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The Number One Reason the Garmin Varia is the Best Taillight on the Market

I’ve been riding with a Garmin Varia now for the better part of a season and I can say without question, it’s been a fantastic addition to my cycling gadget collection. I love my radar.


So, how this works is, the Varia picks up traffic that’s moving toward you, but only traffic faster than you. This includes cyclists. If, however, that traffic is moving at the same rate of speed you are, say you’re in a group on a club ride, that isn’t detected. This gives the appearance that it’ll pick up a car but not another cyclist – it’s not that complex – it just picks up whatever is moving faster than and toward you.

I’ve also written posts about how I use the Varia’s onscreen display to keep vehicles from buzzing me. Since starting this tactic, I haven’t been buzzed once.

How I use my rear-facing radar to avoid being buzzed isn’t the best feature, though.

The best feature is that the light changes its flashing pattern as a car approaches. With the changing pattern, it automatically draws a motorists eyes as they seek to put together what’s going on – because no other light on the road changes patterns. This means you’re noticed, and for cyclists, being seen is everything.

I use my Varia on all of my bikes, almost every time I ride, except Tuesday nights. I figure if a motorist can’t see 20 cyclists cruising down the road in a double pace-line, well, we never had a chance anyway and a blinky wasn’t going to help.

I’ve used standard blinky lights in the past, as well – my favorite used to be a Serfas Thunderbolt (my wife still uses one) – but nothing compares to having a radar on your bike that shows you where traffic is, and changes its pattern as traffic approaches.

Current models are running about $200 in addition to your Garmin Edge 520 Plus or better, which is the minimum it can pair with (it’s gotta have bluetooth capability). They’re worth every penny.

I almost forgot! My wife and I and some of my regular riding friends were in a commercial…

The ad ran locally during the TdF for our local bike shop. We did something like ten takes, up and down Denton Hill to get everything in. Considering the theme of my post yesterday, the message in the commercial fits right in.

All Hail Venge Day! Dilly Dilly!

My friends, I shouldn’t have ridden the Venge yesterday but this winter just sucks and I needed a win.

All day long the weather looked beautiful. Beautiful. Visions of me on my Venge, rocketing down the road kept the melon committee excited all day. I couldn’t wait.

On the way home that beautiful weather took a turn for the worse. The temp dropped six degrees inside a few miles. And it started to snow. SNOW!  Not hard, mind you, but snow!

I texted my buddy, Chuck, dejected, to let him know I was riding inside.

I prepped the Trek, changed rear wheels, got dressed and climbed on. The sun came out. F@€k.

Then a knock on the window. What to my wondering eye should appear, but a Lycra clad Chuck and his steed of Specialized cheer! He said through the glass, “C’mon, man! Let’s go! Throw a leg over that top tube and remember to steer!”

I opened the door to let him in. He talked me into riding with him in less than thirty seconds. With the Trek on the trainer, there was no doubt I was taking the Venge. I pumped the tires, went in to change, and was ready five minutes later.

The first pedal stroke (and every one thereafter) was glorious. Smooth and powerful… responsive. Dear God in Heaven, and sweet Baby Jesus in a manger, it was beautiful.

I didn’t stop smiling till after I took the photo above.

All is right in my world today, for tomorrow night (tonight) shall be deemed Venge Day part Deux! Oh yes it shall.

Dilly dilly!

P.S. If you don’t feel this way about something in life (preferably that something is legal, decent and noble), consider that you may be doing something wrong. Just sayin’.

P.S.S. A special thanks to you, Chuck.  I never would have been outside without you, brother.

I’m Thinking About Getting Drastic with My Trek for a Year…

I was just sitting here thinking about nothing much when my mind wandered into what I might want to do differently this year for cycling. I’ve gone wireless in the past, opted to go without a speedo for a while…

With that new saddle I’ve been testing out I’ll have the Venge down to the low 15 pound range – light enough that getting lighter really doesn’t matter anymore – especially for an aero bike. In fact, the only way I could get the Venge any lighter is to go very drastic; tubular tires/wheels (call it $3,000) and a Dura Ace groupset (another $1,600-ish)… and I’d only drop a half to three-quarters of a pound from where I’m at already. Even if I had that kind of money, and I don’t, why?

On the other hand, and I’m just spit-balling here, what if I put the carbon wheels and the good saddle on the Trek?! I’m in the mid 18 pound range with the normal setup on the bike. With the carbon fiber wheels and the 110 gram saddle… It’d be down to the high 17 pound range… Not bad considering the bike was 20 pounds not too long ago.

So what would it be like to hang the Venge up for a year and ride the Trek with all of the good equipment on it?

Now that’s something to contemplate!

The only down side is what would I do for a rain bike? Swapping out the wheels would definitely be a chore if there was a chance of rain. To put rain wheels on the Trek, or alloy wheels, I’d have to swap brake pads and adjust the pad height so the pads hit the brake track on the alloy wheels every time there was a chance of a shower. Folks, I think that’s a little too much work. Still, I wonder, what would my Trek look like decked out in the finest? The notion is pretty compelling…

I have to admit, as a recovering drunk/addict, it is awesome to have my problems today!

And that is definitely sexy.

The First Commandment of Recovery: Thou Shalt Enjoy the Life that was Saved.

I was on my Trek last evening after a full day of work, cruising down the road, the concerns of the day in the background for a short time. I wasn’t riding particularly fast, in fact I was into a bit of a headwind. I felt good, and thankful for recovery and my fitness.

I am grateful that I enjoy my life today.

It wasn’t always so, of course. My life used to be pain, fear, anger… wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then oblivion. But oblivion stopped working. More was the answer, I thought. If a lot isn’t enough, too much oughta be just right.

It was worse. Much worse. We’re not a glum lot though, and I surely won’t be dwelling on how “worse” it got, so moving on…

My main goal at the beginning of recovery was just to stop the pain. Then, once the pain subsided from rigorous stepwork, came working those same steps at the rest of my life. Then, when I’d finally made room in my melon, came happiness.  After my metabolism took a long jump off a short pier, fitness – and recovery got a lot more enjoyable.

That’s about where I was in my melon when I hit the tailwind (that’s really how I think, a bit of the pattern, if you will). You know life is going well when you’re grateful bucking a headwind because when you finally hit a tailwind, it really gets fun.

I opted for bonus miles.

A shower, some pizza, water, water filtered through ground up coffee beans, and a couple of hours watching the TdF…

If it gets better than that, one day at a time, I don’t know how.

The goal for recovery shouldn’t be just to sober or clean up.  That’s a first year goal, but recovery is meant to be bigger than quitting.  I believe we are saved from addiction to enjoy this life, while we’ve got it, and pass on our experience to others that it might help them find happiness on the path as well.

Thou shalt enjoy the life that was saved.

Is Lance Armstrong “Cycling’s Greatest Fraud”?

I watched a video on YouTube the other day that labeled Lance Armstrong cycling’s greatest fraud. How true is that though?

Look, I’m not going to try to explain away what Armstrong did. He doped and he’s a cheater, he lied about it. On the other hand, has anyone ever not lied about it until they were absolutely f***ed into a corner? No. He also did just like most in cycling back then – lest we forget the huge French doping bust the year before he first won a TdF. There’s no doubt and no arguing against the fact that he cheated, but cycling’s biggest fraud?

Please. Let’s back off from the hyperbole for just a second.

Eddy Merckx, the greatest cyclist of all time, was caught doping three times more often than Armstrong (that’s 3 for Eddy, 1 for Lance). In 1998 a French team was caught with a whole entire car-load full of dope. If you actually listen to those in the know, the vast majority of teams were doping back then, it was just what you did. There’s a truckload of athletes in the mix with him, too. Cyclists, football players, baseball players… Take your pick.

See, here’s my problem: With all of the hyperbole surrounding Armstrong, and the “he is the worst cheater ever” crowd, it never rises above emotion. There’s no reason he’s the worst ever, he just is and I’m at fault for some crazy reason because I actually need a reason, not just a bunch of emotion.

I watched that whole documentary and I didn’t see anything that resembled evidence making him “worse” than any other of the cheaters except… that he was a better liar than Floyd Landis. Floyd admittedly sucked at lying.

In other words, take the emotion out and you’ve got another doping cyclist and a great liar. Just like every other doping cyclist. Except Floyd Landis.

Armstrong isn’t cycling’s greatest fraud – any cyclist who dopes fits that bill.

Call him the sport’s biggest “liar, liar, pants on fire” or even “cycling’s nastiest meany pants” but he’s no more a fraud that everyone else who cheated… which is basically almost every pro.

Look at it this way, prior to 2007, I know of two male pro cyclists who didn’t cheat. Two. Greg LeMond and that other guy. I don’t remember his name. Ironically.

One final note… if you have to hate Armstong, hate him for this:

Cycling on Steroids; There’s a Reason the Pros Choose to Cheat.  Allow Me to Explain….

I was on steroids for a little more than a week for poison ivy.  I have no idea why they put people on steroids for poison ivy, I just know it took the itch from 11 down to a reasonable 6.  It was unbearable at 11.  Spinal Tap 11.

Being a cyclist and being on steroids was an incredibly interesting experience as fitness goes.  I now understand why the Pros cheat.  The difference is not small – and I wasn’t even on the good stuff.

Now let’s bring the downer into this first.  Stay on roids too long and your body will eventually kick you in the groin.  Figuratively and literally.  Diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, etc., etc., holy moly, etc.  Now, this is just for steroids used to treat medical issues, anabolic steroids are a whole different mess but I’m going to keep it simple because I’m not a doctor… and the chances are, you aren’t either.  The following is my experience with being on Prednisone for nine days, cycling all the while….  With a gnarly poison ivy rash.  Hey, you’re gonna itch anyway, may as well do it with a smile on my face.

Day one.  Height 6′ tall, on the nose.  Weight 180.5 pounds.  Three 20 mg tablets of Prednisone.  The itching from my poison ivy didn’t subside right away but I felt an extra jolt of energy that was surprising.  I went for a ride that evening and it was AMAZING.  I was pressed for time so it was only 16 miles but it was supposed to be an easy pace in preparation for the big weekend.   There was no speed record but the easy 16 miles only took 50 minutes (19 mph pace).

Day two.  Weight 181.  Three more 20 mg tablets of Prednisone.  On waking I noticed I didn’t hurt.  No muscle aches, no pains, no “age pain”, and the itching of my poison ivy was mercifully reasonable.  I woke up at 2:00 am, for no good reason, but I felt quite amazing.  I had half a day’s work done before I would normally wake up on a Friday.  My energy was through the roof.  39 miles with my wife and friends, 18.3 mph.  I spent most of the ride up front.

Day three.  Weight 187.5 pounds.  Three 20 mg tablets of Prednisone.  187.5 pounds?!  Seriously?  Yep.  Woke up at 2 am again.  Still, I felt awesome and we were getting into the big weekend miles.  I did freak about my weight though.  I did a search on the internet to try to figure out what the hell.  Turns out weight-gain is common.  Damn did it suck though.  60-1/2 miles, 18-1/2 mph pace, I spent a TON of time up front.  No pain, no soreness, the whole ride, I felt spectacular.  Indescribably spectacular.

Day Four. 187.5.  Two tablets today, the dose starts to diminish. Up at 2 am again.  This is getting freaking old, in a hurry.  On the other hand…. UNLIMITED POWER!!!!  That 60 miles yesterday should have hurt… something.  Nope.  Zero pain, zero creaks…  I feel like I’m 20.  My energy is still through roof.  Another 48 miles and change, up front much of the ride.  Trying to make up for the lack of sleep at night with naps now.  I’m tired but have too much energy to sleep more than 4 hours at night.

Day Five.  Two tablets.  187.5 pounds.  Four hours of sleep.  Again.  My wife is starting to notice that I’m irritable.  I have zero patience.  Rain day so no cycling.  Legs feel frickin’ awesome – hell, my whole body feels amazing.  Lack of sleep is really getting to me, though I did manage an extra hour.

Day Six.  Same thing.  Carbon copy.  Mountain bikes because it was too windy, cold and crappy.

With Day Seven the dose dropped again and I gained another hour of sleep.  Still heavy and feeling chubby.  I felt awesome though and my weight did start to drop again.  Down to 185.  Day Eight I was down to 183.
The big change came on day 10.  No more steroids.  58 miles on the bike and the last ten miles hurt.  I feel like me again and that’s kind of a bummer.  There is no desire to try to “get more”.  I know me better than that.  Tomorrow is going to be tough.  Another 60….

61-1/2 actually, and it did hurt.  210 miles in six days, due to a rain day and a short Tuesday.  I can feel it too.

That is the difference and the allure of steroids;  Exercise doesn’t hurt the same.  I’m 46 years-old, and a young 46 at that, but I’m no spring chicken.  When I put in a hard workout, I pay for it.  On Prednisone it was all push, no pay.  All I can say is I wish I could feel that good naturally.

How good, specifically?  Good enough I no longer fear poison ivy.  In fact, I might have to make getting a poison ivy rash part of my normal springtime training.

I’ll bet you think I’m kidding.

Actually, I am, but only barely.  The pull to recover fully and quickly, with a cherry on top of a good jolt of energy (on par with a few good cups of coffee, that doesn’t fade after 30 minutes) is strong… and my livelihood doesn’t depend on my performance on a bike.  I just ride for fun.  To put a bow on this post, I was better off ignorant of the benefits of ‘roid use.  It was easier to maintain my righteous indignation.