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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:

  1. 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’t didn’t know about.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

It’s fantastic.

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.

Brought a Knife to a Bazooka Fight (In Terms of a Bike Ride, Folks)

We had an interesting mix yesterday for what looked like it was going to be an easy day on the dirt. I’ve been infatuated with my mountain bike a lot lately, so I decided to bring it. Then, what do I see coming down the road than exceptionally classy older fella in immaculate kit – a former age group National Champion sprint triathlete on his gravel bike.

Mike outclasses me, even at his age, when we’re on equal bikes – even at his age. He’s a machine. In fact, it’s almost a fair fight when I’m on my gravel bike with semi-slicks and he’s on his half-fat mountain bike. Almost.

Still, I thought, I’ve got cover from Mike, Diane and my wife… I should be fine.

The ride started out south, heading into a nasty headwind. It wasn’t too terrible, though. I just slid into line behind a few people and tried to get as low as I comfortably could. I was up with the front group when we started to split up and I was feeling fine. We dialed it back to close up the gap and rode along, talking the whole way. It was a lovely morning and not near as cold as I’d expected it would feel.

And before I knew it, Mike, Diane and my wife split off and went their own way. I was left with McMike, Chuck and Chuck. Every one on a gravel bike but me, on my 28 pound Rockhopper.

I did fine keeping up, but heading south, I got caught at second bike for a long stretch, then took a turn up front. The wind was whipping and my heart rate went from the mid-130’s to 175 in the space of 30-ish seconds. Once I’m over 172, forget about it. I’m pooched. I just had enough gas to latch on at the back after a silly minute-long pull up front (I was a little embarrassed). I knew what was going to happen next. At least, I thought I knew – and I wasn’t going to be able to keep up with it.

I quietly slipped off the back, turned my bike around and headed back home.

And that was that. The ride home was quite enjoyable with lots of tailwind and a cruising speed of 18-22-mph. Before I knew it, after a few add-on miles, I was on the home stretch and then in the driveway. My wife had just gotten home, hadn’t even gotten out of her gear yet, when I walked through the front door. I was quite pleased, really. I had almost a 14-mph average after the slow start.

The rest of the day was awesome. A light lunch, a long nap, some college football (‘Merican football), and my mother-in-law came down with her sister and we all went out to dinner, then to see my daughter’s university “Band-o-rama”. All three bands play a few songs. The symphonic band (was great), the wind symphony (was spectacular), and the marching band (blew the doors off). What a fantastic way to spend a late-fall Saturday!

Sadly, when I looked at Strava, I noticed the two Chucks and McMike had the same average I did when they got back. They had almost double my 22 miles, but they obviously didn’t hit the gas like I thought they would.

The Alloy Dust Cover on My S-Works Crank is Loose: How To Fix It In Five Minutes

First, anyone who owns an S-Works crankset knows it’s possibly the greatest, affordable, carbon crank ever invented. That Specialized figured out how to do away with the wavy washer is a miracle in and of itself. That they kept the price and weight under that of a Dura-Ace crank is simply astonishing.

Sadly, the S-Works crankset has gone the way of the do-do. They don’t make them anymore.

I had my Specialized Venge in for open-crank surgery last week and noticed, after getting it back, the dust cover was loose. When I tightened the dust cover bolt down, the cover turned. I freaked out a little bit. Especially after I Googled what to do and there was nothing on the interwebz. Nothing. That never happens.

Then I thought about it a minute. I know what the dust cover is there for; the cap is there because they had to get the locking bolt into the spindle, so while it’s supposed to be tight in the crank, it’s also designed to come off in the event you need to mess with the spindle bolt (as was the case with mine). The cap is, essentially, glue on. The fancy word is “epoxy”, but whatever. It gets glued in there… preferably with something that’s semi-permanent. If you go all space-aged epoxy on it and you have to do something with the main bolt, like replace it for some crazy reason, you’ll have to be able to unglue the cap.

Now, before you run for the superglue, think this through a minute – let’s slow this pony down for a heartbeat.

The dust cover has to go into its hole perfectly straight. If it’s turned, even a little bit, from dead center, you’ll have a gap on one side or the other that will look unsightly when the crank turns. With that in mind, we can begin. Take the dust cap bolt out and set it aside until we’re done.

There’s a trick to getting the dust cover in there square and true, and I’ll share it with you.

First, remove as much of the old epoxy as you can. Chip it off being careful not to damage the dust cover. Remember, it’s only aluminum. It’s soft. Next, make sure the hole in the carbon crank arm is clean. Now dry fit the dust cover so it looks like it’s in there square. Turn the crank all the way around, 360 degrees and check for gaps. Now, once you’re satisfied it’s in there straight, take a pencil and mark a line on the top of the cover onto the crank arm both on the top and bottom of the cover. Don’t press too hard and scratch the finish, just a little line to help you set the cap on straight. Once you have a line on top and on the bottom of the cover so you can match the lines up on the install, pull the cover… glue it, set it, and let it cure before putting the dust cover bolt in.

That’s it. Bob’s your uncle.

Should a Male Cyclist Shave His Legs? There Is No Short Answer, But Yes. Or No. How About Maybe?

I got roped into shaving my legs by the internet (and being a little bit gullible). That may read funny, but it’s the God’s honest truth. First, The Rules (I know). Second, everything I read out there on the webz said if you don’t want to look like a noob, leg, meet razor, razor, meet leg. Commence with the shaving.

The first time I climbed into bed with my wife after shaving, she was all like, “Wait a second! I like it!” She gently, ahem, recommended the clean legs stay.

And so it’s been for the better part of a decade. The real question is why?

Now, back when I started shaving, we all kinda figured shaving the guns was more aerodynamic but there was no data on it. Today there is. Shaved versus hairy legs were tested in Specialized Bicycles’ wind tunnel and the analysis showed a significant benefit. This is a fantastic “why”. It was my “second” why.

Next up we’ve got the road rash theory. For those who regularly try to stop their bikes very quickly, with their body rather than the brakes, having shorn legs means its easier to pick out gravel and less painful for bandage removal. These are two big pluses. But how many crashes have I been involved in where I needed that perk? That would be zero. In a decade. This is mainly for racers. Oh, and it sounds good.

Finally, we’re going to go where the rubber meets the road. I’m going to be candid and honest where many won’t, possibly because it’s a little vain: Bro, shaved legs just look awesome. It is what it is. Go to a big group ride and look at the difference between those who do and those who don’t shave. That’s all you’ll need to see. The hairy dudes will look out of place – even if they can lay down the watts.

The tough part here, and this gets fun (and even a little “political” without having anything to do with politics), is that shaving the legs is entirely unnecessary in a club setting. Five years ago, everyone who threw their leg over a hybrid shaved. Nowadays, you’re down to 75% of the club ride. Heck, I know a few guys who refuse to shave simply to be the “anti-everybody else” guy, hence the “politics without politics” angle.

I will say the same thing I’ve always said; shave or don’t. Nobody really cares as long as you’re competent on your bike. Just know this: if you don’t, you’ll be working harder than all of the shaved dudes to go as fast as they do. Fair or not, it is what it is.

Smooth and sporty, baby. That’s how we roll. On the asphalt. If you’re only into gravel or mountain biking, please return your seat back to the proper position and prepare for landing. You guys stick with being a sasquatch.

One Day at a Time, 10,593 Times in a Row.

That’s right, my friends. 29 years. 348 months. 10,593 days. 254,232 hours. 15,253,920 minutes. This is my favorite part; 915,235,200 seconds. Just shy of a billion seconds in a row.

Did you know, if you were to start counting the day you were first able to and you continued counting until you dropped dead of old age, you wouldn’t hit a billion? Once you get up to the bigger numbers, they take more than a second to count so, even though 1,000,000,000 seconds is a little less than 32 years, you can’t hit it counting.

I can tell you, I’ve made more of the last 915-million seconds than I thought was possible when I first gave up the fight. I’d never claim I’ve been perfect, or even done it right, but I love being on the right side of the grass pumping air – and I love my life.

Every decision I made, both drinking and in my sobriety, led me to where I am today. Without every calmity, without every success, and without all of the moments betwixt those, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

For those who are new to this page and to recovery; welcome to a new way of life. You never have to drink again, and you can live in peace for the rest of your days. If you work for it.

My life is so fantastic, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve come to the conclusion, “It just can’t get any better than this”. Six month later, I realize it has gotten better. All on its own.

Stick around and have a cup of coffee. Let’s tell some stories and have a laugh or two.

So, I have one piece of advice I’d like to share about how I slow down time. At least a little bit, anyway. The more I can be in the moment, the more I can savor what’s going on around me and not try to push through to whatever comes next, the richer and fuller life is. And time slows down.

It’s a lot like pedaling through mud, but without the effort.

To all of my interwebz and WordPress friends, thank you for being my friend. I appreciate you.

Why You Probably Need at Least Three Bikes (And a Strong Case for a Fourth)… Hear Me Out!

I was tinkering on my mountain bike over the weekend, a heavy behemoth of a hard tail 29er with a decent component spec. Hydraulic discs, decent Shimano group set, upgraded fork… there’s a lot to like about that bike – especially that my wife bought it for me as a Valentine’s Day present six year ago. It’s slow, though, next to its Specialized counterparts in the bike room (technically, that’s the spare bedroom, but “bike room” sounds really cool).

The shifting had gone all kittywampus on me last year and I wanted to figure it out. I don’t ride the bike often, but being responsible for the maintenance of eight bikes, I’ve gotten pretty good at it, and it was the Rockhopper’s time. It took two minutes to identify the issue. A big blob of dirt lodged in the barrel adjuster (not outside the barrel adjuster, in the barrel adjuster). I was expecting something much more… complex. I loosened the cable retaining bolt, cleaned the dirt out of the end cap and barrel adjuster, lubed everything, put it together and adjusted the shifting to perfect… and put it in the bike room. I have a tough time with the whole “speed” thing. I like to go fast so it’s hard to put that bike on the road when my gravel bike is easy to push 33% faster.

I’ve got two road bikes, a gravel bike and my mountain bike in the bike room for the time being. With my wife’s gravel bike, it gets a little crowded, but it’s that time of year when all of the bikes get used in a bit of a rotation. I rode the gravel bike Saturday. A fantastic (if cold) day for a ride. Sunday, I almost had the mountain bike out the door when it started spitting freezing rain. I rode the Trek rain bike on the trainer. Monday I was on Extra-Super-Duper-Hyper Secure Covid Lockdown (our COO tested positive, though we have no close contact, out of an abundance of caution, etc., etc.) so I rode the Trek on the trainer after going in to get tested (I feel fine, if a little stuffy from the weather change).

I picked my race road bike up from the shop that afternoon after getting tested, though I did wear a good KN-95 mask in the store, because I’m not an @$$hole. I also found out later that evening that the test was negatory.

Tuesday, my honorary Italian cycling brother from a Polish mother, Chuck(er), texted me while I was at work to see if I wanted to ride. I checked with my wife that I was clear and that’s when it hit me: ride the Rockhopper (mountain bike, for those not up on Specialized parlance).

Now, I knew Chuck would have his gravel bike and that I’d be at a severe disadvantage, but it looked like so much… fun. I texted him to see if he wanted to ride his mountain bike, too. He wasn’t as enthusiastic as I, but urged me to take it. He said he wanted a slow roll anyway.

I almost took the Diverge.

But I didn’t. And I had one of the more enjoyable night rides I’ve had. The shifting was butter-perfect. The beefy 29”x2.0” tires ate the dirt up… well, if the dirt hadn’t been packed down and absolutely perfect they’d have eaten it up. The tires were plush on the bumps, though. Way better than the paltry 30mm semi-slicks on the gravel bike.

I was smiling for most of the 22 miles even though it was just over freezing when we finished and I had to work quite a bit harder than I normally would. This is why I have a tough time giving up the speed of the road bikes when the weather is nice. When it turns cold, though, the additional speed just makes it colder. This is when the slow bikes shine. And my Rockhopper really put a smile on my face last night.

I posted a photo of all of my bikes in the bike room yesterday:

I’ve been thinking lately, if I had to live without one of my bikes, which would go?

Being blunt; I’m at S-1 but I’ve got the perfect stable. The saying applies more to bicycles than it does to those with a desire to stay married; variety is the spice of life.

If I had to, I could live without one of my bikes. Damned if I had to figure out which one, though.

And so it is, the case for three bikes, easy; road, mountain and gravel… with a fourth swing-road bike for rain days (also known as a “winter” bike in the UK).

As an aside, I could make the case for a fifth bike, while we’re at it; a tandem. While caution should always be taken when riding a tandem with one’s spouse, because without expert communication things get dicey in a hurry, our tandem was worth every penny. I love that riding that bike with my wife. Absolutely love it.