Today’s post was supposed to go in a very different direction, but I read a great post written by a younger fella who stumbled into road cycling like I did… after finding mountain biking, first. His post inspired me…
Mountain biking is fantastic in that you don’t have to worry about traffic, even on the road because you can always ride on the gravel shoulder should you want to get off the asphalt and there’s no traffic other than bicycles and pedestrians on mtb trails. Many start there for that reason alone. As an added bonus, you don’t much have to worry about how you dress unless you really want to because the mountain biking culture is more laid back.
Road cycling is a different animal altogether. You get the aloof of the aloof cyclists. The pro looking, matching kits. The hyper-expensive, ultra-lightweight bikes (though don’t get me wrong, a full carbon mountain bike is just as much as a top-end road bike). You get the ridiculously high 7″ long socks (I don’t know how they became cool). You get the logos on the tires matching up with the presta valve stem on the wheels, the cable housings cut to an exact and specific length, the perfect saddle to handlebar drop… and about a hundred-forty rules that govern everything from saddle bags to shaving one’s legs (if you care to follow any of them – I follow most, with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek).
Does all of that crap really matter, though?
Folks, I’m so nitpicky, I went to the trouble of special-ordering a black anodized seat post collar for the Trek because I didn’t like how the original natural aluminum colored seat post collar looked on the bike after I had it painted:
I swapped the brakes on the Specialized when I found a black and red FSA set that was the perfect shade of red to match the bike (and I put the 105 brakes on my wife’s bike because she was in desperate need of some decent brakes):
Even the pedals match on the Venge!
So, the question is, is all of that bull$#!+ worth the effort?
The easy, quick answer is absolutely, it’s worth the effort… even if it’s entirely unnecessary.
That’s right, my friends. Entirely unnecessary. There’s only one person on this whole planet, out of something like 7-1/2 billion, that would pick out the aluminum seat post collar on the Trek as sticking out like a sore thumb. This guy. Okay, maybe two (and I happen to know the other one – Dave), but the owner of the local shop spent so much time trying to talk me out of ordering the part, he actually burned up what little profit he’d have made had he just ordered it!
After it’s all done and I’m sitting there trying to pick out which bike I want to ride and I can’t decide because they’re both awesome, but I choose the Trek because there’s a 10% chance of rain and it’s going to be an easier pace – then I don my perfectly matching kit and my 5″ Trek Segafredo socks and my expertly matched Kask Mojito helmet, then slip on my almost orange shoes (because someone at Specialized is a freaking idiot, but the shoes work, strangely)… There’s something to the notion that you ride fast when you feel fast. You ride well when you look good (curse you, English – it should be ride good, look good, but I just can’t bring myself to do it). It’s all mental, of course, but it’s there.
The final judgment is, going to the trouble of matching bikes, components, and kit is entirely unnecessary and absolutely worth the effort.
The Battlebot commercial begins. A skinny fella says, “We’ve got one more shot. We’ve got nothing left to lose”.
My jaw doesn’t literally hit the floor – because that would be damn-near impossible unless I was actually lying on the floor, belly down… and why would I do that when I’ve got a leather recliner?! I literally wouldn’t, because that would literally be stupid.
The two statements were opposites, of course. If you only have one more shot, you’ve got everything to lose.
“My heart is literally pounding out of my chest” is another favorite of mine. No, sweetie, it literally is beating entirely in your chest. If what you said were true, you’d literally be quite dead.
It’s as if people simply repeat a clichè without thinking about what the clichè actually means.
Ah well, it makes good TV I suppose.
Before you head to the comments section, the overuse of the word “literally” was purposeful to set up the “literally pounding out of my chest”. If you missed it and were about to comment angrily about the overuse of the word, well, you literally missed the gag. It was on you. Sorry. The overuse of the word “literally” is right up there in the pantheon of overused phrases. Erm. Literally.
I’ve been having a rough go at work lately and I’ve been using my evening rides as a break to center my melon. Last night’s ride was exceptional for that. Chuck called at 4:00 to let me know he was going to be a little late, so naturally I left a little bit early. I rode at my normal leisurely pace (call it 17-18-mph) and just wandered for a few miles. I headed over to Chuck’s house to find he hadn’t made it home yet, so I took a lap around his neighborhood and caught him pulling up to his driveway on the second. A few more laps and he was ready to go. The pace kicked up considerably and we did our normal 17-1/2 mile weekday loop.
The ride was divine, if exceptionally hot.
I ended up with 25 miles (just short, I actually had to mount back up and head out of the driveway for a tenth of a mile) when the dust cleared and headed in to the house.
My mind cleared, I sat down to dinner and watched Star Trek (the third newest one) on DVD with my kids. I drifted off to sleep… some time after the final act, but definitely before the credits ended. It was one of those nights; I’m sitting there enjoying the evening and BAM. I’m asleep.
I woke up this morning fresh and recharged, ready to tackle another day. It’s going to be another doozy, but I’ll be as ready as I can be for it… and I’ll likely throw another bike ride at the day this evening (and it’ll be another slow one).
This is my favorite benefit from cycling, shedding all of the day’s “junk” before dinner. A bike ride has fixed a whole lot of “messed up” for me, and for that I am grateful.
Last night’s edition of the TNCR was a mess, that’s the only way to put it.
We watched the A Group roll out at 6:01 and we followed shortly thereafter, after I called three times, “Let’s roll”. Jonathan and I took the first turn up front. Jonathan and I don’t do well at the front together. For some unknown, but highly scientific, reason the two of us have a tendency to start out slow but take it to hyper-speed in a matter of seconds. Unfortunately, at the same time we hit 21-mph, the rest of the group realized “Let’s roll” meant “my friends, it is Tuesday at 6:02pm in the evening (lady redundant woman) and we are astride our bicycles, which means it would be about that time to depart on our most excellent ride”. Which also meant they were about a half-mile back.
There were five of us off the front and as soon as we realized the other fifteen members of our group weren’t there, we sat up so they could catch us.
Of course, on their catching up we were informed that it was all our fault. It didn’t improve much from there.
Riding was tough last night. Hot, sticky, Dave described it best, methinks, “the air is thick”. Heading down Shipman Road was downright miserable, dead into a headwind that was barely there, but smacked you in the forehead like a 2×4. Ironically, this was the first time in the ride that the rotation started to work properly. Normally we’ll have guys scrambling to hide behind stronger riders when the headwind hits, but for once, people were pulling through.
I wasn’t taking too many turns up front at that point, maybe one or two more than normal, but we had the hills coming up and I had a feeling they were going to be ugly into a cross headwind from the left. I wasn’t mistaken. The order shuffled on each of the three humps till we hit the top. Then we got stuck behind a train after we rounded the corner to start the next climb. I welcomed the breather.
The next three hills kind of shook the group out and I think that was what was needed, because after the regroup, everything seemed to come together. The sprint was like any other sprint, except I timed Toby just right and he ran out of gas (for once) about 200 yards from the City Limits sign. I took it by a good margin. We reformed in town and headed for the home stretch…
The gang was rolling nicely at something like 25 or 26-mph with a decent cross tailwind when we came up to a 10′ chunk of road that had been torn up to get cable across the road. Amazingly I picked the perfect line through the gravel and made it through smoothly… or so I thought. A minute later my bike started bouncing with each pedal-stroke, the telltale sign of a flat. I raised my arm, yelled “FLAT”, and worked over to the side of the road.
I expected to be left alone on the side of the road to fix my tire – I wouldn’t have stopped for anyone either, but I was shocked to see Jonathan peel off the back of the group and head toward me. I made quick work of the tire and tube, almost blowing my CO2, but I’d gotten enough into the tube and we were on our way.
Ukulele Dave, after dropping somewhere back in the hills, caught us just as I was getting my tire seated on the rim and joined us for the last seven-ish miles back to the parking lot. Jonathan and I had kicked around whether to hammer it home or take it easy, but we never made a decision… I made it for us. 23-mph was easy enough so we kept it there all the way to the City Limits sign, though Dave did nothing more than sit in our draft. Jonathan and I were hitting it pretty hard and rolling over every couple of miles. We rolled over the City Limits sign with a 20.8 average (so Strava said – Jonathan ended with a 20.7).
So here’s my takeaway after that mess of a ride…
First, there wasn’t anything I’d have rather been doing on a Tuesday evening. Second, even though most of the ride seemed like a mess, when I was off the back with a flat, a friend stuck around to help me out. Man, it doesn’t get much better than that. Third, hey, it sure beat work.
The special at the diner last night was an “inside-out grilled cheese” sammich with a bowl of chili. And to think I almost went for a small pizza instead! If you’re a fan of the grilled cheese sammich and ever see an inside-out option on the menu, get it. Freakin’ amazing.
We have a group for every level of cyclist or bike rider in our club. About the only cyclist we can’t give a good workout to is a Cat 1 pro or better. For the purposes of this post, I’ll mainly be referring to our B Group, because that’s the one I know best – it’s the one I ride with.
We split the A Group in two a few years ago because the A guys were simply getting too fast for many of us to be useful. We ended up just hanging out at the back while the real A guys spent the first twenty miles trying to shake us off. We B guys (and ladies) would get spit off the back of the group over about fifteen miles, which meant we rode back alone – or with a few others if we were lucky.
Long story short, we split after much consternation. There were a several who were reluctant, but both groups were happier for the split. The A guys were vastly smoother for not having to weed us out. And we were smoother because we didn’t have to ride with our tongues dangling in our spokes anymore. With that split, a C, D, E and F group became more solidified as well.
I can remember our first Tuesday night this year with near perfect weather. I must have met 20 new cyclists that night, from all stripes. We had a guy on his mountain bike, his wife on her road rig (an Argon 18), a new kid on a Schwinn road bike with toe clips, several new guys who went with the A group, and we picked up three in the B group – almost all of whom have become regular riders. As new riders have come in, I meet them, introduce myself (I’m the club’s
dictator president), and talk to them about their level of cycling ability, at which time I fit them in the group I think they’ll enjoy the most – after explaining that they can jump to the next group any time they like.
We’ve got calendar rides almost every day of the week and I’ve got a private invitation list that started out twelve deep but is now up to 26 (and counting).
The club sponsors one major ride per year – other than that, all we do is ride our bikes and try to promote the sport.
We have what I believe is the perfect club. It requires little work to keep going, has virtually no “dependents” (those who require constant attention), and each little group is self-sustaining… not to mention the fact that we’re far enough out in farm country that we have hundreds of miles of roads to ride on that are exceptionally light on traffic.
I follow cyclists’ blogs from around the world and from what I’ve read, what we have something special. Minimal effort, maximum enjoyment – and if you’ve got a bike and know how to ride it, we’ve got a group for you to ride in.
It’s as good as it gets.
Oh, by the way, if you have one of those litigious types who wants a form and a waiver to be signed before (and likely after) each ride, along with the filling out of a rider satisfaction card, shut the club down and ignore that person (or group of people) until they move. Then start afresh. If a bike ride takes that much paperwork, they’re f***ing doing it wrong.
I do, however, recommend the proper insurance(s). You don’t want to find out you have one of those losers in your club after it’s too late.
Our club has everything, from racers to our own resident old cranky fella. In his youth he was fast. We’ve got an A Group, a B Group, and every other letter represented down to F. Maybe G.
For the most part we don’t interact together all that much. The A guys are too fast for the B’s, the B’s are too fast for the C’s, etc… It’s just too messy for the group above to try to take it back enough for the group below. Every once in a while, though, we get a day where a few of the A guys will want to hang with us for a bit, and some are better at it than others. Every once in a while, some of the B’s will ride with the C’s – again, some are better at it than others. I am one of the others, though I have my days where I play well, if I’m on the Trek. Dave, a Cat 2 or 3 masters racer is one of the A guy others, while Greg or Winston can match their pace with ours quite well.
The Assenmacher Pre-Ride, where a group of B’s ride the 100 mile route to give the route a once-over. That was yesterday… I’d invited a few of the A guys, Greg, Dave and Todd – Greg and Todd work well with others, Dave is working on it and showing significant improvement.
We, the gang, my wife and I, rolled at 8am, or a few minutes thereafter, and having gotten one mechanical issue taken care of within three miles of leaving, we took the pace to our normal 21-23 mph. As has become quite normal this year, the weather was absolutely perfect. 62°, sunny and no wind. It’s amazing how many days we’ve had like that this summer. Anyway, we picked Greg and Dave up en route, stopped at the gas station in Byron, and headed on – that first stop and 17 miles (or so), we didn’t stop again till somewhere around 50 miles. We had a good turnover, as well. Dave and Greg would take a five mile pull at 22-23 mph, then we’d roll over four turns between 20 and 22 to give everyone a break, then Greg and Dave would come back to the front and take over again. I loved it – a few others found the faster pace a little difficult.
Mrs. Bgddy was hanging on like a champ, taking turns up front and riding strong. At the 50 mile stop I knew she was in desperate need of a Coke and I was looking forward to one myself. I picked up two and a Snickers for me – I didn’t want any version of Betty White showing up on this ride. After a nice ten minute break, we rolled again, everyone having topped off their water bottles.
The next 22 miles, on our roll into Owosso (and lunch), was a little tougher. Some in the group were starting to get tired, but we pressed on. Just before lunch, Allen had his hamstring seize up on him so he dropped off the back and limped home (taking every shortcut he could find in the process). We kept the normal pace and rotation, Allen being the only casualty.
Mrs. Bgddy, on her first pre-ride, was doing great. I’d expected a meltdown or two before we stopped for lunch, but she was riding with a smile – and that made my ride a lot more fun because I wasn’t worrying about how she was doing. Every once in a while I’d flash her the thumb’s up to let her know she was riding superbly. We stopped for lunch, as we do every year, at mile 72-ish at the Owosso Subway. I chose the new Chicken Caesar Wrap. Now, I’m not a big Subway guy, but I’ll eat there on occasion when I’m watching calories… It’s a passable lunch. However, that Chicken Caesar Wrap is freaking fantastic. With the dressing, it’s probably a brazillion calories, but it’s good.
We rolled after finishing our sandwiches and commenced to getting after it. Greg and Dave had split off, having left from Greg’s house, they only had ten-ish miles to go. We, on the other hand, had 27.
For the most part, we rode together well, though we did single file a few times to beat the wind as some of the group stopped taking turns up front (normal, and perfectly okay). We also managed to get the pace back up into the low 20’s. With ten to go, my wife started struggling. Willem Defoe showed up and we had at it for a few seconds. She finished her turn up front and we quickly apologized to each other, and we rolled on. I was having a great ride. Normally I’m pretty smoked around 85 miles, especially with only two short stops and a third for lunch (I like to stop every 20 miles, even if it’s just for a few minutes).
The wind had kicked up but was still only in the single digits. We rolled into the parking lot, just shy of 100 miles (99.8 miles). One lap around the parking lot fixed that. Allen didn’t stop for lunch and managed to cut off seven miles so he beat us back and was doing fine. The rest of us made it back tired, but intact. It was hi-five’s and handshakes all around.
My text went out Friday afternoon to the gang:
Tomorrow’s ride, 7:30am. Figure 2-3 hours, fairly laid back pace to get tuned up for Sunday, my place.
Simple enough, right?
We rolled our at 7:32am. No wind, the temp was a chilly 57° (14 C), but it was sunny and would warm up quick. And indeed, we did take it easy. Ten miles in, we were maybe a shade south of 18-mph. Then my wife and Mike split off, leaving McMike, Mike S (new to our weekend gang), Brad, Karen and me. I knew Karen wasn’t going to stay with us for long and Brad was going to stay with her as soon as she dropped.
We went from 18-19 to 23-mph, right now. Heading into Byron, the there’s a Strava segment and we had a good leadout to the City Limits sign, so I got ready to hammer it. Halfway down the hill leading to the sign, I put the hammer down, easily blasting past 32-mph. I gave it everything I had till I ran out of gas and soft-pedaled it in to the rest stop at a gas station in town.
We stopped for a few minutes and readied to roll. Brad said he and Karen were going to let us get on with it and take it a little easier heading around the same course.
We rolled out McMike in the lead, me second and Mike S. third. Over the next 32 miles we dropped under 21-mph six times. Two hills and four intersections with stop signs.
There were a few times I contemplate riding into a ditch so I could take a nap, but I held on instead… Then, at about the 25 mile mark, everything clicked. Not only was I holding on, I kept the pace when I got to the front and took full two-mile pulls. Both Mikes had been taking awesome turns up front and, for the fantastic pace, the ride was ultra-smooth. I went from worrying that I was the weakest rider to knowing I could contribute, and well. The three of us worked together like we had been riding together for years. McMike and I have, actually, been riding together for years, but Mike S. and I, only on the rare occasion. I don’t know that the two Mikes had even met before.
We hit the home stretch with ten miles to go and a tailwind, and that’s about the time I really relaxed about being able to keep up. I just hung on and rode the course. Over the last five miles the pace started cranking up. 22… 23… 24… 25… 26 at times. I took the last two and kept it between 24 & 25. And we were done.
We rode the first ten miles under an 18-mph average. We finished, 32 miles later, just shy of 21 (20.89 – Strava shows less, but it picked up my walk to the restroom and back as a part of the ride). Anyone who has ridden at the speeds we were enjoying knows how hard it is to raise an 18 mph average one mile an hour, let alone three. The effort was big.
Most people who know me don’t know this about me; I ride with some doubt every now and again. There were a few times I thought there was no way I’d be able to maintain the pace. Those thoughts were wrong, though. Not only was I able to stick with it, I was a part of the buildup of speed at the end.
While I obviously have my limits, I have a tendency to mentally sell myself short from time to time, when I’m the weaker link in the chain. More often than not, if I push through those thoughts, I find that I shouldn’t have been entertaining them in the first place.
That ride yesterday is one of those I’ll be remembering for years to come. It was just a Saturday bike ride, but having the opportunity to be a part of something like that is special.
As Strava goes, I ended up with three Third Place overall’s on some big segments including a 5.8 mile segment we did in 15m:38s (230 watts), the Byron Sprint (30.8 mph 489 watts)and a Fifth Place overall on a 4.08 mile segment that we did in 8m:09 seconds at 29.9-mph (222 watts) – I’m in some very rare air with the strongest cyclists we have in the area.
I’d have missed out on a lot of good had I sat on the couch… or had I listened to those thoughts that said it was too fast.