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Does Bike Weight and Becoming A Weight Wienie Actually Matter? Does A Light Bike Help or Hurt A Cyclist? A Look at a Misleading Article on Bike Weight

First, I’m going to be straight up; bike weight matters. So does my once fat ass, and yours (fat or not). What’s the use in having an aero bike when one’s figure is anything but? Yes, pushing oneself away from the table is most important and the easiest, cheapest way to dial the weight factor down on the cyclist/cycle combination. This is all true.

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The object of my weight wienie-ness…
I ran into an article on the Pros Closet that delves into the question of bike weight and whether it’s worth the cost. On reading the article, the author makes a fair case that being a weight wienie is expensive. It is. However, she gets into a little deception when bringing up the cost vs weight savings. She uses a 77 gram, $11 aluminum bottle cage as an example against a Specialized S-Works Zee Cage, $70. Now, she gives the proper cost of a carbon zee cage, but the photo she uses shows a $20 plastic zee cage being weighed. So you’re getting what looks to be a 36 gram difference for an additional cost of $59. It’s really a $9 difference in cost for that 36 grams (worth it). It gets better, though. A carbon zee cage weighs just 28 grams, a difference of 49 grams next to the alloy cage. Add two bottle cages together and you’ve got a little less than a quarter of a pound (but more than two tenths of a pound)… on just two bottle cages. Sure, you’re spending $140 for a couple of bottle cages, but two-tenths of a pound just on bottle cages?! I’d do it. Hell, I did it! Twice. I bought the Chinese cages for $18 each, though… so for an additional $7 a cage, I saved more than two-tenths of a pound. Without question, worth it.

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Now, I only know all of this because I’m ridiculous and a little bit meticulous about trimming weight off my Specialized Venge. I’ve got an ultra-light stem (110 grams), an ultra-light S-Works crank, carbon pedals, the aforementioned carbon cages, carbon wheels, carbon handlebar, Ultegra drivetrain… Ultegra cassette, SRAM ultra-light chain… when I pulled that Venge out of the box, it weighed 18.8 pounds, not including pedals. It’s down to 15.8 (15.5 if I use the 110 gram carbon saddle I’ve got, but it’s just too uncomfortable). Now, can one feel the difference between three pounds? Abso-freakin-lutely. I can feel a pound, but only because I have so many miles on each of my bikes. That’s not the question, though. The question is, do those three pounds matter in terms of how fast I can get my bike down the road.

They don’t.

Because most of my fastest rides were on this:

1999 Trek 5200_May_2020

An 18-1/2 pound, fully restored and updated 1999 Trek 5200. Not ironically, it has Blackburn carbon cages and those were expensive ($55 each).

It only worked that way, that most of my fastest rides are on the Trek, by chance, of course. It was due to weather. The Specialized is much faster – noticeably, tangibly faster. But the three pound difference, well, two-and-change now, doesn’t make much of a difference. I just have to work a little harder (and yes, I do and can feel the difference).

Let’s go one better, though. How about almost a five pound difference?

Now we’re looking at my Trek vs my gravel bike, a 23 pound Specialized Diverge. Now we’re talking some weight. Now, supposing I put some real road tires on that Diverge… can the “me” on the Diverge keep up with “me” on the Trek? No chance, no how, no way.

On my Trek, average estimated wattage for a 28-mile, 24-mph average ride is a whopping 273 watts. On the Diverge that adjusts to 399 watts… For an hour and ten minutes? Sign me up for the Tour de France. No chance I can hold that, no matter how big the draft. That’s a difference greater than most people can even pedal a bicycle (136 watts).

So my two cents on the subject is this; to an extent, the bike’s weight does matter, especially when you start getting into the really heavy bikes. It just doesn’t matter as much as some think (or maybe hope).

Now, one thing I did appreciate about the Pros Closet article is that the author looked at how light is too light – at which point does a lightweight bike mean a decrease in performance. I don’t have to worry about this problem because I’m not going to bother trying to get the Venge much lighter. It’s good enough for government work. However, at some point you’ll sacrifice stiffness to weight reduction and end up with a spaghetti bike. I can tell you this, that weight is below 15 pounds.

Besides, I think they were more talking about mountain bikes and durability in the article anyway (except one of the merchandizing office guys she quoted).

So there you have it. Of course a light bike will be slightly faster and a heavy bike will be considerably slower. The trick is your definition of light and heavy combined with how you’ll be riding said bike… and the depth of your bank account. In my case, every upgrad I made was worth it. Every pound I dropped, worth it. I just don’t have to delve any deeper.

A Simple, If Humorous, Note on “Listening to Your Body”

Trigger (heh) warning:  If you happen to be a sissy, the following might trigger you into sucking your thumb and curling up into the fetal position for anywhere from five minutes to several days.  Do not read this post if this is something you’re capable of.  I haven’t sucked my thumb since I was knee-high to a grasshopper (I think I was 3) and the last time I was in the fetal position, I was actually in the womb, a person like me would be reasonably safe to read what I’m about to write.  You have been trigger (heh) warned.

My daughter, for my 50th birthday, baked me the most delectable carrot cake (with cream cheese icing, of course) to ever have passed my lips.  It was one of those cake eating experiences that, because it’s so utterly fantastic, makes you close your eyes in ecstasy the first several bites.

So there I am last night, sitting on the couch after a big, fast Thursday night ride (36 total miles) and, because I’m so attuned to what my body is telling me, my body says, “Hey, yo!  Down here!  Hey, I need some carrot cake down here!”

Well, now that’s a reason to rejoice right there!  My body says it needs carrot cake!  Well, you know what happens next:  I’m ass-deep in cream cheese icing when I realized I’d made a mistake in interpretation…

My body only asked for carrots.  My melon filled in the “cake” part.

Oops.

Cycling And Speed: There’s A Difference Between Knowing There’s A Hill… And Climbing The Hill; Beating The Mental Block To Being Your Best On A Bicycle

Who can forget when Neo just begins to discover he really is “the one“, when Morpheus utters that simple line, “There’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path”, in the movie The Matrix (1999 [1999?!])?

So it is with cycling and speed. There’s a difference between knowing fast and cycling fast – actually doing it.  The tone of this post should not be taken as one of braggadocio, but of humility.  In cycling, the phrase there’s always someone faster was ever thus and shall always be.  I am a very small fish in a very big pond… but I’m a small fish who also happens to be decent with a keyboard – and we are a rare breed, indeed.

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First, I’m going to be straight up here.  If you try to push your limits, you’re going to get dropped every now and again.  You’re going to spend some miles crawling back after you’ve popped.  How can you learn to pass your limit if you don’t know your limit in the first place?

Next, and this is a big one, you have to shove aside that negative self-talk and doubt bullshit.  I know people near as strong as I am but talk themselves into hurting when they’ve got gas left in the tank.  They’re miserable and struggling and I’m just cruising along.  If ever there was a saying to embrace in cycling, “this too shall pass”.  When I’m feeling a haggard, I know it’ll pass and I’ll feel at least a little better before long.  There’s an ebb and flow to cycling at higher speeds.  Try to concentrate on the flow a lot more than the ebb.  In fact, let go of the ebb.

Save your good legs for the big days!  If you’re one who lets a lack of confidence gnaw at you, for the love of God and all that is holy, good legs for good days.  You don’t go out the day before a big ride and go hard.  We mere mortals have to pick our battles.  Of course, you don’t take a day off either.  The day before a big ride is perfect for an active recovery day.  You’ll want to be slow enough that you get a little antsy about whether or not you should be trying a little harder.  If ever there was a day to take a few pictures along your route, the day before a big day is it.  Chill out and ride on the bar-tops a bit.

Eat, but don’t be all crazy about it.  Carb-loading is great and all, but you can only store so much “carb” before it becomes “fat”.  An extra slice of pizza?  Great.  An extra pizza?  Not so much.   If you feel like crap when you clip in, you’ll be thinking about that extra pizza weighing you down.  Cue confidence train wreck and you dropping off the back, dejected.  Don’t do that to yourself.

Now, finally, repeat after me:  I am a badass.  I’m a horse.  I am fast.  I am strong.

Now get out there and hammer it out.

 

 

My Most Enjoyable Long Weekend

We rolled out Sunday morning with a small but lively group with a goal of just 45 miles at an easy, fun pace.

Yet another Sunday Funday on the tandem, my wife and I lighting up the front.  We kept the pace steady, around 20-mph, the first 13 miles but Diane and my wife both had to stop to use a port-john before we got to town so three single started rolling a few minutes before we took off out of the school parking lot.  We took it easy starting out but I fell into chase down mode and we took to reeling my friends in.  After a nasty (but shallow and short) incline that my wife hammered up, we started putting down the serious watts.  We had a sprint coming up in a few miles and it’s perfect for a tandem.  We pulled around the lead group with about a mile to go and kept ratcheting the pace up to be discouraging to anyone wanting to come around.  It didn’t work.

We pounded down the hill, shifting as we went until we settled into a good gear.  The other tandem had come around as well as three of the single bikes and we were two lengths behind.  Once everyone cleared us I figured my wife would ease up but she wanted the City Limits sign.  She was laying out some power, so I gave it everything I had.  In the stretch to the sign, we overtook all three single bikes at 34-mph and pulled along side the second tandem… but we needed another ten seconds.  The got us at the line by a half-length.  It was a good effort.

After a short stop at our normal gas station, we rolled out into the morning sun.  It was starting to warm up but we had virtually no wind.  The rest of the ride, up until about 43 miles when both our butts had had enough, was fantastic and we ended up pulling into the driveway with 45 miles and some change at 18.6-mph.  That was speedy for a Sunday Funday on the tandem.  And all was well.

I went out with a couple of friends and helped one of ours clear out some big items out of his garage.  It was well over 90° and the sun was hammering us, but it was worth helping a friend out.  We ended up working from noon till 3:30 or so.  It was some hard work but we all felt pretty good about helping a friend out.  After showering up, we had a fantastic dinner (grilled chicken and sweet potatoes along with a salad).  I put on Aquaman after and drifted off sometime in the special features and slept like a baby through the night.

We’re still muddling our way through COVIDcation, but I can’t complain.  It was a fantastic weekend of family, friends, sun, swimming, food and fun… and that most important aspect we celebrated the day before; Freedom.

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A Happy Father’s Day Indeed… Biscuits and Gravy, Baby.

It is a well-known fact that my favorite breakfast in the whole wide freakin’ world is biscuits and sausage gravy.

My brother from a different cycling mother, down in Tasmania, asked on yesterday’s post, “biscuits and gravy?”

Well, brother, that’s it and my daughter made the best, most perfectly seasoned sausage gravy over the fluffiest biscuits I’ve ever eaten in my entire life. And that includes drunk 3am breakfasts back in my drinking days. The best.

I only had to put in 40 miles on the tandem to earn the breakfast. If ever there was a way to pay for a breakfast!

Biscuits and gravy is a puzzle of flavor perfection. The biscuits have to be fluffy while sufficiently heavy. The gravy, creamy yet sufficiently peppered. The real trick is getting the salt right. Too much is gross, too little and the gravy lacks pop. My daughter, who happens to be an excellent cook/budding chef, got the puzzle pieces to fit perfectly into a bite of heaven every thirty seconds or so.

That, my friends, is good times and biscuits and gravy.

How I STAY Fast; A Noob’s Guide to Maintaining a 23-mph Average on a Bicycle and the Mental Edge Needed to Do It.

As the Greg LeMond quote goes, it never gets easier, you just go faster, was ever thus…

The most popular post I’ve ever written is centers on how I trained to get fast enough to hold a 23-mph average in a pack.  That’s fast enough some believe we can’t possibly hold that on open roads but I assure you, we do… and I’m not even in the A Group.  Our A Group is up to a 25-mph average on Tuesday nights.  On open roads.

I’ve been 150 pounds dripping wet and held a 23-mph average (though I was more prone to cramping and bonking).  I’ve been 175 pounds and held the same average.  Though my wife prefers me at 175 (I’m happier at 165 but she says I’m too skinny).  I’ve held 23-mph on a 21-pound carbon road bike with a faulty headset and a triple drivetrain, and on that same road bike three pounds lighter and completely rebuilt from the ground up with a compact double chainset, and then on a 15-pound aero-everything racing steed.

Oh, and I’ll turn 50 in a couple of months.

I’d love to tell you the bike matters a lot, but it doesn’t.  The bike helps a lot, of course – a great aero bike makes fast easier but I still have to have the fitness in the first place.  The ride, on a 15 pound aero bike is obviously a lot easier that the old triple was, but I still managed.  I think more than weight, the keys for the bike are decent, working components, good wheels, and proper setup.  Get those right, and that’s most of the battle.  This changes as we get above the 21+ pound range for a bike, though.

My first foray into speed in cycling was addictive and that’s really what got me started on the right foot.  I only lasted eight miles with the main group – I was dropped like a dirty shirt when they accelerated from a reasonable 23-24-mph to 28 – but I found a small slice of heaven on earth that first ride.  Being a part of that kind of speed and group effort ticked a lot of boxes for me – and it’s only gotten better in the last eight years (I had a solo year and change prior).

And I have gotten faster… but it has gotten easier.  Ish.  Hear me out.

The keys to getting fast were numerous.  Proper hydration, proper nutrition (and a lot of it), proper rest (not much) that included mainly active recovery rides… and a whole $#!+-ton of “want to”.  Without the “want to” I may as well have bought a beach cruiser.

Most important, I got my cycling legs after a few years, and that’s where the “maintaining” starts.

Cycling legs are acquired, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly.  Let’s back this bus up just a second, though.  First, “cycling legs” are a “thing”, and I’ll get back to that in a minute.  Second, the acquisition of cycling legs depends on how hard one is willing to work for them.  The typical length of time it takes is three years, though this can shortened or lengthened depending on effort, commitment, and mileage.  In the end, cycling legs are the body’s natural reaction to cycling on a regular basis.  If there is no “regular basis”, then no cycling legs for you.

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Once you’ve been around the block a few hundred times, with the exception of the rare bonk (which still happens, and sometimes even when you’ve done everything right), you can rely on the legs to get you through rides that don’t go quite as expected… and that leads us to the second important factor in maintaining “fast”; the mental end.

I always chuckle when my wife gets the mistaken impression that, in a 20-mph headwind, I’m spinning at 18-mph for 20 miles and she thinks I’m just sitting up there with a smile on my face, cruising down the road without a care in the world.  To a certain extent, she isn’t wrong, but for any avid enthusiast, that hurts.  The mental end of cycling is knowing down to your baby toes what you can get away with without putting yourself in the pain cave from whence there is no return.  What separates the fast from the moderate cyclist is the ability to not think oneself into more pain than what is really there – and the conviction of knowing that even if you’re not feeling too hot for a couple of miles, you will come around if you dial it back just a hair.  My wife isn’t much slower than I am but she completely lacks the mental edge I have.  If she starts hurting, she immediately wants to dial the pace back.  When I start hurting, I start breaking the ride down into chewable segments in my head.  “I just have a few miles before we get to this turn and tailwind”.   This gets me through the hard times and back to where I’m feeling okay again.

Then there’s the knowledge that everyone else is hurting and the pain of keeping up can’t last forever…  I know down to my baby toes, if I’m three bikes back and struggling to hold a wheel in a headwind, the person up front is cooking themselves.  They won’t hold that pace for very long or they’ll drop off the back.  Without being able to compartmentalize the ride in one’s mind, all you’re left with is how you’re feeling at any given moment, and if you’re there, you’re in pain.  We faster types figure out how shut that thinking down.  There’s no place for it.

This mental edge is your experience.  It’s knowing how to fuel your ride, it’s knowing where to push, where to hide, and just how far you can go before you pop… and it’s knowing down to your baby toes that “how far you can go before you pop” is subjective.  You can do better.  And it’s knowing that if you’re hurting, others likely are as well.  Just stick with it and you’ll come around.  Or you’ll blow up spectacularly and fall off the back to spin for a few miles while you recharge.  Friends, it happens.

If you really have a desire to be fast, the thing to work on, once you’ve gotten a bike and your cycling legs, is that gray matter betwixt your ears.  That’s where the magic happens.

A Time of Year for Celebration… And Then WordPress Dropped a WordBomb on the Classic Editor.

This was going to be an uplifting, wonderful, happy post. We’ve finally broken through to some decent weather and last evening’s ride was wonderful. Therapeutic even. I wanted a moderate ride and managed an easy 19-1/2 mile average over 22 miles (or just short, I think). We’d had two days of drenching rain – enough our water table is now topped off – and it’s very green around here after the white of winter and brown of early spring… the robin’s eggs are hatched and wildlife is everywhere.

It rained all day and only dried up just before I got home but the temp was right, at room temperature, so shorts and short sleeves were the order of the day. I even, against my better judgement, readied the Venge. After reinstalling the Selle Italia SLR Tekno Flow saddle last week, I wanted to put it through its paces before the long rides hit this weekend. I’ll get into this a little deeper in a later post, but taking the time to meticulously dial it in paid off. It’s an amazing saddle and my nether regions have never been so… um, not angry after a ride. Anyway, I really put the Venge through its paces last night without getting too outrageous. I started out aiming for an 18-mph average and overshot that by quite a bit. Ah well, I earned dinner last night, and it was spectacular. Shepherd’s pie, made out of slow-cooked roast beef, veggies and mashed potatoes. I still have to post the recipe, but it’s freaking amazing. Anyway, I digress…

COVID-19… COVIDcation… A recession… murder hornets…

Then I woke up and checked the blogs I follow and found a new post by WordPress in which they announced they’re doing away with the old WordPress editor in favor of the atrocious, pile of steaming shit block editor. You know, I was wondering what was next. Now I know. Look, I wouldn’t be surprised, if you’re a web developer, if the block editor is the cat’s meow. If you’re a writer, the block editor sucks ass because you can’t actually write. I’ve tried it a few times and end up wanting to throw my Lenovo Thinkpad through the window… thus wrecking a $1,500 laptop and a picture window at the same time. The WordPress post received negative comments so fast, the author shut comments down after only 28.

There is hope, however. WordPress is doing away with the WordPress editor (the one you and I know and love), but they did install a Classic editor in the system and they have a classic editor block if you want to use that. How to access all of that bullshit, God only knows. They like to call their techs Happiness Engineers – the block editor’s creation leads me to believe happiness engineers are kinda like “democratic socialism”. “Oh, don’t worry about the socialism part, it’s democratic socialism. Who gives a f*** if it’s democratic? It’s still f***in’ socialism! Holy hell, the government still controls everything! That’s like saying, “Hey, don’t worry about the herpes, they’re democratic herpes! Smile!” F***, they’re still f***in’ herpes!

The post was bad, too. I’d have kicked my own ass for writing it, though I’ve gotta hand it to the author at the same time, it ain’t easy putting on a happy face to sell a literal pile of shit. Could you imagine having to try to sell a pile of shit? My favorite is the part titled, “Why switch to the WordPress editor? Let us count the ways.” Are you ready for this?

  1. The block editor was released more than a year and a half ago. That’s one of the reasons… wtf
  2. Since then it has been improved in numerous ways (Or, another way to read that, it sucked so bad we’ve been trying for a year and a half to make it right and writers still hate it).
  3. There are more than 100 content blocks to thoroughly confuse the $#!+ out of you.
  4. Dozens of built in page templates (again, to thoroughly confuse the writing experience).
  5. That’s it, folks. That’s why we should want to change.

Anyway, hold on to your butts. The changes hit June 1st… and if I have to use the real block editor, folks, I’m done. I’ll take the next year to put all of my best posts into a book, and I’m out. I can’t live with that negativity in my life. It ain’t worth it. “Smile”.

And That’s Why I Have a Rain Bike…

Yesterday was supposed to be a day off.  My legs were tired and I was ready for it.  The forecast was for wall to wall rain, sunup to sundown.  I stopped at a job close to home to check on the progress and was home about a half-hour earlier than normal – it was raining when I walked in the house.  Some small talk later, I noticed that not only had it stopped raining but the pavement was drying up.  I checked my weather app… 15% chance of rain for the next four hours.  I looked at my lovely wife and uttered my second favorite two words; I’m riding.

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No chance I was taking the Venge, though.  Days like this are why I have a rain bike.  I didn’t believe for a second I was getting out of that ride dry… though there was hope.  In Michigan, a 15% chance of rain means you’ve got a 100% chance of getting 15% wet.

I didn’t make it out of the driveway before it started spitting.

The horizon didn’t look all that bad, though, so I pressed on.  It didn’t matter much, anyway, we finally happened on a reasonably warm day.  It was only room temperature out, but after the rest of the spring with temps 10 to 20 degrees below normal, it felt like a sauna.  The roads started to collect the water and my tires gave off that unmistakable zipping sound that comes with a rooster tail… and just like that, the spitting stopped.  Two miles later I was on dry asphalt again.

And then my ride got fun.  I’ve put in a couple of faster than normal days on the bike so I was looking forward to an easy day but with a mild tailwind pushing me, how could I not take advantage?  There was something that blew my mind, though.  I’d opted to leave the knee warmers at home but this strange moisture was forming on my brow and dripping onto my glasses.  I had to think back on my cycling database for what this could have been – and then it hit me!  I needed to take my arm warmers off because I was too warm.

Warmers stowed in my back pocket, I took to the rest of my ride like a kid to a Halloween bucket.  I’d been shooting for a 17-mph average but by the time I was half-done, I’d have had to walk my bike for a couple miles to drop my average down that far.  So I did what I do in those situations… no sense in messing up a good average by taking it easy (even if that was the game plan) until I hit the headwind.  And with four-ish miles left to go, I did hit the headwind.  And I relaxed, just spinning into it with a smile on my face.  I made it to my driveway with just under a 19-mph average for the loop and a happy heart.

I showered, had some chili dogs for dinner, cleaned up my bike and did the drivetrains for my wife’s and my bikes, attended a zoom meeting with four friends, then drifted off to sleep watching The Rise of Skywalker.

I should have been rained out.  It doesn’t get better than that for a rain day.

Oh, $#!+… 2020

Coronavirus, murder hornets…. if you’ve asked, “Good God, what’s next?” for 2020…

That’s from Reign of Fire.

Are you freaking kidding me?! Dragons?!

The COVIDcation Mo Miles Diet Plan

I lost twelve pounds in the last month and a half. Twelve. And I haven’t exactly been pushing myself away from the table early, either. I’ve been intelligent about eating, of course, but the vast majority of my success is due to a whopping increase in mileage.  I started the year more than 100 miles in the hole after two months, but with the freedom afforded by COVIDcation-2020, I’m now 500 miles to the good.

Sadly, this paints a poor picture with a broad brush.  One would be mistaken if one assumed that all we have to do is ride a bunch of miles and weight will fall off.  It doesn’t quite work that way if it is close.

First, we have to define just how many miles we’re talking about here.  My definition of a decent month is 1,000 miles in a month, or about 250 a week (1,610 km & 402 km respectively).  That’s what it took to drop 12 pounds in a month and a half.  If I go by reality vs. virtual (or reality vs what the “apps” say), I look at banking on maybe 60% of the calories my fitness trackers say I’m burning.  I figure I’m burning between 10,000 and 12,000 calories a week while my fitness trackers are telling me about 15,000 to 16,000.  10,000 to 12,000 calories a week works out to almost 3 pounds a week.  That would be 18 pounds over the 6 weeks, but we have to figure I’m eating a little extra to fuel the effort… and that gets me to the 12 pounds I actually lost – figure a third would be lost toward extra fuel.

Better, I wasn’t eating tofu, greens, carrots and cucumbers.  I was eating food, however moderately.  Should I have been a little more careful with my diet, I could have done better on the scale.  This would have presented its challenges, of course.  To ride at the speeds I do, you can’t do it on veggies alone (or you kind of can, but it takes a lot more effort than I’m willing to put into it and it’s not a very effective or healthy way to live – not in the long run).  Also, where’s the fun in tofu, greens, carrots and cucumbers?!  Pass the pizza.

In any event, unlike the vast majority of COVIDcationers, I’m happy to have come out of my vacation much lighter and slimmer than when I started.  The Mo Miles Diet Plan works wonders, provided it’s implemented wisely.  If I’d have gone to the trough with a sense of freedom to eat as I pleased because I was riding a bunch of miles, I’d have been deeply disappointed after putting in 1,640 miles on a bicycle only to end up fatter than when I started.