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The Last Shorts and Short-Sleeves Day of the Year? Likely.

We rode in shorts and short-sleeves last night, likely the last evening of the year that’ll be comfortable. I wore my DALMAC 50-year jersey, which has quickly become my favorite in my drawer full of jerseys.

I got a couple of extra miles in, early on the way to pick Chuck up. Unfortunately, I went the back way to get to his house and he left a little early the front way, so we ended up missing each other. He called while I was standing in his driveway to ask where I was… we both laughed and I took off to catch him.

Last evening was glorious. Lower 70s and falling, so it was never too warm and never too cold. I paid a lot more attention than I normally would to our surroundings. It’s going to get cold here, today. The leaves are going to “blaze of glory” it and fall off the trees soon… and did I mention the cold?

The season is almost over. We’re in the last few weeks before it gets too cold and gnarly to enjoy riding outdoors… and dark. Daylight Saving Time is about to end and we’re going to be plunged into the night at just past 6:00. Trainer time will start up soon and the gravel bike will become the primary go-to.

Yesterday’s ride was awesome, but bittersweet. It’s raining today, thunderstorms and heavy downpours… and the temperature will fall off a shelf this afternoon. And so will my mileage, as fall and winter set in.

I’ve begun my yearly diet. Started it Monday. As one would expect, I’m hungry pretty much all of the time but I’ll get used to that in a week or two. I hate to do it, but I’d like to lose at least one bike before the spring hits. Let the long slog to spring begin.

TNIL: Fast, Furious & Grateful Edition

After last night’s Tuesday Night In Lennon, I was struck by the same thought I’ve been hit with after most Tuesday night club rides – and I just figured out how to organize the emotions so I could put the whole box of rocks into words… simply.

I’m going to deviate from the norm in which I burn up too many words on the first half so I can save all the goods for the fastest part of the ride. This should keep the post from growing into a two-cup minimum monster of a post.

Imagine, if you will, the start of any Tuesday night this year with a wind out of the west. It’s headwind for the first half of the ride and the second half is fast and loose. We had wind last night, but it wasn’t terrible, just barely into the double digits and we fought through it really well – and it was just cut up enough between the crosswind (north) and the headwind (west) that we had a 23.5-mph average at Shipman Road. Unfortunately, Shipman sucks worst with a west wind. It’s a cross-headwind that just smashes us into an echelon that’s always too big for our lane. I chose the left lane of the double pace-line, fighting crosswind for the first six miles, so I’d be on the protected side on Shipman, and it paid dividends. As they say, you can pay me now, or pay me later, but you’ll pay. With some help from a couple of the Elite Group, we kept the whole pace-line together through the hills till we split off into two groups. Nobody was dropped in the hills so we managed a rolling regroup. That’s where the fun starts.

With the headwind behind us and the group split in two, we chose to single it up so we could get longer breaks before taking a turn at the front. We’ve got a fairly long, not too steep hill to climb after we drop into a valley that, if we’re not careful, can hammer the tandems into the ground, so Chuck usually calls for calm till we crest the hill – and that’s exactly how it went last night, and it worked perfectly. We climbed the hill at around 21-mph – and before you ask, I know, that’s fast for going up. I can’t explain it, the hill is an easy climb. Over the crest, it was all hands in the drops, maximum warp over the half-mile descent. The tandems were up front for most of the mile to the City Limits sign. Through town was a little quicker than normal but we were stopped at a busy intersection, waiting for traffic to clear. Once through the intersection, I was expecting the pace to ease as we worked our way up a couple of shallow hills, but it was intense. We were running out of daylight and we were driving the pace to get home before dark.

Two miles later, we were at the homestretch: full tailwind, only three molehills to crest, and a lot of downhill to the finish. Coming around the righthand corner at full speed, we took the pace up to the mid-20s (mph – or 40 km/h) over the course of a mile and kept it pegged, except at those molehills. Down a quick descent to a busy intersection and we had to time a car going by but for the most part, blew right through the intersection. Mike took the lead up the hill and kept pace “reasonable” to “perfect” for the tandems to make it without too much trouble. Over the crest, it’s basically a 0.5 to 1% descent all the way to the finish and it’s always hot for those last two miles.

The tandems had worked their way to the front and were sitting one, two with a half-mile left and they took it to “11”. It’s funny, how at 23-25-mph, the pack can get a little squirrely, but when the pace goes to, say, 30-mph (48-kmh), everyone straightens out in a hurry. That was the case last night. The first tandem pulled off to the back and the second took over. Chucker was behind them and I was behind Chucker. Mike was behind me. And it was on.

I’m pretty sure I was in the drops, but can’t be sure. Chucker rides in the drops at all times, and Mike was behind me. The tandem pulled off just as we got to the sprint point and Chuck dropped the hammer, adding at least another 2-mph to the 30.5, catching me by surprise. I couldn’t quite answer his surge and Mike didn’t have it to come around me. I started to close the gap on Chucker, but he gained too much gap on his jump. We shot across the line at 55 feet per second, 31.5-mph, or 51-km/h… And just like that, we sat up, shifted to easier gearing and reset the computers for the cooldown mile back to the parking lot. We patted each other on the back and had a few laughs on the way back. We’d crossed the City Limits finish line at 22.9-mph for our average. Fantastic for October. The mood was effusive – “You’re riding great, man”… “No, you’re the one putting out massive wattage, you’re riding mid-season form!”, etc., etc. I love being a part of that, after we’ve laid it all out.

It was hotdogs and tailwind, baby.

The mosquitos were horrible when we got back, so we packed up quick and headed for home. Once I caught my breath, about a mile up the road, my thoughts settled and I tried to pay attention…

My thoughts were all centered on gratitude.

It occurred to me the refrain is almost always the same. When the bike is packed in the car and I’m heading home after a Tuesday night, all I can think is, “How did I get so lucky to be able to be a part of such a great group?”

Once the bike is put in its prominent resting place in the living room and I’m showered and not stinky anymore, after I’ve eaten and I’m sitting quietly with my thoughts, I’m simply grateful to be a part of that wonderful group.

I also realized last night, it’s not so important the why, as much as it is just enjoying this gift as it is.

And so I shall.

Why I Can Ride the Same Route Four Days A Week Without Growing Bored

If you follow me on Strava, you’ve likely seen my weekday route doesn’t change. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday it’s the same 22.75 miles every time. We go over the same chopped up roads (one mile each of two stretches of road so unconscionably bad, most normal people would be shocked we haven’t done something different).

It has occurred to me we could change it up, but people expect to see us on the road by now (we’ve been riding the route for four years, now) and it’s the least traveled roads we have in the area just after rush hour. And it’s comfortable.

The reality is, it’s not really about the roads we ride on as much as it about being outside, pedaling away the day’s troubles – usually with a good friend.

I was thinking about this very thing last night as Chuck and I were cruising down the road, 21-mph into the wind, hellbent for nowhere… just because.

My Specialized Venge is still in the shop, so I’m riding my Trek 5200. It’s a little more work than the Venge but fits like a glove. I thought to myself as I was pushing the pace up front, down in the drops with my chin hovering over the stem cap, “If this was the only bike I had to ride, I’d be okay with it”. Oh, I’d mess around with a few things – a new fork for starters, maybe one of those cool conversion kits to change it from a threaded to a threadless headset.. but if that was it, if that was the last bike for me, I could be good with it.

With the corn fields coming down, I had a straight line of sight for a half-mile at the intersection and I could see we were clear a tenth of a mile before I ever got to the intersection, so I hit the hard right turn at 20-mph, leaning the bike into it, feeling the tires grip the asphalt enough the bike felt like it was on a rail. I was back on the pedals as soon as I was sure I wouldn’t scrape the inside one on the asphalt… and the warning bars at the train track dropped, lights flashing. So I stopped. Maybe the third time all year we were stopped at that track.

The train was moving so fast it brought the debris being kicked up by a harvester tending to his soybean field on the other side of the track a quarter-mile away. Little chunks of soybean plant hit my face as the train pushed by. I liked the smell of it. And just like that, the train was gone. I crossed the track before the residual breeze blew by and the warning bars lifted… and I realized halfway across how stupid that choice was because I was at an acute angle to the track. I was lucky I didn’t drop a tire between the track and ties. I’d have gone down in a heap. Instantly.

Once through the backed up traffic and through a left turn, it was another mile of crap road before a double loop in a subdivision. I said “good evening” to two ladies who walk the subdivision the same time we pass through. I caught the elder lady off guard and startled her a bit so I apologized and made sure to announce us, well in advance, the second time around.

The final noteworthy turn on the ride is a left, coming down off a small hill so the pace tends to be hot, in the mid-20s (40-kmh), so you really have to lean into the turn if you’re going to make it without smashing face-first into a mailbox. I’ve almost gone off the road three times.

After all that, it was tailwind most of the way home for us but we were an odd mix of putting the watts down and taking it easy. I didn’t care either way, we were really just keeping the legs loose for the last full Tuesday Night In Lennon of the season.

While I love a great, scenic route for a bike ride, when it comes to my daily ride, it’s not about where I’m going so much as why. Riding a bike, especially with a friend, puts a smile on my face and helps me to remeber why I’m such a grateful guy.

Hotdogs and Tailwind: Meat, Bikes, Good Friends, Good Times and Happiness

I’ve said, for years, “good times and noodle salad”, from the movie As Good As It Gets, when someone asks how fun an event was. It became my way of saying, “it was as good as it gets”. I was just five years sober when that movie came out (29 is only a month away). I loved that saying and have used it regularly for at least the last decade.

Chuck and I were out riding Friday, our usual weekday loop, casually, and he comes up with hotdogs and tailwind. Now that’s going to stick. It’s got everything I love! Meat, bikes, good friends, good times and happiness.

Sunday’s ride was an excellent example. It was a cold start – 47 F or 8 C – but it felt even colder than that. I was a touch underdressed, but that usually works out after the shock of the first couple of miles, and the sun was supposed to come out, so I imagined it would warm up quickly.

“Imagined” is the operative word in that sentence.

It was cold and gloomy until we pulled into our first stop at 14-miles. I went into the gas station just to warm up. We had just shy of 30 miles left and I was a little disheartened that it was still so cloudy. The weather report had the clouds clearing just after we left.

After a snack and use of the facilities, we mounted up and rolled out. As we crested the first hill of the day, the clouds had an end and we were riding right for it. The headwind was starting to pick up but we were maintaining a healthy, but not too intense, 17-mph pace into it. We’d go three miles into it, get a break for a mile, then another three.. and before we knew it, we hit the edge of the clouds… and just like that, the sun beat down on us and warmed things up to “enjoyable”. Sadly, however, not to temperatures warm enough to remove my gloves, so photos from here out will be Slim Pickens.

We hit our first crossing tailwind of the day at 21.3 miles. Our first tailwind at 23, and it was all fun after that. We had some speedy sections, but for the most part kept it fun and enjoyable, though with a tailwind that kept increasing in intensity, “fun and enjoyable” became 25-mph at about 125 watts… and here comes Chuck, along side the group, “Hotdogs and tailwind”, he shouted. I added a Rick Flair, “WOOOOOO!” and we all cracked up.

The rest of the ride, just shy of 42 miles in total, was a blast. We simply took it to the barn.

I spent the rest of the day on the couch, catching up on sleep I didn’t know I needed. About 3:00 I was feeling a bit stupid for sitting on the couch all day… almost dirty. So I got up off my duff and went outside to cut the grass. I hit every blade I could get to around the flooded, low-lying spots in my yard. It only took about 50 minutes.

It was a fantastic weekend. Normally, I’d end it by saying it was good times and noodle salad. At least for a while, I think I’ll stick with the more apropos, “hotdogs and tailwind”. That fits me just a little better, anyway.

I Love Riding Tandem: Part 461

Saturday morning, my wife and I, pressed for time and trying to fit a ride in between rain and a family fun-filled day at my daughter’s university for college football, opted to take the tandem out. The only bike I have with fenders, there’s nothing better on wet roads. I barely have to clean the bike after a ride on rain-soaked roads – it’s truly wonderful.

My wife and I are in a great place right now and even though it had been several weeks since our last tandem ride, we were clicking within a half-mile from the driveway. We talked with friends, had a couple of laughs and generally a wonderful time pedaling together. We had no speed goals and thankfully didn’t have anyone wanting to hammer the pace. Chucker and his wife were on their tandem and Chuck & Mike (K) rounded our group.

Mid-way through our ride, I thought back on how much we’d struggle just trying to get a canoe down a river. Let’s just say we didn’t work well together back then, and leave it at that. We found kayaks much more agreeable.

We rounded out a nice 20-mile ride and got ready to head down to the game with my wife’s parents, our younger daughter and her boyfriend. We could only have had a finer evening if the home team had won. Unfortunately, they were outplayed from the first drive and though they gave it a great effort, with an opportunity to tie the game on the final drive, they came up a little short.

We had a sparkling dinner at a restaurant downtown, recommended by a few locals sitting near us in the stands. The food was fantastic and having the family together was as good as it gets. We arrived home late into the evening, exhausted. After a couple of quick games of cards, we headed to bed. I don’t remember how long it took me to fall asleep, but if it was more than 60 seconds, I’d be shocked.

Buying our tandem was an exercise in faith for us. We’d hoped our daughters would take to riding it with me but that never happened.

As my friend, Mike likes to say, “A tandem is a marriage maker or a marriage breaker”. I’m glad it’s the former for us.

A Birthday Wish To Ride a Bicycle With a Friend…

There was one thing I didn’t note about Tuesday night’s most excellent ride because this needed a post of its own, not just an honorable mention…

As I pulled into the parking lot, geared up to ride, some folks who normally ride Tuesday mornings were loading up. They rode later than normal because the morning’s weather was a mess. What’s special about this little tale, is an older fella had ridden with them and was just getting off his eBike. I’d met him before, but he doesn’t hang out with the same crowd I do, so I rarely see him. It was good to see him and I went over to say hello. He had a smile from ear to ear stretched across his mug (I know that smile). We had a nice, short conversation and I headed over to say hi to the others as well.

Later, I read on Strava that the older fella’s wish, made when he was a younger chap, was to ride with his friend, Jim, when he was 90.

Tuesday was his 90th birthday, and he had the cupcake to prove it.

First, 90, bro, and still riding – and not a trike. He wasn’t fast, but he beat his friend, who is much younger, back to the parking lot.

Second, we purists may tend to look down our nose at eBikes but the vast majority of us know they have a place in cycling. After seeing what I saw in that parking lot, I have even more respect for them. I knew they had their place, but I got to see that first hand in Armand’s smile.

EBikes are a wish come true for some.

Long live Armand, Jim, Lee & Vickie. And eBikes. And regular bikes. And tandems.

Ride hard, folks. All of a sudden, you’re 90… and still riding. So shall it be for us all.

Fit, Fantastic, Clean, Sober and, Above All, Happy (and Fully Caffeinated, Baby)

My wife and I went to see our daughter perform in halftime show with her university’s marching band over the weekend. It was an awesome, close game and the halftime performance was fantastic. And seeing my kid was special. They do a postgame performance and photo for posterity and my wife and I stayed till the very end, taking a couple of photos from our seats on the 45 yard-line, about six rows up… but I couldn’t tell what the formation was meant to be. My wife and I had the same thought at the same time; let’s improve the vantage point. We ran up the concrete steps to get a better perch. Three-quarters of the way up we were both turned to snap a photo.

Still not good enough.

My wife saw exactly where I was going and handed her phone to me and said, “you go right ahead”. I ran up the last quarter and snapped the photo about eight seconds before they broke formation.

Now, we’re not talking “walked the steps fast”, “sauntered”, “trotted”… I ran those suckers. So, I’m thinking, afterward, how many 50-year-old men can run up 100 stadium steps to get a photo without having to take an oxygen time out in the back of an ambulance? Surely, I jest… but I will say it isn’t many and I was quite stoked I didn’t fall over in a heap.

We had an odd weekend for cycling last weekend. The day of the game, well before we left, my wife and I went for a sweet 41-mile ride at a 19-mph pace with several of our friends. I felt I could have ridden another 60 at that pace, easily. We had a 40-mile dirt road ride planned for Sunday but rain had us, wisely, sitting that one out. My weekday riding buddy, Chuck and I went out for an easy 20-some-miler for his “New Bike Day”, having just brought home his 2021 Specialized Tarmac SL7 the night before.

That left us in a quandry for what to do yesterday evening… we opted to save the legs for tonight and ride easy. We just lolled around the neighborhood along our normal route, kicking the tires on a few things that needed discussing. I rolled into the driveway with a 16.5-mph average over 22 miles and had barely broken a sweat. I noticed, as I was preparing dinner, how loose and good I felt.

While I do have my struggles related to fitness (I’m hard pressed finding the “want to” to get to a gym, and I love to eat good food), and recovery isn’t always a walk in the park, in the overall scheme of things, I’m feeling pretty fantastic about being me.

And I think that’s as it should be, really. I’m not “all that and a bag of chips”, but I’m content with who I’ve become. I’ll take that.

A Perfect Day in Recovery

My wife and I started with an awesome ride with friends. It was really quite foggy at the start (we’ve had a lot of rain), but once the fog broke, it turned into a magnificently fun time. I was glad I didn’t decide to bail when the veil of fog descended… it had been clear as crystal before sunrise. We all had our best blinkie accessories and visibility wasn’t too horrible.

Then, a shower, lunch, and a nap.

Next, we were off to my kid’s college football game to see her perform in the halftime show. It was a wonderful time for us, and it was a tight game, though we prevailed when the clock hit zeros, by one point.

We finished the night up by taking our daughter out to dinner and driving home hand-in-hand.

We passed out fell asleep seconds after heads hit pillows with smiles on our faces and love in our hearts.

And we slept in (even me).

Today will be another busy, fun day. A ride, a cycling club board meeting, bowling this evening…

Once over the shock and initial boredom that comes in early recovery (if you’re bored, volunteer for service work – you won’t be bored anymore), if one works for it, life will become so full you’ll need a master planner just to keep up.

And the best part is, you’ll be having so much fun, you’ll wonder how you ever had time to get drunk.

That isn’t overselling recovery, either. The key is putting in the work to make it happen. No farmer ever sat on his ass waiting for God to plant his fields. Recovery works the same way. You harvest only what you plant.

It’s Not The Big Things That Will Wreck Recovery, It’s The Little Drip, Drip, Drip That’ll Bring On The Deluge

This is one of those funny times where recovery intersects with cycling. Generally speaking, I get through the big things in life pretty easy. For instance, our well went out over the weekend. The only thing that survived was the well pipe – and that’s a good thing, because that’s half the cost of a well. Unfortunately, most everything else was bad. New pump, new tank, new plumbing, new electrical… folks, it was a big check I had to write Monday afternoon.

Sadly, Brent, I am thankful I hadn’t bought a couple of fat bikes…

Because the good news is, I could write the check and be done with it. Not only that, I still have a reserve left. In a few months of frugality, we should be right as rain again. No financing, no credit card debt, no having to get a loan to cover the cost… we just have to live a little more wisely through the winter and things should be right back to normal, no big deal. It was a big deal, though.

On the other hand…

Last evening, I’m out riding with my buddy, Chuck. We don’t have many nice evenings left and it’s getting dark pretty quick, nowadays. We’re going to be on the gravel bikes with lights and reflective gear shortly, so we want to make the best of what we’ve got. I chose to wear a cycling cap under my helmet, a rarity now that I’ve got a Bontrager Specter helmet. I don’t have to worry about bees getting through the wavecell part of the helmet in one piece, so I normally don’t wear a cycling cap under that helmet. I do have to worry about the cold, though. And it wasn’t great out. A damp, gloomy, 67 degrees that felt like 55… I was in arm sun covers and my cycling cap in addition to my normal kit. Just fine for an easy cruise.

Well, we picked up the pace on the way home, though – mainly my fault – and I started sweating. With three miles to go, I was up front and hammering down the road into the wind at near 21-mph and all of a sudden, my cap hits full saturation. A drip hits my right eye. Then another. Then like a leaky faucet, drip, drip, drip, drip… at the speed we were going and my choice of glasses, the little drips I never have to worry about were hitting me dead in the eye.

In the space of a minute, I was about eight seconds away from hucking my $150 helmet into the ditch in a huff. I went from mild-mannered, just happy to be on a ride, to full-on, “motherf***er” in a half-mile. I squeezed the sweat out of my helmet pads and took the full mess right in the face… and it was done. I wiped my face off with my sleeve and calmed down.

Now, it’s likely a combination of having my well go bad, in conjunction with not knowing that I could have saved a grand or more if I’d have known our tank was bad, but that was a little beyond my pay grade… but it was that little drip of sweat from my helmet that completely raged me out.

There is a simple recovery explanation for this phenomenon: when those big things hit, the program kicks in. Am I working my steps? What do I need to look at? Where am I in my spiritual foundation right now? Do I have any amends to make? We do this reflexively and immediately as we grow in the recovery way of life. This protects us from the trauma of tough things happening in life.

But those little things can build up in a hurry because they’re “just little things” that don’t require a four-alarm “bring out the twelve steps” reaction. Pretty soon, all of that little crap adds up to rage and, if we’re not careful, we do something stupid… or worse, go straight to “I want a freaking drink”.

Fortunately for me, Wednesday is a meeting night and I got to bring all of this up – it even related to another fella who spoke before I did. In the end, I used my experience (strength and hope), in my normal self-depricating way, to show how it works for me… and how it doesn’t.

Today I thank God for the little things. They’re an excellent reminder of just how fragile sobriety can be. And that I’ve still got a lot of work to do.

And so I shall. Recover hard, my friends. You may not get another chance to come back.

What It Feels Like When Your Rear Derailleur Is Going Bad. The Venge Gets Fixed.

I got home from the office an hour earlier than normal, yesterday. It was a hard week so I took a bit of liberty so I could sneak in a ride before bowling. My wife called shortly after I left to inform me my order from JensonUSA showed up, too. Two new Shimano 105 chainrings and a new medium cage 105 10-speed rear derailleur.

I had the new parts on and derailleurs adjusted in less than a half-hour, and I won’t lie, I was pretty stoked at how quickly I got the parts on and derailleurs dialed in. I dressed and headed out for the test ride. The test was perfect. I hit every gear quickly, no lag in any gear, and the new chainrings were an excellent upgrade to the aftermarket chainrings I’d had on the bike.

Unfortunately, I’ve got something that’s creaking wildly when I get out of the saddle. I installed the pedals from my Trek when I got home to see if the pedals had gone bad (not it), so the next logical issue is the seat post. I removed it, cleaned it, hit it with some carbon paste and installed it again late last night so I’ve got my fingers crossed that’s the issue.

If not, it gets expensive.

Now, I was fortunate. I spend so much time tinkering with my bikes, I knew something was amiss a few weeks ago. The shifting was still quite good, but the derailleur was finicky about the barrel adjuster setting. It had to be just right, within a quarter-turn, or the chain would skip lightly in certain gear selections (it sounded like the barrel adjustment was just a touch off). New cable housings, expertly installed so as to avoid friction in the cable, didn’t help and once I knew the cable and housings weren’t an issue, the need for a new derailleur was a no-brainer. The chainrings were an added bonus. I was assuming that’s what was causing the gravel grinding sound when I got out of the saddle. I was incorrect, but drivetrain-wise, I’m set for at least another five, maybe ten years once I get the source of the noise corrected.

Where this gets fun and exciting for me is what’s next for that old Ultegra 10-speed derailleur. Next, I’m going to try to refurbish it with a new kit to see if I can’t get it back to working like new so I can put it back on the Venge and save the 105 derailleur for “just in case” either the 105 on the Trek or Ultegra on the Venge goes kaput in the future.

I’d have taken a new photo, but to be honest, it doesn’t look much different from the old photo… and I was way too busy having fun to bother…

More later.