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A Perfect Tuesday Night in Lennon with Jess on the Tandem: Three Tandems, a Chucker and a Clark Edition

We’re into the last three or four Tuesday night club rides of 2022… and that’s if the weather is perfect. It never is in October.

The weather was amazing. 74 marvelous degrees with a 4-mph breeze out of the west and not a cloud in the sky. Perfect. I readied the tandem as soon as I got home because we’re rolling a half-hour early this time of year because it’s getting dark so soon. As part of the preparations I slid each of my wife’s seat posts (there are two seat posts for the stoker on a Periscope tandem – one slides into the other so you can adjust the stoker position for anyone from 4’2″ tall to 6’2″):

The second post, the brushed aluminum one, tends to creak a little from time to time so if you raise and lower it a few times then tighten the quick release fully, the creak goes away.

We got there early enough we could check to make sure I got the saddle height right and make a few adjustments before we rolled out for real. We were staged at the start when everyone rolled at a minute past 5:30.

We started out fast right out of the gate and I was breathing heavy and nervous by the time we hit the first mile mark at 24-1/2-mph (38 km/h). I didn’t see how we were going to keep that up, but Jess was surprisingly strong in the rear admiral’s position. We took second bike as we turned north and took our turn less than a mile later and my breathing normalized up front, maintaining right around 25-mph (39 km/h). We took about three-quarters of a mile and slid to the back. I took a glance at our average pace… 23-ish-mph.

We eased into last bike after peeling off the front and drifting to the back to a fantastic draft. Jess was hammering the pedals and I actually had to scrub speed with the front brake quite often. I was getting the breaks I needed and really settled into the ride. A couple of miles west, a mile north and we turned hard left onto the vaunted Shipman Road. Shipman is a life-sucking southwest facing road. We rarely get a tailwind and often get hammered with a crossing headwind or straight headwind all summer long. This Tuesday was only different in that the wind was barely there. The pace didn’t waiver. We held 23 to 27-mph all the way south and west.

We were in excellent position, in the mix with the A-Elite group, as we hit the first hills and Todd, one of the fastest guys we know (his nickname is Watt King), waived us to second bike so we could take the lead on the way up the first two hills and control the pace. I almost fell off my bike at the classy move. Todd, I know you read this; chapeau, my friend. Thank you, that meant a lot to we three tandems.

We stayed with the group, who held the pace steady up the last two rises, and descended to 71 before hitting the next series of hills. The next hill, over a set of tracks, was too much for us, though, and we slipped off the back. I reached back and squeezed Jessica’s hand and reassured her that we gave it everything we had and I was perfectly okay with dropping. She’d been stellar and we just got caught a little out of breath at the same time. We’d made 15-miles at just shy of 24-mph for the average.

We didn’t watch the weed grow on the way up the hill, though (there’s a pot farm on the right). We both knew we needed to be on the gas so we could catch up with the Shiatown short route group and w got to it. We took a little bit of a rest to catch or breath and hammered the rest of the hills, trying a few new strategies along the way to see if we could maximize the downhills without over-hammering the descents to the detriment of the climbs. It worked out quite well, actually. We caught the Shiatown crew at the regroup spot. Two more tandems (Mike & Diane and Dave & Val), a Chucker and a Superman, Clark Kent (I kid you not).

We rolled out after a short respite and took advantage of a downhill to cut short a steep uphill that tends to crush our spirits a little before heading up one of the strangest hills I’ll ever climb. It’s clearly uphill but it can’t be as steep as it appears because we routinely climb the silly thing in excess of 20-mph… on the tandem. After that punchy climb, we descend into Vernon full speed ahead. With three tandems in the lead (two of the teams are exceedingly experienced, Jess and I are the babies of the bunch), using gravity to our greatest advantage, we shot into town topping 30-mph on the way down… and we coasted a quarter of the descent.

We took it easy through Vernon, as we always do, then Clark came through to clear a difficult intersection so the tandems could get through without having to drop a foot. It was a perfectly executed clearing of an intersection and we rolled through. Jess and I had the lead at that point and we worked up a short hill before hitting a fast descent. The rest of the ride was perfectly fantastic with the three tandems outnumbering the single bikes.

We took it to the barn with a wonderful 22-mph average for the 28-mile circuit. There were plenty of hi-fives and pats on the back on the way to the parking lot on the cooldown mile. The story of our ride has to be Jess. She was truly brilliant last night… and we talked about that a little bit on the way home. I overheard her talking to Val about how she worries about keeping her single bike prowess up while spending so many miles on the tandem in the Rear Admiral’s saddle. I made peace with my own personal demons in that regard as captain, but it’s different for Jess, being the stoker. Riding in a group setting is a perishable skill and she doesn’t have the same duties as the Rear Admiral. We’ve talked about this a bit and I don’t have a good answer, other than to hope the gravel bike season helps with that.

On the other hand, she let me in a little bit last night after the ride when she said that she truly loves riding with me (which I did know), adding that she knows she was born to be a stoker, that she enjoys being our stoker immensely. I didn’t know that second part. I love captaining our tandem. I love having my wife right there and sharing our riding experiences so closely… Last night was yet another example of what we can do together and it was awesome.

I also reminded my wife, the one time I tried to hang with the A-elite group this year I was dropped after eight miles. We’ve done better on the tandem than I could do alone. Sadly, there won’t be many of these left this year:

Managing the Difference Between Hammering and Cruising on a Tandem with My Wife. The Deeper Side of Tandem Riding.

My wife and I bought our tandem a little more than six years ago – I think it’ll be seven this coming spring. I’d seen some of the other tandem couples and had romantic ideas of my wife and I enjoying bombing down the road, putting the hurt on our friends with a smile stretched across our faces… into a headwind…

Well, it didn’t exactly start out that way. We’ve always been decently fast but my wife had a negative view of many of our rides on the tandem. A lot of her issues with our tandem time had to do with perception and because we were both walking on eggshells in our marriage, we tended not to talk about those things to keep from rocking the boat and having a simple discussion and negotiation turning into a fight. In hindsight, that’s no environment to learn how to ride a tandem together. The more we ride and the better we get at it, the more important it is that we talk, reasonably, about how a ride goes.

Recently, my wife and I started looking at it as a good date or a bad date on the bike. I suppose it’s necessary to add this most important point about judging a bike ride as a good or bad date… we don’t try to hurt the other’s feelings with our assessment. We always talk about what we can do differently to improve a “bad” date. My biggest problems arise when I get antsy about time, or lack thereof. My wife’s arise when she believes I get antsy or our goals for the ride (which aren’t always discussed before the ride) aren’t clearly articulated.

Our good date/bad date issues really started manifesting when we started trying to keep up with the A-Elite group on Tuesday nights a couple of months ago. Until then, our best was around 20 to 21-mph (32 to 34-km/h). All of a sudden we jumped to 22 to 23-mph over 29 miles. That’s a heck of a jump and it was entirely unexpected – and my wife was the one who initiated it by suggesting we should try it.

Where I went wrong…

The “bad date” rides often center around a difference in thinking about how we should be working together. For example, if I think we should be going faster – whether we have somewhere to be or we’re going really slow – and I start hammering the pedals to the point I blow myself up (yes, I’ve done it, and fairly recently), Jess is in the rear admiral’s saddle thinking “WTH?”.

The key is communication and if it’s not happening, it’s easy to run into difficulties.

Going back to the period in our marriage where we were both walking on eggshells so we were afraid to have a decent negotiation, you can see how that will create tension in an environment where you literally have to communicate well with someone. Well, the key is in the negotiation. When we don’t try to win a fight, rather find a path to peace through a fair and respectful negotiation, good things can happen.

It helps to know when you’re trying to win, your spouse loses. Let’s just say the potential for happiness and peace is negatively impacted and call it good.

Oh, and one last thing! Once I realized how much fun a 16-mph ride could be with my wife, it wasn’t so important to hammer it when we went out for a ride. Last night we had a phenomenal date on the tandem. 15.9 miles in 59:30… for a 16.1-mph average (25 km/h). We talked the whole hour and it was outstanding.

Gratitude

Recovery is a funny thing. Some days you wake up and you can’t put your finger on it, but you’re simply grateful.

I can’t explain it or define it. More important, I don’t think I’d want to.

It’s enough to simply acknowledge it and be… well, grateful for it.

The two things I do know to avoid are fighting it or overanalyzing it.

It’s best to just be thankful and roll with it.

The Happy Life of a Cycling Enthusiast… Post Wakeup.

I’m usually knocking on 7,000+ miles for the year at this point in the season. It’s just barely above freezing outside this morning, unseasonably cold for the end of September (no doubt due to global warming [TM]). I’ll be lucky if I crack 6,000 miles for the year… I still have more than 1,500 miles to go and I don’t care if I hit it. I’m in fine shape, though a little on the heavy side, and I’ve had more fun on two wheels than a human should be allowed (with four legs pushing those wheels lately).

I peaked at slightly more than 10,000 miles in 2018.

I’m happier at half that… and I never saw it coming. I thought I was happy with all of those miles (I sure was skinnier), but hindsight being what it is, I’ll take days like yesterday over a century any day, and with a smile on my face. My wife and I headed down to Ypsilanti to see my daughter’s university football team play their homecoming game. The weather was amazing and the game, horrible. After showing up a couple of hours early and having some tailgate chili, we headed in to get our most amazing third row 50-yardline seats. We watched until halftime and started talking about heading home early. Eastern didn’t have their heart in the game and they were being dominated by an inferior U-Mass team. We took care of a family matter with our daughter and headed for Parker Mill Park, halfway between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor.

My wife and I held hands, talked and walked the trail for hours.

We saw beautiful trees that had to top 150-years-old, deer and enjoyed a wonderful wooden trail though a wetland that included several stops on streams and one glorious benched seat alone on a river where we sat and talked for a good 20 minutes, hogging the space to ourselves.

Not a pedal was spun yesterday, on a Saturday, no less, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve woken to good times and noodle salad.

A Woman’s Language of Love Vs. A Man’s; What Every Man Needs to Know in One Free Video.

A man’s language of love is pretty simple; Food. Cook that food wearing nothing but an apron. Make love. Before or after dinner. Thanks for playing. For extra credit, meet your man at door wearing nothing but the apron with a smile and a kiss when he comes home, if possible.

A woman’s is vastly more complex, but the easy part is this, fellas; DON’T try to connect with your wife using YOUR language!

I know what you’re thinking, because I thought it too, “But how will she know what I want if I don’t tell her?

She knows. Our language is simple, and if you want her to talk to you in yours, you have to figure out how to talk to her in hers.

For instance, my wife met me (fully clothed, which was fully appropriate for the occasion) at the door when I got home from work. She smiled gently and planted one astonishingly wonderful kiss on me, then smiled again and whispered, “Welcome home”. It’s the first time I can recall that happening in our 25 years of marriage and it was awesome. And that was a negotiated benefit of my beginning to learn how to really connect with my wife the way she wants me to.

I’d been working on dropping my language and using my wife’s for less than a week. For the first time in our marriage. To get what I want, I gave my wife what she wanted first.

Now, I know what you’re thinking; “But why should I give her what she wants first“? “What if she doesn’t give me what I want”?

Well, let’s break that down, because that’s what I thought. 25 years, I just wanted my wife to meet me by the door so I could feel important to her and nothing. Just a few days of trying to care for my wife the way she’s always wanted and I got exactly that. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure what comes after the equals sign; Who freaking cares, just do it!!!

The point is, whatever it is blocking you from communicating the way your wife wants, get over yourself and ask her what it is and do it. Don’t wait as long as I did.

You’ll love the results. And if it doesn’t work, you can pick up the refund for your misery at the door.

If you’re absolutely lost, start here… it’s a little crass with the Title, but I tried these things for a few days to outstanding results. Also, I didn’t want to “make my wife horny”, I wanted to make her happy. And it worked.

I would rather be on the tandem…

We had the choice of gravel bikes (singles) or the tandem this morning. It’s cold. Very cold. Barely above freezing cold. In years past we’d unquestionably choose the gravel bikes because they’re slow, over a road bike, even the tandem… but not this year. My wife asked what I’d like to ride before we started getting ready. I already had the water bottles filled and on the tandem before it even dawned on me that it might be a cold ride on a road bike.

I’d rather be on the tandem.

100%.

And for that I am so very grateful. So shall it ever be.

Oh Yeah! While While We’re Working On Ourselves and Our Marriage, Don’t Forget the FUN!

My wife and I have had some of the best times in our marriage of since, call it March… I’d have gone a little later into spring but there was the night that kicked it all off in March, the Tool concert in Grand Rapids. Best night ever. It had two massive chances for going down in flames, too. I side-stepped the first one and my wife side-stepped the second and we had one phenomenal night on the town.

Since then, we’ve been busy remaking our marriage into something beyond our best hopes. We went all in, and it’s working.

We’ve also been working our asses off with some pretty sensitive and often difficult issues. Issues that we built emotional walls to protect ourselves over in the past. I knocked down my walls first, without thinking about the why or ramifications while my wife kept hers… well, let’s say my wife rolled hers down halfway with her finger on the up button just in case, until she started to believe the change was really real. Now she’s honestly working on rolling them all the way down and it’s awesome. If a little scary for both of us.

With all of this work and busting down emotional barriers, I have a tendency to get caught up in the work of it… and my wife ended up praying that we’d find a way to have a few more laughs than we usually do with the ongoing relationship work. Enter Jim Gaffigan and his YouTube compilation of drinking jokes. I didn’t know she’d been looking for the extra laughs until she mentioned praying about it after I started our evening episode of Castle up.

[That my wife won’t ask for things like “a few more lighthearted moments” is partly on me – she’s got some fear to let go of that’s associated with asking for what she wants, but that’s not the end of that discussion. It used to be, when my wife asked for something more in our marriage, she didn’t do it very well and I took it as being “attacked”, so a simple “hey, we should do something so we can have a few laughs amidst all this serious work” became a fight. For my part in this, I had change quite a bit. I had to drop the fear that my wife asking for something would mean an intense discussion about why I’m inadequate (we don’t even go there anymore). Then, and this is really the most important, I had to listen to my wife so we could negotiate the issue out. Once I stopped trying to “win” a fight, I was able to stop battling everything out and we actually stopped fighting and started negotiating. We still have tense moments but they’re solvable because we have cooler heads and we turn to negotiation instead of fighting. I had to stop being so damned defensive].

So back to the laughs, for God’s sake! My wife and I shared several and we fell asleep well and woke up even better. Thanks, Jim Gaffigan.

And thanks, God. What a great prayer answered.

Next up, I’ll get into how we are learning to laugh more just talking between the two of us…

Everybody was Gravel Biking (I Think I Will Too!)

I picked up a new set of gravel tires for my 2017 Specialized Diverge AL-Sport. Truthfully, there should be a class-action against Specialized for producing this bike. While the Sora 9-speed drivetrain is decent and everything works, the frame is only slightly better than useless (the fork, however, is fine). You can barely fit a 32-mm tire in between the chainstays. God help you if you get a little mud build-up on the tire with a 32, though. It’ll rub the paint and the aluminum right off the frame. Enter the Kenda Kwick K879 30-mm Cyclocross tire. Thankfully they’re thin enough with some decent tread that I don’t have to worry about that anymore. I really like that tire!

There’s nothing better than gravel biking in the fall, though, even on skinnier tires. With the cooling to cold temperatures (35 to 50 F or to <2C to 10 C), it’s nice to slow the train down and forget the need to go fast and just have some fun talking with friends while we ride. In my world, the season’s all but over and it’s time to sit back and relax a little bit. Oh, we’re not done yet, of course. There are plenty of miles out there for October and even into November and December yet… but the clock is ticking and we’re into full cold weather gear now. Arm warmers, long-sleeve jerseys, neck gaiters, leg warmers, tights and wool socks.

The true joy of riding dirt roads is avoiding traffic. Nobody drives a car on our dirt roads for enjoyment – they go the mile or two they have to to get to a paved artery and they’re gone. That means it’s rare to get passed by a car on a dirt road (we rode at least ten miles on dirt yesterday and didn’t get passed once). After a full season on asphalt, it’s always nice to experience the quiet solitude of dirt roads… and of cleaning my wife and my gravel bikes at least twice a week. Or more. Hang on, I have to get a tissue.

Anyway, I rolled out with my buddy Mike and Diane yesterday morning for some pre-breakfast groad. The new tires are fantastic and my bike is running excellently. We laughed and talked and generally had a great time of it. My wife had meetings all day, so it would have been better had she been there, but it was still fantastic – though I still had the same problem with the gravel bike that I have with my Venge and Trek; single bikes feel weird. And thank God for that.

The gravel season has begun…

Saddle Height, Leg Length, Cleat Shims… and the 10-Second FREE Alternative to Addressing Having One Leg (Slightly) Longer than the Other.

My wife and I both have a one leg shorter than the other. Ironically, mine’s the left. My wife’s is the right. I don’t quite know how that would throw a tandem off kilter, but we manage. Happily. To an extent.

There are two things you can do to address one leg being shorter than the other on a bicycle; lower the saddle height so the shorter leg gets its proper extension, or shim the shorter leg by putting a shim betwixt the cleat and the shoe sole.

For me, I can live with lowering the saddle to my left leg’s length. That doesn’t work for my wife. The issue is that with the saddle lower than you’d like, when you start putting power to the pedals, you tend to sit harder in the saddle which creates all kinds of bad interactions with the saddle. With the saddle high enough for her left leg, her right hip socket bothers her immensely. That meant we had to go the shim route.

Now, shimming a cleat works a treat for a road shoe where you duck-walk with exposed cleats anyway. On a mountain shoe, shimming the cleat exposes the metal to the ground instead of the sole lugs. That, my friends, is no bueno. If you’ve never tried to walk metal on rock, tile, hardwood, laminate or concrete, that would be because you’re smart or lucky (or both). This makes shimming the cleat on a mountain biking shoe a little more dangerous… and that’s what we use on the tandem, so it was suggested, rather intelligently by our local bike shop owner, that we simply take an insole from an old shoe and slide it beneath her cycling insole. Brilliant!!!

Now, me being me, rather than get my wife an insole, I bought her a new pair of exceptional cycling shoes. They’re not top-end, but they’re a fair bit nicer than mine. Then, I took the insole out of her old mountain bike shoe and slid it into her new shoe beneath the new insole.

38 miles later and my lovely wife reports the hip pain is gone. I may update this post if we run into problems in the near future, but those of us who have put an obscene amount of time in on a saddle will tell you, generally speaking, you know when you get the saddle right. My wife is one who puts an obscene outstanding amount of time in on a saddle.

Note: While the additional insole is a fantastic idea, it’s not exactly a scientific remedy to a short leg… for instance, what if the width of an insole is too much shim? We could be throwing too big (or too little) a fix at the issue and create another. However, free is worth a try to see if it works.

Dealing with a Loose Spoke… and a Jinx

My friend from Ireland, the Unironedman, called it when I wondered in an earlier post if I’d jinx myself by touting my luck with zero mechanical issues so far this season in a post I’d written about some maintenance I’d done on the fleet. I knew I was pushing my luck, of course, but the Unironedman knew by exactly how much: 100% Jinxed. One part of the maintenance I was referring to in that post was rotating the tires on the tandem.

After work Wednesday, I readied the tandem for its duties. We had our last nice, warm day of the summer upon us and we wanted to make the most of what could turn out to be our last shorts/short-sleeve ride of the season (doubtful, yes, but it’s pretty stinkin’ cold out here right now – you never know).

We pushed off to go and immediately heard a strange “clinking”. Actually, “tinking” would be a better word if it were a word. It certainly more aptly describes the sound – and in the world of the mechanicary, it’s all about aptly describing the sound (think apothecary, only with bicycle mechanics – Shakespeare would be proud, I like to believe).

I tightened up the quick release skewers on the ride, the proper first thing to do. That appeared to help at first, but in the end, the tinking sound was still there. I knew for a fact it was one of two things; a ridge had developed where the spokes cross and there was a spoke or two loose that would create tension every revolution or bump in the road and release, causing the “tink”, or it was simply a loose spoke.

For the first, you simply spread a little bearing grease/lube betwixt the spokes and squeeze the spokes where they cross to work the lube in. You’ll go from that tinking sound to almost nothing when you squeeze the spokes together. In really bad cases, you have to file the ridge out.

In my case, that didn’t completely fix the problem, though it helped, so I knew I had a loose spoke.

Now, I’d like to think I have enough miles on bikes to know how to diagnose an inappropriate sound emanating from a bicycle, thus bicycle mechanicary, however the second I truly believed that to my baby toes, I’d run into one that I couldn’t possibly diagnose. It is the way of things, just as I jinxed myself in an earlier post.

I shan’t make that mistake again, ye jackanapes.

And so, after a bit of mild consternation at not finding the offending spoke, I decided to give it another try before I found the thing by it breaking… and voila! I found two, one right next to the other. After a quick tightening, I checked to make sure the wheel didn’t pull out of true or develop a bump (from pulling the spokes too tight, you can actually pull a rim out of round).

Our next 38 miles on the tandem were enjoyed in utter silence. So shall it ever be. Minus jinxes. I should have known better, but the things I subject myself to so I can call myself a writer…