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We’d gone from sunny, short sleeve and bibs weather to sunny and digging out the winter cycling clothes in a few short days – less than a week. A 40° drop in temperature is quite a shock on a bicycle inside a week. The muscles simply don’t work the same, cold.
Getting the clothing right for such cycling adventures has always been difficult for me. There’s a razor-thin difference between too cold and too warm, which leads to sweating – and back to being too cold, eventually.
The first couple of weeks of cold weather cycling are always the worst for me because I tend to go too far because I HATE riding whilst cold. I don’t hate riding in the cold, just being cold doing it.
Here’s what I can’t do without when cycling when the temps dip below 55° (12 C).
50 – 60 F (10 to 14 C): Knee warmers, arm warmers, cycling cap, maybe some light wool socks, either light full finger or normal cycling gloves depending on whether or not the temp will be rising.
40 – 50 F (4 to 10 C): Leg warmers, a thin pair of tights over leg warmers and bibs (especially for the lower end of that scale), arm warmers, full finger cold weather gloves, ear muffs (because they can be removed when the temp rises above 50 and easily wrapped around an upper arm for storage), wool socks, toe covers, cycling cap. Finally, I found a pro quality cycling jacket and vest at a swap meet two February’s ago that I can’t live without in the cold. They were insanely expensive new, but I paid $40 or $50 for both. Having experienced “the good stuff”, I can’t live without it in the cold anymore. For the upper end, I’ll wear the vest. Lower end is the jacket. I love Degrees wrap around ear muffs. They allow you to hear while keeping your ears warm. I also love neck gaiters for anything below 45° – a cold neck can wreck a ride.
30 to 40 F (-1 to 4 C): Now we’re getting into gravel bike temps. I start layering for the 30’s. One or two layers beneath the pro jacket, maybe a base layer, jersey, arm warmers, jacket… something like that. I graduate to a full cap under my helmet and some winter gloves. Again, with the neck gaiter (a necessity). The tights are upgraded to a fleece-lined set made for the cold. I also jump from toe covers to full foot covers. At the low end of that spectrum and below, I’ve got a Specialized fleece-lined high-tech jacket I’ve worn for years. It blocks the cold well but doesn’t allow much vapor to escape.
20° and below (-6 C): That’s why I have an indoor trainer (CycleOps Magneto). My desire to ride outside goes out the window. I could, but don’t, use Zwift. I’m happier with a movie, riding next to my wife in the living room.
The one simple rule I always live by is this: You can take it off but you can’t put it on if you don’t have it.
Friends, I passed the 70,000 mark on a bicycle Tuesday. It wasn’t exactly a fanfare moment, I just realized it this morning, but it tugs at my pride string a little bit – 70,139.
Two weeks ago I noticed the shifting wasn’t quite right on our tandem. The front’s always been a pain in the rump but I’d gotten it dialed in. The rear shifting was troublesome, though, so I took to doing some investigating. The rear cable guide had busted on the front cable side so the cable was binding in the plastic guide… that was why the front derailleur was so hard to dial in. I picked up a new one at the shop and installed it last weekend. While detaching the cables to install them through the new cable guide I found the ends had been frayed on the original install – cause for concern. I also found a kink in the rear derailleur cable, and that’s why dialing in the rear shifter was so finicky. I picked up new cables at the shop Friday and installed them yesterday afternoon after cutting the grass and before dinner. The process, from start to tidying up the bar tape and cockpit, to dialing in the derailleur and trimming off the excess cable, took an hour. The bike shifts better and looks better than when I brought it home from the shop, new.
We brought a new guy into our group yesterday. He’s got an S-Works Roubaix from 2014 or 2015 (SRAM Red… it’s quite nice) but has never ridden in a group before. We coached him into shape over 75 miles yesterday, taking turns explaining how group mechanics work and such. I took my toy home after 62, though – I’d run out of gas, entirely (I ended up with 68 – Chucker brought the new guy home). The temp took a nosedive over the last few days – it was freezing when we started and I’d forgotten how much all that cold weather gear takes out of you. We’ve gone from shorts and short sleeves to full winter regalia in a week. We had a small group yesterday, so the ride was a lot of fun. Most everyone else (smartly) waited until the abundant sunshine warmed everything up a bit before heading out. Really, it wasn’t that bad for us, though. I quite enjoyed the cool start, though I was questioning my sanity over the first mile or two.
The last nine years on a bicycle have been life altering – for my marriage, my fitness, my recovery, my relationship with my kids, and my career. For my sanity.
Just shy of 7,400 miles a year, average, cycling has given me a lot to celebrate. Great friends, fantastic memories, good laughs… good times. And toys!!! Oh my, the toys!
In the end, friends, life in recovery is all about the good times and noodle salad… and cycling continues to give me my fill of both.
When I wrote, years ago, that I along with our cycling club could hold a 23-mph average, it blew some skirts up. One fella even claimed I was full of it unless I could show him proof on Strava. The old, “if it didn’t happen on Strava, it didn’t happen”. Well, it’s happened a lot on Strava, and Endomondo, and Garmin Connect… and Ride With GPS.
A few weeks ago we blew the doors off 23 and went straight for 24… ish. And it did happen on Strava. On open roads (opposed to closed). Oh, what I’d give to see what we could do with that loop without the worry of traffic! Anyway, I digress.
This photo was taken at 28-mph by my friend, Joel – and that guy in the blue is on a steel Ritchey with gravel tires… dude is strong.
A 20-mph average in a group, especially on a hilly route, is hard. 21 is very hard. 22 & 23 require a really good group, and a fairly flat route helps. For 24, hold onto your butts, it’s gonna get bumpy. The group will have to maintain speeds between 25 and 30-mph (40 and 48 kmh respectively) to end up with a 24 average – the faster pace cancels out hill climbs and traffic stops where you’re going to lose some speed and average.
The keys to success for that kind of speed are quite simple for us above average Joe’s:
- A flat course – the proper rolling lumpy route is possible but the hills tend to shatter the group – flat is fast. Preferably under 20′ of up per mile over the course (our 30 mile route is around 12 to 14′ if memory serves).
- A good, strong, exceptionally competent group. Averages that high are really tough on new folks because they dynamics change so rapidly, if the group isn’t familiar with each other, it can get dicey in a hurry. However, if the noobs know what they’re doing, there’s no better way to hook a new cyclist than for them to be part of that kind of group ride. I should know, that’s what hooked me.
- Good legs. I’ve gotta have the good legs when going for speed like that. No hammering the day before a big ride – I’ll get dropped like a dirty shirt. Monday and Wednesday rides are always at a seriously easy pace – 16-mph… 18 max.
- Group continuity. A smooth group is much faster than a group that has to deal with constant attacks and shake-ups. Though, every once in a while, there’s no question a shake-up can help to keep the pace up and the group focused. The key will be when – uphill is a horrible idea unless your goal is to shatter the group, downhill or with a tailwind, much better.
- “Want to”. Speed like that pushes a regular old cyclist to the edge. If you don’t have some “want to” to hold on, forget about it.
It’s still striking to me that a decent group of B-Grouper’s managed a 28-mile loop in 1h:10m:and some change. We had some A-Group help and a perfectly placed kick of a tailwind that popped up out of nowhere, but we crossed the line (at better than 32-mph) with a 24-mph average and hi-fives all around.
One thing is for sure; if everyone can keep it smooth and (relatively) safe, that kind of speed is amazingly fun. The difficulty and training are worth it.
We’ve used summer up. We’re just a few days from fall and we had glorious weather on our hands yesterday – and it’s not going to be this nice again for the near future (though we can never rule out an early fall warm stretch for a few days). I needed to make the most of one of our last shorts and short-sleeve days.
Chuck was going to be ready at a quarter past five, I was on the road at 4:32, soaking up the sunshine, enjoying a nice, slow spin. Mrs. Bgddy had meetings and the girls had swim practice, so I was on my own for the evening – no time constraints, no awaiting responsibilities (except a meeting a few miles down the road at 8). I simply wandered, enjoying the feel of the Trek under me. I still had 15 minutes before Chuck would be ready so I headed up to loop around a local fire station parking lot before heading south into a cross-headwind, then over to Chuck’s. I did a loop around his subdivision, then turned around and looped the other way. I was lolling into a nice one-way righthand corner when a pickup truck with a trailer cut the corner making a left, forcing me all the way to the inside of the corner. I turned and shot him a “WTF” look and he came to a stop. I looped around and approached his window and asked, “Was that on purpose, or was that an oops?” He apologized profusely, saying I was right in his blind spot (the support arm for his windshield) and thinking back, that made sense – I could barely see his face. I told him all was well, no harm, no foul and went on my way and he on his.
Chuck pulled out of his driveway just before I got there and we were on our merry way. Chuck hit 15-mph as I caught him and he said, “This is about my pace for the night, right here.” And so it was. We got most of the headwind out of the way early and vented about current events and the comical way many issues are framed. The whole ride was chilled out, relaxed and enjoyable… until we noticed clouds coagulating to the north of us. A cold front was moving in and we managed to ride right up to the edge of it.
I pulled into the driveway with a little more than 31 miles and a 16-mph average – which is perfect because tonight will be a fast Lake Shannon Loop. With cool temps and a gentle breeze out of the south, I have no doubt it’s going to be… energetic.
So, what do we do when we’ve got a big ride planned for the next day? We carb load. This calls for pizza (right or wrong, I don’t care – I just like pizza and I’m more than okay with justifying eating it as “carb loading”). And I didn’t mess around last night. I got the good stuff from a local Italian restaurant. My pizza aficionado-ness is well earned – I’ve done everything from delivery to running a gourmet pizza shop when I was a younger lad. I know my pie. So I picked mine up, along with some good, old-fashioned Faygo Rock & Rye to wash it down on the way to my meeting. Only recently have I gone back to Rock & Rye, a favorite of my childhood. There’s something sweet about enjoying memories through the taste of an old soda.
The meeting, as is almost always the case with in-person meetings, was fantastic. I only hope I did someone some good with what I had to say. By the time I arrived home, I was good and cooked. I was asleep eight seconds after my head hit the pillow… and that’s exactly as it should be when you’re living the good life.
UPDATE: Funny how plans change… Can’t ride tonight. My daughters are going for a relay record this evening at swimming and I want to be there for it.
I prepped the 5200 for duty last evening. It was going to be a slow night and it needed some time in the sun after the Venge took all of the big weekend miles.
After watching that exceptionally geeky video I wrote about the other day that broke tire pressure down into a fairly* easily understandable science, I decided to lower my pressure in both road bikes. Not by much, mind you, I went from 95 pounds down to 90.
On the Trek, left, I’m currently running Ican 23-mm wide x 38-mm deep wheels shod with Michelin Pro 4 Service Course 700C x 25-mm tires. I’m running 175-ish pounds. So, 90 pounds and I ran with it.
The road we live on is fairly smooth with a few wear cracks here and there at the edges, but the road I turn on to get to Chuck’s is gnarly in places and the bike was much more enjoyable over the chatter – in fact, I ran over some of the nastier edges of the road I normally avoid, just to see the difference… it was impressive – vastly smoother. On chip-seal surfaces, cracks, anything I would throw at it over the course of the 28-mile ride, the bike was much more enjoyable… and I didn’t bounce when out of the saddle to climb or sprint (what little climbing there is on that route – not much).
So, the real question is, “was it faster“?
Well, if you get far enough into the video, the science geek guy refers to road noise as a loss of efficiency – and road noise from the tire definitely increased, noticeably. On the other hand, there’s no question the ride, being smoother, was less taxing and slightly less work. That’s really the balance we’re looking for. Smooth, but not so smooth it’s squishy. I think I should go another five pounds, though, just for $#!+$ and giggles, to see if I go squishy or keep 85 psi… There’s no question, even at 90 there will be more smiles per mile.
*”Fairly” should probably be barely.
Then I’ll have to dial in the Venge using the same process – though I’ll absolutely be going with 90 psi for tonight’s Tuesday Night in Lennon… I’m running 26-mm Specialized Turbo Pro tires on a 25-mm wide rim – shouldn’t be any question 90 will be better than 95.
Geeky Road Bike Stuff… From A Fairly Scientific Aero / Traditional Bike Comparison to Tire Pressure.
First, my personal favorite: My Tasmanian brother from another cycling mother did a fairly scientific comparison of his Canyon Aeroad and his new Trek Postal Edition 5200. As you might imagine, with my own 5200, I’ve written about the difference between my Venge and 5200 extensively. I’ve experienced similar results but the Tempocyclist takes it on leap further. For your reading enjoyment:
If that wasn’t enough, my buddy, Dave sent out a link to one of the geekiest tire pressure videos I’ve ever had the enjoyment of watching. I can summarize the core of the 30-minute video in 30 seconds: You’re riding with too much air in your tires. Stop it. Let some air out of your tires till your ride becomes smooth. If/when you start bouncing during a sprint, you’ve gone too far. Add 2% till you stop bouncing. The other 29 minutes and change is mashed potatoes and gravy next to the roast beef.
The full video is here:
It just hit me last week that I’m spending WAY too much time on the Trek. It’s difficult not to when the bike is performing so well – it’s a bit like driving a classic sports car. Sure, it’s a not a McLaren, it’s more American muscle – a little more Caroll Shelby – only, in a bike. Well, somebody just shut off summer, and it jarred me a little. Pretty soon, all I’ll be riding is the Trek until next spring’s Venge Day so it’s high time I spent some miles on the good rig before having to put it up for the winter.
After arriving home on a perfectly sunny but yet another unseasonably cool afternoon (we’ve been several degrees – 6 to 10 – below normal for what seems like weeks), I set about cleaning up the Venge for duty. Part of that prep was rotating the tires. I like to rotate mine – some do, some don’t…
Now, installing the tires on these wheels the first time was not easy. I needed mechanical help in the way of a KoolStop tire jack. However, after a few weeks’ break-in time, I was hoping they’d go on relatively easily. Then, just the other day, by chance, I happened on a GCN video tutorial on how to deal with installing a difficult tire on a rim. My FL 50 Ican wheels all have a groove down the center (many tubeless and tubeless ready rims do):
Well, the tip is to work the beads down into that groove (it takes a little effort to do this, and you’ll feel one side, then the other, slip down into the channel). So, you get the first bead all the way seated, then you start on the second until you get to that spot, about 80% done, where you can’t see how you’ll ever slip that last bit over the rim, and you work the beads into the channel starting opposite the part of tire overlapping the rim and working around, one side, then the other. By the time you get both beads into the channel the entire 80-ish% around the rim, you’ll begin to feel a fair amount of slop that wasn’t there before pushing the beads to the center channel. At this point, that last 80% of the tire should (shockingly) easily slip over the edge of the rim.
Before I centered the beads, I was going to need mechanical assistance. After, it’s almost comically easy. I’m still glad I’m using Specialized tires, though. They’re better than most brands for seating on tight rims.
Now, there exist decent arguments for starting at the valve stem, finishing at the valve stem, add air to the tube, don’t add air… I’ve tried them all. My favorite is start with some air in the tube, start at the valve stem and finish opposite – and let the air out for the centering the bead in the grove and that last 20% of the second bead. Starting with air makes it easier to get the tube inside the rim and it keeps it from getting pinched. On the other hand, the added air makes it a little difficult to finish seating on a tough rim.
Anyway, after wiping the Venge down, I took her out for an evening spin with my regular weekday riding buddy and it was fantastic. She’s also going out today (we’ve got big plans today). We’re due a considerably nice stretch of weather over the next two weeks so I’m planning on making the most of it on the Venge. I’ll have plenty of time on the Trek in the coming months. As cold as it’s been this early, I don’t imagine it’s going to be a mild winter.
My confidence wasn’t where it should have been. Maybe it was the cold. Maybe the third day of gloomy, damp weather in a row. Maybe it was the north wind. It could have been all of it. With the ugliness of the day, I’d always take the Trek. Not today. I needed every advantage I could get. I prepped the Venge.
Jason and I were there early and it was looking like a small crew, which I saw as good because I really was hoping for a slow run. I did a few laps around the parking lot as a warm-up rather than burn any matches I didn’t have.
As I was getting the legs ready, the fellas started rolling in. A couple of heavy hitters, a couple in-betweener’s, a few B guys, a C guy… and Lenny. I started chuckling as soon as I saw his car roll in late. Lenny? Fortunately, for once, Lenny opted for his Schwinn road bike over his TT bike (!) so he wasn’t going to be a factor on this ride.
We rolled out after waiting for Lenny to get ready. We should have rolled out at 6, but there were a couple of guys who couldn’t live with doing that to a fella. Lenny, on his 35 pound Schwinn, managed to stay with the group for about 45 seconds. We were off!
The pace jumped right out of the gate. I was a little uncomfortable and trying to settle in – trying to get that nagging negativity out of my head. I freaking hate the cold and at 58°, cloudy and windy, warm it wasn’t. We hammered up the first hill and then down the other side. A right turn, up a highway overpass and down to a left with a long, gradual downhill. I’d been third, then second bike through all of this and Levi flicked me up just as we made the left – which was perfect because I was going to get my pull done before the big, long hill that was staring us in the face. And up comes a new guy from the back who gets in front of me and asks, “Hey, can I take my pull now? I’m going to get dropped”.
My jaw dropped. For those who aren’t up on their pace-line etiquette, this is one enormous @$$hole move. Don’t ever do this to someone. Ever. Still, he’s a new guy and I’m a bad@$$, though on an off day, so I took it. And got dropped 3/4’s of the way up the climb. So the new guy got himself dropped and me with one stone. I knew there was a regroup at the top of the hill anyway, so I didn’t sweat it much… but that’s exactly why you don’t do that $#!+ to someone else. I’d spent a lot of time in tough positions (1st, 2nd and 3rd bike get hammered with more wind than 6th or 7th) with my heart rate nearing my max. By the time the new guy was done with his turn, I was already maxed out and I still had a turn to finish, up a freaking hill, to deal with.
Things calmed down after that, though. Well, ish. It was a really fast night. Levi and Mike were driving the pace and Jason was hard on the gas, too.
The Lake Shannon section of the route is always a blast – a lot like our trip down to Georgia – rollers and twisty roads make for a fast and fun rip around the lake. Last night was perfect. After a decent effort up an ugly climb we regrouped and waited for a few stragglers (as is normal). Once back together, we took a few seconds to form up and spin up to speed. I was starting to get a little antsy and thought about going up front to drive the pace when all hell broke lose.
Levi went from 14-mph to 30 in two blinks of an eye and it was on.
I switched from the hoods to the drops so I could lower my center of gravity and carve the corners a little better. The increased aero advantage didn’t hurt at that speed, either. We were winding around bends so fast you had to look through the turn to get your bike to follow the right line with your leg out to the inside of the turn to help the bike carve the line. I can’t help but feel spectacular when we’re cranking and banking around corners at 25 to 30-mph in the drops, hellbent for leather. Any cyclist who’s taken corners at speed, especially in a pace-line, can relate. “Invigorating” doesn’t do it justice. “Grin inducing” is close.
Upon exiting the lake subdivision, we’ve got another brutal climb. I PR’ed it last night and still got dropped on the way up. Not by much, though. I’d almost fought back to the group when we hit the next regroup point. The next two miles were fast enough to make my eyes water. Dave had suggested we wait at the top of the final hill, cutting about a mile off the course – and I liked it. The last major hill on the ride, let Levi pound the other guys, while we hang back and join them on the flat!
Sadly, it was all headwind after that, though.
Dave took the stretch waiting for the back four guys to come up the hill and left me with an ugly section, uphill and into the wind, once they did. I took the pace up to 21, but with the incline, it was everything I had. At the crest, I flicked off and enjoyed being towed for the next several miles – including a massive turn up front by Jason who kept a decent “into the wind” pace with quite a lot of up to his turn – at least a mile and a half, maybe two. It was big.
My next turn, then, was with a crosswind and downhill (thanks, Jason!). It was sounding awfully quiet so I took a quick peak back to find nobody there. I slowed up and waited for the group to catch and then cranked it back up. Levi, Mike, and Jason came by on the way up a hill and I latched on with them for the next section.
I was tempted to ask Levi if he was Catholic, because the pace he was holding and length of turn up front he was taking, it had to be penance for something. Fortunately, we had one last regroup after a short climb that I’d managed to fall slightly off on before hammering the last couple of miles.
We went right to it, hammering down the road again. I ended up with one last pull, right before the last big climb and I ran myself out of gas, four of the guys pounding up the hill. I let them go. One of these days I’m going to figure out how not to give up before that hill…
Meh… I pulled into the parking lot with a 20.6-mph average. Not fantastic, but not too shabby, either. I was definitely glad I went.
I can remember the first time I rode my 5200 – a test ride to see how I liked it before I pulled the trigger. Compared to my old Cannondale SR-400 aluminum steed with a steel fork, the 5200 rode like a dream. At first, anyway…
I started changing the bike within my first few months of owning it. The first change was the saddle. The old saddle was 155 mm wide and I need, max, a 143 (I’m partial to 138 mm in width). With a saddle that was too wide, I ended up with a pain that started in my inner thigh and worked down the back of my leg into my hamstring. At first I thought it was a running injury but lucked out tracing it back to my saddle. With the new, vastly sleeker saddle, the bike went from pretty good to spectacular.
The 5200 pretty much remained as it is above for several years. I bought a Specialized Venge just the second year they were in stores and that became the bike that I obsessed over until I had it perfect. Then, I switched my attention back to the Trek, where it’s stayed for quite a while – once I got the Specialized right, the Trek project increased in… um… necessity. I’ve got a few tricks that made the transformation easier and vastly more comfortable.
First, the 5200 has an old quill stem, threaded headset. Switching that to a modern threadless setup is possible but problematic for a number of reasons I won’t bother getting into. Besides, I wanted my bike to basically, remain original (frame and fork). I bought a quill stem adapter so I could put any stem I wanted on the bike. I settled on a 17° flipped stem (90-mm) for an aggressive cockpit. I broomed the old seat post years ago for a carbon fiber Easton model because the original stem had notches to set the nose angle and it just so happened that one notch high was uncomfortable and one notch low had me sliding off the nose of the saddle. I wanted perfect and the Easton was infinitely adjustable.
The drivetrain (and paint job) was next – I switched from a 9 speed triple to a 10 speed 105 double and had a new headset installed in the process (the old one was smoked). That change made a big difference in weight and got rid of several redundant gear choices.
Next was an unnecessary but awesome handlebar upgrade. Now, the original bar (shown in blue bar tape in the two first photos) had been broomed a couple of years prior. The original was a 44-cm handlebar and I ride a 42 on my Specialized. I’d upgraded the original bar on the Venge to carbon fiber and I loved the feel of the reach and drop on the Specialized bar so I installed that handlebar on my Trek (… I know). Then, a year or so ago, I found a cool alloy aero bar made by Bontrager and I got a fantastic deal on it (I paid $40, it retails at $99.99 – in fact, it’s on sale again). The newer aero bar is very nice, and in the proper 42 mm width. The handlebar was followed by the real capper; the wheels.
Until this summer, the Trek has, with the exception of last year’s DALMAC (a four-day tour from the capital city of Michigan to the upper tip of the mitten), always had alloy wheels. I got a decent bonus at work so I picked up a set of 50’s for the Specialized and put the 38’s on the Trek. That change made way for the biggest increase in comfort since switching from my aluminum Cannondale to the carbon fiber Trek. There are a few reasons for this leap in comfort that are worth getting into the details.
First, with the old alloy wheels, they were 19.5 mm wide – outside to outside. This meant a 23 or 24-mm tire was the widest possible because 25’s would “lightbulb” and rub the insides of the chainstays whenever I got out of the saddle. The Ican 38’s are 23-mm wide, though. The wider rim means no lightbulb effect on a 25-mm tire, so no rubbing out of the saddle. This means I can run a lower pressure on the wider tire which translates into a vastly superior and smoother ride. Now, Specialized has switched from 23 and 25-mm tires to 24 and 26 – I don’t think I can get away with a 26-mm tire on the 23-mm wide rims – there simply isn’t enough room to work with. For now, I’m running Michelin 25-mm Pro 4’s, but eventually, I’ll drop to Specialized Turbo Pro 24’s and run 100 psi in lieu of 95-ish on the 25’s.
What I just described is one of the problems inherent in working with a classic frame. Back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, the widest tire on a road bike was 23-mm. There was a misunderstanding centered on how tires worked regarding rolling resistance that fed the misguided notion that “thinner” was better. To a point, thicker tires (25 to 28-mm) are actually better because they can be run at lower pressure which improves ride quality – so while rolling resistance drops minimally, ride quality improves vastly which means the rider isn’t pummeled over bumps and that translates to greater power to the pedals because we’re not trying to overcome the vibration created by road imperfections.
So, this presents a problem with the frame width where the chainstays meet the bottom bracket shell. This inadequacy often can be rectified by a wider rim. In my case, rather than having to run a 23-mm tire, I can fit a 25. What I can’t get away with is a 25-mm wide rim with a 26-mm tire. It just so happens that the 50’s I bought for the Venge are 25 wide. I can fit them on the Trek but clearance is enough of an issue that I know better than to even ride it.
On a final note relating to wheels, I’ve written a couple of posts about upgrading to Halo hex-key skewers. These were responsible for another leap in ride quality that make the need to carry the hex-key to release the wheels worth it. I can’t say enough good about those skewers. It’s about the same improvement as going from quick release skewers to through-axles. They’re that good.
Finding The Joy In Slower Cycling When You’re Undoubtedly, Unquestionably Fast… It Doesn’t Have To Be One Or The Other
This post is a long time coming. It’s taken me the better part of ten years to figure this out and now that I have, I’m having a more enjoyable time cycling than any previous year – by a long shot. Allow me to expound…
Be Fast or Be Slow… But Be Happy… Or BOTH
Being fast is a bit of a double-edged sword. It sounds awesome to those who aren’t fast, but it’s not quite all “unicorns farting rainbows” as you might think. First, it takes a lot of work to get fast. There’s the solo rides, hill sprints, the hill repeats, the telephone/power pole sprints, and then you’re stuck feeling as though you have to go all out all the time. There’s a fear associated with that last bit – actually a few layers of fear. First, I was afraid I’d lose that speed, or at the very least, the mental drive to stay fast. There’s the fear that slow rides cause one to lose fitness. Then, there’s the fear that not riding fast at every opportunity will breed laziness, or a lack of desire to push hard enough that one is willing to hurl on one’s top tube.
It’s that last one that really hurts. The thinking is, if I take it easy, I might find out I like cycling slow and therefore lose the will to put in the effort to stay fast. I literally lost sleep over that. Not much, of course, but some sleep.
Put all of those together and I can be a very difficult person to ride slow with if I’m not in the right frame of mind or haven’t put in the requisite fast days. Ask my wife – she’s spent as much time grooming me to take it easy (and subsequently had to deal with her fair bit of venom) as I did grooming her to be fast.
Thankfully, because 2020 is so upside-down, this has been my fastest year and I’ve spent more slow, enjoyable miles than ever before. I learned a lesson I may never have without COVIDcation. Take 2020: 6,002 miles (so far) have taken me 377 hours. That averages out to just a 15.9-mph average. Last year’s average was 16.9 (both include everything from road to gravel to mountain). A drop of a full mile per hour on the overall average is huge. On the other hand, we’ve hit 24-mph once and logged several other 28-mile loops between 22 & 23-mph. Additionally, Thursday night went from being 20-mph for a hard workout to 22-mph.
So how could it possibly be that I dropped a mile an hour off of my average but turned out faster?
My wife, and taking massive turns in the headwind in her service, taught me how to f’in’ relax a little bit (more like verbally “beat me into submission”). As long as I got my weekly hard efforts in, who cared if I stopped to take a few photos at the side of the road and that burned five tenths off our average? Certainly not me! Not during COVIDcation. It ended up I was simply happy to be spending time with my wife. I figured I’d take five or six weeks to get back into the Tuesday Night groove when the rides started. It’d suck, but I’d get through it, I thought.
It didn’t take five or six weeks. It took a few to get my legs under me as we went from mild, late-spring temps to “freaking HOT” in the space of a week. I bonked out on a ride, gave up on one, then BAM. I got my legs after that and we were all over it.
I’ve done some decently fast centuries (six), a pile of metric centuries (a baker’s dozen), and set PR’s on the Tuesday and Thursday night routes – PR’s I didn’t think would be possible last year.
In other words, I’ve gone slower and gotten faster at the same time. I’ve been able to literally enjoy the best of both worlds without either messing the other up. In fact, because I’m able to enjoy the slower days with my friends so much, I’ve found myself a more fulfilled cyclist – and I’m happier all the way around.
There is one tiny trick to all of this, though: I must have my fast days. Without those, I get antsy. There is a part of me that has to go fast – speed, after all, is a huge part of the fun for me – I can only contain that beast for so long.