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I can still crank out a 20 on the old Trek…

Well, close to it.  Monday….

Chuck and I split at 4:55pm on the nose – he had a meeting to get to for robotics so there was no small talk.  It was all go from the second we pulled out of the driveway.  The weather was perfect again.  Sunny, warm, with barely a breeze.

I was thankful for the lack of wind, too.  We hit 20 mph in the first quarter of a mile and we didn’t see anything that slow (excepting intersections) till we were ten miles into the ride.  Even when we stopped for intersections, we were on the gas immediately as soon as traffic cleared.

We cut a mile off the 17.6 mile route at the beginning to get Chuck to his meeting so I had to figure out how to get that mile back… whilst, and at the same time, taking two-mile pulls at 22-24 mph.  They got shorter after twelve miles.

The surprising thing to me was how well Chuck and I worked together.  We ride together quite a bit lately, but the teamwork was impressive.  No surges, nothing but smooth, fast transitions.  20+ mph around corners where possible, then back on the gas.  Two small hills, 19.5 to 20 on the way up, 24 on the way back down.

18.65 miles in 56 minutes and a little change.

What d’ya know, the old bird’s still got it.  Wait!  Crap.  This is the old bird:

On the bike.  Crap.  Meh, still got it, and I’m not old for at least 24 more years

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We Interupt this Blog for an Indian Summer….

My friends, the weather is just too nice and it is not going to last.  We haven’t gotten the frost yet, but this is Michigan and I have a funny feeling we are going to pay for the last couple of mild winters this year…

Long story short, I’m out…

Doing this:

Making hay while the sun is shining…. I’ll be back Monday morning, 7am EST as usual.

Who Needs a Light Racing Bike – and Does Weight REALLY Matter?  No-yes it Does…n’t

The age-old argument, bike weight, and who needs what…

I have a 16 pound bike, it weighs just slightly more than one of my bowling balls.  Less than one bowling ball and my bowling shoes though.  I also have a 20 pound bike.  Still pretty light, but put four pounds of sand in your back pockets and go climb a hill.  You’ll know the extra weight is there.

Whether you’re climbing a 3% hill at 19 mph or an 8%’er at 12, you’ll feel the weight.

Where we can get into the weeds (and quite possibly get lost in there) if we’re not careful, is in determining who needs a 12 pound, $13,000 bicycle.  The important word in there is “need”.  If you’re a pro, you don’t need that bike.  It’s too light for the rule makers.  If you’re an aspiring pro, you don’t need that bike.  Again, it’s too light to be UCI legal.  To make it easy, if you’ve got an extra $13,000 to $15,000 sitting around, burning a hole in your pocket, you need that bike.  Go for a Trek Emonda or a Specialized Tarmac and have a ball.  For the rest of us, anything can be made up for with “want to”.  In fact, if I had a dollar for every time I was on my Trek and zipped by someone on a $12,000 time trial rig, well I’d have a really nice carbon fiber bottle cage for my bike.

The point is, the bike isn’t nothing, but it’s not all that important until you start talking about sustaining speeds north of 25 mph (40 km/h) and climbing hills at rates that even the abnormally strong don’t climb hills at.

HOWEVER….  The “Lose a Few Pounds” Fallacy…

I have one last thing to cover in this post, and that’s the silly notion that if I just lose a couple of pounds, that’s easier than dropping the bike’s weight.  First, you’ll never notice losing a couple of pounds on a climb.  You’re used to dragging your carcass up a hill, so losing a couple of pounds will still feel the same.  Losing ten or fifteen, well you’ll notice that, but I climb just as fast at 180 as I do at 176.  On the other hand, when I switch from the Trek to the Venge, I’m instantly faster, on everything – including the descents…  Riding is simply easier on the lighter bike.

So, while there is a smidgen of truth to the “lose a few pounds” hypothesis, it really doesn’t hold water when you’re huffing and puffing your way up a hill…  Where that hypothesis does work is at the extreme.  If you get into riding at 250 pounds and ride yourself down to 180 by the end of the summer (it’s been done), well in that case, you’d climb one hell of a lot better by the end of the season.

That clarification out of the way, I’ll stick to my initial statement.  You’re going to notice three pounds off the bike a lot more than you’ll notice three pounds off of you.  Trust me.  Or don’t.

That said, need is a big word, and I don’t need an ultra-light bike.  I just need more time to ride what I’ve got.

Cycling, Average Speed, and Finding One’s “Good Enough”…

Cycling, Average Speed, and Finding Your “Good Enough” (because I was lucky enough to find mine).  Maybe I should have titled the post “How I Found My Good Enough”?  Meh, anyway, as I was saying…

Fair (trigger, heh) warning, if you think this is going to be one of those “in the end zone, spike the ball” posts, I’m going to disappoint you – or if you enjoy someone else’s struggles, it may put a smile on your mug).  This is going to move more than Peter Sagan in a bunch sprint.

Getting my “good enough” was all about figuring out where I wanted to fit in the cycling world.  It was about figuring out where I wanted to be in relation to the others I ride with.  I make no bones about it, the only excuse for not being fast enough to hang with people who race for fun is “I don’t want to”.  It’s not that “I” can’t, or even “you” for that matter.  It’s not that we don’t have a good enough bike, it’s not that we’re too fat (or even a few pounds too heavy).  It’s all “want to”.  You either have the “want to” or you don’t – and no amount of butt-kissing or lying will change that.  The proper “want to” will fix anything.  Too fat?  I’ll have to knock off the sweets and burgers so I can keep up.  Problem solved.  It may take some time, of course, but if I want something bad enough, I’ll figure that $#!+ out.

My “good enough” centers around a group of friends.  Some of them are older, a few are younger.  Generally speaking, we’re all about the same fitness level, though a few of us are a little stronger than the rest.  The real trick is that we ride well together, and we ride together often.  We go on road trips together, dine together, and we laugh together.  A lot.


My “good enough” is not just riding with my friends though.  My “good enough” is riding well with my friends.  It’s being able to bridge gaps to help a friend who has fallen off the back, or chase my friends down to help one or more back (my friends have done this more than a few times for me as well).

My “good enough” is just a little bit better, so I can be of decent use to my friends because if we learn anything in recovery, it’s that you’re not really living until you’re of use to others.

My good enough is being a guy my friends want to have around, so we can have moments like this….

And see things like this…

As long as I’m fast enough for all of that, it’ll do for my “good enough”.

I Really Screwed Up with the Person who matters most to Me….  Solved Saddle Issues, and what EVERYONE needs to know about Racing Bicycle Saddles.

My wife has checked out four saddles in the last month.  The one that came on her bike originally, two other Specialized Riva’s (one stout and one squishy) and an Avocet Touring WII.  For those who know women’s saddles, that Avocet is worth its weight in gold.  Seriously.  It is coveted like no other saddle, even more than a Brooks.

My wife hated all of them, and it drove me nuts that I couldn’t figure it out for her.

While on DALMAC I spoke to the owner of our local shop about the problem, and it became a big problem.  There’s nothing worse than not being able to get comfortable in the saddle.

My wife, at the end of her rope, went into the shop to discuss options the other day and that’s when the owner pulled out a Specialized saddle measuring pad.  She measures out at 150mm.  We checked, every saddle she’s tried has been stamped with a 155.  Trying to fit 150mm wide sit bones on a 155mm saddle is like trying to use a 10mm Allen wrench to tighten down your brake cable (it’s a 5mm bolt).  While impossible is a good word to start with, painful works.  I should have thought of this.  I had the same problem when I bought my 5200.

We bought her a Ruby 143mm.  The clouds parted and sun shone.

The saddle has less padding that the other options but it fits properly.  

Unfortunately, there are some language/lingo issues that we just couldn’t bust through that, with the benefit of hindsight, could have made the diagnosing quicker.  

Second, I naturally assumed, being a woman, my wife’s hips would be wider than mine.  They were, but only by a few millimeters.  That was a bit ignorant on my part, though in my defense, she’d been riding the bike for two years…  

Finally, I assumed that she’d already done the width test.

As it goes, all’s well that ends well, but I can’t help but feel like I let her down by not figuring this out sooner.  That measurement pad should have been the first thing I suggested.

So, my friends, if your saddle feels like it’s too wide to fit between your legs (and I mean that literally), get measured.  It probably is.  The test takes two minutes and can mean the difference between riding in pain or comfort.  Simple a$$ that.

Because sometimes the Winter Bike just needs Genuine Leather Bar Tape with Leather Inlaid Wooden Bar End Caps…

At the local shop, there’s been a set of bar tape hanging on the rack with the Specialized and Bontrager cork bar tape as long as I’ve been riding a bike.  

It’s a beat up, black box that says:

VO GRAND CRU 

The box had a price tag of $70 on it, and I made the mistake of opening up the box to check out the feel of the leather.  I pulled out one of the rolls, and there sat, in the box, two of the coolest bar end plugs I have ever laid eyes on.  Wood plugs with inlaid leather.  Dude.

I have a better photo….

I actually walked out of the shop without the bar tape.  My wife is a reasonable woman.  Walking in the door with $70 bar tape (for the rain bike) would challenge that reasonableness.  I did what any sane avid cycling enthusiast would do.  

I asked for it as a Christmas present.

My wife, being made almost exclusively of awesome sauce, came home with that beat up old box later that evening.

I did the wrap myself, of course.  I’d say it’s not perfect but it’s a decent job.  It’s tight, looks good, and feels great.  Oh, and those bar end plugs are the coolest thing ever.

Because the old school rain bike definitely needs genuine leather bar tape… with leather inlaid wooden bar end caps.  Or somethin’.

Don’t be Afraid (or Ashamed) of Who You Are… A Two-Wheeled Lesson on Life

When it comes to cycling, I’m a B guy.  I am a B guy because I don’t want to work hard enough to be an A guy (though it should be clarified, our A Group is ridiculously fast – 24 mph average on open roads).  I am more than content with 20-22 mph, which places me in the B Group.  This is who I am and I’m normally content with that.

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The other day I was hanging on with two of the A guys for the bunch sprint at the finish of our Tuesday night ride.  I wrote about the experience on Wednesday.  Now, I am one of the best B sprinters, there’s no doubt, but one of the A guys left me in the dust and crossed the line first by several bike lengths that night.  All I could do was watch him pull away.  As I wrote, “that’s the difference between an A and a B guy, right there”.

Most people would take that experience and turn it into a reason to revamp the training plan, to lose another five pounds, to eat better and work harder…. only to fall flat after a few weeks, and all based on getting beat by someone who happens to be a little stronger pedaling a bike.

I could do that to myself, but I won’t because I know something special: I don’t want to give up what that other guy has to in order to ride as fast as he does.  In the end, it all comes down to watts and “want to”.  Being faster or stronger won’t mean a thing when it comes to riding with my friends.  I’m already strong enough and fast enough to do more than my share for the group.  I’m healthy and my weight is under excellent control.  More important, I’m happy.

While the pursuit of better makes a great postcard, when it comes to cycling I’ve found something that I can call “good enough”.  I have no need to go any further or faster.  I am good enough for government work, as I like to say.

I recently had a friend from the A gang say to me, “I just rode a hundred miles and I didn’t enjoy one of them.”

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That won’t be me.  No amount of “fast” is worth that at my age.  That same day I rode a hundred miles and I enjoyed all but five of them.  That isn’t to say I wasn’t working hard, we still turned in a sub-five hour hundred miles, but my tongue wasn’t dangling down by my spokes either.

In terms of cycling, speed, and where I want to be in that mix, perspective is everything.

Such is life.  I can’t compare my totality, everything I “have” and everything I am, to someone else’s shiny exterior.  A friend of mine may have a nicer house, better vehicles, and a boat… but I also have to look at what he gives up to have all of that.  

If I’m not willing to give up what he does, well then it’s best to be content with what I’ve got.  I am.