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Winter’s Last Hoorah… and I got Caught in the Middle of It

Tuesday there was no way I was riding. Barely above freezing, with 18-mph wind. I like to think of myself as tough, not stupid. I rode the trainer.

Wednesday was supposed to be better, but go from rain to snow in the afternoon. Not exactly the best conditions for a ride so the plan was to hit the trainer yet again.

However, miracle of my week, the Weather Channel said the rain would hold off till 7pm… what to do, what to do. No question I was riding, hey 40° (3 C) is still better than freezing even if it is 20° (7 C) below normal (Al Gore, call your office). The question was which bike to take!?

With a gnarly east wind I really wanted to take the Venge. As silly as it may sound, riding it in the wind is like cheating compared to the 5200. On the other hand, the Trek is just a little more comfortable, even if it is four pounds heavier. Side by side, the Venge is the better bike to ride, by a long shot….

I liked the Trek for this one, simply because it’s a little harder to ride. Better to push the harder bike earlier in the season, then let loose on the good bike later.

The first mile was nice. The second, with a strong tailwind was awesome. A mile north, turn around and back south… followed by three dead into the teeth of the wind. Okay, that kinda sucked. I was wishing I’d picked my Venge a half-mile into that headwind slog. At one point it pushed me back to 14-mph.

I just kept my head down and pushed through it. I turned south and that was a lot better… right up till it started sleeting. Right then I was glad I’d picked the Trek.

The roads started getting wet. I could have gone home. I could have made it home in less than seven minutes from right there.

I didn’t turn back though, because that would have made for a short post. I did pick up the pace – no sense in prolonging the mess.

Soon enough I was on the last mile and the ice was picking up in intensity. I rolled into the driveway after a fairly easy sixteen miles in just over 53 minutes.

Winter held on a hell of a lot longer than it should have but I was glad to get one last tough guy ride in before the good weather finally showed up. Now it’s time to make up for lost weeks….

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A Revolutionary Way to Change a Bicycle Tire… Here’s a Hint: Leave the Tire Irons in Your Saddle Bag

Everyone I’ve ever seen change a tire has used a tire iron. Every. Single. Time.

Until last week.

I was dropping off a rear wheel at the shop to be relaced. Seconds before I left I realized I needed my rear tire to put on a spare wheel I had at home. No sense in riding a new tire this early in the season, right? Of course right.

I raised a finger in the air and exclaimed, “Wait, fine shopkeep! I need my tire!”

I strode confidently toward one of the shop benches for tire irons… I was in the back of the shop. Matt, the owner, stopped me in my tracks.

“Neigh, neigh, my young apprentice, we shan’t be needing the irons of the tire”, he said.

Aghast, I stumbled backward as if mortally wounded, clutching at the heart fluttering in my chest…

“Kind sir, that’s imposs…”

My word trailed off as, with a pinch, a twist and a healthy push, the tire and tube were stripped from my clincher wheel.  I $#!+ you not.

I looked at him as Luke first looked on Yoda after realizing who the little green fella was.

But unlike young Skywalker, I’d paid attention to those deft three moves and I shall now pass them on to you, my friends, because that’s how I roll.

May the Force be with us.

First, let the air out of the tube, all of it. Dead flat.

Next, opposite the valve stem, pinch the tire so you’ve got the tire and tube between your thumb and forefinger.

Next, bend/wiggle the tire back and forth until you can see a little daylight betwixt the tire bead and rim, like so:

Then, with one move, twist and push the tire away from you and the rim… the tire and tube will come off, straight away – and the twist is not left or right, it’s away from you, top to bottom (or tread to bead):

You want to look like some kind of pedaling Svengali? Next time you’ve got a flat, try that little move and watch the jaws go slack.

Dude.

*** I should add, here, this won’t work with every tire and rim combination – some tires are simply too tight on the rim, though I did this with two different sets of wheels and it worked both times for me.

Road Cycling: Vintage Down Tube Shifters Vs. Modern Integrated Shifters/Brake Levers

I think one could fairly argue that, of the five or six big innovations in modern cycling, modern integrated shift levers and brake levers are the second greatest innovation in cycling, after the derailleur, behind only clipless pedals – especially for those of us who ride in a group, or peloton.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for me to knock the old down tube shifters, friction or indexed, you’re going to be disappointed.  I can’t, especially the old friction levers.  While they took a little touch to use right, they were ultimately simple.  They also didn’t break very easily.  As one recent commenter on another post wrote, “…Just hook it up, set the limits and enjoy more time riding”.

Of course, for those of us who know how to index a derailleur, the process takes but five seconds – it’s not that big a deal.

There are advantages to each for the solo cyclist.  For the person riding in a group, modern integrated shifters are the only way to go.  I’m sure there are purists out there who will lie to you and say it’s not that much of a disadvantage, but it is.  Anyone who claims otherwise is lying or ignorant.  The disadvantage is huge, and that’s why they don’t put the old down tube shifters on new road bikes (except the ultra cheap big box bikes, but even those usually get twist grip shifters nowadays).

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Where the old down tube shifters excel is in their simplicity.  There’s one moving part that pulls or loosens the cable to move the derailleur.  They last for decades without wearing out (with proper maintenance which is next to nothing) and don’t require much playing around with barrel adjusters (the old friction levers don’t even need barrel adjusters).

The old-style shifters do take some getting used to for noobs, however.  Typically most noobs don’t/won’t appreciate having to remove their hands from the handlebar to shift.  Once this irrational fear is gotten over, shifting from the down tube becomes second nature.

Modern integrated shift levers, however, are the cat’s pajamas.  While they do wear out over time because of all of the moving parts and springs (20 years is reasonable for a life expectancy), gone is the need to remove one’s hands from their resting place to shift.

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The standard riding position is with the hands on the hoods and the shift/brake levers are readily accessible, but they’re equally accessible from the drops, and with the newest electronic shifters you can even get buttons for the bar top so you can shift from virtually any hand position on the bike.

Where all of this comes in handy is when we start riding in a group.  Riding alone, one can shift as they please, opting to ride in a tougher gear to plow over a hill or shift as necessary.

In a group, all bets are off.  Actually, you know what?  I’m going to temper this a little bit because I know who reads my little page of cycling heaven…  I’m speaking directly to you now.  If you’re riding in a group that’s below your fitness level or you just happen to be a part of a group who all ride classic bikes, you’ll be just fine riding down tube shifters.  If, on the other hand, you ride with a group that matches your fitness level (or is slightly faster) and everyone else is riding modern shifters, you’re going to be smoked – one way or another.  Here’s the problem; eventually you’re going to get stuck on a hill where you should shift but can’t because the group is surging so you’ll be pushing the wrong gear up that hill… and that’s going to happen over and over again.  Sooner or later they’re going to run you out of gas.  It’s simple as that.

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My friends, I am speaking from experience here, I’m not guessing – being able to shift without moving your hands from the hoods is like cheating it’s so much better than down tube shifters.  Cheating.

To get down to the brass knuckles of the shifters, “want to” will make up for a lot of bike disadvantage, and riding a steel or aluminum bike with down tube shifters is a lot of disadvantage.  You put some good wheels on there, though, and you’re probably going to be able to hang, unless you challenge yourself with a group a little faster than you are.  In that case, you better bring a lot of “want to”.

69 km, 35 km/h Wind and a Sunburn…

Some days are just too perfect for work.  Sometimes, it’s so far between nice days you simply have to play hooky…

At times Thursday, heading out into the wind we were held to just 13 mph (20 km/h).  I know now we had gusts up to 40 mph (65 km/h) – I didn’t know this then… As the wind had its way with us, I just smiled and rode on, sitting up high to give my wife as much shelter as I could. It was brutal hard work, but I didn’t want to be anywhere else than right where I was…. playing hooky and riding with my two best friends, my wife and Mike.  I expected my phone to blow up and was shocked to check it and find I was wrong… twice.  It’s a rare day get away with playing hooky like that!

With that wind, however, came some glorious sunshine and our first warm day of the year.  We knew it was supposed to get above the knee warmer threshold of 65° but we didn’t know it would be better than that when we left.  We bucked the wind for what seemed like forever but, for once, we didn’t bother pushing all that hard into it.  We kept the pace tame and simply rolled with it.  It was surprisingly nice.  We stopped at 14 miles to shed clothes – I kept the arm warmers and leg warmers but folded up my vest and stowed it in my back pocket.  I was too warm.

Then we hit the cross tailwind and 20+ mph was easy.  It was awesome, at least for a few miles.

Six miles later, still eating wind, the gloves and arm warmers were shed. First bare arms since last October. The wind pushed us home, we were soft pedaling and going 23 mph (37 km/h. With a little effort, 27 (40 km/h).  We hit spots above 30 mph…

…and along with the ride home came a sunburn.  A mild one at that, it was long gone by Friday morning.  My Vitamin D deficiency fixed, I felt like a champ all day long.

43.3 miles. 2:28:12 for a 17.5 mph average. Not bad for that much wind.  A perfect day of hooky.  Perfect.

Recovery and the Great Debate: Which came First, the Chicken or the Egg

Once we sober up and come out of the haze that once distorted our perception, we tend to want to dissect every little part of our life to figure out why – you know, because our thinking up till that point has been so spectacular.

Why do resentments mess with us so much?  Why are we powerless over alcohol?  Why must we only look at our part in a situation where someone else wronged us?  Why must we find a Higher Power, something greater than ourselves, rather than go with self-reliance (because that obviously did so well for us right up until we sobered up)?  Why this, why that, why the other?

Those who remain miserable (by choice, I might add), push the silly debates that don’t have simple answers.  My resentment is different, I was really wronged and I don’t have a part in that, it’s all their fault and I have a right to be angry!  So I’ll hang onto that resentment because it serves me so well, you know, being a victim and miserable and all…  I don’t need a higher power because I’m so all-fired special that I can make self-will work for me!  I don’t need the Fourth and Fifth Steps, I can skip those…  This is what we call “the which came first, the chicken or the egg debate”.

Who cares which came first?  They both taste great fried.

You can work whatever program you like, whatever you think will work.  Just don’t come whining to me when you realize you’re a miserable shit…  Of course you are!  You skipped all of the important stuff that everyone else does to get better!

Let go of the great chicken and egg debate…  It doesn’t matter which came first and never will.

Fit Recovery’s Best Posts; 2011 to Present

For those who are new to my blog, I wanted to do a compilation of some of my most read posts of all time.  Some will appear on the right of my home page, but for those who read my posts in the WP browser, you’ll never see that list.  Not surprising, my most popular posts, without exception, pertain to cycling.  I’ll do a separate list for recovery posts another day.  So without further ado…

10:  With just shy of 12,600 hits, I wrote a review post on my Specialized Venge after 700 miles back in October of 2013.  It’s actually time for another review on that bike… This one for 15,000 miles.

9.  With just over 13,000 hits, I was infatuated with trying to slam my stem to get in the most aggressive position possible ever since I brought home my first real road bike.  The post is The Noob’s Guide to Cycling: Want Speed? SLAM THAT STEM!!! To a Degree.

8.  How much Faster is a Road Bike than a Mountain Bike Pt 2: It’s not just the Tires comes in at number 8.  I did quite a bit of research for this post and laid it out simply…  There’s a reason road bikes are chosen for speed…

7.  Road Bikes: Internal vs. External Cable Routing, with 16,200 hits, comes in at number seven.  This is an opinion piece on why I’d choose internal over external routing any day of the week and twice on Sunday…  External has its place, of course, it’s as simple as you get, but in terms of saving maintenance, internal routing is as good as it gets.

6.  With 18,700 hits, A Newbie Comparison of Shimano Shifters…UPDATED is a look at Shimano’s line of components from back in February of 2012.  Not much has changed since, except 10 speeds, 11 speeds, electronic shifting….  Well, a lot has changed, but the post still stands.

5.  Coming in at number five is part one of the two-part “How much Faster is a Road Bike than a Mountain Bike” post.  In this post I actually give numbers and times.  This isn’t a guess at how much faster a road bike is than a mountain bike.  Interestingly, I got those numbers on the Trek…  If I’d had the Venge back then, the difference would be greater.

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4.  With more than 20,000 hits (and climbing, this post still gets 20-60 hits a day) is my Noob’s Guide to Buying Cycling Shorts: Exactly what to look for and what to avoid.  The post gets right down to it, including the difference between a 20 mile pair of shorts and a 100 mile pair.

3.  Next, I wrote a post back in December of 2011, just twelve days into my blogging experience, about how I made my mountain bike fast, on a budget.  The post only got five “likes” at the time (which I thought was awesome) but it continues to bring people in.  Of course, now that I’m not a noob (cyclist or blogger) I know the best way to make a mountain bike fast is to buy a road bike…

2.  Number two on the list, with 23,400 hits is one of the best posts I’ve ever written on cycling:  Cycling, Speed and Cadence – Why the 90 RPM Cadence is So Important to Cycling Fast

Finally, with a whopping 55,622 hits, 38 “Likes” and 75 comments – and second only to views on my homepage/about page, from May 15, 2012, I wrote How I Got Fast – A Noob’s Guide To A 23 mph Average.  If you haven’t read the post and think I’m full of it, you aren’t the first.  I’d direct you to the proof post, here.  Please know, while the proof is real, the anger is tongue in cheek.  That said, be sure to scroll down to the bottom to get the full effect.  😀

The chica in all of the photos above is my best cycling bud, my wife.

… And Spring Finally Shows Up.

My eldest daughter had a recognition ceremony for my wife and I to attend last evening. Thankfully she’s much more intelligent than her dad. That ceremony put a crunch on time on the day spring finally showed up.

I split an hour early and rolled for home. I had my bike prepped and ready to go and I was out the door exactly one hour earlier than normal.

Arm warmers, leg warmers and a vest…. that’s all I needed and I was overdressed. And that was awesome.

With the sunshine and the temp in the mid 50’s, we also got some wind. Wind through spring is par for the course. Besides, anyone who rides a bike knows that wind, below gale force, builds character.

Well, character was built yesterday evening. And a smile was stretched across my face, dead into the wind.  I didn’t care that 16 mph was hard to maintain, even in the drops.  It was only about being out there.

I was sweating and it was glorious.

Finally. An easy 17-1/2 miles in an hour. Perfect.