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Monthly Archives: July 2022

Tuesday Night in Lennon: Popped Edition

We had a small group in Lennon last night and it was windy, out of the northwest. This is not a good recipe – especially as my wife and tandem partner had to work late (as it turned out, very late). Only Chucker and I showed for the warm-up, so it was low key and I felt quite good with the easy pace on the Venge. It was good to be on the Venge, but I felt off at the same time. It was reinforced that I’d prefer my wife on the tandem any day of the week and twice on Sunday…

We rolled out into the headwind for the first third of the ride. I chose the left lane of the double pace-line so I’d get peppered with headwind to start but be protected down the long stretch down Shipman road. I’ve quietly and successfully employed this strategy for years – and it always works… as long as I stick to it.

Getting hammered by the northwest wind wasn’t great, but I was able to hide behind Greg’s wheel and I spent a lot of time in the drops or low on the hoods to stay out of the wind. My mood lightened as I caught up with folks I hadn’t ridden with in months but riding without Jess just isn’t as fun. It’ll do, ya know?

I was doing quite well when we hit Shipman road, but riders started getting dropped off the right side, meaning I was no longer protected once I got to the back after a short stint up front. I believe I made it three or four miles, but once the tandem dropped off to my left, I took the right lane to even the pace-lines out and I only lasted three turns up front and popped about three from the front. And by popped, I mean popped. Done. As soon as I hit the unprotected side, my heart rate jumped from the 150s to the 170s and I was done.

Thankfully, I was right by a massive shortcut so I took my toy and went home.

I only lasted 8-1/2 miles, but I definitely wasn’t the first off the back, so I’ll take solace in that. And on the positive side, it was really nice to feel a little out of place on my Venge. It was good to feel a little bummed that I had to ride a single over the tandem. My wife is awesome.

UPDATE: I received a text this morning from Chucker… The A guys ended up with a 24-mph average for the night… and everyone we normally ride with popped.

I’ve Had About Enough of What the Pandemic is Doing to Cycling…

My wife asked me the other day, because I write a wonderfully popular blog that revolves around cycling and recovery from addiction (strange bedfellows, indeed), what bike colors are like this year.

My wife and I have an annual discussion about bike colors and how horrendous the current slate is… but I didn’t have an answer for her this year. In fact, I didn’t have a clue. And I didn’t have a clue because I haven’t bothered to look. And I haven’t bothered to look because, no matter how gaudy or cool the bikes are this year, you can’t get one till 2023 or beyond, so why bother? Even our beloved boutique brand, Co-Motion for our tandem is eight months out on new orders.

Well, I guess it’s not all horrible! If I’m 4’10” tall or 6’3″ I can get a Tarmac in 49 or 61 cm! Sadly, my wife needs a 54 cm, so she’s out till God only knows when. And the sad thing? Colors are awesome this year from the big two. Better than I’ve ever seen. This is some kind of cruel joke.

Better, and this one really made me laugh, we’ve got the rollout for the new Specialized Evade Helmet. I actually thought about pulling the trigger on two for my wife and I to the tune of $600 for the pair, till I saw this:

Seriously. Specialized rolled out a helmet you can’t actually buy. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so damned sad.

I’ve had about enough of the pandemic and what’s been done with it and in its name. On one hand, you have to expect interruptions in the face of a disaster like this (I wonder, do we call this a “human caused disaster”?). On the other, really?

I long for the days of real normalcy. Not just the “new normal”. I’ve seen the “new normal” and it sucks.

Another Wonderful Sunday Funday on the Tandem with My Wife… and A Little QOM Hunting

There’s a route my wife and I do each year at the end of July – always on single bikes till this year, that’s got a looong stretch with what is usually a prevailing tailwind and a slight downhill grade the whole way (there are a few shallow rises, but the general grade is downhill), that ends with a sprint for the Flushing City Limits sign.

It’s very fast. The KOM is out of reach for me without a huge tailwind. The QOM, however…

My wife and I rolled out Sunday morning on our new favorite bike. I can’t put into words how blessed I feel that my wife and I both love riding the tandem at the same time in our marriage. There’s no place I’d rather be than being the Captain to her Rear Admiral.

We started out with our normal Sunday Funday easy pace at the front of a small pack. Well, it was only Diane and Jeff on Diane’s tandem and Mike on his good bike. The pack grew, though. We picked up Phill and Matt along the way. The morning started out unseasonably cool but it warmed up quickly enough with abundant sunshine and good friends. We’d picked a north route because we had a slight breeze out of the southeast – and north is perfect on a Sunday (a little heavy with the traffic on a Saturday). I noticed within the first couple of miles that we were in good shape – we were perfectly synchronized in our effort.

The morning warmed quickly and after 14-miles we’d ditched the arm-warmers:

We rolled on happily at an excellently wonderful pace – where you’re not taxed but you’re still working at it… it’s a fantastic feeling on the tandem when everything is working well.

30 miles into the ride, my wife, trying out some new Terry cycling shorts I bought for her, did something that almost had me crashing into the ditch; she started talking about adding miles to our 40-mile route. I couldn’t believe it. I said I was up for whatever she wanted to do, so rather than bee-line it home, we headed further west to check out some rarely traveled roads… which led us inexorably to the easterly return trip on West Pierson Road. As I mentioned earlier, typically you’ve got a westerly wind to push you down the road which means the KOM for the finishing segment is unbelievably fast – 32 mph. Yesterday, we had a slight (but not insignificant) crossing headwind. Still, we managed the 3.2-mile stretch in just 8m:14s and nabbed my wife the QOM (in fact, we beat out her old QOM time on that one). There is nothing more satisfying for me than helping my wife pick up a QOM on the tandem (not even getting a KOM for myself). We also nabbed a second QOM for Jess on the ride, the sprint end of that section at 28.7-mph… with a crossing headwind. It was awesome.

Of all of the cool things to come out of the changes my wife and I have made in the last six months, that smile is one of the coolest. Seeing the shear joy is such a wonderful blessing.

After than several mile stretch, I was about cooked. We were 40-miles in and still had a dozen miles to home so we stopped at a fire station so I could get a gel out of the saddle bag. I wasn’t hungry, but my energy level was fading. After that stop we beat a path for home.

We pulled into the driveway with 52 fantastic miles. Sunday Funday just keeps getting better.

Good times and noodle salad.

Struggling In Recovery? Don’t Give Up Five Minutes Before the Miracle Happens…

Recovery isn’t always a bed of roses, especially in the first five years. My favorite line in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, after the first three words on page 112, is “Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path”.

When we’re having a tough time, no matter how long one has in the program, it’s always best to fall back on that line. I need to always be mindful to follow the path.

Don’t give up five minutes before the miracle happens.

The Story of How My Wife and I Found Happiness on a Tandem (While Finding Each Other Off It) Part Two

Part one is here and handled the period from when we picked up our Co-Motion Periscope in 2016 to just this spring, six years later. Part two picks up mid-June of ’22 at the Sunrise Adventure Tour in Alpena, day one. My wife and I had, within the last few months, just fallen in love. All over again. We’d found ourselves off the bike…

We woke up in the morning and it was already windy – and they were calling for gale-force winds before the end of the day. I thought we were going to have the wind stacked right, though; headwind to start, tailwind to finish.

Still dark out and in the wee hours of the morning, we went to the bathroom facility and cleaned up to roll out. It was a cool morning, chilly, actually. As one would expect, we were kitted out in our matching jerseys from the local shop but also included knee and arm warmers. Once dressed, we took the registration kit we had and headed over to the start. We worked late check-in till 9 before prepping the tandem to roll out.

The morning had warmed quickly with the rising sun and we ditched the arm-warmers before we ever clipped in, and the wind really wasn’t as bad as had been advertised. With the hour-late start, I wondered how long it would take to reel in our first straggling cyclist. We counted down and shoved off, taking our time getting into our groove. Within three or four miles we were cruising down the road comfortably. City streets gave way to rural, quiet, immaculate roads. The scenery was wonderful and the air untouched from the hustle and bustle of southern Michigan’s over-concentrated heavy industry 180 miles away. I couldn’t help but take deep breaths to take in the awesome cedar smell in the air. My wife and I, our vows just renewed, talked of fun, happy, lovey things throughout much of the ride.

For me, it felt like a dream come true. We were the only bike on the road for two hours until we started reeling people in. We stopped when the desire, or scenery, struck us and we acted like we were newlyweds again, all while having the comfortability that comes with 25-years of marriage. It was the best of both worlds. Jess, my wife, was happier than I’d ever seen her on a bicycle. Hell, I was too, for that matter – all of these years and I’m thinking I was having the time of my life riding with friends. I was on a tandem with my best friend sitting right behind me. I let my wife know regularly how happy I was to be riding with her.

The wind really started howling as we approached Alpena again and my wife was more than a little nervous and asked if we should walk. I reassured her that I had us steady and we rolled on. Carefully. I can’t remember what our mileage was or what our average pace was when we finished. For the first time since I started cycling, I didn’t care. We’d just completed the most enjoyable ride I’d ever been on.

The rest of the evening was perfect leading into Saturday…

I was nervous for day two of Sunrise Adventure. It was a 40-mile out and back with headwind all the way out but tailwind all the way back. The starting temp was a little cooler, but the abundant sunshine made the cool temp livable. With arm and leg warmers. We rolled out into the wind on what turned out to be the most beautiful ride I’d ever been on. Every turn proved more beautiful. We’d suffered a popped synchronizing chain which requires loosening a few bolts and the eccentric bottom bracket shell. We ended up rolling out 20 minutes after everyone else. Jess usually doesn’t ride two hard rides in a row like that, let alone three, so we just took it steady into the wind. I made sure to reassure her several times that, should we end up out there alone, I’d be perfectly happy to spend the time with her whatever pace we ended up with.

As it turned out, there was no need to worry. We had a blast and rode very well together.

At one of the rest stops, my wife asked if we could move her saddle forward a little bit. I pulled out a 5-mil Allen key that I carry in the saddle bag and tended to it immediately. This was the result:

From there, simply put, we hauled ass. We took the route all the way up to Preque Isle to some of the most beautiful road I’ve ever had the privilege of riding. My wife saw a turn-off on the right and quickly said, “Oh my God, it’s beautiful!” I quickly looked right and just barely caught a glimpse of a gorgeous beach. I asked if she wanted to check it out and whipped the bike around to head back to the parking lot. This is what we saw:

It was amazing. That wasn’t even the best, though. That was yet to come at the Presque Isle Lighthouse built in 1840…

The trip back, with a steady diet of tailwind, was nothing short of outstanding. We were perfectly synched all day and had a most wonderful ride.

We had a wonderful lunch after the ride at The Fresh Palate and then a huge dinner at a fantastic Mexican restaurant on the water. We fell asleep watching Castle in each other’s arms, my wife resting her head in the crook of my shoulder. If I had to define peace and contentment in a marriage, that was it.

And that left day three, a lovely loop north and west up to Long Lake. It was another perfect ride followed by a nice lunch together before we packed up our pop-up camper and rolled for home.

That tour, in my mind, cemented us as a tandem couple. For me, simply because I love riding with my wife. For Jess, it was a little more than just wanting to ride with me. I gather, through what we talked about all weekend long, that she needed to feel safe to ride at our pace, whatever that was. She needed to know that this would indeed be an adventure and that we’d be taking the scenic route with plenty of stops along the way to see the sights… and I gave her exactly what she was looking for.

My transformation as a cyclist from someone who rides to be fast to someone who rides to be reasonably fit and to have wonderful rides and adventures with my wife because it’s awesome fun was complete.

We found each other through the pale din of resentment and repaired our marriage off the bike. Then we found true happiness on one big, heavy, wonderful tandem. Neither one of us could be happier.

I just can’t get part two of our tandem story cranked out today…

My wife and I stayed in bed a little longer than normal after dealing with a couple of issues that popped up yesterday, so I just haven’t been able to get the post done to my satisfaction. I’ll post it tomorrow.

In the meantime, this was from my recent birthday ride with my daughter. I never thought I’d get her back on a bike. It was a happy time.

My birthday cake literally said, “Good times & noodle salad”. Heh! My wife has an awesome sense of humor.

Before you head to the comments section, I know, I know! Some rides don’t require a helmet, and this was one of those… and it was strangely awesome riding without one for once!

The Story of How My Wife and I Found Happiness on a Tandem (While Finding Each Other Off It) Part One of Two.

We brought our first tandem home on May 13th of 2016.

To tell you the truth, it doesn’t look much different today. We’ve got a nice saddle bag on the seatpost and we’ve got fenders on it, but other than that, it’s the same bike we brought home.

I was excited to start riding with my wife and kids right away. My wife and I struggled mildly with a power/control issues too numerous to bother with. We started off graciously enough, but over time I think it’s fair to say we both allowed some off the bike resentments to get in the way of our enjoyment of the new tandem. As the resentments built up over time, they made our time on the tandem tougher. Even through all of that, I’d catch a glimpse of how excellent we could be on the bike and that made me love it.

I wanted for us to flourish on our tandem.

After that, though, call it 2018, we shelved the tandem except on the rare occasion. It was in the spring of 2020, the pandemic, that a friend suggested we should ride the tandem more. With an unknown amount of time off for CovidPanic, we decided to give it another go. We fared much better through the pandemic. I’d like to think I softened a little bit and my wife got stronger. We also started a “Sunday Funday” where we’d drop the pace from an expected 20-ish-mph down to 17 to 18-mph. This meant we didn’t have to struggle so much to keep the pace and our friends got a break from the hammer-fests.

We flourished, even choosing to ride the tandem on successive weekend days – even on weekdays now and again. I was really enjoying riding the tandem at the end of the 2021 season and we were both looking forward to 2022’s spring session as the snow started to melt in late February.

Then, in March, through a series of seemingly fluke events (that we choose to see as God helping us do what we couldn’t for ourselves), I came to realize that, while I was a decent man and a good husband, I was woefully self-centered and I could do a lot better. Once I saw the full extent of my transgressions, I broke down. I called my wife and asked her to meet me so we could talk about a few things I’d come to realize. I was in tears by the end of the call.

Early March was the beginning of a complete transformation of our marriage. With those changes, my wife and I went from tolerating each other to wanting to be together. We fixed almost all of what had been keeping us at arm’s length from one another… and that translated to riding the tandem.

March turned into April and April into May and we were on the tandem more days a week than on the single bikes. We even started taking the tandem to the Tuesday night hammer-fest in Lennon.

As May turned to June, Jess and I were starting to fire on all cylinders off the bike and that translated into fantastic times on the bike. We were 100% in love again. We renewed our vows a few days after our 25th Wedding Anniversary, and after ordering a new top-of-the-line gravel bike tandem with a spare set of road wheels to mark the occasion. Our Silver Anniversary present to each other is a new super-lightweight tandem.

The real kick to cement our relationship and our love of tandem riding came at a mid-June tour. A tour we went on alone, not knowing or having ridden with anyone else that was riding. We volunteered as well (as it turned out, to handle registration). This was the trip that showed us both that things were going to be different, and vastly better, for the rest of our lives together. We also took the tandem for our first solo road trip… and I knew we were going to have to ride the medium routes so we didn’t wear ourselves out to bring the tandem.

My wife checked the navigation and there were two ways up, one a little slower than the other but far more beautiful of a journey. I asked if we could take the back way, up the coast through Au Gres, Tawas and Oscoda, Michigan toward our final destination of Alpena. My parents rented a cottage on Lake Huron in Oscoda every summer for several years running and my grandmother used to live in Alpena where our parents would send us for a week or two every summer to get a break from us. I imagine my wife almost fainted when I asked for the scenic route!

Then, on the way up, we passed a beautiful park beach heading through Oscoda and my wife asked if we could turn around to walk on the beach for a minute. I can’t remember what I said specifically, but it was resoundingly affirmative. Let’s say, “Heck yeah”! And we whipped around at the first gas station we came to and headed back to the park.

We took a few selfies on the beach and went for a ten minute walk, and even did a little wading before heading back to the car. As we headed up the road, my wife asked what I’d done with her husband that I was willing to take the scenic route and stop along the way to take a look at the scenery. She asked where my get-there-itis went.

I took a minute to gather my thoughts and put it simply that the change was real and I was just happy to be with her, that we could take as long as she wanted. We both got misty over the exchange.

When we arrived, we set up the camper and headed over to pick up a few subs for lunch – one each for us and one for the ride coordinator.

The view from our campsite…

We headed over to start with our volunteer work. My wife asked to do the registration and I asked to work alongside her. I said as long as we could work together, I would work as long as they needed us. We worked from 1 in the afternoon till almost 8:30 in the evening and we absolutely rocked registration out. It was astonishingly smooth.

My wife started crying as we drove to dinner after I spoke to a local to find a great place to eat. She couldn’t believe I would work beside her, for that long, without even a complaint about how long we were working – she was sure I’d have wanted to work at something else. I welled up and the floodgates opened. I explained that I was not the same guy anymore. Working with her on the registration, was a blast. Even though we were working, we were side-by-side, working together, so there was a connection that made it good enough just to be together. We ate dinner at a fine restaurant, choosing a booth, sitting next to each other so we could hold hands… and we shared our appetizer and entrees.

I don’t know what time we got back to the camper, but it was late. We turned in and cuddled tight. You couldn’t fit a piece of paper betwixt us…

Originally, this was going to be a one part post but it’s already getting long. I’m going to split it here and say, “Stay tuned for Part Two” due out Friday.

33% Down on Miles in June Year Over Year – and I Couldn’t Be Happier!

June of 2021 wasn’t quite a bumper month in cycling for me at 925 miles but it was up there. A really decent month is between 1,000 and 1,100 miles.

This June is way out of the ordinary. I’m down all the way to 626 miles – 67% of 2021s miles, or 51% of 2020.

Now, some of you who have been around long enough to know the me from… well, like six months ago, know that I was once a fairly aggressive cyclist and being down that many miles in a month should indicate a serious problem. Reality is the opposite, though. Back then, I didn’t care much for days off and I rode fast. A LOT. I was also exceptionally self-centered about getting my rides in, no matter what. Well, my wife and I made some changes several months ago and I’ve come to find that I don’t much like that guy. In fact, I realized that part of me had to be put to rest for a greater good and happiness.

I’ll have more on that subject in an upcoming post in which I’ll delve into much of how my wife and I found happiness on a tandem.

What matters for this post is that I’ve found a vastly more satisfying form of cycling that demolished the need to pump out 1,000-mile months. The cliché goes; quality, not quantity and I’m here to say that I’m vastly happier with the quality miles we’re getting nowadays, captaining the tandem with my wife compared with the quantity from years’ past.

I checked yesterday and I’ve only got 2,700 miles (give or take) for the year. Normally by this time I’m well on my way to 4,000. If I never turn in a 20-mph average again on a ride but can continue this way, riding with my best friend, I’ll die a happy man and never look back longingly at the “fast days”.

Every time I throw a leg over that tandem, I’m exactly where I want to be. It’s as good as it gets.

2022 Firecracker 100k – Our First 100k on the Tandem was a Wonderful Experience for the Both of Us

My wife and I have had a limit of about 50 miles on the tandem. Once we hit 40-ish miles, she starts getting… erm… angry. Yes, that’s a good word to use. We both had saddle issues once we hit that distance, but I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time over the last year getting both dialed in the best I could and especially for my wife over the last few weeks. Let’s say I’ve dedicated myself to her setup with the same enthusiasm I throw at my own – actually, a little more.

And so, with that, I gently worked my wife up to riding the big Independence Day route with the group on the tandem. My wife was a lot nervous, but I assured her that I had her and if we ended up getting dropped, out there by ourselves, I would be perfectly happy riding with my best friend. She agreed to ride…

And we absolutely rocked ass.

I made a slight saddle adjustment in the parking lot at her request (and I mean slight) before rolling out, moving the saddle back ever so slightly and nosing it down just a hair. This is the result:

This smile is how you know you’ve got a saddle dialed in correctly…

We had an awesome group, probably our biggest ever for the Independence Day ride, consisting of at least twenty cyclists on 17 bikes (three tandems!) and we were all matched for pace and ability excellently (one of the wonderful benefits of an invite-only ride).

The start was amazing and we quickly hit 22-mph and stayed there for the most part. With such a big group, maintaining speed was fairly easy. I could tell the saddle adjustments we’d made were well received – the Rear Admiral was putting awesome power to the pedals and we were perfectly in synch with each other. We held our speed easily.

The morning couldn’t have been better. Warm temperature, but not too warm. Sunny, and just mildly breezy… and my wife and I were riding as good as we ever had. We pulled into our second rest stop with a 19-mph average and plenty in the tank.

Shortly thereafter, we ended up chasing an old friend down and and kept a playful manner throughout the whole ride. The group held together excellently well, too, though we weren’t without our issues. Chasing down that old friend took a toll on one of the tandem couples and a couple of others on single bikes. I should have sat up and called for everyone to leave him be, but even Jess was drawn in by the carrot just off the front of the group… you can’t help by chase a guy down.

We ended up getting an emergency call from Jessica’s dad just after our last stop so we let the group go and stayed back in the shade on the sidewalk to talk things through. Diane and Jeff, and Mike K came back to round us up and the five of us headed toward home. We still had better than an 18.7-mph average with tailwind all the way home.

I’d expected Jess to be absolutely smoked in the last couple of miles but she remained upbeat and happy. I snapped this photo shortly after we rolled over 62.4 miles:

The ride was all over but the shouting… our first 100k on the tandem. Dinner (and ice cream) were extra special last night. We ended up watching a couple of episodes of Castle out in the backyard on our bench swing in each others arms.

Our status as a tandem couple is set and we couldn’t be happier. We worked hard for this… and you can bet we’re enjoying it.

Thanks, God.

Happy Independence Day, America!

That’s all that needs be said, my friends. Enjoy your day. My wife and I will spend much of it on the tandem. There’s no place I’d rather be.

…And hotdogs for lunch… the one thing the politicians, pandemic and supply chain hasn’t been able to screw up. WOOHOO!