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A Perfect Tandem Capper to a Fantastic Weekend On the Bike and Off…

My wife and I were back at Sunday Funday on the tandem yesterday. I prepped the bike early, and outdoors for once (this early in the season I will often wheel it into the house to get it ready because it’s too cold to want to bother with it outside). We were set to roll at 9am with a light breeze from the northwest and abundant sunshine. It was a little cool, around 47 degrees (8 C), but the sun warmed things up quickly and nicely. We rolled north, a route we normally reserve for northerly winds and Sundays (it’s a little busy most Saturdays). After a grand 50 miles Saturday, my wife and I were both in the mood for Sunday Funday where we keep the pace a little light so everyone can have a good time. While my wife and I can keep up with a 20-mph average on the tandem, that’s a lot of work and neither of us enjoy that much. However, 17-18-1/2-mph is right in our wheelhouse. At that pace, we work together well – and I mean impressively well – and we provide an attractive ride for those who like it a little faster but don’t want to have to push a 20-mph average (it takes 22-24-mph to end up with a 20-mph average).

We rolled out into the wind, a whole gaggle of us… and we picked up more on the road as we went. Though we had a flat to contend with early on, maybe four miles in. Someone failed to point out a pothole that you could see Australia through and Chuck hit it dead-center. We all stopped, eleven of us by this time (and every one of us at some stage of vaccination – whether fully or partially) and waited for the flat to be fixed. I texted three others that there was a flat to fix and we’d be a little late getting to them. They replied that all was well and they’d see us when we got there.

We rolled out again after five or six minutes… and the second tandem dropped their timing chain a half-mile later. Now, timing chains are notoriously difficult to re-install because the tension is supposed to be quite tight on the chain… of course, if the chain is tight enough you can’t get it on, you shouldn’t be able to drop it. Theirs was a little loose because of a concentric crank manufacturing issue that makes their difficult to properly tighten, so it was a perfect bump at exactly the wrong time and they were on the side of the road, trying to get it back on the rings.

That took another couple of minutes. We soft-pedaled and stopped for 30 seconds till they caught up. And that was the last problem of the day. We formed into a tight group and headed into the wind. Normally Jess and I take most of the headwind, but yesterday we decided to share the wealth and rotate through the group a little more often. We picked up Dave & Sherry on their tandem and Greg on his new gravel bike and struck out to see the world.

What followed was one of the most tremendous tandem rides I’ve ever experienced with my wife. We matched almost perfectly and we did a lot of talking when we weren’t hammering to keep pace. There were at least a dozen times I was overcome by the glorious feeling that I’m the luckiest guy in the world to be riding on that tandem with my wife.

Dave and Sherry are a 30-year tandem team and they are phenomenal on their Co-Motion Macchiato. I’ve never seen anything like it… they come up to a hill and Dave says, “Up”, and on the next pedal stroke their both out of the saddle climbing like they’re on single bikes. Jess and I tried that once and had to sit back down immediately. We have tried with Jess out of the saddle and me seated and that works a little better. Anyway, they were up front a lot and we rode their wheel quite happily.

Before we knew it we had 23 miles in and it was time to head home. Chuck is under strict orders from his heart doc to “try two or three miles” but don’t go crazy with 50… so 48 miles is the limit. Runners and cyclists are a funny bunch and doctors rarely “get” us. Also, my wife and I like to keep our jaunts on the tandem to 40 miles or we start getting a little sore in the backsides. However, and this will get it’s own post, after our last ride on the tandem, I switched to my Venge to ride my buddy Mike home and I could feel the height difference between the Venge and tandem immediately – the Venge was a good 2-mm higher. I decided to raise the Co-Motion’s saddle the 2-mm and it turned out to be absolutely freaking glorious. The first time I’d ever been over 35 miles on the tandem that I wasn’t wishing for a short stop.

We made it a fantastic 46-1/2 miles and, while I was definitely tired, I had a wide smile stretched across my face we pulled into the driveway. I’d never had so much fun on the tandem.

The weather was fantastic all day and, after a quick nap, we had a cycling club board meeting and then I went to play some tennis with my daughters.

We had hamburgers for dinner and watched Captain Marvel after, before I retired while Mrs. Bgddy was working on some cycling club business. I was off to sleep within ten seconds of my head hitting the pillow. This weekend was as good as they get. No noodle salad this time, but plenty of good times.

When the Bikes Are All Cleaned Up and Tucked Away After Another Awesome Weekend, Cycling is All About Your Friends and the Good Times

We had two friends come back from heart procedures yesterday. One rode with us – he had a second stint put in last month after he still didn’t feel right after a first. It was all fist bumps and hi-fives after the ride. 37.7 miles of good times.

It did my heart good riding with my friend again.

Another came back from an ablation procedure. His path back has not been easy, or fast. It was all well wishes for him after seeing his first big ride at his favorite mountain bike trail on Strava.

So here I am, having just woken up from a nap, giving my friends kudos for their day’s effort and I’m overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude for all my friends. There’s no doubt I’m fortunate.

The bikes and all of the toys that go with cycling are cool, but after the ride is done and the bikes are all cleaned up and put away, it’s the friends that make the sport spectacular. Without them I’m just turning a crank.

OUCH! Now I Remember Why I HATE Days OFF Cycling!

I like to ride every day I can, unless it’s raining. I don’t care how tired I am, I can go slow enough for a good spin to be a benefit to my sore legs.

Every once in a while, though, I find myself tired enough I’m thankful for a day of crappy weather. Wednesday and Thursday were a rare two in a row. Technically, Wednesday was rideable- 42 degrees with a 15-mph wind and a “feels like” temperature just above freezing… well, I called Chucker who instantly, happily agreed this was a day best for bath robes and nightwear. Thursday, however, was a legit day to skip. Cold, rainy and crappy – a true, “nope, this is not worth getting the bike out” night. Chuck didn’t even bother leaving work. My wife and I went to our daughters’ tennis match instead.

That gets us to Friday. Conditions were iffy all day but massively improved after 4. Chuck and I rolled out at 5:15, taking it fairly easy into the wind. It was a little breezy, but the sun popping out from the clouds made it well worth getting dressed. We did 22 miles at 17-1/2-ish mph… and my legs bugged me the whole time – almost fought the effort.

The ride was quite enjoyable, but here I sit Saturday morning wishing I hadn’t taken both days off. Today will be a big day and I’m sore. I’ll make the most of it, of course, I’ll will my legs to comply… with a sunny start to the morning and almost no wind, well, make hay while the sun is shining, I always say.

How to Heal Canker Sores related to Spring Cycling

Do you get canker sores in your mouth when you finally start riding outside after a long indoor trainer season? I do. I’ve had to battle them every year.

Cycling in the cool spring air with all of that pollen in the air is a recipe for canker sores. I get them every spring once I get outside. Typically, we ride with our mouth open to get as much air to the lungs, and eventually the muscles, as possible. Riding with your mouth open all that time, believe it or not, can cause canker sores. They’re annoying and painful.

For years I used to rely on rinsing my mouth out in the morning with hydrogen peroxide. It works quite well but I always wondered if it was damaging my teeth. Unlikely, but possible – technically, hydrogen peroxide is acidic.

This year started out just like any other. I was rinsing with HP every morning and when I finally got let out with decent weather, we ran out of hydrogen peroxide. Within a few days I had three small canker sores. Now, if you’re a mom, at this point you’re thinking, “well you need more fruit”. Actually my fruit consumption always picks up in the spring – especially for bananas, apples and oranges – so that’s not it. Anyway, that Friday, my wife and I went to the grocery store so I could pick up some peroxide and she could check out the clearance aisle. While in the pharmacy aisles, I happened by Listerine – I’ve always loved the way my mouth felt after a good swish, so I picked up a bottle. Then, my wife suggested the non-alcohol version. Listerine isn’t a trigger for me, but it is for my wife so no alcohol it was.

When I got home, I started with the peroxide immediately to kick the canker sores. Then, after 30 minutes or so, I went in and swished with Listerine… and it was just like I always remembered (the taste and feel are no different with the no alcohol version). It was glorious.

And the next morning my canker sores were almost entirely healed. I did the hydrogen peroxide/30 minute wait/Listerine again. The next morning the canker sores were gone. I’ve since eliminated the hydrogen peroxide and am just sticking with the Listerine. The canker sores haven’t come back and my mouth feels fresh all day long. While hydrogen peroxide has been fantastic, I’m smitten with Listerine for now… it seems to work a little better and my mouth is happier for that.

A New Cycling Path for 2021… Some Things Won’t Likely Change. Some Will. A Lot.

When UnderArmor dumped Endomondo for Map My Fitness/Map My Ride/Map My Run, etc., etc., etc., I tried MMF for a minute but hated it. The synch between Garmin Connect and the app didn’t work well and messing with it just got… old. So I dropped MMF and just went with Strava, where I’ve got a paid account and many of the bells and whistles that come with the app. With Strava, the app doesn’t quite do for me what Endomondo used to. I could see my weekly, even daily, mileage as soon as I opened the app. For Strava, I have to hit all of the kudos, comment on a few activities, then, if I remember, I might look at my weekly totals – but daily mileage is a little cumbersome to get to. Put simply, I rarely bother looking until, maybe a quick glance Sunday afternoon.

Last year, at the last of Endomondo, I knew how many miles I’d ridden each month. I knew roughly how many miles I was up on 2019 (with the COVID sh!+ show I was up considerably by the middle of April) – I had a general handle where I was year-over-year.

This year, I haven’t got a clue. I know I’m down mileage in all four months over last year. My indoor mileage dropped because I started using a speed sensor that measures way low but provides an excellent motivational push that had me fitter entering spring than any year previous – I’ll take a few hundred miles off the top to be stronger in the spring. Then, of course, no five week layoff where I could ride daily till I was content (I even rode through having COVID)… but here’s the kicker; I really don’t care that I am down in mileage because the quality is so much better than I could have hoped for. I haven’t always been about quality over quantity, but I’m liking it right now. Couple that with the fact that I haven’t worried about where I’m at mileage wise… well, things are good.

On to speed. I had an interesting conversation riding my buddy, Mike home the long way after Sunday’s ride. He expressed a bit of surprise that I hadn’t started riding with the A Group yet, that I still ride with the B Group on Saturdays. He correctly pointed out that I could, with a little bit of effort, keep up with them. Mike isn’t wrong. However, I told him, I like riding with my friends. I like riding in the pace-line with my wife. I love riding the tandem on Sundays with her. I have fun riding with the rest of my friends and as long as I can maintain on Tuesday Night, I’m right where I want to be – and that’s exactly what I told him.

Many think, at 50, their glory days are behind them. My peak fitness days may be back in the past, but my glory days are mainly in front of me – and I’m going to spend as many of those as I can, riding with my wife and friends and a smile on my face.

And that’s exactly how it should be; good times, noodle salad… and a bicycle. Or five.

So, unlike previous years, I’m not going to worry about daily, weekly or monthly mileage. I’m not going to trouble myself with where I’m at year-over-year. This year is simply going to be about enjoying my bike and time with my friends.

One Crazy TNIL: Wind, Speed Wobbles, Flats and a Bunch of Friends to Share It With Who Made It Well Worth It.

Last night’s warm-up seven miles (stretched to almost nine for fun) was a foreshadowing of the night ahead. 18-1/2 mph into a grim headwind, 28-1/2 mph all the way home. The trip out, as one would expect, had a little suckin’ to it. The trip back was glorious – and even included an attempt at getting pulled over for speeding, sadly to no avail. I had the speed, but the officer was unwilling. I shall keep trying.

We were hanging out at the old start-point for the route, just kicking it after the warm-up, and I decided to head back to the actual start for no good reason. Mrs. Bgddy showed up to ride, so I said my hellos, then waited for the start. The A gang was hoping for a group start, but we B Groupers wisely waved them on. We knew what was coming and didn’t want any part of the pain they were about to impart on each other. We gave them a 30-second head start and rolled out into the headwind.

Four miles in I heard my wife in the background shout, “I’ve got a problem!” I looked back, got out of the group safely, then turned around to help her out. A couple of friends said her bike started shaking rather violently as she rode one-handed in the wind. After a quick check of the bike, speed wobbles was the diagnosis. She was pretty shook up so she shooed us on and said she’d meet up with us later. The group, having waited, rolled out together. Another mile north, then headwind again for another mile… and Dave flatted. Seven minutes to fix that, the group waited again (because that’s just how we roll). Then the real work started.

Shipman Road. It’s a road, for God’s sake, but it enjoys legendary status on Tuesday nights. Shipman Road is where a group goes to suffer… especially with a standard southwest wind – you’re dead into the teeth of it for six and a half miles. Technically, we’re on Shipman itself for five – and that’s where Dave flatted again – this time opting to call his wife for a lift home, then we had another mile and a half heading south… still, it’s 6.5 miles of headwind, and it sucks. However, after that 6-1/2 and another two uphill and into the wind, we finally turned tail and got some help from the wind.

My wife had caught us and turned about a half-mile, maybe a little more, in front of us so we played hell trying to track her down. I don’t know what she ate before the ride last night, but I need to find it! That Chica was super-charged – no more speed wobbles for her! We finally caught her on the last hill before heading into Shiatown. We regrouped quickly, then rolled out as we had the whole gang together.

Once climbing the final hill at 20-mph with a little help, Jonathan put the hammer down the back of the hill. We were approaching 31-mph, just a blazin’ down the road. I hadn’t even noticed that we dropped everybody. Jonathan, surprisingly, stayed up front till just before the Vernon sign with Chuck on my six. I kicked it up and went around Jonathan to nab the first sprint with a smile on my face.

Next up, after rolling through town, we had two miles of north with a cross-tailwind before the homestretch with almost a full tailwind. The whole mess of the evening came down to those last four miles of glorious helping tailwind. And the pace was lively. Once we accelerated through the final corner, the pace ramped up to 24 to 28-mph (38 to 45 km/h) and we kept the pressure on, rotating our double pace-line regularly. Most of us did our fair share of the pulling and I’m having a hard time remembering a more enjoyable homestretch. The pace was just crazy. Coming up to the final sprint, I thought I was in a weak position (three bikes back in the right, boxed in, lane) but the first two flicked off the front, then another. We were up to 27-mph and charging for home. I kicked the speed up, passing 31-mph and took the final sprint with Jonathan and Chuck right on my tail…

And then the triumphant mile and some change back to the parking lot. I was cooked. Put a fork in me. But, finally, after all of the vaccine mess I went through, I felt good. It was a mess getting to the end but it sure beat polishing the couch’s leather with my butt.

UPDATE: By the way, that’s my Venge leaning against the back of my Equinox… it’s got more than 230,000 miles on it with only a few repairs needed beyond normal maintenance. Freaking car is AMAZING.

Cycling on the Proper Side of the Road (and Why Cycling Against Traffic is Cycling With a Death Wish Part 174)

I was out for a Saturday afternoon cruise, all by my lonesome a few weeks ago. It’s a rare Saturday I’m not with my friends, but things just worked out that way. I exited a subdivision onto a short, punchy climb and was out of the saddle pushing my way up the incline when I saw a woman and her two young boys riding on the wrong side of the road with a minivan bearing down on them. I, in the correct lane, stopped pedaling and waved to the minivan that it was okay to pass them in my lane. I could see the hesitation by the driver, but he realized in short order that it was going to be safe to pass and did. The boys and their mother had no clue what was going on – they were completely oblivious to the accident they could have caused.

Had I not been paying attention and just kept trucking, head down, it could have gotten messy. In fact, this is exactly how many cyclists riding on the proper side of the road are killed, when a vehicle traveling toward them in the opposing lane comes into the lane the cyclist is riding in to pass – and the driver of the truck, with a mother and two boys bearing down on them on bikes in the wrong lane would have no choice but to try to thread the needle between them and me. Thankfully, I saw that coming a half-mile away.

Now, I’ve made comments to riders in the wrong lane before, but in this instance I chose a new approach. I pulled alongside the mother and started, “Good afternoon. I appreciate that you like to ride in the wrong lane, but I would like to make a couple of observations that you may not be aware of.”

First, I said, if your boys are that far ahead of you and they approach an intersection, say a car is making a right hand turn into their lane, where is that driver looking when he gets to the intersection?

She actually got it, immediately. “He’ll be looking left”. I said, right, and he’ll be pulling out directly into your boys without looking. So that’s the first scenario you have to worry about. Second, you’ve got a car coming at you that wants to pass as you’re pedaling towards it, but there’s a truck coming the other way. The driver coming toward you can’t get into the other lane and you’re closing distance on the truck… surely, you can see the trouble on the horizon. If you’re in the proper lane, with the flow of traffic, the car behind you can slow until oncoming traffic clears, then go around when safe. Not so if you’re in the wrong lane.

And with that, we exchanged pleasantries and I sped off down the road. It’s amazing how a difficult topic like that can be diffused with a good attitude and a smile. The last time I had a conversation with a woman about riding on the wrong side of the road (with her child in tow, for God’s sake), she ended up hollering something about the patriarchy… I’m going to have to change my tactics from now on, because this time turned out much better.

File these two under the old, “We don’t care if you think cycling on the wrong side of the road is dangerous, we know it’s safer, nah-nah-na-nah-nah”… and remember the important rule here: People are going to do what they do. We have to keep our own eyes peeled because we can still, doing the right thing, get stuck in between a rock and a speeding truck.

Speculation About “Vaccine Flu” and Why Mine Was So Bad… Without the Agenda (Otherwise, Just Like Everyone Else)

This was a fairly big weekend on the bike. Thankfully, the rain mostly hit at exactly the right times we weren’t riding. Sunday’s foray was, after it rained all night long, a sad day for worm-kind however. Our bikes were absolutely covered in worms within minutes of rolling out. There’d been a text the night before, long after I feel asleep from a friend of mine who said he’d possibly meet us on the road – I confirmed a few hours later where we’d be and when at an hour nobody should be texting.

Sure enough, about five minutes after we were at the intersection we’d texted about, heading south into the wind, here they come, hell bent for leather, right by us – three A guys whom, at the pace they went by us, we had no desire in keeping up with. Four miles later, our group caught up in the parking lot of a convenience store we always stop at. While some made their way indoors to use the restroom, the rest of us congregated outside to talk about the state of the nation. Greg, who happens to be a pharmacist of excellent repute, asked how I was feeling. As it’s gone over time, every time I thought I was back to normal, I’d have a bit of a relapse and feel rough for a few hours, but it’s steadily gotten better to where I feel quite normal most of the time and I’m entirely off Tylenol or Dual Action Advil.

That got Greg thinking – and it’s something that I’ve thought of over the last couple of weeks as well; he wondered aloud if some of my problems centered around the fact that I went for a ride immediately after getting my first poke. Literally, 45 minutes after getting jabbed, I was down the road with my buddy, Chuck. Most people will sit with the shot in their arm muscle. I, on the other hand, was pumping that stuff all through my system by exercising. The reason for the speculation was the intense nature of my reaction and the duration. My friend said he’s only seen (or even heard of) one other reaction as bad as mine. That discussion got me to an obvious conclusion: I get my second jab next Friday and there’s no question I’m taking that day off the bike. I need to go through that mess again like I need a hit in the head!

That said, other than getting a considerable amount of sleep (between actual “at night” sleeping and naps, I caught up on about a year’s worth of waking up way too early), I felt quite good through the weekend. I tried to ride Friday afternoon but was stopped in my tracks by some ominous clouds that would have opened up on me had I stayed out in that mess. Saturday was a lively spring ride north of 19-mph for an average for 47 miles. Saturday was my very definition of fun. Sunday’s ride started out a little sketchy with a bit of drizzle and cloudy skies. The pace was a little slower than Saturday’s, but the companionship was excellent. 53 miles at 18.2 – we had an 18.8 average at 41 miles but I rode Mike home the long way both ways so I could pad my mileage a bit. Mike had no desire to hold the 18.8 average, and I didn’t, either. We talked about life and work all the way to his road before I turned around and took it to the barn.

Then, in the afternoon my wife and I headed to the tennis courts with our daughters. My eldest has been itching to give me a go now that she’s been practicing with the team for a few weeks. She’s gotten noticeably better and ended up taking it to me 6-5. I played a few games with my younger daughter until I was completely out of gas. We went home and had some supper and I crashed out on the couch, probably way too early.

I didn’t get much done around the house, but that was one incredible weekend. Good times and noodle salad, for sure.

Cycling, Speed and Confidence; The Difference Between Walking the Path and Cycling On It.

Being a part of a double pace-line hurtling down the road at speeds north of 30-mph (50 km/h) is no place for a nervous person. That’s an astounding 44 feet per second – almost 15 meters per second… but I know of nothing on earth more exhilarating that can be done with ones clothes on.

There once was a time I thought my performance in that scenario was based on a razor-thin scientific understanding of body and its fuel, of electrolytes, perfect hydration and a little dash of perfect timing. I would bring supplement drinks on long rides (Hammer Perpetuem was a favorite) and carefully plot out when I would eat relative to riding, loosely attempting to take in the perfect mix of carbs and protein exactly at the right time to achieve optimal results.

I’m twenty pounds heavier today, vastly faster (until we get into the hills – heh), and I’ve chucked all of that “science” to the curb as I rode by. Fastly.

Back then, call it 2015, our average pace on a Tuesday night was roughly 21-mph. A good night was 22. Today we’re regularly pushing 23 & 24-mph on the same course. Back then there had to be a certain amount of hiding, especially when we got to the hills, to maintain that pace. Today, I’m up front at will, driving the pace.

Part of this most excellent rise in performance can actually, believe it or not, be put to equipment. A decent set of deep-dish wheels will go a long way in helping someone to be faster. With lightweight, aero wheels, maintaining those blistering speeds is vastly easier than the old “slightly aero” alloy wheels – the gains are upwards of 20 to 40 watts. This gain is inarguable – the only question is how far one should go. In a wind tunnel, we go with 80 mm wheels. In the real world 38 to 50 mm wheels are the cat’s pajamas – because we have to deal with crosswind as well.

Another advantage is my weight. I roll on relatively fast roads with little “up”. I don’t need to be all light and skinny. Having a little bit of blubber means having an vast power source readily available to burn through. I simply don’t bonk like I once did because I’ve got plenty of reserves.

All of that is “marginal gains”, though. Let’s look at what’s really important.

I’ve got the lightweight bike (16 pounds) with the aero wheels (50 mm) and the sleek setup. I’ve got everything a cyclist could want in a race bike. That’s all really great stuff, but it pales in comparison to what really matters; I’m fast because I know I am. When it comes down to putting the watts to the pedals, I know right down to my baby toes that I can hang with my gang. There is no amount of marginal gain that can top confidence – the difference between walking the path and cycling on it.

And the only way to get and build confidence is to get one’s butt out on the road and earn it.

Spring Cycling with Friends – Fitness Doesn’t Get Any Easier Than This.

Good times and noodle salad.