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A View from the Drops; A Crazy Week in the Life of a Cycling Enthusiast…

This past week was a bit of a downer – and not only as weather goes. It was supposed to rain all week but I only really had to ride once on the trainer to avoid it, so we really lucked out there. There was a second trainer ride of the week, on Thursday, but that was for simplicity’s sake – and the fact it was cold outside and I just didn’t want to throw on all of the crap that would have been needed to stay warm.

Tuesday night we rode in short sleeves and shorts. Wednesday, had it not been raining, would have been knee warmers, wool socks and arm warmers. Thursday, had I ridden outside rather than choosing convenience and warmth, leg warmers, wool socks, arm warmers and a vest. Friday morning’s ride started out at just 38° (3 C) – so doing the math, that’s a drop of 44° or 24 C. For Saturday, it was full-on cold patrol; leg warmers, tights, wool socks, winter gloves, wind-stopper hat… Autumn, it appears, is here to stay. The weekly outlook is for fourteen days of the same – lows in the upper 30’s, highs in the low 50’s.

And that was the highlight. Friday morning’s ride was the real mess. We started out well enough. I’ve taken my computer off of my rain bike because I had a desire to be free of it for a while. I have a friend in the A Group who manages to ride without knowing how fast he’s going and he does quite well no matter the pace. I want to be able to do that, too. Well, I’m not very good at it, yet, so I can hammer some of my friends into the ground if I’m not careful – especially if I’m coming up to a City Limits sign I want.

Friday started out all fun and games. We rolled west, into the wind – I took some long turns up front, and we maintained a jovial mood. We stopped at a park to use the portable facilities and eat a snack. Everything was great. We’d rolled past a “Road Closed” sign, so Mike went up ahead to find out if the road was really closed or if we could get around… It was closed, so we looped back and decided to head for home.

Coming into the town of Durand, one of my “must get” signs, I started to crank the speed up a little early – I like to try to hurt those I can behind me to discourage them wanting to come around to try for the sprint. Cresting the little hill just before the sprint, I heard a shift of someone’s bike behind me and hit it. I hit the line smiling, north of 30-mph, then looked back and slowed to wait for my wife, Mike and Diane to catch up. Everything was smiles and chucks on shoulders. We looped around town to avoid crossing a massive set of train tracks five or six wide that we’d all fallen on at one point or another. It adds another two miles, but anyone who knows me, knows I don’t mind the bonus miles.

I was still up front and we were approaching the county line… another sign I like to get, but don’t “have to” have it… I picked the pace up a little bit – Strava shows I went from 20-21 to 23. My wife came around, if memory serves, to pip me, and we formed back up. She took the lead, I was behind her, and Diane and Mike followed.

My wife tapped out to go to the back and asked me to take it easy because Mike was having a tough time keeping up at 23. According to Strava, I picked the perfect gear for 20-mph and I kept it there. Two miles later, Mike was off the back by a quarter-mile. When he caught up, he complained of having a tough time. He said he could keep up at 20, but more than that was hurting him. Problem was, I’d been at 20… Diane is a medical professional, so we stopped at an intersection and she checked his pulse. It was faint, but she said he seemed to be regular enough. Mike said he was fine, so we pressed on. We let Mike take the lead so he could choose the pace with the wind at our back. We went on for another few miles but Mike would “hit a wall” every once in a while and slow from 18-19 to 16-mph and that’s when he mentioned he was short of breath, that he couldn’t get a deep breath.

Diane looked at me and we dropped back a bit… and she quietly said, “You need to call 9-1-1 right now”. I pulled out my phone and did as I was told, after making sure I heard right. Fortunately, we had just happened on the Gaines Township Fire and Rescue station, so we had Mike pull into the parking lot so she could check his pulse again. We got Mike off his bike and she checked him out. His pulse was “all over the place”.

We managed to keep Mike off his bike for a few minutes but he wouldn’t sit down. After about five minutes, with an ambulance on the way, he said he was okay again and went to get back on his bike. Diane was fairly adamant that Mike choosing to ride home was a very bad idea – and I liked the idea that we were sitting in the parking lot of the fire station (!). If there’s anywhere to be when you need an ambulance, it’s at the fire station for God’s sake. Diane and my wife, who was also on the phone with Mike’s wife or daughter, tried to talk him off his bike while I stood in front of his handlebar so he couldn’t get rolling to clip in. He tried to move his front wheel to roll, and I’d side-step in front of him again. This went on for a minute when two fire & rescue folks rolled up in their pickup. A woman got out of the passenger side and immediately went to Mike and worked on getting him off the bike with my wife and Diane. The guy who was driving grabbed a medical-looking bag and headed for the door of the fire station, urging us inside where it was warm. The woman tending to Mike told him she was a nurse and that he should go inside, just to get checked out. And finally he broke. He got off his bike and headed over to the door.

From there it was a flurry of activity and Mike getting sorted. Phone calls were made and I sat down with a small cup of coffee that the firefighter had offered. An already long story shortened, Mike finally agreed to a ride home in the pickup of the fire and rescue people, but no ambulance. He wanted to go home and wash up before he went to the hospital. He called his cardiologist and let him know what was going on. I put Mike’s bike in the pickup and after the ambulance techs ran a few tests, he got in the truck and took his ride home.

My wife, Diane and I rode home without our buddy.

Mike is doing well, though he’s in the hospital till he goes through a couple of procedures on Monday. The good part is they know what they’re looking for now. Having Diane there for the episode was perfect. Because she got his pulse, they know they’re looking at an arrhythmia problem rather than a racing problem. We stopped up to see him for a bit last night. He seemed to be in a good mood, though he’s pissed at the electrical heart doc who told him he should rethink his cycling. You can guess where that went. An “F” bomb or two was dropped.

According to what Mike said, they ruled out a heart attack, which is fantastic news. Sadly, they haven’t come up with a way to remove the cranky yet. They’re still working on that… and it’s a very good chance he’ll die of natural causes before they figure that out.


How to Be Happy with the Bike You’ve Got… and Refrain from Purchasing yet another Wheelset…


On the question of the wheels, you got me, folks. I have no freaking clue.

Good luck – and if you figure it out, please leave a comment… I would love to know.

As the bikes go, get a good set of wheels, a mediocre set, and a cheap rear wheel. Then, an A bike and a rain bike. Dress your A bike up till you get to a point where the thought of dressing up a new bike is worse than letting your current bike go…

Bob’s your uncle.

Every Once in a While, a Trainer Ride isn’t so Bad…

My legs were absolutely smoked yesterday. That 23-mph average from Tuesday night took a toll. All day long I was hurting walking around my jobsite. Climbing stairs, and there are a bunch, was brutal.

It was raining when I got home, but it stopped shortly thereafter. It wasn’t going to dry out before we were supposed to roll at just before 5. It was going to be close but I had a few things to consider. First, I had no desire to clean my bike. I’ve cleaned enough bikes the last couple of weeks. Second, I had to take into consideration my smoked legs. I really needed an easy day to bring my legs back.

It’s that time of year, my friends. May as well embrace the horror.

Forty-five minutes spinning my legs out, watching Star Wars The Force Awakens – fantastic. I didn’t have to clean my bike and my legs are feeling much better.

One surprising aspect of my first evening on the trainer since March, the time actually went by pretty quick once I got into a rhythm. After the first five minutes I looked at the clock and all I could think was, “holy crap, this is going to take forever”. I didn’t look at the clock again for another 30 minutes and I only had ten minutes to go. I know that won’t last but it wasn’t so bad last night.

A New B Group Record, with a lot of Help from Our A Group Friends

I’m sitting on the couch watching the Red Sox and Yankees playoff game. I’m showered up, I’ve eaten, and I feel like a thousand Dollars.

Last night was an iffy weather night.  It was unseasonably warm (sadly, that’s about to end) but we had a chance of a popcorn shower.  In fact, it started raining at about 3:30 hard, and we were set to roll at 4:45 for the warm-up lap.  I readied the Venge anyway – I wanted my last night in shorts and short-sleeves to be on the good bike.

The car was hit by a few drops on the way out to the meeting point but that was it.  Once I got the bike out of the back, the sun came out and we were clear.

The warm-up was slow, relatively.  With the mild-ish wind out of the southwest, the first leg of the loop is always a bit ugly.

We set up in the parking lot for an end-of-season photo and it was suggested that maybe the A’s and B’s roll together for the first twenty.  There were no objections, so off we went.  Last week on the Trek, there were several times in the first twenty miles where I was struggling mightily.  It was cold and wet last week but I was dressed for it – I was also on the Trek.  Simply put, that bike is just a little harder to ride fast, because there were no issues last night.  Once I got into the rhythm (and decided to take shorter turns at the front), I thoroughly enjoyed the ride.  Eight miles in we were looking at a 24-mph average.

There was no let-up into the wind either, the only thing that changed was the turns up front were shorter.

We’d decided early on to split at the 20-mile point, so when the time came we split seamlessly.  The B’s stopped atop a hill to wait for any stragglers left on the hill and the A’s rolled right by us.  When the last guy pulled in, we rolled.  Two tandems and a bunch of singles.  With a tailwind all the way home, we were hard at it from the gun.

I timed the intermediate sprint perfectly by using a friend of mine (unwittingly on his part) to block the other sprinters.  I solo’ed off the front to pick the sign off.  We regrouped in town and instead of taking it easy, Chuck charged up front and prodded the lead guys to kick it up for our average speed’s sake.

The rest of the ride was single pace line and exceptionally fast.  We kept the turns up front short, with the exception of one of the A Guys who stayed with us because he doesn’t handle the heat well.  He was up front so long and so fast, he burned me out drafting behind him.  I used an intersection to fall back for a rest.

The last three miles were energetic.  After the intersection, there’s a little climb over a quarter-mile that we did at a mercifully easy 19-mph, but once we crested, the pace picked up again for the charge to the finish.  The line cycled through and I found myself three bikes back with two miles to go.  I figured I’d be the lead out.

Dave came up on my left, though, with about a half-mile to go and said he’d lead me out and I was just about to jump when a new guy, Bobby, drifted up on Dave’s wheel.  I figured I’d let him go and take third bike for the sprint but Dave went a little faster than he’d assumed and Bobby lost his wheel.  I didn’t try to chase Dave down.

I rode Bobby’s wheel in and launched a little sprint to get around him, figuring I would give it just enough to take second – and my buddy, Chuck pipped me for the sign at the last second.  We’re talking inches.  I caught my breath a bit and pulled my phone out of my pocket to stop Strava…  Had I stopped it just after the line I’d have registered Chuck’s 23.1-mph average for the 28-ish mile loop – our best ever by a full half-mile per hour.  What a ride!

So getting back to sitting on the couch, watching baseball…  It never ceases to amaze me how good I feel after a ride like that.  Gratitude, happiness, strength, and at ease with the world, all at once.  I just set back and reveled in it… and I drifted off to sleep.

If I could bottle that and sell it, I’d never have to work another day in my life.

Sadly, I can’t.  You have to buy your own bike and ride it.

Cycling is an Experiment in Happiness, Shrouded behind Fitness and Health, Under the Cover of Lycra Shorts and Cycling Jerseys (what little cover there may be).

I bought a bike to keep from getting fat when I was 41 after growing bored with running.  I knew I had to do something so I figured I’d see if triathlon floated my boat…

I’ve been off of nicotine for some time now, and off of cigarettes for more than a decade, probably going on two but I didn’t pay attention to my quit date or even the year.  The point is, quitting smoking made food taste good and I went from a guy who ate to live to a guy who loves to eat.  This, and being sedentary, thin and fit, do not go hand-in-hand.  Nor does smoking go with being fit, but let’s not get too lost in the woods, here.


A week-and-a-half into cycling and I was absolutely hooked.  Before long, I realized that the run and swim were messing up a perfectly good bike ride (or eating into more time on the bike, however you want to look at it), so I hung up the trunks and the running shoes.

I rode solo most of the time for almost two years before finding a normal group to ride with.  Once I started riding with friends, cycling evolved.  It became less about a way to stay fit than a way to enjoy myself.  The fact that I’m able to stay fit and relatively thin, in addition to being exceptionally healthy, is now just a bonus.


Cycling has entirely changed how I look at fitness.  Fitness changed from a chore to a way of life.

While there’s no escaping the fact that Lycra shorts and cycling jerseys are a part of the deal, I’ve come to find a greater understanding about cycling as I’ve continued to grow in the sport.  I had no idea what I was getting into, but buying a used Huffy for $20 at a garage sale turned out to be an experiment in happiness.

Before that, all I knew about cycling came from a cheap $150 big box bicycle and from riding as a kid.  Now it’s about expensive toys, good friends, good food, and seeing the country from the saddle.  I can’t wait to see where I visit next with my bicycle; if the next eight years are anywhere near as good as the first, it’s gonna be good.


Road Cycling and the One Tip Every New Cyclist needs to Ride as Safely as is Possible on the Open Road

First things first. I’m not going to tell you how to dress whilst pedaling a bike, especially not in this post. I choose bright and visible, but I shy away from the overused “hi-viz” offerings. I’m not going to tell you to use a rear blinkie in this post, even if I use one because I find that the local traffic treats me a little better if I do. I’m definitely not going to tell anyone to use a headlight during daylight hours because I don’t myself – if you feel a headlight makes you safer, please be my guest. I’m also not going to tell you to wear a helmet, even if I’d never throw a leg over a top tube without one on my melon.

None of those are the top tip, anyway.

A top triathlete in a town just an hour from my house was training for an upcoming triathlon. I’d guess she was deep in the pain cave because she didn’t see the car in the opposing lane dart into her lane to pass the car in front. The driver hit her head on. She didn’t make it.

If I had a dollar for every accident I’ve avoided, I’d have a nice set of carbon fiber wheels for both my wife and I.  With the added bonus of not being stuck in a hospital bed, or worse.

The key to keeping the rubber side down on a bike at all times is paying attention. At all times.

This isn’t, of course, to say that we catch everything if we pay attention.  I don’t.  I can’t.  But I come pretty close, and the important thing is that I’m paying attention for the big stuff.  As was the case with the triathlete above, one little lapse – running in the red just a little too hard with your head down at the wrong second can be the difference between coming home and not.

Head on a swivel is how I ride.  That’s my number one safety tip.

Number two would probably be “safety in numbers”, but I only mentioned the number one tip in the Title.


Screw Riding Up Grades… Buy Upgrades? M’kay, I suppose, but why not Both? My Submissions

The guys (and gal) over at GCN, on the tech show, have a new segment – a spinoff of the old Eddy Merckx quote, “Don’t buy upgrades, ride up grades.”

While I think throwing the greatest cyclist of all time under the bus is a little uncalled for, I do love the premise! Of course, I prefer both.


2013 Venge Comp


Tarmac bend alloy handlebar, Specialized adjustable stem, Axis 4.0 wheels (1990 grams!), FSA Gossamer crank (172.5mm), Shimano 105 10sp. drivetrain.


S-Works Aerofly handlebar, FSA 110mm carbon-wrapped alloy stem (-90 grams), S-Works crankset and carbon spider (-340 grams), Ican 38mm carbon fiber wheels (-570 grams). Shimano Ultegra 10sp. drivetrain (-200 grams), Blackburn carbon bottle cages (-46 grams), SRAM PG-1070 cassette (-50 grams-ish), SRAM 1091r chain (–30 grams-ish). 25mm Michelin Pro 4 tires (+30 grams)

Before:18.8 pounds.

After: 15.75 pounds.

Then there’s my Trek 5200T 1999

1999 Trek 5200

The only parts on that bike still original are the brakes and chainring bolts. It went from a 20 pound Ultegra 9sp. Triple to a svelte 18.5 pound Shimano 105 compact double (50/34) 10sp. drivetrain. The drivetrain for the Trek came over from the Venge – the plan was hatched to upgrade the Venge to Ultegra and put the 105 components on the Trek after the original shifters went bad and were irreplaceable so I went to the Chinese MicroSHIFT equivalent (which worked spectacularly by the way). Then a friend announced on a ride that he was interested in selling his Ultegra 10sp drivetrain that he’d just upgraded to 11sp. I jumped on it.