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How to Rebuild a Road Bike from the Ground Up: Part Two. Choosing Your Frame.

Let’s hit the ground pedaling, my friends.  For those who clicked on this post for insight, welcome.  For my friends, thanks for reading.

Picking the frame for your road bike is a big deal.  As a noob, I had no idea what I needed, so I did what a lot of noobs do right off the bat; I bought a bike that was two sizes too small.  That first one doesn’t count.  For my second bike, the owner of our local shop, who has a vast expertise in all things cycling, set me up with a shop loaner.  I paid right around market value for it and I immediately brought it home and cleaned it up.  Having someone who knew so much about cycling was incredibly important.


So that’s it, on day one.  A Trek 5200 T (for “Triple”), 1999 vintage.  I’m 6’0″ tall and that’s a 58 cm standard frame.  I have it on authority from the shop owner that more State Championships were won on that frame in the USA that any other frame in history.  When I bought it, my plan was to upgrade it as the times changed, so I was still riding it when I had to trade in my road bike for a trike (hopefully not till I’m will into my 90’s).  Therefore, size was imperative.

One can size a bike with an internet calculator but a calculator can’t possibly take into account how you want to ride on that bike.  The calculator recommends a 57, 58, 60. or 61 cm frame for me.  It doesn’t differentiate between old-school standard frames (as shown above), or modern compact frames.  The new compact frames afford for a taller rider on a smaller frame, thus I’m a 56 in a compact and a 58 in a standard.  Also, the bigger frames won’t suit the style of riding I wanted as a younger man (late 40’s now, early 40’s when I took that photo) and definitely enjoy as I grow older.

That’s my other bike, a 56 cm compact frame race bike.

See, I didn’t know it then, but I’m all about the aggressive riding style (high saddle, low bars, very aerodynamic).  Choosing a larger frame would change the geometry so the handlebars would end up being too high.  They say sitting upright is more comfortable, but I beg to differ, at least to a certain extent.  I can’t comfortably ride any lower that the Trek and Venge are set up for.  I’ve tried, I’m not flexible enough.

The main point is, I didn’t happen on all of that information by magic, and I wasn’t smart enough to get it off the internwebz.  Most of my frame size knowledge came from the local bike shop owner.  Some I came across reading internet articles, but that only added on to the base I got from the shop.  It’s good to get to know the knowledgeable staff members at your local shop.  They’ll help you avoid costly mistakes… like buying a bike that’s two sizes too small.

Starting with a frame, properly sized, is the most important aspect of building a bike.  Everything after is built on that foundation.

The last important point to cover is get a fitting done at that local shop.  If you want to ride an aggressive setup, tell them before you start.  That’ll save both your technician and you some headache.  Bike fitting technicians tend to assume most people want to ride in the industry’s idea of comfort, which would be more upright, so if that’s not you, let them know ahead of time.

Stay tuned for part three, where we’re going to start digging into changing parts to suit what we need.

How To Rebuild a Road Bike from the Ground Up: Part One. The Overview

This will be a multi-piece series that’ll detail, specifically, how I went about rebuilt my ’99 Trek 5200 which should help anyone who wants to rebuild their own used bike from the ground up.



I’ll cover everything, from wheels to cranks, to seat posts, brakes, saddles, the cockpit, drivetrain, and wheels… even the seat post collar.  I did it all.  The only original things I left on my bike were the frame (though I did have it painted), the fork and the chainring bolts.  Everything else is new.

Now, to start, there are a couple of ways to go about this.  I have a friend who’s got enough money that we mere mortals simply couldn’t keep up.  He goes all out, all at once.  Brand new, top of the line everything (including SRAM Red eTap and usually a set of Zipp wheels, even carbon fiber brake calipers for a steel frame).

I, on the other hand, took six years to build my Trek and bought almost every part on sale… or not, depending on “need”.  Everything that went on the bike is quality, but nowhere near the level he can afford.  In this new series, I’ll stick with what I know.  I’m going to get into how to picked each part, or series of parts, and what went into the choices I made.  I’ll also go in order of importance/completion, so anyone who reads the series will be able to build their dream ride, hopefully with a greater depth of knowledge… and maybe even avoid some costly mistakes.

Part two we’ll start with the choosing bike/frame and push on to the saddle and seat post in part three.  Then we’ll look at the cockpit.  From there, we’ll get into the paint job and accessories. That’ll be followed by the drivetrain and crankset.  Brakes will be thrown in there somewhere toward the end, then I’ll wrap up with wheels.

And unlike my usual “once a week” series release , all of these posts were pre-written.  I’ll be able to publish them one right after the other… so part two comes out tomorrow.

How to Treat Your Newly Recovering Addict/Alcoholic Through the Holidays…

A friend recently asked, in a comment to a post, how to treat her niece who had been dis-invited from a family party because there would be drinking.  She was invited one minute, and not the next.  Now, that may seem a little harsh, but when the full context of why this happens is considered, it may not be all that terrible.  It happened to me, as many as fifteen-ish years into sobriety and I managed to live through it, barely.  My tongue is firmly in cheek…

My friends, this gets a little tricky, dealing with your recovering alcoholic or addict.  First, you’re so used to living in fear your loved one will relapse, because they’ve done that so many times, and blamed you/others for it, that your initial reaction is to treat them with kid gloves.  I’m not a particular fan of that approach, but I absolutely understand it.  I can only imagine the heartache one must go through just to get to that point, then to be afraid that any little thing can send the person they care about so much out the door to the nearest liquor store…

We can’t hide from alcohol, though.  Because it’s everywhere.  At best, we can avoid the liquor aisle at the grocery store, but it’s so pervasive, it’s simply inescapable.  And because it is inescapable, we have to be prepared to live in that world.  Does that mean we go to a family party, even a holiday party, if there’s going to be drinking?

Yes.  And No.

Recovery is “a daily reprieve contingent on the maintenance of our [program]”.  What that means for me is I have to honestly assess where I’m at on a daily basis when it comes to whether or not I should go to a particular event when I know there will be drinking.  Some days I can handle it, others I can’t – and when I can’t, I don’t.

There’s more, though.  How about those instances where we feel we’re on solid ground, but we find out while we’re there, the ground looked good but it was really quicksand?  What then?  Well, if we have a desire to stay sober, we have a reliable way out of the situation ready at a moment’s notice.  For instance, we park the car where it can’t be parked in, even if it means having to walk a distance to the party.  Nothing can be in the way of making a hasty retreat should the need arise.  Finally, find a meeting nearby (before you even go to the event) and/or have your sponsor’s number at the ready should you need to be brought back from temptation.

As for relatives, we don’t treat our recovering folk as though they’re damaged goods, even though they often are.  Once alcoholics have found the path and have a firm desire to stay on it, they can usually handle a holiday party with the family.  If you’re concerned, ask them about their program/spiritual condition.  Are they on solid ground?  How about their way out?  Do they have an escape plan if they feel squirrely?  How about someone to talk to?  Did they look up a local meeting just in case?  If you’re not going to be drinking – and only if you’re not going to be drinking anything, let your loved one know you’re there if they need someone to talk to during the party.  If you’re going to have a beer or ten, don’t offer.

One final note to the recovering person; often, when we aren’t invited to these functions, it’s not because people are really nervous about whether we’ll drink or not.  That’s just a clever, easy excuse.  A manipulation.  Often, the real reason we aren’t invited along is because we’re a buzzkill.  We are shining examples of what happens when shit goes sideways due to a career of drinking too much.  Most people don’t want a constant reminder of how f***ed life can get staring them right in the face while they’re in the process of drinking too much.

I’ve been an un-invited co-conspirator more than once, and for exactly that reason.  It bummed my wife out, but I looked at it as a badge of honor; I am a buzzkill, because I am what happens when shit goes sideways.

I’m also a buzzkill because I am a constant reminder that complete abstinence from drugs and alcohol works.  I am a reminder for heavy drinkers that their days are numbered… and who would want to drink around that?!

I wouldn’t have.


Zero-Point-Zero Alcohol “Beer”… Can An Alcoholic Tempt Fate? Or Better, Should?

Back when I quit drinking alcohol (etc.), way back in ’92, the closest thing to a non-alcoholic beer actually had alcohol in it. Not much, something like a half of 1% alcohol by volume, if I remember. O’Doul’s was the “near beer” of choice back then.

Somewhere shortly after my six month anniversary, I had exactly one and one-half O’Doul’s near beers at a local bar whilst celebrating a drinking friend’s birthday.

Long story, short, my body remembered the alcohol f***ing instantly. Just that infinitesimal amount… I started shaking, and I could feel the pull to “go all the way” and order a “real” beer. I left immediately. I just got up, apologized, and walked out. That was the last time I spent time with a friend from the old life. I called him up later in the week and apologized, but I had to go in a different direction if I was going to stay sober. Later, I met my best friend from my childhood in my folks’ driveway and told him the same thing. I couldn’t hang out with drinking friends anymore. No more ex-girlfriends, no more old friends, no more old faces, no more old places.

If you’ve read any of my recovery posts, you already know it was well worth a few burnt bridges.

All over 1-1/2 O’Doul’s near beers. Near beer, near death as they say. In my case, that’s literally how it worked.  I didn’t want to be any nearer.

So, here comes a new near beer, this time 0.0% alcohol by volume. No alcohol. The real question is this, can a recovering alcoholic now safely imbibe?! Without actually imbibing?! No more infinitesimal amounts of alcohol.

I know the answer for me; I didn’t drink for the taste; I drank for affect… and therein lies the rub.

I have no fear of honesty in acknowledging who or what I am; a near beer is a lose-lose proposition for a drinker like me. There is no way to win:

  1. On one hand, let’s just say I try a near beer. Within a week of drinking a six-pack of near beers a night, I’m back out, pounding down the real beers. To be clear, I’m 98% sure this is the way it would go. Six months later, the house is gone, my car is gone, my career is “poof”, right into thin air. My wife left after two weeks, with the kids, which was the agreed remedy to relapse. It gutted me and touched off a spiral of depravity because I found out I really can’t live without my wife and kids. I’m dead one to six years later. One year would be a bullet, six would be liver failure. I die alone and afraid, with nothing. Misery isn’t a strong enough word to describe my world as an alcoholic. Come to think of it, it’d be the six year option, I’m too big a sissy for the bullet.
  2. On the other hand, let’s just say I try that near beer and I’m not impressed. I buy a six-pack and four sit in the fridge till summer time. After mowing the lawn, I decide to crack one open. Then another. The last two sit in the fridge for another month. Keep in mind, this is the 2% option… I decide after a particularly hot Tuesday night club ride to polish off the last two. I’ve got this licked! I must have changed! Right? You with me still? How long is it before I think, “well, if I did that well with near beers, maybe I can handle the real thing? Six months later, the house is gone, my car is gone, my career is “poof”, right into thin air. My wife left after two weeks, with the kids, which was the agreed remedy to relapse. It gutted me and touched off a spiral of depravity because I found out I really can’t live without my wife and kids.  I’m dead six years later after my liver failed. I die alone and afraid, with nothing. Misery isn’t a strong enough word to describe my world as an alcoholic.

Lose – Lose. There’s no way I win by drinking a near beer. Near beers are also referred to as “non-alcoholic” beer.

Another, more prescient way to look at it; near beer isn’t for alcoholics.

You go ahead and tempt fate. I’m good.

Possibly My Last Day on a Road Bike for 2019

I rolled the Trek out Thursday morning, for one last hurrah. It had rained the night before, so the dirt roads would have simply meant having to clean the gravel bikes for the fifth time this week. Crime in Italy, Chuck, no thanks!

Unfortunately, everyone else showed up with their gravel bikes, (according to Diane, the dirt wasn’t so bad)… The situation was a mess, and I almost switched bikes, but that would have meant switching shoes and over-shoes as well and with temps near freezing outside, I didn’t want anyone to have to wait on me. I just stuck with the road bike and figured I’d pull most of the ride… they would need it heading back north. Our route had us heading west, then south and with a wind out of the north, we were going to eat it for much of the third quarter of the ride.

I took the first three miles up front, keeping it at an easy 17-1/2 mph pace – easy for me, anyway. I peeled off the front and let everyone else have a mile or two, plus most of the tailwind. I was going to get my gravy when we turned around to head home. We stopped at our usual gas station for a quick pit stop and rolled out before we got too cold standing around. I took the next three miles, dead into the wind. I was aiming for a good speed for the gravel bikes, so chose 17-1/2-mph as my target. Two miles into the pull, it was sucking. I kept looking up to see where the road sign signified the intersection we’d be turning at. Finally, over a last little hill, it came into sight.

We turned east, and I signaled off the front. We had five miles before my next three-mile turn into the headwind so I took the opportunity to rest up – riding the Trek matched up next to three gravel bikes is not “like” cheating, it is cheating.

I was ready when we headed north again. With the nicest pavement we ever see for three miles, I dialed it up to around 18 and just pushed for home. The wind was picking up a little so this turn was a little harder. No hill for a climber, though. After three miles east, we were home. 28-1/2 miles and one of the better Thanksgiving rides I’ve ever done.

I thought a lot during the course of that ride, about how lucky I was to not only have a great race bike, but to have a fantastic second race bike. At this point it isn’t fair to simply call it a rain bike – I use it for a lot more than that – and my word was it nice to get out on a light, agile road bike after spending the last month on the gravel bike. Don’t get me wrong, I love the gravel bike, but nothing beats the raw speed of a great road bike.

Fortunately, after an epic eat down at my sister’s and brother-in-law’s house, I’m putting in some great miles for this time of year. We’re back into the cold again, but it’s not so bad we can’t ride… and I’m in the process of learning how to leave leftovers again. Something I’ve gotten away from – and my midsection shows it.

If Not for My Spouse’s Flaws…

I think it’s fitting, this last day of “Gratitude Month”, I write something about the person I’m most grateful for, my wife.  She puts up with a lot to have loved me this long (24 years together, 22 married)…

As I go, one of the toughest but, by far, the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given pertaining to marriage is to keep the focus on me when it comes to negative interactions with my wife.  This goes back to the old Biblical concept of not worrying about the splinter in my neighbor’s eye, but the stick in mine.

When things aren’t going well in our marriage, from little things all the way up to huge issues, I try to keep the focus on me.  It’s too easy to focus on my wife’s faults in issues.  To be distracted by what think she’s doing wrong…  Even when my wife is at fault, rather than concentrate on her flaws, I try to look at how I can be a better me to bring her back.

This is not easy.  F***, is it hard.  But it works.  Every time, without fail.

I don’t have to be a door mat to anyone, but do I want to be right, or happy.  That’s not a question, and it’s very rare you get to be both.

A marriage counselor told me the easiest way I’ve ever heard to keep this in perspective, years ago…

He said, “Jim, if not for your wife’s flaws, she’d have picked a better man.”

My wife and I started the weekend, Friday afternoon, drifting apart, on two separate rafts.  Every time I wanted to point the finger of blame for our drift, I remembered that saying and looked at what I could bring to the situation to improve things.  By the time Saturday rolled around, we were on the same raft and laughing together.  It was as simple as, rather than sitting on the couch, watching Michigan crush Indiana, I went to the apple orchard and shopping for dinner supplies with my wife.  By the time we walked into the grocery store, we were on the same raft again.

I could have been right.  Happy is much better.

Recover hard, my friends.

Happy Thanksgiving from Fit Recovery; A Message for Those New to Recovery (And Everyone Else)

The first years in recovery weren’t easy for me.  At first, the excitement of finally breaking King Alcohol’s grip got me through but I soon understood a lot more work lay ahead.  There were days I was wracked with fear.  How was this going to work out?  How could it work out?  After everything I did, why did I get to be saved?

I kept coming back, though.  No matter what, I didn’t quit quitting.  If my ass would have fallen off, I’d have put it in a bag and taken it to a meeting so someone could show me how they put theirs back on.  That’s how it works.

Eventually, and commensurate with the amount of work I was willing to put into it, the pink clouds dissipated and the sunshine hit my face.  It is glorious, that feeling, and not to be missed.

The best part?  I’m remembering all of this through the benefit of hindsight.  Back then, I thought I was doing pretty well (with the exception of those fear-filled days and nights.  Those pretty much sucked).

Today, life is so good, I’m so filled with gratitude, that all I want is to have another today, just like yesterday.  If I’m that fortunate, I’ll consider myself a blessed guy.  This is the miracle sobriety brings when a person works for it.  I am not special, not even a little bit.  This happens every time, without fail.  It’s promised to everyone.

I thank God on a daily basis that it came to be for me.  This joy and contentment I get to feel isn’t overly exuberant – it’s not a flash in the pan.  It’s a calm, relaxed, enthusiastic, fun joy.

In terms of cycling, it isn’t a screaming descent or an arduous climb… it’s a series of rollers where each downhill is just enough to get me to the top of the next peak with a little effort.  (If you’ve ridden the Horsey Hundred in Kentucky, you know exactly what I mean)


It’s something all I can hope for is to be able to pass it on to someone else, because this is worth quitting for.  I imagine this is exactly what I wanted, only better, when I asked God to help me by relieving me of my desire to drink.  I promised I’d give sobriety everything I had if God (as I understood God at the time) would help me.

I lived up to my end of the bargain.  God over-performed.

Happy Thanksgiving my friends.  I hope you have a lot to be thankful for and you get to enjoy your Holiday.  If you’re not quite there yet, keep coming back and working at it.  With some work and humility, you’ll get there and you’ll bask in the freedom.

For everyone outside of the USA, if nobody’s wished for something for you to be grateful for today, let me be the first.