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Cycling Every Day; How I Trained My Body to Keep Up with My Desire to Ride (It’s not Difficult, but It ain’t Easy, Either).

I’ve been riding every day for the better part of four years now.  I took 21 days off all of last year.  I went more than a month without a day off several times, and managed to average 29 miles a day when I did ride.

For a working fella, there’s a trick to riding every day.  I had to acquire an off button.  Technically, this off button doesn’t shut me down, it shuts the voice in my melon that wants to push it every single day I ride.  My first three years riding, I didn’t know any better so I pushed it almost every day until my legs were smoked.  Then I’d take a day or two off.  I worked in scheduled days off, too, because everyone said I had to take time off to realize my fitness goals.  I didn’t like that much at all – cycling was my way to clear my head and refocus on why I love life so much.  I wanted to ride every day for that benefit alone.

Eventually, as I grew into the sport, I learned that it was okay to take an easy day on a regular basis.  Self-knowledge is about as useful as toilet paper in the next stall, though.  I had to train myself to be okay with sitting up and enjoying a ride now and again if I wanted to ride daily without over-training.

So, for me, that voice says that if I feel good, if my legs feel alright, then I should take the opportunity of being out on a ride as an opportunity to increase my strength, stamina, and fitness by pushing it a little bit.  For years I didn’t even know I should shut that down and I ended up with over-training issues and even a couple of minor overuse injuries.  Once I learned that I could ride every day, pain-free and without repercussions, if I simply told that voice to sit down and shut up, my level of enjoyment increased exponentially.

As in recovery, riding is more about managing my melon than my legs.

And that’s my secret to a happy bike ride.  Fast, or my approximation of slow.

Ride hard, my friends. And enjoy the ride; most aren’t lucky enough to know the joy of riding a bicycle or running.


Riding While Injured… Helpful or Harmful?

I had a fall Tuesday evening, taking the garbage to the curb of all things. We had better than 250 pounds in the can and I stumbled. The weight of the off-kilter wheeled garbage can pulled me down instantly. My skinned knees doubled in size. I have a fair gash in my right middle finger knuckle, and my thumb, pointer and ring fingers are skinned. My glasses were bent, but thankfully not scratched. To round it off, my back was tweaked pretty good, too.

The knees are bruised, but there’s nothing grinding around in there. Still, I was hobbled a little bit Wednesday.

So, I pulled into the driveway after work and contemplated whether or not to ride.  Movement may hurt, but I know darn good and well it will also loosen me up.

I rode on the trainer and it sucked… until I stepped out of the shower. The pain dulled after sitting on the couch for ten minutes, continuing with my movie.  My wife came home with the kids (from swim practice) and some pizza.  We ate dinner together and I went back to the couch to finish Inception.

Awesome movie, by the way.

I drifted off to sleep shortly after 8, went to bed around midnight, and slept till 3 (that’s seven hours for the math challenged)… and woke up feeling 75% better than when I fell asleep.  My legs, especially my knees, showed significant improvement on waking up.  The twinge in my back eased up considerably and I almost feel pretty good again.

All in one night and because of one ride on the trainer – and I thought about quitting five times in the first ten minutes.  I have no doubt, I couldn’t have improved that much in one night had I just taken a day off and “rested” on the couch.

The question, of course, is when one really needs time off from exercise to heal and when one should muscle through it.  I like to err on the side of the latter, though I’m no doctor.  I think there’s a little too much “take two weeks off” and not enough “rub some dirt on it, you’ll be fine.”  But that might just be me.

The Most Anticipated Women’s Specific Saddle in the History of Cycling; The Specialized Power Mimic

My wife has had saddle issues for as long as we’ve been riding.  I’m not going to get descriptive here, because it’s simply not necessary.  If you’re a woman, you know the issues.

Specialized set out to fix those issues.  They brought in dozens of women and a couple of scientists and went to work.  The end result was the Specialized Power saddle with Mimic Technology.

Its release was possibly the most anticipated in women’s cycling.  Ever.


The saddle is so popular the entry-level model, starting at $145, is completely sold out.  Our local shop had two on order, but they weren’t sure when they’d come in so to make sure my wife had hers for Christmas, I ordered the next level up, for $175.  That’s a lot of cheese to spend on a saddle but a possible cure for the angry cycling coochie is worth every penny.  That’s love right there, baby.

Ladies, don’t take my word for it, this is the review that sold me.  If you need more, try here or here.  If you’ve had a tough to impossible time finding a saddle that doesn’t scorch the nether-regions, this sounds like the saddle for you.  Having had the uncomfortable conversation with my wife, and feeling helpless to do anything of any worth, as I read the symptoms the saddle addressed in the review I became ecstatic.  Every one my wife had complained about in the past.

The point being, there’s so much buzz around this saddle, even guys are snapping them up for their bikes (and I’ve heard a lot of good to that end as well).

My friends, this could be the most anticipated cycling saddle ever created.  If you’ve got angry kitty issues, check it out.


The Silliest Argument there is for not Wearing a Cycling Helmet on a Bike: They Increase the Chance of Injury.

I read an article that touched a nerve. This is the last line:

Feel free to use your head as you see fit.

I commented on the article by adding, “Including as a means of stopping your bike”…

There isn’t much that gives me the vapors like the argument that a bicycle helmet shouldn’t be worn because it increases the chance of injury in a bike crash because the whole argument against helmets is predicated on the absurd notion that if one simply rides like a grandma, one won’t ever fall over because they’ll never encounter an unexpected situation. And the reason it drives me nuts is I used to think that way, right up until my eight year-old daughter fell directly in front of me – it was either I go down or I run over my little girl. I chose to go down and when I did, missed the pavement with my noggin by less than an inch. The fact that I didn’t split my mush was pure luck, nothing more.


On the other hand, I know why the argument is made – and that’s what’s important; the ridiculous idea that a government should make helmets mandatory. Hell, the idea that a government can make wearing a bicycle helmet mandatory – or that politicians believe they have the right to regulate the lives of people to such a tiny degree is simply disgusting to me. This shouldn’t come as a surprise once you know I live in the United States. Most of us, at least those who paid attention in our history and political science classes, feel uneasy about government rule, as should be the case.

Actually, let me amend that paragraph… In Europe, South America, and Canada, over-regulation is expected. It’s the norm, so the notion that a population of people should be the petri dish for politicians bent on regulating the lives of their constituents to a point where all they have left to worry about is being happy and following all of the f***ing rules is nothing new. In the United States, it’s something of a turn (excepting California and New York, of course – residents of New York are so stupid they don’t know how to drink soda pop or put salt on their food. They need politicians to regulate those things for them… heh).

Before I go off on a tangent, which I’m precariously close to doing, I wanted to take a moment to interject some sanity into the discussion because if you don’t know how the argument works, you may end up believing something that simply isn’t true.

Let the silliness commence:

in NYC despite increases in helmet wearing they found the grand sum of zero safety benefit, in fact safety went backwards post helmet wearing and post rules for children. So we do know what happened after helmets became more commonplace. You can repeat this in every country you choose to look at incl UK where helmet wearing has increased significantly.

Zero safety benefit? We could call this, “what good people do with bad information”. Exhibit A:

My friend’s melon still looks the same after the accident that cracked his helmet. Here’s the helmet before the accident, lest someone gets the idea that he was a noob who didn’t know how to properly ride his bicycle:


The jersey says “National Champion”, and it was actually earned. That’s not a “Fred’s Smokehouse Ride through the Park Champion” jersey. I’ve heard him explain that his helmet saved his life and I believe him. I have two more friends, both who cracked their helmets – one had a guy’s chain brake in front of him, the other simply passed out because he was dehydrated… neither had lasting injuries or repercussions because they were wearing a helmet. Zero safety benefit? To claim that is simply wrong.

Another favorite of mine is the canard that cyclists will ride in a manner more dangerous to their health if they wear a helmet; the old “they feel impervious to injury” argument. What a trailer-full of horseshit. The argument assumes that, if we’re not going to wear a helmet, cyclists will trade in their 15 pound race bikes for a beach cruiser with a bell and a basket on the front where we can neatly store our balls when we go for a leisurely cruise around the block to burn twelve calories. They assume a cyclist will turn into a bike rider if they don’t wear a helmet… Wrong.

That’s not what happens. We cyclists don’t trade in our balls for a leisure bike with tassels streaming out the handlebar ends. No, we ride as we normally would, just without a helmet. And the rare accident increases exponentially in severity. Instead of a broken collar bone, we end up with brain damage and the need for a nurse to change the diapers we now require because we have a tendency to crap our pants.

Folks, you can buy stupid if you want, but don’t expect me to jump off the “stupid” cliff holding your hand – even if you do think it’ll be a soft landing.

No thanks.

The Wonderful Beauty that is Cycling FAST…

I am an exceptional cyclist when it comes to distance and speed. All of my friends are exceptional. Pretty much everyone I ride with is in the top 5% of anyone who rides a bicycle… maybe higher, and we’re just the B Group. Most people can’t even wrap their head around what people like us do for fun. 100 miles in fewer than 5 hours? Sign me up! 4-1/2 hours? I’ll be there with bells on. Faster? Well, let’s not get too carried away. 30 miles? Give us an hour-and-a-quarter, maybe an hour-twenty… It’s not easy and there’s no time for sight-seeing, but my God, is it fun.


In order to achieve great speed there’s an enormous amount of effort that must be dedicated to training. The diet has to be watched, training time scheduled, and the commitment, dedication, and discipline required to consistently train hard enough to be that fast… well, most people can’t, or won’t, stick to it. It’s simply too hard. That’s why we’re in the top 5%.

Recently, my best riding bud, Mike, received some really bad news about his heart. He’s got genetic heart disease and he’s finally gotten to a point where he can’t out-ride it anymore. His doctor originally told him to stop riding altogether, but Mike told him, in no uncertain terms, that he wouldn’t stop, that they’d better come up with something a little more two-wheel-friendly. They came up with a compromise of no more than 120 bpm on the heart rate monitor and he could ride. That sounds like a pretty good compromise – especially when you consider the alternative is polishing couch leather with your butt.

There’s a problem, though.

Once one has committed oneself to getting that fast, once you’ve ridden so hard you’ve puked (multiple times), all on your own, and with no one looking, just so you can be fast… Friends, it’s hard to shut that off – and there’s a very simple explanation as to why this is so.

As exceptionally fast cyclists, we train ourselves to keep pushing when most normal people would simply say, “Screw this”, and putter away an easy at 18-mph. We do not. We learn to tell our bodies and minds to get in line and shut up. Eventually we realize that our bodies were weak, but they can be forged and toughened with effort. We learn that it’s only part of the brain that wants to quit. A very small, if noisy part. It will give way, though.

That’s when we become fast. We get faster, and as we do, we get better at shutting the pain and that sliver of the brain down… and the speed becomes fun. Glorious, unadulterated fun.

We learn we’re the boss.

And that’s why it’s so hard to turn off.

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.

The Ten Commandments of the Cycling Enthusiast: The Ninth Commandment

Thou Shalt Honor the Recovery Ride

Every avid cycling enthusiast rides too much… in the estimation of normal folk. And this, we know, is because normal folk are wrong. One only rides too much if cycling negatively impacts life off the bike and is greater than one hour a day during the week and two three four hours each weekend day, then, and only then, can the notion of “too much” be contemplated.

That said, this commandment is for the avid enthusiast who rides daily.

One should refrain from riding in a manner that is “all hammer all the time”. Doing so will surely result in injury, and be boring. Therefore, the ninth commandment of the cycling enthusiast; Thou shalt honor the recovery ride.

Enjoy your bike on occasion. Spin your legs a bit and enjoy the scenery that you normally miss because you’re in the hurt box, head down, tongue dangling precariously close to the spokes.

Your body, and your melon will thank you for it.