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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.

20200601_0500355835599016269569101.jpg

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…

https://wp.me/p4733E-28d

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.

Jim

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.

The Noob’s Guide to Road Cycling Saddles; The Fat, Bad and the Ugly. Seven Reasons Your Saddle Hurts to Ride On

How Can A Good Cycling Saddle Feel So Bad?

If you think a minimally padded $400 bicycle saddle looks more like a torture device than a bicycle saddle, and I’m speaking from experience, that says more about you than the saddle.  Contrary to popular belief, manufacturers won’t charge more for a saddle than most people will pay for a complete bike, whilst trying make a torture device out of it.  Even those super tiny, ultra-thin, almost no padding saddles are meant to be comfortable.  If yours isn’t, the problem is likely the setup, not the saddle (although there is room for the saddle being at fault – or more to the point, you picked the wrong one – but we’ll get to that in a minute).  Let’s begin.

Saddle is too high.  The easiest, by far, reason your saddle will feel like it has barbed wire embedded in what little padding there is that you’ve got the saddle too high.  This means your hips will have to rock to stay connected to the pedals on the downstroke, where you’re weakest anyway.  Put your bike on an indoor trainer and put your heels on the pedals.  Spin them backwards.  Your legs should straighten without rocking your hips.  This can be done, carefully, in a doorway by bracing yourself with one or both hands on the jamb(s).

Saddle is too far forward or back – so you end up riding on the wrong part of your butt.  If you are riding with most of the pressure on the area between your genitals and your sphincter, well, you’ve got problems.  The rubbing/hurting kind of problems.  You want to be riding on your sit bones, as the saddle starts to widen out – not on the very back of the saddle and definitely not on the nose (though there is precedent for scooting up a little bit when time trialing).  If you look at the profile of a contoured saddle, you’re looking for the area that just starts to rise toward the middle/back of the saddle to cradle you… your sit bones should be just to the back side of that rise.  In road cycling, you’re looking for position 2 or 3:

Level is off.  This one is simple.  For me, for the style of riding I’m used to, I’m a position 2 up above, but the profile photo of the saddle, as it is in the photo, would be a little too “nose down” for me.  Not much, but a little.  The key is that you don’t want the nose to dig into you, but you don’t want to feel like you’re sliding to the front of the saddle, either.  The key is to find the happy spot right in the middle.  This can take some saddle time and several adjustments to perfect.

Wrong kind of saddle for a rider’s flexibility.  If you’ve got the wrong saddle for your flexibility, you’ll likely have huge problems trying to get comfortable on the saddle.  I prefer a contoured saddle because I’m not very flexible – I’m actually in the middle range.  A contoured saddle will help a less than bendy human’s torso to rotate forward slightly to aid in an aggressive posture on the bike.  Those who bend at the hips well won’t need that help and will be fore comfortable on a flat saddle.  Fizik has a really neat app that’ll help you understand your place in the contour food chain.  There’s also this:

bontrager-biodynamic-saddle-posture-profile

Too wide. Folks, I’ll make this very simple.  If you’re on a saddle that’s too wide for your sit bones, the pain – and I’m speaking from experience again – will be immense.  Increasing as your mileage and time in the saddle will only increase the intensity and severity.  Left long enough and this pain will radiate down the legs into the hamstrings.  It is quite excruciating.  If you have a question about the saddle size you should be riding, this is a perfect issue to get sorted at the local bike shop (I’m about 140 mm… I can fit on a 143 but I like 138 a little more for the slimmer saddle nose).  They’ll have you sit on a board with memory foam on it which will leave indentations from your sit bones.  They’ll measure the distance between the indentations and come up with your saddle width.  Women tend to be a little wider than men, for obvious reasons.  I think Mrs. Bgddy rides a 155.

Too much padding.  I have a friend who rides a cruiser around town.  He’s got one of those big, fat, ugly padded saddles.  Over the top of it, he’s got one of those shag padded seat covers.  Over the top of that, he’s got a gel cover.  And he asked me if I though he could add another cover.  I’m not kidding.  He had so much padding on that saddle, I think it actually cut off the supply of blood to his brain whilst riding.  Padding on the saddle cuts off blood to areas that really, really need blood.  When that blood flow is cut off, the affected area hurts.  It’s the body’s way of telling you, hey, somethin’ ain’t right down here!  I’ll tell you what ain’t right.  It’s all that padding.  Additional padding is not the answer, though a reasonable amount is a good thing, this can easily be overdone.  The answer is a good pair of cycling shorts and the proper setup of the right saddle for your body.

Finally, and this one will be surprising (it was for me – and I just figured this out a short while back), if your saddle is too low.  That’s right, too low.  I was trying out one of those aforementioned $400 saddles and I had a nagging pain, like the edge of the saddle was digging into my left hip bone.  I’d set the fore and aft properly (through a series of measurements), set the level properly (2 degrees nose down, then fit to feel for that cradled balance described above), and I thought I’d set the height properly.  After my second ride and the saddle just not feeling right, I checked the height.  Sure enough, it was about two millimeters low.  I raised the saddle and the pain went the way of the dodo, immediately.  The clouds parted and the sun shone (and the wind died down) and all was well.

My friends, good saddles are a dime a dozen if you know what you’re looking for and how to set one up on your bike so it feels like it should.  Don’t settle for feeling like you’re riding on barbed wire after 20 miles (once you’ve got your requisite saddle time in – new cyclists will experience some pain while they acquire their cycling legs).  The answer is fixing the saddle’s position, width, or height, not adding another layer of padding.

Why Road Cyclists Wear Helmets: Part 1,274,321,167

My wife, on the fifth anniversary of her last Mother’s Day crash, went down yesterday. Before we go any further, she’s fine though a bit concussed – I went through the protocol last night with her – and very sore. She went down at speed, too.  20+ mph and if not for her helmet, God only knows what her condition would be today.  Interestingly, her helmet, a Kask Mojito, shows signs of sliding on the pavement but there were zero torsional injuries (a favorite reason the anti-helmet crowd sites to suggest they shouldn’t be worn – ask a neural surgeon, ER doc, nurse, ambulance tech, firefighter, or Sheriff’s deputy and they’ll have a different opinion, having spent time investigating, shoveling brain off the ground, or trying to put it back in someone’s melon).

There are a couple of competing theories as to what happened – I was up the road 50 yards, sprinting for a City Limits sign – but the important thing is, my wife wasn’t doing anything she hadn’t done several hundred times. When you’re riding at speed, shit just happens that you can’t avoid and can’t brace against. This is why we wear helmets.

Now, I wouldn’t want to piss off the anti-helmet nutters, so I’ll leave this carve out; as helmets go, you do what you want. If you want to ride like my grandma, by all means, feel free and enjoy yourself. If, however, you want to ride like we avid enthusiast roadies do, folks, there’s a reason we wear brain buckets.

They save lives and families.

Pay special attention to the cracks… my wife’s head didn’t split like that because she was wearing that helmet.

CoVengeCation-2020; Cycling Like It’s Mid-Season (With A Sad Caveat)

As cycling mileage goes, with my big months in the heat of the season (June through September), I’m lucky to hit 1,000 miles in a month.  If I can hit 1,100 miles, I’m really happy.  My best month ever is 1,174 miles.

Last year, I managed two 1,000+ mile months.  Two years ago, it was five (and four were 1,100+).  The year before that, three.  My first ever 1,000 mile month was in 2016 and I managed just that one that year (I remember being pretty stoked about that, too).

Entering our second week off work by order of our governor, just five days into April, I’m on pace for a 1,200 mile month.  Not only do I believe I won’t hit that, I hope I don’t.  See, I have a problem; I don’t have an off button.  If it’s nice out, or at least close, I’m going to ride.  I have to hope for rain days so I can take a day off the bike.  Normally, this isn’t a problem because I’ve got time to work up to consecutive days on the bike during the dry season.  With COVIDcation, I’ve already got a 240 mile and a 260 mile week… and I haven’t had a chance to build up to it.

So here’s the sad caveat:  I’m over-trained, without an off button, no work, and no rain in sight.

My only chance for salvation is Thursday.  It’ll be too windy to ride (20-30-mph with gusts to 40) and I’ll be looking for an excuse to take a day off, anyway.  I know what you’re thinking… well just take a day off, ya knucklehead!  No off switch.  Can’t do it unless it’s gnarly outside.

In a normal year, I wouldn’t have this problem because I’m balancing work, home life, yard work and cycling.  I’d be pulling 20-mile weekday rides with longer days on the weekend, weather permitting.  Those short weekday rides allow me to build up my fitness and give me a little breather between weekends.  With time off and decent weather, I’ve gone absolutely nuts.  I’m averaging better than 45 miles a day so far this month…

What I have to be careful of is over-cooking myself to the point I develop an injury, which would suck.  Up until now, I haven’t been working on hard days or easy days.  They’ve all been moderate “base” miles (at least since COVID).  It very well could be that I should start worrying about throwing an active recovery day in every couple of days and then start adding some hard effort days as well.

Whatever the case, it’s going to be an adventure – and an adventure I’m looking forward to.