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Is there a such thing as a much needed day off in cycling?

Since April I’ve taken just four days off the bike.  My penchant for riding almost every day goes back several years – I figure if the pros can do it, so can I, only at two-thirds the intensity and half the distance (or less).

So, in southeastern Michigan, this last week was hot.  We did a fairly intense 21.8 mph Tuesday Night Club Ride, but Wednesday and Thursday were mercifully easy (between 17 & 17.7 mph).  The weekend got pretty crazy, though.  Friday we held a 19.5-mph pace over 35 miles between Jonathan, my wife and I.  Really, it was a surprising effort.  Saturday was a 4:54:30 century, followed by yesterday’s 56 miles at 19.6-mph.  The high temps for each day varied between the high 80’s and low 90’s (30 to 34 C)

I woke up this morning a little haggard.  Actually, I felt really good for the first hour after waking up, but it’s starting to catch up with me as I’m writing this post.  It’s rare I ride that hard three days in a row (before DALMAC).

Thankfully, we’ve got afternoon thunderstorms in the forecast for this afternoon.  If it’s raining, I’ll take the afternoon off.  If not, I’ll ride but it’ll be an unusually slow ride – I’m talking 15-16-mph slow – and that’s usually better than a day off anyway.

So here’s my experience when it comes to daily cycling:

  1. If I fuel the effort properly and get a good amount of sleep, I can ride till my heart is content.
  2. If I intersperse easy, short rides in with the hard efforts, I can ride as many days in a row as I want.
  3. On the other hand, too many tough days in a row will wear me down in a hurry and I’ll need some low-key rest to keep it going.
  4. When you only get a few rain days each summer, take advantage of them and take a load off.  I don’t need to ride every day.
  5. Those easy days sure are fun.
  6. Replace the electrolytes.  Nine times in ten, when I’m feeling rough, it’s because my electrolytes are off.
  7. Daily cycling isn’t for everyone.  In Michigan, we’re stuck in the house for two or three months and we’re riding in cold weather another three or four.  When summer hits, you’ve gotta pry me away from my weekday evening and weekend morning rides.  We only get so many shorts and short-sleeve riding days – I don’t want to miss any.

Done carefully and intelligently, cycling daily is possible and enjoyable.  I’ve been cycling daily for three years now, and it’s been seven since my last side-lining sports injury.

Ride hard and often, my friends… just don’t forget to ride easy now and again, too.

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One Helluva Ride: Out of the Frying Pan.

The weather forecast was weird.  It was supposed to be hot, as is normal for this ride (I’ve never done it with a finishing temp below the upper 80’s – call it 28 C), but remain cloudy for much of the later miles with rain rolling in after 3pm – plenty of time for us to get done and get gone.

For those who follow me on Strava, I track certain rides on my phone because I’ve yet to pick up a Garmin so time gets added to my rides when I’m walking at a rest stop – my app picked up a 19.7 average while my computer showed two tenths more miles (I almost forgot to start the app) and a moving time of 4:55:45, a 20.3-mph average.  Let’s face it, six tenths isn’t much, but 20.3 for 100 miles is a lot sexier than 19.7 – especially when you figure we only had five guys.

Anyway, getting back to what’s important, it shouldn’t be surprising with a name like One Helluva Ride that rolls through Hell, Michigan, we haven’t had much luck in completing the ride.  We’d cut it short the last three or four years – and that’s not a bad thing.  By the time we get to lunch, it’s so miserably hot that when one guy suggests cutting it short, the rest crumble in seconds.

Death by 3% Hills

Not literally dead, like “my heart was literally beating out of my chest”, one of the dumbest sentences I’ve ever heard spoken in a commercial.  No, it literally wasn’t.  You’d be dead, sweetheart – and none of our group died because of little, tiny 3% hills.  By the time mile 98 flashed on the computer, though, we’d seen enough.  The point is, there were a lot of little, baby hills and rough pavement that it was torturous on the feet.  If by torturous you mean awesomely painful, yet not really torture, because it’s a bike ride, dude.  In the scheme of things, that’s my kind of torture.

The Winston Wildcard

We had my friend, Winston with us.  He’s about eight inches shorter than me and you would have to sit a 40 lb bag of salt on his lap for him to get an idea of what it’s like to be me, climbing a hill.  He pulled, averaging north of 21 mph, for the first fourteen miles.  When Winston’s riding, it’s gonna be fast.  The dude is freaking strong – and a great guy to be around.  With just five miles to go, I was hurting.  Bad.  I was struggling to stay on at the back and I just wanted to get off my bike.  I was “stick a fork in me” done, so I told my friends I was slipping off the back, that I’d see them soon enough.  Here comes Winston back after me, and he says, “I’m not going to leave you back here with only a few miles to go, now come on… Let’s get it done.”  He pulled me back to Chuck and Mike and the four of us cruised it in – if you can call north of 20-mph “cruising”.

So with that, we set our bikes on the nearby rack and headed over to the watermelon booth, where they served the most delectable watermelon wedges I’ve ever eaten.  Every year, the watermelon at the end is one of the most talked about parts of the ride.  They chill it to a perfect 40-ish degrees, slice it up, and line it up on the table for famished riders to eat.  I had four wedges and almost filled up on watermelon.  Those of you who eat it, know how much you have to eat to “fill up” on watermelon.  It’s a lot, but it’s so good!

There are those scenic rides, like the Northwest Tour, where you want to slow the pace down to look around and take in the beauty of seeing the land from a saddle.  OHOAR isn’t one of those.  There isn’t a lot to look at (though it’s vastly better than the Tee-shirt Ride – woof!).  One Helluva Ride is one of those, “put your head down and let’s hammer this out” rides where you want to see how fast you can get around the 100 mile course, while exploring just how close to heat stroke you can get while doing it.

With today left to run up my weekly mileage total, I’m sitting on 225 miles… Just 14 days into the month, I’m sitting on 583 (that should be close to 640 after today, midway through the month) and, for the year, I’ve already surpassed my total mileage for all of 2012 with 5,388.  Truthfully, this has been one helluva year.  I can say that I’ve had happier moments, obviously, but overall, this has been one great year.  I’m having more fun than politicians would normally allow.  It just isn’t fair for one guy to enjoy life so much, to horde all of that happy.  They’d have to knock me down a few pegs and share some of my happiness with others, you know, to spread the happy.

Thou Shalt Match One’s Kit to One’s Bike: I have done something a bit rash that may put me in the doghouse…

Okay, it’s well documented that I’ve got a penchant for matching my kit to my bike(s).  I had my Trek 5200 painted to match my Venge, and my wife bought my mountain bike to match the Venge…

Okay?  Well established, I like matching the kit to the bike.  Well, Mrs. Bgddy was recently bitten by the same bug, to the extent that others in the cycling club have noticed and commented on how well put-together she looks nowadays.

So, those damned ads that appear on websites that I visit are so well-tailored to me, I get caught now and again.  The other night I noticed a sale on Kask helmets over at Competitive Cyclist, so I checked it out.  I bought two.

I couldn’t help it…  Not only will my wife and I match our respective bikes, we’ll match each other!  Too cool, man.  That’s how it’s done.

Fighting Improper Etiquette on Club Rides; the Need for Speed meets Selfish, Ignorant, or Both.

As a general rule, club rides can be a little difficult to figure out. The faster the group, the more aloof and less welcoming the cyclists will be. This is more about self-preservation than having anything to do with you personally. Noobs are scary to a well-established group because, frankly, the general public has no idea how to act in a group travelling 40 feet per second down the road with no seatbelts – and there isn’t a lot of room for error. Here are some things that will help you fit in and endear you to those in your group. Good luck, this is gonna get bumpy. I’m not going to spare the brutal honesty on this one:

  • Don’t ride a time trial or triathlon bike in the aerobars on a club ride. Fast club rides are for road bikes. If you think you’re good enough to ride in those stupid aerobars in a group, you’re not only dangerous, you’re ignorant. You’re too far from the brakes. You’ll notice the good riders who have aerobars only use them when they’re on the front or well off the back of the group. The good riders never use them in the pack. If you do, or think you’re good enough to use them in the group, remember the preceding sentence; the good riders never use them in the pack.
  • There’s no such thing as a slow-roll regroup. I allowed myself to get caught up in one of these the other day and I had an apology to make for it. I have a fair defense for my actions but in the end, one of my friends got caught up and it wasn’t cool. If there’s a regroup spot picked out, stop and regroup.
  • It is not the job of the group to get you around the course, grasshopper. It is your job to contribute to the group. This concept is commonly messed up, royally, hence the first sentence. If you are of the selfish nature, please save everyone the consternation of disliking you and ride alone.
  • Bring your good legs to the big dance. Look, don’t show up to the ride complaining that your legs hurt. First, nobody cares. Second, see First. For instance, we ride on a Tuesday, so Monday should be a very easy recovery ride. If you absolutely lack the ability to stay off the gas when you ride, take the previous day off. I can relate to this inability to stay out of the carburetor – I was once afflicted myself. I learned, though. Bring the good legs to the good ride.
  • A club ride is not a race… unless it is a race. Check to find out which you’ll be riding in before the ride. If it’s not a race, don’t use race tactics. Here are some things you need to know:
    • First, there are no bonus points for hiding in the back the whole ride, only to charge for the City Limits sign, winning the sprint. Not only are there no points for this, you actually have points taken away by all of those who had to pull your @$$ around the course.
    • Second, pull through, even if it’s a short turn up front. You can handle 30 seconds or so. Pull through.
    • Don’t leave gaps for others to fill unless you’re at the very back of the pack. They’re hurting too, even if they don’t look it, and filling your gaps isn’t their job. It’s yours. It’s an @$$hole move to open a gap, three bikes back in a ten-deep pace line, for someone who just came off the front.
  • Now, if you can’t pull through, and there are acceptable situations, there are a few etiquette items to consider:
    • Stay at the back if you can’t pull through.
    • Do NOT pull through to second or third bike only to tap out and leave a gap for someone else to make up because you’re too selfish to understand that what you’re really doing is screwing the people behind you.
    • If you can’t pull through and take a turn at the front but won’t stay at the back, causing shakeups in the group, you are a complete twatwaffle. If you make a go for the sprint(s), you’re a double-super-duper twatwaffle. You will be looked down upon until such a time as you’ve taken a minimum of a fifteen mile turn at the front… at the group’s normal pace – in other words, Peter Sagan wannabe, you’ll be looked down upon forever because you can’t pull through in the first place, let alone sit up there for fifteen miles.
    • If you’re cooked, then speed up and point to the rear wheel in front of you so the person in your draft knows to take the other wheel… then tap out.
  • Here’s a good tip if you find you’ve worked up to the middle of the group but can’t pull through: wait until you get to an intersection with a stop sign or a sharp turn and make your way to the white or yellow line (depending on what side of the road you’re on and whether or not you’re in a double pace-line). Let the group go by and latch on at the back. You don’t create a gap and you’re at the back where you want to be. It happens, from time to time, you know? You mean to stay at the back but you end up creeping up a few places due to… well, that’s just how things shake out sometimes.
  • DO NOT DOUBLE TAP. When the cyclist in front of you is done taking their pull and taps (or arm-flick’s) out, do not, under any circumstances, tap out at the same time and leave a gap at the front. It’s just not cool. You can get away with that shit in the D group when they’re only going 15-mph. When you’re going 27 you crush the person that has to make up for you. Better to take a short turn and tap out properly.
  • Don’t play hide-and-go-draft. Hold a straight line so others can get a predictable draft behind you. You’re not racing, remember? The idea is to help the group get down the road and if the person behind you can’t get a good draft off of you, you’re basically useless up there. Don’t be useless.
  • Okay, here’s the last one I’ve got… now come in real close because this one is pretty important… DON’T RIDE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE TWO ROWS OF A DOUBLE F’IN’ PACE LINE UNLESS YOU’RE ABSOLUTELY THE LAST BIKE. We’ve got a couple of guys who like to do this in the middle of the pack… I know mild-mannered people who want to push their friends off their bike for doing this. To the cyclist who thinks this is no big deal: Nobody likes riding with you. They put up with you. When someone like me pulls along side you and crowds you over to the side of the road so you’ve only got four inches of asphalt to ride on… We’re doing that on purpose to prove a point. Take the hint and knock that $#!+ off.

The point is, friends, we need to look out for our fellow cyclists and remember that which is most important when the bikes go in the truck or on the rack: We’re out there riding bikes to have fun. We need to help the others in the group so we can all keep the rubber side down and have an enjoyable time. Think about everyone else first, and remember… In a club ride, sometimes you’re the sprinter, sometimes you’re the lead out. Whichever you happen to be on a given week, do the job right.

UPDATE: The Temocyclist adds:

And don’t overlap the wheel in front!

If the rider in front moves across to avoid something at 27mph and you touch wheels, you’re going down hard, taking everyone behind you down too. That will not make you and friends

Tuesday Night Club Ride; Wheel Sucking Perspective Edition

It was an odd night for wind. For what is usually the hardest part of the ride, we were going to have a nice tailwind.

The warm-up was an easy 17.7-mph, over seven miles and some change. The temp, in the mid-80’s, was perfect. We had a little wind, but it wasn’t all that bad. The northeast direction of the wind, now that presents a problem or two. Chief among them is the last fifteen miles of the ride being into the wind. That’s no bueno.

We rolled shortly after the A Group left and got right after it. I was second bike with another horse of a guy so we jammed the pace right out of the gate. We were up to 23-mph just after we we hit the first turn… into the wind. We went for a mile and dropped back, maybe fifteen bikes to rejoin the line.

The first third of the ride was fantastic, a big group working together. The second third, not so much…  Gaps, the group breaking apart, only to come back together, guys fighting to be the last bike, etc.  I struggled and spent a ton of time up front, but coming into the intermediate sprint at 20 miles one of the stronger guys came up from the back and urged me to get on his wheel as he went by.  I did and took the City Limits sign with a comfortable gap and 33 mph.  I recovered while everyone caught back up and it was more of the same as we headed north, into the wind.

I was up front a lot because you never know who’s going to drop and when – besides, the draft is actually better up front where everyone is working together than in the back where everyone is jockeying for the worst position.  Still, I can’t help but get a little edgy as I’m wearing down and we’ve got guys screwing the people in the group who are willing to work so they can attempt to stay in the back.

Coming into the final sprint, I was third bike behind two tandems and I thought I was positioned perfectly – right up until that second tandem pulled off a quarter-mile early – which meant I was going to be the lead out.  I hammered the pedals, jumping from a solid 24-mph to 28… I gave it everything I had and arm-flicked out when I was done.  I watched the others ride by, and one of the guys who didn’t take a pull the whole 30 miles come shooting by to take the sprint to the City Limits sign – and it wasn’t who we’d expect, either.  That guy has at least been pulling through the last several weeks.  Nope.

My gut reaction was to cry foul.  What he did was foul – people who suck wheel all ride long, only to pour it on at the sprint in a club ride (in other words, not a freaking race) are lower than a snake’s ass.  It just is what it is*.

I’d gone to the café and eaten, made it home and unpacked and I was still hot about the whole thing.  Then, in the shower, I realized what I’d been doing to myself.  If you’ve read my last couple of recovery posts, I’ve been writing about only worrying about myself, and what I’m doing – and keeping my side of the street clean.

Ooh, that was a bitter pill to swallow as I let the water rinse the soap off.  I did right during the ride.  I worked hard and did my part.  That’s the end of it for me.  If I don’t like the wheel sucking that’s been going on of late, I can always quit riding with the group on Tuesday – or go out on my own after the group leaves…. but let’s be realistic, that ain’t gonna happen.  So that leaves me two options; keep my mouth shut, or nicely point out that the group works better when we all work together.

I’m going to have to sit on it a while because it’s going to be the latter option and I would have a hard time with the “nicely” part.  I’ll have to work on that.

And you thought recovery was just about not using drugs or alcohol anymore.

* I should add, there are certain people who have earned the right to hang in the back and suck some wheel.  They’ve been contributors for decades and they’re slowing a little but they can still hang with the big group if they hide a little bit.  These people get a pass.  Those who don’t are the younger, stronger bucks.  The older guys aren’t entirely exempt either – one in particular last night, left a gap in the right lane in a double pace-line because he “didn’t want to be up front when the hills started” then lamented the fact that others from the left lane didn’t eat wind to fill in the hole he created…

Folks, don’t be that guy.  Ever.  I did let him have the truth, too.

 

A Birthday 100k, and a Perfect Day

I readied the bikes and packed them on the car rack long before it was time to leave. It was mercifully cool at the start, 55° (just 13 C) and after our long heat wave, it felt almost chilly. We still started out in short sleeves and shorts as it was due to warm up quick with a perfectly clear sky and barely a breeze.

It was a thin crowd, just Chuck, Phill, my wife and me, but we made a fantastic ride of it. We held a comfortable pace the whole way down to Brighton, where I had a cup of coffee and the pleasure of splitting one of the best sticky buns I’ve ever eaten with my wife at a café. After firing down our treats, we mounted up headed back.

We had a little bit of a cross breeze for some of the ride home but for the most part it was a tailwind for almost 25 miles – if a mild one.

My wife and Phill split off and headed back to the high school parking lot and I rode with Chuck back to his house so I could get some bonus miles and a full 100k because I’m enrolled in this Strava thing for July that tracks how many 100k’s we do in the month… unfortunately, I forgot my phone in the car so I couldn’t track the ride and we were five miles down the road before I’d realized I didn’t have it. I did add it in later, though.

When Mrs. Bgddy and I got home, my oldest daughter had made real, honest to God biscuits and sausage gravy for my birthday breakfast. My favorite breakfast in the whole entire world… and she made everything, including the gravy, from scratch. It was, without a doubt, one of the coolest birthday presents I’d ever received.

After breakfast, which was freaking phenomenal, I showered up and we all took a nap. For the afternoon’s entertainment we visited my sponsor who’s recovering in a rehabilitation center after being hit by a truck on a rural highway, helping to remove a roll of padding that had fallen off a carpet truck with a truck driver who’d stopped as well. He had several friends over for pizza and a meeting.

After, we headed home and watched the Tour de France coverage before crashing for the night.

I think I’d have OD’ed on awesome if we tried to fit one more cool thing in there.

Best day ever.

Component Upgrades on a Classic Bike; Perfecting a Classic or Sacrilege?

My Trek isn’t quite a classic, but it’s close and it’ll do for this post. It turns 20 at the end of the year – next year it’s a classic. On one hand, I do feel a little sad that I’ve done so much to transform the bike over the last six years. On the other, it rides so much better today than the day I brought it home in 2012, I would never want to go back to what it was (even if I did hold onto the old, worn-out components).

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From the gaudy, weathered, flaked, and gouged candy apple red/gold flake paint job to the rotted headset (and by rotted, I mean dangerous – the rust was the only thing holding the headset together), the beat up Ultegra triple components and the soon-to-be worn out chain rings, the bike had seen better days, long, long ago.

Even as good as the bike looks and handles now, there’s still that part of me that looks at the vast improvements as “Chip Foose-ing” a classic, and we only need to look as far as the cleaned-up front end of the bike as an example – new on the left, old on the right:

It’s not all bad, of course. Today, when I get the bike above 40 mph, I don’t get a speed shimmy (it’s been up to 50). The brakes work a lot better with newer pads. The triple is a double and shifting is so much better, it’s astounding. The new shifters are smooth as silk. The saddle is adjusted to within a hair of perfect (that required a new seat post because the old alloy post that came with the bike had notches that meant the saddles nose was too low or too high with a one-notch adjustment).

And while all of that is great, the best part is how much of the work I did myself, and how much I put into picking every new part to match – though I’m struggling with the brake calipers. On one hand, they’re all that’s left of the old bike. On the other, black 105 calipers sure would look sharp in place of the polished aluminum…

In the end, there is an overriding factor that will have me accepting and moving beyond my minor consternation over altering a classic: The bike is now spectacularly fun to ride. All of the old creaks that used to plague the bike, especially when climbing out of the saddle, are gone. Now, and only someone who’s ridden an impeccably maintained, high-end road bike will know what I’m talking about, the only sound when I’m cranking out the watts is the whoosh, whoosh, whoosh of the tires on the asphalt. The Trek is as quiet as the fifteen years’ newer Venge – and the only reason the Venge shifts better is it has the next step up in components.

The bike I brought home was decent. The bike I made it into (with a lot of help from Assenmacher’s bike shop) is exceptional. I don’t care much for the pomp of riding an original equipment classic. While I can certainly understand those who choose the classics, I prefer the more modern accoutrements because the newer components look and work better.