Back to Trainer Season… and Not Too Crushed About It.
Chucker texted yesterday, around noon, that he was looking to ride but he had an appointment to get his booster so he had to be done before 6:15 pm. Generally speaking, this is great for me. I’ll be home a little early and dinner will be at a normal time. It wasn’t even that cold out, relatively speaking (we still had a couple inches of snow on the ground)… maybe it was being cooped up and busy all day, maybe just coming back from a four day weekend to a dozen ridiculous demands, but I had zero “want to” to get bundled up to ride outside. In fact, I was looking forward to putting some time in on the trainer.
Now, I’ll give you, that last sentence may seem kinda nuts, but hear me out for a second…
Even though riding the trainer resembles a hamster wheel a little too closely, it’s simple. Throw on a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, slap on the shoes, and ride it out, clean up, shower, done. I can start at 5 and be ready for dinner by six.
Riding outdoors, there’s messing with the lights, messing with the Garmin, removing all of that clothing, getting a whole pile of stuff to the laundry after a shower, does the bike need lube, does it need to be cleaned (we ride mainly dirt roads this late in the season), etc., etc., ad nauseum. I’m lucky if I’m ready for dinner at 7 when I ride outside.
The trainer is simple, and after a full seven months of trying to sneak in every minute I can outside, it’s kind of nice to
make take life easy for a while.
And so it was last night. I put Ocean’s Eleven in the DVD player, cranked up the Bose Dolby Digital Surround Sound, and cranked out some miles. And it was good.
I threw in a bunch of intervals, rode hard, and finished with two puddles of sweat under my bike, either side of my absolutely necessary CycleOps bike thong. With the oldest moved out at her university, the youngest over at her boyfriend’s family’s house, it was just my wife and I for dinner. We had a cozy dinner together and had some laughs, then watched Ocean’s Twelve to finish up the night – I fell asleep halfway through… but that’s not necessarily a bad thing when you start your day at 4 in the a.m.
While I know for a fact, come the second week of February, I’ll have had enough of my trainer, but I liked it last night. Sure, I’ll be clawing at the door to get outside, waiting impatiently for the biting cold to subside and for the sun to start climbing north in the sky and we’ll have to wait because that last two weeks of February feels like it takes about three months to go by… but it will, and then I’ll be scrambling for every last minute I can get outside again.
It’s the nature of things.
My Season-long Tire Wear Experiment and How Rim Width Affects Tire Wear.
First, rim width affects tire wear. I’d run standard 19.5 mm alloy wheels and 23 mm tires for the better part of a decade before switching to carbon fiber wheels. And, to be clear, carbon fiber wheels are the cat’s pajamas if you want to average more than 18-mph on your rides. See, when you’re cruising around 16-mph, they really don’t make that much of a difference. When you’re north of 22 or 23, the difference is immense.
There’s another benefit that’s come with carbon fiber wheels: width.
I’ve got two sets of carbon fiber wheels on two different road bikes. I’ve got 38s on my Trek and 50s on my Venge:
The 50s are absolutely superior to the 38s when the wind isn’t howling, but there’s an interesting benefit to the 38s on the Trek and the 50s on the Venge; the rim width of each set matches the chainstay clearance of each bike, almost perfectly so I can use the widest possible tire on each bike. For the Trek, with standard alloy wheels, the best I could run was 24 mm tires. Anything wider would rub the chainstays when I climbed hills out of the saddle. The Ican 38s are 23 mm wide which means I can easily run a 25 mm tire without fear of chainstay rub because the wider rim lessens the “lighbulb” effect of using a wide tire on a narrow rim. I did run 25s for quite some time until I decided to switch to 24s for reasons I’ll get into in the next paragraph. The Venge is even better. The Ican Fast & Light 50 wheels I’m rolling are 25 mm wide so I should be able to fit a 28 mm tire on there. I haven’t bothered, though. I’ve stuck with 26 mm Specialized Turbo Pro tires.
See, the pros use tires equal to or 1 mm less wide than the rims they’re running. 28 mm tires? 29 mm rims. 25 mm tires? 26 mm rims. This is for aerodynamic’s sake. I noticed, however, running 26 mm tires on 25 mm rims greatly improved tire wear. Normally you’ll develop a flat patch at the center of the tire after a few hundred miles that gets “flatter” the longer you run the tire. I noticed the 26s on 25 mm rims didn’t develop the flat patch near as fast – and if I rotated the tires every 700-1,000 miles, having the rear tire on the front of the bike would round it back out. With the Trek, I still had wear issues using 25s on 23 mm rims (though they weren’t near as bad). After I wore out my set of 25s, I changed to 24 mm Specialized Turbo Pro tires.
I got a full season out of the tires on the Venge. They’re about done, but they served me well. Thousands of miles on a tire with an effective life of less than 2,000. The 24s on the Trek did even better. I got a full season on those and I’m not even thinking of replacing them yet. They’re still in excellent shape after having been rotated twice.
I’d heard mumblings about improved tire wear when the rim width approached tire width, but the main benefit was always aerodynamics for those who regularly sprint at 44+ mph. My best sprint with help is around 35-36, so not really my cup of tea, but I wanted to see if rim width affected tire wear.
Now that I’ve seen the extended tire life that’s possible, as long as I can get the right tires, I won’t go back. Tires wear that much better.
How I Keep My Bikes from Rusting over the Long Michigan Winter
I’ve got a lot of bikes to look after. We have a detached garage and far too many bikes to store in the bike room over the winter so I have to employ some pretty aggressive tactics to keep my bikes shiny while they’re waiting for spring locked up in the garage. I’ll start with the easy, first.
The obvious winner for keeping the bikes rust-free is storing the bikes indoors, in a temperature controlled environment whenever possible. My wife once asked if we could store my Venge and Trek out in the garage for the winter. I said that was possible, but if either developed a spot of rust, I’d get a new bike. My bike room stayed “the bike room”, though I imagine I’ve paid a price for that.
*Notice all of the bikes that are hung from the wheels above/right are hung from alloy wheels. I don’t hang the carbon fiber wheels like that. It’s probably a little hyper-sensitive, but I’d rather not risk it. I don’t need a $750 “oops”.
With the good bikes in the bike room, there’s a level of care I can take to keep the others tip-top because the only thing I hate more than a noisy bike is a bike with rusty parts. First, it helps to know which parts will give you trouble. Your main bolts, the cable retention bolts on the derailleurs, the front derailleur frame bolt, the stem bolts and your stem cap bolts are obvious. What about the set screws for your rim brakes, though? I hit them all with a light coating of lube. I even take a towel and soak a corner with a good chain lube and use a 1 or 2 mm Allen key to get the insides of the bolt heads. Basically, anything steel.
Then, I’ll clean the chains and hit them with a light spray lube. This will keep them from rusting out in the garage.
Now, if you use a wax lube as I do, you have to degrease the chains in the spring before you hit them with the wax lube again, but it’s worth that extra effort to save the chains from rusting (or maybe rub a thin coat of the wax lube on a towel over the outside of the chain – I’d imagine that would work, too). Look at it this way; I’ve got eight chains on seven bikes to deal with in the spring. If I have to buy a new chain for every bike, we’re talking near $400 by the time I’m done. I’d rather put a new chain on the bikes when they’re useful life is over.
Then there’s the cassette. This will rust without a little preventative maintenance as well.
With a little forethought and an hour, I can protect my bikes so they’re shiny and ready for duty come spring.
Finally, I use the winter to perform any needed maintenance tasks that might be needed. I’ll bring each bike in and make sure the cables, housings and endcaps are clean and the shifting is right. If anything needs replacing, I’ll handle it while the snow is flying and I’m handling my workouts on the trainer.
Popeye’s Chicken Opens in UK; What You Need to Know About the Famed Chicken Sandwich.
If the news didn’t make it across the big pond, there was actually a stabbing in line when a person tried to “cut” in line to get the raved about chicken sandwich in the USA.
The chicken sandwich is almost that good. Not worth being stabbed over, but it’s good enough to think about it…
In all seriousness, it’s a really good chicken sandwich. Among the best I’ve ever eaten. I take my family at off hours regularly… the drive-thru line is out onto the main road during normal eating hours. Still onto the street, and it’s been two or three years (I can’t remember anymore… that Covid year felt like five). That chicken sandwich is that good.
The spicy chicken is excellent, but really spicy. The regular is out of this world spectacular.
What Happens When A Road or Mountain Bike Saddle is Too Wide: Complications in Bike Setup… and One Major Pain In One’s Heinie.
I’ve written about this topic in the past, butt it keeps rearing its ugly head – and this time I’d gone radical in the name of… being a weight weenie! Of all things. Now, after enough double entendres in one sentence to choke a chicken, it’s time to get serious because this really is no laughing matter. The truth is, I’ve got a much better understanding of how saddles work – and more important, how the width of a saddle can have an affect on the sitting area. Because I’m still riding on one.
My true saddle width is somewhere between 128 and 138. A 138 is plenty comfortable but I’ve ridden quite a few centuries on a 128 with nothing but glowing reviews. My Bontrager Montrose Pro Carbon saddles aren’t all that special, either. They’re contoured rather than flat with minimal but fantastic padded support, and they’re light. 140-ish grams if I remember. Just shy of a third of a pound for a saddle. There are lighter saddles out there, down to 80 grams, but I tried a minimalist 110 gram saddle with virutually no padding and I just couldn’t make it work (and it wasn’t for a lack of effort). I have thousands of miles on those saddles and I learned something I didn’t know over the last few weeks.
I used to ride a Specialized Romin 143 that I thought was the cat’s pajamas. I had one on my race road bike and one on my rain road bike, and put tens of thousands of miles on them. At first, the local shop set me up with Specialized’s Body Geometry fitting. I’d done my best and was excited to see how I stacked up against all of the glorious video equipment and high-class software analytics that could be thrown at bike fitting.
The shop lowered my saddle two millimeters after the three hour fitting process.
Over the years and six to ten thousand mile years, I developed a sore spot on my left inner-thigh bone, just forward of the sit bone (my left leg is a little shorter than my right). I simply lived with it for years as it wasn’t a full-time pain. It was fleeting. A few years ago it stuck around for a while and I decided to lower my saddle a couple of millimeters to see if that would fix it. That worked for the most part.
Until I found a Bontrager Montrose Pro Carbon on sale for around $120. The Romin I had on the Trek at the time was heavy – 276 grams or a little less than two-thirds of a pound. The Montrose had a 138 mm width, though, and I was supposed to be a 143. I threw caution to the wind, figuring it was worth the risk to drop that much weight with so little money (they normally ran around $300). When my saddle came in, I fitted it on the Trek and rode it for the first time, it was glorious.
After giving it two months with nothing but good to say about the saddle, I went back to buy a second for my Venge. You find a saddle that feels that good, it doesn’t matter the brand mismatch. Sadly, they were out of the 138 but they had 128s in stock. I gave it a go. I dropped even more weight off the Specialized and the feel wasn’t all that different from the 138. I expected the 128 to hurt a little because it wasn’t wide enough, but that worry turned out to be unnecessary.
And once I had both Montrose saddles on my road bikes, I found I could raise the saddles, comfortably, back to the old shop setting. 36-5/8″ (93 cm or 930.2750 mm) and I don’t have that pain on my left inner thigh bone just forward of my sit bone anymore.
That is, I didn’t have that pain anymore until I started riding my gravel bike that has a 143 mm Specialized Romin 143 mm saddle on it and I hit a bump… and that’s when it all started to make sense.
The pain I’ve been experiencing gets worse the wider the saddle gets, too. My Trek originally came with a 155 mm saddle that had me so sore I thought it was a running injury. As it turned out, after a few days off the bike, the pain subsided – then flared right back up after riding again.
The point is, saddle width is a little tricky to diagnose and it can present as other things, such as a saddle being too high. There’s also a difference between finding something that’s livable and something perfect, as was my case with the small difference between a 143 and a 138 mm saddle. The more I ride, the more that little bit mattered.
Matching the Setups of Dissimilar Road Bikes; An Exercise in Patience, It Is Possible. And Worth the Effort.
One of my proudest achievements since I began tinkering on bikes was setting my 1999 Trek 5200, a 58 cm classic standard frame, to match my Specialized Venge, a compact 56cm aero frame. As they are today, I can get on either bike and I can’t feel much of a difference between the two.
With the bikes stood handlebar to handlebar and saddle to saddle, you can hardly tell the setups apart, as dissimalar as the frames are. The Trek, even though it was my first bike, was intentionally set up to match my Venge, but it wasn’t easy:
Now, for the picky amongst you, you’ll notice the the Trek’s handlebar is slightly higher than that of the Venge. This is by design – I’ve actually got a 5-mil spacer beneath the stem of the Trek. There are a couple of reasons for the lowered handlebar on the Venge. First, the Venge is the race bike (or at least my “fast” bike). Second, the compact geometry of the Venge makes riding lower more comfortable than I can on the Trek. I don’t necessarily know the how and why of this, I just know it’s so. I can’t ride that low, comfortably, on the Trek (I tried). Finally, my Trek is the rain bike (and also my long tour bike). I figured I’d rather be slightly more more upright and comfortable when I’m on a long tour or facing the prospect of getting wet. When I tested the Trek with the handlebar slammed, I stopped using the drops because the reach was a little too much. Or I’m possibly a little too… erm, old to bend like that.
Here’s what made it all work:
- Stems. I’ve got a 12 degree x 100 mm stem on the Venge and a 17 degree 90 mm stem on the Trek. This was how I got the bar in the right spot on both bikes – this took a lot of trial and error and more than a couple of stems that my wife
doesn’tdidn’t know about.
- I have the same saddle on each bike – Bontrager Montrose Pro Carbon. The saddle on the Trek is a 138 mm and the saddle on the Venge is a 128 mm. I rode 143s for years but I don’t imagine I’ll ever go back. 143 is just a little too wide for my liking.
- Saddle height and fore/aft location on the seatpost. The length I went to get the saddle height right was nothing short of epic. Half a decade and more changes than you can shake a stick at. And the best part is the height changed over the years.
Starting with the saddle height, because that should be easiest, I started out at 36-3/4″ from the top of the pedal to the top of the saddle following the center of the top tube. I had a Specialized Body Geometry fitting done and that was lowered by an eighth of an inch. Then I lowered it by another eighth going by “feel”. The reason I couldn’t quite get comfortable wasn’t the height of the saddle, it was the width. When I switched to the Montrose saddles, I was able to raise both up to their final resting place of 36-5/8″ (or exactly where the BG fitting had me in 2014). Sadly, the thinnest saddle Specialized makes is a 143 so I’ve got a Trek saddle on my Specialized (I’ll get into this most interesting conundrum in another post).
Getting the stems right was an exercise in futility on the Trek. I’ve been through… counting… five stems before finally settling on the flipped 90 mm, 17 degree beauty you see in the photo above. I’ve only ever had one other stem on the Venge, an ultra-light carbon-wrapped aluminum beauty from FSA. Sadly, that stem only came in 6 degrees, so flipped, it followed the line of the top tube and it was very light, but I never really loved the look. I went back to the heavier Specialized Stem that came on the bike, with a -4 degree insert, I got it to 12 degrees, flipped (eventually I’ll put a 100 mm x 12 degree S-Works stem on the Venge):
Now, before I get into anything else, because of the contortion of the handlebar with the 6 degree stem on the left, my hoods are at the same stack height from the ground in both photos.
The simplest measurement was the fore/aft position of the saddle – whichever saddle I had on either bike, whatever the saddle height was at the time, it didn’t matter: shoes on and clipped in, with the crank arms perfectly parallel to the ground, the outer edge of my knee is perfectly plumb with the leading edge of the crank arm. It’s the same on both bikes.
And that’s exactly why this is so tricky to get right; you have to match the stem and the drop of the handlebars to where the saddle goes on two entirely different frames. If you get the reach wrong by 10 millimeters, you’ll feel scrunched into the cockpit or too stretched out to comfortably reach the hoods/drop. Then you have to match the angle of the stem to where you want the handlebar. Now this is made easier with shims that you can use under the stem to raise it, but it’s a pretty intricate puzzle with one bike. It’s crazy trying to get two, with dissimilar frames, to match up.
It is possible, though. It just takes some patience (and money). And it’s absolutely worth the effort.
Happy Thanksgiving From My Family to Yours
To all of my friends, Happy Thanksgiving from ‘Merica. May your lives be filled with joy, peace and contentment. And turkey. Lots and lots of turkey… and mashed potatoes… and gravy. Oh, and green bean casserole! Can’t forget the green bean casserole. If you’re not so fortunate on the joy, peace and contentment, remember; a bike will fix a lot of whatever you’re missing*.
*But not a new bike. Because you can’t buy new bikes. Because Covid. Or something. Do your shopping at The Pro’s Closet (or your country’s equivalent). And a bike won’t put turkey on the table. It’ll take the belly from too much turkey off of you, but it won’t work the other way around.
Oh, and if you’re short on the joy, peace and contentment end of things and the bike doesn’t work, do one of two things; read The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous and do that (the first 164 pages), whether you’re an alcoholic or not it really doesn’t matter. Or follow this blog… everything I write about recovery is not just about beating alcoholism – it’s about working the program in everyday life.
The key is the program. The alcoholism is just one brick in that wall.
Winter Rides with My Buddy, Chuck.
I hated riding in the cold weather. Well, hate is a powerful word that’s misused and overused to a point it doesn’t mean what it should. I really, really, really, really didn’t like riding in the cold… until I bought a jacket that could keep me warm in the worst of it (well, at least the worst of what I’m willing to go out in).
Now that I’ve got a decent winter cycling jacket, freezing is only bad when I get in the shower and my butt itches where the leg warmers wouldn’t cover, and I can live with that. I haven’t been skipping out on riding with Chuck after work like I used to because of that. We’re in the dark about halfway through the ride now, and last night’s was one of those that used to have me cursing my lunacy for even throwing a leg over my top tube – just below freezing with a bit of a south wind. It was cold.
Chuck is a little insane, too. He’ll ride in weather that’d make an eskimo call him nuts and laugh out loud as he rides by. I’m a lot more… um… practical, and I don’t have a distaste for the trainer that he does.
So we rolled out a little early yesterday afternoon. I was nice and toasty. Of course, I only had about twelve square inches of skin showing, because damn, but I was comfortable at least. We headed a couple of miles south, into the wind before hitting dirt. South felt an awful lot like work and we had a lot of it ahead of us.
Now this is the one thing that really gets me about Chuck. All season long, unless we’re both really tired, we tend to push the pace a little bit – even when we shouldn’t. We ride every day so there has to be easy days in there because we want to save the good legs for the fast days (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday). One or the other of us will get up front and start pushing the pace and all of a sudden, we’ve got a real ride on our hands.
This doesn’t happen on winter rides. If I get to going a little too fast, Chuck will pull up along side me and just hang there until I dial it back a little. If I get behind him for a draft, he’ll take the pace down to “easy” in a minute.
After a long season of hammering to stay as fast as is fun, when Chuck gets to winter he’s like, “Nope. Not messing with that “pacey” stuff.”
The ride last night was awesome for exactly that reason. We talked most of the way and just had fun.
I hit a rock with about 1-1/2 miles to go. My headlight just didn’t pick it up. It was one of those that rattles your sphincter because you didn’t see it coming, but I just went over it… no worries about veering off course or anything. I had the right grip pressure on the hoods. As we started up the last hill, Chuck said, “Well, it turned out to be a good night for a ride.” Three seconds later my tire was flat and I was pulling over to the side of the road.
Fortunately, Chuck had a headlamp so fixing the flat was relatively easy (I’ll have to start carrying one of those in my back pocket… that was handy) and we were off and rolling again in less than five minutes to finish up the ride.
After showering and having something to eat, I had some last-minute maintenance to deal with on the gravel bikes. I switched to the grippy tires for the weekend as we’ll be dealing with looser than normal gravel on many of the local roads.
So there I was, changing out tires, thinking about how lucky I am to have The Chucker. I’d have been indoors and complaining about the monotony of the trainer weeks ago. Hotdogs and tailwind, my friends. It’s as good as it gets.
And not those kinds of hotdogs. I can see the comments already! Get your head out of the gutter. Actually, I may have to go back to “good times and noodle salad” when talking about my friends… “Hotdogs and tailwind” is… well… not that there’s anything wrong with that if you’re into hotdogs and tailwind… erm… yeah.
A Suprise in the Mailbox from A Friend
I have Irish ancestry and I’ve always thought that pretty cool. We have a massive Italian family who adopted us as their own, but we’re adopted by and married to Italy. I’ve got Irish blood pumping through my veins, though. WordPress bridged the pond and shrunk the world, introducing the Unironedman (first through his wife, who followed my blog and I hers) and I years ago and we’ve kept loose contact since, through the occasional gift and emails and on each other’s blogs.
So, I’ve been expecting a tool in the mail from Amazon. Every afternoon I dutifully check the mailbox… and nothing. Then, yesterday afternoon, I found a small package which I assumed to be that torx key I’d been waiting on.
As I inspected the package closer, I saw it was from my friend from Ireland. Two neck gaiters from his last marathon with a nice note.
One thing is certainly excellent about WordPress; it makes the world a smaller place. And for my friends in Ireland, I’m more than grateful.
Thank you, Dec & Saoirse. My wife and I will enjoy our cold-weather rides a little more than usual sporting our Royal Canal Greenway Marathon neck gaiters.
Like a long walk with good friends, but on bikes…
We rolled out at 8 Sunday morning. It was… um, crisp. Yes, that’s the word. Right at freezing, thankfully there wasn’t much of a breeze. Until last year, I didn’t have much love for riding in the cold. It was better than riding indoors on the trainer, but not by much. Then I bought a winter jacket from Funkier that changed everything.
I don’t love riding in the cold, now. But I can like it.
Jeff and Diane were on Diane’s mountain tandem. My wife and I were on our gravel bikes and Mike was riding his mountain bike because he hates his gravel bike.
We had a set route to start out, and we started modifying it right out of the gate after the first mile. The first modification was one I thought we’d be doing in the first place as it’s a part of the natural route. I was just glad to be outside so I just rolled with it and voted for the most miles every time someone offered a change. I’m a safe bet that way under normal circumstances. Once we made that first turn, it was just a natural follow your nose, no thinking route to stay on the dirt. There was no “choosing” which way to go… till we got to the bike trail, what should have been the furthest point before we headed back.
My wife had opted for the “follow the trail” option, so we did. Diane added on as we neared an intersection, though and offered a neat modification I’d never done. Rather than continue on the trail for another mile through a school campus, we continued onto the paved road for a mile-and-a-half, then turned onto another paved road for about a mile before turning on to a gravel road I never knew was there. I’d ridden the paved part more than a hundred times over the years, but the dirt road is on a downhill section right before an s-curve that’s so much fun I’m always hammering to pick up speed for the curve – I never paid attention to anything other than that. The new road was beautiful – it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere.
The pace was rarely tough but we weren’t slow enough to watch the grass grow, either. We did get a little fast on the pavement, mainly so we could get off of it quicker, but the rest of the ride was… just fun. There was conversation and joking and I just enjoyed being outdoors. And, as it turned out, we enjoyed being outside just long enough… we made it back just in time to stay dry.
It was like going for a long walk with good friends. But on bikes. Which meant the long walk wasn’t spoiled by… you know, walking.