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We said goodbye to our friend, son, uncle, brother, cycling buddy and top-notch mechanic yesterday in one of the most fitting homecomings I’d ever seen. Sean was even a friend and cycling buddy of the pastor who led the proceeding. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place and half of everyone who rides on Tuesday night was there. The bike shop closed, with “Closed Saturday for our friend, Sean” on the billboard. All of the long-time employees were there.
And we sent our friend home.
The funeral procession to the cemetery was massive – it took several minutes for everyone to park… best, when the owner of the funeral home announced the end of the service after some final words… nobody left. Not one person went to their car to leave. We stood around, out in the sunshine talking about Sean and the good times we’d had together. We hugged his parents, brothers and nephews. We talked about things to come and rides we’d take in his memory. And we tried to figure out how in God’s name we’d keep our bikes quiet and on the road without Sean.
We planned out this morning’s ride, too, and it looks like we’ve got great weather and a big crowd planning on showing up.
A friend said, it’s these sudden deaths that are hard to deal with, that hurt the most. When we can see it coming, we’ve got time to get ready, to prepare ourselves for it. He was right, but we’ll grow stronger and closer as a group because of it. I can see the gears already turning.
I spent the rest of my day doing normal Saturday chores. I tended to the grass while my wife and daughters watched over one of our cycling buddy’s kids while they went out to lunch – a rare date day for them after the funeral (they have four kids between one & six years-old). Then my wife and I went out to dinner as our daughters scattered with the wind. We talked about things to come with our kids – the hope and landmines ahead. In a classic struggle between good and evil, sadly our daughters have our genes. They’re exceedingly smart, and if they even look at drugs or alcohol, they’re cooked.
While there’s no doubt life is precarious, I wonder if that’s partly what makes living the good life so fantastic. Do you think, maybe?
Enough with the questions. It’s time to ride, baby. Today it is good to be me.
As this post publishes, we’ll be rolling out for a short morning ride along a favorite route. We’ll likely talk about the friend we lost last weekend. He was an organ donor and the nature of his crash meant all of the important organs were still viable. He saved several people’s lives. Lungs, kidneys, liver, heart… they were able to use it all. He received a hero’s walk at the hospital the other day.
One immense, sad tragedy made the lives of several people much, much brighter.
We went to the viewing service last night, my wife, daughters and I, to be there for our friend, McMike and his wife. It was undeniably sad, but it was impressive to see all of the cyclists who showed up and in the end, it was as it should be; a celebration of life.
We’ll ride this morning then head to the funeral home, then the cemetery to see our friend laid to rest. It’s going to suck, especially for his parents, but they’ll have a bunch of friends and family there to help them through this.
And tomorrow life will go on. Sometimes it really sucks, but the world will spin on.
With that, I’m trying to use this as a stepping stone for my daughters, an example of how fickle and short life can be. Sean was just 43. The lesson is to enjoy every minute you can on the right side of the grass.
In those last few seconds as my life flashes before my eyes, I don’t want there to be one “I wish I would have” in there… and I want for that flash to feel like it goes on for about 20 minutes.
Now I Remember Why I Ride a Bike Every Day! Building the Fitness to Be Able to Ride That Much HURTS!
I used to think riding every day was a less painful way of life than taking more than one day off a week (say, ride four, three off). After riding every day excepting rain days (maybe one a week), I took two weeks off for vacation, only two riding days the whole stretch. I was surprised to find I felt really good throughout the vacation.
Now, I wasn’t inactive those two weeks. I swam a minimum of an hour a day, usually a lot more, and we had 68 stairs down to the boathouse… I walked that at least three times a day, plus a day hiking at Tallulah Gorge and walking the neighborhood we stayed in with my wife.
The way I ride, though, cycling fit is a lot more “fit” than what I did on my break. I expected to experience a little pain from slowing down, but apparently I didn’t slow down that much.
Then I went directly back to my normal cycling routine the day we got back. 100 miles Sunday, 20 Monday, 40 Tuesday, 20 Wednesday, 20 Thursday…
I woke up this morning and immediately popped two Tylenol. I even found it difficult to make my coffee – which is why I reached for the Tylenol in the first place. I’ve got a couple of over-use saddle sores that I’m dealing with and I ache down to my baby toes even though three out of the last six days on the bike were relatively easy.
The point is, I know an inactive lifestyle is vastly more painful than that of an active lifestyle, but an exceptionally active lifestyle isn’t less painful than an active lifestyle – it’s simply painful going from active to exceptionally active.
And so I learned something this week. I still love riding every day and I will continue to do so… I just have to watch how I come back from an extended period off the bike. I may have to take a couple of weeks to work back to shape rather than trying to cram everything into a week.
That’s right, my friends. Numero uno. Not 1,621 or some made-up number… The Big Kahuna.
I’ve alluded to a major problem over the last couple of days but wasn’t ready to write about it. A friend of our local cycling community, a friend of mine and many around here, and the top shop mechanic most responsible for keeping the high-end bikes quiet and on the road passed away Saturday night after crashing his car through a roundabout in the wee hours of the morning after a volleyball match/tournament a couple of nights earlier. The hard thing to cope with is his parents. I am much tighter with his dad than I was with him and I’ve got quite a few friends who read my blog so… it can be messy writing about something like this. His dad is an A Elite rider and we’ve turned quite a few weekend miles together and the thought of his loss is crushing.
Our friend was in his early 40s and about a mile from home at the time of his crash. Sometimes it’s gone, that fast, and it just sucks.
And so there I was last night. Chuck is in Utah testing a new truck, so I was on my own. It was unbelievably hot, sunny and with only a mild breeze from the west, it was going to be gnarly. Extra-gnarly after my hundred the day before. With Tuesday Night looming, I knew exactly what I needed; a nice, easy ride to get my legs stretched out for tomorrow. I chose the Trek, hoping I’d be able to work out a shifting issue from the other day.
I rolled out on my usual route and simply took it easy, enjoying the 90 degree (30 C) heat and sunshine (I really do like it – I’m weird that way). I’d developed a mysterious shifting issue on the Trek that I desperately wanted to figure out (it’s been driving me a little crazy – big ring is fine, shifts in all gears, everything is great – little ring, any more than 300 watts and I drop the chain… and that can hurt when you’re laying down some decent wattage on the way up a hill).
For the first eight miles, it was just me, my bike, the road and the sun… and my thoughts. Into the breeze and up a short little hill, I decided to shift into the small ring and get out of the saddle. Nothing – perfectly normal. Still in the breeze, I switched my thinking back to my friend. I tried to wrap my head around the crash and I just couldn’t. That’s when I started thinking about how grateful I am to be a part of our rabble of cyclists. That produced the proper line of thinking; “Just enjoy it while you’ve got it, Jim. This only ever ends in a casket. Slide into it in a cloud of dust, exclaiming, “Wow! What a ride!” That’s the goal.
And that’s precisely when I made peace with it.
After the headwind, I turned into a subdivision and shifted to the little ring to climb a dinky hill. Bam, dropped the chain immediately. I replaced the chain and continued on… and about a quarter-mile later I noticed the chain skip on the cassette. Just a faint click and a resetting of the chain. I shifted up and down the cassette – no noise, hit every gear, so I pedaled on. The one truth in mechanical sleuthing was ever thus; if you can’t figure it out or locate the issue, keep going. It will get worse.
I relaxed into my ride and switched to the big ring. Sure enough, every 30 seconds, if I shifted my weight just right, the chain would reset. I pulled over to the side of the road, in the grass, and flipped my bike upside down and pedaled… click, click, click. Upside down I could see the chain jump.
Two full turns on the barrel adjuster before the click faded into a beautiful whir… another turn and it was clicking again. I backed it off of that last turn, then fine-tuned it. On the road again and down into the small ring, a slight adjustment to the front cable tensioner, and butter. Out of the saddle, full power, it’s all good. How the barrel adjuster moved that much on the trip down south after I had it perfectly dialed in for months, I could rack my brain for hours trying to figure it out.
I could have done the Homer Simpson, “Doh” and slapped my forehead, but I was just glad to get it figured out easily and simply. I went for three years having to have the tension dialed in within a 16th of a turn for the derailleur to hit all of the gears 90% of the time… with a new derailleur, chain and cassette the shifting works so well I’ve got three turns of play on the rear derailleur and it’ll still shift right – I can only look as that as a win. The rest, I’ll work out in the wash.
And that brought me back, full circle to the driveway. I pulled in with a smile on my face and gratitude in my heart. 19.75 miles and I went from being torn up over my friend’s passing and the pain his parents are going through, to being grateful for the time and friends I’ve got. I love being on the right side of the grass – and that’s as it should be.
I can figure out anything on a bicycle, in 20 miles or less. More (much), or less. Number one on the long list of why I love my bikes.
I have a blog friend, Sheree, who likes to post photos she takes of flowers on her blog. She is, without question, a fair rider and has an inside look at pro racing. A cycling enthusiast, she is.
So I’ve been inspired to snap photos of flowers while out on rides when I have the chance. Too often, though, I can’t get the good shots because I can’t get to my phone in time.
Typically, you’d have me turn around and run through that stretch of road again to get that shot, right? But I can’t. To turn around would knock a half-mile-an-hour off my average on Strava… what if I had to do that twice in one ride?! What would my friends think if they saw a 16-1/2 mph average for an easy ride rather than a 17-1/2 average?!
This is a sickness of mine.
Now, I conveniently blamed this on Strava as click-bait, but other than to get people to the post, I won’t sink to blaming a flaw in me on an app. I would say to do so would show a greater flaw in me. Say, allowing what other people thought of me dictate how I choose to ride a bicycle in the first place?
But I do. I’d rather show a better average on Strava than circle back, to borrow and properly use a phrase, for a good photo for a post.
Now, to be fair, most often I find these photo ops while riding with a bunch of friends in a pace-line. It’s not like I can throw up an arm and have everyone turn back around so I can get a photo of a flower, but that rare solo ride…
Or when those flowers show up enough I actually have time to get my phone out whilst riding with friends…
Either way, this is an interesting line of thought. I’m thinking now that I’m 51 I oughta loosen up a little bit. Stop and smell the 🌹. Then take a picture or two just for the heck of it.
If you’re not working on something, you can sink to anything.
Just a thought.
The technical proficiency of blowing a snot rocket whilst, and at the same time, riding a bike; it is an art.
I’d like to thank Sheree for the inspiration for this post.
Clearing your nose whilst cycling, without getting snot on you, or the people following behind, is an art every cyclist should master. It’s a necessity for the fast crew especially. And when cycling in muggy weather. And cold weather. And cool, dry weather. Well, pretty much everything except warm, dry weather. So Arizona for six months out of the year except when it’s hot enough to melt your tires and stuff.
Anyway, it’s an important skill because if you can’t, you’ll spend half an hour cleaning snot drippings off your top tube after a ride! Nobody wants to do that.
Before we get into the art of hurling said snot rocket, let’s get a couple of important items out of the way.
1. Wind direction matters. Don’t snot on the side into the wind or with the wind quartering in the direction you will be snotting.
2. If you’re snotting absolutely, positively cannot wait till you get to the back of the group, signal and pull off to the side so you don’t cover others in snot, thus tempting them to push you into a ditch.
3. With a tailwind, launch away. Either side.
4. With a headwind, either side works but there has to be some down to the projection of said snot rocket otherwise, it’ll get messy (shoulder or side of the face).
Now, what you’ve been waiting for, technique!
Those people who claim they can’t blow a snot rocket simply mess their snot rocket technique up. The trick is which finger to block which nostril with. If you’re snotting right, you block the right nostril with your right pointer finger. Snotting left, block the left nostril with the left pointer finger and blow. Do not try to reverse this or you’ll wear that snot rocket!
Now, you don’t sit upright to blow a snot rocket. Simply roll your head right or left so the blow nostril is a little below the block finger – and make sure to get your elbow up out of the way! And make sure to take the wind into account, as mentioned earlier.
If you typically wear your snot rockets, here’s what you’re doing wrong: you’re snotting into the wind, blocking the wrong nostril with the wrong finger of the opposite hand. And you’re sitting up, making the wearing of the dreaded snot rocket a certainty!
On blocking the wrong nostril with the wrong hand (blow right, block left or vice versa); what this does is cause a cavitation in the wind which blows snot up into your face and on your glasses. This is, as we say, no bueno. Or non buono in Italian. Or… erm… not good in Irish (or possibly aon mhaith, but let’s not get lost in the woods!)
The final piece to this puzzle is the blow. It should be quick and forceful. If you hold back with a weak blow, your snot ball won’t reach escape velocity before slowing down which will allow it to be affected by the wind and air movement. Trust the steps above and blow that snot out. Smite it to the ground!
You are now trained, grasshopper. Snot forth. Whilst happily pedaling.
Taking a day off after a hard week in the saddle is always rough on me. Once I take a minute to rest, it seems everything creaks and clicks until I throw a leg over the top tube again. After four great days in the saddle, we had a rain day on Wednesday. Plus a cycling club board meeting, plus a meeting-meeting… and we had to fit my birthday dinner in there somewhere, too.
Now, this wasn’t a “maybe I’ll go out and play in the light rain on my gravel bike” kind of rain. This was torrential, with lightning and rumbling thunder. It decided to let loose on us at exactly the right time, on the best day possible.
It was supposed to rain again the following day, and there was plenty of rain south of us, but somehow we stayed dry. After planning on taking the day off, I had a chance to ride, so I obviously took it.
I spent the first half of the ride fighting a little breeze and wondering if I was going to get soaked – and I almost turned it into a ten-mile time trial just to make sure I got a ride in. Once I got rolling, though, I just wasn’t feeling another hard ride. I tried to will it to happen, but there simply wasn’t enough want to. I couldn’t get there.
I settled on going out till it sprinkled, if it sprinkled, then I’d head straight back if it did.
Not a drop.
I just rode, trying not to bother with looking at the head unit. I didn’t want to bother with speed or average. And it was wonderful. I pulled into the driveway with some miles and an average, but I don’t even remember what the final numbers were, and I’m not going to look them up. It was just a bike ride. I love it when that happens.
And so it was.
Sometimes those are the best. When you can just get lost in the pedaling and the whisper-quiet feedback of the tires on the asphalt… then you notice the breeze and the birds chirping in the background… and everything slows down… and you get lost for long enough that it builds on your love of cycling.
DALMAC, at the end of the season, is a grind. Three 100+ mile days followed by a 72 as we take it to the barn. Most days are above 19-mph for an average.
The first day is fairly easy – or, as easy as 100 miles can be at 5:10-ish hours in ride time. The second day is where you’re tested. The second day hurts. Uphill almost the whole hundred and maintaining that pace, a day after we rode a hundred, can be more than a little brutal. The third day, you’re feeling a little better as your body gets over the shock… right up till about mile 90 and The Wall. A quarter-mile at 18% after you’ve climbed 1 to 3% for two miles to get there. I walked my Venge the last eighth the first year but rode every year since (I changed my drivetrain specifically for that hill) because I climbed the first two miles way too fast.
The Fourth of July weekend is tailor made for DALMAC training. We’re staring at a three-day weekend and day one is in the books.
We rolled out to unseasonably cool and cloudy conditions but with barely a breeze as wind goes. I regretted not wearing arm-warmers for the first hour but it warmed up after.
We started out into what little wind there was but it felt like forever before we had the help of the breeze.
The pace was steady and enjoyable throughout and I was feeling quite spectacular.
It was heading home in the last ten miles of our 56-mile ride that I started contemplating, “Why is it we ride our bikes so far?” By this question I mean, we’re out there three hours yesterday… but I never had a dull moment and as we took it to the barn all I could think is “I wish we had another hour to go…”
I’ve got no good answer, my friends. I’ll pass 4,000 miles (6,437 km) for the year today, I’ll be more than 1,000 miles over my pace to hit my yearly goal of 6,000 miles (just wait till August and September, I should be over my goal by the end of September, easy). We ride more than most folks drive their cars… but look at that smile on the face of the old fella up front.
That says all you need to know about “why” right there. Thank you, Sir. May I have another?
PS. When I refer to the Fourth of July as “Freedom Day”, do not mistake that I was referring to our freedom from British Colonial rule. While the Declaration of Independence has much to do with that, I’m thinking bigger. The beginning of the United States of America is based on the Freedom of the People from government. Unlike most other countries the world over. Some have famously complained that this is out of date, that our Constitution is too hard on the government’s efforts to progress. I’d argue that our Constitution is doing exactly what it was designed to do in that regard.
A small miracle happened yesterday. After being predicted a washout all week long, the weather app of choice showed we had a window through which we could ride and possibly not get rained on… Chuck texted a few minutes after I saw the updated weather Saturday evening; “Any ride announcement for Sunday am?” Of course, it has to be mentioned, we’d been huddled down in front of the TV screen the night before watching tornado warnings flash across the screen. Thankfully, we appear to have made it through unscathed – some high winds and heavy rain were about it.
I sent the text just after. Wheels would roll at 7am, weather permitting.
And they did roll. We had a great turnout considering the roads were wet – very wet. It had rained two hours prior and with humidity levels in the upper 90s, they weren’t going to dry out any time soon. Mike and I started out in the front, into a gentle southwesterly breeze at an easy, Sunday Funday pace. Then McMike and Dale went to the front after we flicked off, two miles in and we went from Sunday Funday to “we gone”. 17-mph to 21, just like that. The tandem held the pace thereafter and that set it for the rest of the ride.
It was decided early, possibly “suggested” that we do the shorter “Deer Loop” at around 36 miles. This suited me because my daughter’s graduation open house was later that day and we still had some set-up to finish up. The pace was fast but we managed to take it down a few notches when needed for everyone to regroup and the roads started to dry up about the half-way point, about the same time as we hit tailwind.
The roll home was spectacular and other than being dripping wet from the high humidity, we stayed dry. Many of the others split off for extra miles but I headed home to clean up and help. We’d been gone just less than two hours when I pulled in the driveway with a 19.4-mph average. I showered and put some work clothes on and headed out back… to find I was persona non grata for having gone on the ride in the first place.
I knew it was going to be a little sticky but it was a lot worse than anticipated… even though we got the place ready in plenty of time (enough time for a nap). I took my lumps (and will likely continue to for the foreseeable future).
It was worth it. Especially when we’re all stressed out and working our asses off to pull off an open house fourteen hours after tornados… Everyone else may have had their undies in a bunch because I missed out on helping by a half-hour or so, but I’d have been in a different space when the fit hit the shan had I not been smiling inside from that most excellent bike ride. A bike ride is always worth it.
Look, I get dressed in my road cyclist “stuff”, slap on a helmet, cycling shoes, slide on my sunglasses and some cycling gloves, and head out to roam the land in speed and comfort on my exorbitantly expensive, and exceptionally rewarding carbon fiber and aluminum alloy bicycle. Technically, you could say I go for a bike ride every evening.
You could, but you would be missing out on a bunch of corporate/millennial feel-good gibberish that takes going for a simple bike ride and turns it into some epic necessity of grandeur and awesomeness. I therefore humbly declare we no longer call them “bike rides”.
Forever more, because America’s corporate/millennial woke culture is so utterly phenomenal, a simple bike ride shall instead be referred to as “Quality me time seized and employed advantageously for the peaceful, sustainable surveyance of the vast beauty that is the United States of America [or insert your country of origin, because this shit is so fantastic we want to export it] via a carbon fiber, epoxy & aluminum alloy and titanium human-powered bipedal, bi-wheeled fun-machine.”
On second thought, maybe we should just stick with “bike ride”.
Oh, hey! While I’m thinking about it, Happy Impregnating Person’s Day. You think I’m kidding.
That’s the establishment donning their full-faced helmet, elbow, arm, shoulder, shin, knee, quad, chest pads and protective gloves, as they clench down on their bite guard and grip the throttle of their eBike , making a horrible, yet hilarious vroom! sound as they lock in their glare at the two-foot high ramp that sits before the kiddie pool containing two week-old small-spotted cat sharks and declare… “I got this!”