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Decisions, Decisions… And a Pile of Miles

After riding my Trek for the B Group’s huge 24-mph best ever loop on Tuesday night and then for another excellent effort Thursday (we were expecting rain both nights), and with a fine wheelset now on the Trek, choosing between which bike to take becomes much more intricate.  I’d always assumed choosing the Venge between May and October would be a no-brainer unless rain was called for.  The Venge is better than two pounds lighter (1.2kg), it has 50’s on it… and look at it.

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The Trek is a damn fine machine, though… there’s just something about its classic look…

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Meh, I’ll have plenty of time to ride the Trek when the snow flies.  I rode the Venge yesterday for what ended up being just shy of a 100k ride with friends at a 20-mph average.  It was a beautiful day, if a little windy, but we worked the miles out so that we ate the vast majority of the headwind on the way out – a steady diet of 27 miles of headwind wore on us but we managed a healthy 18.5-mph average into the wind.  Then we headed for home with a most fantastic push and the average climbed quickly.  We ended up pulling into the driveway with a 20-mph average, on the nose.  61.27 miles in 3h:03m:31s

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This is pretty indicative of the conditions we ride in between May and the middle of September.  Over the last few years most of our roads were repaved so we are in the middle of being about as spoiled as a cyclist can get.  Minimal traffic, maximum awesome tarmac, sunshine and cycling with good, competent group of friends.

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So on tap for today, my weekday riding buddy, Chuck and I are going to ride out to the ride, about 16 miles each way, plus a 65 miler, so we’ll have to figure out where to add three more miles on the way home so we can get an even 100.  The conditions will be some of the best we’ve experienced all year.  Light breeze, partly cloudy, low 60’s at the start, rising only to the upper 70’s by the time we’re done, and with the wind increasing as the day goes so we get a better tailwind push home that we fight going out… plus 100 k of that ride I’ll be riding with my wife and the rest of my friends.

The only way life could get any better would be to do all of that and win the lottery.  On thing is certain; I am a fortunate man.  Call it a recovering drunk’s privilege.  Or something.  I may have to work on that.  It doesn’t sound “victimy” enough.  Chuckle.

With any luck, I’ll end up with almost 300 miles this week – and some fast miles at that!  118 of those miles were north of 20-mph… 57 were north of 21-mph, and 28 miles were north of 23.  Life’s been a perfect storm of awesome.  And I love it when that happens.

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:

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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.

The Noob’s Guide to Cycling Clothing: Bibs, Shorts, Jerseys… Are The Expensive Options Worth The Money? (And How and When To Go Cheap)

So, I think the real question is this, are those high priced cycling clothes worth the crazy price tag?!

Now, two years ago I’d have said, “it depends” or maybe even given you a flat-out “not really, but(t)”.  See, expensive bibs and shorts are, without question, worth the money if you’re going to be putting in long days on a saddle and you can afford them without undue pain to the finances.  We’re looking at, say 60+ miles in a day.  I’d also have then added, the jerseys really aren’t necessary but they’re a nice luxury.  Today, my opinion has changed for the pricey on the jersey after a few lucky purchases…

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We’ve all seen the noob just getting into road cycling sporting the Sponeed kit (hell, I have a Coconut kit myself).  While the Chinese brands are acceptable, even fairly comfortable. for shorter rides, they tend to fall flat (read that “painfull”) over longer stretches in the saddle.  But what about the jersey, you ask?

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The jersey is where this gets fun.  I actually really like my Coconut jersey, and Funkier has some good stuff, too.  That said, while the cheaper Chinese stuff is passable, the expensive tech stuff, say the Specialized SL Race and SL Air jerseys, are fantastic in warm temperatures.  Sadly, they suck if you’re a little chunky because they show a lot, but they are vast improvements in that they help to keep you cool in the heat.  A lot better than a standard jersey.

Even our standard Affable Hammers jerseys from Mt. Borah, as fantastic as they are (and as well as they hold up over time – they’re literally spectacular in that regard), pale next to a newer full tech kit (Mt Borah does have a tech line that’s spectacular, I just don’t own any of those jerseys to be able to comment on them – my friends are very pleased).  The newer tech kits are so good at wicking moisture, over a long ride I’ll end up with a salty crust on the outside of the high quality jerseys.

There are tricks to purchasing that can put the most expensive items in your drawer…

This is where this post is going to get important.  Lean in, real close… [whispering] I can’t afford expensive kits.  I’ve got a fleet of bikes to maintain, my wife and I both ride, and I don’t make a Quarter of a Million Dollars a year.  We feel the pinch of cycling’s expensive nature now and again, but I’ve learned how to avoid paying top Dollar for top-of-the-line cycling clothing.  I buy everything on sale.  The aforementioned Funkier?  They have a sale on bibs going on right now, all sizes available, $19.99.  That’s not a typo.  I bought two pair.  Even if they just sit in the drawer till I need them, they’re worth it.  Specialized team kits – I bought two last year.  Normally $300+ for a jersey and bib set, I paid less than $150 each set.  Specialized’s bibs?  I bought two pair from the SL line for $99.99 – $50 off one pair and $80 off the other.  I bought an SL Air jersey on sale for $37.99, I think that jersey was $60 off retail – and I bought several items for my wife using the same technique.

The key is shopping when I have money, and avoiding it when I don’t.  We’ve had to drop a couple grand on making my vehicle run properly lately and that’s put us in a bit of a pinch so I absolutely quit shopping.  I don’t even look.  No need to tempt myself.  On the other hand, I laid out a lot of cash picking up the items I mentioned above.  $300 for a couple of cycling outfits is a lot of money… but I didn’t spend $600.  The key is finding the deals when they hit and having a little bit of backup cash to blow in the event I find something worth purchasing.

And when cheap will do…

Let’s say you don’t have the disposable cash to make the bigger purchases – $150 for one kit is simply too much.  First, stick to black bibs or shorts because they’ll go with any jersey – don’t purchase a pair of bibs that obviously has a matching jersey that will have to go with the shorts.  You’ll end up buying the jersey when you realize how dorky the shorts look with another jersey.  Second, the less expensive cycling clothing works on shorter rides.  See, I’ve got four distinct kits for long distance cycling – I need that many for DALMAC, a four-day tour from Lansing, MI to Mackinaw City, MI (380 miles in four days).  I’ve also got several less expensive jersey and bib combos to choose from for 20 to 50 mile rides.  It makes sense to not to wear the good stuff on the short rides because I won’t wear it out near as fast if I’m only washing it a dozen times a year, rather than once a week.  Set out with a strategy to maximize the bang for your buck.  You’ll appreciate it when you’re coming down the home stretch of a hundred mile ride in the dead of summer and you’re feeling a lot fresher than you normally would in a lower-quality kit.

And to put a nice little bow on this post, in the event you can only afford the cheap, Chinese Sponeed or Coconut cycling kits, buy ’em and be proud.  “Want to” is a lot more important than an expensive kit.  That “want to” just hurts a little more when you don’t have the best cycling clothing money can buy.

UPDATE:  The Omil, down in the comments section, makes a fantastic point as seasoned cyclists go.  Do give that comment a look.

Happy Freedom Day, America. Though Her Citizens Have Their Flaws, Freedom For All Was Always the Point

The best of America is the freedom of her citizens. The beauty of its constitution and bill of rights is what makes it all work – and it’s what politicians fight tooth an nail to ignore and misrepresent, for one simple reason: they want us angry and divided so we’ll vote.

I won’t be commenting anymore on that. I will on what is great about America.

In the United States, we are one of the only countries in the World whose rights aren’t handed down from the government. We, unlike anywhere else on earth, are born with our rights or they are a natural part of taking the oath of Citizenship. It obviously took politicians a while to figure that simple truth out, but it did happen.

Other countries hand down citizens’ rights from on high and what is given, can be taken away. Not so in the United States of America and this presents a problem for politicians.

In this country, our rights come from God. We are born free and it’s the government’s job to protect that freedom. The angst in Washington DC is that political elites think of themselves as better than that.

If your politicians are not doing their job protecting your freedom, throw the bums out. More important, if your politician likes to interject themselves between you and your freedom, claiming without them you can’t truly be free, don’t let them run a lemonade stand. If you’re American, you were born with your rights. If you’re an immigrant, you granted yourself your own rights the minute you took the oath of Citizenship. They weren’t handed down to you, they’re yours. Don’t ever let a politician come between you and your freedom. Once you let that happen, they can take it away.

Just sayin’.

Happy Freedom Day America… and the same to all her citizens. All of them.

A Reasoned Look at Why Cycling Clubs Shouldn’t Rely On the Fast Members to Show Slower New Riders the Ropes.

I have to be a little careful how I broach this subject, but it’s an important one that just popped up in the real world so I just thought I’d write about my experience so that I might help others avoid a pitfall or two.

A few Tuesday nights ago we had about twelve B riders and a tandem and maybe eight A riders show up for a group ride (actually, I think they’re calling us the A & A- Groups now) for what used to be a club ride.  The club has decided not to sanction rides for the time being, so people are simply showing up to ride.  We had one, lone D rider show up that night and as I wrote in my post about it, I gave up my ride with the A- Group and showed him around the course.  He struggled mightily to stay in my draft while I was sitting up pedaling easy, my hands on the bar tops into a 15-mph headwind.  He dropped several times and I’d look back to see him 200 yards off my wheel so I’d have to wait till he caught up…

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Another club member, after I put out a group-wide ABP for C, D, & E riders, sarcastically (and quite ignorantly and shittily, I might add) pointed out that we A & B riders should happily drop our ride to show these slower riders around until more of the C, D, & E group riders decide to show up.

Ah, that Kumbaya world where cats and rats play together in harmony.  It’d be great, wouldn’t it?  Except that shit never actually works.

Here’s what really happens when that is tried.

A guy like me sacrifices his fastest, favorite ride of the week to show the newcomer the ropes.  Said newcomer struggles to keep up with what is an easy, even boring pace for the seasoned A/B rider.  The new rider becomes disheartened when they struggle while they’re watching said A/B rider glide along without a care in the world on the bar tops and into the wind whilst newcomer is down in the drops, pushing with all their might, with their tongue dangling precariously close to their spokes.

Said newcomer will rarely come back because they can’t relate to anyone.  Worse, they won’t be able to see a clear path to get from where they’re at to where the faster rider is at so they can ride with actual people.   Who wants to feel like their best effort isn’t close to good enough every time they show up?  Who wants to ride regularly with a group vastly faster than their best effort can hope to keep up with?

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Only your true cycling nuts will put up with that for any length of time.  That’d be me, and I’m telling you now, I’m few and far between.

Where this goes haywire is when slower riders mistakenly believe faster riders, in order to shepherd along slower riders, have a dial that they can simply turn to slow that pace down.  That’s not quite how it works.

In order to get my wife into cycling and into good enough shape to ride with my friends, I’d go out for a 40 to 65-mile ride with my friends.  When I got home, my wife would suit up and we’d ride together for another 20-30 more miles.  I was already smoked so I couldn’t have torn off all over God’s green earth if I wanted to.  My wife was able to build her fitness up to a point where now she can keep up with my friends and I.  The key was getting me to a point I was too tired to get antsy about the slow pace… and I am married to the woman I did that for.

The whole point is this:  Slow people mistakenly think fast people should be able to ride with slower folk but the reality is, we can’t.  Or I should say, we can’t anymore than those same slower folk can lead out the A Group.  I’d buy tickets to see the attempt.  Sure, every now and again we can throw out a nice recovery ride pace.  My easiest active recovery ride, or should I say my slowest, this year is 16.5-mph.  That’s faster than many cyclists’ best effort.

Over time, slower cyclists can gain considerable speed with some effort and a lot of want to… but in a day you can’t make a Thoroughbred stallion trot anymore than you can make a Tennessee Walking Horse a racer.

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UPDATE:  You might view my points in this post as “arrogant”.  If you scroll down to the comments section, you’ll see a friend of mine suggested exactly that – and you would have a point.  On the other hand, consider that it’s far more arrogant to expect others to give up their evening ride to cover for you… just sayin’ – that arrogant charge is commonly used one way, but I won’t accept the premise of that argument.

CRAP! I’ve Finally Done It. My Backup Bike Is Too Utterly Fantastic… (P.S. I don’t mean to virtue signal, but I will, this is above even a First World problem… Not quite a Bill Gates problem, but let’s not split hairs)

In my quest to make my classic 1999 Trek 5200 everything it can be with modern parts and tech, I may have gone one step too far…

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For only the second time (the first was fleeting and gone too quickly), my Trek is just a shade more comfortable than my 14-year-newer aero race bike.  The Trek is so good, I’m actually picking it for windy rides and active recovery rides just so it can have its day in the sun… and I can put some enjoyable outdoor miles on it.

I’ve been trying to get the Trek close to the Venge in terms of comfort for so long I can’t believe I’m actually here.  And that I’ve gone too far!

Thankfully for the Venge, it’s a paragon of aerodynamic awesomeness, seductive speed and svelte weight wienieness.  Its Ultegra drivetrain also shifts a lot better than my 5200’s 105 drivetrain.  If not for those four formidable points… well, not much would change.  Because that Venge is supremely fun to ride.

The main changes that brought the Trek up a few notches centered around the 17° flipped stem that helped to get the setup a little closer to my Specialized. The “best find” piece of the puzzle was the Bontrager Montrose Team Issue carbon fiber saddle.  On a fluke I found the saddle on Trek’s website for just $120 and jumped on it.  I should have bought two.  That is one amazing saddle. The final piece of the puzzle was the upgrade to carbon fiber Ican 38 mm wheels shod with 25 mm tires.  Dropping the alloy wheels and the 23/24 mm tires improved the Trek’s ride characteristics immensely.  Interestingly, because of a clearance issue at the rear chainstays, I couldn’t use 25 mm tires with 19.5 mm wide wheels (alloy wheels are typically 19.5 mm wide – or they were).  With the light bulb effect, the tires would rub the chainstays just behind the bottom bracket when I would climb a hill out of the saddle.  The Ican carbon fiber wheels are 23 mm wide so the 25 mm tires now fit perfectly, no rubbing.

Anyway, point being, it’s a good day for the 5200.

Amidst the Chaos, A Wonderful Weekend Of Happiness, Freedom, Peace and Cycling

Even when life gets difficult, recovery lights the way. With 201,000 miles on it, my Equinox is finally starting to nickle and dime us to death. It’s been paid off for a year and some change so we’re in that trap; is it better to fix everything that’s going wrong and not have a payment, or just pony up and buy a new vehicle? Either way, it’s been the best vehicle I’ve ever owned, by a long shot.

The hard part is, it still runs like a top.

Anyway, enough of that doom and gloom, crap. We’re experiencing some of the best cycling weather in years, we just had our first cookout of the year, and other than my once outrageously reliable Chevy Equinox, life is fantastic. Whatever we end up doing, this too shall pass.

Friday afternoon was a quick, and I do mean quick, ride with my wife just to get our miles in before our dinner party. We only logged 19-3/4 miles and made it back with just enough time to shower up and I ran to the convenience store for a bag of ice. Our friends showed up shortly after I got back.

Saturday was a perfect day for a long ride but we didn’t have many takers show up. My wife and I rolled out alone and picked up Phill and Brad along the way. That ride had a bit of everything. Slow miles, mid-range, and we even got into some speed every now and again. I pulled into the driveway with an enjoyable 100 km.

Sunday’s have been deemed “Sunday Funday” for a month and a week now. Rather than push the pace, we just go out and have fun riding with friends. My wife and I have been taking the tandem out the last five Sundays in a row and we’re enjoying it more than in the past. First, we’re working together better, and second, when I don’t have to worry about pushing the pace to keep up, I don’t worry about working so hard – so I’m not fighting against my wife with every pedal stroke. We’re still working through some communication issues that come with noob tandem riders, but those communication errors make up about 5% of a given ride. In other words, they’re minimal (and usually funny).Yesterday’s ride fit that norm – 95% great, 5% working on the communication skills. We rolled out to sunshine and a barely there breeze and temps in the low 60’s – perfect cycling weather. We warmed up in a hurry, though. I hadn’t noticed but we crept up from an easy 18-19-mph to 21-1/2. I’d changed the nose angle on my saddle a little and I put a different saddle on for my wife (at her request) and we were both having a much better time producing power. In fact, we had to dial it back a time or two to keep it “Sunday Funday” pace. We even added miles on – about six at the half-way point.We stopped in Flushing and had a much needed Coke.

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We rolled for home, shedding riders as we went. Phill took off first, then Big Joe, and that left Jeff & Diane on Diane’s tandem and Dave. We kept an easy-ish clip the rest of the way home and I let our friends know I’d cut watermelon up and had it waiting in the refrigerator.We pulled into the driveway with exactly 46.57 miles… and this is important because I found out a few hours later that if that had been 47.07 miles, I’d have stopped exactly at 1,000 miles for the month. Instead, 999.5. Crime in Italy, Chuck. I was also 9 miles short on my 250 mile goal for the week. I thought about heading back out after I cut the grass, but thought better of it for once. I’ll top 1,000 for the month today and add to that total in Lennon tomorrow evening (we’ve got a spectacular forecast all the way through the weekend). I simply didn’t need the miles.

Later, after dropping my daughter at a friend’s house, we worked through those communication issues I mentioned earlier. We had some big laughs and sorted a lot out. I didn’t have any noodle salad for dinner last night, but did have a tasty pizza. Hey, I just had the thought maybe I should change “good times and noodle salad” to “good times and pizza”.

Noodle salad is good, for sure… but pizza, now that’s happiness and freedom on a plate.

The Case for Continuous Sobriety; From an Old Friend, Mentor and Part of Our “Rat Pack”.

Due to anonymity issues, I have to be very careful with this post.  For that reason, this will appear a little vague.  If you’ve read one post of mine, I like to be descriptive to a fault, because being clear helps newcomers.  Sadly, I simply can’t be perfectly clear about the “who and where”.  I’ll be all over the “what and why”, though, as is par for the course.

I stumbled into a very special group of old-timers when I moved north of my native Brighton – Howell zip code as a young lad.  They were Flint’s “rat pack” in sobriety, the same as Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop in Hollywood.  My sponsor, for a short but influential time before his death, was “Frank Sinatra”.  He was such a good sponsor and man, he’s still talked about fondly and regularly a decade after his death.  If you ever talk about a legacy, especially for a person in recovery, that’s as good as it can possibly get for just a normal, everyday person.  My sponsor could make anyone feel instantly better about being themselves just by greeting them.  It was an amazing talent and use of an enormous heart.  He loved every lost soul who ever walked into an AA meeting and he was going to do his level best to make sure they felt welcome and knew that he was there for them if they decided to stick around.

We had “Dean Martin” over to the house, Friday night.  I’d say he was Sammy (my favorite), but Peter is unquestionably Sammy.  Dean was a close second favorite for me because I drank like him and related to his sense of humor.  That quality my sponsor had, rubbed off on Ian.  Ian, almost by chance and luck, had a huge influence on my wife and was a big part of her life growing up.  My current sponsor, Greg, is “Joey Bishop”.  Roger is “Peter Lawford”.

And so here we were, having a small dinner party (very small, so it could be held outdoors, socially distanced, because Ian and his wife are of that age that Covid-19 ravages).  Ian’s been sober 44 years.  I was five when he put a plug in the jug for good, 17 years before my sobriety date.

And so we group of sober friends and family ate together, vegetarians and balanced eaters alike, and it was wonderful.  We all laughed.  Ian, my wife and Ian’s wife cried.  And in the course, Ian brought up how well he thought we were doing, and how happy we appeared.  He related that back to his life and success, and we both related that back to our working a program of recovery.

And that brings us ’round to the main point of this post.

Within recovery, I am a decent example of a good human being.  I’m not great, yet, I think I might need that 17 more years to touch that, but I’ll keep trying to get there.  I have a chance to get there because I know one very important point down to my baby toes; sobriety and recovery aren’t an on-again, off-again experience.  I don’t get to the good benefits by straddling the fence, one foot in recovery, the other in addiction and on a banana peel.  And there exists a simple explanation for this truth…

In recovery, there is a progression to health that is very clear and if one hopes for the full benefits afforded by recovery, none of that progression can be skipped.  It’s cumulative.  First, we work the steps to become free of the grips of addiction.  Once free, and with a basic knowledge of “how it works”, we go on to practice those steps and principles in all our affairs.  As life continues, we lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows – helping others becomes a part of our life.  Helping others naturally helps us grow in the steps and principles and life improves.  It doesn’t get easier, of course.  There are trials and tribulations, but we handle them better than we ever could, because the steps and principles we’ve been working for years have become second nature.  We intuitively handle situations that once left us baffled, cursing the universe for having shit on us one more time.  Now we roll over those issues as if they’re minor speed bumps.  We have to slow the momentum a minute so we don’t bottom out the car, but we absolutely keep rolling.  And life continues to get better.

Before you know it, you don’t need meetings anymore – if you’re so blessed, you keep going simply to see how good life can get and to help others get to the same place you’ve been for years.  And this gets to my sponsor’s legacy.  This will be Ian’s legacy, and Peter’s… and Greg’s and Roger’s.

And if I keep it up, possibly mine.

With on-again, off-again sobriety I can never fully release myself from the grips of alcoholism and addiction.  I can’t recover.  If I can’t get out of that fly-paper, I can’t move on to the next part of the progression so I never really get to the sunshine of recovery.  I’m held back.  Retarded from the growth necessary to help friends and fellows – because you’ve gotta have something to give away to be able to freely give it.  If I can’t get there, I’m blocked off from the really good stuff.

I keep coming back because I want to see just how good “good” can get.  Without recovery, all I’m capable of is “meh”.  That’s just not good enough – it hasn’t been for a long time.  Good times and noodle salad isn’t arrived at by chance.  We have to work for it.

The Need For Speed In Road Cycling: Affable Hammers Edition

We gained a new guy a couple of weeks ago on Tuesday night.  I’ve never seen someone show up for their first group ride and hang with us all the way to the sprint finish 28 miles (and change) later.  He did it the first night, with no wind, but we dropped him last Tuesday on the home stretch after a few miles at 30-35-mph (48-56 km/h).

I  stopped by his house whilst riding over to pick up my buddy, Chuck for our evening ride and Jayson was grinning from ear to ear when I pulled up.  He’s a hardcore mountain biker who just made the jump to road cycling.  We spoke at length about the differences (I started on a mountain bike as well) between mountain biking and road cycling and we both came down on the same line with road cycling: the speed is awesome.

I let him go on about how much fun it is riding in a group, to be a part of that speed, rocketing down the road at 30+ mph with a bunch of other riders… if you’ve never participated, if you’ve got the lungs and legs, it’s exhilarating.  And that’s putting it mildly.

I am increasingly grateful for living where I do.  We have cyclists from all over the country who wind up in our group that can’t say enough about how special it is to ride with us.  We had another fella just Tuesday who’d ridden in groups all over the country say that he’d never run into a group of cyclists so welcoming and fun to ride with (at least not when you’re talking about the upper echelons of speed and fitness – my wife and I rode with a fantastic C group down in Georgia).  Most come off aloof and stuck up, where we welcome most new folks as if they’re long lost friends.

Thus, the affable in Affable Hammers.  We’re not perfect, of course, but we do our best.

Jayson and I concluded our conversation and I rolled out to pick Chuck up, grateful just to be me.  My wife and I sometimes kick around the possibility of moving, just for a change of scenery.  I’ve gotta tell you, though, leaving what we have wouldn’t be easy.  You don’t see too many people writing or talking about how great it is to be a cyclist where they’re living.

Thinking seriously about it, I really don’t know if the grass can get any greener somewhere else, and that’s a good feeling to have.  Come to think of it, I just might have to go the the grocery store and pick up some noodle salad tonight.