he lived in was horrendous.

So, driving with my wife the other day we happened on that song. It’s always been an ear worm for me for years. I had to ask the big HP to take it away finally.  (It worked so well, I actually had to Google the Layne’s name to get the band name, then the lyrics, to write this post. It was that gone.  That’s the power of faith and prayer used positively.)

So here’s the brain worm for your alcoholic:

Life will never get better while you’re still using.  Ever. The choices you make won’t allow it to happen.

Go with variations on that theme. It worked on me.  My mom used one on me that stuck for the better part of a couple of decades, when she dropped me off at treatment (keeping in mind, I quit when I was 22).  That brain worm, or seed, helped me to stay on the path more than a few times.

PS. As a word of caution, this doesn’t always end well. Planting seeds like that, well, it can drive an addict/alcoholic who absolutely refuses to recover, nuts. In some cases they won’t be able to un-think it, especially if it’s reinforced a few times. It would be wise to add a “There’s help out there when you’re ready” as well, or some variation on that theme and consult a professional.  In today’s “touchy feely” Dr. Spock world, they may shy away from things that actually work.

Also, use positive seeds.  I prefer positive over the negative, but sometimes it’s tough to fight through the emotion to be positive when you’ve got a tornado to deal with.  The best time is after trouble, in that period between a blow-up/blow-out and going back to using again.  Allow some time (half a day, maybe) for your loved one to come out of freak-out mode and relax a little.  Then drop a little seed, or reinforce an old one, and sit back and let it work.  Try this, “Things may be tough now, but there are a million success stories out there of people who have fully recovered from much worse that where you’re at.  Try going to a meeting and giving recovery a try.  Worst case scenario is you take a year off of using and give your body a chance to clean itself up.  Best case, you find peace and happiness.”

Admittedly, this isn’t much, but it’s certainly a lot better than doing nothing.

What Would It Be Like to Go Cycling with Jesus? And Other Heady Thoughts On Cycling and the Sheer Joy It Brings.

This is what I was thinking about last night as Chuck and I were heading toward my house, maybe five miles to go.  We had a glorious tailwind, it was above 40 degrees and I was about as close to perfectly dressed as I’m going to get.  We were cruising, after all those trainer miles over the winter, and the pace was fairly enjoyable – I would put it in the “barely moderate” category.  I was in Chuck’s draft and I said to him, “I like to think about what it’d be like if Jesus got a chance to ride with us”.

I like to imagine the look on His face on throwing a leg over a Specialized Venge Tarmac (I started writing this post last year before they did away with the Venge) or Trek Madone 9…. the look of trepidation, the uneasy wobble as he tried to clip in the first time (maybe we’d give him some platform pedals for his first go)…

Then, after learning to ride, would naturally come teaching Him how to ride in a group, you know, the particulars; watch the overlap of the wheels, watch up the road, no, bicycles don’t work on water because you can’t get traction on the water.  You know, the basics.  Then, I like to imagine the look of sheer joy on His face as He cruised around with a group of us in a pace-line.  I love to think about what it would be like if Jesus could feel the joy and exhilaration of coming around the final corner on Tuesday night, full out as the pace ramps up from 25 to north of 30-mph.  I’m immensely grateful that I can and feel that regularly.  Then I wonder if maybe Jesus does get to sense of what that’s like through me.

This is my understanding of God in recovery.  The whole “God is my co-pilot” doesn’t make any sense in recovery.  Technically, if we’re doing it right, God is the pilot.  Anyway, “I get it” kind of, but the whole pilot/co-pilot thing is a little foreign to me as I’m not, you know, a pilot.  The thought of how much fun Jesus would have in our pace-line, though, and having the chance to lead Him out (or vice-versa, even better yet), that’s something I can connect with.

I like to think of how big smile on His face would be after we cross the Lennon City Limits sign and we’re all bumping fists and patting each other on the back, thanking each other for the hard work and effort on another fantastic ride, acknowledging each other’s part in the group… I like to think Jesus would see that and say, “You know, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.  That’s how it’s done.”

… and just like that, I was on the home-stretch to my driveway.  The first, glorious ride of the new season in the books.  We took the gravel bikes out as the snowmelt was gnarly and messy, but was it fabulous to be out in the fresh air, even if I ate some salty road spray a time or two. I thanked my friend for another fantastic time on the bike as he rode off toward his house.  I felt a little like Kurt Warner as I walked my bike up to the front porch.  I gave a little, “Thank you, Je-sus!” and smiled again as I rolled my bike into the house to tell my wife about the ride.

I haven’t slept as well as I did last night in months.

The Perfect Racy Setup for a Restored Trek 5200; Transforming an Old (But Not Tired) Horse to New Glory

My cycling brother from another mother bought himself a Postal Edition Trek 5200 and fitted it with 11-speed Ultegra components (looks like an 11/28 cassette with a 50/34 chainset). I’ve had my 5200, a few years older (his looks like a 2002), since 2012 so I’ve had a lot of time to tinker with it to make it into exactly the bike I want it. I’m here to tell you, if you want a good, workhorse frame to build into a new, racy steed, the 5200 is an excellent choice. It’s a little on the squishy side at the bottom bracket by today’s standards, but modern components work. You can get everything you need – 11 speed components, wheels, cranksets, headsets… and you don’t have to go expensive, either. I’ve got a budget Shimano crankset with SRAM chainrings and the 105 drivetrain that came off my Specialized Venge when I upgraded that to Ultegra. I think, if memory serves, I’ve got about $1,000 into upgrading all of the components and wheels – and that includes the $200 I plunked down to upgrade my Venge’s drivetrain – for the entire build (not including the paint job, however):

So here’s what you’ll need to know, generally, to build up a 5200, from the frame up. First, you’ve got a 68 mm English threaded bottom bracket (I’ve got an Ultegra BBR60 on mine that has been fantastic). I also have, and highly recommend, a Chris King 1″ threaded headset (for the pre-2000 5200’s). King’s headsets are known to be bomb-proof. You’ll have enough room at the back triangle for 10 or 11 speed components, so go nuts. For the wheels, you’ll want to be careful and keep the rim width to 23-mm max (25 will be a little too wide – I tried 25’s with 26 mm tires and there simply isn’t enough clearance at the chainstays – the tire will rub whilst climbing out of the saddle). For the seatpost, you’ll need a 27.2 mm. I went with a carbon fiber Easton model that I’ve had on there since ’14 or so. The old, original seat posts had slots to adjust the saddle nose up/down. I found my comfort zone to be exactly in between two slots. I needed/wanted something infinitely adjustable. I use a quill adapter so I can use a standard threadless stem. I’ve got a Bontrager Elite Blendr 90 mm x 17 degree (flipped, obviously). I specifically went with the 17 so I’d end up with the stem parallel to the top tube. Finally, to round out the new parts, I’ve got a sweet Bontrager Montrose Pro 138 mm carbon fiber saddle and a Bontrager Elite Aero alloy handlebar that I put on a couple of summers ago.

From the ground up, it’s an impressive build and I thoroughly enjoy riding it. It’s surprisingly light, too. I’m at 18-1/2 pounds as you see it in the photo above, but could go much lighter with Ultegra or Dura Ace components. While it’ll never measure up to modern race bikes, it’ll hold its own in any setting. I’ve heard it said that frame has more US wins on it than any frame in the history of cycling.

An Important Clarification from the Daily Reflection – February 20, 2021: We Are Not A Glum Lot… Laugh, Baby.

Daily Recovery Readings February 20, 2021 Daily Reflection THE GIFT OF LAUGHTER At this juncture, his A.A. sponsor usually laughs. — TWELVE STEPS AND …

DR – February 20, 2021

I love that a friend posts the Daily Reflection. I would normally miss most days if not for his recreating the reading daily. The 20th was a special one that dealt with something that can unsettle newcomers in their first few meetings when they walk in to find a bunch of old-timers yucking it up over things that will typically generate tears in new members.

If I had a dollar for every belly-laugh I’ve had over the sad state of my affairs when I walked in the door, I’d be writing this post from my winter home in Tasmania after a ride with my friend, the Tempocyclist.

The key thing to remember, while others are laughing about their trip out of hell, is that they’ve emerged charred but alive and recovered years and decades ago. What they’re doing is celebrating their recovery from that sad state… and most important, they’re showing you what’s in store for you if you keep coming back. And that is not to be missed.

Don’t be sad or angry that they’re laughing. First, like the linked post says, learn to refrain from taking yourself so seriously. Second, know that if you keep coming back and work the steps, your time to laugh is on the horizon and it is glorious. If you work for it, it’s a promise to you. It will happen.

A brighter note for a Monday.

The Cycling Industry and COVID; The $#!+$#0w Continues… Stock Up On Your Essentials, My Friends

I took in my Trek to clean and service the headset at the shop. Chris King GripNut headsets are a little tricky. There’s a washer with a key that slots into the main nut that has to be lined up for the lock nut to thread on properly… if that key isn’t lined up, the headset lock nut threads won’t start. So, I went to learn how to put the thing back together the right way. The last time I tried, I took my bike to the shop in pieces.

At the heart of this is the King headset on my Trek is the last known part on any of our… let’s see, one, two… ten bikes I didn’t know how to pull apart to service – and I know how to service everything on my bikes, especially my Trek. The shop manager walked me through the process and let me put everything back together so I could get the feel for what was required to get the thing back together. The key is actually getting the GripNut system together first, then starting the assembly on the threaded stem, whilst keeping pressure on the system as it’s threaded on so the key stays locked in.

After I’d gotten everything back together and lined up perfectly, I found the system to be a little loose, so I had another mechanic check my work and he agreed, so I loosened the lock nut then gave the main nut a half-turn and locked it down. That did the trick. While I was tinkering, the mechanic (a friend of ours who rides with us on Tuesday night when he doesn’t feel like riding with the A guys) lightly suggested that I pick up any spare parts I might need to get me through the season as manufacturers are woefully behind. We’re talking tubes, tires, chains and cassettes. He said anything that isn’t manufactured in the states is going to be a problem for the rest of the year. I picked up two 10-sp chains and one 11-sp, along with two tires for my wife and one for my Venge (they only had one 26 mm Turbo Pro in stock). I also grabbed one of the last bottles of Squirt chain lube they had in stock. It was a hefty bill, but I’m set for the season.

I’m no prognosticator, but it might not be a bad idea to make sure you’re set in wearable parts for the season before March. It sounds like the same problem they had with bikes last year* is going to metastasize into replacement parts this year. According to my mechanic, the suppliers went through all of their shelf stock to get through last year. Now there’s no shelf stock left.

*If you weren’t aware, buying a new bike has been unbelievably difficult. A friend of mine ordered a brand new $5,000 Specialized Tarmac in October and he’s hoping to have it in April. If you get in the que now, it’s 2022 before you’ll see your new bike. We may all be in this together, but I’d prefer to be in this together with all of my replacement parts sitting in my bike bag…

A Truly Marvelous Post: Sobriety; The restoration of hope.

Be sure to check this one out. It’s a good one —Jim

Dark times abound. Armageddon is played 24/7 on the media. An ominous virus sweeps the earth. Squeezing not only the breath from its victims but hope…

Sobriety; The restoration of hope.

A Man and His [Race] Bike(s) and the Long, Cold Winter.

We are currently in the hardest two-week period of a calendar year in Michigan. We’re at least two weeks from riding outside again and we’re getting itchy. Strava and Zwift are showing our increased intensity as we prepare to finally get outside again… on the road bikes. And the weather absolutely sucks. It was -17 the other morning (that’s -27 in Euros), the day before we received a fresh new foot of snow (30 cm). It’s been a bit more than a month since I was last outdoors on my gravel bike.

And so, once a day, usually in the afternoon, I’ll walk into the bike room to stare at my Venge a little bit, sitting there looking all racy. I look at it from across the room, then walk over and brush my fingers over the tacky Serfas polka-dot bar tape, then the Montrose Pro saddle, that also has a sharp polka-dot texture to it so everything matches… the bike is in a gear I’d never ride it in, smallest up front, smallest on the cassette, so the cables don’t stretch over the winter. I hook the fingers from my right hand under the carbon fiber S-Works Aerofly handlebar and the left fingers under the saddle and give it a lift to feel the weight of my glorious sub-sixteen pound aero race bike in my hands.

The bike got new stainless steel shift cables earlier in the winter, so the shifting is outrageously smooth and crisp. The new stem and handlebar position looks slammed and racy… and the new seat post, and it’s already dialed in perfectly, just waiting to go.

I’ve never written about doing this before, but I’ve been visiting the Venge every now and again over the winter months for years. I thought I was the only one nutty enough to do that, so I kept it to myself. Then, on the way home last night, I called my buddy, Mike and we got to talking about the weather and a couple of upcoming road trips on the itinerary and he let it out that he walks by his good bike and pets the handlebar regularly, as if to say, “Don’t worry, it won’t be long now”.

It was then, just driving home from the office, I realized I needed to write this post. To reach out to my friends on two wheels and let you know that it’s okay. You’re not alone. We are all in this together in these difficult times… we’ll be outside, cruising down the road soon. Be strong.