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When the Bikes Are All Cleaned Up and Tucked Away After Another Awesome Weekend, Cycling is All About Your Friends and the Good Times

We had two friends come back from heart procedures yesterday. One rode with us – he had a second stint put in last month after he still didn’t feel right after a first. It was all fist bumps and hi-fives after the ride. 37.7 miles of good times.

It did my heart good riding with my friend again.

Another came back from an ablation procedure. His path back has not been easy, or fast. It was all well wishes for him after seeing his first big ride at his favorite mountain bike trail on Strava.

So here I am, having just woken up from a nap, giving my friends kudos for their day’s effort and I’m overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude for all my friends. There’s no doubt I’m fortunate.

The bikes and all of the toys that go with cycling are cool, but after the ride is done and the bikes are all cleaned up and put away, it’s the friends that make the sport spectacular. Without them I’m just turning a crank.

OUCH! Now I Remember Why I HATE Days OFF Cycling!

I like to ride every day I can, unless it’s raining. I don’t care how tired I am, I can go slow enough for a good spin to be a benefit to my sore legs.

Every once in a while, though, I find myself tired enough I’m thankful for a day of crappy weather. Wednesday and Thursday were a rare two in a row. Technically, Wednesday was rideable- 42 degrees with a 15-mph wind and a “feels like” temperature just above freezing… well, I called Chucker who instantly, happily agreed this was a day best for bath robes and nightwear. Thursday, however, was a legit day to skip. Cold, rainy and crappy – a true, “nope, this is not worth getting the bike out” night. Chuck didn’t even bother leaving work. My wife and I went to our daughters’ tennis match instead.

That gets us to Friday. Conditions were iffy all day but massively improved after 4. Chuck and I rolled out at 5:15, taking it fairly easy into the wind. It was a little breezy, but the sun popping out from the clouds made it well worth getting dressed. We did 22 miles at 17-1/2-ish mph… and my legs bugged me the whole time – almost fought the effort.

The ride was quite enjoyable, but here I sit Saturday morning wishing I hadn’t taken both days off. Today will be a big day and I’m sore. I’ll make the most of it, of course, I’ll will my legs to comply… with a sunny start to the morning and almost no wind, well, make hay while the sun is shining, I always say.

How to Heal Canker Sores related to Spring Cycling

Do you get canker sores in your mouth when you finally start riding outside after a long indoor trainer season? I do. I’ve had to battle them every year.

Cycling in the cool spring air with all of that pollen in the air is a recipe for canker sores. I get them every spring once I get outside. Typically, we ride with our mouth open to get as much air to the lungs, and eventually the muscles, as possible. Riding with your mouth open all that time, believe it or not, can cause canker sores. They’re annoying and painful.

For years I used to rely on rinsing my mouth out in the morning with hydrogen peroxide. It works quite well but I always wondered if it was damaging my teeth. Unlikely, but possible – technically, hydrogen peroxide is acidic.

This year started out just like any other. I was rinsing with HP every morning and when I finally got let out with decent weather, we ran out of hydrogen peroxide. Within a few days I had three small canker sores. Now, if you’re a mom, at this point you’re thinking, “well you need more fruit”. Actually my fruit consumption always picks up in the spring – especially for bananas, apples and oranges – so that’s not it. Anyway, that Friday, my wife and I went to the grocery store so I could pick up some peroxide and she could check out the clearance aisle. While in the pharmacy aisles, I happened by Listerine – I’ve always loved the way my mouth felt after a good swish, so I picked up a bottle. Then, my wife suggested the non-alcohol version. Listerine isn’t a trigger for me, but it is for my wife so no alcohol it was.

When I got home, I started with the peroxide immediately to kick the canker sores. Then, after 30 minutes or so, I went in and swished with Listerine… and it was just like I always remembered (the taste and feel are no different with the no alcohol version). It was glorious.

And the next morning my canker sores were almost entirely healed. I did the hydrogen peroxide/30 minute wait/Listerine again. The next morning the canker sores were gone. I’ve since eliminated the hydrogen peroxide and am just sticking with the Listerine. The canker sores haven’t come back and my mouth feels fresh all day long. While hydrogen peroxide has been fantastic, I’m smitten with Listerine for now… it seems to work a little better and my mouth is happier for that.

A New Cycling Path for 2021… Some Things Won’t Likely Change. Some Will. A Lot.

When UnderArmor dumped Endomondo for Map My Fitness/Map My Ride/Map My Run, etc., etc., etc., I tried MMF for a minute but hated it. The synch between Garmin Connect and the app didn’t work well and messing with it just got… old. So I dropped MMF and just went with Strava, where I’ve got a paid account and many of the bells and whistles that come with the app. With Strava, the app doesn’t quite do for me what Endomondo used to. I could see my weekly, even daily, mileage as soon as I opened the app. For Strava, I have to hit all of the kudos, comment on a few activities, then, if I remember, I might look at my weekly totals – but daily mileage is a little cumbersome to get to. Put simply, I rarely bother looking until, maybe a quick glance Sunday afternoon.

Last year, at the last of Endomondo, I knew how many miles I’d ridden each month. I knew roughly how many miles I was up on 2019 (with the COVID sh!+ show I was up considerably by the middle of April) – I had a general handle where I was year-over-year.

This year, I haven’t got a clue. I know I’m down mileage in all four months over last year. My indoor mileage dropped because I started using a speed sensor that measures way low but provides an excellent motivational push that had me fitter entering spring than any year previous – I’ll take a few hundred miles off the top to be stronger in the spring. Then, of course, no five week layoff where I could ride daily till I was content (I even rode through having COVID)… but here’s the kicker; I really don’t care that I am down in mileage because the quality is so much better than I could have hoped for. I haven’t always been about quality over quantity, but I’m liking it right now. Couple that with the fact that I haven’t worried about where I’m at mileage wise… well, things are good.

On to speed. I had an interesting conversation riding my buddy, Mike home the long way after Sunday’s ride. He expressed a bit of surprise that I hadn’t started riding with the A Group yet, that I still ride with the B Group on Saturdays. He correctly pointed out that I could, with a little bit of effort, keep up with them. Mike isn’t wrong. However, I told him, I like riding with my friends. I like riding in the pace-line with my wife. I love riding the tandem on Sundays with her. I have fun riding with the rest of my friends and as long as I can maintain on Tuesday Night, I’m right where I want to be – and that’s exactly what I told him.

Many think, at 50, their glory days are behind them. My peak fitness days may be back in the past, but my glory days are mainly in front of me – and I’m going to spend as many of those as I can, riding with my wife and friends and a smile on my face.

And that’s exactly how it should be; good times, noodle salad… and a bicycle. Or five.

So, unlike previous years, I’m not going to worry about daily, weekly or monthly mileage. I’m not going to trouble myself with where I’m at year-over-year. This year is simply going to be about enjoying my bike and time with my friends.

Cycling on the Proper Side of the Road (and Why Cycling Against Traffic is Cycling With a Death Wish Part 174)

I was out for a Saturday afternoon cruise, all by my lonesome a few weeks ago. It’s a rare Saturday I’m not with my friends, but things just worked out that way. I exited a subdivision onto a short, punchy climb and was out of the saddle pushing my way up the incline when I saw a woman and her two young boys riding on the wrong side of the road with a minivan bearing down on them. I, in the correct lane, stopped pedaling and waved to the minivan that it was okay to pass them in my lane. I could see the hesitation by the driver, but he realized in short order that it was going to be safe to pass and did. The boys and their mother had no clue what was going on – they were completely oblivious to the accident they could have caused.

Had I not been paying attention and just kept trucking, head down, it could have gotten messy. In fact, this is exactly how many cyclists riding on the proper side of the road are killed, when a vehicle traveling toward them in the opposing lane comes into the lane the cyclist is riding in to pass – and the driver of the truck, with a mother and two boys bearing down on them on bikes in the wrong lane would have no choice but to try to thread the needle between them and me. Thankfully, I saw that coming a half-mile away.

Now, I’ve made comments to riders in the wrong lane before, but in this instance I chose a new approach. I pulled alongside the mother and started, “Good afternoon. I appreciate that you like to ride in the wrong lane, but I would like to make a couple of observations that you may not be aware of.”

First, I said, if your boys are that far ahead of you and they approach an intersection, say a car is making a right hand turn into their lane, where is that driver looking when he gets to the intersection?

She actually got it, immediately. “He’ll be looking left”. I said, right, and he’ll be pulling out directly into your boys without looking. So that’s the first scenario you have to worry about. Second, you’ve got a car coming at you that wants to pass as you’re pedaling towards it, but there’s a truck coming the other way. The driver coming toward you can’t get into the other lane and you’re closing distance on the truck… surely, you can see the trouble on the horizon. If you’re in the proper lane, with the flow of traffic, the car behind you can slow until oncoming traffic clears, then go around when safe. Not so if you’re in the wrong lane.

And with that, we exchanged pleasantries and I sped off down the road. It’s amazing how a difficult topic like that can be diffused with a good attitude and a smile. The last time I had a conversation with a woman about riding on the wrong side of the road (with her child in tow, for God’s sake), she ended up hollering something about the patriarchy… I’m going to have to change my tactics from now on, because this time turned out much better.

File these two under the old, “We don’t care if you think cycling on the wrong side of the road is dangerous, we know it’s safer, nah-nah-na-nah-nah”… and remember the important rule here: People are going to do what they do. We have to keep our own eyes peeled because we can still, doing the right thing, get stuck in between a rock and a speeding truck.

Cycling, Speed and Confidence; The Difference Between Walking the Path and Cycling On It.

Being a part of a double pace-line hurtling down the road at speeds north of 30-mph (50 km/h) is no place for a nervous person. That’s an astounding 44 feet per second – almost 15 meters per second… but I know of nothing on earth more exhilarating that can be done with ones clothes on.

There once was a time I thought my performance in that scenario was based on a razor-thin scientific understanding of body and its fuel, of electrolytes, perfect hydration and a little dash of perfect timing. I would bring supplement drinks on long rides (Hammer Perpetuem was a favorite) and carefully plot out when I would eat relative to riding, loosely attempting to take in the perfect mix of carbs and protein exactly at the right time to achieve optimal results.

I’m twenty pounds heavier today, vastly faster (until we get into the hills – heh), and I’ve chucked all of that “science” to the curb as I rode by. Fastly.

Back then, call it 2015, our average pace on a Tuesday night was roughly 21-mph. A good night was 22. Today we’re regularly pushing 23 & 24-mph on the same course. Back then there had to be a certain amount of hiding, especially when we got to the hills, to maintain that pace. Today, I’m up front at will, driving the pace.

Part of this most excellent rise in performance can actually, believe it or not, be put to equipment. A decent set of deep-dish wheels will go a long way in helping someone to be faster. With lightweight, aero wheels, maintaining those blistering speeds is vastly easier than the old “slightly aero” alloy wheels – the gains are upwards of 20 to 40 watts. This gain is inarguable – the only question is how far one should go. In a wind tunnel, we go with 80 mm wheels. In the real world 38 to 50 mm wheels are the cat’s pajamas – because we have to deal with crosswind as well.

Another advantage is my weight. I roll on relatively fast roads with little “up”. I don’t need to be all light and skinny. Having a little bit of blubber means having an vast power source readily available to burn through. I simply don’t bonk like I once did because I’ve got plenty of reserves.

All of that is “marginal gains”, though. Let’s look at what’s really important.

I’ve got the lightweight bike (16 pounds) with the aero wheels (50 mm) and the sleek setup. I’ve got everything a cyclist could want in a race bike. That’s all really great stuff, but it pales in comparison to what really matters; I’m fast because I know I am. When it comes down to putting the watts to the pedals, I know right down to my baby toes that I can hang with my gang. There is no amount of marginal gain that can top confidence – the difference between walking the path and cycling on it.

And the only way to get and build confidence is to get one’s butt out on the road and earn it.

Spring Cycling with Friends – Fitness Doesn’t Get Any Easier Than This.

Good times and noodle salad.

The Cat Ate My Bar Tape… What to Do In Case of a Bar Tape Emergency!

Emergency! might be a touch much. Well, take “might” out of there… it is a touch much. Still, this is a funny story, so let’s roll with the click bait.

I wish that Title was a joke. It’s not. My cat, Zeus, actually ate my bar tape – and right down at the bar-end plug, too. I was prepping the Venge for Tuesday night duty when I noticed it. I loved that bar tape, too. Reflexively, I immediately ordered two more sets – I figured one for the Venge, then another for the Trek… I could match them up. The Serfas Polka Dot, black on black bar tape matches perfectly with the dot matrix on my Montrose saddles – a perfect “finishing touch” bar tape – not overstated, like Supacaz, but I see it as subtly spectacular.

Now, if you know anything about me and my bikes, if you’ve read more than a post or two, you know I’m not going to live with chewed up bar tape for very long… what I wasn’t thinking when I ordered new tape, was “how can I fix this?”

You can fix this, actually. I realized I could the next morning, and that it would be quite easy, if a little time consuming.

I simply unraveled the bar tape all the way down to the end, overlapped it by about a half-width of the bar tape, re-wrapped it making sure the figure-eight at the hoods landed exactly at the same place on the tape (because it had already assumed the shape from staying wrapped around the hoods for the last few months), and Bob was literally my Uncle.

The key, of course, is making up that little adjustment evenly, with each wrap of the tape, so that I didn’t have any gaps or wide wraps that would end up making the whole thing look “off putting”.

And it came off without a hitch. I wrapped the overlap into the bar end and let the plug secure it. I took my time with each successive wrap of the tape to make sure that every wrap was just right and ended up so not only was the fix imperceptible to my exacting eyes, it looks slightly better the second time around!

So, the moral of the story (beyond, don’t leave your pride and joy race bike where the cat can eat the freaking bar tape) is, in the even your tape gets chewed up at either end, don’t panic. With a little time and effort, it’s fixable.

Now, let’s say you develop a hole in the bar tape in the middle of the wrap, something that isn’t so easily fixable. This will likely require new bar tape unless you kept the leftovers from your initial wrap job. Technically, with a little effort, you could splice something back together using angled cuts so the splice doesn’t quite stick out so bad, but if it were me, a hole in the middle of the wrap would mean new tape. To get my by until the new tape arrived, however, there’s a simpler solution…

Put the bar tape back together the best you can and wrap it with electricians tape, or better, fabric tape like the stuff used on hockey sticks – they call it “gaffer’s tape”. My riding buddy, Chucker used this method quite successfully. You can’t hardly tell where the bar tape ends and the gaffer’s tape starts. This solution isn’t permanent, however. Eventually, with sweat and wear, the gaffer’s tape will show signs of fading and wear. Eventually, you’re going to have to cut all of that away and go with fresh bar tape.

And there you have it – what to do in the event your cat eats your bar tape. Ride hard, my friends… and here’s to hoping an overly affectionate pussycat is the biggest problem of the day.

TNIL; I Rode Better Than I Felt Edition

Tuesday Night In Lennon is a funny thing. You never know quite what you’re going to get but you do know you’ll need the good bike and your good legs. I had about 90% of my good legs last night (I thought, incorrectly, I only had about 80% when I got to the meeting spot). I’d been feeling a little “blah” the whole day and made a decision late in the afternoon that I’d give Lennon a go and if I got dropped, well so be it. I prepped the Venge, loaded up the Equinox and rolled out – not exactly knowing what to expect from the night and me.

The warm-up wasn’t terribly fast until we were about three miles in, heading north. The guy up front, Craig, has some internal “get there-itis” thing going on that I can’t wrap my head around. If ever there was a time to relax and spin the pedals, a seven mile warm-up before a 30-mile romp north of 25-mph would be perfect. But no. Not for Craig. He’s gotta get there so he tends to treat his warm-up like he’s late for something. After a mile above 20-mph, a quarter of that uphill and picking up speed, I eased off and slid off the back to spin a little easier with Brad on the way back to the parking lot. The important point was, I wasn’t unable to keep up due to not feeling great. It was more of an unwillingness during the warm-up.

The main event was looking a little tricky. We had a few new people and a few who weren’t going to keep up if the pace was pushed. If we were going to roll out with the A’s, it was going to be ugly, with B’s strewn all over the course. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and we rolled out a minute after the A’s left. I was in no shape to try to hang with the A’s.

We rolled out in a fairly tight group and it was kept marvelous. With partly to mainly cloudy skies, a light and variable breeze, and temps in the upper 70’s (24 C), you couldn’t have asked for a more perfect spring evening. The group, for the most part, performed well above expectations and, with all of the headwind at the first half of the ride, we held a decent 20.3-mph average until the tailwind after the first set of hills. The next several hills were fast but nothing too fast to put people in a hurt locker. Our pace crept up to 22, then 23-mph with a 24 & 25 mixed in now and again.

Put simply, the ride was thoroughly enjoyable.

I started running out of gas with about five to go, just before the home stretch. I’d been up front, first three bikes, for way too long and after a decent uphill pull, I flicked off and headed back for a rest. Just as I was about to tuck in at the back of the group, a new guy in front of me flicked off in front of me and stopped pedaling, opening up an instant gap. I was screwed. As I tore around him, trying to marshal enough to get on the back of the group, I told him to never do that again. I dodged right to get in the far right lane of the double pace-line and catch some draft while I worked my way back into the group.

The home stretch was fast and mainly downhill, so that 20.3-mph average worked up to 21 even (34 km/h) before it came time for the sprint. I was holding on but gave the sprint a go anyway, taking the pace from 25-mph to 32-1/2 (52 km/h). And I burned my last match going over the line at 31.4.

I didn’t eat much last night, just enough to get some food into the gullet, but I slept like a baby. I sweated a lot out again last night, so I’m hoping this funk is almost done. I know how I feel is directly tied to my effort on the bike. The harder I go, the more it takes out of me and the flu symptoms return… but I just can’t help but go fast.

Cycling Under the Weather; Feeling the Need for Speed

I rode 52-ish miles with my friends Sunday morning. After struggling with the vaccine flu much of the week, our CFO gave me a gift of a mild case of the sniffles, which, under normal circumstances, wouldn’t have been an issue – I doubt I’d have even gotten sick. Being drained from my body’s vociferous reaction to the vaccine, though, that case of the sniffles hit me hard. I was feeling pretty gnarly afterward.

Yesterday was another day, though. I woke up in a pool of my own sweat in the morning, so I figured I’d sweat it out the night before. I felt reasonably okay much of the day, though I faded as the day wore on. I made my way home a little early and managed a 15 minute nap before suiting up and that helped a lot. I rolled off down the road to pick Chuck up at 4:50, hoping I’d get to his house for the extra miles, but he met me about 3/4s of a mile up my street. I was feeling considerably better, but riding tends to run me down pretty quick of late and that usually means a rough night of sleep.

The plan was pretty simple; a nice, enjoyable 20-miler at a “Tuesday Night is tomorrow so let’s chill” pace. And that lasted for about two miles. I can’t remember if it was Chuck or me who took the pace up first, but it got hot in a hurry. I was on the Venge and it’s an absolute missile this year. Low and sleek in the front end, the Fast & Light 50 wheels… it’s just fast, solid and a wonder of perfectly solid craftsmanship. All of a sudden, we’re seven miles in looking at a 19.2-mph average and I start thinking, “Wait a minute… tomorrow’s TUESDAY NIGHT“.

I mentioned as much to Chuck and we both decided to dial it back considerably. While I struggled with being a little under the weather, the ride was fantastic and the conditions were spectacular (light breeze out of the south, partly cloudy, and room temperature).

And I paid for it last night. Worth it.

So, I don’t know if I’m going to head out to Lennon or not. I’m not 100% (hell, I’m not 80%), but there’s that need for speed that simply must be satisfied. Maybe I’ll go out and see how it goes… I’ll give it my best and if 80% isn’t good enough, I can simply slip off the back and take it home at my leisure. That’s probably how it’ll go.

One thing is for sure; I’ve had about enough of being sick for the next five or six years!