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What Makes a Bike Clunk When You Pedal? And There’s a BIG Difference Between a Clunk, a Click, a Tick and… Uh, Anything Else.

Were we simply talking drivetrains, I could write this post in two words because only the main culprit will make a “clunk”. “Ticks and clicks” take care of virtually everything else in the drivetrain. The two non-drivetrain related “clunks” are a quick release skewer being loose to a point of being dangerous and a loose headset. “Ticks and clicks” cover everything else there as well. The diagnosis of a loose headset is simple: grab some front brake and rock the bike back and forth. Place your right hand on the headset while you’re rocking the bike. If it’s loose, you’ll feel the slop in the system. Loosen the stem bolts that clamp to the fork post, tighten your stem cap bolt till the slop is taken up, tighten the stem bolts, and you’re done. Quick release is even easier. Give your wheel a side-to-side wiggle. If it’s loose, you’ll feel it. Tighten the quick release before you crash into something and don’t ever let your bike get like that again. You should be checking things like that routinely before you ride.

The main clunker is your crankset and/or bottom bracket bearings.

Road bike cranks tend to be relatively simple affairs nowadays. The pricier models, such as the S-Works crankset on my Venge, is ridiculously simple and impressively light. The cheaper the crank, the heavier and more complex they get, requiring special wavy washers and cap washers to keep dirt out. Cranks that require wavy washers are notorious for letting dirt into the system. They require regular cleaning to keep from clicking and ticking while the pedals go ’round. Your Dura-Ace, Ultegra, S-Works and SRAM Red and Force lines don’t require as much fuss.

We’re talking about clunking, though. Not clicks and ticks. Clunking is caused by a loose spindle or bearing. If the crank bolt isn’t tightened enough (and they require a hefty amount of torque, just look on the crankset and it’ll tell you how much), you’ll eventually get a little clunk at the top of the pedal stroke as power is transferred from one crank arm to the next – often in the left arm.

Now, on one hand there’s the simple fix; tighten the bolt. On the other, I like to go a little further and pull the crankset out, clean it, lube it and put it back together. If I’m going to be in there anyway, I may as well clean it out and do it right. I’m going to have to deal with it sooner or later anyway.

A Glorious Thursday Night on the Good Bikes… Outdoors!

We’re at the end of a rare January warm up that lasted all of two glorious days. We’re back into snow today, but I made hay while the sun was shining…

The high temp on the car’s digital thermometer said 46 degrees F (8 C) on the way home yesterday afternoon. I’d made my call to my sponsor to let him know I’d be taking advantage of the mild temp by going for a ride with my normal riding buddy, Chuck. I was a mere hour away from my ride, but I was exhausted. I’d shorted myself sleep and I was not in a good space. I had to grapple with the thought of a nap more than once. I simply didn’t have time. I readied my Trek for a night ride which included witching rear wheels (trainer to outdoor wheel), setting the headlight on the handlebar, pumping tires, water, and so on.

Then I went into the bedroom to contemplate what to wear. This was a little tougher than I’d imagined it would be. I’m constantly battling the urge to overdress just to be warm. When it was all done, I opted for a light long-sleeve, a thermal long-sleeve, and a light windproof rain jacket.

I rolled my bike out the front door just after 5 and headed for Chuck’s.

The ride over was simply fantastic. I’d managed to dress perfectly for the effort – slightly less than moderate. Chuck was ready shortly after I pulled into his driveway and we rolled out. We didn’t break any speed records; we didn’t bother trying. We simply enjoyed the ride in the decent evening weather.

The Trek felt fantastic. After all that time spent with the rear wheel locked into a trainer, it was nice to get the bike outside again – and for once at a temperature that wouldn’t cause normal, sane people to wrinkle their nose when it’s learned you rode outdoors.

The pace was interesting. There wasn’t much push to either of us, though we did open it up a few times just to get the lead out. The fresh air was exactly what the doctor would have ordered if I’d seen the doctor… certainly what the psychiatrist would have prescribed… were I to actually need a shrink.

Meh, I bought a bike instead. Cycling (and a program of recovery, of course) keeps the need for either at a bare minimum.

Why Working a Program of Recovery is so Important to Success in Terms of Peace and Contentment

It is commonly, correctly, truly stated, “if you sober up an alcoholic horse thief, you’re still left with a horse thief”.

I’ve never, in twenty-eight years of recovery, seen a person walk through the door of an AA meeting and announce, “Yeah, I’ve been doing awesome! My family is happy, my work life is fantastic, the bills are paid and I feel an overwhelming sense of being content with how things are in life… I just drink a little too much so I thought I’d quit just because I have nothing better to do.” Nobody comes in on a winning streak. We resort to quitting after we’ve been on our hands and knees looking for a crumb in the carpet for the last 40 minutes in our underwear after spending our last five from trading in the TV at the pawn shop.

We therefore have things to rectify in order to get our lives back on track to being a productive member of society again. Osmosis, sadly, isn’t good enough. We have to work for it, and in the meantime we tend to feel a lot of pent up emotion. The emotional pain can be immense – it was for me and I couldn’t wish away that pain anymore than I could wish away the absolute need to get drunk or high.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel – and that light is heaven on earth, not a train. Hear me out.

When we work at a program of recovery (my program of choice is the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of AA), we clear the wreckage of the past that made escape so desirable. Once at the end of that process, we pass on what we’ve learned, our experience, strength and hope, to others as we help them to find their light. As we seek to help others, thereby losing interest in selfish things and build on the good we are doing, we go through a change. Our lives are transformed from needing to escape, to greeting the new day with enthusiasm. Eventually we get to a point where we wake up looking forward to what a new day will bring.

That is, if we stick around long enough.

For me, this process took decades. I was a slow worker, though. Back then, I had a skewed perception of the work. I wanted to do just enough to get by. I didn’t realize until much later, the more diligent I was about working recovery, the greater the benefits, the happier life became, the more I had to pass on to someone else. Meh, “sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly”. Peace and contentment will always materialize if we work for them, as they say. And they do say.

And I always remember, if I don’t pick up a drink, if I keep coming back and working on my recovery, I’ll never have to go through quitting again… and that’s music to my ears.

Don’t think about the work as a task. The work is the key that picks the lock holding you back from being content.

There Are Two Ways to Set Up a Road Bike to Ride Low and Fast: Stacked High or Stretched Out (and How to Choose Wisely)

Let’s talk road bikes, speed and comfort, because what a fun, wonderful topic that is!

The industry has been stuck on the position that “most people want to ride in a less aggressive posture for comfort” for some time. I’ll admit, riding a little more upright on my gravel rig isn’t all that bad, but neither is low and sleek on my Venge. I’ll tell you what is uncomfortable; trying to ride with our A or B group whilst imitating a sail atop your bicycle on Tuesday night! Actually, riding without a motor is uncomfortable with the A group now that I think about it. I digress.

For those of us who are burdened with the need for speed, and lots of it, that upright posture requires more watts than most will be willing or able to create at 25 to 28-mph. Even in a draft. See, approaching 30-mph, pushing air out of the way is not easy. With a draft and, say, a foot between wheels, if you fit in the slipstream it takes considerably less effort to keep the bike up to speed. If, however, your head is always sticking up out of that slipstream, your benefit won’t be near as spectacular. I’ve actually done experiments north of 30-mph in the past, just to see what it was like. If you’re head’s above the draft, the difference is surprisingly great.

The photo above illustrates the point well. I’m the guy on the left, my riding buddy, Chuck is on the right. He’s down in the drops while I’m on the hoods and our heads are about the same level. We’re both the same height as well. If I’d been sitting up higher, the ride is still easier than no draft, but you can feel the drag when your head is above the draft – which means you’ve gotta get that melon down in it!

Now, there are two ways to handle getting your head down into the draft. First is simple: buy a small bike, put a long stem on it and peg the saddle just as high as you can get it so you have a massive drop from the nose of the saddle to the handlebar. I cannot ride like this so I’ve got a photo from a post way back I can use:

That’s A LOT of drop right there. The problem some of us older farts run into is that we simply can’t crane our neck enough to see down the road with the saddle to bar drop steep. Believe me, I’ve tried. I can’t do it without turning my head sideways and taking glances up the road. I only lasted ten miles before turning around and heading home.

I have to opt for the second option and stretch out a little bit. I have a larger bike (the proper size for my 6′ height, a 58 cm frame), and use a long cockpit to get low (note how much higher the drop bar ends are on my steerer tube):

Also, and interestingly, the setup above, at least the saddle height with the amount of seatpost showing above the frame, is technically “correct” for a standard frame. The stem choice, a flipped 17 degree 90 mm stem, was “after fitting”. I had a 12 degree 80 on there prior but a shorter reach drop bar by 10 mm meant a longer stem was needed and I wanted that sleek look I got with the steeper stem. That Trek evolved to that setup over twelve years. The bike I originally bought isn’t even recognizable contrasted against what it is today.

My really, really good bike employs almost exactly the same setup:

While there’s plenty of drop from the saddle to the handlebar, the Venge is almost the same as the Trek – it just looks like more drop because the top tube of the Venge slopes down.

I chose reach over a massive drop (technically, a decent mix of both drop and reach, but lets stay on point) to get me low because of the aforementioned neck issue and because I’m a little chubbier than I should be. This is, of course, in cycling terms. I am not, in any way, shape or form, “chubby”. I’m what you’d call “cycling chubby”. The point is, you can’t cycle around your gut if your quads keep bumping into it. Therefore, a little bit of stretch will help you get around an extra slice of pizza.

Stretch has its problems as well, though and they can be just as bad as too much drop in the saddle to bar top. Too much stretch too soon will have you sitting up with your hands on the bar top rather than around the hoods where the hands belong. The drops will be virtually unusable because if reaching for the hoods is uncomfortable, reaching a bit further for the drop will be even worse. Therefore, stem length and saddle setback have to be carefully considered in terms of reach and stretch. This doesn’t mean we should live with an upright cycling position, just that we should be careful not to alter that setup with big changes and short break-in periods.

This gets important when we consider the one thing that a lot of cycling will do for a body: make it drop weight. As we ride more (and hopefully we don’t eat more to compensate), the body will change. With enough speed and mileage, weight can melt away. That’s the way it happened with me, until I changed my eating habits, at my wife’s urging, before I turned into the human equivalent of a twig. As the gut disappears, we can lower/stretch the cockpit so that we can ride lower which will make us, naturally, faster still.

The key here is to change the setup on your bike a little bit at a time with a break-in period between changes so you can evaluate how each change feels. This way, if you run into something you don’t like, you can change it back and go another route before you get lost.

Above fast is always “fun”. If you aren’t having fun, you need a reevaluation, because everything about riding a bicycle should be fun… unless someone is paying you to ride one. In order to have fun, you have to be comfortable atop that steed. The key is you get to determine what is or isn’t comfortable, not the industry.

You Can’t Solve the Problems You Created with the Same Thinking that Created Them in the First Place

Oh, how certain was I that I could drink like a normal fella if I just gave it a little effort. I then proceeded to try everything I could think of to do that. Let’s just say it didn’t turn out well. The one good thing to come out of it all was that I gained the knowledge that, unlike most of the population, I am irrevocably a pickle and I will never be a cucumber again.

Many will wonder why I stick to this belief. After all, it’s been twenty-eight years since the last time I’ve been drunk or high. Surely I must have had some mental shift that would rectify whatever it was that was wrong with me, right?

My friends, Einstein once said that problems can’t be solved with the same thinking that created them. Going back to drinking would be like trying to solve a problem that was already correctly solved, but with the thinking that created the problem to begin with.

Think about this a minute. I have performed, in the last twenty-eight years, the perfect reverse country song. I have everything I could possibly hope for after a quick traipse through hell as a youngster. I’ve got a fantastic family, a loving wife, a tremendous relationship with my daughters, I make a good living, I’ve got a roof over our heads, cars, toys, and my health… the only thing I changed for a “Get Out Of Hell Free” card was I quit drinking and I worked twelve steps. Repeatedly. Until I got good at them.

Now, what kind of knucklehead would, after twenty-eight years of winning, say, “Hey, maybe it’d be a good idea to try drinking again”?

Like I said, that’s even beyond Einstein… that’s “let’s try to fix that which isn’t broken with thinking that is”. I don’t need to entertain that today, and for that I am grateful. I will keep coming back.

Intervals, Push-ups & Predators on a Monday Night

I received a wonderful compliment about the blog on Strava last night from one of the guys I ride with on Tuesday night who joined us in the last two or three years. It feels a little odd when Strava (or normal, everyday) “me” and WordPress “me” cross paths but it was one of those comments that let’s you know WordPress me is doing something worthwhile… and it was with a good feeling in my heart I prepped the Trek for an ugly half-hour on the trainer. Interval night.

Predators was the movie choice for the early evening, one of my old go-to favorites when I need something to watch when I’m too worried about puking on my top tube to watch all that much.

30 whole seconds to warm up followed by a ramp in pace, followed by my intervals. Six in the space of 30 minutes with a minute or two in between each minute or two-long interval and just enough oomph to make me wonder what the hell I’m doing this for. Without a doubt, my interval days on the trainer are the most intense workouts I’ll do all year long. In fact, I can very much feel the effort in my legs this morning.

I picked up a CycleOps trainer-specific Kenda tire at the shop the other day and gave that its first run last night and I really loved it. Very quiet, no slippage – even in the hard gears (I hate the squeaking of road tires after a week or two). I’ll reserve the review for after I’ve worn it in for a few weeks. I want to see how it behaves with some miles on it first. First impression is fantastic, though.

I finished my 30 minutes with a puddle of sweat on the floor that contained (almost) every last ounce of “want to” I had in me when I started the movie up.

I had to save a little for the push-ups. Folks, I’ve relied on “cycling fitness” to get me by for a few years. I once did push-ups and sit-ups regularly (300 a day for the push-ups) and built myself a nice set of pecs. Sadly, after three years of nothing but cycling, they’re starting to more resemble boobs. I decided after cycling season, it was time to tighten them up. And so it has been, I’ve included push-ups with interval night… and comically, I’ve only done three sessions so far because after the first 25 my shoulders hurt so bad it was tough to wash my hair the next morning. It took three days before I could go again. Thankfully, I’ve passed the painfulness of the exercise so I’m able to start ramping up the number and frequency. It surprised me how fully I regressed after doing push-ups for so long.

So here we go, folks. It’s time to get ramped up for the new season. We’re only two months and three days away!

Solving the Problems of the World One Bike Ride at a Time

Anyone who cycles will be able to tell you they’ve solved one or more of the world’s major problems over a bike ride, during a coffee stop, or during the meal afterwards. Runners are equally adept at this…

So this has to make one wonder, if it’s so easy for us to figure this stuff out (and it clearly is), maybe the politicians just don’t want to.

Either that or we need to petition them to pass a law requiring all politicians and staffers to buy bicycles and ride together twice a week. Think of the carbon offsets alone.

Just a thought.

Thanks for the inspiration, Lee & Vickie.

Maybe I Won’t Take the Weekend Off After All…

It was cold yesterday morning. I mean COLD. 17° F or -8 C. Mike texted early that he was riding the trainer. I got ready hoping nobody would show but my friends Phill and Doc Mike showed up to ride. I was out the door with a few minutes to spare.

I wanted to test the limits of my new Funkier jacket anyway…

We rolled out on time and I was warmed up within two miles. A light base layer, a decent long-sleeve running shirt and I was sweating before mile seven. Sweating. Sadly, my lower body was chilly. Not horribly so, but I didn’t want to be out too long and risk. Erm… problems.

We chose dirt roads and were happy for the choice until about five miles in. The conditions devolved into an icy nightmare. Several times we were reduced to unclipping and pushing off on the ice. It was absolutely treacherous.

Nine miles in we chose a paved road and stayed on asphalt all the way home. We hit the pavement with a 12.8-mph average and pulled into the driveway at almost 15-1/2. The ride home was a blast, holding 18-20 all the way. On the gravel bikes with all that cold weather gear on, in that cold, we were moving.

The ride wasn’t all that long but we were out there for more than an hour and I had some serious fun. Had we been out much longer I think it would have taken away from the enjoyment of the ride. The cold would have caught up.

So this led to the good part. Before getting in the shower I stepped on the scale for the first time since Thanksgiving. I was ready for my jaw to drop at the jump in the number on the screen… and I was only six pounds over mid-season cruising weight… and still in the 170’s. Barely, but I’m there. I was expecting to be well into the 180’s and to have a daunting task in front of me to get ready for the hills of the Horsey Hundred. Instead, it’ll just be some rigorous trainer rides for the next couple of months with some intelligent eating decisions. Once March gets in gear, I’ll be in fantastic shape in no time.

I did some maintenance throughout the day, lubing chains and a bit of crank work on the Diverge (I didn’t quite get the bolt tight enough last time I cleaned it – you really have to… um… crank on the Allen key to get it tight). I also went to the shop with Mrs. Bgddy and picked up a trainer tire. I’m pushing too hard a gear and road tires just aren’t lasting very long. I had a Bontrager tire on there for a couple of weeks and that worked well till it started slipping the other day. I’m hoping this puts the issue to bed. I won’t find out today, though. We’re going to brave the cold again and head outdoors.

UPDATE: My friend who goes by biking2work asked how the jacket held up in that cold. I finished slightly sweating. Comfortable and warm the whole ride. The wind chill was 14 F or -10 C. Simply amazing, though not a jacket to go all out in. You’d end up a puddle of sweat on the road.

I’m Taking the Weekend Off to Ride My Bike… A Disappointing Day for Strava Users, Or At Least Half of Them

Trigger (heh) warning: This is a post of a political nature. It does not take a stand on ideological grounds (I think), though it does contain common sense of the variety that isn’t very common lately. It takes me all the way till the last sentence to get to the lesson I’m breaking with this post and for that, I apologize. Please proceed with caution. I’ll be leaving comments open because I’m not a sissy. Please be tactful or I’ll simply delete the comment without responding. You have been trigger (heh) warned.

The cofounders of Strava decided to send out a post yesterday in which they properly lamented the craziness that occurred in Washington DC this past week. I, along with most other sane people, hope the perpetrators of mayhem and destruction during that “mostly peaceful protest march” are brought to justice and are treated exactly the same way Antifa and rioters were treated when they lit cities across the nation on fire over the summer.

I hope all criminals are treated equally under the law and prosecuted as they should be. I do not support “justice for some” approaches to anything. The saying is “and justice for all”. We are a nation of laws and those laws should be enforced until such a time as they are changed legitimately through proper legislative procedures. If you want to march for equal treatment under the law, I’ll march with you. I’ll carry your flag. If you want to march against police shooting weapon-wielding or charging criminals and maniacs, well, I’ll leave that to you. I’d expect to be shot deader ‘n hell (and many, many times) if I was dumb enough to run at or turn on a cop whilst holding a knife.

This should seem like a no-brainer position to hold. It is not.

The cofounders of Strava went off the rails in their riff about a new, ignorant way of looking at the looting and destruction that occurred over the summer contrasted against the way the mob was treated that broke into the capitol. In one day, more than 50 arrests were made and more perps are being sought through video surveillance sorting methods. I hope every one of those knuckleheads is caught and sees the inside of a jail cell. Those who left pipe bombs at the DNC and RNC, I hope will see lengthy sentences without the possibility of being freed early. However, contrast that against the riots that have been going on non-stop in Seattle for the last seven months one week and three days. Or those in Baltimore, Maryland where the Mayor backed police off to give rioters space to loot, pillage and burn the city. The same approach was apparent in major cities across the US. If you missed it, I’m not surprised. It wasn’t exactly reported that way. The main media outlets, for the most part, ignored that idiocy.

The people whose livelihoods were burned to the ground amidst the “mostly peaceful” riots didn’t miss it.

The message they’re getting, and the ideologues at Strava are missing because they’re ignorant, is this: If they come to burn down your house, no big deal. We’ll give them space and let it burn. If they come for our House, it’s an assault on democracy and/or the country. “Peace for me, but not for thee” is the message and that message is entirely unacceptable. We should be able to agree easily on this.

Not surprisingly, the @$$#oles who cofounded Strava turned off comments for their post, thus the reason for this one. While I agree with a small portion of what they wrote, the larger body of their post is ideologically repugnant. I’ll just leave it at that.

In closing, I’d like to take a moment to fend off one of the more ignorant points made by the knuckleheads who created Strava. Their post tried to make the point that rioters and looters over the summer were treated more harshly than those who tore up the capitol building by lumping the summer rioters in with “peaceful protestors”. This is reprehensible. They did this by lumping Detroit, which was, with the exception of a few days, entirely peaceful with cities like Washington DC, Portland and Minneapolis where there were clear riots. Detroit, and to an even greater extent, Flint, didn’t see rioting, looting and arson because (almost) everyone worked together to come together as people rather than fractured, bickering, insipid ideologies. Local police and officials took off their riot gear and marched with protestors and, but for a few opportunistic politicians blathering on about ideological nonsense, Michiganders weren’t “mostly peaceful”, we were peaceful. We showed the nation how it should be done and marched with each other. To my memory, there were zero riots. Those few who committed destructive acts were arrested and prosecuted. Exactly as should be. We weren’t forced to defend our homes and businesses from the onslaught, we were able to march together. That’s how it’s supposed to go.

Most decent folk, and by most I mean the vast majority – beyond 90% – should be able to agree that those who harm another in breaking a law should be prosecuted fully. Those who rioted at the capitol should be prosecuted just the same as a rioter in any city the world over should be held responsible for their actions.

When, however, you pick and choose who gets prosecuted for breaking laws, that’s when normal people are moved to respond loudly. And this is as it should be. What the ideologues are doing is simply transferring their marginality from one to another group of people for political expediency. That should always be pushed back against by all decent people, no matter their color, creed or religion. Including the cofounders of Strava. Who did nothing more than create a neat app.

And no, I won’t be leaving Strava. The app may be run by a couple of ignoramuses, but it’s still a cool app… though it might not be a bad way to teach them the most valuable lesson they missed:


PS. By the way, on-scene photos and the video evidence and reports show that both left-wing nuts and right-wing nuts were responsible for the destruction. If you think your ideology is pure as the driven snow in this, you’re simply mistaken.

A Photo from a Good Day: 2016 Northwest Tour – Near Empire/Traverse City Michigan