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Gravel and Dirt Road Cycling: Maximum Tire Width and What to Do If Your Tires Rub the Chainstays

I had a problem with my 2017 Specialized Diverge. The bike is said to take 32 mm tires.

Sure enough, 32 mm tires do fit. Barely.

Sadly, when one takes a corner, the tires flex ever so slightly and the edge of the tire can run the inside of the chainstay. Add mud and guess what you have? A grinding wheel.

I wore a nice little groove in my chainstay without knowing I’d done it. That is, until I got home and cleaned the bike.

To fix this, I thought about getting the same tire, but in 28 mm for the back.  I’d run a 32 up front, where it fits, and a 28 in the back. No big deal, another $50 for both gravel bikes…

First I had to have the frame looked at by someone who knows a lot more than I do about bike frames. It was recommended the groove be filed out, flush, thereby making the frame smooth again.  The idea is, with a grove in the aluminum, every single movement the frame goes through, ends right at that groove, where the frame is now weak.  Filing it smooth “fixes” this.  He then applied primer and a coat of flat black paint.

He recommended, rather than a different tire, grinding the side edges down so the tire can’t hit the frame…

Those are my winter slippers, by the way. I didn’t turn into bigfoot. Or a werewolf.

He recommended a grinding wheel, but I don’t have one, so I improvised. 80 grit sandpaper and a wood block… turn the crank real fast, apply the paper, and Bob’s your uncle – in about five minutes.

I gave the wheel a little flex to make sure it wouldn’t rub the frame, and I should be good… and now I can give that girl a bath.

Dirt riding is a delicate balance between traction, rolling resistance, speed, and effort.  Classic road bikes are easier in this regard. With a road slick, you choose between suppleness, rolling resistance, and cornering grip.

With road tires, suppleness is important because it takes some of the shock out of the asphalt.  On dirt roads, suppleness is imperative.  Traction on paved roads is important, but if you’ve ever slid on sand on a paved road, you know how much more important traction is on a dirt road.

I’ve ridden slick(ish) 28’s on my gravel bike and I really don’t like them.  They were all over the place on anything by pristine dirt roads.  The Protek Cross tires are fantastic for riding dirt and I liked the extra 4mm of width – and I didn’t want to give up traction to go with a smaller tire, so working the rough edges off made a lot of sense… and it saved my Fifty Bucks in the process.

Zero-Point-Zero Alcohol “Beer”… Can An Alcoholic Tempt Fate? Or Better, Should?

Back when I quit drinking alcohol (etc.), way back in ’92, the closest thing to a non-alcoholic beer actually had alcohol in it. Not much, something like a half of 1% alcohol by volume, if I remember. O’Doul’s was the “near beer” of choice back then.

Somewhere shortly after my six month anniversary, I had exactly one and one-half O’Doul’s near beers at a local bar whilst celebrating a drinking friend’s birthday.

Long story, short, my body remembered the alcohol f***ing instantly. Just that infinitesimal amount… I started shaking, and I could feel the pull to “go all the way” and order a “real” beer. I left immediately. I just got up, apologized, and walked out. That was the last time I spent time with a friend from the old life. I called him up later in the week and apologized, but I had to go in a different direction if I was going to stay sober. Later, I met my best friend from my childhood in my folks’ driveway and told him the same thing. I couldn’t hang out with drinking friends anymore. No more ex-girlfriends, no more old friends, no more old faces, no more old places.

If you’ve read any of my recovery posts, you already know it was well worth a few burnt bridges.

All over 1-1/2 O’Doul’s near beers. Near beer, near death as they say. In my case, that’s literally how it worked.  I didn’t want to be any nearer.

So, here comes a new near beer, this time 0.0% alcohol by volume. No alcohol. The real question is this, can a recovering alcoholic now safely imbibe?! Without actually imbibing?! No more infinitesimal amounts of alcohol.

I know the answer for me; I didn’t drink for the taste; I drank for affect… and therein lies the rub.

I have no fear of honesty in acknowledging who or what I am; a near beer is a lose-lose proposition for a drinker like me. There is no way to win:

  1. On one hand, let’s just say I try a near beer. Within a week of drinking a six-pack of near beers a night, I’m back out, pounding down the real beers. To be clear, I’m 98% sure this is the way it would go. Six months later, the house is gone, my car is gone, my career is “poof”, right into thin air. My wife left after two weeks, with the kids, which was the agreed remedy to relapse. It gutted me and touched off a spiral of depravity because I found out I really can’t live without my wife and kids. I’m dead one to six years later. One year would be a bullet, six would be liver failure. I die alone and afraid, with nothing. Misery isn’t a strong enough word to describe my world as an alcoholic. Come to think of it, it’d be the six year option, I’m too big a sissy for the bullet.
  2. On the other hand, let’s just say I try that near beer and I’m not impressed. I buy a six-pack and four sit in the fridge till summer time. After mowing the lawn, I decide to crack one open. Then another. The last two sit in the fridge for another month. Keep in mind, this is the 2% option… I decide after a particularly hot Tuesday night club ride to polish off the last two. I’ve got this licked! I must have changed! Right? You with me still? How long is it before I think, “well, if I did that well with near beers, maybe I can handle the real thing? Six months later, the house is gone, my car is gone, my career is “poof”, right into thin air. My wife left after two weeks, with the kids, which was the agreed remedy to relapse. It gutted me and touched off a spiral of depravity because I found out I really can’t live without my wife and kids.  I’m dead six years later after my liver failed. I die alone and afraid, with nothing. Misery isn’t a strong enough word to describe my world as an alcoholic.

Lose – Lose. There’s no way I win by drinking a near beer. Near beers are also referred to as “non-alcoholic” beer.

Another, more prescient way to look at it; near beer isn’t for alcoholics.

You go ahead and tempt fate. I’m good.

Possibly My Last Day on a Road Bike for 2019

I rolled the Trek out Thursday morning, for one last hurrah. It had rained the night before, so the dirt roads would have simply meant having to clean the gravel bikes for the fifth time this week. Crime in Italy, Chuck, no thanks!

Unfortunately, everyone else showed up with their gravel bikes, (according to Diane, the dirt wasn’t so bad)… The situation was a mess, and I almost switched bikes, but that would have meant switching shoes and over-shoes as well and with temps near freezing outside, I didn’t want anyone to have to wait on me. I just stuck with the road bike and figured I’d pull most of the ride… they would need it heading back north. Our route had us heading west, then south and with a wind out of the north, we were going to eat it for much of the third quarter of the ride.

I took the first three miles up front, keeping it at an easy 17-1/2 mph pace – easy for me, anyway. I peeled off the front and let everyone else have a mile or two, plus most of the tailwind. I was going to get my gravy when we turned around to head home. We stopped at our usual gas station for a quick pit stop and rolled out before we got too cold standing around. I took the next three miles, dead into the wind. I was aiming for a good speed for the gravel bikes, so chose 17-1/2-mph as my target. Two miles into the pull, it was sucking. I kept looking up to see where the road sign signified the intersection we’d be turning at. Finally, over a last little hill, it came into sight.

We turned east, and I signaled off the front. We had five miles before my next three-mile turn into the headwind so I took the opportunity to rest up – riding the Trek matched up next to three gravel bikes is not “like” cheating, it is cheating.

I was ready when we headed north again. With the nicest pavement we ever see for three miles, I dialed it up to around 18 and just pushed for home. The wind was picking up a little so this turn was a little harder. No hill for a climber, though. After three miles east, we were home. 28-1/2 miles and one of the better Thanksgiving rides I’ve ever done.

I thought a lot during the course of that ride, about how lucky I was to not only have a great race bike, but to have a fantastic second race bike. At this point it isn’t fair to simply call it a rain bike – I use it for a lot more than that – and my word was it nice to get out on a light, agile road bike after spending the last month on the gravel bike. Don’t get me wrong, I love the gravel bike, but nothing beats the raw speed of a great road bike.

Fortunately, after an epic eat down at my sister’s and brother-in-law’s house, I’m putting in some great miles for this time of year. We’re back into the cold again, but it’s not so bad we can’t ride… and I’m in the process of learning how to leave leftovers again. Something I’ve gotten away from – and my midsection shows it.

If Not for My Spouse’s Flaws…

I think it’s fitting, this last day of “Gratitude Month”, I write something about the person I’m most grateful for, my wife.  She puts up with a lot to have loved me this long (24 years together, 22 married)…

As I go, one of the toughest but, by far, the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given pertaining to marriage is to keep the focus on me when it comes to negative interactions with my wife.  This goes back to the old Biblical concept of not worrying about the splinter in my neighbor’s eye, but the stick in mine.

When things aren’t going well in our marriage, from little things all the way up to huge issues, I try to keep the focus on me.  It’s too easy to focus on my wife’s faults in issues.  To be distracted by what think she’s doing wrong…  Even when my wife is at fault, rather than concentrate on her flaws, I try to look at how I can be a better me to bring her back.

This is not easy.  F***, is it hard.  But it works.  Every time, without fail.

I don’t have to be a door mat to anyone, but do I want to be right, or happy.  That’s not a question, and it’s very rare you get to be both.

A marriage counselor told me the easiest way I’ve ever heard to keep this in perspective, years ago…

He said, “Jim, if not for your wife’s flaws, she’d have picked a better man.”

My wife and I started the weekend, Friday afternoon, drifting apart, on two separate rafts.  Every time I wanted to point the finger of blame for our drift, I remembered that saying and looked at what I could bring to the situation to improve things.  By the time Saturday rolled around, we were on the same raft and laughing together.  It was as simple as, rather than sitting on the couch, watching Michigan crush Indiana, I went to the apple orchard and shopping for dinner supplies with my wife.  By the time we walked into the grocery store, we were on the same raft again.

I could have been right.  Happy is much better.

Recover hard, my friends.

Righting the Last Wrong on My Venge (Thank God for Winter, It’s Time to Tinker!).

The fondness I have for my Specialized Venge is well known on this page. Enough, that should be the only reference needed.

That’s one gorgeous piece of 15-1/2 pound plastic, carbon fiber sheet, epoxy, aluminum and titanium. I hand-picked every part that went on the bike, and until yesterday, the only original parts left were the frame, fork and chainrings.

The one thing that drove me a little batty, from day one, mind you, was the brushed aluminum chainrings. When you look at that otherwise immaculate photo above, where do your eyes go? The chainrings. They stick out like a sore thumb! Day One, August 2013:

Now, it’d be awful shallow of me to change the chainrings only for their color. Heavens to Murgatroyd, no!

On the other hand, were I to also rectify the chainring size, dropping from a 52/36 combo to a 50/34… well, then it makes all the sense in the world!

And now I can run my Venge on a 50/34, 11-28 drivetrain which means I go from struggling on a 15% grade to struggling on a 25-ish% grade. I see plenty of the former, not many of the latter, at all.

I also dropped some weight, but not enough to write home about.

With a special deal from Jenson, I got away with the chainrings for a little more than a song, and considering how fast they discontinue chainrings, better to have them now, than not.

It took all of fifteen minutes to strip off the old, clean the bike where towels normally couldn’t go, and put the new on. I can tell you this, it was so fast, I won’t mind taking them off for my yearly cleaning in the future.

Sadly, the Venge is put up till spring, but I’ll be able to do a lot more with it next season.

Is the Term, “Okay Boomer” “Ageist”?

There are reports emerging, in which people are claiming that the quip, “okay Boomer” is ageist.

Actually, the quip isn’t ageist.  It’s funny as hell, and that’s the “why” behind the contortions to make this a slur against age.  It’s not.

The claim that something is ageist, sexist, racist, or any other “ist” there is, when that something clearly is not, is the last, desperate argument of a scoundrel.

Got that, Boomer?

One More Night Ride – Squeezing One in Before the Rain

Keeping an eye on the Weather Channel all day long, it looked like we were going to ride a razor’s edge trying to fit in one more night ride before the weather turned poor.  All day long, the rain line jockeyed between 6 and 7 pm… and then, around 3 in the afternoon, the line was pushed back to 8 pm.

Chuck and I had been texting back and forth all day long.  I shot a quick text to Jonathan that we were riding at 5 – a little earlier than usual, just to make sure we wouldn’t get wet.  The text between Jonathan didn’t mention “rain” or “wet” or even cloudy… that poor guy has absolutely the WORST luck when it comes to having to choose to ride in the rain or inside on the trainer over the last three months.  I wasn’t about to tempt fate last night.

We started out fast and stayed fast until I ran out of gas around 14 miles in.  I was starting to get hungry.  We sat up for a minute but picked the pace back up again (my fault) as we headed for our next turn… and then, muck.  It looked like the grater had gone through, maybe a day earlier.  The mud on the road was an inch, to six inches deep (15 cm).  We made it about 50 yards – I almost fell over twice – and decided to turn around and head back on the road we’d been on.  That cut a bunch of miles off our ride, though, so we talked about how to add on at the end, on paved roads.

The pace on the dirt was between 16 & 20-mph, but picked up to north of 20 on the pavement.  We were cruising heading west, but when we turned to head home, I found out why; the wind had picked up and was pushing us.  When we headed back the other way, it was a bull-rush right in the face.  I thought I was doing pretty well at about 18-mph, but Chuck came by and took the pace back up over 20 – and I was perfectly fine with that three bikes back.

We ended up pulling into the driveway with 23-1/2 miles and just a shade better than a 16-mph pace… and yet another occasion to clean the gravel bike.  It was mucked up, but good.  I even had to pull the cassette.

Well, there won’t be any riding outdoors today as there’s a rain storm parked over the State, but we’ll be out on the paved roads tomorrow morning.  Friday, too.

And then, winter.