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Finding the Groove on the Tandem Post Covid…

My wife and I headed out for a late lunch ride yesterday afternoon to a mixed bag of a decent temperature but a bit of mixed clouds with a little sprinkle here and there. We did the Jimmer Loop, increasing our mileage from the day before by about 35%. The average suffered a little bit, but this close after Covid, we weren’t about to push our luck.

The cool part, as is often the case with easy miles, was the conversation that comes along with riding the tandem with my wife. I’m going through another emotional growth spurt and we ended up talking about some very important keys that needed discussing and having a glorious time in the process.

Best, my lungs felt quite normal yesterday. Well, maybe I should say they didn’t hurt, at least. The important point is that other than the fact it was slow, it was very much a normal ride on the tandem with my wife. We’ll be riding again this evening and tomorrow morning, but we don’t plan on riding with anyone else until some time next week (Tuesday night should do, I think).

We’re going to have to miss a good ride this weekend, but with my friends, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

A Second, More Successful, VASTLY More Enjoyable Return to Cycling with Covid

I know, I know, I said I was going to take a little more time off in yesterday’s post…

My low-grade fever broke (99.4, I usually run about 97.8) early yesterday morning. As the day wore on and I felt better, taking the tandem out for a spin with my wife looked pretty fantastic. She’s two days ahead of me, as our bouts with Covid went, so she feels a couple of days better than I do. She also wanted a nice, slow, short return to riding so the tandem was the perfect choice.

We only did eleven miles at 15-ish-mph, but that was perfect. My lungs didn’t bother me a bit and we had a lovely conversation along the way.

I also brought Gatorade with me in lieu of my normal plain water. That agreed with my throat a little more than anticipated.

And so it was, my wife and I out on the tandem for a short little spin to shake the cobwebs out. There’s no place I’d rather have been. It was beautiful.

Life on two wheels is a blessing.

Attempting to Return to Cycling from Covid Just a Little Too Soon

My wife had to work late into the evening last night so I decided I’d take my Covid laden butt outside for a much needed session on the Venge.

The first mile was awesome. Slow, but awesome. After that first mile, though, my throat started aching with the minimal effort – and I mean minimal. I knew I was done before I crossed the 5k mark. After a while, I realized it wasn’t my throat, it was the upper quarter of my lungs that were hurting. I’d felt that before… but it’s worse this time. Not much, but noticeably.

So I did the second smart thing; I took my toy and went home. I pulled into the driveway with just shy of nine miles and a healthy desire to not be on my bike anymore.

Now, strangely, once I got into the shower I felt markedly better. My lungs stopped hurting and I regained my strength and desire to stand up in said shower. I knew long before I got into that shower that riding was not my brightest idea. I had to give it a try, though.

Today will be another glorious day, so I’ll try again (hopefully on the tandem with my wife).

UPDATE: On further introspection, perhaps I’ll wait till my fever breaks for real…

Saddle Tilt and Pain in Cycling

Assuming we’re not dealing with the “more padding is better padding” crowd, who are simply misunderstanding “padding” and how padding relates or “works” in regard to to riding a bicycle in general, I’d like to take a moment to delve into one of my favorite topics of late since I started working with my wife on her saddles, saddle tilt. As I’ve written here before, I consider myself quite picky as saddle height, setback and tilt go. If I’m a millimeter off in either, I can feel it and I don’t like it. Too much height and I feel frontal pressure, which differs from the frontal pressure of having the nose too high. With the saddle too low, I feel back pressure on the glutes. With the saddle tilted too far down, I slide off the saddle and that drives me nuts… but not near as nuts as when I’ve got the nose too high!

My wife is unquestionably more sensitive than I am. She feels pressure at half-millimeter increments. It’s almost a little unnerving, but I’ve taken to the challenge and dedicated myself to figuring this out for her. Once I took the issue on like that, it seemed less daunting because, well, I love a good challenge to be vanquished. Doubly so when my wife is the benefactor of my diligence because being on a tandem, I can’t truly be happy as the Captain until my wife is happy as the Rear Admiral.

I had an extensive Body Geometry fitting on my Venge that took something like three hours after I tried setting my bike up myself with the knowledge I’d accrued watching YouTube videos. The only change the fitting showed I needed was to drop the saddle by about two millimeters. I was really stoked that I’d gotten it that close on my own. From that point I’ve simply fine-tuned everything by feel.

My issue is in translating what I have in my melon to what my wife is feeling, without knowing how to make the translation. It’s interesting to say the least, but we’ve begun the process and it’s exciting.

The key, as I’ve written numerous times before, is in getting the saddle to cradle the rider on the bar tops, hoods and in the drops. How I get to this is simple. First, I know my saddle height; 36-5/8″, give or take. Next, I level the saddle to zero, then drop the nose 2 degrees. From there, I go for a ride and adjust by feel. If I feel pressure at the front in the drops, I lower the saddle nose. If I feel no pressure at the front but feel like I’m sliding off the saddle, I raise the nose a smidge. It’s really as simple as that. Once I get that “cradled” feeling, I’m done.

I’m Back! However, Sadly, with an Uninvited Guest

I’m back to writing today, after what very well could be my longest break from writing since I started – I took a full ten days off.

Sadly, we brought an uninvited guest back with us in the form of Covid. Technically, I don’t know I have it, but I’ve been playing kissy-face with my wife the entire time and she showed a positive test result eleven seconds after the drops hit the “S” reservoir on the test.

I’ve got the tiniest of headaches and a little bit of a scratchy throat. Other than that, if my wife hadn’t taken a test that showed positive, I’d likely put this to allergies or something less sinister (and this is definitely my second time around with Covid after having it in the early weeks of the pandemic, just before everything was shut down, possibly third just this past February). My wife, however, has it worse than I. She’s vaccinated and boosted, like me, but she’s got the full slate of symptoms (sore throat, sinus issues, headache, achy body, tired, etc., etc.), though she seems to have turned the corner enough that she’ll wait out the symptoms.

So, I’ll be write back at it in the morning with a new batch of cycling posts interspersed with some recovery topics I picked up on from my time away…

It’s time for an unscheduled break from writing…

I took yesterday off and I actually worked on a post this morning after sleeping in with my wife till almost 9 am – the latest I’d slept in since we’ve been married (unless I was sick).

It was amazing, but I don’t want to get used to it.

Anyway, I was working on a post and I got to thinking… I haven’t taken time off writing in a while, so now is the time.

I’ll be back Monday July 25th.

Awesome adventures till then!

Working with My Wife on a Sensitive Subject; Female Cycling Saddle Issues, Pain and Perseverance Part One of Who Knows How Many!

My wife has been struggling for years with saddle issues. Truth is, she’s even pickier than I am, and I’m picky. My saddle has to be just so, or I’m fidgety in it. A little too high and there’s too much pressure. A little too low, more (but different) pressure. Nose too high? Pressure. Too Low? Sliding off the saddle. My setback is the same on all of my bikes; identical. I must be perfectly placed so the leading edge of my knee is plumb with the leading edge of the crank arm with a 4′ level as my guide. This isn’t exactly to industry standard which requires the use of a plumb bob, but the 4′ level is a little easier to work than a plumb bob when I’m atop my bike on the trainer, and now that I’m used to it, I’m stuck on it.

I am easy, though. All of my bikes are standard format, even if the reach (to the handlebar) varies a little bit, from my gravel bike, to my two road bikes, and our tandem, the cockpits are all very similar. The standard setback measurement works with all of them. That leads to item number two; saddle tilt which is a snap. I don’t want any “frontal” pressure when I’m in the drops. I also don’t want to feel like I’m sliding off the front of the saddle, either. Once the setback and height are set, I dial in the tilt with a level (2 degrees nose down), then fine tune by feel. I take the bike out for a spin, testing all three hand positions. If I feel any frontal pressure when I’m in the drops, I nose the saddle down. My method is flawless, with one exception; how do I do the same for the love of my life? How do I describe the cradled feeling to a woman? What would that even feel like with the obvious differences?

To tell the truth, I am, and have been, intimidated by the idea of working with my wife. And that led to inaction, or only taking care of glaring issues…

I’d left things to her and the local shop owner for years, and I’ve come to regret doing that. As geeky as I can be with bike setup and fit, how could I leave my wife to someone else? That was the question that changed everything for me. I decided it was about time I gave my wife my full, geeky dedication. I started researching (and buying) cycling shorts for her (Terry appears to be awesome, she’s happy so far), and I’ve thrown my entire knowledge of perfecting saddle position at her issues. The trick with my wife, as saddle location goes, is that she’s got three entirely different setups over four bikes. Her Alias (main road bike) is a triathlon specific road bike geometry that sets the saddle closer to the handlebar. Then, the tandem is a little closer than a traditional road setup would be. Then there’s her gravel bike and trainer bike/backup bike which are, at least, close.

We spend the majority of our time on the tandem, so I’ve taken to that first. It’s also the easiest, because I’m on the bike with my wife. She can tell me whatever she’s feeling and I can address anything immediately.

We started with the saddle location changes at Sunrise Adventure up in Alpena. We had at least three separate issues to deal with. The saddle needed to go up a little, then we dealt with moving it forward so she wasn’t trying to scoot back on the saddle (this is counterintuitive – if you want to scoot back on the saddle, move it forward). Finally, once the height and setback locations were good, I notice that it looked like the nose of the saddle tilted up ever-so-slightly, so I dropped the nose as well… then I dropped it one more time, just to make sure it was right, and we seem to have hit pay dirt.

We seem to have come to a decent couple of pairs of shorts for my wife as well. She’s struggled with hot spots using several different brands of shorts so I decided to give Terry a try. Their product descriptions seemed to address exactly the issues my wife was facing. We’ve only had them out for a 52-mile trot once, but my wife was happy with their performance that she actually added miles onto an already decently long route. That is a rarity indeed!

We’ve fixed a lot in the last few weeks. I’ll have more later.

Tuesday Night in Lennon: Popped Edition

We had a small group in Lennon last night and it was windy, out of the northwest. This is not a good recipe – especially as my wife and tandem partner had to work late (as it turned out, very late). Only Chucker and I showed for the warm-up, so it was low key and I felt quite good with the easy pace on the Venge. It was good to be on the Venge, but I felt off at the same time. It was reinforced that I’d prefer my wife on the tandem any day of the week and twice on Sunday…

We rolled out into the headwind for the first third of the ride. I chose the left lane of the double pace-line so I’d get peppered with headwind to start but be protected down the long stretch down Shipman road. I’ve quietly and successfully employed this strategy for years – and it always works… as long as I stick to it.

Getting hammered by the northwest wind wasn’t great, but I was able to hide behind Greg’s wheel and I spent a lot of time in the drops or low on the hoods to stay out of the wind. My mood lightened as I caught up with folks I hadn’t ridden with in months but riding without Jess just isn’t as fun. It’ll do, ya know?

I was doing quite well when we hit Shipman road, but riders started getting dropped off the right side, meaning I was no longer protected once I got to the back after a short stint up front. I believe I made it three or four miles, but once the tandem dropped off to my left, I took the right lane to even the pace-lines out and I only lasted three turns up front and popped about three from the front. And by popped, I mean popped. Done. As soon as I hit the unprotected side, my heart rate jumped from the 150s to the 170s and I was done.

Thankfully, I was right by a massive shortcut so I took my toy and went home.

I only lasted 8-1/2 miles, but I definitely wasn’t the first off the back, so I’ll take solace in that. And on the positive side, it was really nice to feel a little out of place on my Venge. It was good to feel a little bummed that I had to ride a single over the tandem. My wife is awesome.

UPDATE: I received a text this morning from Chucker… The A guys ended up with a 24-mph average for the night… and everyone we normally ride with popped.

I’ve Had About Enough of What the Pandemic is Doing to Cycling…

My wife asked me the other day, because I write a wonderfully popular blog that revolves around cycling and recovery from addiction (strange bedfellows, indeed), what bike colors are like this year.

My wife and I have an annual discussion about bike colors and how horrendous the current slate is… but I didn’t have an answer for her this year. In fact, I didn’t have a clue. And I didn’t have a clue because I haven’t bothered to look. And I haven’t bothered to look because, no matter how gaudy or cool the bikes are this year, you can’t get one till 2023 or beyond, so why bother? Even our beloved boutique brand, Co-Motion for our tandem is eight months out on new orders.

Well, I guess it’s not all horrible! If I’m 4’10” tall or 6’3″ I can get a Tarmac in 49 or 61 cm! Sadly, my wife needs a 54 cm, so she’s out till God only knows when. And the sad thing? Colors are awesome this year from the big two. Better than I’ve ever seen. This is some kind of cruel joke.

Better, and this one really made me laugh, we’ve got the rollout for the new Specialized Evade Helmet. I actually thought about pulling the trigger on two for my wife and I to the tune of $600 for the pair, till I saw this:

Seriously. Specialized rolled out a helmet you can’t actually buy. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so damned sad.

I’ve had about enough of the pandemic and what’s been done with it and in its name. On one hand, you have to expect interruptions in the face of a disaster like this (I wonder, do we call this a “human caused disaster”?). On the other, really?

I long for the days of real normalcy. Not just the “new normal”. I’ve seen the “new normal” and it sucks.

Another Wonderful Sunday Funday on the Tandem with My Wife… and A Little QOM Hunting

There’s a route my wife and I do each year at the end of July – always on single bikes till this year, that’s got a looong stretch with what is usually a prevailing tailwind and a slight downhill grade the whole way (there are a few shallow rises, but the general grade is downhill), that ends with a sprint for the Flushing City Limits sign.

It’s very fast. The KOM is out of reach for me without a huge tailwind. The QOM, however…

My wife and I rolled out Sunday morning on our new favorite bike. I can’t put into words how blessed I feel that my wife and I both love riding the tandem at the same time in our marriage. There’s no place I’d rather be than being the Captain to her Rear Admiral.

We started out with our normal Sunday Funday easy pace at the front of a small pack. Well, it was only Diane and Jeff on Diane’s tandem and Mike on his good bike. The pack grew, though. We picked up Phill and Matt along the way. The morning started out unseasonably cool but it warmed up quickly enough with abundant sunshine and good friends. We’d picked a north route because we had a slight breeze out of the southeast – and north is perfect on a Sunday (a little heavy with the traffic on a Saturday). I noticed within the first couple of miles that we were in good shape – we were perfectly synchronized in our effort.

The morning warmed quickly and after 14-miles we’d ditched the arm-warmers:

We rolled on happily at an excellently wonderful pace – where you’re not taxed but you’re still working at it… it’s a fantastic feeling on the tandem when everything is working well.

30 miles into the ride, my wife, trying out some new Terry cycling shorts I bought for her, did something that almost had me crashing into the ditch; she started talking about adding miles to our 40-mile route. I couldn’t believe it. I said I was up for whatever she wanted to do, so rather than bee-line it home, we headed further west to check out some rarely traveled roads… which led us inexorably to the easterly return trip on West Pierson Road. As I mentioned earlier, typically you’ve got a westerly wind to push you down the road which means the KOM for the finishing segment is unbelievably fast – 32 mph. Yesterday, we had a slight (but not insignificant) crossing headwind. Still, we managed the 3.2-mile stretch in just 8m:14s and nabbed my wife the QOM (in fact, we beat out her old QOM time on that one). There is nothing more satisfying for me than helping my wife pick up a QOM on the tandem (not even getting a KOM for myself). We also nabbed a second QOM for Jess on the ride, the sprint end of that section at 28.7-mph… with a crossing headwind. It was awesome.

Of all of the cool things to come out of the changes my wife and I have made in the last six months, that smile is one of the coolest. Seeing the shear joy is such a wonderful blessing.

After than several mile stretch, I was about cooked. We were 40-miles in and still had a dozen miles to home so we stopped at a fire station so I could get a gel out of the saddle bag. I wasn’t hungry, but my energy level was fading. After that stop we beat a path for home.

We pulled into the driveway with 52 fantastic miles. Sunday Funday just keeps getting better.

Good times and noodle salad.