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Skinned Knees and Mud Puddles… Fall Is In The Air!

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.

A Noob’s Guide to Saddles and Saddle Width: Conclusions on a Decade-Long Experiment. Saddle Width is the Key to Happiness

I’ve written about bike saddles before. I currently own four bikes (five if I count our tandem). I’ve been through a bit of N-1, but for good causes. My old Cannondale will go with my daughter to college once I convert it to modern shifting this winter and I gave my old Trek 3700 mountain bike to a co-worker at the beginning of his career whose big box bike had completely broken down. For those five bikes I currently own… counting… nine saddles. I’ve got everything. 155-mm, 143-mm, 138-mm and even a 128-mm. I’ve got thinly padded saddles and thickly padded saddles, flat saddles and contoured saddles, cutouts, no cutouts and yuge cutouts… steel rails, titanium rails, and carbon rails.

In the following post, I’ll detail what I’ve learned over many years of saddle sores, hamstring pain so bad I was hobbled, squirming on my saddle on anything more than a 40-mile ride, and finally, saddle nirvana and actually feeling a saddle sore go away, as I rode, after switching the saddle on my most prized race bike.

I was measured for saddle width in the late fall of 2012 for the first time. Till then, I’d ridden on anything I could get my hands on, not knowing the difference, and certainly not understanding why the saddles I did choose hurt so bad. My first problem, one that many noobs have, was the padding paradox:

In road cycling more is less and less is more, was ever thus – comfortable. In mountain biking, gravel biking, and tandem riding, a little padding goes helps me go a long way.

The key is picking the right contouring and setting the saddle in the proper position on the bike, including height, fore/aft, and tilt. My road saddles are 36-3/8″ off the pedal spindle, 22-5/8″ from the handlebar center, contoured, and 3° nose down. The gravel, mountain and tandem bicycles take a page from that setup, but the nose down angle and distance from the handlebar changes for each bike. From my aforementioned prized race bike to my gravel bike, to my mountain bike. On all of my bikes, the biggest difference is the saddle’s width.

The type of cycling and how upright I will ride determines the width of the saddle. I found this out on my own, too. When I was first measured, I took it that the measurement would be the end all, be all.  143-mm was my saddle width.  All of the saddles I bought, till last year, were purchased with that measurement.  Everything was a 143.

Last year, Trek had a beautiful, light carbon fiber saddle for sale.  It was a 138 Montrose Pro.  I dropped more than 100 grams from the old saddle and to my surprise, for the first time since I started purchasing saddles for bicycles, I experienced what it feels like for a saddle to disappear under me.  

This year, the Montrose Pro was even more steeply discounted so, in the middle of a saddle sore outbreak, I bought another, though this one was a 128-mm, and I put that saddle on my Specialized Venge.  I thought, “if the 138 feels better than my 143-mm Specialized Romin, maybe that 128 will be even better“…

With the purchase of that 128-mm Montrose, my three dimensional education in saddles began to crystalize.  I was afraid when I hit the “purchase” button on Trek’s website with that saddle.  I was worried the saddle would be too narrow and thus, painful.  How mistaken I was.

When I was measured and it was determined my width would be a 143, I was measured sitting upright with my knees only slightly raised from 90°.  That’s not how I ride, though, sitting upright.  I ride road bikes in a very aggressive posture for a 50-year-old man:

Compact frame – Standard (Classic) frame

I knew enough that I needed a contoured saddle to be comfortable.  I’m not incredibly flexible and all the research in the last decade or more says that flexible people ride flat saddles while we flex-challenged ride a contoured saddle.  Fine with me.  However, what isn’t discussed, or is commonly left out, is how the support bones that are ridden on change as the drop from the saddle nose to the handlebar increases.

Put simply, as we rotate our hips forward to lower our shoulders, the support bones narrow.  Thus, I’m infinitely comfortable on a 143 on my tandem, mountain bike, and gravel bike – the ride is much more upright.  On my road bikes, both of which feature large drops from the saddle to the handlebar, that same 143 will give me saddle sores because of excessive rubbing at the crook of my leg and hip.  I don’t get that with the 138 or the 128.

With the 128 Montrose on my race bike and a 138 on my rain bike, I literally rode a saddle sore away.  I ride every day, saddle sore or no, and while the first day was painful, after I got the 128 correctly adjusted, the pain faded until the sore went completely away.

On the other hand, with the road season over, we’re riding on gravel roads now.  My gravel bike has a slightly more upright, less aggressive setup, and that exact same 143-mm Specialized Romin that gave me saddle sores on my Venge feels like butter on the gravel bike.  As my hips rotate back to sit up a little, the distance between the support bones increases and that 143 fits as it was measured way back when.

If this seems like a lot to keep straight, you aren’t wrong.  Most people won’t go to the length I do to get right on their bike(s).  Most people don’t ride like I do, though.  When you’re in the saddle almost every day, you want the experience to be as pain-free as is possible.

So, to wrap this post up, let’s look at some key saddle features and getting a saddle properly set:

  • Flat or contoured?  Flat for flexible, contoured otherwise.
  • Padding:  More is not always the answer.  I like to go for as little padding as is possible for how I’m riding.
  • Width:  Having to do it all over again, knowing what I know now, I’d go with the upright measurement, knees slightly raised from 90°.  That’s the width for my mountain, gravel, and tandem which are more upright.  Then, decrease width for more aggressive postures on the road bikes.
  • Saddle height:  General saddle height is dialed in first – heels on the pedals (bike on a trainer or supporting yourself in a doorway indoors or in the garage), pedal backwards.  Legs straighten without rocking at the bottom of the pedal stroke.
  • Fore/Aft next:  After a short warm-up on that trainer, find your “happy place” on your saddle and pedal for a few minutes.  Stop with your crank arms parallel to the ground and run a 4′ level from the front of your kneecap to the ground, touching the front of the crank arm.  The level’s plumb bubble should be between the lines, adjust fore/aft till it is as close as possible.  You can also use a plumb bob, but that goes from just below the kneecap to the center of the pedal spindle.  Same measurement, different method of getting it.
  • Adjust down-angle of the saddle to suit, so you’re riding on your support bones (not necessarily the sit bones, mind you).
  • Dial in final saddle height.

Bob’s your uncle.

Group Cycling for Dummies (Also for Those with a Boat Anchor for a Bike)

I started cycling like many. Mountain biking, then a road bike, then a real road bike, then a real road bike, upgrades, wheels, saddles… ah, road bikes. Or, as I like to refer to them, toys. For adults.

My entrée into road cycling was like akin to Christian Bale’s Ken Miles at the Dearborn test track after the engineers cram “the beast” into a GT40 prototype in Ford Vs. Ferrari… That was me, cycling in a group the first time. “Oh! I’ll have some more of that my girl!”

I felt like I was in the Tour de France. For all of eight miles, when I was promptly dropped as the group surged beyond 28-mph. I wasn’t the first to drop that night and I definitely wasn’t the last, so I chased a guy down who dropped a quarter-mile after I did. Being lost as lost gets, he helped my get back to the parking lot. We rode together every week after that and ended up becoming a very good friend.

I’ve learned a lot since that night.

So that leads to my first tip, a favorite from that little blast from my past:

Don’t be the first to drop in a club ride. Especially if you don’t know where you are!

All kidding aside, getting into group cycling isn’t easy, especially when the group you run into is fast. Everything happens so quickly, one little mistake can be disastrous. So here are a few advanced tips to work for as you progress:

  • Don’t ever be late.  10 minutes early is on time.  Most groups will leave without you if you make it a habit of being late.
  • When we first start out, we tend to concentrate a lot on the wheel ahead of us.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, at first, but the focus is too narrow.  The goal should be to become spatially aware of your surroundings so you can look beyond the front of the group to see what’s coming long before it gets there.  See, concentrating on the wheel in front of you at 40 feet per second is too late for you to react.  You want to expand that range of vision so you can also see what the front of the group is doing.  You’ll want to learn to know exactly where the wheel in front of you is while you’re looking up the road.  It’s not easy and don’t force it, just make it a goal to get to that point.
  • Get low when the going gets windy.  Sitting upright in anything but a dead-on headwind will have you working almost as hard as the person driving the group if you don’t have enough space for an echelon.  You can cheat this a little by riding in the drops and getting a little lower to fit in the draft.
  • If you’re a “masher”, learn how to spin, too.  Mashing the pedals takes a lot of effort, maybe 20% more than spinning.  You have to work a lot harder to be a masher, so take a winter on the trainer and learn how to spin.  It’ll help when you’re in a group that’s a little stronger than you are.  Look at the difference this way; how many one-arm curls can you do with a 30 pound weight?  10?  20?  That’s mashing.  How many curls can you do with a 2 pound weight?  You can go all day.  That’s spinning – and at the same time, you’ll be able to accelerate a lot quicker when you’re spinning – to an extent.  
  • Don’t overlap wheels, even in an echelon, until you know how to overlap wheels.  If your front wheel touches or rubs the wheel in front of you, someone’s rear wheel, you’re the one who goes down – and usually very quickly.  The theory is simple.  A rear wheel is fixed and has most of the rider’s weight on it.  A front wheel is not fixed and doesn’t have as much weight on it.  It’s much less stable.  The front wheel twists, and bam.  You’re down.
  • Look at me now.  This is important.  Don’t ever stop pedaling when you’re at the front of the group unless you signal a slowdown first.  With your hand down, make a stop signal and say loudly, “Slowing”.  Don’t EVER stop pedaling when you’re at the front.
  • Smooth and predictable is the order of the day when you’re in a group.  This is not easy at 30-mph (50-km/h), but it is what you must be at all times.  When you’re hurtling down the road at that speed, you’re in the same space the person in front was just at in less than two-tenths of a second.  Blink.  That fast.  You must, except when you’re the last bike in the line, be smooth and predictable.
  • DO NOT ACCELERATE OFF THE FRONT OF THE GROUP after the person in front of you flicks off.  The others behind you are not thinking, “Wow, that fella is strong!”  No, they’re thinking, “Where does that twatwaffle think he’s/she’s going?”  Don’t be a twatwaffle.  See also, smooth and predictable.  If you can go faster, accelerate smoothly and predictably over the course of a quarter-mile.
  • Don’t take someone explaining ground rules to you personally.  Group cycling is all about self-preservation.  If you’re new to a group, they want to make sure they can trust you… and if you make a mistake, they’ll have a desire for you to not make that mistake again.
  • No aero bars in the bunch.  You’re not good enough to use them in a group.  Stop.  You’re not.  Those who actually are good enough to use them in the pack know nobody is good enough to use them in the pack.  At the front, meaning first bike, or off the back and to the side only.  You’re too far from the brakes and your arms are too narrow for decent control of the handlebar.  If you truly believe you’re good enough, it’s likely because you’re a boob.  And you’re wrong.  And colossally arrogant.
  • Start with a slower group for your first rides until you learn the ropes and how they feel when your back is up against them.  Put your ego aside for a few weeks, there will be plenty of time to show everyone else how strong you are… after you know what you’re doing.  For a better workout with a slower group, pull at the front longer. 
  • We have five different classes of rider on our big club ride.  Find out where you fit by talking with others.  We gladly help noobs find the right group to ride with before the big ride.  We want for you to be happy with the group you’re with.  It’s in our best interest for you to come back and ride again.  Groups rely on new blood to remain viable.
  • Always remain teachable.  Those who know everything tend to be a bore.

How to EASILY Install a Stubbornly Tight Bicycle Tire on a Rim… No Muss, No Fuss, and No Special Tools Needed.

I bought some new rubber my wife’s Alias. For Ican wheels, the first seating of a brand new tire tends to be difficult. I’ve often resorted to using a tire jack rather than risk ripping my thumbs at the nails again (yes I have, and yes, it hurts).  Once the tires are ridden on for a couple of weeks, putting them on and taking them off is much easier.

Well, I was determined to muscle them on my wife’s wheels without tools yesterday.  However, I chose to set up shop outside, even though I normally work on the bikes in the living room or our bike room. Somebody shut summer off summer the other day and it was quite comfortable with some cloud cover.

The first tire was tough, but I surprised myself when I rolled the last few inches over the lip. I cleaned up her wheel and installed in on the bike. Then came the second, the rear tire. I opened and set the new tire on the grass, then set about removing the old tire from the wheel. I looked up as the clouds parted and sun shone down. The increased warmth was nice. Not too much, just enough. After removing the tube from the old tire, I centered the new tire’s logo on the valve hole and set the first bead. Then the tube.  Then I started the second bead. I was sweating under the heat of the sun by this point.  I got to the last six inches and prepared myself… and slipped the bead right over the lip.  Easy as an alloy wheel.

Then it dawned on me why it was so easy.

I’d let the tire sit out in the sun for a few minutes and it softened up and expanded a little bit. It slid on like I’d buttered it without touching my KoolStop tire jack.

The Perfect Active Recovery Ride: Think Foghat

After the weekend I had, work turned crazy Monday morning.  A high-profile job had me scrambling all day long.  I was on my feet most of the day and I was absolutely beat.

I got to the office early and left downtown Detroit late (don’t believe all of the reports, I did and I was on edge for nothing – everyone, cops to citizens were cordial – the weekend was crazy but Monday was back to normal).  By the time I got home I almost thought about phoning it in.  I knew my riding partner was hurting after a long weekend in the saddle, though.  No chance he’d want to hammer it.

It was almost comical.  Two miles in (four for me – I rode the two miles to his house) we were looking at a 15-mph average into a single-digit breeze… and I had no desire to try to raise it.  I simply chose an easy gear and turned the crank.  Chuck wasn’t coming around, either.  We talked politics (he and I being on the same team, this is possible on a bike ride – when in a mixed group or if you don’t know the composition, I recommend sticking to the tried and true “no politics on a bike ride”).

I was just shy of 10 miles before Chuck came around to take his first turn up front… it lasted less than a mile-and-a-half.  That was the last time he saw the front.  This was perfectly fine with me.  I knew Chuck was hurting after two centuries in a row (miles, not km’s) Saturday and Sunday.  I did the Saturday century but kept my Sunday to 42 miles.

Twelve miles in and we were still below 16-mph for the average but my legs were starting to come back to life a little bit.  I decided to pick up the pace.  Not much, but enough.  

Our max speed for the ride was just 23-mph and that took a decent quarter-mile long downhill to hit it.

16 miles in and I was starting to feel like me.  I rode down in the drops just to change up my position a little, but maintained our slow pace.  18 miles, still up front and I could have picked it up to a more normal 20-mph pace.  The pain in my back was gone, my legs were loose and happy.  I didn’t budge off 18-mph.

I know guys who will swear up and down, “why ride if you can’t go all out?”  It’s been a long while since I was one of those. 

I pulled into the driveway with a 16.1-mph average over 22 miles and some change.  I’d gone from run-down, not wanting to ride to feeling a little bit like myself in less than an hour and a half.  The active recovery ride is the key to my riding every day – and there’s no question, a Foghat ride is a better fix for sore legs than days off.  Monday’s are perfect for a slow ride.  Take it easy.  

I could almost smell that noodle salad.

Cycling and Speed Wobbles; What To Do To Keep From Panicking!

First of all, let’s be very clear about cycling and speed. There are bikes made for speed and bikes made for leisure. You can ride a race bike leisurely, but that doesn’t work the other way around.


Choose your weapon…
Speed wobbles are caused by a flaw in a bikes setup or due to a worn out component (wheel, headset, etc.). I ran into the latter several years ago, a worn-out, rusted headset.

Heading down a very nice hill near Lake Nantahala in North Carolina, I hit about 47-mph going down the straight shot when my bike started shaking violently from side to side. It scared the hell out of me… I was certain I was going to crash. But, while coasting, I placed my left knee against the top tube of the frame. This helped, but I was still heading toward a ditch at better than 40-mph… I placed my other knee against the top tube and squeezed the frame till the cavitation stopped and I safely stopped.

Once I steadied myself, I rolled on. I kept it below 45 on that bike until just this year. I’ve been beyond 55 on my Specialized Venge and that was a fantastic, stable experience. This last week I just took the Trek to 52 on that same hill, after a new headset, and it was a wonderful experience. In fact, on another hill with a posted 35-mph corner at the bottom, I was comfortable enough to take that at better than 40… and that was fun!

Speed wobbles happen when the bike develops a shimmy and that resonates through the frame until the shimmy, or flutter, hits a magic resonant frequency, it feels as though you’re riding on ice. You can’t control the bike, and it’ll be likely, if you don’t stop the bike or the flutter, you’ll crash.

The key is to put a force against the flutter of the bike frame. In my case, the knees against the top tube. This changes the dynamics of that cavitation, thus slowing or stopping the flutter, and control returns.

All one has to do is remember this when it happens to them.

Remember, if you ever experience the speed wobbles, clamp down on the top tube with your knees. It could save your 🥓.

It’s Been 1,500 Miles Since My Last Day Off And I’m Still Lovin’ It

The last day it rained too much to squeeze a ride in around here was June 10th.

I’ve put just shy of 1,500 miles since that day and, while I’ve had a few rough mornings waking up, I’m usually up and moving freely again within 10 or 15 minutes… and if I’m really in bad shape, a Tylenol and an Advil together will have me feeling like I’m 25 again in short order.  Between my two road bikes and the tandem, there’s never a dull moment and I feel fortunate to be able to switch up bikes whenever I want – this way, there’s always something to tinker with.  Last night was removing a spacer from under the handlebar of the Trek to see if I would ride a little lower comfortably.  I’ll just say the jury is out after the first ride – I’m not going to toss the alloy spacer in the recycling bin just yet.  At the beginning of the season I was simply too… erm… well, chunky.  Too many winter dinners did me in.  I’m down fifteen pounds at the moment, though, and the weight is coming off easily as long as I’m not stupid.

I’ve got two months to drop another nine pounds (nine is the hopeful version, I’d be satisfied with four), then I’ll see if I can’t be a little more intelligent about the winter.  I don’t want to have to go through what I did this spring, staring at a number I don’t like on the scale.  This year I’ve been faster on a bike than at any point since I started cycling – even with the weight and riding every day.  Thankfully, our part of Michigan is mercifully flat!

The trick has been to take my active recovery rides.  To thoroughly and embrace the slow days has been a difficult journey through the brain, but now that I’ve got it, I’m having more fun than should be legal.  What I had to do was look at the slow days as building blocks for the fast days.  I still have to mentally hold myself back and remind myself that every day doesn’t have to be a building day… and once I took the time to look around and enjoy the scenery I was missing because my head was always down trying to get the most of a ride, I began to enjoy those slow days.

And so it was yesterday evening.  After a long week with four hard efforts (one trying unsuccessfully to outrun a thunderstorm), I could feel I needed an easy day.  I picked Chuck up at his house and we tooled around town talking about the day’s events.  We didn’t charge up one hill.  We didn’t knuckle down one time.  Just smooth, easy, fun miles.

This is the only way I know to ride every day, week after week.  And now that I’ve figured out my place in how this all works, I get the exhilaration of the fast group while enjoying cycling like the slow group does every now and again.

It’s the best of both cycling worlds.  Life is good.

Pardoned and Paroled – My Friend the Secondrate Cyclist Needs Your Support and Friendship…

The so called Secondrate Cyclist, a longtime blog friend of mine from the UK from all the way back to my beginning in blogging, had a crash. An epic, horrific, very bad, terrible crash.

The link above is to his newest post but there are two that precede it. The first, after his last post in October of last year about his ride with Jens Voigt, is (here).

He’s an excellent writer, far better than I, so please, pay him a visit and follow his journey back. It won’t be a short one.


The Importance of the Easy, Active Recovery Ride to an Avid Enthusiast Cyclist.

I normally have an effort problem whenever I clip into my pedals. I find it difficult to take it easy… I just like to go fast. Unfortunately, an utter inability to slow up now and again can, without proper rest, have terrible consequences.

I’ve ridden every day for the last twenty days. 818 glorious miles without a day of rest. I have, however, managed a few slow days to spin my legs and look around a little bit. This keeps me going.

If you’re so afflicted, you feel like you’re missing an opportunity to get stronger if you don’t hammer the pedals, there’s hope. I employ two*** different strategies to relax a bit. Taking the time to enjoy a true active recovery ride can take your legs from tired and tight, to loose and raring to get after it again.

Nope, not this bike for the recovery ride…

First, I never take the good bike out for an active recovery ride. I too easily get lost in the “race” part of the race bike. If I’m out on the Trek, for whatever reason, I can disconnect that part of my brain. I justify it by repeating, “this will help me ride strong tomorrow, take the speed down, spin easy”… and before long, my head is on a swivel and I’m noticing things I’ve never seen, riding the same route I have for years.

This bike.

Second, when I’m really in a bad way for an easy ride and we don’t have rain in the forecast for days, I’ll take the gravel or mountain bike out for a spin. Especially on dirt roads, because they’re slower by nature, anyway, I find it a little easier to chill for a ride.

I can tell you with utter certainty, without a strategy to ride easy now and again, I’d be forced into taking days off because I injured myself. That’s just how I roll.

And so it was last night. A perfect night if ever there was one. Sunny, 82°, a mild southeasterly breeze… oh, how I wanted to hammer. I was truly smoked, though, and tonight is going to be a tough, hot, windy mess.

I needed to fix my legs.

So I wheeled out the Trek and suited up. The first mile was a little quick with a tailwind, but I fought myself off and took it down three notches on the second mile, and every mile thereafter.

I pulled into the driveway with 23 miles and some change, and a much better tan. The average was in the upper 16-mph range and I felt fantastic – even better this morning.

The only way I know to stay happy, healthy and riding every day is to take an active recovery day or two during the week. That’s the only thing that keeps the T-Rex legs from being T-Wrecked.

Ride hard, my friends. Until you need to ride easy. And then, enjoy what you’ve worked for and smell the fresh air.

***Actually, I thought about this a minute and I employ a third strategy.  I ride with my wife on easy days, too.  There’s nothing better than riding with my wife for an easy day.

Tuesday Night Ride: Cooked Edition

I have always been resilient to heat. I don’t know why it doesn’t bother me like it does most people and I’ve never bothered to think much about it. I get hot, but am very much comfortable riding in everything up to the mid-90’s (about 115° off the asphalt) I just maintain my grateful attitude about it and watch as others suffer.

Until last night.

A friend and riding buddy of mine has been avoiding riding with friends because he has a sick relative they’ll be visiting soon. It’s one of those “worst case” scenarios so considering the current state of things, his only choice has been to ride solo. I’ve picked up that he’s been bummed about the fact that, as things open up and we’re all finding small groups to ride in, he’s been left out… so I asked if he’d like to ride the Tuesday night route, just the two of us. He cleared that with his wife and we met out at the church. As I pulled into the parking lot, the digital thermometer in my car showed a balmy 91 F (33 C). Now, if you’re keeping track, we went from the mid-40’s to ninety-freaking-one in two weeks. Not exactly any time to acclimatize in there. Still, I had every intention of having a fun, if warm and comfortable, ride.

I pulled my bike from the trunk, got kitted up and went for a four mile warmup. Yeah, warmup, 91°… I know. I felt fantastic and fast, too. Surprisingly so, considering I hadn’t had a day off the bike in more than a week.  I didn’t bother with the full seven mile warmup as that would have been excessive.  Four-and-a-half was good enough.  Jonathan was prepping his bike when I pulled into the parking lot.  There was only one other car besides ours, a E/D Group woman we see regularly under normal circumstances.

Jonathan and I rolled out early as we didn’t want to ride with anyone else.  We started out side by side with tailwind for the first six miles.  We had a 20 average when we hit headwind and I dropped behind Jonathan.  We traded places regularly and were still sitting at a 19-1/2 average when the wheels fell off for me, about 17 miles in.  I was breathing hard from what should have been a fairly small effort.  The heat and 300 miles from the last week caught up to me.  Fortunately, I think Jonathan was struggling in the heat as well.

With just nine miles to go, just maintaining 22-mph with a tailwind was difficult.  I’m having a tough time wrapping my head around how I felt because I’ve never felt that way because of the heat.  My power to the pedals was just ugly.  I got the pedals around but it wasn’t pretty.  With four miles left, I was sitting up, tongue dangling down by the spokes, beat.  I was just happy to pull into the parking lot and climb off my bike.  We’d dropped our average from 20-mph (which should have been easy to maintain), all the way down to 18.8.

I grabbed some dinner at the local Burger King.  Firing that down only helped minimally.  I’d say it was two hours after the ride before I started to feel… less loopy.  I ended up falling asleep on the couch around 9 pm and crawled into bed around 11.

I slept like a baby till it was time to get up.  Tonight it’ll be “no rest for the weary”, though I’m going to aim for an average, on the Trek, closer to 16-mph.  I think it’s time for some active recovery miles because I cooked myself last night.