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The Perils of Cycling: No, Kid, They’re Not Underwear. They’re Shorts.

I arrived home from the office to a perfect evening. A gentle breeze and temp in the low 70’s (22 C). I readied the Venge for duty.

I called Chuck at 4:20 to make sure he’d left work. I didn’t realize the irony until I wrote that… Bad news, he hadn’t left yet. I dressed and rolled early. I was out the door and rolling before 4:40 and I had some time – almost two hours before supper. My goal was to roll into the driveway close to 6:30 – it was roast beef night, and I’d choose roast beef, roasted veggies, mashed potatoes and gravy over cake – of any variety. It’s my absolute favorite dinner – even above pizza.

I rolled almost as soon as the tires hit the driveway, heading north, thankful to be back in short-sleeves and bibs over the leg warmers, arm warmers, jacket, tights and toe covers required over the weekend. We’ve got a bit of a warming trend over the next week until we drop down into the unseasonable cold again so I’ll take it while I can get it.

Within I mile I had to pull back on the reigns a little bit. I was going out way too fast. Tonight’s weather is going to be perfect for a fast TNIL and I was absolutely saving the good legs for that. I don’t ride many solo miles anymore so it ended up being a bit of a treat just cruising around the loop alone.

On the way home I was cruising down a small hill in a residential subdivision about 25-ish-mph and I saw a little boy out of the corner of my eye as I rode by and I heard him say, “Hi” after I was already by him. I almost kept going but I heard this still, small voice in the back of my head that said, “Go back and say hello to the kid, he could use it”. I fought against it for a second, but for those who are lucky enough to be touched like that, I just don’t like fighting it and I didn’t want to end up being a douche in that kid’s eyes, anyway. I whipped around and headed back to say hello.

He was still in the driveway and almost ran his bike into mine as he rolled out of the driveway. I said hello and nodded at his mom in the window. He asked about my computer and how it reads speed and then dropped the question, “Are you wearing underwear”. I think he was maybe five or six. “No, I explained, they’re special shorts with padding in them so I can ride for hours”. His sister strode over. He looked at her, pointed at me and said, “He’s wearing underwear”.

Dammit.

I said my good bye’s and took off for home with a smile stretched across my face. Gotta love kids, man.

I put in a few bonus miles and rolled into the driveway with an easy 18-mph average. I showered up and dinner was ready shortly after I was dressed. I fell asleep early last night and slept like a baby. Good times.

The Noob’s Guide to Cycling in the Cold: Part One – The Overview to What You’ll Need

We’d gone from sunny, short sleeve and bibs weather to sunny and digging out the winter cycling clothes in a few short days – less than a week.  A 40° drop in temperature is quite a shock on a bicycle inside a week.  The muscles simply don’t work the same, cold.

Getting the clothing right for such cycling adventures has always been difficult for me.  There’s a razor-thin difference between too cold and too warm, which leads to sweating – and back to being too cold, eventually.

The first couple of weeks of cold weather cycling are always the worst for me because I tend to go too far because I HATE riding whilst cold.  I don’t hate riding in the cold, just being cold doing it.

Here’s what I can’t do without when cycling when the temps dip below 55° (12 C).

50 – 60 F (10 to 14 C):  Knee warmers, arm warmers, cycling cap, maybe some light wool socks, either light full finger or normal cycling gloves depending on whether or not the temp will be rising.

40 – 50 F (4 to 10 C):  Leg warmers, a thin pair of tights over leg warmers and bibs (especially for the lower end of that scale), arm warmers, full finger cold weather gloves, ear muffs (because they can be removed when the temp rises above 50 and easily wrapped around an upper arm for storage), wool socks, toe covers, cycling cap. Finally, I found a pro quality cycling jacket and vest at a swap meet two February’s ago that I can’t live without in the cold.  They were insanely expensive new, but I paid $40 or $50 for both.  Having experienced “the good stuff”, I can’t live without it in the cold anymore.  For the upper end, I’ll wear the vest.  Lower end is the jacket.  I love Degrees wrap around ear muffs.  They allow you to hear while keeping your ears warm.  I also love neck gaiters for anything below 45° – a cold neck can wreck a ride.

30 to 40 F (-1 to 4 C):  Now we’re getting into gravel bike temps.  I start layering for the 30’s.  One or two layers beneath the pro jacket, maybe a base layer, jersey, arm warmers, jacket… something like that.  I graduate to a full cap under my helmet and some winter gloves.  Again, with the neck gaiter (a necessity).  The tights are upgraded to a fleece-lined set made for the cold.  I also jump from toe covers to full foot covers.  At the low end of that spectrum and below, I’ve got a Specialized fleece-lined high-tech jacket I’ve worn for years.  It blocks the cold well but doesn’t allow much vapor to escape.

20° and below (-6 C):  That’s why I have an indoor trainer (CycleOps Magneto).  My desire to ride outside goes out the window.  I could, but don’t, use Zwift.  I’m happier with a movie, riding next to my wife in the living room.

The one simple rule I always live by is this:  You can take it off but you can’t put it on if you don’t have it.

What I’ve Learned Over the Last 70,000 Miles on a Bicycle

Friends, I passed the 70,000 mark on a bicycle Tuesday. It wasn’t exactly a fanfare moment, I just realized it this morning, but it tugs at my pride string a little bit – 70,139.

Two weeks ago I noticed the shifting wasn’t quite right on our tandem. The front’s always been a pain in the rump but I’d gotten it dialed in. The rear shifting was troublesome, though, so I took to doing some investigating. The rear cable guide had busted on the front cable side so the cable was binding in the plastic guide… that was why the front derailleur was so hard to dial in. I picked up a new one at the shop and installed it last weekend. While detaching the cables to install them through the new cable guide I found the ends had been frayed on the original install – cause for concern. I also found a kink in the rear derailleur cable, and that’s why dialing in the rear shifter was so finicky. I picked up new cables at the shop Friday and installed them yesterday afternoon after cutting the grass and before dinner. The process, from start to tidying up the bar tape and cockpit, to dialing in the derailleur and trimming off the excess cable, took an hour. The bike shifts better and looks better than when I brought it home from the shop, new.

We brought a new guy into our group yesterday. He’s got an S-Works Roubaix from 2014 or 2015 (SRAM Red… it’s quite nice) but has never ridden in a group before. We coached him into shape over 75 miles yesterday, taking turns explaining how group mechanics work and such. I took my toy home after 62, though – I’d run out of gas, entirely (I ended up with 68 – Chucker brought the new guy home). The temp took a nosedive over the last few days – it was freezing when we started and I’d forgotten how much all that cold weather gear takes out of you. We’ve gone from shorts and short sleeves to full winter regalia in a week. We had a small group yesterday, so the ride was a lot of fun. Most everyone else (smartly) waited until the abundant sunshine warmed everything up a bit before heading out. Really, it wasn’t that bad for us, though. I quite enjoyed the cool start, though I was questioning my sanity over the first mile or two.

The last nine years on a bicycle have been life altering – for my marriage, my fitness, my recovery, my relationship with my kids, and my career. For my sanity.

Just shy of 7,400 miles a year, average, cycling has given me a lot to celebrate. Great friends, fantastic memories, good laughs… good times. And toys!!! Oh my, the toys!

In the end, friends, life in recovery is all about the good times and noodle salad… and cycling continues to give me my fill of both.

The Noob’s Guide to Cycling; The Key to a 24-mph Average During a Club Ride

When I wrote, years ago, that I along with our cycling club could hold a 23-mph average, it blew some skirts up. One fella even claimed I was full of it unless I could show him proof on Strava. The old, “if it didn’t happen on Strava, it didn’t happen”. Well, it’s happened a lot on Strava, and Endomondo, and Garmin Connect… and Ride With GPS.

A few weeks ago we blew the doors off 23 and went straight for 24… ish. And it did happen on Strava. On open roads (opposed to closed). Oh, what I’d give to see what we could do with that loop without the worry of traffic! Anyway, I digress.

img_27813974094510603532547.jpgThis photo was taken at 28-mph by my friend, Joel – and that guy in the blue is on a steel Ritchey with gravel tires… dude is strong.

A 20-mph average in a group, especially on a hilly route, is hard. 21 is very hard. 22 & 23 require a really good group, and a fairly flat route helps. For 24, hold onto your butts, it’s gonna get bumpy.  The group will have to maintain speeds between 25 and 30-mph (40 and 48 kmh respectively) to end up with a 24 average – the faster pace cancels out hill climbs and traffic stops where you’re going to lose some speed and average.

The keys to success for that kind of speed are quite simple for us above average Joe’s: 

  • A flat course – the proper rolling lumpy route is possible but the hills tend to shatter the group – flat is fast.  Preferably under 20′ of up per mile over the course (our 30 mile route is around 12 to 14′ if memory serves).  
  • A good, strong, exceptionally competent group.  Averages that high are really tough on new folks because they dynamics change so rapidly, if the group isn’t familiar with each other, it can get dicey in a hurry.  However, if the noobs know what they’re doing, there’s no better way to hook a new cyclist than for them to be part of that kind of group ride.  I should know, that’s what hooked me.
  • Good legs.  I’ve gotta have the good legs when going for speed like that.  No hammering the day before a big ride – I’ll get dropped like a dirty shirt.  Monday and Wednesday rides are always at a seriously easy pace – 16-mph… 18 max.
  • Group continuity.  A smooth group is much faster than a group that has to deal with constant attacks and shake-ups.  Though, every once in a while, there’s no question a shake-up can help to keep the pace up and the group focused.  The key will be when – uphill is a horrible idea unless your goal is to shatter the group, downhill or with a tailwind, much better.
  • “Want to”.  Speed like that pushes a regular old cyclist to the edge.  If you don’t have some “want to” to hold on, forget about it.  

It’s still striking to me that a decent group of B-Grouper’s managed a 28-mile loop in 1h:10m:and some change.  We had some A-Group help and a perfectly placed kick of a tailwind that popped up out of nowhere, but we crossed the line (at better than 32-mph) with a 24-mph average and hi-fives all around.

One thing is for sure; if everyone can keep it smooth and (relatively) safe, that kind of speed is amazingly fun.  The difficulty and training are worth it.

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Cycling, Cold Fronts, Pizza and Faygo Rock & Rye

We’ve used summer up. We’re just a few days from fall and we had glorious weather on our hands yesterday – and it’s not going to be this nice again for the near future (though we can never rule out an early fall warm stretch for a few days). I needed to make the most of one of our last shorts and short-sleeve days.

Chuck was going to be ready at a quarter past five, I was on the road at 4:32, soaking up the sunshine, enjoying a nice, slow spin. Mrs. Bgddy had meetings and the girls had swim practice, so I was on my own for the evening – no time constraints, no awaiting responsibilities (except a meeting a few miles down the road at 8). I simply wandered, enjoying the feel of the Trek under me. I still had 15 minutes before Chuck would be ready so I headed up to loop around a local fire station parking lot before heading south into a cross-headwind, then over to Chuck’s. I did a loop around his subdivision, then turned around and looped the other way. I was lolling into a nice one-way righthand corner when a pickup truck with a trailer cut the corner making a left, forcing me all the way to the inside of the corner. I turned and shot him a “WTF” look and he came to a stop. I looped around and approached his window and asked, “Was that on purpose, or was that an oops?” He apologized profusely, saying I was right in his blind spot (the support arm for his windshield) and thinking back, that made sense – I could barely see his face. I told him all was well, no harm, no foul and went on my way and he on his.

Chuck pulled out of his driveway just before I got there and we were on our merry way. Chuck hit 15-mph as I caught him and he said, “This is about my pace for the night, right here.” And so it was. We got most of the headwind out of the way early and vented about current events and the comical way many issues are framed. The whole ride was chilled out, relaxed and enjoyable… until we noticed clouds coagulating to the north of us. A cold front was moving in and we managed to ride right up to the edge of it.

I pulled into the driveway with a little more than 31 miles and a 16-mph average – which is perfect because tonight will be a fast Lake Shannon Loop.  With cool temps and a gentle breeze out of the south, I have no doubt it’s going to be… energetic.  

So, what do we do when we’ve got a big ride planned for the next day?  We carb load.  This calls for pizza (right or wrong, I don’t care – I just like pizza and I’m more than okay with justifying eating it as “carb loading”).  And I didn’t mess around last night.  I got the good stuff from a local Italian restaurant.  My pizza aficionado-ness is well earned – I’ve done everything from delivery to running a gourmet pizza shop when I was a younger lad.  I know my pie.  So I picked mine up, along with some good, old-fashioned Faygo Rock & Rye to wash it down on the way to my meeting.  Only recently have I gone back to Rock & Rye, a favorite of my childhood.  There’s something sweet about enjoying memories through the taste of an old soda.

The meeting, as is almost always the case with in-person meetings, was fantastic.  I only hope I did someone some good with what I had to say.  By the time I arrived home, I was good and cooked.  I was asleep eight seconds after my head hit the pillow… and that’s exactly as it should be when you’re living the good life.

UPDATE:  Funny how plans change… Can’t ride tonight.  My daughters are going for a relay record this evening at swimming and I want to be there for it.  

Well Smack My Keister and Call Me Sunshine, I WAS Running My Tire Pressure Too High!

I prepped the 5200 for duty last evening. It was going to be a slow night and it needed some time in the sun after the Venge took all of the big weekend miles.

After watching that exceptionally geeky video I wrote about the other day that broke tire pressure down into a fairly* easily understandable science, I decided to lower my pressure in both road bikes. Not by much, mind you, I went from 95 pounds down to 90.

On the Trek, left, I’m currently running Ican 23-mm wide x 38-mm deep wheels shod with Michelin Pro 4 Service Course 700C x 25-mm tires.  I’m running 175-ish pounds.  So, 90 pounds and I ran with it.

The road we live on is fairly smooth with a few wear cracks here and there at the edges, but the road I turn on to get to Chuck’s is gnarly in places and the bike was much more enjoyable over the chatter – in fact, I ran over some of the nastier edges of the road I normally avoid, just to see the difference… it was impressive – vastly smoother.  On chip-seal surfaces, cracks, anything I would throw at it over the course of the 28-mile ride, the bike was much more enjoyable… and I didn’t bounce when out of the saddle to climb or sprint (what little climbing there is on that route – not much).

So, the real question is, “was it faster“?

Well, if you get far enough into the video, the science geek guy refers to road noise as a loss of efficiency – and road noise from the tire definitely increased, noticeably.  On the other hand, there’s no question the ride, being smoother, was less taxing and slightly less work.  That’s really the balance we’re looking for.  Smooth, but not so smooth it’s squishy.  I think I should go another five pounds, though, just for $#!+$ and giggles, to see if I go squishy or keep 85 psi…  There’s no question, even at 90 there will be more smiles per mile.

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*”Fairly” should probably be barely.  

Then I’ll have to dial in the Venge using the same process – though I’ll absolutely be going with 90 psi for tonight’s Tuesday Night in Lennon… I’m running 26-mm Specialized Turbo Pro tires on a 25-mm wide rim – shouldn’t be any question 90 will be better than 95.

Go Figure, It’s the Slow Century that Hammers Me Hardest… Plus, REDEMPTION!

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Saturday’s ride had all the makings of greatness.  Great group of friends, great mileage, a new route, sunshine (well, ish), decent temps and wind in the single digits… and the promise of a reasonable, easy pace.

We rolled out early with no care in the world about the aforementioned pace.  With everyone formed up and rolling after serveral SNAFU’s, the 65 mile route was fairly enjoyable, though we spent a few miles on roads that resembled the cobbles in the Paris Roubaix.  I think I’ve knocked something loose on the Venge.  I was feeling quite good toward the end of the 100+k’s.

Then came the rough stuff.  Most of our group took their toys and went home leaving Chuck and I to the last 34 miles.  We’d both gone to our respective homes to drop cool weather gear that was no longer needed.  We met on the road near Chuck’s house and headed out with a tailwind to our usual weekday route so we could keep the remainder local and minimize the north/south travel, thus negating much of the headwind.  First was an out and back loop, then to our favorite late century stop, Subway, for lunch.  I like a good, toasted submarine sammich on most days, but 75 miles into a century, I don’t know what it is, but I prefer my favorite sub over a burger.  Every time.  

The only problem is starting out after said Subway sammich.  And it really sucked Saturday.  We trundled on, though, taking our time heading to a nice little subdivision that takes a shade more than 2 miles to complete a loop.  We did five, losing several tenths off our average that was already low.  We exited with an 18.1 average and ambled home into a cross-headwind.  Our pace, other than stops for intersections or lunch, was remarkably steady between 18 & 20-mph for the last two-thirds of the ride, though (64 miles).  

With eight miles to go, I was ready to be done.  My feet were hurting, and I was tired.  We pressed on, though, and I even had to ride with Chuck most of the way to his house to get another couple of miles, lest I ride all that way to come up two short of an even 100.  

I pulled into the driveway with 100.17 miles and I was cooked.  My slowest century in the last seven or eight years, and it hammered me.  

I’ll be trying to figure the dynamics of this one for some time.  I had the good bike, an easy pace, perfect weather (if a terrible wind out of the southeast – we simply have no out an back routes to counter that wind), and a good pace-line with a great group of friends.  This one should have been easy.  It wasn’t.  However…

Sunday morning, after raining all night, I prepped the tandem for Sunday Funday.  I woke up a little on the wrecked side, and I was looking forward to an easy 17-mph 40-mile morning.  The pavement was soaked and didn’t look like it would dry up before we rode, so I was infinitely grateful for our fenders… not exactly sexy, but when you’re riding on wet pavement, they keep the bike and my wife and I dry – and whomever happens to be drafting us gets a clean draft rather than having to eat spray.

Unlike Saturday, the first half of this ride was going to be headwind – and with zero chance of us getting all the way out before the wind changed directions.  We had Chucker, Mike, McMike, and Diane and Jeff on Diane’s tandem and we set the pace going out.  Thankfully, there wasn’t much of a breeze for the first six miles but it started picking up as we neared our first turn.  We gave up the front and the group echeloned easily heading south.  We stair-stepped the headwind and, entirely against the norm, entering my favorite sprint in all of the roads we travel, my wife and I remained in formation.  As we passed the City Limits sign I told my wife that I didn’t need to burn matches I didn’t have – we were 14 miles into a 40 miler.

We stopped for a bit and rolled out again into the wind… three more miles dead into it, followed by a crosswind, and then, sweet, glorious tailwind – and the wind had picked up nicely during the crosswind section.  We stopped again after the crosswind section and I bought a Coke for my wife and I to split.  It was a relatively short stop and we were back after it.

We took the lead because I knew, maybe four miles up the road, there was a City Limits sign that I wanted.  We took it fairly easy heading down the road at 22 to 25-mph, letting the wind do its thing.  My wife asked me to shift down a gear so she could spin her legs a little before the sign and I obliged (heh, how cool is that – “I know we’ve got a sprint coming up, so let me get ready”… that’s love, baby).  Up a little incline and just before the top I put the hammer down, my wife in tune with me.  We thundered down the back side of the hill, Mike threatening to overtake on the left.  I gave it one last hammer and we crossed the line, about a bike’s-length to spare at 33-mph.

My wife and I gave up the front after that and, after a longcut around a six-wide train track intersection that we avoid like the plague, we hammered down the road toward home in the draft, picking up a 3rd and 5th place on a couple of seriously contested segments along the way.  I don’t know where it came from, but we were both hitting the pedals hard.  Sometime after our first stop, my legs came back but we were holding speeds north of 25-mph, at times up to 28 with just a 12-mph tailwind.  

There were a few times I thought about sitting up and taking it easy heading back but I thought better of it.  We pushed on till the last quarter-mile and we pulled into the driveway with 40 miles at a cool 19-1/2-mph pace.  And redemption.  Saturday was a rough day, but we over-performed Sunday.  Good times for sure.

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Geeky Road Bike Stuff… From A Fairly Scientific Aero / Traditional Bike Comparison to Tire Pressure.

First, my personal favorite: My Tasmanian brother from another cycling mother did a fairly scientific comparison of his Canyon Aeroad and his new Trek Postal Edition 5200. As you might imagine, with my own 5200, I’ve written about the difference between my Venge and 5200 extensively. I’ve experienced similar results but the Tempocyclist takes it on leap further. For your reading enjoyment:

https://wp.me/p5bA4U-1eW

If that wasn’t enough, my buddy, Dave sent out a link to one of the geekiest tire pressure videos I’ve ever had the enjoyment of watching. I can summarize the core of the 30-minute video in 30 seconds: You’re riding with too much air in your tires. Stop it. Let some air out of your tires till your ride becomes smooth. If/when you start bouncing during a sprint, you’ve gone too far. Add 2% till you stop bouncing.  The other 29 minutes and change is mashed potatoes and gravy next to the roast beef.

The full video is here:

Some Venge Time and the Best Tip I’ve Seen For Installing a Difficult Tire on a Tight Rim

It just hit me last week that I’m spending WAY too much time on the Trek.  It’s difficult not to when the bike is performing so well – it’s a bit like driving a classic sports car.  Sure, it’s a not a McLaren, it’s more American muscle – a little more Caroll Shelby – only, in a bike.  Well, somebody just shut off summer, and it jarred me a little.  Pretty soon, all I’ll be riding is the Trek until next spring’s Venge Day so it’s high time I spent some miles on the good rig before having to put it up for the winter.

After arriving home on a perfectly sunny but yet another unseasonably cool afternoon (we’ve been several degrees – 6 to 10 – below normal for what seems like weeks), I set about cleaning up the Venge for duty.  Part of that prep was rotating the tires.  I like to rotate mine – some do, some don’t…

Now, installing the tires on these wheels the first time was not easy.  I needed mechanical help in the way of a KoolStop tire jack.  However, after a few weeks’ break-in time, I was hoping they’d go on relatively easily.  Then, just the other day, by chance, I happened on a GCN video tutorial on how to deal with installing a difficult tire on a rim.  My FL 50 Ican wheels all have a groove down the center (many tubeless and tubeless ready rims do):

Well, the tip is to work the beads down into that groove (it takes a little effort to do this, and you’ll feel one side, then the other, slip down into the channel).  So, you get the first bead all the way seated, then you start on the second until you get to that spot, about 80% done, where you can’t see how you’ll ever slip that last bit over the rim, and you work the beads into the channel starting opposite the part of tire overlapping the rim and working around, one side, then the other.  By the time you get both beads into the channel the entire 80-ish% around the rim, you’ll begin to feel a fair amount of slop that wasn’t there before pushing the beads to the center channel.  At this point, that last 80% of the tire should (shockingly) easily slip over the edge of the rim.

Before I centered the beads, I was going to need mechanical assistance.  After, it’s almost comically easy.  I’m still glad I’m using Specialized tires, though.  They’re better than most brands for seating on tight rims.

Now, there exist decent arguments for starting at the valve stem, finishing at the valve stem, add air to the tube, don’t add air…  I’ve tried them all.  My favorite is start with some air in the tube, start at the valve stem and finish opposite – and let the air out for the centering the bead in the grove and that last 20% of the second bead.  Starting with air makes it easier to get the tube inside the rim and it keeps it from getting pinched.  On the other hand, the added air makes it a little difficult to finish seating on a tough rim.

Anyway, after wiping the Venge down, I took her out for an evening spin with my regular weekday riding buddy and it was fantastic.  She’s also going out today (we’ve got big plans today).  We’re due a considerably nice stretch of weather over the next two weeks so I’m planning on making the most of it on the Venge.  I’ll have plenty of time on the Trek in the coming months.  As cold as it’s been this early, I don’t imagine it’s going to be a mild winter.

Thursday Night Herding of Cats… On Bikes…

My confidence wasn’t where it should have been. Maybe it was the cold. Maybe the third day of gloomy, damp weather in a row. Maybe it was the north wind. It could have been all of it. With the ugliness of the day, I’d always take the Trek. Not today. I needed every advantage I could get. I prepped the Venge.

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Jason and I were there early and it was looking like a small crew, which I saw as good because I really was hoping for a slow run. I did a few laps around the parking lot as a warm-up rather than burn any matches I didn’t have.

As I was getting the legs ready, the fellas started rolling in. A couple of heavy hitters, a couple in-betweener’s, a few B guys, a C guy… and Lenny. I started chuckling as soon as I saw his car roll in late. Lenny? Fortunately, for once, Lenny opted for his Schwinn road bike over his TT bike (!) so he wasn’t going to be a factor on this ride.

We rolled out after waiting for Lenny to get ready. We should have rolled out at 6, but there were a couple of guys who couldn’t live with doing that to a fella. Lenny, on his 35 pound Schwinn, managed to stay with the group for about 45 seconds. We were off!

The pace jumped right out of the gate. I was a little uncomfortable and trying to settle in – trying to get that nagging negativity out of my head. I freaking hate the cold and at 58°, cloudy and windy, warm it wasn’t. We hammered up the first hill and then down the other side. A right turn, up a highway overpass and down to a left with a long, gradual downhill. I’d been third, then second bike through all of this and Levi flicked me up just as we made the left – which was perfect because I was going to get my pull done before the big, long hill that was staring us in the face. And up comes a new guy from the back who gets in front of me and asks, “Hey, can I take my pull now? I’m going to get dropped”.

My jaw dropped. For those who aren’t up on their pace-line etiquette, this is one enormous @$$hole move. Don’t ever do this to someone. Ever. Still, he’s a new guy and I’m a bad@$$, though on an off day, so I took it. And got dropped 3/4’s of the way up the climb. So the new guy got himself dropped and me with one stone. I knew there was a regroup at the top of the hill anyway, so I didn’t sweat it much… but that’s exactly why you don’t do that $#!+ to someone else. I’d spent a lot of time in tough positions (1st, 2nd and 3rd bike get hammered with more wind than 6th or 7th) with my heart rate nearing my max. By the time the new guy was done with his turn, I was already maxed out and I still had a turn to finish, up a freaking hill, to deal with.

Things calmed down after that, though. Well, ish. It was a really fast night. Levi and Mike were driving the pace and Jason was hard on the gas, too.

The Lake Shannon section of the route is always a blast – a lot like our trip down to Georgia – rollers and twisty roads make for a fast and fun rip around the lake. Last night was perfect. After a decent effort up an ugly climb we regrouped and waited for a few stragglers (as is normal). Once back together, we took a few seconds to form up and spin up to speed. I was starting to get a little antsy and thought about going up front to drive the pace when all hell broke lose.

Levi went from 14-mph to 30 in two blinks of an eye and it was on.

I switched from the hoods to the drops so I could lower my center of gravity and carve the corners a little better. The increased aero advantage didn’t hurt at that speed, either. We were winding around bends so fast you had to look through the turn to get your bike to follow the right line with your leg out to the inside of the turn to help the bike carve the line. I can’t help but feel spectacular when we’re cranking and banking around corners at 25 to 30-mph in the drops, hellbent for leather. Any cyclist who’s taken corners at speed, especially in a pace-line, can relate. “Invigorating” doesn’t do it justice. “Grin inducing” is close.

Upon exiting the lake subdivision, we’ve got another brutal climb. I PR’ed it last night and still got dropped on the way up. Not by much, though. I’d almost fought back to the group when we hit the next regroup point. The next two miles were fast enough to make my eyes water. Dave had suggested we wait at the top of the final hill, cutting about a mile off the course – and I liked it. The last major hill on the ride, let Levi pound the other guys, while we hang back and join them on the flat!

Sadly, it was all headwind after that, though.

Dave took the stretch waiting for the back four guys to come up the hill and left me with an ugly section, uphill and into the wind, once they did. I took the pace up to 21, but with the incline, it was everything I had. At the crest, I flicked off and enjoyed being towed for the next several miles – including a massive turn up front by Jason who kept a decent “into the wind” pace with quite a lot of up to his turn – at least a mile and a half, maybe two. It was big.

My next turn, then, was with a crosswind and downhill (thanks, Jason!). It was sounding awfully quiet so I took a quick peak back to find nobody there. I slowed up and waited for the group to catch and then cranked it back up. Levi, Mike, and Jason came by on the way up a hill and I latched on with them for the next section.

I was tempted to ask Levi if he was Catholic, because the pace he was holding and length of turn up front he was taking, it had to be penance for something. Fortunately, we had one last regroup after a short climb that I’d managed to fall slightly off on before hammering the last couple of miles.

We went right to it, hammering down the road again. I ended up with one last pull, right before the last big climb and I ran myself out of gas, four of the guys pounding up the hill. I let them go. One of these days I’m going to figure out how not to give up before that hill…

Meh… I pulled into the parking lot with a 20.6-mph average. Not fantastic, but not too shabby, either. I was definitely glad I went.