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A Suprise in the Mailbox from A Friend

I have Irish ancestry and I’ve always thought that pretty cool. We have a massive Italian family who adopted us as their own, but we’re adopted by and married to Italy. I’ve got Irish blood pumping through my veins, though. WordPress bridged the pond and shrunk the world, introducing the Unironedman (first through his wife, who followed my blog and I hers) and I years ago and we’ve kept loose contact since, through the occasional gift and emails and on each other’s blogs.

So, I’ve been expecting a tool in the mail from Amazon. Every afternoon I dutifully check the mailbox… and nothing. Then, yesterday afternoon, I found a small package which I assumed to be that torx key I’d been waiting on.

As I inspected the package closer, I saw it was from my friend from Ireland. Two neck gaiters from his last marathon with a nice note.

One thing is certainly excellent about WordPress; it makes the world a smaller place. And for my friends in Ireland, I’m more than grateful.

Thank you, Dec & Saoirse. My wife and I will enjoy our cold-weather rides a little more than usual sporting our Royal Canal Greenway Marathon neck gaiters.

Like a long walk with good friends, but on bikes…

We rolled out at 8 Sunday morning. It was… um, crisp. Yes, that’s the word. Right at freezing, thankfully there wasn’t much of a breeze. Until last year, I didn’t have much love for riding in the cold. It was better than riding indoors on the trainer, but not by much. Then I bought a winter jacket from Funkier that changed everything.

I don’t love riding in the cold, now. But I can like it.

Jeff and Diane were on Diane’s mountain tandem. My wife and I were on our gravel bikes and Mike was riding his mountain bike because he hates his gravel bike.

We had a set route to start out, and we started modifying it right out of the gate after the first mile. The first modification was one I thought we’d be doing in the first place as it’s a part of the natural route. I was just glad to be outside so I just rolled with it and voted for the most miles every time someone offered a change. I’m a safe bet that way under normal circumstances. Once we made that first turn, it was just a natural follow your nose, no thinking route to stay on the dirt. There was no “choosing” which way to go… till we got to the bike trail, what should have been the furthest point before we headed back.

My wife had opted for the “follow the trail” option, so we did. Diane added on as we neared an intersection, though and offered a neat modification I’d never done. Rather than continue on the trail for another mile through a school campus, we continued onto the paved road for a mile-and-a-half, then turned onto another paved road for about a mile before turning on to a gravel road I never knew was there. I’d ridden the paved part more than a hundred times over the years, but the dirt road is on a downhill section right before an s-curve that’s so much fun I’m always hammering to pick up speed for the curve – I never paid attention to anything other than that. The new road was beautiful – it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere.

The pace was rarely tough but we weren’t slow enough to watch the grass grow, either. We did get a little fast on the pavement, mainly so we could get off of it quicker, but the rest of the ride was… just fun. There was conversation and joking and I just enjoyed being outdoors. And, as it turned out, we enjoyed being outside just long enough… we made it back just in time to stay dry.

It was like going for a long walk with good friends. But on bikes. Which meant the long walk wasn’t spoiled by… you know, walking.

Brought a Knife to a Bazooka Fight (In Terms of a Bike Ride, Folks)

We had an interesting mix yesterday for what looked like it was going to be an easy day on the dirt. I’ve been infatuated with my mountain bike a lot lately, so I decided to bring it. Then, what do I see coming down the road than exceptionally classy older fella in immaculate kit – a former age group National Champion sprint triathlete on his gravel bike.

Mike outclasses me, even at his age, when we’re on equal bikes – even at his age. He’s a machine. In fact, it’s almost a fair fight when I’m on my gravel bike with semi-slicks and he’s on his half-fat mountain bike. Almost.

Still, I thought, I’ve got cover from Mike, Diane and my wife… I should be fine.

The ride started out south, heading into a nasty headwind. It wasn’t too terrible, though. I just slid into line behind a few people and tried to get as low as I comfortably could. I was up with the front group when we started to split up and I was feeling fine. We dialed it back to close up the gap and rode along, talking the whole way. It was a lovely morning and not near as cold as I’d expected it would feel.

And before I knew it, Mike, Diane and my wife split off and went their own way. I was left with McMike, Chuck and Chuck. Every one on a gravel bike but me, on my 28 pound Rockhopper.

I did fine keeping up, but heading south, I got caught at second bike for a long stretch, then took a turn up front. The wind was whipping and my heart rate went from the mid-130’s to 175 in the space of 30-ish seconds. Once I’m over 172, forget about it. I’m pooched. I just had enough gas to latch on at the back after a silly minute-long pull up front (I was a little embarrassed). I knew what was going to happen next. At least, I thought I knew – and I wasn’t going to be able to keep up with it.

I quietly slipped off the back, turned my bike around and headed back home.

And that was that. The ride home was quite enjoyable with lots of tailwind and a cruising speed of 18-22-mph. Before I knew it, after a few add-on miles, I was on the home stretch and then in the driveway. My wife had just gotten home, hadn’t even gotten out of her gear yet, when I walked through the front door. I was quite pleased, really. I had almost a 14-mph average after the slow start.

The rest of the day was awesome. A light lunch, a long nap, some college football (‘Merican football), and my mother-in-law came down with her sister and we all went out to dinner, then to see my daughter’s university “Band-o-rama”. All three bands play a few songs. The symphonic band (was great), the wind symphony (was spectacular), and the marching band (blew the doors off). What a fantastic way to spend a late-fall Saturday!

Sadly, when I looked at Strava, I noticed the two Chucks and McMike had the same average I did when they got back. They had almost double my 22 miles, but they obviously didn’t hit the gas like I thought they would.

The Alloy Dust Cover on My S-Works Crank is Loose: How To Fix It In Five Minutes

First, anyone who owns an S-Works crankset knows it’s possibly the greatest, affordable, carbon crank ever invented. That Specialized figured out how to do away with the wavy washer is a miracle in and of itself. That they kept the price and weight under that of a Dura-Ace crank is simply astonishing.

Sadly, the S-Works crankset has gone the way of the do-do. They don’t make them anymore.

I had my Specialized Venge in for open-crank surgery last week and noticed, after getting it back, the dust cover was loose. When I tightened the dust cover bolt down, the cover turned. I freaked out a little bit. Especially after I Googled what to do and there was nothing on the interwebz. Nothing. That never happens.

Then I thought about it a minute. I know what the dust cover is there for; the cap is there because they had to get the locking bolt into the spindle, so while it’s supposed to be tight in the crank, it’s also designed to come off in the event you need to mess with the spindle bolt (as was the case with mine). The cap is, essentially, glue on. The fancy word is “epoxy”, but whatever. It gets glued in there… preferably with something that’s semi-permanent. If you go all space-aged epoxy on it and you have to do something with the main bolt, like replace it for some crazy reason, you’ll have to be able to unglue the cap.

Now, before you run for the superglue, think this through a minute – let’s slow this pony down for a heartbeat.

The dust cover has to go into its hole perfectly straight. If it’s turned, even a little bit, from dead center, you’ll have a gap on one side or the other that will look unsightly when the crank turns. With that in mind, we can begin. Take the dust cap bolt out and set it aside until we’re done.

There’s a trick to getting the dust cover in there square and true, and I’ll share it with you.

First, remove as much of the old epoxy as you can. Chip it off being careful not to damage the dust cover. Remember, it’s only aluminum. It’s soft. Next, make sure the hole in the carbon crank arm is clean. Now dry fit the dust cover so it looks like it’s in there square. Turn the crank all the way around, 360 degrees and check for gaps. Now, once you’re satisfied it’s in there straight, take a pencil and mark a line on the top of the cover onto the crank arm both on the top and bottom of the cover. Don’t press too hard and scratch the finish, just a little line to help you set the cap on straight. Once you have a line on top and on the bottom of the cover so you can match the lines up on the install, pull the cover… glue it, set it, and let it cure before putting the dust cover bolt in.

That’s it. Bob’s your uncle.

Should a Male Cyclist Shave His Legs? There Is No Short Answer, But Yes. Or No. How About Maybe?

I got roped into shaving my legs by the internet (and being a little bit gullible). That may read funny, but it’s the God’s honest truth. First, The Rules (I know). Second, everything I read out there on the webz said if you don’t want to look like a noob, leg, meet razor, razor, meet leg. Commence with the shaving.

The first time I climbed into bed with my wife after shaving, she was all like, “Wait a second! I like it!” She gently, ahem, recommended the clean legs stay.

And so it’s been for the better part of a decade. The real question is why?

Now, back when I started shaving, we all kinda figured shaving the guns was more aerodynamic but there was no data on it. Today there is. Shaved versus hairy legs were tested in Specialized Bicycles’ wind tunnel and the analysis showed a significant benefit. This is a fantastic “why”. It was my “second” why.

Next up we’ve got the road rash theory. For those who regularly try to stop their bikes very quickly, with their body rather than the brakes, having shorn legs means its easier to pick out gravel and less painful for bandage removal. These are two big pluses. But how many crashes have I been involved in where I needed that perk? That would be zero. In a decade. This is mainly for racers. Oh, and it sounds good.

Finally, we’re going to go where the rubber meets the road. I’m going to be candid and honest where many won’t, possibly because it’s a little vain: Bro, shaved legs just look awesome. It is what it is. Go to a big group ride and look at the difference between those who do and those who don’t shave. That’s all you’ll need to see. The hairy dudes will look out of place – even if they can lay down the watts.

The tough part here, and this gets fun (and even a little “political” without having anything to do with politics), is that shaving the legs is entirely unnecessary in a club setting. Five years ago, everyone who threw their leg over a hybrid shaved. Nowadays, you’re down to 75% of the club ride. Heck, I know a few guys who refuse to shave simply to be the “anti-everybody else” guy, hence the “politics without politics” angle.

I will say the same thing I’ve always said; shave or don’t. Nobody really cares as long as you’re competent on your bike. Just know this: if you don’t, you’ll be working harder than all of the shaved dudes to go as fast as they do. Fair or not, it is what it is.

Smooth and sporty, baby. That’s how we roll. On the asphalt. If you’re only into gravel or mountain biking, please return your seat back to the proper position and prepare for landing. You guys stick with being a sasquatch.

One Day at a Time, 10,593 Times in a Row.

That’s right, my friends. 29 years. 348 months. 10,593 days. 254,232 hours. 15,253,920 minutes. This is my favorite part; 915,235,200 seconds. Just shy of a billion seconds in a row.

Did you know, if you were to start counting the day you were first able to and you continued counting until you dropped dead of old age, you wouldn’t hit a billion? Once you get up to the bigger numbers, they take more than a second to count so, even though 1,000,000,000 seconds is a little less than 32 years, you can’t hit it counting.

I can tell you, I’ve made more of the last 915-million seconds than I thought was possible when I first gave up the fight. I’d never claim I’ve been perfect, or even done it right, but I love being on the right side of the grass pumping air – and I love my life.

Every decision I made, both drinking and in my sobriety, led me to where I am today. Without every calmity, without every success, and without all of the moments betwixt those, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

For those who are new to this page and to recovery; welcome to a new way of life. You never have to drink again, and you can live in peace for the rest of your days. If you work for it.

My life is so fantastic, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve come to the conclusion, “It just can’t get any better than this”. Six month later, I realize it has gotten better. All on its own.

Stick around and have a cup of coffee. Let’s tell some stories and have a laugh or two.

So, I have one piece of advice I’d like to share about how I slow down time. At least a little bit, anyway. The more I can be in the moment, the more I can savor what’s going on around me and not try to push through to whatever comes next, the richer and fuller life is. And time slows down.

It’s a lot like pedaling through mud, but without the effort.

To all of my interwebz and WordPress friends, thank you for being my friend. I appreciate you.

Why You Probably Need at Least Three Bikes (And a Strong Case for a Fourth)… Hear Me Out!

I was tinkering on my mountain bike over the weekend, a heavy behemoth of a hard tail 29er with a decent component spec. Hydraulic discs, decent Shimano group set, upgraded fork… there’s a lot to like about that bike – especially that my wife bought it for me as a Valentine’s Day present six year ago. It’s slow, though, next to its Specialized counterparts in the bike room (technically, that’s the spare bedroom, but “bike room” sounds really cool).

The shifting had gone all kittywampus on me last year and I wanted to figure it out. I don’t ride the bike often, but being responsible for the maintenance of eight bikes, I’ve gotten pretty good at it, and it was the Rockhopper’s time. It took two minutes to identify the issue. A big blob of dirt lodged in the barrel adjuster (not outside the barrel adjuster, in the barrel adjuster). I was expecting something much more… complex. I loosened the cable retaining bolt, cleaned the dirt out of the end cap and barrel adjuster, lubed everything, put it together and adjusted the shifting to perfect… and put it in the bike room. I have a tough time with the whole “speed” thing. I like to go fast so it’s hard to put that bike on the road when my gravel bike is easy to push 33% faster.

I’ve got two road bikes, a gravel bike and my mountain bike in the bike room for the time being. With my wife’s gravel bike, it gets a little crowded, but it’s that time of year when all of the bikes get used in a bit of a rotation. I rode the gravel bike Saturday. A fantastic (if cold) day for a ride. Sunday, I almost had the mountain bike out the door when it started spitting freezing rain. I rode the Trek rain bike on the trainer. Monday I was on Extra-Super-Duper-Hyper Secure Covid Lockdown (our COO tested positive, though we have no close contact, out of an abundance of caution, etc., etc.) so I rode the Trek on the trainer after going in to get tested (I feel fine, if a little stuffy from the weather change).

I picked my race road bike up from the shop that afternoon after getting tested, though I did wear a good KN-95 mask in the store, because I’m not an @$$hole. I also found out later that evening that the test was negatory.

Tuesday, my honorary Italian cycling brother from a Polish mother, Chuck(er), texted me while I was at work to see if I wanted to ride. I checked with my wife that I was clear and that’s when it hit me: ride the Rockhopper (mountain bike, for those not up on Specialized parlance).

Now, I knew Chuck would have his gravel bike and that I’d be at a severe disadvantage, but it looked like so much… fun. I texted him to see if he wanted to ride his mountain bike, too. He wasn’t as enthusiastic as I, but urged me to take it. He said he wanted a slow roll anyway.

I almost took the Diverge.

But I didn’t. And I had one of the more enjoyable night rides I’ve had. The shifting was butter-perfect. The beefy 29”x2.0” tires ate the dirt up… well, if the dirt hadn’t been packed down and absolutely perfect they’d have eaten it up. The tires were plush on the bumps, though. Way better than the paltry 30mm semi-slicks on the gravel bike.

I was smiling for most of the 22 miles even though it was just over freezing when we finished and I had to work quite a bit harder than I normally would. This is why I have a tough time giving up the speed of the road bikes when the weather is nice. When it turns cold, though, the additional speed just makes it colder. This is when the slow bikes shine. And my Rockhopper really put a smile on my face last night.

I posted a photo of all of my bikes in the bike room yesterday:

I’ve been thinking lately, if I had to live without one of my bikes, which would go?

Being blunt; I’m at S-1 but I’ve got the perfect stable. The saying applies more to bicycles than it does to those with a desire to stay married; variety is the spice of life.

If I had to, I could live without one of my bikes. Damned if I had to figure out which one, though.

And so it is, the case for three bikes, easy; road, mountain and gravel… with a fourth swing-road bike for rain days (also known as a “winter” bike in the UK).

As an aside, I could make the case for a fifth bike, while we’re at it; a tandem. While caution should always be taken when riding a tandem with one’s spouse, because without expert communication things get dicey in a hurry, our tandem was worth every penny. I love that riding that bike with my wife. Absolutely love it.

Guess What I Got Back Yesterday!?

Freakin’ right, baby! I got my Venge back yesterday!

Ah, I missed that bike! Funny thing is, now that it’s back in the stable, it’s too nasty and cold to ride it.

Also, #bikeroom baby.

Cycling with Friends; and the Operative Word of the Three

Friends.

It’s a simple word, really. Sadly, many aren’t lucky enough to have a ready group (or sometimes even one friend) to ride with who can ride when their schedule allows, often at the drop of a hat. My friend Chucker and I are two peas in a pod this way. He and I get out of work at almost the same time, work 20 minutes from each other, and we live two mile apart. I can make it over to his house in six to eight minutes depending on how hard I want to push it to get there. If he’s had to work late, I’ll cruise by his neighborhood and get a few extra miles in till he’s had time to get ready. We ride most days of the week together.

Then there are days like yesterday. It was a special one for me. Phill showed up for the morning ride and the two of us rolled out to pick up Mike on the dirt road a half-mile down the road. The three of us picked up Chuck (not to be confused with Chucker) a mile or so later, and the four of us headed off down the road on our gravel bikes. This was a special group for me because Phill was the first guy I rode with who showed me the ropes on Tuesday night ten years (technically, nine years and one… two… three… five months) ago. Chuck helped us get unlost on my second Assenmacher 100 when we got dropped and took a wrong turn. Then there’s Mike. He and I have been thick as thieves on bicycles (without the crime) since I fell in with the group. We’ve put in a lot of miles together, the four of us.

Mike is incredibly slow on dirt roads because he hates his gravel bike and has no love for dirt. This meant a very slow roll, but time to talk like we normally wouldn’t on the asphalt. We took full advantage of it, recounting rides past and revisiting old stories that made us laugh and tales of woe that we were thankful to push through. The time passed like it didn’t matter. I don’t think we were passed by one car, either, in 24 miles. Maybe one.

We wandered around, following our noses and even talked Mike into deviating from our planned route home to check out a subdivision. Once Mike is ready to go home, he can rarely be persuaded to change course. He’s like an old hound dog who’s been out in the field too long when he’s ready to go home.

After checking out what turned out to be a senior living mobile home park, I brought up something Chucker and I had been talking about several days earlier when we saw a pace-line of Canada geese that stretched for miles. There had to be hundreds of them, and Chucker wondered aloud how fast they fly, guessing around 25 to 30-mph. I Googled it the next day; 40 to 50-mph with a top speed above 60 (!). Chuck responded as I did when I first read the 40-50-mph cruising speed. Then he mentioned that the two at the back of the pace-line are likely named for a couple of guys in our group who are famous for sucking wheel (and have earned the right to do so – not a one of us is anything but cool with this as we prefer them riding with us however they can). I picked that up the hand off and ran with it and we were laughing our asses off for the next couple of miles as we figured out who went where as it pertained to a pace-line of geese.

By the time Phill and I got to my house, Chuck and Mike having split off for home, I stopped my Garmin on the slowest ride of the year for me – I could have comfortably ridden that on my mountain bike – and I’ve never been so thankful for a slow ride since I first turned a crank as a kid. It was one of the best rides of the year; one I’ll do my best never to forget. I hope we have many more like it.

That’s one of the best cogs in cycling. It’s the 53/11 of cycling. Hotdogs, tailwind, and friends. And that’s as good as it gets.

The Perfect Cold Weather Jacket for a Cruise In the Flurries

Last week I had an epiphany. We were heading out for a ride and it was butt cold outside. Not “mildly irritating” cold. No, it was “what the hell am I doing out here” cold. And I was not looking forward to the ride. Whilst, and at the same time, trying to figure out what I was going to wear to stay warm, I remembered my Funkier jacket! Long story very short, I was snug as a bug. When I complained about riding in the cold two weeks ago, I’d forgotten about that magical piece of cycling wear.

Now, to be very clear, the piece of kit I’m about to share with you isn’t for the 40s or 50s (7 to 10 C). You’ll cook from the inside and turn yourself into a roast (don’t forget the carrots, onions and potatoes). No, for this jacket, you’re going to need the 30s (0 to 2 C) – and you won’t need a lot under it, either. Maybe a light long-sleeved jersey, maybe a thermal jersey if you really want to be snug. The jacket I’m about to share with you is the best piece of cold-weather cycling kit I’ve ever owned and it litterally means the difference between enjoying my time outdoors in the cold and just wanting to get done so I can get warmed up.

I’m talking about the Funkier Pontebba Cycling Jacket. Absolutely, it’s a funky name, but what matters is that it works against the cold.

They run a little big, as you can see in the photo. That’s a large on Chuck (L) and a medium on me (right). We’re both 6’ but Chuck is stockier than I am. I normally wear a medium in club fit kit, a large in race fit, and an extra large in pro fit. The medium Pontebba jacket is perfect, with a little room to breathe.

To put the efficacy of this jacket into context, I’ll be heading out this morning with my friends. We had flurries last night and it’s a little breezy this morning.

Most, if not all of my friends will be wearing that same jacket. They’re that good. I wouldn’t feel the same about riding this morning if I didn’t have that hanging up, ready to go. If you’re not a big fan of the cold, like me, but you have a hard time riding the hamster wheel indoors, this jacket will help.

Ride hard, my friends. Or take it easy and enjoy the ride… it’s the end of the year for crying out loud! I’m in for the latter.