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Recovery and Workin’ Steps, Baby. How Free Do I Want to Be?

I started working with a new sponsor the other day. Let’s just say he’s not gentle. I’m starting a new fourth step and I’ve got a month and some change to get it done while he and his wife head down to Florida to get away from the worst of the winter. We’re right on the edge of the worst the winter will have to offer, so they’re heading down just at the right time… and that gives me time to work on a big fourth.

At first, I thought to myself, “a fourth step? Really? The more I thought about it, though, the more appealing the idea was. I’ve got a few things that I really want to unload.

So, humorously, as these things tend to work out, I’ve got two guys I’m sponsoring plus me working on the fourth and fifth. It’s going to be a busy February.

So, the question for today is how free do I want to be?

My answer is, free enough I want to do another fourth step.

Clipless or… Erm… Pedals Without Clips… Erm Flat/Platform Pedals?

I believe I’ve seen all of the videos GCN has put out on flat/platform pedals vs. clipless. For the uninitiated, “clipless” refers to a lack of toe clips and straps… you still, ironically, clip into clipless pedals.

What they rarely cover in the whole discussion is foot position, though they did for a second or two in the imbedded clip.

First, clipping into clipless pedals, to spoil the clip and add my two cents, is only slightly more efficient than using platform pedals with little screw-in flat spikes and mountain specific shoes without cleats, until you get out of the saddle and sprint. At that point, a person who has used clipless pedals will feel vastly safer to hit the gas harder because their feet are connected and secured to the pedals.

Having ridden a 30-mile loop with the Elite A-Group on Tuesday night on a set of platform pedals (though, admittedly, the pedals I used were the cheap, stock plastic platforms without spikes). At a decent pace and cadence, it’s simply too hard to keep your feet in what I approximated was the proper position.

And that word, “approximated”, was the important part of that sentence, folks. You have to guess… and at 90-rpm, guessing where your feet should be gets old in a hurry. Especially bad is when you’re a little off and you can’t move your foot in little increments while moving at that rate of speed. What I ended up experiencing was a lot of pain from having my feet in the wrong place on the pedals to work the crank efficiently for my ankle, knee and hip joints. For that reason, I’ve never bothered with trying platforms again. Perhaps cycling at a less aggressive pace wouldn’t prove so difficult.

Next is the mountain bike issue (and this applies to potholes on the road as well – especially bunny-hopping an unexpected pothole). When descending, you can experience everything from roots to rocks making the descent tricky. If your feet are clipped in, you don’t have to worry about your feet bouncing off the pedals. The spiked platforms wouldn’t be as bad as straight up plastic, but I’ve always felt better being connected to the bike in clipless pedals.

In the end, the choice to go clipless or platform will come down to choice. This commentary is included to help those new to the choice to make a reasoned choice. It’s always an interesting topic.

UPDATE: Be sure to check out the comments. What a great topic for well-reasoned discussion based on experience. Great stuff.

Are Skin Suits Worth The Speed? Well…

We have team kit speed suits. They’re expensive, fast, well-made… and if you don’t have an exceptional physique, you will resemble a sausage wearing one.

Here’s the bitch, though; they are that much faster compared to a normal high-end kit – and not just at hyper-fast paces… they’re a lot faster at the pace my wattage allows for on a Tuesday night (I average around 350 watts for just under an hour-twenty on a decently fast night). If I was a little lighter… erm… okay, a lot lighter, I probably wouldn’t have to worry about that kind of output, but I’m content with myself. Even if I have started eating a lot more salad of late. And fish. Oh, and cut out most of the troublesome stuff… dammit, I’m on a diet. A real one, too, for Pete’s sake.

I won’t be switching any time soon, though. A standard kit offers a little more… erm… modesty, and that’s worth more to me than saving a minute. I don’t spend that much time up front unless I’m on the tandem with Jess, anyway.

And if you think you’re getting your wife into one of those get-ups so you can twin on the tandem, without giving up something else vitally more important to happiness, your level of ignorance is colossal.

How much like a sausage are you willing to look? Now, that’s the proper question!

Willing to Go to Any Length to Remain Sober…

I’ve asked a man, with direct lineage to my sponsor, Mike who passed away in 2009 to sponsor me, and he’s accepted… and made sure to point out that I have to be willing to go to any length (and put up with his bluntness). He then stated, after 30 years of recovery, I should have a pretty good handle on 1, 2 & 3, so I should probably start on 4 right away.

At first, of course, you can imagine my reaction; What?! A FOURTH Step? I’m on TEN, ELEVEN & TWELVE!

And then I thought, Well, Jim, any length is any length… and think of the good that can come from it! Let’s see just how free you can be.

I got over myself in about fourteen seconds and now I can’t wait. In fact, I’m sponsoring a new guy and he’s going through his first so we’ll be able to work on it together.

Plus, my new sponsor is one of the few people who display the ability to make other people feel better about being themselves with unconditional love. That’s what I want.

I’d have been able to remain sober another fifty years the way I was going, one day at a time, if I’d kept after it as I have in the past. But what better have I to do than find out just how good good is?

And so it begins. Again.

I love this stuff.

Contending with My Mortality While Using… Knowing The End Was Near and Looking Back.

I’m finally beginning to see why people soften as they age. I can see why we don’t take to violent movies the same now that I’m into my fifties. I can finally understand why they don’t send old people like us to war. I’m on the back nine, in a golfer’s parlance, and it’s beautiful back here…

The glorious thing about a human liver is that, if you choose to beat the ever-loving shit out of it in your youth, if you stop abusing it soon enough, it’ll repair itself. I had less than a decade left when I quit alcohol and drugs. Estimates were seven years. I would have been dust twenty years ago had I not turned it around.

As a kid, I tended to think I was on the immortal side. I thought the doctor was just trying to scare me. I’ve seen family, on my wife’s side, die. A week after, “The doctor says if I just quit for a year my liver will get better and I can go back to drinking”, she was dead.

I couldn’t see life without alcohol and drugs a week before I quit. I couldn’t see how it could be any fun to live without an escape from the fear, from the nagging down, from the misery I caused myself and others with bad choices and thinking. How can you have fun if you can’t escape, was the line of thinking.

I know the answer today; you build a life you don’t have to escape from.

There’s a downside to that, though, even if it’s technically an upside: Life is so sweet I’ve actually come to cherish it.

My life isn’t perfect. I don’t have caviar dreams and, the irony is sweet, the champagne wishes were flushed long ago. Every morning I wake up, though, I’m grateful for being on the right side of the grass. I lead a happy life today, and I care enough about it that it’s changed my attitude and outlook.

I went from hoping my days were numbered to hoping that number was huge.

Folks, recovery from addiction, especially early in life, is better than cheating death. I wasn’t even all that good at the work as is evidenced by the what I’ve had to correct in the last year… and things turned out so much better than I could have hoped, I’m thankful I’m not the architect of my fate. If I’d have tried to sit down and map my life out as a recovering 24-year-old kid, I’d have shorted myself.

If you’re struggling, don’t quit five minutes before the miracle happens. Remember perspective. If you can’t think of a reason to be happy, or to even keep breathing, try looking at it differently; why not repair the damage so you can help others in your same spot recover from their pain, too? The key is in helping others, folks. If you’re struggling, try it. If feel you have nothing to give, the answer is to work at it till you do.

Recover hard, my friends. It’s beautiful out here.

At What Price Point Does a Road Bike Become Unattainable?

I watched an interesting video on YouTube yesterday where a very British announcer posed the very question in the Title. The announcer stated there was a 40% 14% tariff* on any bike made outside of the UK – apparently the UK went all Donald Trump on evening up China’s trade imbalance… so if you add 40% on top of a normal bike price I don’t know if that would make them unattainable, but it’d piss me off covering a 40% tariff, though. And, should that have been the case in the US, I’d have thanked God both our old and new tandem are manufactured, made, built, painted, partially assembled, shipped and will arrive at my door step after the final assembly, entirely in the United States (it’s made in Oregon, Eugene, I believe). If you think a single bike expensive, get into the world of top-end tandems! WOW!

Anyway, it’s hard to believe, but now that I think of it, between my wife and I the three main bikes in our stable will all be hand-built in the USA. My Trek 5200, Jess’s Assenmacher, and our tandem.

The question is, though, at what point does a road bike become unattainable? How much is too much?

I don’t think we’re quite there yet. Bikes have gotten a little heavier, so if you want a 16-pound bike, it’ll cost you. They prices haven’t outlandishly for what we get, though. At least, in my personal opinion. I looked at a nice Trek Emonda the other day that was fantastically well appointed for $5,000 with the new Shimano 105 Di2 drivetrain and decent carbon wheels. At 18-pounds, it’s heavier than I’d expect but the price looked quite fair to me… and with the worldwide economic downturn (caused by the way in which Covid was handled by politicians, not just Covid), manufacturers are going to have to start cutting prices to move bikes sooner or later.

One thing is for sure, I’m sure glad I have a full stable. This is a great time for a gravel bike that’ll pull double duty as a road rig with a different set of wheels and tires.

UPDATE: The OMIL pointed out in the comments that he thought the duty on foreign-born bikes was 14%, not 40%. I had to go back to the video and sure enough, the announcer had a bit of a lazy tongue and I misheard 40%… it’s only 14%. Still, that’s an extra $140 per thousand that goes right out the window. That’s a lot better than $400, though!

In Bike Frames, Steel May Be Real, But Can It Compete With Carbon Fiber?

Six months ago, I’d have answered “not a chance” if you’d asked “can a steel bike frame compete with a carbon fiber frame?” That abruptly ended when we bought my wife a 2004 54 cm steel Assenmacher with a 10-speed Campagnolo record drivetrain and I set the thing up with a new stem and handlebar to suit her.

Her reports of how the thing launches when she puts the power to the pedals, when contrasted against her carbon fiber Specialized Alias, had me perplexed. The smile on her face had me convinced I’d been fed some bad information.

My wife’s 18-pound steel Assenmacher next to my 18-1/2-pound carbon fiber Trek 5200 (my Trek is five years older):

Now, there’s no amount of money (that I’m aware of) you can spend that wouldn’t end up with a carbon fiber a pound or more lighter than the steel option in terms of modern bicycles. In fact, I have no doubt my Trek would be a touch lighter than my wife’s Assenmacher if we had the same wheels and components on the different frames. However, I now believe the notion that the steel bike wouldn’t be as responsive has to be tempered for we weekend warriors… and a steel bike can obviously be made exceedingly light with the right groupset.

There’s no question my wife’s bike is lighter than my carbon fiber Trek 5200.

I’m Starting to Fantasize About Riding My Trek Outside…

I’m sitting here at the dining room table, trying to figure out what I want to write about and I’m looking over at my Trek sitting in the trainer. I’ve been daydreaming about taking it outside for days… just not in the amount of winter gear it would take to legitimately ride the thing without getting hypothermia. In my daydream, I’m in shorts and a short-sleeved jersey, bombing down the road with my wife and friends. The sun is shining and you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face, even if you could catch me.

Yep. A lot like that.

That’s not all, though! In fact, the vast majority of my rare daydream time is spent daydreaming about rocketing down the road with my wife on our new tandem… the silver paint job, the special factory applied decals on the top tube with our names and anniversary date… all light and sassy (the new tandem is going to be sixteen pounds lighter that the one we just sold). I actually dreamt about it last night.

Just two months to go and we’ll be outside again. I’m ready.

The Joy of Loving without Fear

Since I changed how I live with my wife last year, trying to do away with selfish and self-centeredness, I’ve been exceptionally fearful and I haven’t written much about it. When I was wrapped up with how awesome I was, I’d built up walls that protected me from hurt… and my wife wasn’t afraid to dole it out from time to time.

Then, just like that, the way I’d been living just wasn’t good enough anymore and I started to change.

Now, to the point of this post; my wife and I used to sweep a lot of hurtful stuff under the rug because we were both afraid to fully talk about anything for fear of that leading to a massive fight. Forgive the phrasing, but when you sweep stuff under the rug, eventually it piles up to a point you have to walk around the rug rather than over it. That was us.

With this new way of life, I chose to ditch the fear. My wife, too. We began talking about some serious issues that caused a lot of fear and pain in our marriage and, when we got to something my wife felt I’d done wrong, rather than look for ways to deny it, I learned to own my stuff. Fearlessly and without flinching. If my wife was mistaken, I’d look at my behavior and, if what she was saying was reasonable, I’d say something like, “I never had that in my heart, but I can understand why you took it that way”. We didn’t justify the other’s feelings if they weren’t accurate, but we didn’t hold them against each other anymore, either.

Today, after eight months of practicing this, nothing goes under the rug. Nothing. My wife and I can talk about anything that we need to without the fear of the other taking advantage.

Now, it wasn’t always like this. My wife used to hammer me by weaponizing what I said. She’d take a snippet of something I said and turn it into a strawman that she could easily strike down. I got frustrated with that approach so I learned to just clam up and not talk about anything important. Before long, that morphed into not caring and withdrawal from the marriage. My wife did the same and would throw in the silent treatment in… until everything blew up under the pressure and we got into a massive donnybrook.

The miracle was that we started working together on these things rather than trying to make points off of them. Today, if I’m feeling a little hurt, I can say so and my wife won’t turn it back on me. We’ll talk it through. That shoe also fits on the other foot as well. My wife can come to me with anything and we negotiate that stuff out. We’ve gotten so good at negotiating, we rarely bother with fighting anymore.

We’ve built our marriage on a solid foundation. Today we don’t have to worry about sweeping anything under the rug. In fact, I’m pretty sure we can throw the rug away.

It’s My Birthday (And Now My Daughter’s Too)…

We were talking with our daughter, my wife and I as we lay in bed the other night, I asked my daughter if she was coming up on 60 days alcohol-free… and she said she had another several days to go, that her day was on the 18th. November 18th.

So as she was talking, I blurted out, “Wait a second, the 18th is my day! We share our anniversary!” To which she responded by bursting into tears and said, “Dad, that’s so f’in’ cool! I love you!”

I celebrated 30-years in recovery November 18th. My daughter sobered up 30-years, to the day, after me.

And that’s why we do it, folks. Good times, noodle salad.

That’s my girl!