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We Interupt this Blog for an Indian Summer….

My friends, the weather is just too nice and it is not going to last.  We haven’t gotten the frost yet, but this is Michigan and I have a funny feeling we are going to pay for the last couple of mild winters this year…

Long story short, I’m out…

Doing this:

Making hay while the sun is shining…. I’ll be back Monday morning, 7am EST as usual.

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Cycling, Average Speed, and Finding One’s “Good Enough”…

Cycling, Average Speed, and Finding Your “Good Enough” (because I was lucky enough to find mine).  Maybe I should have titled the post “How I Found My Good Enough”?  Meh, anyway, as I was saying…

Fair (trigger, heh) warning, if you think this is going to be one of those “in the end zone, spike the ball” posts, I’m going to disappoint you – or if you enjoy someone else’s struggles, it may put a smile on your mug).  This is going to move more than Peter Sagan in a bunch sprint.

Getting my “good enough” was all about figuring out where I wanted to fit in the cycling world.  It was about figuring out where I wanted to be in relation to the others I ride with.  I make no bones about it, the only excuse for not being fast enough to hang with people who race for fun is “I don’t want to”.  It’s not that “I” can’t, or even “you” for that matter.  It’s not that we don’t have a good enough bike, it’s not that we’re too fat (or even a few pounds too heavy).  It’s all “want to”.  You either have the “want to” or you don’t – and no amount of butt-kissing or lying will change that.  The proper “want to” will fix anything.  Too fat?  I’ll have to knock off the sweets and burgers so I can keep up.  Problem solved.  It may take some time, of course, but if I want something bad enough, I’ll figure that $#!+ out.

My “good enough” centers around a group of friends.  Some of them are older, a few are younger.  Generally speaking, we’re all about the same fitness level, though a few of us are a little stronger than the rest.  The real trick is that we ride well together, and we ride together often.  We go on road trips together, dine together, and we laugh together.  A lot.


My “good enough” is not just riding with my friends though.  My “good enough” is riding well with my friends.  It’s being able to bridge gaps to help a friend who has fallen off the back, or chase my friends down to help one or more back (my friends have done this more than a few times for me as well).

My “good enough” is just a little bit better, so I can be of decent use to my friends because if we learn anything in recovery, it’s that you’re not really living until you’re of use to others.

My good enough is being a guy my friends want to have around, so we can have moments like this….

And see things like this…

As long as I’m fast enough for all of that, it’ll do for my “good enough”.

Don’t be Afraid (or Ashamed) of Who You Are… A Two-Wheeled Lesson on Life

When it comes to cycling, I’m a B guy.  I am a B guy because I don’t want to work hard enough to be an A guy (though it should be clarified, our A Group is ridiculously fast – 24 mph average on open roads).  I am more than content with 20-22 mph, which places me in the B Group.  This is who I am and I’m normally content with that.

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The other day I was hanging on with two of the A guys for the bunch sprint at the finish of our Tuesday night ride.  I wrote about the experience on Wednesday.  Now, I am one of the best B sprinters, there’s no doubt, but one of the A guys left me in the dust and crossed the line first by several bike lengths that night.  All I could do was watch him pull away.  As I wrote, “that’s the difference between an A and a B guy, right there”.

Most people would take that experience and turn it into a reason to revamp the training plan, to lose another five pounds, to eat better and work harder…. only to fall flat after a few weeks, and all based on getting beat by someone who happens to be a little stronger pedaling a bike.

I could do that to myself, but I won’t because I know something special: I don’t want to give up what that other guy has to in order to ride as fast as he does.  In the end, it all comes down to watts and “want to”.  Being faster or stronger won’t mean a thing when it comes to riding with my friends.  I’m already strong enough and fast enough to do more than my share for the group.  I’m healthy and my weight is under excellent control.  More important, I’m happy.

While the pursuit of better makes a great postcard, when it comes to cycling I’ve found something that I can call “good enough”.  I have no need to go any further or faster.  I am good enough for government work, as I like to say.

I recently had a friend from the A gang say to me, “I just rode a hundred miles and I didn’t enjoy one of them.”

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That won’t be me.  No amount of “fast” is worth that at my age.  That same day I rode a hundred miles and I enjoyed all but five of them.  That isn’t to say I wasn’t working hard, we still turned in a sub-five hour hundred miles, but my tongue wasn’t dangling down by my spokes either.

In terms of cycling, speed, and where I want to be in that mix, perspective is everything.

Such is life.  I can’t compare my totality, everything I “have” and everything I am, to someone else’s shiny exterior.  A friend of mine may have a nicer house, better vehicles, and a boat… but I also have to look at what he gives up to have all of that.  

If I’m not willing to give up what he does, well then it’s best to be content with what I’ve got.  I am.

The difference between riding hard in pain and riding hard to enjoy it….

Our B Group finished the annual Assenmacher 100 miler in 4:55.  It was awesome and we all had a good time.  The conversation was lively, a few of my friends and I were able to drop back and help friends out who lost parts of their bike on potholes (two water bottles and one drop bar mirror) get back to the group…  I participated in each of the three instances.

I know of no better compliment in group cycling than to be asked by your friends to help one of them bridge back to the group.

At no point during that ride did I want to sit up and soft-pedal home.  It wasn’t easy, of course, but I wanted that five hour century.  Our whole group was at least 20 strong and we nailed it….

We had time for moments like this, whilst still being able to hammer out a decent pace…

With the mild breeze, I managed to head up to the front of the group and snap a succession of photos for the group on the way back….

We stopped, at least momentarily, at each of the rest stops for a quick bite to eat and to refill water bottles.  We finished strong, smiling and together.  There were laughs and fist-bumps a plenty.

Contrast that with the A Group.  They had a different experience.  Their finishing time?

4:17 and some change.  23-1/2 mph average on open roads… And they only stopped twice in 101 miles.

Speaking with many from their group, who were sitting in the shade on the sidewalk when we pulled up, you were hard-pressed to find anyone who actually had a good time.  One friend of mine said that he rode for a hundred miles and didn’t enjoy one of them.  Another said they were riding so hard he didn’t have time to eat anything on the bike.  My friend Chuck dropped after just 30 miles saying they were nuts (we caught up to him at the 30 mile rest stop and he rode with us the rest of the way).

I have no doubt some in our group struggled at times.  One would expect that in a sub-five hour century.  Sure, we were a little slower, but at least we had fun – and that’s exactly why I choose to ride with the B Group.  I’d rather be a little slower and enjoy myself than be fast….  And I’m one of the lucky few who could be fast enough to hang with the A guys.  I choose not to.  This isn’t to say there’s something wrong with racing or riding that fast, there isn’t.  The key for me is to be happy and enjoy my time on the bike – and if I’m going to have fun and enjoy the ride, I know I can’t do it at 23+ mph.

To thine own self be true.

That said, a 4:17 on that course is really impressive.  Damn, that’s fast!

To Ride or Not to Ride? That is a Question.  Or is it?

It is the day before the big ride.  100 miles, you’re shooting for a five hour century.  Do you ride the day before or take the day off?

If you’re a runner reading this post, you’re shouting at your screen, “Take the day off, dummy!  You gotta taper!”

If you’re a cyclist and you know how to stack rides, you know that the best thing to do is ride, easy and at a moderate pace.  The second-worst thing you can do is ride hard, and the worst thing you can do is take a day off.

We don’t have to taper in cycling, dear.  It sounds wonderful and lovely but it’s all but entirely unnecessary.  

We rolled out at 7:18 am.  The days are growing shorter again, so we’re starting out a little later to let it brighten up a bit.  There was nothing spectacular or noteworthy about our ride, other than the fact that it was fun…. 

So here I sit, rested and ready to ride.  I’m on my second cup of coffee and I know I’m as ready as I can be to ride my best.  

If I’d have ridden hard yesterday, I would be fighting tight legs for the first ten or 20 miles.  Worse, with a day off, it would take half the day to spin my legs back up.  

I’ve taken two rain off since the beginning of July.  Thankfully, in my world the answer to the question in the title us almost always “To ride, of course.”

Thanks for playing.

One Good Reason to Add Cycling to Your Weight Loss Plan: Number 231

Reason Number 231 to add cycling to your weight loss plan:

I lost two pounds riding my bike.  Sunday.

A finely tuned weight loss machine. WARNING: Operating this machine may cause excessive smiling and could lead one to feel like a kid again….  No extra charge.

Enough said.

The One Cycling Rule the Avid Enthusiast can Ignore:  The Posterior Man Satchel, or Saddle Bag… Or Seat Bag.

Rule number 29 from the Velominati dictates we not use a saddle bag.  Up until Wednesday, I adhered to this rule.  I have, for the last several years, used a smart-looking pack that carries everything I need and fits in my middle back jersey pocket.  I will not, under any circumstances, put a saddle bag (or seat bag as they’re sometimes called, thank you Matt) on my Venge.  I had one on the bike and it looked like a Ballchinian from Men in Black.  I can’t live with that.

On the other hand, that back pocket pouch takes up some real estate in the pocket area that can be used for important things on a long tour, such as a rain jacket or arm warmers/knee warmers after it’s grown warmer as the day progresses.

I’ve got a four-day, 385 mile tour coming up in a few weeks and to tell the truth, I don’t like carrying everything in my back pocket on that trip.  It gets heavy and becomes a nuisance by the final day, so I am breaking with Rule 29.  Kind of.

Now, before you get all uppity, my defiance isn’t unprecedented.  There exists a carve out for the saddle bag:

…But, it’s still a saddle bag. While a functional, good looking one, the fact remains that any saddle bag looks worse than none at all. I can’t see it gracing my bike except for very long rides, when the maximum of gear needs to be carried. So if you’re going to mess with Rule #29, do it in style, keep it small, tidy and only filled with the bare essentials. I’m sure even an Apostle will back me up on this one.

Emphasis is mine….

My friends, there you have it.  My bike looks better without a posterior man satchel, there is no doubt:

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On the other hand, 385 miles in four days.  100+ miles a day for the first three and 72 on the fourth.  That qualifies as a long ride and as I said, I need that pocket real estate for more important things.

So, it was with great pride that I went to the shop the other day and picked out the first saddle bag I’ve used in years.  It does look a little goofy, but it beats carrying all of that crap around in my back pocket for four days!

***PS.  None of this post should be taken seriously.  The rules should even be read with an eye toward humor.  Still, a man can’t have a Ballchinian for a bike either!