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How to Become a Decent Bike Mechanic; As A Cycling Enthusiast, It’s Imperative…

I could make this post short.  Very short.  One sentence… heck, one word:  Practice.

At the One Helluva Ride a couple of weeks ago, I hit a pothole so deep I think I saw a kangaroo at the bottom of it.  Dead nuts’ed it, too.  That happens in a pace-line from time to time if you’re not looking up the road like you should be (ahem).  Amazingly, I didn’t pinch flat and I didn’t bottom out the tire on the rim, which surely would have wrecked the rim (thank you, Serfas, for the awesome prototype tires).  I did, however, develop a little bit of a knock in the headset whenever I hit a decently sized bump thereafter.  When I got home I took a 4mm Allen wrench, loosened the three bolts in the proper order, and tightened down the headset.  It took, literally, two minutes.  My Venge is just as quiet and smooth as ever.  How many cyclists would either not recognize there was a problem, or take the bike in to have it looked over, taking it out of the stable for up to a week – for a two-minute solution.


Two weeks ago I developed a creak in the headset of my 5200.  This one was a bit more troublesome because it’s a dreaded threaded headset.  If they’re not kept clean and lubed, they creak.  So I took my wrenches in hand and went to work.  Sadly, I made a rookie mistake.  I tried to tighten the lock nut (the top one) by pulling down from the right side of the bike, instead of standing at the front of the bike and pulling toward me from the left side of the bike.  The wrench slipped and took a nice chunk of paint out of the top tube.  I got the headset to quiet down but my pristine refurbished 1999 5200 had a gnarly top tube paint problem.  Into the shop it went – some things are better left to the pros, like one who has a airbrush paint setup, not a novice with a can of spray paint.

I picked it up the other day, along with a glorious new Bontrager Montrose Pro saddle.  At the beginning of the season I’d tried out a friend’s Selle Italia SLR minimalist carbon saddle.  I thought I liked it on the Trek.  Unfortunately, that was in March – way early in the season when I don’t have 4,000 miles on my tuchus.  Fast-forward to July and that little hunk of carbon, as light as it was, was far from comfortable after 50 miles – and my Trek is my long-range bike.  The Montrose Pro is 50 grams heavier than the svelte 110 gram Selle, but that fifty grams all goes to padding.  It’s also contoured to match my aggressive bike setup and my lack of flexibility.


So, on went the saddle and figured I’d run my random orbit polisher over the repair on the top tube.  While I was at it, the rear brake cable was a little ratty from collecting a year’s worth of sweat.  May as well take care of that too.  And come to think of it, it’s big miles season here in Michigan, so maybe some new shifting cables were in order… as long as I was doing the brake cable anyway, right?


Well, to thicken the plot, my buddy, Mike called me while I was on the way home Thursday and said we should go on a road trip up north next week for a couple of long days in the saddle.  I had planned on taking my sweet time on the Trek, but now all of a sudden I only had a weekend to get it done.  I love my Venge, but it’s not my climbing bike.  My trek is set up for hills, and our “up north” has plenty of hills. I tackled it after work Friday.  Three hours, bike polished (the whole bike, not just the repair), new helicopter tape for the cable housings, new rear brake cable, new shift cables, dialed in, and ready to ride.

I took the bike out for a 100k yesterday, and my repairs were flawless.

Now, I’m fortunate.  Or blessed, or lucky, call it what you want… to have two bikes.  I have a level of freedom to tinker that many don’t because if I mess something up and have to look to the local shop to fix it, I’m not taking time off to have my bike fixed.  I could have easily taken the Venge up north next week.  Without question, it would have been fine, even on the hills.  I would have simply had to work a little harder with fewer climbing gears.  Instead, I’ve got both bikes sorted out and I get to pick and choose.

My first answer to my Title is, if you want to become a decent bike mechanic as a cycling enthusiast, buy a second bike.  A rain bike, if you will.  A backup.  Have a bike waiting in the wings, just in case, frees one up to tinker with impunity.  My wife has her gravel bike that she absolutely loves.  I’ve got my Trek and my gravel bike.

The second answer, the real answer, is practice.  It makes perfect.

The third is patience.  Have some.  You will need it.  The first time I tried indexing the shifting on my Trek 3700 mountain bike, I messed it up so bad I almost had to take it to the shop to have them fix my mess (don’t mess with the set screws on the derailleurs unless you REALLY know what you’re doing!).  The three minute repair took three hours.  Once I looked at Sheldon Brown’s detailed instructions, I had it fixed in 15 minutes.

The fourth is buy the Bike Repair app.  Pay the Four Bucks, it’s worth it.  Wrenching on a bike is a specialized talent.  Not only do you have to know what to loosen and tighten, you also have to know the proper order of the process steps.  Do the steps out of sequence and you’ll likely make your bike worse.  Having all of the steps in front of you will help immensely, and speed up the process.


Cycling in Your 40’s; The Good Advice. And the Bad. There’s Nothing Wrong with Wanting to Be Fast.

I recently read an article in the MapMyRun Blog that had me smiling in one paragraph, and scratching my head the next.

I started cycling in my 40’s and have manage to put in 59,000 miles in that time (I’ll cross 60,000 this year if it ever stops raining), so I know a little about it.  A little.  Probably just enough to know I don’t know very much.  In any event…

Here’s the tip on how to start cycling in your 40’s:  4.  Looking to the Pros for Advice

Watching pro cycling can be great entertainment, and like anything else, you can learn a lot about the sport by watching those who do it for a living. However, trying to mimic certain things the pros do isn’t recommended for most older cyclists. Taking unnecessary risks when descending, riding through dangerous weather conditions and taking your daily cycling workouts too seriously as opposed to just having fun are all ways you can wind up being forced to take time off the bike.

Okay!  So far, so good.  In fact, I’d say the author, Marc Lidsay is right on the money.  We’ve got guys who ride in our group who go all out every Tuesday and I don’t know as any of them actually has much fun.  The whole idea for me is to enjoy my time on the bike!  Yeah, I love to go fast, but a 25-mph average is a little over the top for my liking.  I’m on board all the way with pushing the pace without making a job of it.  And as far as descending too fast or riding through dangerous weather, well I don’t get paid to ride and I have a wife and kids whom I very much want to see after my ride (or in the case of my wife, during the ride) – sane cycling goes without saying.

Then the wheels fall off:

Choosing a bike or gear that focuses on speed instead of comfort and opting for a bike setup that looks cool and professional as opposed to one that fits your body’s geometry are two other important aspects of pro cycling you shouldn’t mimic. Instead, focus more on what feels good, fits your body type and allows you to have the most fun and be pain free when you ride. If you’re unsure where to start or what to buy, see a local bike shop and get a professional bike fit to determine what’s right for you.

I’m calling PC bullshit here.  Look, if you want to drop $5,000 on a road bike then set the handlebar the same height as the saddle, more power to you, but riding a bike that’s got the saddle pegged and the handlebar dropped a little bit isn’t all that big a deal and it is awesome.  See, the important part here is that we don’t have to put those who ride aggressive setups in a negative light to shine a positive one on setting a bike up properly until you get rid of the gut (that’s the “fit your body type” business – he uses a coy tactic to beat around the bush).  See, the truth is, you can’t ride around a big gut in an aggressive setup.  At the same time it’s also true that a fairly aggressive setup on a road bike is not uncomfortable if you don’t have one.

I’ve got friends approaching 70 who still ride fairly aggressive setups.

Now, would I recommend someone jump right into the sport on my bike?  Hell no, that’d be crazy… and probably a little funny to watch, but working towards that is easy enough with a little want to.

My friends, riding a bicycle fast is a whole bunch of fun, especially in a big, competent group. I belong to that group that drops jaws as we go by on a sportive.  We are smiling and talking almost the whole way and we’re not working all that much harder than those going half our speed.  A very large part of why we’re so much faster is that we’re not sitting upright, using our upper body as a sail.  If you notice in the photo above, the guys at the back are all sitting upright, more or less.  The guys at the front are down in the drops, hammering the pace.  That’s how we roll, baby, and there’s nothing wrong with it.  In fact, it’s all right.

The whole truth…

The pros are paid to go to become limber enough to ride in extreme positions – and at the speeds they attain, it’s quite necessary.  Whilst someone in their 40’s doesn’t have to fully emulate them, taking a page from them isn’t all that big a deal, either.  The key is to ride in a manner that puts a smile on your face.  If that’s upright and slow, awesome.  If it’s low and fast, ride that ride with a smile.  Do what makes you happy, not what some author says is the best or most comfortable.


Bontrager Takes the Complex Saddle Choice and Makes it Simple(r) with Performance Postures

Specialized does it through shop employees with measurements, angles and videos too numerous and complex to get into, they call it their Body Geometry fit (I had one, when I bought my Venge, and it was awesome).  Long before that wonderful day and after a few months on my new (to me) 1999 Trek 5200, I went to the local shop complaining of immense pain due to my saddle after a steady increase of miles.  Walter quickly measured my sit bones on a handy-dandy board with memory foam on it and handed me a Specialized Romin (143mm) saddle.  The old, original saddle was a 155 – no wonder it hurt. The 143mm Romin, with its marvelous contours, just happened to be the exact saddle for me. I even put a second Romin I own on our tandem.

Fi’zi:k does it with an app. Hold your smartphone at your chest and bend over as far as you can… they match you to the proper saddle of their three different types. Not bad, but I’m in between saddles according to the app (or at least I was last I checked). Doesn’t that just figure? I can measure twice in a row and get two different saddles. Fortunately, luck got me where I needed to be previously, anyway.

Bontrager seems to have simplified everything and explained it so anyone from a leisure cyclist to a road racing cyclist can easily see what will likely be the best saddle fit for their riding style. It’s not, after all, rocket science. It’s close, though, once they really start looking into the science and how a saddle will affect a cyclist. Behold, simplicity and the Performance Postures (or as they like to call it in technical terms, “InForm BioDynamic Designs”):


To keep things moving, I’m a Posture 2. I ride an aggressively set up road bike (both of them):

Then they got into the contour of the saddle:


And followed that with the profile:


Without question, especially looking at my Venge up above and how much I love the Romin saddle, I’m a Posture 2 guy, and it makes sense now that this is all laid out above:

Now, will this way of looking at saddles tick everyone’s boxes and make them comfortable on a Bontrager saddle?  I would land somewhere between “doubtful” and “not a freaking chance” – saddle choice is too personal and complex.  That said, for me, it works and it makes sense.

Where this gets a little sticky is that saddle on my Trek, a Selle Italia.  It’s basically a flat saddle with a minute curve to it.  It’s a full carbon fiber saddle that weighs in at a miniscule 110 grams (Bontrager makes a 64 gram saddle, basically the weight of two plastic bottle cages, if you’re interested):


Contrast that with the saddle on my Venge (or one like it) on the Right and a Bontrager Montrose on the Left:

My friends, I may ride low but I am not flexible.  I can barely touch my toes (though barely does count!).  That little bit of contour in the saddle helps me rotate my hips forward so I can ride comfortably in the drops and on the hoods.  I do have to make sure to bend my arms sufficiently when I ride with my hands on the bar top, though.  Sitting upright isn’t comfortable on a contoured saddle like the two above – at least not the way I set mine up, with a 3° drop from back to front (measured the full length of the saddle).

People can get sucked into the wrong saddle pretty easy.  Whether they’re in it for the weight, or just trying to get a cool-looking saddle…  Folks, some saddles just fit some butts better than others.  The more information you’re armed with, though, the better equipped you’ll be to help a knowledgeable person at a shop help you into the proper saddle… or try luck.  It did work for me.



Ah, Almost Back to Normal Again

Since I’ve gotten back from the west side of the State, things have slowly gone back to a more “normal” state of affairs. I’m into the office early, which means I’m leaving early as well, and it seems like I’m pulling into the driveway before I know it – I’m home well before 5 pm. My drive is less than 45 minutes (I haven’t had less than a 38 minute drive to work in more than 23 years). Better, I’m able to stay up a little later and sleep in (if you can call it that, and most normal people don’t – I still have my alarm set for 4 am).

I rode what we call the “Deer Loop” with some friends yesterday morning, under utterly perfect conditions. 3-mph wind, not a cloud in the sky, and mercifully cool (low 60’s – perfect starting temp [16.7 C]). When I included “Deer Loop” in my Strava ride title, one of my friends asked in the comments, “Did you bring the deer magnet with you”. I laughed out loud – my buddy, Mike (aka the Deer Magnet) has a funny way of attracting animals so he hits them. He got a deer two years ago and a dog and a squirrel so far this year. I don’t know how many near misses there were, but I was there for a few with deer crossing just in front of us… and I’ve heard of many more than I saw…

Which leads me to the big plus: My mileage is heading in the right direction. Two weeks ago, with the long Fourth of July weekend, I managed to clock in more than 300 miles for the week. Last week, with a normal work schedule I was over 210 miles. I also popped over 4,000 miles for the year last week, so it seems I’ll still be able to have a decent year after the job and our crappy start to the Spring.

In other cycling news, the Trek is in for a paint touch-up. I put a gnarly gouge in the top tube when I had a wrench slip off the headset lock nut. It was bad – and just two days after I put an awesome new Punisher sticker on it, too…

Anyway, that’s where I’m at. Things aren’t perfect, but they’re really good and looking up. Now if I could just drop about five more pounds! Dammit, they’re a lot harder to take off than put on!

2019 One Helluva Ride; That Extra Two Tenths of a Mile Can Kiss It…

I rode the one hundred mile ride through Hell, Michigan they affectionately call “One Helluva Ride” with a bunch of my friends yesterday, and more than a few new friends. It is, typically speaking, the hardest ride of the year. It’s hot as, well, hell, the roads suck, and it’ll beat the snot out of you – especially if you go out too fast, which is easy to do because the first ten to fifteen miles is a negative grade.

Our average speed was north of 23-mph (37-km/h) at the first rest stop. One of the lead guys through that front section (I took a long turn up front, too and I didn’t slow down, either), toward the end of the ride, said he kept looking back and everyone was there, so he figured the pace was good and kept it. For my turn up front, holding 24 to 25-mph didn’t feel so bad, so I held it.

We decided as a group to pull the reigns in after that first rest stop. We needed to slow it down or we’d literally be cooked later on. By the time we hit the second rest stop at 49-ish miles, our average was down to 21.6-mph. Unfortunately, as we pulled into the parking lot, several of the guys were fishing for white flags in their back pocket… One, an incredibly strong dirt rider on a gravel rig, said he’d have phoned it in had we not stopped at the rest area. He was starting to feel a little toasty… it was getting hot.

We were still holding it together at the third rest stop. Our average had dropped to 21-mph, though we’d lost five guys out of our group. I was still feeling pretty good and we only had 23 to go. Unfortunately, that 27 miles between rest stops hammered most everyone else. Four guys were doing better than I was, and a bunch were a lot worse off.

The heat cranked up like a sauna without the steam – it was just hot. Guys started slipping off the back and before we hit 85 miles, our eighteen man group was down to just five. And then they started throwing hills at us. Three of the guys left were mountain goats. They cruised up the hills with relative ease. Then there was Chuck and me. Mountain goats we’re not. I’m still trying to lose my last few pounds from vacation… I’m feeling a bit the fat ass. Jonathan, Vance and Mark tore up this innocuous looking hill and Chuck and I were just behind. Chuck had been dealing with the early stages of cramping, and about halfway up that hill, the hammer dropped on me. I went from, “meh” to “oh, $#!+” in one hill. I’m thinking, “what the hell, this hill is no big deal, what is going on?!” That’s when Chuck chimed in, “Yep, 7%”. It was one of those deceptive optical illusion hills. You’re dropping down to the baby ring and you’re like, “hey, I should be doing 20 right now”. Trying to keep up on that hill torched me. We only had seven miles to go.

The next three miles were plain ugly. I even thought about getting SAG’ed in for a few seconds. My feet were hot. The one bright side, with the exception of the unrelenting sunshine, was that I’d picked up a new Specialized Jersey – one of those crazy-high priced pro style deals, and it was absolutely amazing how cool it kept my upper body in the intense heat. As I’m suffering along, the performance of that jersey crossed my mind more than once.

I didn’t call SAG, of course. I decided I’d let everyone go if I had to. I was going to take the hills easy, coast down the descents, and hold 20-ish on the flats… and before I knew it, I was still with the front crew, for the most part, and we crossed the 97-mile mark. I relaxed a little bit, “No matter how pooched I am, I can ride three miles”, I thought. We navigated the neighborhoods of Chelsea until we could see the fairgrounds. Chuck with renewed life, said, “If I’m not at a hundred when we hit the parking lot, I’m going to get the extra”. Not me. I rolled into the parking lot with 99.8 miles and I was freaking done. I didn’t even ride my bike to the rack. I got off and walked it.

I’d had enough.

Some watermelon, Gatorade, water, more watermelon, a half a turkey sammich, and a shower later and I was starting to feel okay again. Chuck had driven and I managed to stay awake till we hit my driveway, but I was half asleep when I wheeled my bike into the house. My nap was awesome.

My Key to a Relentless Positive Attitude: Part 145

This is not going to be an easy post to take – especially if you’re a negative person who likes to blame your problems on others…  Good luck!

Positivism doesn’t happen on it’s own.  I didn’t wake up this morning and realize my life was spectacular enough that I can now go about being a happy positive guy.  Shit just doesn’t work like that.  For anyone.

There are constant forces at work to drag us down, right?  People who wrong us and make us angry?  People, places or things that make us this, or make us feel that?

Well yes there are, but they only count for anything if I want to be dragged down.  And stay down.  That isn’t me.

The trick to relentless positivism

I have to completely divorce myself from the outside world when it comes to concentrating my energy on my attitude.  The second “you” enter my train of thought, I’m pooched.  People, places and things are entirely out of my control.  It’s not about how the outside world is, but how I perceive it and how I then, in turn, react to it.

My positivism is not an accident….

If you’ve been following along for any length of time, you know I was working on a difficult project a couple of hours’ commute from my house.  Each way.  We were given a target date when the owner was going to start moving furniture in.  My boss, just back in April, confided in me that he thought it was an impossible goal, that it wasn’t going to happen – there was no way the owners would be moving in on time.

My team beat the date by three weeks.  It’s been an ugly process getting there, but we’re there. We blew the budget, of course, because you can have something built fast, built well, and built inexpensively… you only get to pick two.  The owner picked fast and built well and we delivered.  It cost an arm and a leg.

I gave that job everything I had, every day.  I didn’t miss a minute of work, not even to have a crown fixed that I’d accidentally loosened on a Jujyfruit the day before I was to start – I put that crown back on and ate on the other side of my mouth until I had an open vacation day four months later that I used to go to the dentist.  There were several days I’d have to stop at a rest area on the way home to take a nap because I was getting too tired to drive safely.  I had only had three waking hours a day for my family.  My wife and kids got to a point they told me they missed me… but I still took that job by the horns and I made it my bitch.  One day at a time.

On my last day, several of the foremen from the other subcontractors told me how much they were going to miss my positive attitude on the job, that I was a light on that site.

Folks, that four months (and some change) out of my life was hard.  My car broke down twice, I had that tooth issue, my glasses broke, my phone was stolen, the owner’s management team rode us like red-headed rented mules… there were a dozen other little things that could have brought me down but I didn’t budge.  I just kept motoring ahead, one day at a time, with my eye on the prize.

My friends, not letting that outside stuff get to me was, plain and simple, a choice.  At each opportunity to fail or fold, I thought to myself, “Is this the thing that you let bring you down?”  Each time I answered “F*** NO.”  I became so relentlessly positive that I got strength from making the choice to stay positive, to keep winning.  Just the act of acknowledging the difficulty and that I wasn’t going to let it break me made me stronger, more resolute.  More positive.

It wasn’t always easy.  I wasn’t perfect.  There were times the drive really got to me.  The look on my wife’s face when she said she and the girls missed me… driving down to work without my glasses was scary as hell (my eyes are not bad enough I couldn’t pass the State’s eye test – my driver’s license did not require corrective lenses, I’d just gotten so used to seeing perfectly…).  One particular time, when my team and I were on the hot seat to get some critical work done and we were struggling to produce, that one almost got me.  I quieted up for two days… but then I realized what I was doing to myself and I asked that most important question.  “Will this be the thing I let bring me down?”

I bounced back the next day.

I have a choice of whether or not I will let an event or another person bring me down.  Every single day.  I don’t know what God’s plan for me is, but if my past is any indicator, He’s got some big plans and I’m going to have a lot of fun fulfilling them.  Either I can get on with it, or I can curl up in a ball on the floor and stick my thumb in my mouth.  It’s my choice.


20190709_071432That stack of drywall you see under the bridge is all we’ve got left on a job that needed more than 2,000,000 sf.  That’s it.  There’s so little remaining to do, I’ve worked myself right out of the job – there’s nothing to gain by having full-time project manager-level supervision on site anymore so I was sent back to the office to save money.

I don’t have to be perfect, or mistake-free.  I don’t have to be the best, or the strongest.  I just have to give it my best and care about what I do.  I have to choose to remain positive.  The key to being positive is choosing to be positive, and refusing to let my negative thoughts get in my way.

I can choose to quit and ball up in the fetal position tomorrow.  As long as I remember that tomorrow never gets here.

How to Upload a New Route to Your Garmin Using Ride With GPS

If you’re trying to use apps to get routes to your Garmin, you’re likely frustrated.  I was.  Or maybe I was doing it wrong and I just lost patience…  If you’re like me, relax, this is going to be simple. This takes about five minutes, once you know what you’re doing… so, about the second time.

First, open the Ride With GPS route in a web browser on a computer, and after you’ve created a free account. Export the route to a .fit file (that extension is said to work best for Garmin). Download the file to an easy location to access on your computer (I have a folder for this purpose). Plug in your Garmin and open the drive in a folder to view files. Open Garmin, then Courses… that’s where you drag and drop the new file into your Garmin.

Now, I use my laptop for this if I have a good wifi connection. If I don’t, my tablet or phone both work fantastically, as long as I use the browser rather than the app to open the RWGPS route. Also, I transfer the file from my phone to my laptop, then to my Garmin, but that’s just a USB chord connection.