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What Would It Be Like to Go Cycling with Jesus? And Other Heady Thoughts On Cycling and the Sheer Joy It Brings.

This is what I was thinking about last night as Chuck and I were heading toward my house, maybe five miles to go.  We had a glorious tailwind, it was above 40 degrees and I was about as close to perfectly dressed as I’m going to get.  We were cruising, after all those trainer miles over the winter, and the pace was fairly enjoyable – I would put it in the “barely moderate” category.  I was in Chuck’s draft and I said to him, “I like to think about what it’d be like if Jesus got a chance to ride with us”.

I like to imagine the look on His face on throwing a leg over a Specialized Venge Tarmac (I started writing this post last year before they did away with the Venge) or Trek Madone 9…. the look of trepidation, the uneasy wobble as he tried to clip in the first time (maybe we’d give him some platform pedals for his first go)…

Then, after learning to ride, would naturally come teaching Him how to ride in a group, you know, the particulars; watch the overlap of the wheels, watch up the road, no, bicycles don’t work on water because you can’t get traction on the water.  You know, the basics.  Then, I like to imagine the look of sheer joy on His face as He cruised around with a group of us in a pace-line.  I love to think about what it would be like if Jesus could feel the joy and exhilaration of coming around the final corner on Tuesday night, full out as the pace ramps up from 25 to north of 30-mph.  I’m immensely grateful that I can and feel that regularly.  Then I wonder if maybe Jesus does get to sense of what that’s like through me.

This is my understanding of God in recovery.  The whole “God is my co-pilot” doesn’t make any sense in recovery.  Technically, if we’re doing it right, God is the pilot.  Anyway, “I get it” kind of, but the whole pilot/co-pilot thing is a little foreign to me as I’m not, you know, a pilot.  The thought of how much fun Jesus would have in our pace-line, though, and having the chance to lead Him out (or vice-versa, even better yet), that’s something I can connect with.

I like to think of how big smile on His face would be after we cross the Lennon City Limits sign and we’re all bumping fists and patting each other on the back, thanking each other for the hard work and effort on another fantastic ride, acknowledging each other’s part in the group… I like to think Jesus would see that and say, “You know, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.  That’s how it’s done.”

… and just like that, I was on the home-stretch to my driveway.  The first, glorious ride of the new season in the books.  We took the gravel bikes out as the snowmelt was gnarly and messy, but was it fabulous to be out in the fresh air, even if I ate some salty road spray a time or two. I thanked my friend for another fantastic time on the bike as he rode off toward his house.  I felt a little like Kurt Warner as I walked my bike up to the front porch.  I gave a little, “Thank you, Je-sus!” and smiled again as I rolled my bike into the house to tell my wife about the ride.

I haven’t slept as well as I did last night in months.

The Perfect Racy Setup for a Restored Trek 5200; Transforming an Old (But Not Tired) Horse to New Glory

My cycling brother from another mother bought himself a Postal Edition Trek 5200 and fitted it with 11-speed Ultegra components (looks like an 11/28 cassette with a 50/34 chainset). I’ve had my 5200, a few years older (his looks like a 2002), since 2012 so I’ve had a lot of time to tinker with it to make it into exactly the bike I want it. I’m here to tell you, if you want a good, workhorse frame to build into a new, racy steed, the 5200 is an excellent choice. It’s a little on the squishy side at the bottom bracket by today’s standards, but modern components work. You can get everything you need – 11 speed components, wheels, cranksets, headsets… and you don’t have to go expensive, either. I’ve got a budget Shimano crankset with SRAM chainrings and the 105 drivetrain that came off my Specialized Venge when I upgraded that to Ultegra. I think, if memory serves, I’ve got about $1,000 into upgrading all of the components and wheels – and that includes the $200 I plunked down to upgrade my Venge’s drivetrain – for the entire build (not including the paint job, however):

So here’s what you’ll need to know, generally, to build up a 5200, from the frame up. First, you’ve got a 68 mm English threaded bottom bracket (I’ve got an Ultegra BBR60 on mine that has been fantastic). I also have, and highly recommend, a Chris King 1″ threaded headset (for the pre-2000 5200’s). King’s headsets are known to be bomb-proof. You’ll have enough room at the back triangle for 10 or 11 speed components, so go nuts. For the wheels, you’ll want to be careful and keep the rim width to 23-mm max (25 will be a little too wide – I tried 25’s with 26 mm tires and there simply isn’t enough clearance at the chainstays – the tire will rub whilst climbing out of the saddle). For the seatpost, you’ll need a 27.2 mm. I went with a carbon fiber Easton model that I’ve had on there since ’14 or so. The old, original seat posts had slots to adjust the saddle nose up/down. I found my comfort zone to be exactly in between two slots. I needed/wanted something infinitely adjustable. I use a quill adapter so I can use a standard threadless stem. I’ve got a Bontrager Elite Blendr 90 mm x 17 degree (flipped, obviously). I specifically went with the 17 so I’d end up with the stem parallel to the top tube. Finally, to round out the new parts, I’ve got a sweet Bontrager Montrose Pro 138 mm carbon fiber saddle and a Bontrager Elite Aero alloy handlebar that I put on a couple of summers ago.

From the ground up, it’s an impressive build and I thoroughly enjoy riding it. It’s surprisingly light, too. I’m at 18-1/2 pounds as you see it in the photo above, but could go much lighter with Ultegra or Dura Ace components. While it’ll never measure up to modern race bikes, it’ll hold its own in any setting. I’ve heard it said that frame has more US wins on it than any frame in the history of cycling.

How Much Faster Is A Modern Superbike vs. How Cool Is A Modernized Classic? That’s THE Question.

Old school cool or cutting edge, and does it matter? Really? Bet your @$$ it does.

I absolutely love this subject because, for the cycling enthusiast (of a certain age), it tugs at the heartstrings. Many of us want to be able to say the steeds of yore are just as good as today’s carbon fiber blinged out rigs, with their disc brakes and lightweight carbon fiber aero wheels, aero frames, hidden cables (or in some cases, non-existent)…

We want to say the steeds of the past are just as good. But we can’t. Because they’re not. And I know what usually comes next; “but steel”… I know. But steel doesn’t stack up to carbon fiber. Oh, a steel bike is comfortable and a little more compliant, but pound for pound, literally, when you factor in being able to get the thing down the road at speed, give me my Specialized any day of the week and twice on Sunday: once at the Byron City Limits sign, then again at the Durand City Limits sign.

After rebuilding my now 22-year-old 5200 and putting carbon fiber wheels on it, I absolutely love the bike. It’s fairly light (18-1/2 pounds), nimble, and quite enjoyable to ride (especially with the 25-mm tires that barely fit between the chainstays). I kid you not, compared to what the bike was when I brought it home at a whopping 22 pounds, the bike is outstanding as it’s currently fitted out.

But, given reliably good weather, I’ll take my Venge every time.

For speed, the 5200 just can’t keep up with the vastly superior Venge – and I can ride and have ridden both bikes with the same wheelset, so I know for a fact it’s not “the wheels”. Having put a bit more than 30,000 miles on each bike, I know exactly what the difference feels like when putting the power down. The Specialized Venge leaps in comparison. It’s not even a fair fight. Compliance? The Venge wins without breaking a sweat. For virtually every performance category you can come up with, excepting a crosswind, the Specialized will win. Every stinkin’ category…

But there exists a non-performance category where an old steed can make up a lot of ground in a hurry; there’s just something extra cool about a well-kept, modernized classic road bike, especially now that virtually every aero bike on the market looks like every other aero bike on the market. And the best news is, while there is a difference between the modern superbike and the classic in terms of watts required to get the bike down the road, there isn’t enough of a difference it can’t be made up for with a little more “want to” and some shorter turns at the front.

And that’s where my old Trek 5200 shines. It’s not the hottest, flashiest, blingy-est bike around, but there isn’t another like it within a half-dozen surrounding states.

And that flare makes up for a lot of performance shortcomings when stacked against a modern superbike. Just thinking about it puts a smile on my face… or maybe that smile is because spring is right around the corner. Likely a bit of both. It was -1 F (-18 C) this morning.

As I’ve Said…

I agree wholeheartedly. Let’s start with everyone who believes the earth needs to be emptied of half its humans… then we’ll pause to see how that worked.

Something tells me that’ll do.

Raises, a Promotion, a Remodeled Kitchen, and the Thinking of New Bikes

My wife had her kitchen remodeled over the last week. I helped as, being a carpenter by trade, even if I’m just a “suit”, I still know how to put some things together. The new floor was installed, mainly, by my wife and a friend I ride with (he’s the local carpenter of all trades, retired, who works for fun and friends). I wired and installed a new hood and stainless steel backsplash and my wife touched up all the paint.

We are very pleased.

My promotion is going well at work but I’ve found it a little difficult to get into the swing of things… as a project manager, I hadn’t dealt with a new blueprint in years. I often know a job 3-D before ever digging into a print. Now I have go back to visualize the job built with my mind’s eye. There’s a trick and learning curve to that. I’m putting my usual above average effort into it, though, so it’s coming around nicely. It’s not quite as enjoyable as what I’d been doing, but the raise is very much worth it.

And that leaves bikes. Pay attention, Brent. I’ve wondered, sometimes aloud, whether I should upgrade my Venge. My weekday riding buddy has a brand spanking new Specialized Tarmac due in next month that is going to be super nice… Ultegra Di2 drivetrain, hydraulic disc brakes, 50 mm Roval wheels, and a bangin’ paint job. I won’t lie, I’d been salivating. A bit like Pavlov’s dog I am with the smell of new carbon fiber…

I can’t do it, though. After all that Venge and I have been through, after building it from the ground up from just a little entry-level race bike to its current 2-1/2 pound lighter gloriousness… I simply can’t get there in my head to blow another $6,000 for a heavier, likely less aero bike. That’d be… nuts.

On the other hand, with all of my fatty friends posting photos of their outdoor adventures while I’m stuck on the trainer… it’s starting to look fun now that I’ve finally, after near a decade of cycling in cold weather, got a jacket (technically, two, I bought a second) that keeps me warm down into the mud-teens (-10 C)… a no-sus fatty for my wife and I might not be so bad…

I’ll have to ruminate on that for a bit. Let it marinate. Hmmm “Fit Fatty Recovery”… well, it’s got a ring to it – and it’d certainly piss off the intellectual racists… which I love…

What Happened with GameStop Stock Explained in One Sentence…

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, there’s been a kerfuffle in the stock market around GameStop stock. Here’s what happened: GameStop stock surged under WuFlu lockdowns. It went from $4 a share all the way up to $40. Hedge fund managers positioned themselves to short the stock, to “ride it” all the way back down, profiting on the decline of the stock. A few important people figured this out and started buying up the company’s stock. Lots of it. In short order, it became a “thing” over the internet and, as more people jumped on that bandwagon using day-trading apps, the price of the stock shot up, topping $400 a share.

I should know. Mine was sold just north of $400. Heh.

In short order, Wall Street, sensing way too much Wall Street blood in the water, shut down trading for GameStop stock on certain day-trading apps. Now, here’s the important part – all you need to know about this whole beautiful mess: normal everyday people figured out how to game the market better than the fat cats on Wall Street, doing the exact same thing, out in the open, the fat cats do behind closed doors all day long on Wall Street. There’s no difference, there were no scruples or morays or laws twisted or broken that hedge fund managers don’t do all day long, every day of the working week when they play board games with the stock market. That won’t stop politicians and the big wigs from trying to convince you otherwise, but it isn’t so. The fun part, and the only important sentence everyone needs to know about this is and why Wall Street freaked out and shut it down is this:

The wrong people made the money.

Normal, average, everyday Americans who normally have to hit the lotto to win, rode the stock from nothing all the way up to the stratosphere and sold their stock, paying off student loans, car loans, even mortgages. It won’t be portrayed that way by most; there are stories coming out about rogue day-traders who are unfairly gaming the system and so forth, but in the end, GameStop was all about the wrong people making money with the help of a few billionaires. And for once, you’ll find out who the real bad guys are here… this is one of those things people on the left and right can finally agree on.

Except Bernie and his mittens. Bernie’s going to be pissed. Elon Musk and a few app makers did more for the little guy in 79 hours than Bernie did in 79 years. If this is the new normal for the Harris-Biden administration, it might not be all bad.

Finding Jeans for the Discerning Cyclist: Urban Pipeline Athletic Taper UltraFlex Jeans – The Most Comfortable Jeans I’ve Every Owned

Anyone who has spent much time on a bicycle or running will eventually find themselves in the pickle of having trouble picking a pair of pants that fit over their spectacularly formed legs whilst still fitting in the waist/hip area. This is something I’ve struggle with for years – though it’s a happy struggle.

I’ve always been partial to less expensive jeans. My last two pair were Wranglers… I split the upper thigh of one pair at work running four flights of stairs – my big legs simply split the material. It was rather embarrassing, though thankfully I had on a long reflective winter jacket for jobsite walking. I ended up at a Kohl’s (the nearest department store I knew to carry a decent selection of jeans).

I happened on the Urban Pipeline rack and saw “UltraFlex” and “Athletic Taper” Three, technically four, beautiful words to a cyclist with big, muscular legs. The Wranglers I mentioned earlier are unbelievably tight in the thighs and I’ve got about an inch and a half extra room in the waist. Let’s just say they feel odd wearing them (my legs have grown an inch since the jeans were purchased). I need a belt to keep them from feeling like they’re going to fall off… but they can’t because my quads hold them up. It used to be, before cycling, I could simply pick a pair of 32/34’s off the rack and head for the register. Anymore, I’ve got to try them on first because of the aforementioned leg issue.

The Urban Pipeline athletic taper jeans are a bit on the pricier side, between $44 and $52 a pair but the “athletic taper” combined with the UltraFlex material is nothing short of miraculous. The jeans are so comfortable, they’re almost as good as my fleece PJ pants. In fact, more than once I didn’t even bother changing after dinner.

Fortunately, Kohl’s has an online store so you can order them and have them shipped straight to your door (this is especially awesome if you need a hard-to-get size… like a 32/34). I can’t recommend them highly enough.

And so, after having received my first big paycheck after my raise, I pulled the trigger on two more pair last night (and a badass Star Wars T-shirt to get me over the free shipping threshold).

Remembering One of the Main Tenets of Cycling and Why the Sport Is Unquestionably Awesome: There Are No Politics On Bike Rides

Have you tired of hearing the phrase(s), “in these trying times” or “these difficult times” yet? I’ve resorted to yelling at the radio every now and again. I must look awesome driving down the road.

It seems everything has to be preceded or followed by one of those two phrases. They don’t have much to do with politics, really, because the times are difficult and trying – especially when everything is so “in your face” lately with raw nerves aplenty. I simply ask, in these trying and difficult times; don’t participate.

Remember, as winter comes to a close in the next month and a few days in the northern hemisphere, riding bikes with friends is as good as it gets, whether they did or didn’t like Trump. If it matters to you, if you simply can’t ride a bike with someone who voted for Trump or someone who voted for Biden, folks, that says more about you than anyone else and none of it is good. If I’m an idiot, fine. Enjoy all of those solo miles.

For the rest of us normal folk, maybe practice a little forgiveness now and again. It does a soul good. Forgive your right-wing friend for their ignorance. Forgive your left-wing friend for their smug way of being wrong about virtually everything. And remember this phrase if someone brings up anything about politics on a bike ride: “Hey, no politics on bike rides.” It works.

In these trying and troubled times, let us not be shocked and chagrined… let’s argue about something really important… like why red on black is the best bicycle color scheme in the history of bicycles.

My First Legit Ride of 2021… Just Me & Chucker.

I sent a text out to my friends that we’d be riding at 2, knowing it was likely only going to be Chuck and I. Most of us are early cyclists. Chuck and I, because we’re working stiffs, are a little more… ah… flexible with the time we’ll ride. The others, they like to get out early or ride their trainers in the winter, to get the workout out of the way. The problem we had yesterday was that we were on the back end of a two-day warm front, followed by rain turning to snow ahead of the cold front the evening prior which froze the roads. They were dicey in the morning. However, temps were due to climb to just above freezing by noon. This is why we set the time for 2pm.

I started getting ready a little early so I was out in the living room to see it my clear driveway – nobody else was coming.

I rolled my Trek out the door, that’s right, the skinny-tire bike in January, just a Chuck pulled up. Garmin and taillight on and we rolled out. The roads weren’t entirely dry but they weren’t a bit icy, either. We’d picked the “Deer Loop”, so named because my wife and buddy, Mike had a deer run into our group causing Mike to fall backwards off his bike, breaking his tailbone. From my house it’s a 35-mile route heading out west and south before heading back north and east. We like it because we’ve got eight to ten inescapable miles of moderately trafficked road and 25 out in the middle of nowhere.

The pace started out quick right out of the gate and I could feel the effects of too many easy days over the last couple of months. I’d dressed for an easy ride so I started sweating almost immediately. Thankfully, with my new jacket, sweating doesn’t mean what it used to (freezing). I still stay comfortable while I’m dripping wet. The pace was interesting. We were taking three-mile pulls between 18 & 19-mph into the wind, but it wasn’t what you’d call “horrible”. I felt it at the end of those three, though. Chuck, who’s been riding outside daily, even in the snow, is in better shape than I am (or at least that’s my perception – he’s been turning in slow miles outdoors while I’ve been hammering the trainer pretty hard these last two weeks). The southerly miles weren’t near as bad but I didn’t get many of those… it was mostly east-to-west for my miles.

We stopped at the Gaines gas station we always do about 14 miles in and had a decent 17.4-mph average. I was hungry from the effort and was just about to break into my pocket food when Chuck emerged from the store with a couple of Payday peanut bars. We cracked a couple of jokes about licking salty nuts outside the gas station beating licking them on the couch (as a dog licks its nuts… sadly, I don’t actually possess the flexibility for this, but it makes for a funny double entendre – someone asks, “what are your plans for the day?” “I’m gonna sit on the couch and lick my nuts”… said deadpan, it’s freaking hilarious).

We rolled out after finishing our peanut bars, just three miles of headwind left in the ride. The wind was picking up a little, too. We did, however, manage to bump that 17.4 up to 17.5 when we hit quartering tailwind, though. The pace bumped to a relatively easy 20-mph, and relief. Kind of. The effort stayed the same commensurate to the amount of tailwind so there wasn’t much of a break. Our pace ticked up quickly once we hit glorious tailwind. Within five miles we’d cracked 18-mph. Seven miles later we were bumping on 18.5… and I was running out of gas. With six miles left, and it being my turn up front, I thought about sitting up for a minute or two of that first mile. I decided I wasn’t going to get any stronger sitting up so I told the complainer in the melon committee to sit down and shut it. Then came the quartering tailwind section and I didn’t drop my pace accordingly. By the end of that two miles my tongue was dangling… and I mean that literally. When I flicked off the front after that pull, I was hit. Chuck laughed when he came by, seeing my tongue lolling out of my mouth.

The last four miles, one quartering and three tailwind, were no rest for the weary. We hammered toward home near 23-mph as the snow started coming down lightly. We cracked 18.5-mph with a shade less than three miles to go. Chuck headed for home while I turned up my road to head to my driveway, hitting the Garmin at 35.4 miles in 1:54:21, good for 18.6… I was cooked, but at just above freezing with all of that gear on, and our first hard ride after months of taking it easy, that was a really good result.

I started falling asleep on the couch before we even ate dinner. After, we played a couple of family games of Euchre, then watched the last of the Packers game, then the start of the Bills before I wandered off to bed with my tablet to watch a bit more of the Bills while my wife and daughters watched a movie on the TV. I don’t even remember how much of the game I made it through before crashing, but it wasn’t much. I slept like a baby.

Bicycle Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder: Behold! Bike Pron! And The Great Paint Debate!

My riding buddy, Chuck, is awaiting his brand new Specialized Tarmac SL5 (hydraulic disc, Ultegra Di2, etc, etc). He’s also got a set of Roval 50’s on the way as well, because he decided late that he wanted the SL7 instead, but that would have kicked him to the back of the que and likely meant he wouldn’t get his bike till the spring of 2022 when leaving things as they are will mean his 5 will be here in a couple of months (some time in March).

Chuck’s issue, beyond the badass Roval 50’s, was the blue paintjob. I, on the other hand, prefer the silver for one spectacular reason that I’ll get to in a minute.

I have been locked into black and red for a long time, since 2012. Oh, sure, I can get away with a blue jersey now and again (I own three, but only one I wear regularly on the Trek), but for the most part, if I want to look good atop the good bike, I’ve gotta be in red and black.

Chuck, if he had gone with the blue Tarmac, would have been locked into blue black and gray for the next decade, possibly longer. On the silver SL5 he can wear anything and get away with it. White, blue, red, black, gray, silver… he’ll get away with anything he wants.

Now, having been locked into red and black for so long, there are worse color schemes out there – in fact in the 2021 Tarmac SL5 line, even. The other two SL5’s are a terrible peach/pink and a baby blue to $#!+ brown paintjob… I don’t know how they got those by the big wigs, but having to always hunt for red and black can be a little monotonous. God only knows what you’d wear on the peach bike, but on the baby $#!+ model, you’d be stuck with throwback AG2R kits… until you sold the bike (or had the ugly bastard repainted red & black).

In the end, bicycle beauty is in the eye of the beholder. While there’s a lot we can do to influence that beauty with proper a proper setup, paint schemes are left to the owner. Unless you’re the owner of this:

If that’s your bike, I’m sorry, first, for poking fun. Second, take your palm and firmly smack your forehead.