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The Gift Cycling Keeps on Giving: A Tuesday Night In Lennon to Remember

The night started off, humorously enough, with a discussion of politics – but this was a good discussion, like one of those discussions we’re supposed to have. It was the beginning of a discussion that could fix the country if the political class were adults and spoke like we did. When it was time to ride, though, my friend moved to the A group and I stayed on the A- side.

There’s been a lot on my angst lately. Difficult times with our daughter that are going to take some time and a lot of love to fix and a job I’m running that makes that problem look like child’s play, and I’m a little stressed lately. I needed a good hammer on the Venge.

We rolled out about 40 seconds after the A Group into a fairly stiff southerly crosswind 12 to 14-mph.  We had a couple of new guys rolling with us – one looked like he belonged with the A guys, another looked like he belonged on a weight rack rather than a BMC disc race bike, and another who looks like he belongs with the D Group but is starting to come around (though he wore headphones last evening, which I explained after the ride wouldn’t work in our group because it’s too dangerous at our speeds).  

The next three miles north were unbelievably fast – we were topping 30-mph at times.  A mile west, and another fast one north and it was time to pay the piper.  The new guy who looked like he could ride had a tendency of shooting off the front as if he were a horse in the Kentucky Derby and after the second time, one of my friends asked me to talk to him.  He did it once more, blowing up the group in the process and I had the conversation with him about how we roll.  It was smooth after that – until we got to the hills.

Half the group charged up the second set of hills too fast for the tandem, so another group of us, myself included, took to trying to bring the tandem back to the group.  We got close a couple of times but never quite made it – we let them go on the last hill and made our way to the regroup point at 20 miles in.  

The rest was a blast.  We headed north for the intermediate sprint, Mike I. and I up front.  Mike looked over and asked if I wanted to try to take the group all the way to the sprint lead-out but I shook my head.  I knew I was going to give it everything I had to get the group to 30+ mph and there was no way I was lasting the mile and change at those speeds.  Mike read me perfectly and we threw down the gauntlet, taking it to 32-mph with the group in tow.  When I was out of gas I signaled to Mike and flicked off, barely latching on at the back.  With a quarter-mile to the City Limits sign, I didn’t have a sprint in me.  Four others prepped and went.  I stayed with the tandem and brought everyone back together.  Then, the A’s passed.

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Several of the A- guys shot up to latch on to the A Group and we, a group of five, let them go.  We only had a couple of miles before a straight crosswind and I wanted a smaller group so we could echelon without taking up the entire road.  The strategy worked perfectly.  The five mile home stretch was flawless in a heavy crosswind.

I was going to wind it up for the final sprint.  We started ramping it up with 0.8 of a mile left, working the pace from 21-1/2 to 27.  I waited, as nobody was really going for it, until the last second and dropped the hammer from 27 to 32 and some change, passing the rest of our group.  I had some aggression to get out so I stayed on the gas until the sign, letting up and coasting just at the line.

I got a fairly cool photo heading back as the smoke from the Oregon forest mismanagement fires has made its way all the way across the country.  It’s way too thin to block the sun, but it’s enough for a spectacular scene.  We got back to the parking lot and it was hi-fives and laughs all around.  We had a few “herding cats” moments at the beginning of the ride but all’s well that ends well, and that ride did… and I rode my angst right out.

I thanked God more than once on the way home.  I needed that.

Well Smack My Keister and Call Me Sunshine, I WAS Running My Tire Pressure Too High!

I prepped the 5200 for duty last evening. It was going to be a slow night and it needed some time in the sun after the Venge took all of the big weekend miles.

After watching that exceptionally geeky video I wrote about the other day that broke tire pressure down into a fairly* easily understandable science, I decided to lower my pressure in both road bikes. Not by much, mind you, I went from 95 pounds down to 90.

On the Trek, left, I’m currently running Ican 23-mm wide x 38-mm deep wheels shod with Michelin Pro 4 Service Course 700C x 25-mm tires.  I’m running 175-ish pounds.  So, 90 pounds and I ran with it.

The road we live on is fairly smooth with a few wear cracks here and there at the edges, but the road I turn on to get to Chuck’s is gnarly in places and the bike was much more enjoyable over the chatter – in fact, I ran over some of the nastier edges of the road I normally avoid, just to see the difference… it was impressive – vastly smoother.  On chip-seal surfaces, cracks, anything I would throw at it over the course of the 28-mile ride, the bike was much more enjoyable… and I didn’t bounce when out of the saddle to climb or sprint (what little climbing there is on that route – not much).

So, the real question is, “was it faster“?

Well, if you get far enough into the video, the science geek guy refers to road noise as a loss of efficiency – and road noise from the tire definitely increased, noticeably.  On the other hand, there’s no question the ride, being smoother, was less taxing and slightly less work.  That’s really the balance we’re looking for.  Smooth, but not so smooth it’s squishy.  I think I should go another five pounds, though, just for $#!+$ and giggles, to see if I go squishy or keep 85 psi…  There’s no question, even at 90 there will be more smiles per mile.

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*”Fairly” should probably be barely.  

Then I’ll have to dial in the Venge using the same process – though I’ll absolutely be going with 90 psi for tonight’s Tuesday Night in Lennon… I’m running 26-mm Specialized Turbo Pro tires on a 25-mm wide rim – shouldn’t be any question 90 will be better than 95.

Go Figure, It’s the Slow Century that Hammers Me Hardest… Plus, REDEMPTION!

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Saturday’s ride had all the makings of greatness.  Great group of friends, great mileage, a new route, sunshine (well, ish), decent temps and wind in the single digits… and the promise of a reasonable, easy pace.

We rolled out early with no care in the world about the aforementioned pace.  With everyone formed up and rolling after serveral SNAFU’s, the 65 mile route was fairly enjoyable, though we spent a few miles on roads that resembled the cobbles in the Paris Roubaix.  I think I’ve knocked something loose on the Venge.  I was feeling quite good toward the end of the 100+k’s.

Then came the rough stuff.  Most of our group took their toys and went home leaving Chuck and I to the last 34 miles.  We’d both gone to our respective homes to drop cool weather gear that was no longer needed.  We met on the road near Chuck’s house and headed out with a tailwind to our usual weekday route so we could keep the remainder local and minimize the north/south travel, thus negating much of the headwind.  First was an out and back loop, then to our favorite late century stop, Subway, for lunch.  I like a good, toasted submarine sammich on most days, but 75 miles into a century, I don’t know what it is, but I prefer my favorite sub over a burger.  Every time.  

The only problem is starting out after said Subway sammich.  And it really sucked Saturday.  We trundled on, though, taking our time heading to a nice little subdivision that takes a shade more than 2 miles to complete a loop.  We did five, losing several tenths off our average that was already low.  We exited with an 18.1 average and ambled home into a cross-headwind.  Our pace, other than stops for intersections or lunch, was remarkably steady between 18 & 20-mph for the last two-thirds of the ride, though (64 miles).  

With eight miles to go, I was ready to be done.  My feet were hurting, and I was tired.  We pressed on, though, and I even had to ride with Chuck most of the way to his house to get another couple of miles, lest I ride all that way to come up two short of an even 100.  

I pulled into the driveway with 100.17 miles and I was cooked.  My slowest century in the last seven or eight years, and it hammered me.  

I’ll be trying to figure the dynamics of this one for some time.  I had the good bike, an easy pace, perfect weather (if a terrible wind out of the southeast – we simply have no out an back routes to counter that wind), and a good pace-line with a great group of friends.  This one should have been easy.  It wasn’t.  However…

Sunday morning, after raining all night, I prepped the tandem for Sunday Funday.  I woke up a little on the wrecked side, and I was looking forward to an easy 17-mph 40-mile morning.  The pavement was soaked and didn’t look like it would dry up before we rode, so I was infinitely grateful for our fenders… not exactly sexy, but when you’re riding on wet pavement, they keep the bike and my wife and I dry – and whomever happens to be drafting us gets a clean draft rather than having to eat spray.

Unlike Saturday, the first half of this ride was going to be headwind – and with zero chance of us getting all the way out before the wind changed directions.  We had Chucker, Mike, McMike, and Diane and Jeff on Diane’s tandem and we set the pace going out.  Thankfully, there wasn’t much of a breeze for the first six miles but it started picking up as we neared our first turn.  We gave up the front and the group echeloned easily heading south.  We stair-stepped the headwind and, entirely against the norm, entering my favorite sprint in all of the roads we travel, my wife and I remained in formation.  As we passed the City Limits sign I told my wife that I didn’t need to burn matches I didn’t have – we were 14 miles into a 40 miler.

We stopped for a bit and rolled out again into the wind… three more miles dead into it, followed by a crosswind, and then, sweet, glorious tailwind – and the wind had picked up nicely during the crosswind section.  We stopped again after the crosswind section and I bought a Coke for my wife and I to split.  It was a relatively short stop and we were back after it.

We took the lead because I knew, maybe four miles up the road, there was a City Limits sign that I wanted.  We took it fairly easy heading down the road at 22 to 25-mph, letting the wind do its thing.  My wife asked me to shift down a gear so she could spin her legs a little before the sign and I obliged (heh, how cool is that – “I know we’ve got a sprint coming up, so let me get ready”… that’s love, baby).  Up a little incline and just before the top I put the hammer down, my wife in tune with me.  We thundered down the back side of the hill, Mike threatening to overtake on the left.  I gave it one last hammer and we crossed the line, about a bike’s-length to spare at 33-mph.

My wife and I gave up the front after that and, after a longcut around a six-wide train track intersection that we avoid like the plague, we hammered down the road toward home in the draft, picking up a 3rd and 5th place on a couple of seriously contested segments along the way.  I don’t know where it came from, but we were both hitting the pedals hard.  Sometime after our first stop, my legs came back but we were holding speeds north of 25-mph, at times up to 28 with just a 12-mph tailwind.  

There were a few times I thought about sitting up and taking it easy heading back but I thought better of it.  We pushed on till the last quarter-mile and we pulled into the driveway with 40 miles at a cool 19-1/2-mph pace.  And redemption.  Saturday was a rough day, but we over-performed Sunday.  Good times for sure.

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Geeky Road Bike Stuff… From A Fairly Scientific Aero / Traditional Bike Comparison to Tire Pressure.

First, my personal favorite: My Tasmanian brother from another cycling mother did a fairly scientific comparison of his Canyon Aeroad and his new Trek Postal Edition 5200. As you might imagine, with my own 5200, I’ve written about the difference between my Venge and 5200 extensively. I’ve experienced similar results but the Tempocyclist takes it on leap further. For your reading enjoyment:

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If that wasn’t enough, my buddy, Dave sent out a link to one of the geekiest tire pressure videos I’ve ever had the enjoyment of watching. I can summarize the core of the 30-minute video in 30 seconds: You’re riding with too much air in your tires. Stop it. Let some air out of your tires till your ride becomes smooth. If/when you start bouncing during a sprint, you’ve gone too far. Add 2% till you stop bouncing.  The other 29 minutes and change is mashed potatoes and gravy next to the roast beef.

The full video is here:

Some Venge Time and the Best Tip I’ve Seen For Installing a Difficult Tire on a Tight Rim

It just hit me last week that I’m spending WAY too much time on the Trek.  It’s difficult not to when the bike is performing so well – it’s a bit like driving a classic sports car.  Sure, it’s a not a McLaren, it’s more American muscle – a little more Caroll Shelby – only, in a bike.  Well, somebody just shut off summer, and it jarred me a little.  Pretty soon, all I’ll be riding is the Trek until next spring’s Venge Day so it’s high time I spent some miles on the good rig before having to put it up for the winter.

After arriving home on a perfectly sunny but yet another unseasonably cool afternoon (we’ve been several degrees – 6 to 10 – below normal for what seems like weeks), I set about cleaning up the Venge for duty.  Part of that prep was rotating the tires.  I like to rotate mine – some do, some don’t…

Now, installing the tires on these wheels the first time was not easy.  I needed mechanical help in the way of a KoolStop tire jack.  However, after a few weeks’ break-in time, I was hoping they’d go on relatively easily.  Then, just the other day, by chance, I happened on a GCN video tutorial on how to deal with installing a difficult tire on a rim.  My FL 50 Ican wheels all have a groove down the center (many tubeless and tubeless ready rims do):

Well, the tip is to work the beads down into that groove (it takes a little effort to do this, and you’ll feel one side, then the other, slip down into the channel).  So, you get the first bead all the way seated, then you start on the second until you get to that spot, about 80% done, where you can’t see how you’ll ever slip that last bit over the rim, and you work the beads into the channel starting opposite the part of tire overlapping the rim and working around, one side, then the other.  By the time you get both beads into the channel the entire 80-ish% around the rim, you’ll begin to feel a fair amount of slop that wasn’t there before pushing the beads to the center channel.  At this point, that last 80% of the tire should (shockingly) easily slip over the edge of the rim.

Before I centered the beads, I was going to need mechanical assistance.  After, it’s almost comically easy.  I’m still glad I’m using Specialized tires, though.  They’re better than most brands for seating on tight rims.

Now, there exist decent arguments for starting at the valve stem, finishing at the valve stem, add air to the tube, don’t add air…  I’ve tried them all.  My favorite is start with some air in the tube, start at the valve stem and finish opposite – and let the air out for the centering the bead in the grove and that last 20% of the second bead.  Starting with air makes it easier to get the tube inside the rim and it keeps it from getting pinched.  On the other hand, the added air makes it a little difficult to finish seating on a tough rim.

Anyway, after wiping the Venge down, I took her out for an evening spin with my regular weekday riding buddy and it was fantastic.  She’s also going out today (we’ve got big plans today).  We’re due a considerably nice stretch of weather over the next two weeks so I’m planning on making the most of it on the Venge.  I’ll have plenty of time on the Trek in the coming months.  As cold as it’s been this early, I don’t imagine it’s going to be a mild winter.

Thursday Night Herding of Cats… On Bikes…

My confidence wasn’t where it should have been. Maybe it was the cold. Maybe the third day of gloomy, damp weather in a row. Maybe it was the north wind. It could have been all of it. With the ugliness of the day, I’d always take the Trek. Not today. I needed every advantage I could get. I prepped the Venge.

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Jason and I were there early and it was looking like a small crew, which I saw as good because I really was hoping for a slow run. I did a few laps around the parking lot as a warm-up rather than burn any matches I didn’t have.

As I was getting the legs ready, the fellas started rolling in. A couple of heavy hitters, a couple in-betweener’s, a few B guys, a C guy… and Lenny. I started chuckling as soon as I saw his car roll in late. Lenny? Fortunately, for once, Lenny opted for his Schwinn road bike over his TT bike (!) so he wasn’t going to be a factor on this ride.

We rolled out after waiting for Lenny to get ready. We should have rolled out at 6, but there were a couple of guys who couldn’t live with doing that to a fella. Lenny, on his 35 pound Schwinn, managed to stay with the group for about 45 seconds. We were off!

The pace jumped right out of the gate. I was a little uncomfortable and trying to settle in – trying to get that nagging negativity out of my head. I freaking hate the cold and at 58°, cloudy and windy, warm it wasn’t. We hammered up the first hill and then down the other side. A right turn, up a highway overpass and down to a left with a long, gradual downhill. I’d been third, then second bike through all of this and Levi flicked me up just as we made the left – which was perfect because I was going to get my pull done before the big, long hill that was staring us in the face. And up comes a new guy from the back who gets in front of me and asks, “Hey, can I take my pull now? I’m going to get dropped”.

My jaw dropped. For those who aren’t up on their pace-line etiquette, this is one enormous @$$hole move. Don’t ever do this to someone. Ever. Still, he’s a new guy and I’m a bad@$$, though on an off day, so I took it. And got dropped 3/4’s of the way up the climb. So the new guy got himself dropped and me with one stone. I knew there was a regroup at the top of the hill anyway, so I didn’t sweat it much… but that’s exactly why you don’t do that $#!+ to someone else. I’d spent a lot of time in tough positions (1st, 2nd and 3rd bike get hammered with more wind than 6th or 7th) with my heart rate nearing my max. By the time the new guy was done with his turn, I was already maxed out and I still had a turn to finish, up a freaking hill, to deal with.

Things calmed down after that, though. Well, ish. It was a really fast night. Levi and Mike were driving the pace and Jason was hard on the gas, too.

The Lake Shannon section of the route is always a blast – a lot like our trip down to Georgia – rollers and twisty roads make for a fast and fun rip around the lake. Last night was perfect. After a decent effort up an ugly climb we regrouped and waited for a few stragglers (as is normal). Once back together, we took a few seconds to form up and spin up to speed. I was starting to get a little antsy and thought about going up front to drive the pace when all hell broke lose.

Levi went from 14-mph to 30 in two blinks of an eye and it was on.

I switched from the hoods to the drops so I could lower my center of gravity and carve the corners a little better. The increased aero advantage didn’t hurt at that speed, either. We were winding around bends so fast you had to look through the turn to get your bike to follow the right line with your leg out to the inside of the turn to help the bike carve the line. I can’t help but feel spectacular when we’re cranking and banking around corners at 25 to 30-mph in the drops, hellbent for leather. Any cyclist who’s taken corners at speed, especially in a pace-line, can relate. “Invigorating” doesn’t do it justice. “Grin inducing” is close.

Upon exiting the lake subdivision, we’ve got another brutal climb. I PR’ed it last night and still got dropped on the way up. Not by much, though. I’d almost fought back to the group when we hit the next regroup point. The next two miles were fast enough to make my eyes water. Dave had suggested we wait at the top of the final hill, cutting about a mile off the course – and I liked it. The last major hill on the ride, let Levi pound the other guys, while we hang back and join them on the flat!

Sadly, it was all headwind after that, though.

Dave took the stretch waiting for the back four guys to come up the hill and left me with an ugly section, uphill and into the wind, once they did. I took the pace up to 21, but with the incline, it was everything I had. At the crest, I flicked off and enjoyed being towed for the next several miles – including a massive turn up front by Jason who kept a decent “into the wind” pace with quite a lot of up to his turn – at least a mile and a half, maybe two. It was big.

My next turn, then, was with a crosswind and downhill (thanks, Jason!). It was sounding awfully quiet so I took a quick peak back to find nobody there. I slowed up and waited for the group to catch and then cranked it back up. Levi, Mike, and Jason came by on the way up a hill and I latched on with them for the next section.

I was tempted to ask Levi if he was Catholic, because the pace he was holding and length of turn up front he was taking, it had to be penance for something. Fortunately, we had one last regroup after a short climb that I’d managed to fall slightly off on before hammering the last couple of miles.

We went right to it, hammering down the road again. I ended up with one last pull, right before the last big climb and I ran myself out of gas, four of the guys pounding up the hill. I let them go. One of these days I’m going to figure out how not to give up before that hill…

Meh… I pulled into the parking lot with a 20.6-mph average. Not fantastic, but not too shabby, either. I was definitely glad I went.

Maximizing Comfort for a Classic Bike Rebuild

I can remember the first time I rode my 5200 – a test ride to see how I liked it before I pulled the trigger. Compared to my old Cannondale SR-400 aluminum steed with a steel fork, the 5200 rode like a dream.  At first, anyway…

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I started changing the bike within my first few months of owning it.  The first change was the saddle.  The old saddle was 155 mm wide and I need, max, a 143 (I’m partial to 138 mm in width).  With a saddle that was too wide, I ended up with a pain that started in my inner thigh and worked down the back of my leg into my hamstring.  At first I thought it was a running injury but lucked out tracing it back to my saddle.  With the new, vastly sleeker saddle, the bike went from pretty good to spectacular.  

The 5200 pretty much remained as it is above for several years.  I bought a Specialized Venge just the second year they were in stores and that became the bike that I obsessed over until I had it perfect.  Then, I switched my attention back to the Trek, where it’s stayed for quite a while – once I got the Specialized right, the Trek project increased in… um… necessity.  I’ve got a few tricks that made the transformation easier and vastly more comfortable.

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First, the 5200 has an old quill stem, threaded headset.  Switching that to a modern threadless setup is possible but problematic for a number of reasons I won’t bother getting into.  Besides, I wanted my bike to basically, remain original (frame and fork).  I bought a quill stem adapter so I could put any stem I wanted on the bike.  I settled on a 17° flipped stem (90-mm) for an aggressive cockpit.  I broomed the old seat post years ago for a carbon fiber Easton model because the original stem had notches to set the nose angle and it just so happened that one notch high was uncomfortable and one notch low had me sliding off the nose of the saddle.  I wanted perfect and the Easton was infinitely adjustable.

The drivetrain (and paint job) was next – I switched from a 9 speed triple to a 10 speed 105 double and had a new headset installed in the process (the old one was smoked).  That change made a big difference in weight and got rid of several redundant gear choices.  

Next was an unnecessary but awesome handlebar upgrade.  Now, the original bar (shown in blue bar tape in the two first photos) had been broomed a couple of years prior.  The original was a 44-cm handlebar and I ride a 42 on my Specialized.  I’d upgraded the original bar on the Venge to carbon fiber and I loved the feel of the reach and drop on the Specialized bar so I installed that handlebar on my Trek (… I know).  Then, a year or so ago, I found a cool alloy aero bar made by Bontrager and I got a fantastic deal on it (I paid $40, it retails at $99.99 – in fact, it’s on sale again).  The newer aero bar is very nice, and in the proper 42 mm width.  The handlebar was followed by the real capper; the wheels

Until this summer, the Trek has, with the exception of last year’s DALMAC (a four-day tour from the capital city of Michigan to the upper tip of the mitten), always had alloy wheels.  I got a decent bonus at work so I picked up a set of 50’s for the Specialized and put the 38’s on the Trek.  That change made way for the biggest increase in comfort since switching from my aluminum Cannondale to the carbon fiber Trek.  There are a few reasons for this leap in comfort that are worth getting into the details.

First, with the old alloy wheels, they were 19.5 mm wide – outside to outside.  This meant a 23 or 24-mm tire was the widest possible because 25’s would “lightbulb” and rub the insides of the chainstays whenever I got out of the saddle.  The Ican 38’s are 23-mm wide, though.  The wider rim means no lightbulb effect on a 25-mm tire, so no rubbing out of the saddle.  This means I can run a lower pressure on the wider tire which translates into a vastly superior and smoother ride.  Now, Specialized has switched from 23 and 25-mm tires to 24 and 26 – I don’t think I can get away with a 26-mm tire on the 23-mm wide rims – there simply isn’t enough room to work with.  For now, I’m running Michelin 25-mm Pro 4’s, but eventually, I’ll drop to Specialized Turbo Pro 24’s and run 100 psi in lieu of 95-ish on the 25’s.

What I just described is one of the problems inherent in working with a classic frame.  Back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, the widest tire on a road bike was 23-mm.  There was a misunderstanding centered on how tires worked regarding rolling resistance that fed the misguided notion that “thinner” was better.  To a point, thicker tires (25 to 28-mm) are actually better because they can be run at lower pressure which improves ride quality – so while rolling resistance drops minimally, ride quality improves vastly which means the rider isn’t pummeled over bumps and that translates to greater power to the pedals because we’re not trying to overcome the vibration created by road imperfections.  

So, this presents a problem with the frame width where the chainstays meet the bottom bracket shell.  This inadequacy often can be rectified by a wider rim.  In my case, rather than having to run a 23-mm tire, I can fit a 25.  What I can’t get away with is a 25-mm wide rim with a 26-mm tire.  It just so happens that the 50’s I bought for the Venge are 25 wide.  I can fit them on the Trek but clearance is enough of an issue that I know better than to even ride it.

On a final note relating to wheels, I’ve written a couple of posts about upgrading to Halo hex-key skewers.  These were responsible for another leap in ride quality that make the need to carry the hex-key to release the wheels worth it.  I can’t say enough good about those skewers.  It’s about the same improvement as going from quick release skewers to through-axles.  They’re that good.

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Finding The Joy In Slower Cycling When You’re Undoubtedly, Unquestionably Fast… It Doesn’t Have To Be One Or The Other

This post is a long time coming.  It’s taken me the better part of ten years to figure this out and now that I have, I’m having a more enjoyable time cycling than any previous year – by a long shot.  Allow me to expound…

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Be Fast or Be Slow… But Be Happy… Or BOTH

Being fast is a bit of a double-edged sword.  It sounds awesome to those who aren’t fast, but it’s not quite all “unicorns farting rainbows” as you might think.  First, it takes a lot of work to get fast.  There’s the solo rides, hill sprints, the hill repeats, the telephone/power pole sprints, and then you’re stuck feeling as though you have to go all out all the time.  There’s a fear associated with that last bit – actually a few layers of fear.  First, I was afraid I’d lose that speed, or at the very least, the mental drive to stay fast.  There’s the fear that slow rides cause one to lose fitness.  Then, there’s the fear that not riding fast at every opportunity will breed laziness, or a lack of desire to push hard enough that one is willing to hurl on one’s top tube.

It’s that last one that really hurts.  The thinking is, if I take it easy, I might find out I like cycling slow and therefore lose the will to put in the effort to stay fast.  I literally lost sleep over that.  Not much, of course, but some sleep.

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Put all of those together and I can be a very difficult person to ride slow with if I’m not in the right frame of mind or haven’t put in the requisite fast days.  Ask my wife – she’s spent as much time grooming me to take it easy (and subsequently had to deal with her fair bit of venom) as I did grooming her to be fast.

Thankfully, because 2020 is so upside-down, this has been my fastest year and I’ve spent more slow, enjoyable miles than ever before.  I learned a lesson I may never have without COVIDcation.  Take 2020:  6,002 miles (so far) have taken me 377 hours.  That averages out to just a 15.9-mph average.  Last year’s average was 16.9 (both include everything from road to gravel to mountain).  A drop of a full mile per hour on the overall average is huge.  On the other hand, we’ve hit 24-mph once and logged several other 28-mile loops between 22 & 23-mph.  Additionally, Thursday night went from being 20-mph for a hard workout to 22-mph.

So how could it possibly be that I dropped a mile an hour off of my average but turned out faster?

My wife, and taking massive turns in the headwind in her service, taught me how to f’in’ relax a little bit (more like verbally “beat me into submission”).  As long as I got my weekly hard efforts in, who cared if I stopped to take a few photos at the side of the road and that burned five tenths off our average?   Certainly not me!  Not during COVIDcation.  It ended up I was simply happy to be spending time with my wife.  I figured I’d take five or six weeks to get back into the Tuesday Night groove when the rides started.  It’d suck, but I’d get through it, I thought.

It didn’t take five or six weeks.  It took a few to get my legs under me as we went from mild, late-spring temps to “freaking HOT” in the space of a week.  I bonked out on a ride, gave up on one, then BAM.  I got my legs after that and we were all over it.

I’ve done some decently fast centuries (six), a pile of metric centuries (a baker’s dozen), and set PR’s on the Tuesday and Thursday night routes – PR’s I didn’t think would be possible last year.

In other words, I’ve gone slower and gotten faster at the same time.  I’ve been able to literally enjoy the best of both worlds without either messing the other up.  In fact, because I’m able to enjoy the slower days with my friends so much, I’ve found myself a more fulfilled cyclist – and I’m happier all the way around.  

There is one tiny trick to all of this, though:  I must have my fast days.  Without those, I get antsy.  There is a part of me that has to go fast – speed, after all, is a huge part of the fun for me – I can only contain that beast for so long.

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Monday Funday, 6,000 Miles for 2020, and Fixing A Friend’s 5200

We rolled out on the tandem yesterday morning with a goal of 50 miles, though I’d have been happy with anything better than 46. I was sitting on 5,955 outdoor miles for the year with a goal of 6,000 (yep, I’m a touch ahead).

We were dead unto a headwind and we had a long way to go before we could sniff a tailwind. Thankfully, it was Monday Funday so we just put our heads down and got to it. Eight miles later we made our first turn to get out of the headwind. The right turn north was like having brakes that had been dragging suddenly let loose. Sadly, that reprieve was short-lived as it was back to the grindstone just a couple of short miles later. We were 18 miles in before we were done, for the most part, with headwind.

Compared to the headwind, the rest of the ride was gravy. We handled the crosswind and the tailwind sections were simply fun. I knew we were going to be over my desired 46 miles with about ten to go so I relaxed considerably knowing I wouldn’t have to take the single bike out. That 70 the day before was wearing on me.

We pulled into the driveway with a little better than 47 miles – 6,002 outdoor miles on the year. I’m a little less than three months ahead of schedule.

Now, interestingly, my buddy Mike’s 5200 has been out of commission for months – almost all of this season. His shifting is pooched and the shop was suggesting a new drivetrain. The shop wasn’t wrong, but he’s got the 9-speed triple drivetrain Dura-Ace (I know, they made a triple in Dura-Ace? Yes they did), and I had the Ultegra triple 9-speed before swapping my drivetrain for 10-speed 105… We made plans for him to bring his bike over after he cleaned up and had some lunch to move some parts around to see if we couldn’t fix his bike (I’d been pushing for this to happen for months, but Mike is a bit stubborn).

About halfway through my lunch, here comes Mike – no bike. He wanted to take the parts to the shop to see if they could make it work. I wanted the shot, though, so I asked him to go get his bike and told him I could have it up and running in a half-hour. He’d picked up a left Dura-Ace shifter online so he brought that with him – and it’s a good thing. His original triple shifter was done.

I set about stripping the left side of his handlebar, pulled off the old shifter, set up his Flight Deck receiver on the new shifter, put everything together, ran new brake and shifter cables, and…. Nothing. It was still binding trying to shift from the middle to the big ring. His ramps were too chewed up from grinding the chain into them with the busted shifter – so I put my old 52-tooth Ultegra onto his crank, lowered the front derailleur about a quarter of an inch (a lot) and put everything back together.

And it shifted like a dream. It took a full hour, though. Maybe an hour-and-a-half. Still, it was pretty cool to see his jaw drop when I hit that barrel adjuster and the chain flew up and down the three rings just like it did two years ago and for the previous 130,000 miles he’d put on the bike since he brought it home.

I took a nap after that, then tended to the last bit of grass I had to cut. I grilled burgers for dinner, then relaxed for the rest of the evening.

It was one fantastic cap to a great weekend.

Definition: Jenkinson’d:

To have a friend push you to give you a boost up a hill. Mike was Jenkinson’d.

Yes, it works. And the smile on Mike’s face when he gets that boost is priceless.

Cycling With Friends on a Sunday Morning… It’s As Good As It Gets.

We rolled out yesterday morning, three friends, with sights on different goals for each of us.

Chuck, fresh off a brutal 20-mph century the day before with just two others (headwind the whole way after a wind shift, cool temps, and rain), was absolutely smoked. He was riding short no matter what. Mike just wanted to ride, but he wanted to join the slower Gaines Gang for a bit. I didn’t care – I wanted 70 miles so I could meet my weekly 220-mile goal and get me within striking distance of 6,000 outdoor miles for the year.

Mike and I were side-by-side and Chuck sat in behind me. We slow-rolled and came up with a plan that would get Chuck home in 40 and get Mike and I to 100k so all I’d have to do is figure out how to add seven or eight miles to get my 70.

Now, I knew Chuck wasn’t taking any turns up front so Mike and I rode side-by-side till he tired out at about five miles.  We decided to roll the long way to get to Gaines after some differing opinions in how to get there we picked the simplest and I chose my pace and settled in for a long turn up front.  I pulled for the next eight miles between 17 & 20-mph – easy up the hills, 19-20 on the flats.  We pulled into the Gaines Elementary School and waited for the group to get ready.  

Now, the Gaines Gang is S-L-O-O-O-W-W-W… and the worst thing a fast guy can do is jump on the front without getting accustomed to the pace first, then go about hammering the group until it splinters into a dozen little pieces, all the while thinking they’re doing something good giving everyone a nice draft.  Chuck stuck to the back for a bit, then headed home.  I remained well back of the lead and let the tandems do the pulling on the cloudy, cool, breezeless morning.  I snapped a few photos and talked with many of the riders, charging to the front to announce a gap, then fading back to pull the riders back up to the group.  The pace was reasonable and unquestionably fun and easy.  

We stopped at 36 miles for a break (it was 36 for us, it was around 23 for everyone else).  It was a quick stop.  Matt had rolled on and the main group was heading out to Perry – that would have turned out to be closer to 90 miles round trip for me and a little more than I wanted to play with (way more than Mike wanted) so we turned and caught Matt to ride with him for a bit.  We had a nice, leisurely stroll, talking, laughing and telling stories all the way back to the elementary school.  We dropped Matt at his car and Mike and I rode on for his house, picking up the pace.  We made plans for today’s ride, then said our good-byes.  I was at 60 miles, just over, and needed another ten.  I devised a few schemes to get there but there wasn’t much appealing about any of them.  Then, the perfect plot hatched in my melon – I knew exactly what I wanted to do.  Only one mile of headwind out of the ten to get home.

Now, I wouldn’t exactly say “I dropped the hammer”, because I didn’t.  Mike and I were making decent time all the way back and sitting on a 17-mph average, it wasn’t like I was going to turn that into an 18 in just ten miles.  On the other hand, I didn’t watch the paint dry, either.  I set about getting home and clocked nine of the ten miles at around 20+ mph.  I did manage to get that 17 up to 17.3 before pulling into the driveway, happy as a pig in mud.  

Friends, as slow as that was, I enjoyed every mile.  There once was a time that pace would drive me up a wall because it was too slow and I’d be too anxious about losing the opportunity to improve my fitness, power, and speed.  That’s a whole new post, though.  That’ll be out tomorrow.

Today, I’m fast enough to know a slow ride is fun and can’t hurt me one bit.  It’s a great place to be.

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