Home » Sports
Category Archives: Sports
I started cycling and actually tracking mileage at 41, almost 42 years old so I’m shorting myself… meh, maybe 1,200 running miles but when you’re already above 65,000 what’s 1,200 between friends?!
At 50 years old I feel better than I ever thought possible. I wouldn’t say anything silly, like “I feel better at 50 than I did at 30″… I most certainly do not. However, between not drinking or using drugs, not smoking, eating a balanced diet and enough exercise to choke a horse, the equation isn’t exactly rocket science.
While a clean, active, happy existence isn’t a promise of longevity, if I’d kept up the way I was when I was a kid, there’s no question I’d be worm food already. According to doctors, I’ve been alive 20 years longer than if I’d kept drinking – my liver was that cooked.
Life, after sobriety, doesn’t necessarily come at me any easier but I sure do react to it a lot better – and therefore life itself is vastly better.
Let’s hope in another decade I’m celebrating another 60 or 70,000 miles… and continued recovery. Life does get better, as do I, if I work for it.
Enough that I feel sorry for those who wait for it to happen to them.
After riding my Trek for the B Group’s huge 24-mph best ever loop on Tuesday night and then for another excellent effort Thursday (we were expecting rain both nights), and with a fine wheelset now on the Trek, choosing between which bike to take becomes much more intricate. I’d always assumed choosing the Venge between May and October would be a no-brainer unless rain was called for. The Venge is better than two pounds lighter (1.2kg), it has 50’s on it… and look at it.
The Trek is a damn fine machine, though… there’s just something about its classic look…
Meh, I’ll have plenty of time to ride the Trek when the snow flies. I rode the Venge yesterday for what ended up being just shy of a 100k ride with friends at a 20-mph average. It was a beautiful day, if a little windy, but we worked the miles out so that we ate the vast majority of the headwind on the way out – a steady diet of 27 miles of headwind wore on us but we managed a healthy 18.5-mph average into the wind. Then we headed for home with a most fantastic push and the average climbed quickly. We ended up pulling into the driveway with a 20-mph average, on the nose. 61.27 miles in 3h:03m:31s
This is pretty indicative of the conditions we ride in between May and the middle of September. Over the last few years most of our roads were repaved so we are in the middle of being about as spoiled as a cyclist can get. Minimal traffic, maximum awesome tarmac, sunshine and cycling with good, competent group of friends.
So on tap for today, my weekday riding buddy, Chuck and I are going to ride out to the ride, about 16 miles each way, plus a 65 miler, so we’ll have to figure out where to add three more miles on the way home so we can get an even 100. The conditions will be some of the best we’ve experienced all year. Light breeze, partly cloudy, low 60’s at the start, rising only to the upper 70’s by the time we’re done, and with the wind increasing as the day goes so we get a better tailwind push home that we fight going out… plus 100 k of that ride I’ll be riding with my wife and the rest of my friends.
The only way life could get any better would be to do all of that and win the lottery. On thing is certain; I am a fortunate man. Call it a recovering drunk’s privilege. Or something. I may have to work on that. It doesn’t sound “victimy” enough. Chuckle.
With any luck, I’ll end up with almost 300 miles this week – and some fast miles at that! 118 of those miles were north of 20-mph… 57 were north of 21-mph, and 28 miles were north of 23. Life’s been a perfect storm of awesome. And I love it when that happens.
Does Bike Weight and Becoming A Weight Wienie Actually Matter? Does A Light Bike Help or Hurt A Cyclist? A Look at a Misleading Article on Bike Weight
First, I’m going to be straight up; bike weight matters. So does my once fat ass, and yours (fat or not). What’s the use in having an aero bike when one’s figure is anything but? Yes, pushing oneself away from the table is most important and the easiest, cheapest way to dial the weight factor down on the cyclist/cycle combination. This is all true.
The object of my weight wienie-ness…
I ran into an article on the Pros Closet that delves into the question of bike weight and whether it’s worth the cost. On reading the article, the author makes a fair case that being a weight wienie is expensive. It is. However, she gets into a little deception when bringing up the cost vs weight savings. She uses a 77 gram, $11 aluminum bottle cage as an example against a Specialized S-Works Zee Cage, $70. Now, she gives the proper cost of a carbon zee cage, but the photo she uses shows a $20 plastic zee cage being weighed. So you’re getting what looks to be a 36 gram difference for an additional cost of $59. It’s really a $9 difference in cost for that 36 grams (worth it). It gets better, though. A carbon zee cage weighs just 28 grams, a difference of 49 grams next to the alloy cage. Add two bottle cages together and you’ve got a little less than a quarter of a pound (but more than two tenths of a pound)… on just two bottle cages. Sure, you’re spending $140 for a couple of bottle cages, but two-tenths of a pound just on bottle cages?! I’d do it. Hell, I did it! Twice. I bought the Chinese cages for $18 each, though… so for an additional $7 a cage, I saved more than two-tenths of a pound. Without question, worth it.
Now, I only know all of this because I’m ridiculous and a little bit meticulous about trimming weight off my Specialized Venge. I’ve got an ultra-light stem (110 grams), an ultra-light S-Works crank, carbon pedals, the aforementioned carbon cages, carbon wheels, carbon handlebar, Ultegra drivetrain… Ultegra cassette, SRAM ultra-light chain… when I pulled that Venge out of the box, it weighed 18.8 pounds, not including pedals. It’s down to 15.8 (15.5 if I use the 110 gram carbon saddle I’ve got, but it’s just too uncomfortable). Now, can one feel the difference between three pounds? Abso-freakin-lutely. I can feel a pound, but only because I have so many miles on each of my bikes. That’s not the question, though. The question is, do those three pounds matter in terms of how fast I can get my bike down the road.
Because most of my fastest rides were on this:
An 18-1/2 pound, fully restored and updated 1999 Trek 5200. Not ironically, it has Blackburn carbon cages and those were expensive ($55 each).
It only worked that way, that most of my fastest rides are on the Trek, by chance, of course. It was due to weather. The Specialized is much faster – noticeably, tangibly faster. But the three pound difference, well, two-and-change now, doesn’t make much of a difference. I just have to work a little harder (and yes, I do and can feel the difference).
Let’s go one better, though. How about almost a five pound difference?
Now we’re looking at my Trek vs my gravel bike, a 23 pound Specialized Diverge. Now we’re talking some weight. Now, supposing I put some real road tires on that Diverge… can the “me” on the Diverge keep up with “me” on the Trek? No chance, no how, no way.
On my Trek, average estimated wattage for a 28-mile, 24-mph average ride is a whopping 273 watts. On the Diverge that adjusts to 399 watts… For an hour and ten minutes? Sign me up for the Tour de France. No chance I can hold that, no matter how big the draft. That’s a difference greater than most people can even pedal a bicycle (136 watts).
So my two cents on the subject is this; to an extent, the bike’s weight does matter, especially when you start getting into the really heavy bikes. It just doesn’t matter as much as some think (or maybe hope).
Now, one thing I did appreciate about the Pros Closet article is that the author looked at how light is too light – at which point does a lightweight bike mean a decrease in performance. I don’t have to worry about this problem because I’m not going to bother trying to get the Venge much lighter. It’s good enough for government work. However, at some point you’ll sacrifice stiffness to weight reduction and end up with a spaghetti bike. I can tell you this, that weight is below 15 pounds.
Besides, I think they were more talking about mountain bikes and durability in the article anyway (except one of the merchandizing office guys she quoted).
So there you have it. Of course a light bike will be slightly faster and a heavy bike will be considerably slower. The trick is your definition of light and heavy combined with how you’ll be riding said bike… and the depth of your bank account. In my case, every upgrad I made was worth it. Every pound I dropped, worth it. I just don’t have to delve any deeper.
Trigger (heh) warning: If you happen to be a sissy, the following might trigger you into sucking your thumb and curling up into the fetal position for anywhere from five minutes to several days. Do not read this post if this is something you’re capable of. I haven’t sucked my thumb since I was knee-high to a grasshopper (I think I was 3) and the last time I was in the fetal position, I was actually in the womb, a person like me would be reasonably safe to read what I’m about to write. You have been trigger (heh) warned.
My daughter, for my 50th birthday, baked me the most delectable carrot cake (with cream cheese icing, of course) to ever have passed my lips. It was one of those cake eating experiences that, because it’s so utterly fantastic, makes you close your eyes in ecstasy the first several bites.
So there I am last night, sitting on the couch after a big, fast Thursday night ride (36 total miles) and, because I’m so attuned to what my body is telling me, my body says, “Hey, yo! Down here! Hey, I need some carrot cake down here!”
Well, now that’s a reason to rejoice right there! My body says it needs carrot cake! Well, you know what happens next: I’m ass-deep in cream cheese icing when I realized I’d made a mistake in interpretation…
My body only asked for carrots. My melon filled in the “cake” part.
Cycling And Speed: There’s A Difference Between Knowing There’s A Hill… And Climbing The Hill; Beating The Mental Block To Being Your Best On A Bicycle
Who can forget when Neo just begins to discover he really is “the one“, when Morpheus utters that simple line, “There’s a difference between knowing the path and walking the path”, in the movie The Matrix (1999 [1999?!])?
So it is with cycling and speed. There’s a difference between knowing fast and cycling fast – actually doing it. The tone of this post should not be taken as one of braggadocio, but of humility. In cycling, the phrase there’s always someone faster was ever thus and shall always be. I am a very small fish in a very big pond… but I’m a small fish who also happens to be decent with a keyboard – and we are a rare breed, indeed.
First, I’m going to be straight up here. If you try to push your limits, you’re going to get dropped every now and again. You’re going to spend some miles crawling back after you’ve popped. How can you learn to pass your limit if you don’t know your limit in the first place?
Next, and this is a big one, you have to shove aside that negative self-talk and doubt bullshit. I know people near as strong as I am but talk themselves into hurting when they’ve got gas left in the tank. They’re miserable and struggling and I’m just cruising along. If ever there was a saying to embrace in cycling, “this too shall pass”. When I’m feeling a haggard, I know it’ll pass and I’ll feel at least a little better before long. There’s an ebb and flow to cycling at higher speeds. Try to concentrate on the flow a lot more than the ebb. In fact, let go of the ebb.
Save your good legs for the big days! If you’re one who lets a lack of confidence gnaw at you, for the love of God and all that is holy, good legs for good days. You don’t go out the day before a big ride and go hard. We mere mortals have to pick our battles. Of course, you don’t take a day off either. The day before a big ride is perfect for an active recovery day. You’ll want to be slow enough that you get a little antsy about whether or not you should be trying a little harder. If ever there was a day to take a few pictures along your route, the day before a big day is it. Chill out and ride on the bar-tops a bit.
Eat, but don’t be all crazy about it. Carb-loading is great and all, but you can only store so much “carb” before it becomes “fat”. An extra slice of pizza? Great. An extra pizza? Not so much. If you feel like crap when you clip in, you’ll be thinking about that extra pizza weighing you down. Cue confidence train wreck and you dropping off the back, dejected. Don’t do that to yourself.
Now, finally, repeat after me: I am a badass. I’m a horse. I am fast. I am strong.
Now get out there and hammer it out.
Road Cycling, Comfort, and the Setup of a Road Bike; A Detailed Overview of the Bike Setup Pitfalls that Effect Comfort
In the photos above, I’m on two entirely different race bikes. On the left, I’m in front of the guy in black and florescent yellow on my secondary “rain” bike, a standard 58 cm frame, in the drops. On the right, I’m at the back in the red and black on my good bike, a compact 56 cm frame, on the hoods. If you use the stack and reach method of measuring a bicycle, where you measure off set objects (a wall or the floor), the setup on both bikes are almost identical (saddle is the same height off the ground, same distance from the wall, handlebar same height off the ground, etc.). There are a couple minor differences, but they don’t effect the ride of either bike.
And it’s taken one hell of an education to get my bikes to where they’re comfortable. With this post, I’m hoping to shorten the time span it takes to accrue the knowledge and simplify the intricacies.
size of bike/frame
I can’t think of much more important than frame size when it comes to the comfort of a bicycle – and a road bike is that much more important because once a cyclist finds out how much fun the speed is, said cyclist will spend a lot of time on said bicycle. With the wrong frame size, compensations must be made in order to get a person on the bike in something that mimics comfort but isn’t quite it. For examples of what not to do, click here. Actually, I’ve got my bikes on there too, as what to do, also. Now, where this gets interesting is when you look at my knowledge, which is exceptional for an avid enthusiast, contrasted with someone who builds/built bike frames for a living. Folks, I know a lot about bikes but I’m an ignoramus next to a frame builder when it comes to knowing the angles and tube lengths, etc., etc. The owner of our local shop put my wife on a 54 cm Alias when I was sure she’d need a 56 (she’s 5’10”). My standard frame race bike is a 58 while my compact frame race bike is a 56. A qualified person will take angles and geometry into account that we mere mortals simply don’t have the equations for. Unless you really know what you’re doing, it might be best to leave frame size to the pros.
saddle fore/aft position
This is an easy one. Keeping in mind that the setup of a time-trial or triathlon bike is different, a standard road bike position is fairly simple. With the crank arms parallel to the ground and you in the proper position on your saddle, the leading edge of your front knee should be directly over the pedal spindle. Use a level or a plumb-bob to line you up. It’s as easy as that.
The saddle width can be an enormous issue that, if too wide, can lead to severe pain. Look at me. Severe. Said pain will radiate all the way down into the hamstrings and you’ll think something else is the problem. It happened to me. Whether or not you’ve had problems, I can’t recommend getting measured enough. It’s a really big deal.
With the fore/aft position squared away, we’re going to dial in the saddle height. This shouldn’t blow up anyone’s skirt, but saddle height matters. Too high and you’ll feel like you’ve got a saddle stuck in your butt. Too low and your power output will suffer. Also, as a rule of thumb, if the front/top of your knee(s) hurt, lower the saddle. If the back/bottom of your knee(s) hurt, raise it. With your bike on a trainer, put your heels on the pedals. Your legs should straighten out – perfectly straight – without rocking your hips. Micro-adjust from there (and re-check the fore/aft position).
crank arm length
Short crank arms aren’t a pain/comfort issue as much as long crank arms are. Long cranks are a huge problem if your legs are too short. I’m 6′ and I could take a 175 or a 172.5 – I go with the shorter. My wife is a 170, she’s 5’10” but has shorter legs. I have a friend, Jason, who just found out that, at 5’7″, he’s a 170 and that 172.5’s are painful. Suffering through short cranks isn’t such a big deal, you simply spin more and don’t get as much leverage on the pedals. Too long is a huge problem and, if left unchanged, can lead to severe knee problems.
If your cockpit is too short, you end up jammed and can’t breath right. Too long and you’ll ride in weird positions because reaching for the hoods or drops isn’t comfortable. If you prefer to ride hands on bar top rather than hoods, you’ve got a problem. The problems poor cockpit sizing can cause are almost too numerous to list. Numb hands, sore shoulders, sore neck, sore ass… sore just about anything else.
width of handlebar
Now this one might be a bit of a surprise. Handlebar width, typically 42-mm for a male, 40-mm for a female, is one of those issues that won’t appear to be a big deal until you ride a bike that has your proper handlebar. I rode, comfortably, a 44 for years before settling into a 42 and heaven on a bicycle. Riding on a bar that’s too wide or slim didn’t present any pain problems, but the proper width sure felt better.
reach and drop of handlebar
The reach and/or drop of the handlebar can be a factor if the cockpit isn’t quite set up properly. Case in point; my gravel bike. I bought a 56 cm Specialized Diverge because my Venge is a 56. What I didn’t know is that the gravel bikes have a relaxed setup to them so I didn’t have the same reach on both bikes. The Diverge was more upright. I put on a longer stem but it’ wasn’t quite long enough (though that was by design – I didn’t want to ride so low I’d have a tough time seeing and dodging potholes). Then, out of the blue, I decided to buy a Bontrager aero handlebar for my rain bike. That meant the standard bar I had on the Trek could be swapped for the compact bar that came on the gravel bike. Just like that, my cockpit issues were fixed. Switching from a compact to a standard bar made my gravel bike a lot more enjoyable to ride.
location of hoods/levers on handlebar
Now this one’s a little on the tricky side. To be “stylish”, the hoods should be parallel to the ground. Sometimes this simply won’t work as you end up putting too much weight on your hands. If your hands go numb, or you have other problems, you might want to try raising or lowering your hoods relative to the handlebar. I raised my hoods on my Trek a bit and the bike went from “meh” to “spectacular” just like that.
In that last item about the location of the hoods, equally important is the rotation of the handlebar relative to the ground. Basically, you want the drop portion of the bar close to or maybe not quite level to the ground. You don’t want the bar rotated enough that the bar ends are pointing up to the rear of the bike – you’ll be overcompensating for another problem by doing this. Fix the other issue rather than rotating the bar too far forward (see above and below).
pedals, shoes and cleats
The cleat setup on a shoe is so vastly important it’s hard to understate just how meticulous the setup process is and its value to creating a comfortable ride. Eventually, with enough miles on the saddle, you might become good enough to work on your cleat position (I do), but the best answer to cleat and pedal setup is to use ISSI cleats which are compatible with Look Keo pedals and cleats. The ISSI cleats are two-piece, so one piece can be removed at a time, insuring exact placement ever time you change your cleats. For my initial setup, when I buy a new pair of shoes, I always have the owner of our local bike shop set mine.
We rolled out Sunday morning with a small but lively group with a goal of just 45 miles at an easy, fun pace.
Yet another Sunday Funday on the tandem, my wife and I lighting up the front. We kept the pace steady, around 20-mph, the first 13 miles but Diane and my wife both had to stop to use a port-john before we got to town so three single started rolling a few minutes before we took off out of the school parking lot. We took it easy starting out but I fell into chase down mode and we took to reeling my friends in. After a nasty (but shallow and short) incline that my wife hammered up, we started putting down the serious watts. We had a sprint coming up in a few miles and it’s perfect for a tandem. We pulled around the lead group with about a mile to go and kept ratcheting the pace up to be discouraging to anyone wanting to come around. It didn’t work.
We pounded down the hill, shifting as we went until we settled into a good gear. The other tandem had come around as well as three of the single bikes and we were two lengths behind. Once everyone cleared us I figured my wife would ease up but she wanted the City Limits sign. She was laying out some power, so I gave it everything I had. In the stretch to the sign, we overtook all three single bikes at 34-mph and pulled along side the second tandem… but we needed another ten seconds. The got us at the line by a half-length. It was a good effort.
After a short stop at our normal gas station, we rolled out into the morning sun. It was starting to warm up but we had virtually no wind. The rest of the ride, up until about 43 miles when both our butts had had enough, was fantastic and we ended up pulling into the driveway with 45 miles and some change at 18.6-mph. That was speedy for a Sunday Funday on the tandem. And all was well.
I went out with a couple of friends and helped one of ours clear out some big items out of his garage. It was well over 90° and the sun was hammering us, but it was worth helping a friend out. We ended up working from noon till 3:30 or so. It was some hard work but we all felt pretty good about helping a friend out. After showering up, we had a fantastic dinner (grilled chicken and sweet potatoes along with a salad). I put on Aquaman after and drifted off sometime in the special features and slept like a baby through the night.
We’re still muddling our way through COVIDcation, but I can’t complain. It was a fantastic weekend of family, friends, sun, swimming, food and fun… and that most important aspect we celebrated the day before; Freedom.
It was going to be a hot one. We all knew it. 94° (34 C), sunny, barely a breeze and 64-ish miles. Where can I sign up for that! Actually, I’m completely acclimated to the heat now, so I was good to go. I readied my ’99 Trek 5200 because, ‘Merica (the bike was literally made in the USA – not “assembled”, not “designed”… actually made in the US). I’d prepped my bike and loaded Jess’s on the car rack. I wanted the extra miles and my wife was pretty sure I was crazy.
It took me a minute to get rolling, but once the legs warmed up from the previous day’s 19.7-mph 100k, after about a mile, I was able to pick the pace up considerably and tore off down the road. I wanted to start the actual 100 k with an average above where we’d likely end up so I didn’t taint the overall average with a slow warm-up. I arrived at the school parking lot with a 19.6-mph average and a smile on my face. I was ready to go.
The roll-out was slow and enjoyable and we increased pace to 20-mph within a quarter-mile or so, once everyone caught up. The route isn’t quite “pancake” flat, but it’s close (1,000 feet [300-ish meters] of up in 69 miles). Conditions were pretty close to perfect with no wind, a little cloud cover and temps in the low 70’s (22 C). “Fun” doesn’t quite do it justice. Perfect is pretty good, though.
We had a fantastic group and this was more a parade lap than an attempt at a speed record. There were conversations through the whole double pace-line with friends catching up with each other.
This year’s Firecracker 100 was why I ride a bike in the first place.
We picked up Matt about 14 miles in and Greg, a tremendous A Group cyclist, caught up us about 20-ish miles in. Greg is the rare A rider who could walk away from us at any point during a ride but can adjust his pace and power to ride with us like he’s one of the gang. I can do this with the B Group, but I’m only an A- anyway – and I’d struggle to do the same with a C Group.
Sadly, the ride wasn’t without its complications. My wife had a shifter cable break right in the middle of a climb so her rear derailleur dropped to her highest gear in the middle of a climb. It was a mess. We ended up looping the cable back through the lock bolt, then looping the extra cable around the derailleur to keep it from sucking into the wheel to give her a more suitable middle gear and she headed for home with Mike, Joe and Matt.
Then the pace picked up.
The last 25 miles were pretty much about as fun as I can remember having on a bicycle. There wasn’t much talking because, speed, but that’s right where I like it. Just fast enough I’m wondering if I’ll be able to take a decent turn and just slow enough I end up at the front for two or three miles.
We pulled into the parking lot with 64-ish miles (69-ish for me). It was smiles and “socially distanced” “almost hi-fives” all around. There’s no question it was a hot one, but it was a heck of a start to our 4th of July celebrations. I was grateful for being me all day long.
It’s Sunday Funday today, so 40-ish miles on the tandem and hopefully some easier miles. More on my wife’s shifter later. It’s a mess – like, “new shifter” mess. I’ve got her gravel bike set up for the road for now.
Strava Hits A Bottom of the Ninth, Two-Out, GRANDSLAM with Turn-By-Turn Route Importing… It’s As Easy As Starring a Route.
I finally started paying for Strava over the last set of changes to their free service. Who can afford to offer their service for free? I’d never be so generous (unless you happen to be an addict or alcoholic who has a desire to quit, then I’m “shirt off my back” generous – I’ve given my only bike to a guy who needed one to get to work).
I’m glad I’ve got access to the full line of services. One upgrade they just came up with changed their relationship with Garmin forever. It once was, if you wanted to import a route into your Garmin Edge 520 Plus (or better)… well, you’d be better off using Ride With GPS. You’d export your file to the desktop of your computer, hook up your Garmin with a USB cable and transfer that file to the proper folder. It was fast and fairly simple if you knew what you were doing – and if you had a laptop.
You still need the laptop if you’re on the free Strava service (you can’t create a route through the app unless you’re a paying member) and a computer even helps speed things up if you’re a paying member.
Bring up a ride that you want to make into a route. Click the triple dot then select “create route”. Edit the route if you wish, name the route, and save the route. Then click on “Dashboard” and select my routes. Make sure the new route is “starred”. You’re done. The next time your Garmin hooks up to your phone, the route will automatically download to your Garmin.
Like I said, homerun. Granny tater in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and a full count.
Now you can do more of this:
And less tinkering on a stinkin’ computer.
Happy Freedom Day, America. Though Her Citizens Have Their Flaws, Freedom For All Was Always the Point
The best of America is the freedom of her citizens. The beauty of its constitution and bill of rights is what makes it all work – and it’s what politicians fight tooth an nail to ignore and misrepresent, for one simple reason: they want us angry and divided so we’ll vote.
I won’t be commenting anymore on that. I will on what is great about America.
In the United States, we are one of the only countries in the World whose rights aren’t handed down from the government. We, unlike anywhere else on earth, are born with our rights or they are a natural part of taking the oath of Citizenship. It obviously took politicians a while to figure that simple truth out, but it did happen.
Other countries hand down citizens’ rights from on high and what is given, can be taken away. Not so in the United States of America and this presents a problem for politicians.
In this country, our rights come from God. We are born free and it’s the government’s job to protect that freedom. The angst in Washington DC is that political elites think of themselves as better than that.
If your politicians are not doing their job protecting your freedom, throw the bums out. More important, if your politician likes to interject themselves between you and your freedom, claiming without them you can’t truly be free, don’t let them run a lemonade stand. If you’re American, you were born with your rights. If you’re an immigrant, you granted yourself your own rights the minute you took the oath of Citizenship. They weren’t handed down to you, they’re yours. Don’t ever let a politician come between you and your freedom. Once you let that happen, they can take it away.
Happy Freedom Day America… and the same to all her citizens. All of them.