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… It was Indeed the Beginning of a Fatal Progression…

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That’s from today’s Daily Reflections. The title is from Page 23 of the 12 and 12.

… it was indeed the beginning of a fatal progression…

Just before I quit drinking, I was convinced the world just didn’t like me. That, and the universe had it out for me. How could that many things go that bad for one guy?!

Then I was sentenced to treatment. I didn’t detox the pretty way, with drugs. I went cold turkey, shoveling out pig stalls… I felt it.

I also believe the shakes, night sweats and random terrors all positively contributed to my decision to ask God for help. DT’s were a wakeup call.

I really am that bad.

F*ck.

At the time, the graph of good times and bad may have felt like an “up and down” line graph… a little bit of up, some down, some more good times, so up… some really bad times, way down… more up…

Then withdrawals. And with them, the realization that it wasn’t up and down, up and down. My life was a steady down with some bumps in the road.

When I drink or use drugs, I am actively participating in my own demise. I am no longer at the beginning of a fatal progression, I’m at the end. I’ve simply suspended the decline by not drinking and working a program of recovery.

And as a benefit of doing so, a day at a time, I have been given a life of consistent contentment and happiness normal people feel blessed to experience fleetingly.

It was the beginning of a fatal progression. But it doesn’t have to stay that way.

Many new to sobriety have a hard time grasping how they can live without drugs and alcohol. When looked at from my perspective, I have the blessing of experience. I don’t know how I could want that misery back.

Recover hard my friends.

The Pursuit of Road Bike Perfection; Making Your Road Bike Shift Better and Diagnosing Problems That Can Cause Poor Shifting in Shimano 10 Speed Drivetrains (Tiagra, 105, Ultegra and Dura Ace)

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Most people wouldn’t notice that cable housing sticking out a little farther than the other side… I’m not most people.  It drove me nuts!

I wrote yesterday about fixing the rear derailleur shift cable housing that was installed a bit long at the shop because the mechanic was trying to get my system to shift better than I was able to eek out of it when I upgraded the drivetrain from 105 to Ultegra (both 10 speed).

Now, Shimano’s 10 speed system is notorious for running into shifting problems because the rear derailleur’s spring was a little weak.  Searching the internet for help is a struggle in and of itself because there’s a lot out there, but not much is specific.  I can tell you, based on my experience, they fixed the problem with the 11 speed drivetrain – my wife’s 11 speed operates perfectly – and she’s a little harder on her rig than I am on mine, especially on my Specialized Venge.  That bike has only seen two or three raindrops since I bought it new in ’13 (a bit of an under exaggeration, but not by much – I have a very nice rain bike).

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I ran into trouble when I bought a used Ultegra 10 speed drivetrain from a friend.  I had a tough time getting the shifting dialed in right after the upgrade… and I had a harder time trying to figure out what went wrong.  After an exhaustive search on the internet, I gave up and took it to the shop.

The shifting was much improved after the shop mechanic had his way with it, but it still wasn’t perfect.  He didn’t like it either, but it was the best he could do.  We blamed it on the idea that the shifters were overused rather than just “used”.  The derailleur had to be dialed in within 1/32 of a turn for the rear derailleur to operate smoothly and (more important) quietly.  Specifically, one of the middle gears would click either going up or coming down the cassette (but not both) if the indexing of the rear derailleur was a little off. It shouldn’t be that difficult to get it dialed in and everything I found on the interwebz said the culprit was drag in cable.  I just couldn’t find it.

Fortunately, on more of a vain note, I hated that the rear shift housing stuck out too far from the frame – it didn’t match the cable on the other side.  I left it that way for a full season because I figured it would be better handled over the winter when I had the time to take it to the shop if I messed something up… better to ride the bike when I can ride it, right?

So, after thinking the process through, I went to work as soon as I had some time after the snow flew.

First things first, I wanted to shorten that cable housing, because doing that gets the shift cable out of the way to really look at how the cable could be getting hung up elsewhere.  For that, I had to pull the rear derailleur cable out far enough that it was inside the housing that leads from the down tube to the handlebar and shift lever so I could snip the housing but not the cable.  This is a simple process for externally routed cables.  For internal cables, it’s a bit more of a big deal.  The problem is running the cable back through the frame.  Mechanics use magnets to feed the cable through the frame – this works especially well with the bike right side up on a stand, as gravity helps, but you can run into problems with some bikes because running new cables requires removing the crank.  To avoid issues, I like using cable liner.  With cable liner, I can run new cable in exactly the same place the old one was when I pulled it – and cable liner, for this purpose, is reusable and cheap.  (Jagwire 1.8mm x 30 meters runs about $11 on Amazon – the 1.8 is a little thicker than others but a shifter cable slides through it more smoothly than the thinner options… the only problem is fitting it into some ferrules/end caps).

So, I did this to trim the housing, but if you’re looking for drag in your shifting system, do the same thing, just don’t snip the housing.  Shift the bike all the way to the small cog on the cassette.  Take the aluminum cable cap off with a pair of needle-nose pliers.  Make sure there are no frayed hairs on the cable tip (give the cable end a quick twist to seat a frayed end if needed) and thread in your first piece of cable liner that you cut long enough it’ll stick out of each hole in your chain stay over the shift cable.  Once your liner is through the chain stay, pull the cable until it’s hanging down from the bottom bracket cable guide.  Unbolt the cable guide cap and remove the small piece of cable liner (if you have one).  Then thread on another pre-cut piece of cable liner that’s long enough to stick out the hole at the bottom bracket and where the cable enters your down tube.  Once it’s through, take two pieces of electrical tape and tape both ends so the liner won’t fall out on you.  Pull the cable through the cable liner.  With the cable out, roll your shifter hood up from the base to expose the hole for the shift cable.  Push on the cable at the housing end until the head of the cable pokes out of your shifter.  Then, carefully pull on the cable head at the shifter until the end of the cable is at the tip of the housing.  Pull the cable another 3″ so it’s well inside the cable housing.  This will ensure that the cable is well inside the housing so you won’t cut it when you trim the cable housing (unless you just want to install a new cable – in that case, pull it all the way out).  Clip the housing and make sure the hole is round.  Put a housing end cap on it and check to see you got the length right – better to cut off too little and have to trim some off than cut too much and have to replace the housing all the way back to the shifter lever.  Push the cable back through until the head is tucked in its hole in your shifter.  Reroute your cable back through the liner in the down tube and pull the liner when it’s through.  If it’ll fit in your system, run a new piece of cable liner at the cable guide underneath the bottom bracket shell (4″ to 6″ will do).  I don’t like leaving bare cable at the cable guide in an internally routed system (the liner in the cable guide limits dirt and thus, cable rot).  Thread your cable through the chain stay liner and when the cable is through, pull the liner and set the two pieces aside to set in a tool box for future use.  Finally, put your derailleur cable housing loop back together and adjust your index your derailleur.

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Now, to shifting quality.  In my case a few of the housing ends were coated plastic and when I put everything back together, I noticed the ends weren’t playing well with the barrel adjuster and I didn’t like how the cable slid through the plastic ferrules (end caps) – it just felt like there was a little drag on the cable when I pulled it through the housings.  Drag is bad when you’re talking about a Shimano 10 speed drivetrain because the derailleur spring is too weak.  Any drag, and I mean any, in the system and the rear derailleur won’t work quite right.  I switched the plastic end caps out for metal one’s and put everything back together.  That solved my drag problems in the shifting system.  The shifting went from acceptable to excellent, just like that.  It also survived a double check two nights ago, and a triple check last night.  I can’t believe how smoothly the drivetrain is operating… I’m a little giddy to ride it.  It’s the cat’s pajamas once again.  The problem wasn’t the used shift levers, it was a little bit of drag in the system from something that shouldn’t have been a problem.  Once that was remedied, et voilà

These issues of cable drag in the shifting system can be exceedingly difficult to find and diagnose.  This one was for me.  The shifting quality was excellent on the original 105 10 speed system but over time, the original plastic housing caps ended up gumming up the cable operation.  I had myself stuck in a box with this before, but some elapsed time and forethought, and small problems were not only simple to diagnose, they were easy to fix.

In the end, the shift quality is all about drag in the system.  The less drag, the better the bike will shift.  And sometimes the problem can be as small as a little ferrule at the end of a cable housing that’s gumming the system up – even a cap that worked before a cable change.  A poor cable housing cut can be a problem, too.  Dirty housings, too much or the wrong lube in the housings, old shift levers, dirt or grime in the shift levers, dirt in the derailleur itself… all can contribute to drag in the system and poor shift quality.

When you can’t figure out what the hell is going on, let me recommend reworking the housing system from the shift lever to the back of the bike.  Serfas complete shift cable system that works well and is cost-effective.  It comes with everything you’ll need to change your old cables and housings and it comes with metal ferrules (or end caps).  If you want to go a little next level, Jagwire is fantastic and their pro kit will be a great upgrade for all but the highest-end steed.  Better still, if you want a little more flash, go for the Jagwire Road Elite Link Kit.  Of course, if you just want to stick with Shimano, they make a couple of different grades of cables and housing kits.  The standard and Dura Ace kits.  I have it on authority the Dura Ace kit is supreme, though I’ve never used it (I have the Serfas on my Trek 5200 and a hodgepodge of Jagwire on the Venge).

Finally, for cutting cables and housings alike, I like Park Tool’s cable and housing cutter.  It’s an expensive tool, but worth every penny when you get a crisp, clean cut.  Watch the brake cable housings, though.  They don’t cut as well because of their design and you have to round out the hole before firing a cable through.

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And On the Eighteenth Day He Said, Thou Shalt Tinker with Thy Bike. It’ll Make You Smile. And So I Did.

I had a long day in my car Monday. Eight hours drive time for a meeting that lasted an hour and a half. It was productive and absolutely necessary, so it was good but what a drive!

Thankfully, I left early enough in the morning that I pulled into my driveway before 4pm. I had time to burn before my trainer ride…

The shifting quality of my Venge is and has been less than perfect. Call it very good, but… just a hair off. The rear derailleur had to be dialed in perfectly for the gears to operate quietly. A thirty-second of a turn one way or the other and a one of the middle gears would click either going up or coming down the cassette (but not both). It shouldn’t be that difficult to get it dialed in and I knew what the culprit was (drag in the cable), but I didn’t want to mess with it until the season was over.  The bike was mechanically sound, it just wasn’t perfect.

Also, the housing that comes out of the handlebar and goes into the frame’s down tube was just a touch long so it touched the brake housing. The mechanic at the local shop had tried to improve the shifting quality that I was stumped on and simply cut the cable a touch too long when he installed a new single-piece cable housing in lieu of having an in-line adjuster for the front and rear mechs (an in-line adjuster for the rear mech is redundant and a little useless – for the front derailleur, it’s a necessity in an internally routed cable system).  It had bugged me since I brought it home but not enough to take the system apart to fix it.

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It’s the one on your right – the left cable if you were sitting on the bike.

It was being stumped that had me nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room filled with grannies on rocking chairs to tinker with what worked… even if not perfectly. I couldn’t help but think I was being too picky.

I found three problems. The shop had installed two housing ends that were plastic with a rubberized coating rather than metal. I didn’t like that the cable felt like it was catching a bit and it didn’t play well with the barrel adjuster. I pulled the cable through and trimmed the long housing, added metal ends, and changed the housing assembly going into the derailleur itself. Then, I added a piece of cable liner at the bottom bracket cable guide to match the front cable (I’m sure the mechanic removed the old liner thinking it was binding the shifting but the problem was more in the choice of cable housing ends [aka ferrules].

Then I put everything back together.  The whole operation took 25 minutes from start to fully adjusted and shifting seamlessly (with internal routing – using cable liner as a guide is as good as, or better than magnets).

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I managed to achieve perfect.  I’m stoked how well the bike shifts now.

After tinkering with the Venge, I changed into my cycling kit and hit the trainer for a 45 minute intense workout and followed that with dinner… I fell asleep watching the national championship football game.  It’s very likely I had a smile on my face as I drifted off.

I’ll get into the repair in greater detail for tomorrow’s post because it’s a HUGE issue with a 10 speed drivetrain.

Addiction Recovery Based on the Power of… Music? Sadly, I’m Not Kidding.

In researching a treatment center for someone close to my heart, I happened on a treatment center, recommended by the person’s attorney, that specializes in recovery “based on the power of music”.

Now, I’m going to be very blunt here, because for those of us saddled with alcoholism and drug addiction, this shit is life and death, literally and sadly, this is just a sampling of the BS that’s out there that touts itself as “recovery”.

Friends, again, addiction is a serious issue that needs to be dealt with rationally and with great depth.  While I will absolutely give you, there is a certain jump in mood when I listen to music, I don’t want my sanity, freedom and health to hinge on Recovery by Metallica.

That’s just not good enough.  Imagine something along the same lines, Movie based recovery…  and that should be enough to show a sane person exactly how nuts “music” based recovery would be.  Music is a one-trick pony in terms of recovery and my addiction is a whole lot more pernicious than a one-trick pony.  After reading through as much of the website as I could take (a little less than an hour), other than having a “professional” make a playlist for you, I couldn’t tell what they actually do to help people recover!  Now perhaps they get into greater depth in their in-patient setting, but you’d never know based on what’s on their website.

Fortunately for my friend, he and his wife had someone with enough sobriety to choke a drunk (figuratively, dear) to recommend something… uh… with a bit more of a foundation.

As we in recovery like to say, our disease is sitting in a cage at the back of our mind doing push-ups.  The door isn’t locked.  I fully embrace the fact that there are many ways to recover from addiction and have a productive life.  You have to ask yourself this, though:  Do you want to trust your life, sanity, and recovery to a Taylor Swift tune?

If you answered yes, good luck with that.  I’ll be here when you come back from your next relapse.  Look me up and we can talk about what’s next.

Why I’ve Chosen Recovery Every Day of My Life, Since Just 22-Years-Old

When I turned 21, old enough to finally consume alcohol (legally) in the USA, and yes, the “legally” caveat is necessary, it was off to the races for me.  That whole year, from 21 to 22, was a blackout.  The year is and was, gone.

Insanity with alcohol started early with me, though.  Long before my lost year.  I had my first brush with death at just 17.  We called it alcohol poisoning back then, but you’d do just as well to call it OD’ing.  I almost choked on my first vomit of the night.  The only thing that saved me was a friend recognizing that I was about to hurl, so he kicked me over on my side.  Several pukes later, and a couple of dry heaves thereafter, I burst a blood vessel in my throat and damn near bled out.  I was a mess when my best friend and dad carried me into my parent’s home.  Head to toe, chunks and blood.  According to my buddy, my mom laid into me at that point, kicking me repeatedly.  She denies it to this day, but he always maintained it was brutal.  I made my peace with it long ago, I just add it for “color” to the painting.

I was seated at my first AA meeting shortly after that, but it would be a mountain of trouble later that I finally went to my second.  I was facing real time, too.  Not just a stint in the County jail.  I thank God I got what I got, and not what I deserved.  It was a steady circling of the toilet bowl.

Then the medical issues started popping up.  I had a bloated gut but was surprisingly skinny (6′ tall, 130-ish pounds).  The doctor at an out-patient treatment center said the bloating was a product of a swollen liver.  He’d run an enzyme test weeks earlier and said the results came back that I had the liver of a 60-year-old chronic alcoholic.

I never did anything I liked half-assed.

I was, eventually, sentenced to in-patient treatment after more trouble compounded on the old that I still hadn’t jumped through all of my hoops for… and that’s where I had my breakthrough.  It was very sweet and exceedingly simple.  Somehow, with the fog cleared after two weeks in treatment, I could see what my life had become and I wanted better.

I tried quitting dozens of times before then, but could never quite bring myself to do what it took to really stay sober.  Until that moment, I didn’t want to quit, really.  I wanted to “moderate”.  To drink “responsibly”.  To learn how to control myself once that first drop crossed my lips.  It was two weeks into treatment that I could finally see the laughable folly in even attempting to control that which couldn’t be controlled.

I had reached the end of my rope and rather than trying to sew on another piece while I was dangling there (as I’d done many times before), I decided to tie a knot in it.

Once I made my decision to give recovery everything I had, there was no need to turn back.  It was “work for a happy life” or “misery”.  Some would say I chose the former and didn’t look in the rearview mirror.  I would have said that up until a few years ago.  It’s closer to the truth to say, after a year of sobriety, “there was no rearview mirror”.  Once I got my stride in recovery, I knew I’d struck gold.

I knew this because I tried everything to drink like a normal person.  Everything.  It was easy to come to the conclusion that I had a choice once my life really started improving.  And the longer I stayed sober, the better I got, and the more fun I had.  Life has become so enjoyable, all I wish for is another day, week, month, year like the last.  Today, it’s a choice between anguish and joy… and once you get to that point, it’s even easier to stay on the path.

It’s hard to believe, but I’ll turn 50 this year.  Six years of pain and misery followed by 2 years of hard work followed by another 25 of happiness and contentment.

In the end, I managed to stay sober this long, not because life was so good, but because I remembered exactly how bad it was.

In fact, ironically, you could say that the one thing that keeps me coming back is the one thing we try to banish from our lives with the steps; fear.  Of course, I’d be able to convince you, if I haven’t already, this a healthy and a welcome fear.  It is a good and useful piece in my recovery.

Riding a Bicycle; Eight Signs You May Not Be Doing It Right and What to Look For If You’re Not.

First, this is not going to be some “go out an buy a $10,000 featherweight road bike for your first ride” snob post.  To be fair, I wouldn’t know how to come at it from that angle, as I’ve never owned anything approaching a $10,000 featherweight road bike, myself.

do have a $6,000 featherweight road bike, and it is indubitably sexy.  If you can afford one, I highly recommend picking up one or two.  They’re unquestionably fun.

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Here’s a list of eight things that will help you identify something wrong and what to do to correct each item.

  • Your butt feels like you’re riding on barbed wire after ten miles.
    • Okay, so this isn’t exactly perfect, because one must get some miles in before one’s heinie stops hurting.  On the other hand, it won’t hurt bad enough that you actually check to see if someone put a piece of barbed wire on your saddle.  If someone did, check your friends – you’re doing something wrong there.  Just a guess, of course.  Otherwise, your saddle is one of these:  Out of position (too high, tilted too far forward or back), or too narrow/wide for your sit bones, or has too much padding.  That’s right, too much padding.  Those big-ass seats, all irony aside, stop blood flow to the nether-regions.  That’s no bueno.
  • Your hands go numb in the driveway.  On your way out.
    • Your hands shouldn’t go numb unless you’re on a very long ride.  Hours long.  If they do, there are a few simple things you can do to correct this.
      • The drop from the nose of the saddle is either too great or too little.
      • The saddle nose is tilted down too far, it’s sliding you into the handlebar.
      • You’re gripping the handlebar too tight.  Think of gripping a baby bird in either hand.  Don’t kill the birds.
      • If the drop from the nose of your saddle to the handlebar is off, you probably need to raise or lower the handlebar.  Lowering the bar may seem odd, but I had to do this myself on my mountain bike to get some of the pressure off my hands.
      • If you’re gripping the handlebar too tight, stop it.
      • In all seriousness, if you’re gripping the handlebar – hoods, bar top or drops – with a decent amount of pressure, you’re definitely doing it wrong.  The idea is to hold on just tight enough that if you hit a bump, you don’t let go.
  • Your neck hurts.
    • Your neck shouldn’t hurt too bad, from looking up the road.  If it does, the problem is related to the drop from the nose of the saddle to the handlebar.  Don’t raise your handlebar quite yet, though.  Do some yoga or stretches or anything to fix your neck first.  Low is fast.  Fast is cool.  Therefore, low is cool.  By default.
    • Riding is cooler than not riding.  If you can’t get your neck comfortable, raise the handlebar.
  • Your knees hurt.
    • Your knees shouldn’t hurt.  There are three things that cause this
      • Your saddle is too high (front of the knees will hurt)
      • Your saddle is too low (back of the knees will hurt)
      • Your cleats are misaligned.  Believe it or not, this is a really big deal.  You can do some damage if this isn’t addressed.  Your local bike shop should have what’s needed to get you sorted out.
  • Your feet hurt.  There are a couple of issues, maybe a few, related to the feet…
    • Your shoes are too small.  This ain’t hockey.  You don’t have to cram your size 11 foot into a size 8.
    • Your shoes are too tight.  One would think, especially for those who clip in, that the shoes should be ratcheted down pretty tightly.  This isn’t the case.  Snug does the job.  Tight increases pressure unnecessarily.
    • Again with the cleat placement – in this case, too far forward or back depending on where the pain is.
  • Your back hurts.
    • Check your bike setup.  Get your bike fitted if you haven’t already.  Doing so is incredibly important.
      • There are quite a few things that could cause this.  Saddle too far back, too far forward, too high, too low… you’d need a shotgun and a lot of hope to hit the answer on this.
  • Your butt hurts, but your saddle is right.
    • You need better shorts.  Click here and learn.  You don’t have to feel the burn.
  • You’re not having any fun.
    • Dude, how can one not have fun riding a bicycle?!  That doesn’t even make sense!
    • Seriously, if you’re not having fun, maybe try a different type of cycling.  Don’t like paved roads?  Try dirt.  Don’t like roads?  Try mountain biking.  It’s supposed to be fun, and a lot of it.

The Daily Reflections Post from the Other Day; I Was Once Lost…

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Anyone who has read my blog knows how I feel about my addicted past. I was a miserable, useless, POS. That description doesn’t bode well with today’s insufferable “love me as I am” movement which will create more relapse, demoralization, loss and death than it helps.  Very few, if any, will benefit from this extension of the long discredited “Dr. Spock” method of recovery.  It’s sad how intelligent people cling to idiocy in the name of “feelings”.

“In A.A. we aim not only for sobriety—we try again to become citizens of the world that we rejected, and of the world that once rejected us. This is the ultimate demonstration toward which Twelfth Step work is the first but not the final step.”

— AS BILL SEES IT, p. 21

The world that once rejected us… but note, we reject the world first, almost every time.

The world was right to reject me because I rejected it.  This is as it should be. I didn’t care about one person on this rock who got in the way of my addiction. I would lie, cheat, steal, and manipulate to stay drunk and high.  I didn’t care what the effects were.

The world treated me as I was, not some silly notion of who I’d be if only [fill in the blank here]. I was treated as I deserved.

The result is different today, though I’m still treated as I deserve.  I am treated better by “society” because I treat “society” better.  I’m a productive part of it.  To wish otherwise, to hope that society will treat us as productive members of it when we’re clearly not, is folly.  It’s wrong-headed, ignorant, and narcissistic.

True happiness in recovery is only possible when we put aside that selfishness.

I only hope this post doesn’t cause anyone to spontaneously combust from the raw truth expressed here.