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A View from the Drops; A Crazy Week in the Life of a Cycling Enthusiast…

This past week was a bit of a downer – and not only as weather goes. It was supposed to rain all week but I only really had to ride once on the trainer to avoid it, so we really lucked out there. There was a second trainer ride of the week, on Thursday, but that was for simplicity’s sake – and the fact it was cold outside and I just didn’t want to throw on all of the crap that would have been needed to stay warm.

Tuesday night we rode in short sleeves and shorts. Wednesday, had it not been raining, would have been knee warmers, wool socks and arm warmers. Thursday, had I ridden outside rather than choosing convenience and warmth, leg warmers, wool socks, arm warmers and a vest. Friday morning’s ride started out at just 38° (3 C) – so doing the math, that’s a drop of 44° or 24 C. For Saturday, it was full-on cold patrol; leg warmers, tights, wool socks, winter gloves, wind-stopper hat… Autumn, it appears, is here to stay. The weekly outlook is for fourteen days of the same – lows in the upper 30’s, highs in the low 50’s.

And that was the highlight. Friday morning’s ride was the real mess. We started out well enough. I’ve taken my computer off of my rain bike because I had a desire to be free of it for a while. I have a friend in the A Group who manages to ride without knowing how fast he’s going and he does quite well no matter the pace. I want to be able to do that, too. Well, I’m not very good at it, yet, so I can hammer some of my friends into the ground if I’m not careful – especially if I’m coming up to a City Limits sign I want.

Friday started out all fun and games. We rolled west, into the wind – I took some long turns up front, and we maintained a jovial mood. We stopped at a park to use the portable facilities and eat a snack. Everything was great. We’d rolled past a “Road Closed” sign, so Mike went up ahead to find out if the road was really closed or if we could get around… It was closed, so we looped back and decided to head for home.

Coming into the town of Durand, one of my “must get” signs, I started to crank the speed up a little early – I like to try to hurt those I can behind me to discourage them wanting to come around to try for the sprint. Cresting the little hill just before the sprint, I heard a shift of someone’s bike behind me and hit it. I hit the line smiling, north of 30-mph, then looked back and slowed to wait for my wife, Mike and Diane to catch up. Everything was smiles and chucks on shoulders. We looped around town to avoid crossing a massive set of train tracks five or six wide that we’d all fallen on at one point or another. It adds another two miles, but anyone who knows me, knows I don’t mind the bonus miles.

I was still up front and we were approaching the county line… another sign I like to get, but don’t “have to” have it… I picked the pace up a little bit – Strava shows I went from 20-21 to 23. My wife came around, if memory serves, to pip me, and we formed back up. She took the lead, I was behind her, and Diane and Mike followed.

My wife tapped out to go to the back and asked me to take it easy because Mike was having a tough time keeping up at 23. According to Strava, I picked the perfect gear for 20-mph and I kept it there. Two miles later, Mike was off the back by a quarter-mile. When he caught up, he complained of having a tough time. He said he could keep up at 20, but more than that was hurting him. Problem was, I’d been at 20… Diane is a medical professional, so we stopped at an intersection and she checked his pulse. It was faint, but she said he seemed to be regular enough. Mike said he was fine, so we pressed on. We let Mike take the lead so he could choose the pace with the wind at our back. We went on for another few miles but Mike would “hit a wall” every once in a while and slow from 18-19 to 16-mph and that’s when he mentioned he was short of breath, that he couldn’t get a deep breath.

Diane looked at me and we dropped back a bit… and she quietly said, “You need to call 9-1-1 right now”. I pulled out my phone and did as I was told, after making sure I heard right. Fortunately, we had just happened on the Gaines Township Fire and Rescue station, so we had Mike pull into the parking lot so she could check his pulse again. We got Mike off his bike and she checked him out. His pulse was “all over the place”.

We managed to keep Mike off his bike for a few minutes but he wouldn’t sit down. After about five minutes, with an ambulance on the way, he said he was okay again and went to get back on his bike. Diane was fairly adamant that Mike choosing to ride home was a very bad idea – and I liked the idea that we were sitting in the parking lot of the fire station (!). If there’s anywhere to be when you need an ambulance, it’s at the fire station for God’s sake. Diane and my wife, who was also on the phone with Mike’s wife or daughter, tried to talk him off his bike while I stood in front of his handlebar so he couldn’t get rolling to clip in. He tried to move his front wheel to roll, and I’d side-step in front of him again. This went on for a minute when two fire & rescue folks rolled up in their pickup. A woman got out of the passenger side and immediately went to Mike and worked on getting him off the bike with my wife and Diane. The guy who was driving grabbed a medical-looking bag and headed for the door of the fire station, urging us inside where it was warm. The woman tending to Mike told him she was a nurse and that he should go inside, just to get checked out. And finally he broke. He got off his bike and headed over to the door.

From there it was a flurry of activity and Mike getting sorted. Phone calls were made and I sat down with a small cup of coffee that the firefighter had offered. An already long story shortened, Mike finally agreed to a ride home in the pickup of the fire and rescue people, but no ambulance. He wanted to go home and wash up before he went to the hospital. He called his cardiologist and let him know what was going on. I put Mike’s bike in the pickup and after the ambulance techs ran a few tests, he got in the truck and took his ride home.

My wife, Diane and I rode home without our buddy.

Mike is doing well, though he’s in the hospital till he goes through a couple of procedures on Monday. The good part is they know what they’re looking for now. Having Diane there for the episode was perfect. Because she got his pulse, they know they’re looking at an arrhythmia problem rather than a racing problem. We stopped up to see him for a bit last night. He seemed to be in a good mood, though he’s pissed at the electrical heart doc who told him he should rethink his cycling. You can guess where that went. An “F” bomb or two was dropped.

According to what Mike said, they ruled out a heart attack, which is fantastic news. Sadly, they haven’t come up with a way to remove the cranky yet. They’re still working on that… and it’s a very good chance he’ll die of natural causes before they figure that out.


How to Be Happy with the Bike You’ve Got… and Refrain from Purchasing yet another Wheelset…


On the question of the wheels, you got me, folks. I have no freaking clue.

Good luck – and if you figure it out, please leave a comment… I would love to know.

As the bikes go, get a good set of wheels, a mediocre set, and a cheap rear wheel. Then, an A bike and a rain bike. Dress your A bike up till you get to a point where the thought of dressing up a new bike is worse than letting your current bike go…

Bob’s your uncle.

How I Set My Bike Up for Trainer Season…

A commenter asked on my Thursday post whether I use my normal riding wheel on the trainer… I don’t.

I have a slow set of wheels that originally came on my Venge. I hate that set of wheels. For the longest time, those were on my rain bike. Those wheels saw all of the nastiness plus my trainer miles.

Then, I bought carbon fiber wheels for the Venge, so what used to be the good wheels on the Venge are now the rain wheels and that old set I hate is now the back up “just in case” set and my trainer wheel.

Not training wheels, smartass. Trainer wheel. I saw you a mile away, Steve.

Anyway, the correct answer is I would never ride a good wheel on the trainer. I’d buy a junk wheel and use it before I’d use a good wheel.  Also, I wouldn’t want to mess up a perfectly good tire on the trainer.  Trainers have a tendency to wear tires out, so I save old tires – because I rarely ride a tire till it’s natural end – to use on the trainer.

I always thought, why put a good wheel and a perfectly good tire through extra wear on the trainer?

And yes, I am well aware of, and grateful for, my first world problems.

Every Once in a While, a Trainer Ride isn’t so Bad…

My legs were absolutely smoked yesterday. That 23-mph average from Tuesday night took a toll. All day long I was hurting walking around my jobsite. Climbing stairs, and there are a bunch, was brutal.

It was raining when I got home, but it stopped shortly thereafter. It wasn’t going to dry out before we were supposed to roll at just before 5. It was going to be close but I had a few things to consider. First, I had no desire to clean my bike. I’ve cleaned enough bikes the last couple of weeks. Second, I had to take into consideration my smoked legs. I really needed an easy day to bring my legs back.

It’s that time of year, my friends. May as well embrace the horror.

Forty-five minutes spinning my legs out, watching Star Wars The Force Awakens – fantastic. I didn’t have to clean my bike and my legs are feeling much better.

One surprising aspect of my first evening on the trainer since March, the time actually went by pretty quick once I got into a rhythm. After the first five minutes I looked at the clock and all I could think was, “holy crap, this is going to take forever”. I didn’t look at the clock again for another 30 minutes and I only had ten minutes to go. I know that won’t last but it wasn’t so bad last night.

Cycling is an Experiment in Happiness, Shrouded behind Fitness and Health, Under the Cover of Lycra Shorts and Cycling Jerseys (what little cover there may be).

I bought a bike to keep from getting fat when I was 41 after growing bored with running.  I knew I had to do something so I figured I’d see if triathlon floated my boat…

I’ve been off of nicotine for some time now, and off of cigarettes for more than a decade, probably going on two but I didn’t pay attention to my quit date or even the year.  The point is, quitting smoking made food taste good and I went from a guy who ate to live to a guy who loves to eat.  This, and being sedentary, thin and fit, do not go hand-in-hand.  Nor does smoking go with being fit, but let’s not get too lost in the woods, here.


A week-and-a-half into cycling and I was absolutely hooked.  Before long, I realized that the run and swim were messing up a perfectly good bike ride (or eating into more time on the bike, however you want to look at it), so I hung up the trunks and the running shoes.

I rode solo most of the time for almost two years before finding a normal group to ride with.  Once I started riding with friends, cycling evolved.  It became less about a way to stay fit than a way to enjoy myself.  The fact that I’m able to stay fit and relatively thin, in addition to being exceptionally healthy, is now just a bonus.


Cycling has entirely changed how I look at fitness.  Fitness changed from a chore to a way of life.

While there’s no escaping the fact that Lycra shorts and cycling jerseys are a part of the deal, I’ve come to find a greater understanding about cycling as I’ve continued to grow in the sport.  I had no idea what I was getting into, but buying a used Huffy for $20 at a garage sale turned out to be an experiment in happiness.

Before that, all I knew about cycling came from a cheap $150 big box bicycle and from riding as a kid.  Now it’s about expensive toys, good friends, good food, and seeing the country from the saddle.  I can’t wait to see where I visit next with my bicycle; if the next eight years are anywhere near as good as the first, it’s gonna be good.


Screw Riding Up Grades… Buy Upgrades? M’kay, I suppose, but why not Both? My Submissions

The guys (and gal) over at GCN, on the tech show, have a new segment – a spinoff of the old Eddy Merckx quote, “Don’t buy upgrades, ride up grades.”

While I think throwing the greatest cyclist of all time under the bus is a little uncalled for, I do love the premise! Of course, I prefer both.


2013 Venge Comp


Tarmac bend alloy handlebar, Specialized adjustable stem, Axis 4.0 wheels (1990 grams!), FSA Gossamer crank (172.5mm), Shimano 105 10sp. drivetrain.


S-Works Aerofly handlebar, FSA 110mm carbon-wrapped alloy stem (-90 grams), S-Works crankset and carbon spider (-340 grams), Ican 38mm carbon fiber wheels (-570 grams). Shimano Ultegra 10sp. drivetrain (-200 grams), Blackburn carbon bottle cages (-46 grams), SRAM PG-1070 cassette (-50 grams-ish), SRAM 1091r chain (–30 grams-ish). 25mm Michelin Pro 4 tires (+30 grams)

Before:18.8 pounds.

After: 15.75 pounds.

Then there’s my Trek 5200T 1999

1999 Trek 5200

The only parts on that bike still original are the brakes and chainring bolts. It went from a 20 pound Ultegra 9sp. Triple to a svelte 18.5 pound Shimano 105 compact double (50/34) 10sp. drivetrain. The drivetrain for the Trek came over from the Venge – the plan was hatched to upgrade the Venge to Ultegra and put the 105 components on the Trek after the original shifters went bad and were irreplaceable so I went to the Chinese MicroSHIFT equivalent (which worked spectacularly by the way). Then a friend announced on a ride that he was interested in selling his Ultegra 10sp drivetrain that he’d just upgraded to 11sp. I jumped on it.

Maintenance Tip of the Year: Take Care of the Bearings!

The gravel bikes, meaning my wife’s and mine, have been through one full season of dirt road riding. My wife came to me the other day and asked me to look into a pretty nasty creak in her headset that had just started on a recent ride.

I dutifully pulled out the tools expecting a minor creak requiring a cleaning of the headset and bearing outer surfaces. These things do need to be cleaned from time to time, after all. I put on my mountain bike shoes and took her bike out for a quick spin to see what I was dealing with.

The first pedal stroke told me it wasn’t going to be a normal fix. There was something definitely, unmistakably wrong with the headset.

I headed in and got to work.

Modern headsets are exceptionally easy to tinker with. Loosen three bolts, pull the stem, pop the fork out of the headset, pull the bearings and the miscellaneous washers (remembering the order in which to replace everything – you cannot mess this up or your headset won’t work right when you put everything back together), clean the dirt out, lube everything back up, put everything back together, front brake test, tighten headset (stem) cap, tighten bolts, Bob’s your uncle.

So that’s what I started to do… until the bottom bearing fell apart when I popped the fork out. Folks, not just “fell out” of the headset, fell apart. Into pieces. A one year-old sealed headset bearing in pieces (upper race, lower race, seal, bearing assembly). There was so much grit in there, I almost pitched everything before heading to the shop.

Instead, I thought better and took the parts and the good upper bearing with me (they’re both the same on my wife’s Diverge).

Long story short, the shop had to order the bearings and it was going to take upwards of a week to get them. I figured may as well do both, even though the upper bearing was in excellent shape (the lower bearing gets most of the wear because it’s exposed to the most grime from riding). I figured out how to put my wife’s lower bearing back together even though the seal was broken in two. If the seal is broken or ripped, the bearing is no good. It’ll stay together temporarily, say until the new bearings show up, but it’s not wise to think that’ll be a permanent fix. I cleaned out the old bearing assembly of grit and lubed everything up while the shop manager was ordering the bearings. I got the bearing back together, thanked Steve and left.

On getting home, I put my wife’s bike back together putting the good bearing on the bottom and the bad on top (hoping it would last better on the top, out of reach of the road gunk).

Well, I went in to pick up the headset bearings the other day and ran into a case of sticker shock. I figured maybe $20 for both, right? Try $30. Each. And the bottom bracket bearings, especially press-fit BB-30’s, can get up to $50 a piece, a cool $100 or more each if you go ceramic.

My friends, I learned a hard lesson the other day. Mind the bearings – especially on the gravel and rain bikes. Those babies ain’t cheap.

UPDATE: Just for grins, I took my steering assembly apart. The upper bearing was pretty clean, but look at the mess the lower was sitting in… fortunately, I got to it in time. The bearing is okay: