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My wife and I were back at Sunday Funday on the tandem yesterday. I prepped the bike early, and outdoors for once (this early in the season I will often wheel it into the house to get it ready because it’s too cold to want to bother with it outside). We were set to roll at 9am with a light breeze from the northwest and abundant sunshine. It was a little cool, around 47 degrees (8 C), but the sun warmed things up quickly and nicely. We rolled north, a route we normally reserve for northerly winds and Sundays (it’s a little busy most Saturdays). After a grand 50 miles Saturday, my wife and I were both in the mood for Sunday Funday where we keep the pace a little light so everyone can have a good time. While my wife and I can keep up with a 20-mph average on the tandem, that’s a lot of work and neither of us enjoy that much. However, 17-18-1/2-mph is right in our wheelhouse. At that pace, we work together well – and I mean impressively well – and we provide an attractive ride for those who like it a little faster but don’t want to have to push a 20-mph average (it takes 22-24-mph to end up with a 20-mph average).
We rolled out into the wind, a whole gaggle of us… and we picked up more on the road as we went. Though we had a flat to contend with early on, maybe four miles in. Someone failed to point out a pothole that you could see Australia through and Chuck hit it dead-center. We all stopped, eleven of us by this time (and every one of us at some stage of vaccination – whether fully or partially) and waited for the flat to be fixed. I texted three others that there was a flat to fix and we’d be a little late getting to them. They replied that all was well and they’d see us when we got there.
We rolled out again after five or six minutes… and the second tandem dropped their timing chain a half-mile later. Now, timing chains are notoriously difficult to re-install because the tension is supposed to be quite tight on the chain… of course, if the chain is tight enough you can’t get it on, you shouldn’t be able to drop it. Theirs was a little loose because of a concentric crank manufacturing issue that makes their difficult to properly tighten, so it was a perfect bump at exactly the wrong time and they were on the side of the road, trying to get it back on the rings.
That took another couple of minutes. We soft-pedaled and stopped for 30 seconds till they caught up. And that was the last problem of the day. We formed into a tight group and headed into the wind. Normally Jess and I take most of the headwind, but yesterday we decided to share the wealth and rotate through the group a little more often. We picked up Dave & Sherry on their tandem and Greg on his new gravel bike and struck out to see the world.
What followed was one of the most tremendous tandem rides I’ve ever experienced with my wife. We matched almost perfectly and we did a lot of talking when we weren’t hammering to keep pace. There were at least a dozen times I was overcome by the glorious feeling that I’m the luckiest guy in the world to be riding on that tandem with my wife.
Dave and Sherry are a 30-year tandem team and they are phenomenal on their Co-Motion Macchiato. I’ve never seen anything like it… they come up to a hill and Dave says, “Up”, and on the next pedal stroke their both out of the saddle climbing like they’re on single bikes. Jess and I tried that once and had to sit back down immediately. We have tried with Jess out of the saddle and me seated and that works a little better. Anyway, they were up front a lot and we rode their wheel quite happily.
Before we knew it we had 23 miles in and it was time to head home. Chuck is under strict orders from his heart doc to “try two or three miles” but don’t go crazy with 50… so 48 miles is the limit. Runners and cyclists are a funny bunch and doctors rarely “get” us. Also, my wife and I like to keep our jaunts on the tandem to 40 miles or we start getting a little sore in the backsides. However, and this will get it’s own post, after our last ride on the tandem, I switched to my Venge to ride my buddy Mike home and I could feel the height difference between the Venge and tandem immediately – the Venge was a good 2-mm higher. I decided to raise the Co-Motion’s saddle the 2-mm and it turned out to be absolutely freaking glorious. The first time I’d ever been over 35 miles on the tandem that I wasn’t wishing for a short stop.
We made it a fantastic 46-1/2 miles and, while I was definitely tired, I had a wide smile stretched across my face we pulled into the driveway. I’d never had so much fun on the tandem.
The weather was fantastic all day and, after a quick nap, we had a cycling club board meeting and then I went to play some tennis with my daughters.
We had hamburgers for dinner and watched Captain Marvel after, before I retired while Mrs. Bgddy was working on some cycling club business. I was off to sleep within ten seconds of my head hitting the pillow. This weekend was as good as they get. No noodle salad this time, but plenty of good times.
Cycling on the Proper Side of the Road (and Why Cycling Against Traffic is Cycling With a Death Wish Part 174)
I was out for a Saturday afternoon cruise, all by my lonesome a few weeks ago. It’s a rare Saturday I’m not with my friends, but things just worked out that way. I exited a subdivision onto a short, punchy climb and was out of the saddle pushing my way up the incline when I saw a woman and her two young boys riding on the wrong side of the road with a minivan bearing down on them. I, in the correct lane, stopped pedaling and waved to the minivan that it was okay to pass them in my lane. I could see the hesitation by the driver, but he realized in short order that it was going to be safe to pass and did. The boys and their mother had no clue what was going on – they were completely oblivious to the accident they could have caused.
Had I not been paying attention and just kept trucking, head down, it could have gotten messy. In fact, this is exactly how many cyclists riding on the proper side of the road are killed, when a vehicle traveling toward them in the opposing lane comes into the lane the cyclist is riding in to pass – and the driver of the truck, with a mother and two boys bearing down on them on bikes in the wrong lane would have no choice but to try to thread the needle between them and me. Thankfully, I saw that coming a half-mile away.
Now, I’ve made comments to riders in the wrong lane before, but in this instance I chose a new approach. I pulled alongside the mother and started, “Good afternoon. I appreciate that you like to ride in the wrong lane, but I would like to make a couple of observations that you may not be aware of.”
First, I said, if your boys are that far ahead of you and they approach an intersection, say a car is making a right hand turn into their lane, where is that driver looking when he gets to the intersection?
She actually got it, immediately. “He’ll be looking left”. I said, right, and he’ll be pulling out directly into your boys without looking. So that’s the first scenario you have to worry about. Second, you’ve got a car coming at you that wants to pass as you’re pedaling towards it, but there’s a truck coming the other way. The driver coming toward you can’t get into the other lane and you’re closing distance on the truck… surely, you can see the trouble on the horizon. If you’re in the proper lane, with the flow of traffic, the car behind you can slow until oncoming traffic clears, then go around when safe. Not so if you’re in the wrong lane.
And with that, we exchanged pleasantries and I sped off down the road. It’s amazing how a difficult topic like that can be diffused with a good attitude and a smile. The last time I had a conversation with a woman about riding on the wrong side of the road (with her child in tow, for God’s sake), she ended up hollering something about the patriarchy… I’m going to have to change my tactics from now on, because this time turned out much better.
File these two under the old, “We don’t care if you think cycling on the wrong side of the road is dangerous, we know it’s safer, nah-nah-na-nah-nah”… and remember the important rule here: People are going to do what they do. We have to keep our own eyes peeled because we can still, doing the right thing, get stuck in between a rock and a speeding truck.
Bontrager’s new Wavecel technology Specter cycling helmet ticks two very big boxes for me. First, being mildly allergic to bee stings, after a decade of riding with some form of cycling cap under my brain bucket to protect from the wayward bee flying into a vent, I can finally, safely go without. That little bit of freedom alone was worth the reasonably priced Bontrager Specter helmet ($149.99 at your local Trek bike shop).
The second, I’ve got friends who’ve crashed wearing them and escaped serious head injury. And each friend who crashed wearing a Wavecell helmet bought another to replace the damaged brain bucket. Better than all the BS taglines a company can come up with is a person who has crash-landed on their melon and purchased another of the same helmet.
Now, that’s just the main two boxes. I bought my wife a Specter last year because she’d crashed and I wanted her to have the best replacement I could buy. I bought mine so we could match on the tandem. A little corny, yes, but I can live with that.
Now that I’ve worn mine a couple of times, I have to get into the things that were done right with this helmet, and there’s a lot to crow over. First, the chin strap system and clasp are fantastic, infinitely adjustable, and easy to get the straps to lay perfectly flat against your face… simply, and without much fuss. Just follow the instructions in the manual for a perfect fit. Next, the Boa closure is vastly superior to the old ratchet style fitting systems. The pad system takes a page from Kask sweat pads that actually retain sweat so you’re not dripping sweat into your glasses. Simply remove said glasses and push the helmet to your forehead to squeeze out the sweat. Having owned a half-dozen Specialized helmets, everything from the cheap to S-Works, Specialized wishes their sweat pads were this good. Finally, is the fit. It’s a rare day I’ll crow about how a helmet fits, but the Specter’s fit is exceptional. Wonderful, even.
Without question, the Bontrager Specter helmet with Wavecell Technology is one of the best cycling helmets I’ve ever worn. It is a bit on the heavy side at 330 grams, but the weight is the only thing I could think to complain about – and even at that weight, it didn’t bother me a bit over yesterday’s 52-miler.
If you’re in the market for a new helmet, I happily recommend the Bontrager Specter.
Another friendly runner is about to earn his cycling shoes…
Five or six of my best cycling friends are ex-runners. One, an accomplished runner, in the low five-minute miles for a marathon distance – he was fast. I am a one-time runner, much slower. My wife, too. I’m a rare ex-runner cyclist, though . I found cycling long before injuries sidelined me and I found a love for cycling I never had for running. I liked running, I love cycling.
About 25 years after I rode the wheels off the Murray Baja mountain bike my parents bought for me (coincidentally, exactly ten minutes after I was first licensed to drive a car), I bought my first real bike and found joy. I ran sparsely after for a couple of years, but once I picked up my first carbon fiber road bike/rocket ship, it was all over for running.
My best cycling friend, however, said he would go back to running in a minute if his body would let him.
Once we learn peace and serenity are achieved through the physical exertion of running, some of us have a tendency to overdo it. With excessive running, if the form isn’t perfect, the body will break down over time.
Thus, when we get to that point where we can’t (or don’t want to) run anymore, many turn to cycling because those of us who turn to running because it makes us feel spectacular, need something to do to keep that going.
For all you runners out there, I’m here to tell you, cycling works. In some ways better, in others, not. It’ll get you that euphoric feeling that running gives you, only you can ride every day without fear of beating your body to a pulp. There’s a big learning curve, of course, but once you get the hang of it… well, it’s quite fantastic.
If you are getting to the point where you think running is just too debilitating anymore, you’ve earned your cycling shoes. Try them on.
First of all, I have tried to set my bike up like a pro – a frame two sizes too small, super-long baby’s arm-length stem, six inch drop from the nose of the saddle to the handlebar… the bike looked… erm… not right (click here, scroll down to the last bike) and the real answer is no, you absolutely shouldn’t try to set your bike up like a pro does – not all the way, anyway. Simply because you’re not 20 anymore. As Manon Lloyd suggested would be the case, I lasted five or ten miles with the bike set up like that. I had to cock my head sideways to be able to see up the road. Forget about riding in the drops. It was all I could do to ride on the hoods. It was, simply put, untenable.
So, above is GCN’s Manon Lloyd in a video about why one shouldn’t set one’s bike up like a pro. Of course, the comments also humorously pointed out that GCN’s next video would be “Why You Should Set Your Bike Up Like a Pro”. In fact, I do remember one or two about how to set your bike up like a pro, but should you or shouldn’t you?
Neither question is the correct question because whether you should or shouldn’t, you’re going to try. We all do because a pro setup looks awesome. So give it your best… and find out the normal way that we all end up somewhere between “pro” and “handlebar same height as the saddle”.
Now, on a humorous note, take a look at that pro’s bike in the embedded video above. Now look at mine:
I can tell you confidently, at 50 years-old, riding in the position needed for that setup isn’t all that big a deal – I’m certainly not uncomfortable. And that’s really the important point. It is that which is most important in cycling: When it’s all said and done, the idea is to put as many miles on your bike as is humanly possible. May as well do that in comfort. Unless you’re getting paid to ride. And you have a masseuse. And a team paid DO/Chiropractor.
As far as the GCN video goes, it doesn’t matter whether you should or shouldn’t. You’re going to try anyway, so just give it your best and see what you think.
It was cold yesterday morning. I mean COLD. 17° F or -8 C. Mike texted early that he was riding the trainer. I got ready hoping nobody would show but my friends Phill and Doc Mike showed up to ride. I was out the door with a few minutes to spare.
I wanted to test the limits of my new Funkier jacket anyway…
We rolled out on time and I was warmed up within two miles. A light base layer, a decent long-sleeve running shirt and I was sweating before mile seven. Sweating. Sadly, my lower body was chilly. Not horribly so, but I didn’t want to be out too long and risk. Erm… problems.
We chose dirt roads and were happy for the choice until about five miles in. The conditions devolved into an icy nightmare. Several times we were reduced to unclipping and pushing off on the ice. It was absolutely treacherous.
Nine miles in we chose a paved road and stayed on asphalt all the way home. We hit the pavement with a 12.8-mph average and pulled into the driveway at almost 15-1/2. The ride home was a blast, holding 18-20 all the way. On the gravel bikes with all that cold weather gear on, in that cold, we were moving.
The ride wasn’t all that long but we were out there for more than an hour and I had some serious fun. Had we been out much longer I think it would have taken away from the enjoyment of the ride. The cold would have caught up.
So this led to the good part. Before getting in the shower I stepped on the scale for the first time since Thanksgiving. I was ready for my jaw to drop at the jump in the number on the screen… and I was only six pounds over mid-season cruising weight… and still in the 170’s. Barely, but I’m there. I was expecting to be well into the 180’s and to have a daunting task in front of me to get ready for the hills of the Horsey Hundred. Instead, it’ll just be some rigorous trainer rides for the next couple of months with some intelligent eating decisions. Once March gets in gear, I’ll be in fantastic shape in no time.
I did some maintenance throughout the day, lubing chains and a bit of crank work on the Diverge (I didn’t quite get the bolt tight enough last time I cleaned it – you really have to… um… crank on the Allen key to get it tight). I also went to the shop with Mrs. Bgddy and picked up a trainer tire. I’m pushing too hard a gear and road tires just aren’t lasting very long. I had a Bontrager tire on there for a couple of weeks and that worked well till it started slipping the other day. I’m hoping this puts the issue to bed. I won’t find out today, though. We’re going to brave the cold again and head outdoors.
UPDATE: My friend who goes by biking2work asked how the jacket held up in that cold. I finished slightly sweating. Comfortable and warm the whole ride. The wind chill was 14 F or -10 C. Simply amazing, though not a jacket to go all out in. You’d end up a puddle of sweat on the road.
I wrote about changing my cockpit on the Venge over the weekend. I swapped out the lightweight stem I’d had on the bike for the last five years for a stem that had more drop (-6° to a -10°). The switch was mainly for vanity – the front end looks vastly more impressive now. However, a blog friend, Dan, commented that the amount of drop was pretty extreme in the new setup. He was right. 20 mm, 2 cm, or roughly 3/4” is a huge change – especially for a bike I’d been professionally fitted on and riding comfortably for years.
Basically, what I did, for the reasons I did, is less than wise and goes against virtually every bicycle fitting “rule” there is. I’m going to be me, though, so full speed ahead. It’s not like I can’t put the bike back together the way it was in ten minutes flat, after all. If you simply look at where the bar end lines up with the hole the shift cable housing enters the frame, you’ll get a sense of the change (just looking at where the angle of the two stems doesn’t quite do it justice).
This leaves me a conundrum for Venge Day 2021, though. Typically speaking, this is going to be some kind of hooky day, early in the spring when the temps finally warm enough after our first major rainstorm that I can be assured I won’t be caking my good bike in the winter’s road salt. Venge Day usually isn’t a short day in the saddle, so I want to be able to roll the bike out of the house fairly confident that I won’t have to come home early because I’m an idiot and my bike fits like crap. Because that’d suck, though I imagine the blog post after would be interesting.
It was raining yesterday, technically, rain mixed with snow, so “snaining”. There was no chance I was taking a road bike outside, let alone my good one. That left… the trainer. I did the unthinkable. I put my trainer wheel on my Venge and spent 45 minutes on the trainer kicking the tires on the new setup.
Now, the trainer actually has several benefits built into it for testing a new setup. First, it’s not like you’re out of the saddle, dancing on the pedals whenever you get a chance. On a stationary trainer, my tuchus is pretty much in the saddle the whole time unless I stand up for a little break – I’m not about to bob and weave out of the saddle, putting that kind of torque on an irreplaceable carbon fiber frame. This magnifies any problems in the setup because I don’t get a break from the position I’m riding in. If it’s going to suck on the road, 45 minutes on the trainer will bring it to agonizing light. Especially when you’re watching John Wick whilst riding.
And so I did my 45 minutes on the Venge… and I liked it. A lot. I may have to tinker with the pitch on the saddle next season, after I get some decent test miles in, but I won’t have to take my toy and go home early on Venge Day. The ride is very low, but I have a good angle on the hoods and I’m well supported, likely better than the old setup. Watching the movie was a little difficult in the drops, but that’s as it should be. Watching the movie on the hoods was doable, and with my hands at the back of the hoods (not all the way up to the horns), watching wasn’t a strain at all. I didn’t spend any time on the bar top – a sure tell that the setup is rideable.
If you spend a lot of time with your hands on the bar top, or that’s the most comfortable place for your hands, that’s a sure tell your bike’s setup won’t work for you. It’s either too aggressive or too stretched out (or both). The most comfortable place for your hands should be the hoods. Use the drops for headwinds and your turn at the front of a pace-line and the bar top for long hill climbs (this opens the chest up and gives the diaphragm room to work). And, incidentally, on the trainer I want to be able to watch a movie from the hoods, about 20′ back from the TV. From the drops, I should be able to focus on the bottom edge of the TV (ours is off the floor about 3′) without trouble, but watching the movie should be a bit of a strain on the neck. I have all of this down to a little bit of a science, a sure sign I spend way too much time thinking about cycling.
In any event, this most important test was passed last night. Now all I have to do is wait four months for Venge Day.
I bought my wife a Specialized Alias in 2014, for Christmas, hoping a decent high-end bike would help her embrace cycling more… enthusiastically. She was still running back then and liked to dabble in the occasional triathlon so that particular bike made sense. It’s a brilliant mix between a triathlon bike and a road bike, with a forward swept seat tube that gets the rider over the pedals. This incorporates the quads for cycling leaving the hamstrings and back of the legs fresher for the run. She’s come to love that bike. Absolutely adores it – especially the aero-bars when she’s up front. In fact, she loves it so much she wouldn’t let me replace it after the carbon was slightly damaged in a crash with a deer (the shop looked it over and gave it their blessing).
That photo was from a few years ago… I bought her carbon fiber wheels since that photo. Over the years, as I did, my wife has walked away from running and moved to cycling exclusively for her fitness (though she’s just recently started going to the gym with my daughters). While both her trainer road bike and her gravel bike are compact frames, they both feature the more traditional seat post angle. Throughout the last couple of summers, my wife has become quite the strong cyclist. She can put a few of the guys we ride with in a hurt locker and she’s been known to make my tongue dangle into the spokes from time to time. She’s also developed a nagging backpain since. Well, she finally went to her doctor to get it checked out. It was tendonitis. The doctor gave her a shot that relieved the pain but we started talking solutions.
I started doing some research.
See, we all know, the seat tube on a tri-bike is swept upright a lot more to engage the quads, right? Right. Well, because my wife stopped running, she’s developed a massive imbalance between her quads and the muscles/hamstrings in the back of her leg. This pulls on the hamstrings which connect to tendons in the back, which can’t deal with the constant pull, become inflamed and voila; tendonitis.
I’ve searched for solutions in the past, too. We went from a zero-offset seat post to a 20mm offset. Now we’re going to try a 32mm offset (FSA K-Force SB32) to see if we can get her back far enough she can get a little more use out of the backs of her legs in the pedal stroke.
Before you head to the comments section and ask, yes, I’ve tried to get her into buying either a new frame or a whole new bike. She’s not having any of it. She wants to run the options out on the seat posts first and see if she can solve the issue that way… and happy wife, happy life. Some $#!+ you just don’t fight.
The Noob’s Guide to Cycling: Setting Up the Cockpit of a Road Bike; Handlebar Angle, Hood Angle, and Drop – and the Pain Getting It Wrong Can Lead To: Part Two; The Stem
Picking up where Part One left off, the cockpit of a road bike is where a lot of the action is. You know, once you get the crankarm length right, the pedals figured out, the saddle width, the saddle height adjusted and the fore/aft position of that saddle, and then back to height, well all that’s left is the cockpit… and stem rise/drop, stem length, stem spacers, handlebar width, reach and drop, and the angle at which the bar comes off the stem. We’re going to need a bigger post.
Short story is, there’s a lot to deal with. Now, if you want to skip all of this mess, and I certainly would understand if you did, just have your bike fit to you by a pro. I spent three hours having my Venge done and out of the whole process, we lowered the saddle by about two millimeters (I won’t lie, I was stoked that I set the bike up that close to perfect on my own). If you’re going to go the pro fit route, I recommend telling that pro how you’d like to ride, aggressive, leisurely, or somewhere in the middle. I’m what I like to call “middle-aged aggressive”. My really flexible days are long gone, but I can still get pretty low and fast… and it’s better on my back this way. Whatever your choice, it’s important to know the default of most bike fitters will be “leisurely”. They’re going to put you upright on your bike so you act like a giant wind scoop. Oh, it’s comfortable alright, until you try to pedal that thing over 25-mph and you’re looking for a second drop bar so you can get down out of the wind.
Let’s start with the first piece of the cockpit, the stem. The stem, at least on modern bikes with modern handlebars (but not the integrated stem/handlebar single piece setup), is the most flexible piece of equipment there is on a bike when it comes to quickly changing the characteristics of a road bike. The modern system is called a threadless headset. Typically, you’ve got an upper and lower bearing that sit in cups in the “head tube”. The upper shaft of the fork slides through the bearings and the stem slides over that. The top cap screws into a bolt in that shaft, tightening the system to the point there’s no play. Compared to the old threaded quill stem steering assembly, the threadless setup is a marvel of ingenuity and one of those rare instances where engineering makes something work better while making it easier to maintain at the same time. Like I said, rare.
For noobs, there are a few important points to remember about setting up a bike. Once the saddle is situated in the right location, the stem is the piece that gets the handlebar where we want it. We never adjust the saddle to make the cockpit fit. Other than the spacers above or below the stem, the stem itself dictates reach and rise. On my two road bikes, I’ve got different stems to get the shifter hoods in the same location with the same saddle to bar drop on two vastly different bikes:
The Specialized on the left has a 100mm stem with a -6° rise. It’s a 6 degree stem flipped upside down to cut down the angle rather than make the handlebar rise. This is a little deceptive, of course, because either way you flip the stem, it’s still going to rise due to the angle of the fork and steering assembly. If I wanted a flatter look, I’d go with a 12° stem, flipped (I’m actually thinking about doing this, just for fun). On the Trek, however, I’ve got a 17° stem flipped, which is enough to take the rake of the fork to make the trek’s stem “flat” or level to the ground. This is decidedly badass, especially when it’s on a 21 year-old frame. Now, if you compare the rake of the Venge and the Trek, you would see that a 17° flipped stem would be too much on the Venge, you’d end up with a drop. We match the rise or drop of the stem with where we want the handlebar when we’re done.
Now, the stem also handles another invaluable role. The length of the stem will determine how far you have to reach for the handlebar hoods. If the stem is too long, it’ll be uncomfortable to reach for the hoods because you’ll be too stretched out. Too short and you’ll feel cramped into the cockpit.
My Trek, a 1999 5200, is a standard (or traditional) 58 cm frame. The Specialized, from 2013 is a compact 56 cm frame. They’re very different frames with different geometries, but with the proper stem, I’ve got the same reach and drop from the saddle to the handlebar on both bikes. I’ve got a 90mm long 17° negative rise (meaning it’s flipped) stem on the Trek. On the Specialized, it’s a 100mm 6° (again, negative rise). With those two setups, using “stack and reach” measuring, the hoods on each bike are exactly the same height off the pavement, and the saddles are in almost the exact same location in relation to the pedals and off the ground. In fact, the bikes are so close, the owner of our local shop checked my work and said making the two any closer is an impossibility.
This is by design. I wanted to be able to go from one bike to the other, because I ride both a lot, without feeling a difference. I can ride the Specialized for 50 miles, switch to the Trek and go for another 50 without feeling it in the setup.
With the right stem, you can adjust a cockpit to suit your needs, whatever they may be (or however those needs may evolve over time). My gravel bike is a neat case in point. I should have put a 120mm stem on it if I wanted to match my road bikes (it’s a 56 cm compact frame, with a more relaxed geometry than my Venge, which has a race geometry) The longer stem would give me the proper stretch, but I chose a 110mm with 6° negative rise so the handlebar is a little closer. This allows me to sit slightly more upright which helps when trying to dodge potholes on dirt roads. I have the same drop from the saddle nose to the handlebar, the same saddle location, etc., etc., I’m just a little shorter in the stem so I can sit up. I also switched the handlebar from a shallow drop to a standard… but that’ll be the next post.
I can’t remember the last time I hit the dirt. It had been a while. The operative word in that last sentence is “had”.
It was a cold afternoon after a day from hell at work. We chose the gravel bikes – I love not worrying about traffic through the post-season. That, and 40° at 18-mph is way better than it is at 24.
I rolled over to Chuck’s at 5, taking my time about it. I wasn’t in a hurry. I was looking forward to lollygagging, actually.
My gravel bike, a low-end Specialized Diverge, would be uncomfortable if I used normal road tires on it. Alloy frames tend to be somewhat brutal. With 32-mm gravel tires at about 45 psi, the thing is surprisingly buttery and wonderful (once you get beyond the slow and heavy aspects) and fun to ride. Especially at the end of the season out with my buddy, Chuck. This is what I was thinking as we were making our way out and this is specifically why I have such a deep love of cycling. I went from one of the most brutal Mondays in memory to thinking about how comfortable my gravel bike is and how much fun I’m having.
So let’s get to the good part. We’re coming up a hill to a busy intersection and there’s traffic coming from the left but the lead car is turning left. Chuck jumps at the chance to get across, so I follow slightly behind. I got way over on the side of the road, because, gravel bike, as the car turned in behind us. He went by and I decided I should ride up on the grass a little bit. Again, because gravel bike. And that’s precisely when I looked up and saw the trenched out mud puddle right in front of me, no doubt made by a mail truck… I didn’t want to hit the puddle or get run over, so I tried a track stand in possibly the worst place in the entire world to try a track stand while the truck cleared. And my front wheel slid down the trench into the mud puddle and I went straight over sideways landing on my elbow, shoulder, knee and hip. My hip hurt quite a bit, taking the worst of it, and I hit my knee pretty hard, but other than that, I was okay. I also had to twist my left shifter back into place.
Thankfully, I missed most of the mud.
We had a chuckle at the silliness of the situation and rolled on. My main concern was to keep everything moving after a hit like that. Too slow and every part that hit the dirt seizes up and I didn’t want any of that. After a while, all of the mud cleared my tires and I rode up into a little more grass to clean them off the rest of the way.
The ride got a little fast after that. The sun was fading into the horizon pretty fast and with intermittent cloud cover, we didn’t have much light left. I’d been up front for miles and pulled over to let Chuck take a turn but he didn’t come around. He’s riding tonight and I’m skipping for my daughter’s senior night for swimming, so he’s going to need his legs. I stayed up front and took it to the barn.
It was only when I started peeling layers that I realized the extent of the damage. Hip was a little sore but okay, elbow was good. The knee, though, I’d skinned my knee up pretty good. A lot like every other Friday when I was a kid.
My wife had an awesome chicken pot pie waiting. I cleaned up and we sat down for supper. It didn’t last long.
Waking up this morning, though, I wasn’t near as spry as I once was. No real harm, though. Skinned knees and mud puddles. I slept like a baby last night. Not one thought about my crappy Monday. I’m sure today will be a lot better.