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A Perfectly Ugly Century… 100 Miles of Bliss

Friends, in my years of cycling, I can’t remember a year with more than two or three perfect days. When it comes to great days, we get plenty. Perfect is rare.

Yesterday was another of the rare days, though not so rare for this year. Sunny, cool to start, and almost no wind (2-mph out of the… who cares?! 2-mph!).

We rolled out at 7 am and I was searching for the early morning sun right out of the gate.  At 60° (15 C) it was a little on the brisk side and finding the sun through the early morning shade was a challenge in the first mile.  Once we started east it wasn’t so bad, the long shadows couldn’t get us.  Our third mile would be my last thought that could be construed as “complainy” the rest of the day.

Turnout at my house was a little sparse, but we picked up four along the way and ended up with a fantastic group.  We had plans for a 65 mile ride, then Chuck and I were going to add another 35 and make it a cool hundred.  We were the only takers for the century.  Jonathan thought about hanging with us but couldn’t chance being late for a meeting so he backed out.

The route we picked led us through the blooming sunflower fields.  They were spectacular in the early morning sunshine.  This is one of my favorite times in summer.

Once past the sunflower fields we kept a wonderfully steady pace between 19 & 22-mph.  Jonathan, Chuck or I would pick up the tempo every now and again but for the most part we were incredibly steady.

Two hours into our ride and that nice cool start was long behind us.  It heated up in a hurry.  With my Specialized team kit on, though, I didn’t really think about the heat much.  I’ve got three full sets now, and, while they’re visually stunning, their best attribute is heat management.

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Mike’s taking up the rear with his brand new Ican 38’s.  Four in that group are running the 38’s and I’ve got the 50’s (and the 38’s on my other bike)… I think it’s time Ican start sending me free stuff!

This is a marvelous stretch of road along a route full of fantastic asphalt and chip-seal.  We have some stretches that are pretty rough, too, but who doesn’t?  We rolled on, talking and laughing, and basically just enjoyed being together.  At 51 miles, Phill and Brad split off and headed home.  The rest of us pushed on to the first stretch of road where I could have stood a faster pace.  For most of us, we only had 13 miles to go so they were in “just get there” mode while Chuck and I were only halfway into our ride – we were still relatively fresh.  It never ceases to amaze me how much “mental” goes into cycling.  If I know I’ve only got a few miles left, I’ll allow myself to be tired and drag a little.  On the other hand, if I know I’m only halfway there, I’ll still have a spring in my step.

Anyway, I don’t want to get lost in a cycling psychology discussion.  Jonathan split off next and headed home, then Dave… and we were down to Mike, my wife, Chuck and I for the last five miles home.  Mike had hoped Chuck and I would split along the way so they could soft-pedal home but we needed 35 miles somewhere, so we stayed with them to the homestead… and kept the pace up.  When we hit the driveway, Mike lowered his shoulders and kept going to home.  I dismounted and leaned my bike against a tree and headed inside to the restroom and a water bottle refill.  Chuck unscrewed his top and handed his bottle to my wife who offered to fill it.  Bottles topped off, we rolled out – no clue how we were going to fit 35 miles in.  A friend of mine had dropped off a Garmin heart rate monitor that he wasn’t going to use anymore because he’d picked up a new one.  So, for the first time ever, I actually rode knowing what my heart rate was.  I probably averaged 110-120-something over that first 65.

We headed east, still barely a breeze and the sun shining brilliantly.  We created our own breeze as we headed out for lunch.  Chuck is a lot more daring than I am, even with my radar taillight.  He’ll ride on roads I won’t go near due to traffic, and he kept extending the out portion to where we had to ride on some heavily trafficked roads… but we kept it to four or five lane highways so cars always had an extra lane to pass us.  And it was better than a normal two-lane road.  By a long shot.

We pulled into the local Subway staring at 75 miles on the Garmin.  Our pace had stayed the same (20-23-mph) but my heart rate had gone from the mid-90’s – 120’s to 145-155 and I was HUNGRY.  We leaned our bikes against the windows outside and went in to eat.  We left our several thousand Dollar bikes outside, no lock, for the entire time we were inside (20-30 minutes) and nobody even looked sideways at them.  Call it privilege if you’re an idiot, there are no rules governing who can buy or rent a house or apartment in our town… we are generally good people, though.  We have a strong, supported police force and I am glad to live in a place where I can leave my bike outside, unattended, while I eat.  That’s enough of that.

The next 25 miles were easy(ish).  We tee’d them up and knocked ’em down.  I ended up having to ride Chuck home to get an extra two miles – and those last two were s-l-o-w… but I pulled into the driveway with 100.44 miles and a smile on my face.

So, all of that, almost 1,000 words, and you’re wondering where the ugly part is?

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There’s another 1,000 words… that route was fugly!

Why is the Road Cycling World Going Waxy?! The Rise of the Dry Lube.

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Ah, the clean drivetrain! How we (should) love the look of a freshly cleaned chain, cassette and chainrings! Alas, with wet lubes, they tend to get pretty dingy in a hurry. Enter the dry wax lube. Made for dry, dusty conditions, wax lube doesn’t collect dirt and buildup like wet lubes do. In fact, if regularly tended to, a wax lubed chain won’t be perfectly clean to the touch, but it won’t make a mess of you, either.

The photo above, of my Trek 5200’s setup, was taken after three rides on a newly cleaned and lubed chain.  I wiped the excess off after the first spin and that’s how it looks au naturel.  As one would imagine, there isn’t much to rub off on the hands.

Life isn’t all fat and happy, though.  Sadly.  If you live in the UK, or about any other locale where you’ll be riding regularly in the rain, a wax lube isn’t for you.  It wears off when it gets wet so you end up accelerating your chain’s life.

I can’t say much bad about the wax lubes (I’m partial to Squirt).  They sure are a lot cleaner than my Finish Line Ceramic Wet Lube!

To put a bow on this post, what about reapplication and cleaning?  This is the best part:

There is no need to remove wax from your chain again after applying Squirt Chain
Lube. Just brush off occasionally with a dry brush and use a toothpick to remove some residue from the cassette and chain rings if necessary. A well waxed chain repels dirt, mud and water, and reduces chances of friction and chain suck.

They recommend every six hours for a road bike, but I find I can go a little longer than that.  I apply once a week (about 14 hours).  I also go a few steps further…  I wipe off the excess in the morning, after it’s had a chance to dry overnight.  I also wipe the excess off the outside plates after I apply the lube.  Finally, while that sounds nice, brushing the cassette off, that doesn’t do much to keep it shiny.  I apply some degreaser to a towel and clean in between the cogs to get the gears shiny again.

Hardcore Fast; Thursday Evening Speed and Happiness on a Bicycle

There comes with cycling, a virtually indescribable joy in being a part of a solid pace-line, speeding down a winding road so fast cars have a tough time keeping up.  I “train” only so I can be a part of that.  I don’t care about Strava accolades, KOM’s, PR’s, or beating other people… for me, it’s just about being a part of the group.  The speed and intricacy of it is my definition of fun.

We prepped to roll out Thursday night coming off a record event the week before. Conditions were perfect last week. This week, less desirable – better temp, more of a breeze… but we had a larger, faster group with some serious heavy hitters from Tuesday Night in Lennon.  With the fantastic weather and 0% chance of rain, I picked the Venge for this ride.

Craig and I led the group out in a double pace-line.  We had a big group, but it splintered quickly under a rubber-band effect and unfortunately, with a few new guys in the group, we missed a couple of regroup points.  We did manage to hit a couple, though, one a few minutes before this photo was taken by a friend and regular in our group who was stuck attending a graduation party (don’t worry, Gov., social distancing was being practiced – well, ish).  Coming out of the Lake Shannon loop, we were pushing, unbelievably, a 22-mph average (35-kmh).  20-mph is fast for the ride.  21 is crazy and was our record just last week.

Coming over a major hill that I PR’ed on last week, I PR’ed again (by a lot) but still got dropped and the group rolled right through the regroup point so four of us, rather than try to chase down a group we were never going to catch, cut a hard mile of the out-and-back portion of the course off and waited atop a hill that was going to hammer the lead group.  We simply stopped, took a second to catch our breath, take a drink and waited for them to appear on the way up an ugly 6% climb.

Sure enough, once we caught a glimpse of them we started rolling and took the lead as they latched on.  From that point on, we stayed together, sharing the headwind ride back.  I’d dropped from 22-mph down to 21.6, but the average climbed as much of the headwind was actually slightly downhill.  We turned right to a crosswind and hammered down the road.  Our average passed 22-mph by a tenth as we closed in on the last climb.

I, having spent way too much time up front early on while the group was sorting itself out, was completely spent.  As we rounded the corner to start the climb, I flicked off the front and didn’t bother latching on at the back.  I was popped and I just didn’t have a desire to try to keep up.  I didn’t care about the average or the record.  I eased my way up in the granny gear and lumbered down the back toward the City Limits sign and the end of our most excellent ride.

Even chilling up the last hill I beat last week’s average by six or seven tenths of a mile-an-hour.

It was all laughs back in the parking lot as we loaded our toys and headed home.  Another record breaking Thursday night… and I can feel it today!  I’ll be looking forward to a slow evening ride a little later.  I have no doubt, with excellent weather for the weekend, we’ll put together a fun, long ride for Saturday.

After having leftover pizza for dinner, I’m pretty sure I fell asleep with a smile on my face.  I surely woke up smiling.

What to Do With Garmin Down?!

Garmin is down for some reason, so there’s no uploading (Bluetooth-ily) to Strava, Endomondo or Ride with GPS right now.  You don’t have to manually enter your rides, though.  In fact, uploading your rides is faster than manually entering them and it’s as easy as easy gets.

Strava and Endomondo are the same (I didn’t bother with RWGPS).

Open your computer/laptop.  Plug in your Garmin device.  Open your web browser.  Open up your homepage.  Hit the “+” button for “add a workout”.  Choose “Upload Activity” (Strava) or “Import from File” for Endomondo.  Your activity will be in the “Activities” folder on your Garmin device.  Choose the proper file by the date.  Click “Open”, customize your info and click “Save”.  You’re done.  Your ride will appear on your activity feed.

Super simple and you get all of your intricate data from your ride profile, rather than just entering in the miles and time and getting an average speed you’ll get everything, including segment records.

UPDATE:  Kecia commented that it’s possibly a ransomware issue at Garmin…  They’re still down as of 11 am today (7/24).  I confirmed Kecia’s comment against multiple news sources.  I’d love to be a fly on the wall when Garmin tracks the perpetrators down.  I have a feeling that’s going to get messy.

Playing With A $3,000 Etch-a-Sketch to Earn… Pizza!

I went on a semi-random ride last night, with one goal: burn enough calories to justify my dinner. Sam’s Italian Restaurant pizza. It’s the good stuff, folks. Sure, I like the Detroit-style deep dish. Chicago style is to die for (though not literally, sheesh). I love me some Little Caesar’s or Hungry Howie’s… but Sam’s is the gourmet thin crust, zesty, sweet sauce, Italian pizza.

In fact, I’ve gotta stop writing about said pizza because I have 40 minutes till I can pick it up!

I had no goals for last night’s ride. No worries, no cares, just me and the road and excellent looking cornfields (this has got to be one of Michigan’s best years in a long time for farming, it’s amazing how good the crops look)…

It was a glorious evening for a bike ride… and because my bikes have been behaving so well, I decided to tinker with the Trek. I lowered the handlebar 5 mm. I didn’t like it much on day 1, but on day 3 was fantastic.  I’d assumed (correctly) that Chucker was working so it was a solo afternoon jaunt and I was feeling pretty good.  I could have just done my normal 20 miles and called it good but decided to keep following my front wheel (while avoiding busy roads – no sense tempting fate) until I’d had enough and wanted to take my toy home.

I ended up with 27 easy miles (17.5-mph pace or 28 kmh) on my perfectly set up Trek.  After the first day with the handlebar dropped, I’d almost considered raising it again before I left for my ride.  I’m glad I didn’t.  I just needed a few rides to get used to it.  And it helps that most of my winter gut is gone…

OH!  And dinner was fantastic.  I got my usual (pepperoni, bacon, red onion, mild (banana) peppers) but this time, because there are so many people at our meeting nowadays, I also picked up a straight-up pepperoni pizza.  One of the best I’d ever eaten.  That’ll be on the ticket again next week!

An Ode to Joy, An Ode to My Venge After A Fantastic Tuesday Night In Lennon

No, I’m not going to drop a true ode to my bike… maybe a sonnet…

I tried to downplay the awesomeness of the new wheels I bought for my Specialized Venge.  Surely, they can’t be that much of an improvement!  My old alloy wheels were put through a lot and they’re still pretty fantastic.  Then, my original set of Ican carbon wheels were (and still are, on the Trek) stellar…  Truly, after all that masterful piece of carbon fiber and epoxy and I have been through, it can’t have gotten that much better over time, could it?

It most certainly has.  Vastly superior wheels, astoundingly more wonderful crankset, better gears, upgraded drivetrain and shifters, better brakes… they’ve all contributed to a ride quality so stellar, it’s hard to believe how much fun it is to throw my leg over the top tube and clip in.  Sure, all of those people saying, “Don’t worry, you don’t need all of that stuff” was cool, it made me feel like I had a fighting chance, but in the end, I can do things I could never do before I put the goods on the bike.

We rolled out last night with a whole lot of new blood.  Guys from the C Group giving us a try, a few new guys, and even the wife of one of the regular B’s on her brand new Bianchi decided to give it a try.  It was a little sketchy at times, but it remained calm and collected up front until one of the new guys, pushing way too easy a gear (maybe a 120-130 cadence), decided he couldn’t keep up so he tried to come off the front through the middle of the double pace-line.  I saw it coming three bikes back of him.  It goes to the excellent professionalism of our riders that someone didn’t get taken out, but we navigated around him without incident.  I let him know that we most certainly don’t do that as he dropped back (later, after the ride, I took the time to explain pace-line do’s and don’ts in great detail).

The pace was a little subdued starting out last night, and that was surprising.  With only a slight breeze and reasonable temps, I was expecting it to be fast right out of the gate.  Instead, other than a few instances where the speed spiked, we kept it between 22 & 24-mph.  After the hills, we were passed by two A guys and we let them go.  A few minutes later, a good chunk of the A Group passed us and we did latch on to them – and the pace got fun.  The pace bumped up to 24 to 28-mph.  We crossed the line in a big bunch, smiles all around.

So here’s my schpiel (or spiel, depending – I’m particularly fond of the “ch” version) one more time…  I am, without question, faster on the Venge as it is now, contrasted against when I brought it home.  Some of my fastest rides, however, are on a non-aero Trek 5200 (though it does have 38 mm wheels finally).  In other words, and on one hand, it’s definitely the engine that matters most.  On the other, all of that aero makes fast easier.

On the Venge last night, with an average of 22.7-mph over 28 miles, I never dropped more than five riders back in a pack of 20 in a double pace-line (10 each side).  I was always up in the rotation, pushing hard – often driving the pace.  I was never, at any point, close to my red line (with one exception; when I jumped two places in line and drove the pace up from 25 to 31-mph on a flat section leading into a sprint – I drove the pace).  On the Trek, with a pace like that I have to be a little more judicious with my effort.  I can still play cat and mouse a little, but I have to be careful.  In other words, speed, on the Venge, is easier.  And that, in a host of reasons, is why I’m grateful for my Venge.

That bike is fast, baby… and those Ican F&L 50’s are freaking spectacular.

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It’s Been 1,500 Miles Since My Last Day Off And I’m Still Lovin’ It

The last day it rained too much to squeeze a ride in around here was June 10th.

I’ve put just shy of 1,500 miles since that day and, while I’ve had a few rough mornings waking up, I’m usually up and moving freely again within 10 or 15 minutes… and if I’m really in bad shape, a Tylenol and an Advil together will have me feeling like I’m 25 again in short order.  Between my two road bikes and the tandem, there’s never a dull moment and I feel fortunate to be able to switch up bikes whenever I want – this way, there’s always something to tinker with.  Last night was removing a spacer from under the handlebar of the Trek to see if I would ride a little lower comfortably.  I’ll just say the jury is out after the first ride – I’m not going to toss the alloy spacer in the recycling bin just yet.  At the beginning of the season I was simply too… erm… well, chunky.  Too many winter dinners did me in.  I’m down fifteen pounds at the moment, though, and the weight is coming off easily as long as I’m not stupid.

I’ve got two months to drop another nine pounds (nine is the hopeful version, I’d be satisfied with four), then I’ll see if I can’t be a little more intelligent about the winter.  I don’t want to have to go through what I did this spring, staring at a number I don’t like on the scale.  This year I’ve been faster on a bike than at any point since I started cycling – even with the weight and riding every day.  Thankfully, our part of Michigan is mercifully flat!

The trick has been to take my active recovery rides.  To thoroughly and embrace the slow days has been a difficult journey through the brain, but now that I’ve got it, I’m having more fun than should be legal.  What I had to do was look at the slow days as building blocks for the fast days.  I still have to mentally hold myself back and remind myself that every day doesn’t have to be a building day… and once I took the time to look around and enjoy the scenery I was missing because my head was always down trying to get the most of a ride, I began to enjoy those slow days.

And so it was yesterday evening.  After a long week with four hard efforts (one trying unsuccessfully to outrun a thunderstorm), I could feel I needed an easy day.  I picked Chuck up at his house and we tooled around town talking about the day’s events.  We didn’t charge up one hill.  We didn’t knuckle down one time.  Just smooth, easy, fun miles.

This is the only way I know to ride every day, week after week.  And now that I’ve figured out my place in how this all works, I get the exhilaration of the fast group while enjoying cycling like the slow group does every now and again.

It’s the best of both cycling worlds.  Life is good.

Sometimes You Have To Get Caught Out In The Rain For The Best Memories

We rolled out yesterday morning, joined by Diane, Mike, Jason, and Justin with Mike & Diane on their tandem and my wife and I on ours. Two tandems, four single bikes, and we picked Phill up en route. We had high hopes for the day.

The weather service had been predicting early morning storms but, as dawn approached, they were pushed back to 10:00 am. We had enough time to squeeze in a nice 30-ish miles at our Sunday Funday pace (18-ish mph).

We headed into the wind to get it out of the way and had a really nice pace going. The tandem has been less of a struggle of late and “Sunday Funday has become a much enjoyed addition to my cycling week. We decided on a route change to split some of the headwind up. Traveling south was a bear, even on the tandem. We had to make an early stop, but it was a quick one… and this simple ten minute stop will be important later.

Rolling out, we had a cross-headwind for a few miles that was a little tougher than it should have been. With a left-turn south, we learned why. The wind had shifted from SSW to WSW. That was good for us. Coming into town, my wife and I took advantage of a downhill City Limits sign and put the hammer down. We crossed the line at 32-mph with no one on our tail. That tandem is tough uphill, but downhill it’s comically fast. We pulled into our normal gas station stop and I pulled out my phone to check the radar. The future feature put showers over our head at 11:45. With an hour and three-quarters left, we had more than enough time to fit the deer loop in. We rolled out, heading west, into the headwind.

Two miles of three in, my wife tapped me on the butt and said, look right. The sky was unmistakable; we had showers rolling in. The question was going to be when.

We headed north, into the ugly, for two miles, then we turned for home. 13 miles if we went the shortest possible route, but that would require a dismount and walking the tandem through a construction zone (Sunday, no workers), or 17 miles if we went around the construction zone.

It’s hard to say how hard we were pushing the pace – we were keeping it between 21 & 23-mph except on the climbs – but my wife and I were very much in tune with each other. We were matching power well and cruising. Once through Gaines, with the sky darkening considerably and my wife and I out front, Phill split for home and we put the hammer down. With just eight miles to go, taking the shortcut, it was going to be a drag race. We bumped our already fast pace to 25+. While we were trying to outrun a storm, I can’t ever remember a tandem ride feeling quite so… awesome. We were really laying down the watts while my wife tried to keep an eye on everyone to make sure they were holding wheels. Heading north again, Justin split for his run home after a mile and Mike and Diane headed the other way for home. That left Mike and Diane on their tandem and Jason with us… and it started spitting on us. Then the lightning started – and it wasn’t that stretch across the sky heat lighting, it was cloud to ground, big blasts, straight down. And then the rain hit. Instantly going from a spattering to high winds and downpour. My wife and I were hammering for the last turn and the three mile home stretch when Mike shouted over the wind-driven rain, “We’re finding shelter, we’re out”. I hadn’t even looked around, as if I had horse blinders on. It was bad.

We stopped and dismounted. I ran our tandem over to a nearby garage and leaned it. Mike put theirs right behind ours. Jason around the corner, and we ran up to the porch. We knocked on the door and asked the woman who answered if we could borrow their porch to ride out the storm. She said of course, and asked if we wanted to come in to warm up. We told her we were more than happy outside on the porch but thanked her for her hospitality. She went inside and returned a few minutes later with folding chairs and towels so we could dry off.

Just a random house and this nice lady is bringing us towels and chairs… folks, it restored my faith in humanity just a little bit.

I checked the radar again and it was bad. We had three more waves behind the first and they were dark green, yellow, orange and a little red on the radar. Jason called his wife who hopped in their truck and came to pick us up. Mike and I climbed in his truck while the ladies stayed on the porch. We returned with our own SUV’s a short while later and loaded up the tandems…

Cleanup took a while, but with the fenders, there wasn’t any dirt to speak of… I just had to wipe the tandem down. And my daughter made some French toast while I was cleaning the bike.

My wife and I talked about what a good ride we’d had while we ate. And it was good.

We’ll have that story forever, about getting caught in the rain with our friends and what a crazy trip it was. I always love beating the rain by a few minutes, but every now and again it’s good to get caught in it. As long as everyone is okay but waterlogged, it’ll at least make for good dinnertime stories.

Just One Of Those Rough Rides… Proving I Still Have the Capacity To Be A Knucklehead.

I was absolutely stoked about our ride yesterday.  I woke up way early, got the bikes prepped and waited patiently for the time to come to shower up and leave.  We were doing one of my favorite loops, a 64-1/2 miler into the hometown I grew up in.  I miss it the town, but it’s become too expensive for my paycheck and it’s gotten big.  The ride through town hits most of my old haunts from my drinking days.  Many of the buildings changed – Cardona’s (pronounced car-dO-na’s, the owner was Italian) was my favorite bar.  That’s been turned into “Stout Irish Pub” – somewhere Lou Cardona turned over in his grave, but progress, eh?  On a side note, my mom is very Irish and my father very Italian and my mom’s very Irish father married into a very Italian family.  We don’t talk about it.  Ever.

Anyway, my goodness did I get off the beaten path!  Wheels rolled from a high school south of here at 7:30 am.  It was already sticky hot and muggy enough it only took ten minutes of the bikes being outside on the car rack for condensation to stick to them.  We headed off into the wind, taking the back roads all the way down through Oak Grove to Howell.  A couple of stints on major five-lane roads and more back roads, we were making great time and there was plenty of talking and laughing.  We stopped at a fabulous bakery in downtown Brighton where I had a “French Toast Bake” with maple syrup.  It was good enough it should have been illegal… and also only eaten on the occasion of a 100k or greater bike ride.  Which I met.  We rolled out of Brighton at 34.77 miles into the 64-1/2 mile ride – better than halfway done.

I didn’t know this until just this morning but the next 25 miles are virtually all uphill.

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And that explains what happened next.  We had the whole second half of the ride with a 10 to 13-mph tailwind.  I figured it’d just be a fun cruise home… but my buddy, Mike started bonking right about the 50-mile mark.  We were cruising fairly easy, about 23-mph (it was only about 130-ish watts?) and word filtered up that Mike was off the back.  We slowed up to 19-20, soft pedaling with the tailwind and he caught back up.  We took it back up to 21 and here comes my wife, whipping around from the back after pulling Mike back to the group, at probably 23-ish.  Nothing, and I mean nothing pisses me off more than “hey, slow down”, then the person who yells “slow down” comes whipping by to crank the pace up.

I took three others with me and steadily built my speed up.  I reeled in my wife and passed her at 27-mph.  I let my speed drop down to 26 and after another half-mile I flicked off the front.  Once ensconced on the back, I looked back at my wife and gave her the big, “come on up” gesture and shouted, “Come on, honey, take the lead, we’re only going 26!”  The group was shattered.

My blood has a little rolling boil just typing this out.

The rest of the ride was a complete mess.  Every time we got up to 20-mph, someone dropped off the back for something.  A bonk, a saddle bag fell off… it was like drama on the high seas…

We waited for Dave to get and secure his saddle bag, which Diane had picked up on the side of the road.  Meanwhile, Mike went up the road.  We were on the side of the road, waiting for this to sort itself out, for a good three minutes while Mike was putting distance between us.  We rolled out and the pace equalized.  We were pounding down the road at an easy 23-ish-mph (37 kmh) and we reeled Mike in and slowed our pace to let him catch on to the back.  And he went straight off the back just that fast.  The group shattered again and we ended up waiting at an intersection for him to catch up.  I gave my wife most of my second water bottle as it was starting to get really hot.  Mike passed us right up and kept on up the road.

We waited another several minutes.  And then smoothly reeled him in, and phhht, straight off the back he went.  Next we stopped at a gas station for a liquid refill.  We took our time and Mike went back up the road again.  We took so much time refilling bottles and drinking Coke we never caught him.  But the pace smoothed out.

Chuck was prepping to go back out to get 100 in and he convinced Levi to go with him.  I thought about it for a minute, but I wanted to be done.  I’d had enough.  Besides, the grass needed cutting.  We waved goodbye and headed for home.  After talking things out with my wife, I realized what the problem was, said my piece, and apologized for being a knucklehead.  It still happens now and again.

It was only then I realized I hadn’t snapped one photo the whole trip.  I was really bummed then.

A Noob’s Guide to Cycling: Spring Training and Riding Slow To Be Fast… In Proper Context

This year has been a total shakeup to how I ride… I’d say, “train” but I’m a lot less pro than that. Ride will do.

With COVIDcation, I was lucky to be able to ride with my wife while the rest of the state was riding solo – but I thought the pace often left a lot to be desired. I was looking to prep for club and group rides after the virus. My wife just wanted to ride. We had a tough time for a week or two with a power struggle but we came up with a way we could both be relatively happy.

I took the entire first half of the ride into the wind, pulling for my wife, then we’d trade turns heading home with the tailwind. It was better than nothing, I figured, though I couldn’t help but think I was missing out on an opportunity to get stronger if I wasn’t pushing it on a regular basis.

Late spring was on us and we finally started riding in small groups, lockdown be damned. My wife and I rode with a couple of friends of ours and I did my usual 20-mile pull into the wind and thought little of it.

Several hours later I got a call from another friend who was content to ride solo. He said he’d heard I managed come through the spring really strong.  Befuddled is a good word.  I couldn’t get a handle on the concept.

Long story short, I was wrong. Taking those slow pulls into the headwind for my wife turned out to be better than any spring training I’d ever done on two wheels. All of a sudden that stuff about spring training in the little ring made sense. It actually worked.

Well into this summer cycling season, the slower spring set up the fastest summer I’ve ever experienced. I still have some work to do on hills but our Tuesday night groups are killing it.  We beat our old record (from last year) of 23.3-mph by more than half a mile an hour, topping 24-mph over a 28 mile route (28 miles in 1h:10m and some change.  On a hillier route down south of us we’re turning in 21-mph+ efforts regularly, now.  Last year we were happy with anything over 20 (20 on that route is really fast).

So here’s that context I mentioned in the Title:  Those 20-ish mile pulls in the wind were at a pace I estimated had my wife on the edge of wanting to quit, but slow enough she wouldn’t leave my draft.  Sometimes she had to dial me back, but I always got a good workout bucking the headwind.  The key was working against the headwind, hours on end.  There’s no question now that we’re later in the year, that this translated into a fantastic increase in my ability to hang with the fast crowd.

This isn’t perfect, of course.  I had a lot of experience coming into this spring and I knew what it was like to crank out some watts.  At some point, if you want to be fast, you’ve gotta ride fast.  On the other hand, there’s no denying that this slow spring had a positive effect on a very fast summer – enough I’ll be training slow with my wife again next spring.

And now I’m off for another fantastic day in the saddle…  Ride hard, my friends.