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For those who are new to my blog, I wanted to do a compilation of some of my most read posts of all time. Some will appear on the right of my home page, but for those who read my posts in the WP browser, you’ll never see that list. Not surprising, my most popular posts, without exception, pertain to cycling. I’ll do a separate list for recovery posts another day. So without further ado…
10: With just shy of 12,600 hits, I wrote a review post on my Specialized Venge after 700 miles back in October of 2013. It’s actually time for another review on that bike… This one for 15,000 miles.
9. With just over 13,000 hits, I was infatuated with trying to slam my stem to get in the most aggressive position possible ever since I brought home my first real road bike. The post is The Noob’s Guide to Cycling: Want Speed? SLAM THAT STEM!!! To a Degree.
8. How much Faster is a Road Bike than a Mountain Bike Pt 2: It’s not just the Tires comes in at number 8. I did quite a bit of research for this post and laid it out simply… There’s a reason road bikes are chosen for speed…
7. Road Bikes: Internal vs. External Cable Routing, with 16,200 hits, comes in at number seven. This is an opinion piece on why I’d choose internal over external routing any day of the week and twice on Sunday… External has its place, of course, it’s as simple as you get, but in terms of saving maintenance, internal routing is as good as it gets.
6. With 18,700 hits, A Newbie Comparison of Shimano Shifters…UPDATED is a look at Shimano’s line of components from back in February of 2012. Not much has changed since, except 10 speeds, 11 speeds, electronic shifting…. Well, a lot has changed, but the post still stands.
5. Coming in at number five is part one of the two-part “How much Faster is a Road Bike than a Mountain Bike” post. In this post I actually give numbers and times. This isn’t a guess at how much faster a road bike is than a mountain bike. Interestingly, I got those numbers on the Trek… If I’d had the Venge back then, the difference would be greater.
4. With more than 20,000 hits (and climbing, this post still gets 20-60 hits a day) is my Noob’s Guide to Buying Cycling Shorts: Exactly what to look for and what to avoid. The post gets right down to it, including the difference between a 20 mile pair of shorts and a 100 mile pair.
3. Next, I wrote a post back in December of 2011, just twelve days into my blogging experience, about how I made my mountain bike fast, on a budget. The post only got five “likes” at the time (which I thought was awesome) but it continues to bring people in. Of course, now that I’m not a noob (cyclist or blogger) I know the best way to make a mountain bike fast is to buy a road bike…
2. Number two on the list, with 23,400 hits is one of the best posts I’ve ever written on cycling: Cycling, Speed and Cadence – Why the 90 RPM Cadence is So Important to Cycling Fast
Finally, with a whopping 55,622 hits, 38 “Likes” and 75 comments – and second only to views on my homepage/about page, from May 15, 2012, I wrote How I Got Fast – A Noob’s Guide To A 23 mph Average. If you haven’t read the post and think I’m full of it, you aren’t the first. I’d direct you to the proof post, here. Please know, while the proof is real, the anger is tongue in cheek. That said, be sure to scroll down to the bottom to get the full effect. 😀
The chica in all of the photos above is my best cycling bud, my wife.
Initial Observations on the Passage of Michigan’s 3′ Law for Passing a Cyclist – and Why the Legislature got it Right
Michigan didn’t have a hard and fast rule on distance required to pass a cyclist until Wednesday-ish.
The law won’t take affect till August of this year but I noticed a difference already, yesterday. I went out with the owner of our local shop and my best cycling bud, Mike for a 29 miler and was amazed by the fair clearance we were given. Amazed.
First, I think the Michigan legislature got it right with the law, exactly right.
Some advocates have been pushing for five feet and that’s been stalled in our Senate. Five feet of clearance is too much in my humble opinion. I ride in scenarios several times a week that would make passing our group virtually impossible requiring almost half a lane’s clearance to pass. If we’re riding in a double pace-line, as is legal per Michigan’s current law, an extra five feet is hard to come by, let alone judge. Three feet? Easy enough. As a construction professional with more than twenty years experience – I am acutely aware of the difference between three and five feet.
Also, and the importance of this cannot be understated, the new law allows motorists to cross a double yellow to pass a cyclist when safe. Believe it or not, there are motorists out there who would choose to buzz a cyclist (pass within less than a foot of a cyclist) to keep their vehicle inside the double yellow but get by a cyclist. Technically this is the cyclist’s fault as a motorist shouldn’t be given enough room to squeeze by in the lane – the cyclist technically shouldn’t ride that close to the shoulder of the road but it is in our nature to not want to “be in the way”. This observation of mine, that these motorists exist, is based on not only on supposition. I’ve chased more than a couple down. On my bicycle. They were quite honest at being challenged, too. “Well, I had to get by you and I can’t cross the double yellow”. In that particular case I was riding at 22 mph in a 25 mph zone and the motorist “had to get by me”. Folks, the mirror on his truck missed my head by inches. If I’d have turned my head at the wrong time, God knows. That provision is greatly needed for motorists. In fact, I regularly cross a double yellow when safe to get by a cyclist or pedestrian no matter what the law says anyway. It’s just the right thing to do and I’d rather get a ticket than crowd a vulnerable road user.
To wrap this up, the law is good for us, just a day after its passage in the State House and before it’s even gone into effect. I never would have guessed it would be so noticeable, so soon, but I can’t ever remember having so much room on a ride. Heck, we even had cars wait for us to turn at a four-way stop intersection… I almost played the lotto based on that alone!
What You Need to Know about Road Cycling to Enter into the Sport, whether You want to fit in… Or not.
Okay, there are two competing ways of looking at this. There’s the kumbaya way, where we’re all just happy cyclists who are out having fun and riding our road bikes, and nothing matters…. The cycling clothes you wear, the helmet you don, tee-shirt or jersey, shaved legs or hairy, let’s all just hold hands and be happy cyclists! Right?
I do subscribe to that way of thinking, too, at least partially. What matters is that we’re happy and we ride within our means (financially as well as capability), with a smile on our face. As that goes, damn “the rules”. Ride hard! Woohoo!
Now that’s well and good for a f***in’ Hallmark card but real life tends to be a little more… erm…. real.
Most people, while they want to feel good about themselves, there’s a flip-side to the coin; We also don’t want to feel self-conscious and out of place. This where real life enters into the mix and makes the dough a little sticky. If I’m anything, I’m a realist. I don’t believe in sticking my head in the sand, hoping the world will be a real-life musical because it isn’t. Ever. I also believe that saying and writing that road cyclists shouldn’t have to wear padded Lycra cycling shorts, while nice and lovely, is detrimental to noobs, because unless you want to explore riding a bike as an expensive form of self-flagellation, well you’re going to need a few things, no?
Here you have a woman who just wants to be a cyclist like her friend and she reads a kumbaya article about how all in cycling is Zen and we’re all a group of touchy-feely friendly people who wear anything we like and just push the pedals and enjoy each other’s company. There is no judging here, it’s all peace, love and spokes… So she shows up in a pair of coolots, some knee-high socks, a Dory tee-shirt and her matching Finding Nemo©®™ cycling helmet with a smile on her face – only to see 40 hard-legged road cyclists with skin-tight kits that match their bikes, aero helmets, and glistening guns.
How awesome is she going to feel waiting for the ride to start? Panicked, that’s how. She’ll want to throw her bike in the car and leave… Why would we want to do that to somebody?! That’s bordering on cruel and unusual punishment when you really sit down and think about it. If you want the picture of the out-of-place guy, you’ll have the tighty-whities hanging out of the cycling shorts, cotton tee-shirt half-tucked in, $15 Kmart cycling helmet riding a steel bike from 1985 fitted with down tube shifters that squeaks every time the crank goes around. I’ve met that guy, too.
Road cycling is a persnickety form of cycling. We ride fast bikes and wear fast clothes – even when we aren’t all that fast and need more practice pushing away from the table than pushing the pedals. In many cases our clothing matches our bikes, as do our cycling helmets, shoes, sunglasses and just about everything else (see above)… We wear these things because A) They look awesome, but also B) Because they make the ride comfortable. Riding any of my road bikes would be torturous without padded cycling shorts that fit well. Also, it would be considerably harder to keep up with my friends if I were riding in a baggy tee-shirt rather than a form-fitting jersey.
Let’s talk about the guns… The only reason I shave my legs is because doing so makes the guns look awesome.
That’s a period at the end of that last sentence. I don’t even care that it’s vastly more aerodynamic. Shaved legs look better on a bike. You don’t have to like it, but that doesn’t change that it’s a fact. This is the one area that any noob can safely choose to ignore, though. You won’t be ostracized for choosing to leave your legs hairy (though a trimming every other week with clippers goes a long way to keeping the guns tidy) – and you’d better be able to hammer out some hard miles.
In other words, we don’t wear any of that shit to make you feel bad or inadequate. We wear all of that crap because it’s quite necessary, especially when you ride faster than average (20+ mph for an average) and spend more than four hours on your bike at a crack. 20-30 minutes? No worries, but try cranking out a century wearing a tee-shirt, shorts and your underwear. The word “chafed” doesn’t do justice to the hell you’re in for when you step into the shower after the ride.
There are, however, ways to play around the edges. When I got into cycling I didn’t have much in the way of disposable income. I bought a used race bike from the local shop for $750 and fixed it up (meaning I cleaned it up real nice). I wore cheap shorts because that was all I could afford. I had mountain bike shoes and pedals for both my mountain and road bike because I couldn’t afford road and mountain shoes and pedals… same with my helmet. I still felt a little out of place with all of those folks out there with their $8,000 super-bikes and their new Castelli kit, but I hung in there and I bought a new piece of kit every now and again, when it could be afforded – and I never went high-end if I couldn’t absolutely afford it. I looked for sales at my local shop and pinched pennies at Nashbar if I needed something and money was tight. Little by little, I got to a point where I could not only ride fast enough to fit in, I accumulated the wardrobe as well – then I had to turn around and do the same for my wife. The most important part was learning to ride well, though. The rest of the junk is superficial.
The main point is this, my friends: Any noob cyclist can choose to feel like they don’t fit in. There are so many ways to feel uncomfortable out there I wouldn’t bother trying to list them. In the end, what fits us in is how we ride. If we ride strong and confident, a lot of the glitzy shit doesn’t matter. That’s what’s really not important; the glitzy stuff… You do need some cycling shorts if you’re going to be a roadie – it just is what it is. You don’t, however, need a $300 pair of Rapha bibshorts.
If after you’ve put in your saddle time, gotten your kit sorted, and become a solid cyclist, you still feel uncomfortable because you don’t have the expensive, glitzy shit, go see a shrink ’cause you ain’t right. You’re not supposed to compare your insides to someone else’s outside… and if you don’t know what that means, ask the shrink. Ride hard and hold your head up. Riding well is all your friends will really care about anyway.
You know those nasty, blended vegan, green goop smoothies… The smoothies they say are an “acquired taste” that, in terms of flavor, really come in somewhere between dirt and your lawn clippings?
I tried one. Once. It was much worse than I’d imagined it could be.
They are great for weight loss though. Blend one up, take a sniff of it (or a tiny sip if you must, to get maximum stomach turnage), then pour it right into the toilet. Save yourself the trouble of trying to choke that $#!+ down.
That and a cup of coffee, and there’s your breakfast. Three or four calories on the daily count.
Wait, I’ve had an epiphany! Why not just buy a bike, ride the wheels off it and opt for the bacon, egg and cheese bagel instead?
Yes, indeed. That’s more like it.
I know, you read that Title and thought to yourself, “Well self, I’m in for an even-handed look at exactly how much cycling is too much for the body to handle”. See, that’s because you know me as an even-handed, level-headed kind of guy.
The answer is very simple, and while I could give you a very simplistic algebraic formula to figure out just how much the body can handle, a lot like the equation to figure out how many bikes one needs, it ends up working out to; more miles than you’re currently riding.
That’s neither even-handed nor level-headed. It isn’t right, either – though it’s close.
The proper number of bikes in one’s stable is said to be N+1, N being the number of bikes currently in one’s stable…
My friends, I don’t care what equation you use, that’s enough bikes for someone who doesn’t have a personal mechanic to take care of all of those freaking bikes! Once you figure in my wife’s four bikes, my kid’s bikes… well folks, at some point you just have to say someone can stick that formula where the sun don’t shine!
could should be said for some over-simplified formula that says dryly, “Um, more miles” – as true as that could be, there’s no need to be obnoxious about it, eh? See, mileage is finicky. If I can ride twelve miles a day, surely I could do fifteen, and if I could do fifteen, why not twenty? Then let’s kick it up a notch on the weekends, and shoot for between 120 and 160 total miles for Saturday and Sunday.
How about days off? I’ve taken two so far this year. January 15th and last Friday for my wife’s birthday. Simply put, I don’t burn out (or at least haven’t yet). On the other hand, I’d rather not find out what it takes to burn out…
I would argue all day long that early in one’s foray into cycling, days off are a necessity. Building one’s fitness up, and more important, getting one’s bikes set up to work for their body, taking time off helps the body transform until one doesn’t need time off any longer. I simply don’t need days off like I used to, nor would most people.
I got this wacky idea a few years ago that if there were people who could ride 70,000+ miles in a year, riding as many as 200 miles a day, each and every day, why couldn’t I ride fifteen or twenty without days off? The pros, in the middle of the biggest bike race in the world, still spin on a trainer for a few hours on their rest days (two in the 21-day race)… What is all of this hub-bub about days off?
My friends, put simply I have been unable to find my limits because there aren’t enough hours in a day.
While I do run into tired days and days that are packed with too much to shoehorn in a ride, it’s rare that I am required to take a day for physical reasons. For the tired days I simply ride slower than normal, say 20-25% slower, and I’m fine.
Now, for those who have stuck around this long, I’m going to go somewhere dark, somewhere I normally won’t tread…. When we read tips and articles related to fitness, almost to a ridiculous degree, rest days are pushed as a matter of requirement yet we hear so often of people who push themselves to extremes – why the disparity?
It’s either, I need to take between one and three days a week off, or there are people out there who can go 70,000 miles in a year – or the pros who can go 21 of 23 days at close to max effort and still choose to spin their legs up on their two rest days. What gives?!
For other activities like running, lifting weights, activities high on impact, there’s no doubt the body needs recovery time. For cycling? My friends, if attention is paid to proper nutrition, electrolyte replacement, active recovery days and above all else, bike set-up and equipment, days off go from “I need a day off” to “I’ll take a day off next week”.
My answer is, “I don’t know, how much time do you have?”
I’ll leave you on this note; Many people like to say “listen to your body”. While I don’t disagree, when it comes to cycling I would add a little “don’t sell yourself short” to the saying: “Listen to your body, just make sure it knows you’re the boss.”
The Dirty Little Secret of the Tree Huggin’ Hipster Crowd: They’re only Happy if They’re telling You how You’re Doing it Wrong. And now they want Your Bicycle.
Trigger (heh) warning. Hang on Baby Jesus, this is gonna get bumpy. You have been trigger (heh) warned.
Here we go… My Google feed is finally getting around to figuring out that I’m a little more interested in bicycle news than today’s ignorant liberal political rubbish. So what did my Google feed crap out at me? Liberal bicycle political rubbish. Dammit.
The second paragraph gets right into it:
In all the excitement to proclaim bicycles the answer to congested roads, polluted city air and our own health, the materials used to manufacture those bikes often get overlooked.
Now, if you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, I predicted this years ago. My one mistake was in a lack of understanding why and it’s the why that’s important. The author goes immediately into explaining why we shouldn’t be riding on a carbon fiber frame, and then why we should choose bamboo in its stead.
Here is a photo of the bike, and I use that term loosely, used to showcase bamboo bikes for the article:
What an ugly, misshapen piece of junk… and she only paid $835 to build it.
What’s interesting is the amount of deception (or perhaps it’s ignorance but I have my doubts) the author uses to frame his argument. For example:
It’s also incredibly wasteful. Most people replace a racing bike every three years, adding to carbon fiber scrap, says James Marr, founder of the Bamboo Bicycle Club and a former wind turbine engineer.
Did you get that? A wind turbine engineer? Windmill anyone?
Personally, I own two carbon fiber bikes, a 2013 and a 1999 and my wife owns a 2014… Let’s see, my buddy Mike, a 2003 and a 2014… The point is, I know of only three carbon fiber frames, warrantee claims all, that were ever discarded between all of my friends (and we’re talking upwards of 20 friends and dozens of bikes) and none were as soon as three years. The statement simply doesn’t make sense. Who would scrap a $2,000 to $10,000 (frame value from $1,500 to $7,000) bike in a few years? Folks, nobody – and I mean nobody, scraps a bike every three years, let alone most people. The average lifespan of a carbon frame is better than steel or titanium and vastly longer than aluminum.
Maybe we should look at the source of that data, though… the founder of the Bamboo Bicycle Club. Now, I could see getting rid of that bamboo piece of junk in the photo above after a few days but there’s no way I’d give up my Venge or my 5200. Even if I did, I’d sell the frame off rather than scrap it! To suggest otherwise is one of two things, disingenuous or dishonest. Take your pick.
Look, I could bother with going through the rest of the article but the whole thing leans in that particular direction – disinformation from tree huggin’ hippies which leads us to the obvious conclusion that we should be using bamboo to build our bikes as long as we “rel[y] on production standards, for example avoiding the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides, and ensuring natural forest is not cleared for plantations.”
Okay, so as long as we don’t use a method that creates reliable bamboo and we grow it on the moon, we’re good… We’ll just gloss over, for now, the urethane coating used to shine up the bamboo on that ugly bastard in the photo above, and the epoxy used to lash the pieces of bamboo together. I’m sure they’re produced from iceberg lettuce fibers or something.
SO, in conclusion, the hipster author of the article wants us to ride ugly, creaky, slow, impossibly heavy bikes that will have a shelf-life a quarter that of a carbon fiber bike because? Anyone? Bueller? Because some people can’t be happy unless they’re making everyone else miserable with their restrictive, fascist ideas of how everyone else should live. Too harsh? Let’s dig a little deeper, shall we?
Hipsters these days are nothing special, nor are they creative. They simply like to come up with ways to make a name for themselves by pointing out how everyone else should live, thereby proving that, because they can see the intricacies in their ideas, they are better than you.
Because Tom can see that making a bike out of carbon fiber is a messy process, even though carbon bikes are vastly safer than that homemade piece of shit shown above (especially at 60 mph), we should all ride in a way that Tom sees fit (slow, with no excitement whatsoever) so we can all be “sustainable” and sit by the bamboo bike bonfire singing kumbaya. He’s smart, after all, and we should all bend to his will because he is. The fact that he’s willing to bend the truth to prove it is just a bonus.
My friends, do the opposite of what the author of that article proposes. Go out and buy the most expensive, lightest carbon fiber (or steel, or aluminum, or titanium) bike you can reasonably afford and ride the wheels off of it. Not to get groceries or to save gas or CO2 (which you exhale with every second or third pedal stroke), though feel free, but ride a bike because it’s fun. If you want to play Don Quixote with global warming, go right ahead, but don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re better than anyone else for that choice…
My middle finger to do-gooder tree huggin’ hippies? Not quite, they’re not that important.
I would have to kick my own ass if I were pretentious enough to suggest we should all be building bikes out of bamboo. People who consistently seek to influence others, bending reality and truth in the process, should be teased often and repeatedly, relegated to the lower levels of human existence. They are naval lint. They are a vile, fun-hating group.
So, from all of us fun-loving, happy people to you; do shut it.
This has been a public service announcement.
I walk into the gas station for a cup of coffee to sip on for the trip to the office… and there it sits, looming in the corner, whispering sweet nothings at me – it’s the donut display.
Of course it’s not whispering anything to me, the donut display case, because donut display cases don’t whisper. They don’t talk, they don’t wink, they don’t do anything humans do. They just sit there and, with those beautiful rolled and deep-fried pieces of sugar-coated chunks of goodness, look good.
The whispering and temptation are all in my melon.
And you’d think, after all of this time, after all of the years, the thousands of posts, millions of words, 45,259 miles, the diets to stay at my riding weight… you’d think it’d get easier, right?
But do you think it’s easier or harder to walk by the donut display in the morning without reaching in and grabbing a cruller after all of that? At this point, who really cares? It is what it is.
As I get older, it’s almost comical how much more careful I have to be with my diet – it also doesn’t help that my daughter and I have become Food Network junkies and actually try recipes now… Eating boring food isn’t such a big deal, but when food becomes vibrant, excellent, even restaurant quality at times… well, pushing away from the table becomes a little trickier – especially when you take into account my ridiculously active lifestyle.
Still, as the saying goes, “you gotta dance with the chick who brung ya” (actually it’s a bit more crass than that, but you get the idea).
Things could be worse, though. Taken in context, this little problem isn’t even a blip on the screen. I’ll walk into the gas station this morning, plop my buck on the counter and walk out with my cup of coffee – and maybe I’ll flip the bird to that donut display. One thing is for certain, I’ll be walking out without a cruller.
No matter how crazy life is, mine is still really awesome, and being fat would make it suck a whole lot. It doesn’t get any easier, I just have more to lose…