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Road Cycling and Saddle Height; Down to the Last Millimeter

I’ve been struggling, a happy struggle mind you, with the saddle on my Trek 5200. Specifically, the height of said saddle on said 5200.  The fore/aft location is darn-near set in stone, as I prefer my kneecap to line up with the pedal spindle per the normal setup of a road bike.

First, that Montrose Pro carbon saddle is one fine saddle and some the best money I’ve spent on that bike went to that saddle. It’s got the perfect blend of lightweight, flexibility, and padding for a long distance saddle. I can even wear my thinner chamois bibs for 70+ mile rides on it – bibs I once only wore for 25-35 mile rides on inferior saddles.

My biggest issue has been getting the height dialed in so my Trek feels like my Specialized, though.  So, second would be the disclaimer that I’m notoriously picky about saddle height. Obsessive isn’t really a good word, but it comes pretty close to reality.

When I picked the saddle up, I first set it just a touch too high (my measurement is exactly 36-3/8″). I lowered it once because my keister was hurting. Then I lowered it another bit because it still hurt my heinie and by that time, my back was hurting and starting to seize up on me every now and again.  The second lowering did the trick, and that’s where I left it for DALMAC. I rejoiced for the weekend because the saddle felt excellent, with only a minor flareup of baboon @$$.

It wasn’t until I got back and rode the Venge a few days, then took the Trek out once more, that I realized the saddle on the Trek was a little too low. It felt it at the time, but in reality, it wasn’t by much.  It just felt… off.  It felt like I wasn’t getting my full leg extension, that I was working just a little too hard.

Well, Saturday afternoon I raised the saddle up to test my theory, thinking maybe I lowered it too much the last time. I didn’t raise it much, maybe 1-1/2 to 2 millimeters:

With the heightened chance of rain on Sunday, I rode the Trek. At first he saddle height felt right, or better at least.  I was definitely getting full leg extension, and I felt a bit stronger.  40 miles in, I was antsy in the saddle and my back pain started in again.  I knew I’d raised it too much. There was too much pressure on the sit bones. On coming back, I split the difference and lowered it by about half… and nirvana!

I rode with my buddy, Chuck Monday night, picking my lightest pair of bibs, and I could tell instantly, I nailed it.  Finally.

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I almost can’t believe it, the infinitesimal amount I’m talking about, but I’m here to tell you, that millimeter made a difference (actual difference once I lowered the saddle is half the gap shown above between the seat post and the marker line).

So here’s what was messing me up; having the saddle high helps keep your butt up and your head down – it’s aerodynamic.  Having the saddle up also allows for a stronger pedal stroke.  Unfortunately, having the saddle too high also hurts like hell.

Does it help that I’ve got the Venge to contrast what I’m feeling on the 5200?

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*Does it or doesn’t it help to have a phenomenal race bike to contrast my other bikes against?  Look, this is going to be a matter of perspective.  It’s more a blessing than a curse as I see it.  Having the Venge to match the Trek to has made the Trek a significantly better bike.  I never could have gotten it to where it is, as fast as I did, without the Venge.  Mrs. Bgddy might disagree with that assessment as it pertains to cash, though.  Ouch.

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Cycling Legs; What They Are and How to Get Yours

The most valuable things I’ve acquired in all my years of cycling, other than happiness, contentment, and exceptional fitness, some awesome bikes, of course, are my cycling legs.  They’ve been just as important as the bikes I’ve chosen to ride.

Back in 2012, when I was just a pup, one of my friends mentioned that it would take about three years of solid, heavy miles to attain my “cycling legs”.  I didn’t know exactly what he meant back then, but I sure know now…

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This photo was taken at approximately 24-mph.  My friend, Doug, having just come off the front after a 2-mile pull, is obviously no worse for the wear and my friends are looking quite comfortable.  We’re 50 miles into a 100 mile day, after riding 100 the two previous days.

If we had to define “cycling legs”, it’s when one acquires the legs needed to put in the miles one wants to put in, without having to worry about the ability to complete a difficult ride (or several in a row).

For instance, after the four-day tour mentioned above, I didn’t take the day after off.  No, I went for a ride with my friend, Mike.  It was certainly an easy pace and we didn’t go very far, but we were out riding nonetheless (37 miles at 17.5-mph).  The day after I turned in a 21-mph effort on Tuesday night for the club ride (though I dropped off the back after 11-ish miles because I didn’t feel like working that hard – we were above 22 for the average when I dropped).  I didn’t take a day off till it rained that Friday.

That’s having your cycling legs.

So, how does one acquire them?

Well, that’s a little easier said than done.  Going all the way back to 2011, my first year on a bike, I put in 1,820 miles for the year.  Not near enough to begin working on my cycling legs.  2012 was much better at 5,360 – really, that was the first year that mattered.  2013 I barely broke the year before with 5,630.  2014 was the year I really took off, though; 6,000-ish (I didn’t keep any records that year, so I guessed low – 2015 was 7,620 and 2016 was 8,509… I’d say I guessed low by about 1,000 miles, give or take).  It was the three years in a row, north of 5,000 miles, that really got me there.

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Cycling legs are half physical and half mental.

The physical part of cycling legs is simply getting the miles on your saddle to get your body prepared for the regular load we put on them as cyclists.  That’s the easy part, and I felt different once I got my legs under me.  Now, I’m particular about what I’m feeling – I pay acute attention, so I knew within a month of when I hit my stride.  I didn’t hurt the same after a big effort.  I tended to recover a lot faster from hard efforts and could expect more out of my legs.

The mental side of cycling legs is knowing that if you go out for a 100k (or some other distance) ride, you’ll make it back home.   It isn’t “hoping”, or “speculating”, it’s knowing.  Not only that, it’s knowing how hard you can push yourself before you crack.  There are some extenuating circumstances, of course.  Maybe you bonk or you cramp up… but even in those situations, you know you’ll be able to spin home without too much trouble.

There’s one word that really encompasses the whole gamut; experience.

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I’ve been there, done it, got the t-shirt and worn it out – now I use it to clean my chains.  That much experience.

Day One of My Specialized Strike – Specialized Forgot the Number One Rule in Cycling

Specialized signed on to the pie in the sky “Global Climate Strike” where a bunch of Kool-Aid drinking crumb crunchers decided they needed to “strike” by skipping school because they’re ignorant enough to believe they want an end to the use of fossil fuels. 100% wind and solar is the goal. They only forget to mention one thing; in order to power everything as we know it, 100% of the world will have to be blanketed by solar panels and wind turbines. No room for farming, no growing food, nothing but windmills and solar panels. I wonder what that would do to the environment. In other words, the movement is too stupid to even take seriously.

Whatever their rationalization for signing on (and I did send them a rather scornful email and got a response replete with the normal drivel you’d expect), Specialized screwed the pooch. First, when we take a political stance, based on a politician’s half of a story, we’re immediately going to scorn 40% of the country. Second, it’ll likely be ignorant, because politicians survive by keeping people fighting – and supporting any movement that calls for an end to the use of fossil fuels, is as ignorant as you get when your company relies on them so heavily. Finally, there’s the number one rule in cycling:

The number one rule of cycling was ever thus; no f***in’ politics on bike rides, boys and girls.

Specialized forgot that and they need to be made to remember it.  Our lives are ripped apart by politicians, special interest groups and the news media on a daily basis. Politics are never used to bring people together anymore. They’re used as a wedge. We need our leisure activities to come together as human beings so we can remember why we need each other, how important it is to rely on each other, and why we need to care for each other.

When you drag politics into our fun time, too, you destroy one of the great things there is about being alive and on the right side of the grass.

Shame on you, Specialized.

It’s a damned crying shame…

Oh, and Trek, please stay out of the fracas… I’m running out of bikes!

Specialized Ties Its Company to the So-Called “Global Climate Strike”. I’ve Come Up with a Great Way to Jump on the Bandwagon!

I, being a Super-Specialized Cyclist of note, received this email from Specialized earlier today:

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That got me to thinking about what I might do to join Specialized and the young skulls full of mush in their effort to take the planet back to the stone age.

Then it came to me!  I’ll stop purchasing any product Specialized makes with fossil fuels.  I’ll do Specialized one better!  I’ll demand Specialized use “sustainable” practices in their manufacturing techniques.  Zero waste, zero pollution… you know!  What a great idea!  In fact, whilst we’re at it, I’ll go one better.  Check out the “My Bikes” Page…  Check out my “Venge Corner” Page…  Oops, you can’t, because it’s gone.  I like this tidying up!  It’s good for the spirit – err, planet.  Or something!

Perhaps I should consider painting the Venge (’cause I just can’t quit you, Venge) so you can’t tell it from any garden variety knock-off out there.  No more cycling clothes made with cheap Chinese labor and sold for ten times the cost… no more Specialized tires, because they’re obviously made with those aforementioned fossil fuels.  As for your strike, Specialized, perhaps I’ll join you in that and shop at your competitors all weekend long.  In other words, suck the tailpipe, Specialized.

Now, funny story…  It just so happens that a brother-in-law (step, twice removed) works at nuclear plants.  That’s plural on purpose.  He started in the US Military, working on nuclear power plants.  Now, nuclear isn’t “fossil fuels”, technically, but stick with me a minute.  My wife asked that brother-in-law (step, twice removed) what his thoughts were of replacing nuclear with something else.

The company he works for manages more than 20 nuclear power facilities.  So he simply stated, “Let’s say you want to shut down my plant.  Which State do you want to cover with solar panels and wind turbines to make up for it?”  My friends, that’s only nuclear power.  We haven’t even looked at natural gas yet, or God forbid, OIL!  Look at the massive $#!+storm we just witnessed over just a 5% cutback in oil production for a few weeks!  The whole world’s markets collectively clinched their butt cheeks all at the same time!

And that, my friends, is all you need to know.  Now, what I do promote and believe in is doing as much as possible to live as cleanly as is comfortably possible.  I recycle, I clean up after myself and others, I treat the environment with all of the care I would one of my kids…  What I won’t do is sign on to some idiotic pie in the sky notion that we can completely get rid of fossil fuels when it clearly is not even remotely close to the realm of possibility in my lifetime.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work toward the day it is possible, but I sure as shit won’t be striking over the reality it can’t happen next week!

Unfortunately, while they’re promoting lunacy, they’re actually creating believers out of the gullible and woefully uninformed (or misinformed, take your pick).  That will never end well and I reject that kind of divisiveness out of hand.  Because it’s bad for the children.

One last thing, Specialized:  No f***in’ politics on bicycle rides.

TNCR; The B Group’s Fastest Night Yet, but An Otherwise Perfect Night was Marred By A Crash

There are those nights a fast ride breaks out of nowhere and we manage an excellent night. Last week was one of those. It was way too windy for us to have the 22.3-mph average we did, but there it was.

Then there are nights you know it’s going to be fast before you pump up your tires. Sunny, 75 perfect degrees (24 C) with winds out of the east at just 3-mph (5-km/h). My friends, it just doesn’t get any better than that on a Tuesday night. We had a lot of those this year, as a matter of fact. A perfect night, and I showed up with my Sunday best kit and the Venge.

We also had two new competent B Group’ers join us, which was excellent.

We rolled out about 30 seconds after the A Group and it was on right out of the gate. Our first and slowest mile was at 20-mph until we got into Vernon 22 miles later – everything else was between 21 & 26-mph. We had damn-near a perfect group – and I’d say we pounded out the miles, because the pace was so excellent, but that’s not what happened, really. With the lack of wind and everyone doing their part (for the most part), for the first 15 miles there was a flow to the ride… the speed wasn’t as hard last night.

Making a left to get into our version of the hills, I expected the pace to go crazy a little bit, as it can, but it was copacetic. We had three tandems last night, and crushing the hills can hurt them. The downhills, of course, did get a little chaotic through the hills because one of the tandems likes to take advantage of them, even if it does blow up the group a little bit – let’s just say the captain of said tandem isn’t exactly a team player… and we’ll leave that fart there to waft a bit.

Once through Vernon, our slow mile of the evening (it always is – a bit of up and it’s a small downtown area, so we use it to regroup again after the City Limits sprint – which I was third in, by the way. I took a 30-mph lead out to about 500 yards from the line, no way I was going to hold that pace for as long as I would have needed to take it), things got fun. That section of the ride has some decent rollers with mild grades so it’s easy to hammer the uphills above 20-mph and double-hammer the downhills at 27-30. And that’s what we did. We were our approximation of flying, ticking off the miles between 24 and 26-mph, when the A Group came by.

I was second bike back and we picked up our pace as their line went by. A couple of 20 seconds of hard effort and we were in their draft at 29-mph but far enough back we didn’t mess with their rotation. With only two miles to go we turned in our fastest mile of the night at a solid 27.07-mph (43 km/h – I’m sorry, but that sounds vastly awesomer!).  Approaching the sprint point, which the B Group was going to sit out of for the free ride, the pace picked up.  30-mph… 31… 32… and all hell broke loose.

I saw a rock fling from a tire ahead before I heard the immediate psswsshwsshwsshwshh… then the group spread apart, over both lanes of the road with Todd trying to get to the side of the road.  I slowed, but not too fast to allow those behind me space to slow down, then his wheel cocked, whipping him around, his eyes were wide as saucers when he went down hard. Another cyclist just behind him managed to hold his bike up as he headed down a ditch and into someone’s front yard. He was 150′ into the yard before he managed to come to a stop from that speed.  Nobody else, out of the 25-ish in the expanded group, went down.

We went over to check on Todd who was laying on the ground.  He was shook up pretty bad but managed to sit up.   He was starting to bleed from a couple of gashes on his elbow and he had some serious road rash on his leg, thigh and hip.  That seemed to be the worst of it, though.  Greg, after checking on his friend, grabbed Todd’s keys and took off to get his truck.  A few of us stayed with Todd and the rest of the group departed shortly thereafter.

Todd stood up and assessed his bike, because any of us, with working appendages, knows that the cuts and scrapes will heal… the carbon fiber, not so much.  No cracks, not so much as a scuff in his Argon 18 super-bike, though he’ll be picking pebbles out of places there shouldn’t be pebbles for quite a while – and not just from his skin.  When that front tire flatted instantly (and a tubeless tire at that) and rolled on him, the front wheel went through the dirt on the shoulder.  He picked pebbles out of the wheel/tire, out of the brakes (which locked up the back wheel).  Still, all things being equal, as fast as we were going, once he cleans up and has a week or two to heal up, he was extremely fortunate how things shook out.

As I said last night, the fact that Todd was the only one who went down is a testament to how he handled himself and his bike in that situation, and also a testament to the quality of cyclists we have in our group.

I received a message on Strava from the big guy (he’s a battleship, at 6’3-ish”) that he’s doing well.  He’d managed to clean up pretty well and said he’d be back out this evening for a recovery ride… on his gravel bike, no doubt.  It’ll take a minute to get the Argon cleaned up and rolling again, I’d guess.

After Todd was picked up, I looked at our stats… just before the crash we’d cracked 22.5-mph for our average.  We were down to 22.4.  Still, fastest B Group average to date if memory serves.  I think we hit 23 once before, but that was a mix of the A and B Groups.  Too bad things turned out the way they did.

 

One Fantastic Weekend of Cycling

Saturday was one of those gloriously sunny days that make a cyclist smile. We had a solid west wind so we chose to fight it all the way out and ride it back. Now, any avid cyclist who’s tried this will tell you the wind shifted on them about two miles after the turn for home. That’s just how it goes. Always.

Not this time, baby.

We went 23 miles, dead into the wind, before turning for home… the long way home. On the way out, I tried to take a lot of miles because I knew the ride home was going to be fun. The last four miles into the wind were mine.

For this route, we stop at a gas station in town before heading back and I chose my favorite, a Vanilla Orange Coke and a Twix White Chocolate.  The Twix was really good, but the OV Coke… it’s heaven on Earth. We rolled out after a quick ten-ish minute stop.

The ride home was an absolute blast. Tailwind, with a little crosswind, all the way home. Our average jumped a mile-and-a-half an hour and we went from quiet effort to laughing and talking the whole way home. We ended up with just shy of 53 fantastic miles.

Sunday was a different story altogether. The weather prognosticator of choice was all over the place. Rain in the morning, rain in the afternoon, rain in the early morning, ending by 2am, then picking up again… my text to the gang was simply, “we’ll have to play it by ear”.

I woke up at 4am and the app said later in the early afternoon we would have a chance to ride. It changed just before 6am. I sent out a text that wheeis were rolling at 8. We had a 3-1/2 hour window and we had the 56-mile Cohoctah loop on tap.  And nobody showed but my buddy, Mike.

The start was hectic and a bit slow. Mike was up front for three miles and we were pushing a 16-1/2 mph average… but Mrs. Bgddy caught us at mile two. She decided to join Mike and I for a few miles before spending time with her dad. I took the next five miles up front, taking it fairly easy into a cross-headwind at 18-1/2-mph because my wife was on her gravel bike – more than 18-ish would have been brutal for her.

My wife announced she was heading back for home as we turned south. We caught Greg, who texted earlier that he might roll with us at 17-ish-mph and that was the last time we were that slow without a stop sign. Greg opened it up and took the pace to 22 in a tough cross-headwind. After three miles, Mike called uncle.  Literally, he called uncle… and I wasn’t bummed he did. I could have held Greg’s wheel but it was gonna hurt at that pace. We ate wind to mile 28, when our fortunes turned and the pace picked up. Greg split at 37 miles for home. Mike and I rolled on for our homes, 19 miles away.  Thankful we could relax a bit.  Or so I thought.

A mile later, something caught my attention over my right shoulder.  Clouds.  Gnarly one’s.  We had rain coming in, and with and hour to get home, it was going to be close.  I thought we would he on the losing end, being honest.

Heads down, in the drops, we hammered for home.

It started sprinkling two miles later. Five miles later it started coming down a little harder. Not enough to call it rain but it was getting close.

Mike and I traded places at the front every couple of miles. We were making some decent time, too. A 21-mph mile, 20.8, 22… 21.3, 22.8… We were starting to get damp, too. Mike said he was going to take a shortcut to get home a little sooner.  I didn’t blame him.  It was really starting to look like we’d get pounded.

As soon as he split, I put the hammer down, heading north. And rode right out of the drizzle!  I sat up a couple of times to catch my breath but got right back after it. I didn’t want to squander getting out of the drizzle, and the horizon to my right was not good, even if the sun poked through the clouds now and again.

I pulled into the driveway, dismounted, and got my butt in the house. Two minutes later, no exaggeration, the sky opened up.

Just in the nick of time. Lunch was sweet. And my nap was even sweeter.  Nothing beats beating the rain.  Thankfully, Mike had the same good fortune.

Michigan Cycling Law and Passing Slower Traffic; Why Did the Facebook Crowd have a Meltdown Over This Photo?

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I took the photo above on DALMAC and sent it in to the staffers to enter a photo contest.  Apparently, whether the TCBA posted it, or one of my friends, on Facebook, social media had a huge meltdown over this photo. Folks, motherf***ers were pissed.  At issue was the fact that we crossed a yellow line to pass a miniature horse and buggy being driven by a young boy.  First, before we get into this, we need context to keep the idiocy at a minimum; we were roughly double the speed of the little guy and his horse.  I’d guess they were about 10-mph and we were around 20, probably a little higher.  Our average pace for the day was 19.48-mph, so common sense would dictate between 22 & 24 (we do, for the most part, stop at stop signs and always at traffic lights, so we have to ride a little faster for the average).

Now, I’m second bike behind my buddy, Mike in this photo. I started calling out to move wide, early and that’s exactly what we did to pass.

If you don’t know anything about cycling, passing horses and buggies, and traffic, and you’re ignorant of Michigan law, well, I imagine you could get your dander up over that photo, but another’s ignorance isn’t enough to get my undies in a bunch, either.

So, here are the things people miss in their ignorance, intolerance and desire to jump on someone else out for a leisurely stroll:

  • It’s hard to see from the photo, because I was holding the camera down pretty low, and I was angling it down as well, to get the shot right, whilst riding in a pace line at  better than 20-mph (everyone within earshot knew I was taking the photos), but adjusting the height a little bit, to eye level, we can see all the way down the road beyond the stop sign. We knew we had the room to pass and gave the horse and buggy a little more than three feet, because that’s what decent people do.
  • We had complete situational awareness when we passed the kid riding in the horse and buggy. Complete.
  • It’s a kid driving that buggy…
  • Anyone who knows anything about horses, when they get spooked, they freight train. We weren’t about to spook that horse and have him go all mental on a kid, so we started talking so the horse (and the kid) could hear us coming, then we passed wide, where and when it was safe to do so, and in a manner that we hoped wouldn’t spook them.
  • This is a photo taken just a few seconds earlier when we were in the process of moving over – you can see the lead cyclist on the right motioning to get over (or, if you didn’t know, that’s the end of the motion to move over, an obstacle is ahead):

As we are a vehicle on the road, subject to the same laws (as the angry mob likes to say), we assumed a little bit of the new Michigan bicycle passing law ourselves:

 (3) Notwithstanding section 640, if it is safe to do so, the driver of a vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction may overtake and pass the bicycle in a no-passing zone.

We, as cyclists and motorists, are accutely aware of what three feet actually is.  In the first photo, I’d call that four or five feet, but again, we didn’t want to spook the kid or the horse.  So, in other words, we followed existing law and did what was intelligent.  We overtook a horse and buggy, on a bicycle travelling roughly double the speed, where it was clearly safe to do so, in a no-passing zone.  We used the existing law on the books as it was written, passed, and intended.

It’ll never be good enough, as cyclists go…

Just yesterday, our small, four-person group was yelled at by a motorist because we didn’t stop at a stop sign and put a foot down… 40 feet before we even got to the intersection.  We hadn’t even made it to the intersection!  First, we are not on motorcycles.  We have the ability to stop without putting a foot down.  Let’s take that argument at face value, though.  You think motorists are mad at cyclists now, let’s follow the put your foot down notion to conclusion.  Rather than take 20 cyclists 20 seconds to clear an intersection, let’s go two at a time, foot down, then go, foot down, then go… those same twenty cyclists would take a minute and a half to clear an intersection.  You think motorists are irate now, good grief.  Better, let’s follow knucklehead’s suggestion and stop, foot down, 40′ from an intersection, and hop our bikes up to the stop sign.  20 cyclists, we’d clear an intersection in two minutes.  You can’t even quantify the squitters that would cause.

Where the rubber meets the road, as they say.

It doesn’t matter why the angst, it’s directed at the wrong people.  Cyclists would rather be on a paved shoulder almost as much as motorists want them on a shoulder.  I’d be willing to bet you wide shoulders would approach 90% voter approval, so why doesn’t every road built in the State of Michigan have a wide shoulder on either side of the road that we would gladly use to avoid angry nincompoops?

Ask your politician.  And therein lies the rub.  One thing is for sure, I’m not going to quit using the roads till they put shoulders in we can ride on, no matter how angry someone ignorantly is that I’m legally there.

Just remember, if it’s a “speed” thing, you’ll have to ban mail vans and farm equipment from the roads as well.  My friends and I pass them on a regular basis.  We passed a mail truck just Saturday morning.  The driver never came close to catching us… and we take up less space on the road.