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.
And for that I am so very grateful. So shall it ever be.
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…
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.
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…
It was supposed to be a rainout Sunday. I had visions of chilling out all morning long. Maybe cooking Jess some breakfast, a little bit of laundry, and a whole lot of lazing around. My wife even had me check the forecast before we fell asleep Saturday night (after a wonderful day together). It would be raining at 5am and solid throughout the day…
Until we woke up at 6 and I checked the weather again… barely a light blip on the radar at 7 followed by 30 minutes (ish) of rain and nothing. And the amount was 0.00 inches of that rain. My wife cursed. So did I. Then we laughed out loud. We hemmed and hawed for a minute, flipping back and forth between riding and not, but we were always going to ride. It was just a matter of how happy we’d be about it.
We talked to Mike and decided on 8:30 to give the rain its chance. I wasn’t going to bother sending the text out but did at my wife’s urging. Doc Mike and Diane pulled up just as we were getting our vests on. The Michigan summer was over Wednesday and it’s acting like it. It was chilly. Mike and Diane (the other Mike and Diane) showed up on their singles just before we were set to roll out.
My wife is sporting some new mountain bike shoes, a step up from mine, with a new shim to help equal out her unfortunate right leg/left leg length discrepancy (more on that later this week).
We rolled out exactly at 8:30, just the six of us. We started the pace out slow because Mike gets a little cranky if we start out too fast, and started ramping it up as we moved out.
We were into the northwest wind but it was one of those odd winds where it was heavy and you could feel it but it was barely registering in the trees and leaves blowing. Diane and Mike and Jess and I took turns at the front on our tandems, taking three to five mile pulls each. There’s nothing like a couple of legit tandem couples drafting. It was fantastic sharing the load. Sadly, Diane had things to do so she split off early…
As we hit tailwind and the pace started picking up. My wife and I were riding astonishingly well and I was having a fantastic time of it, Jess, too.
We ended up getting misted on for a few minutes, but nothing bad enough to get anyone wet. We rolled for home, topping 18-mph on the way back with a decent (if light) tailwind at an easy 22-mph, pulling into the driveway with handshakes and smiles as Mike headed up the road to go home. We ended up with a little more than 38 glorious miles on a day we should have been riding the couch.
It was a good date on the tandem for Jess and I… and that’s about how cycling is for me, lately.
This is interchangeable by sex, of course, it could just as easily be “a woman walks into a psychologist’s office”…
A guy walks into a psychiatrist’s office and sits down on the couch for his first working appointment. He looks at the psychologist and and the psychologist back at him. The psychologist says in that quiet, calm psychologist voice, let’s begin.
The guy says, “Well, my wife has a bunch of flaws that really annoy me and I’d like to know how to fix them.”
The psychologist whispers under his breath, “We’re going to need a bigger couch.”
Fans of the 1970’s Steven Spielberg classic, Jaws will get this joke. For the rest… erm, dude. It’s Jaws. You gotta see that movie.
There is a Cure for “Get-there-itis”. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and it isn’t a train…
I am a results-oriented person. Have been my whole life. When I go shopping, I know what I want and I go get the best version of what I want and I’m done. I put a value on my free time… about triple what work is willing to pay me. If I can’t save three times what someone else is willing to pay me, I don’t worry about cost savings.
We can’t take money with us when we go and our existence on this rock is finite – we won’t get out of this alive. You have to save money for the future, of course, but I make the most of the time I have as well. Or so I thought…
As a sufferer of “Get-there-itis”, I’m always pressing to get wherever it is we’re going. That’s the mission (a lot like shopping), to get there. As a result, I’ve been quite anxious, often pushy, and sometimes a downright butthole until we reach whatever destination it is we’re heading to.
To make this exceptionally fun and exciting, my wife likes to take the scenic route. The long way. And she’s an absolute nut until we get out the door. The kids were traumatized when it came to vacations. Any kid would be fortunate to have parents who care as much as we do, but we owe them an amends about getting ready and getting to and from vacation destinations since they were little ones.
I won’t focus on my wife’s numerous quirks in this regard because to do so is an exercise in idiocy that never turns out well. I know the fix to mine, though.
“Get-there-itis”, viewed honestly and open-mindedly, is a self-centric behavior. We have to get there because I am a results-oriented person. There’s no scenic route worth taking, no road but the quickest/fastest way there worth it. Once we get “there”, I can relax and enjoy it. I would actually get fidgety and anxious when we deviated from getting there. I hated it.
This makes life sad and difficult for someone who likes to take a road trip from time to time. Who likes to get there, but to enjoy the trip as well.
So, here’s the trick. First, I fell in love with my wife all over again after 25 years of marriage and 27 years together. This takes a little more than a decision. It takes practice and a whole lot of “want to”. When we fell in love again, I focused on fixing (or at least working on fixing – it’s a massive battle) my self-centeredness. And that’s how I learned my “Get-there-itis” was a result of being selfish. Oh, it’s great when you’ve gotta get the wife to the maternity ward, but it sucks on vacation.
My wife and I went on our first trip together after these changes started manifesting with all of the angst we normally would – thankfully, the kids were staying home for this one. On the way up, because I knew the route to our destination (I’d traveled it regularly with my parents when I was young) I asked my wife if we could take the longer route up the coast because it was vastly more visually stunning. I didn’t have to scrape her jaw off the floor, but it was close. Then, on the way up the coast (east coast of Michigan, in Tawas and Oscoda), my wife kept seeing public beaches and as we passed one she blurted out, “Oh my God, that’s beautiful!” I asked if she wanted to see it up close and whipped our SUV, camper in tow, into a gas station to turn around just as she answered, “yes”.
We walked the beach for ten or fifteen minutes and took a few selfies and photos of the magnificence of the Lake Huron beach.
If memory serves, my wife actually cried as we got back into the car because I’d never been willing to do something like turn the car around in mid-trip to check out a beach! I simply smiled and said, “The change is real, sweetheart.”
Later, during that trip, we were riding our tandem and my wife spotted a beautiful stream passing under the road. It was so gorgeous she couldn’t help but holler out. I checked traffic was clear and whipped the bus-like bike around and we took a ten minute break to take in the scenery. It was amazing. More selfies and regular photos.
It was shortly after I realized my “Get-there-itis” was capable of being “cured”. In the changes I’d gone through, I learned I could have fun with my wife on the journey to the destination… without messing with the thrill of getting to the destination. My vacation time was literally extended by the length of the trip, both to and from.
Friends, my “Get-there-itis” ceased being something my wife and kids had to put up with. Now I watch for its signs so I can stomp the anxiousness out before it has a chance to start because it messes with some great time spent with my wife and kids. My life is vastly more enjoyable without it.
The last I left you, I’d gone through some pretty significant changes in character. Since, there’s been a lot of writing about my wife and I on our tandem, and that’s all been great, but what about the rest?
This has all been a tremendous learning experience for me and, to be quite honest, it’s been a bit of a pain in the butt. The honeymoon phase, which lasted a few months, was awesome. The love I felt in my heart was surprising and fabulous. On one hand, at times I miss the old, confident me. On the other, the old self-confident me was rather ignorant in terms of how to be great to my wife and soulmate… and I really don’t miss that.
Not to put too fine a point on it, I’m basically completely re-learning how to be a better me. While it’s work and often quite difficult and sometimes awkward, I really love it. I love who I’m becoming.
To put this into perspective, I remember back to when my AA sponsor, Mike died. He could light up a room just by walking into it. He immediately made everyone in that room feel better about being themselves. He was an amazing force for good in the world and I was fortunate to know him. I was telling my wife the other day that I used to hope and pray that I could be like him some day. The tough part was, I had no idea how to get there. Without a “Mike” to guide me through the process, I felt lost in the woods. So, with tears running down my cheeks, I said to my wife, I know I’ve still got a long way to go, but after all of these changes, for the first time in my recovery, I can see actually the path.
Now all I have to do is walk it.
I arrived home Tuesday to reports of rain looming just short of the time we’d be finishing the Tuesday night ride in Lennon. I gave my wife two options; we could risk it and see how things shook out, or we could ride from home just the two of us and have a date on our tandem. I was hoping for the latter and was quite happy that this was my wife’s choice as well. She still had some remote work to do so I went to work readying the tandem. I wanted to lube the drivetrain as well as tend to the water bottles and air the tires… and I knew I was in for a little more than that as soon as I tried to move the bike. The rear tire was dead flat.
I was not surprised.
We hit a train track pretty hard Friday and when I aired the tires Saturday morning, the rear was down to 60 pounds from 100. It shouldn’t have been below 90 pounds. I new a flat was nigh.
I didn’t even bother with the tire irons. 28 mm tires on the Velocity Dyad tandem wheels slip off easily with no tools if you know the trick of leveraging the bead against the rim and rolling it just so… both beads at the same time, too. You just roll the tire right off without having to mess around with tire irons (or plastics, as they are, generally). I checked carefully for any foreign objects in the tire and took the tube in to the kitchen sink when I found nothing. I wanted to know where the leak was. A hole on the outside of the tube (toward the tire) generally signifies a foreign object piercing the tube. A hole on the inside, against the rim, generally signifies a pinch-flat.
I filled the sink a couple of inches and ran the just-filled tube ’round. No bubbles. I ran it again. No bubbles. I discarded the tube in the recycle tub and went about my chores. Chain lubed, water bottles topped… and I started a load of laundry as well. Then I pulled out the Venge to clean and lube its drivetrain as well. May as well while I was at it. Jess was still working. And that’s when the thunder became audible, way off in the distance. I wheeled the bike in from the driveway, leaned against my car. The rain was going to hit us well before 7.
We never rode. The rain came swift and hard. We decided on chicken noodle soup for dinner and Jess commenced to chopping veggies while I folded the clothes that had come out of the drier. Our youngest, driving on her own now, came home from practice while the soup was cooking, having been kicked out of the pool at the first sign of thunder.
With the bikes cleaned and readied and chores done, there was nothing left to do but let dinner finish cooking.
Rain days are a bummer, especially when you plan on being able to beat the rain all day and look forward to the ride.
Making the best of them when they happen, on the other hand, isn’t so bad.
Next it’s time to get the gravel bikes ready! Fall arrives today.