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Is Rapha’s Kit Worth the Money? The Answer May Surprise You. It Did Me.

First, you can always tell when someone is wearing a piece of Rapha kit. Their jerseys always stick out because they always look perfect – and the thing that really surprises me about their jerseys is that they look better than any other manufacturer on those of us who need to put in more miles and eat a little less. And yes, I do lump, for lack of a better word, myself into that category.

I’ve had a little bit of a resentment at Rapha for the longest time, though. Their kit is expensive, prohibitively so; and I justify throwing a lot of money at cycling and its related clothing.

Recently, however, they had a sale and all of a sudden, friends who’d never worn Rapha kit started showing up in jerseys and bibs. I investigated and found a midweight jersey I liked on sale for $55 US (sadly, the sale is over). Again, as I lump myself in with the “not exactly at mid-season cycling weight”, I ordered a Large.

So, I’ve always said you can tell a good jersey by how it doesn’t feel. When I’m on the road in my Rapha jersey, it’s so comfortable it just goes away – especially on long rides.

The fact is the core jersey that I picked up is worth every penny of the full sticker price of $75.

If you’ve always wondered, “is Rapha worth the price tag?”

Yep. Shockingly, it is.

While You’re Dealing with the Narcissist You’re Married To, You Might Want To…

One of the more shocking discoveries in my recovery occurred when I began listening to Richard Grannon talk about covert narcissists and how to tell if you’re living with one…

And I found out, the hard way, I was a covert narcissist.

If you’re looking at your spouse as a possible narcissist, do yourself a favor and look in the mirror first. Or don’t, and watch your spouse point it out when you lay it down for them.

If you have a shred of decency and honesty, you’ll need a spatula to get your jaw off the floor. I did.

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others. That Guy In the Ferrari Could Be Thinking About Wrapping His Car Around the Next Viaduct Stanchion He Sees…

Some of the better advice I’ve ever given newer folks to recovery is “Don’t compare yourself to others. You don’t know what they have to give up to have what they do.”

I heard a second part to that, though, from Jordan Peterson that I really liked: “Instead, compare yourself to who you were yesterday.”

Another of his favorite tips for creating a better future for yourself is to try to improve just 1% from yesterday to today. It’s such a small, trivial amount that almost anyone should be able to do that, right?

Well, do that for 100 days in a row and see where you’re at then! I can tell you, I’ve implemented that and it works. What a difference just a month or two of sticking to that makes!

Enjoy your Thursday. It’s the only one we get.

Why An Expensive Road Bike is Worth the Outlandish Money… Even If “Expensive” Isn’t a Prerequisite for Being Fast

After riding the tandem with my wife for the last few weeks, I finally threw a leg over my Specialized Venge Wednesday night. The weather is, at long last, changing for the better and we’ve had more than enough rain to clean the roads… it struck me just how much fun it is to ride my Specialized Venge.

I’ve got a little more than $6,000 into that bike, by the time you figure the $3,100 price tag plus the upgrades – handlebar ($350), saddle ($250), wheels ($750), crankset ($550), brakes ($157), Ultegra drivetrain ($200 pre-owned but spectacular), stem ($167), seatpost ($110 after shipping), new rear derailleur ($75), chainrings ($105)… so, new, the bike out of the box weighed in at 18-1/2 pounds. As it sits today, it’s down to 16 pounds – or perfect… for a bowling ball or an aero-bike.

I rolled out with my buddy, Chuck for our normal loop and the first thing I noticed as I got my butt used to the saddle again is how twitchy and responsive the Venge is after riding the tandem so much – and how easy it is to make the Venge accelerate. You simply push on the pedals and it goes. Anyone who’s ridden a top-end race bike knows this fantastic feeling. Even above that is the fact that the bike, after eight years, is still as tight as it was the day I brought it home. Everything still works as it should, in other words. No creaks or weird clicks, no loose parts (though the original seat post did fracture during a seated attempt at a City Limits sign…).

One doesn’t need a great bike to ride a bike very fast. One needs strong legs, massive lungs, a good diet and a decent bike (preferably with some aero wheels as those do make a difference) to be fast. Oh, I almost forgot; and a whole lot of “want to”. Most who have had the great fortune of riding a fantastic top-end bike, though, will tell you they’re worth it.

Not exactly necessary, but wonderful indeed.

A Crazy Friday… With Some Tandem Time and a Surprising Possible Solution to Our Mysterious Clicking/Ticking Problem.

I was up and working well before the crack of dawn… even though dawn around these parts is approaching 5:30 am this time of year.

I’ve written a couple of times about a “tick” or “click” we’ve developed over the last few weeks that’s been driving us a bit bonkers trying to locate it. Last try was taking apart the eccentric bottom bracket cam to clean and lube everything – and I had high hopes for this one. I tackled the task shortly after arriving home Thursday afternoon. It was, believe it or not, a fairly simple affair. Remove one side of the threaded external bottom bracket, loosen the set screws for the eccentric cam, pull the cam, clean the parts, lube the parts, put everything back together. It was perfect, if it did take a little bit of time. I was sure that was going to do it…

Friday morning’s ride was the big test… and the first three-quarters of a mile were dead silent. Then, as we picked up the intensity, tick… tick… tick… and it grew in intensity. Click… click… click… double-click… Well, that wasn’t it and I was about at the end of my rope. My wife and I decided to add a stop to the bike shop to see if they could help with the diagnosis.

After describing the issue, my friend and the owner of the shop and I wheeled the tandem to the park next to the bike shop and went for a cruise. Neither of us had mountain shoes on so we wore our tennis shoes and rode on the Shimano pedals like they were platform pedals in our sneakers. And, not a click or a tick. The problem is in the relatively new mountain bike pedals. My wife and I went for a spin after Matt and I did. No matter how much power we put down there wasn’t a click or a creak.

I’ll have to isolate which set is bad, but it’s simple at this point. Heck, I just might buy two new sets of pedals just to be done with it.

Sadly, the rest of the weekend, especially today, is looking quite crappy. There may be some salvation tomorrow, though. We’ll have to see.

Please Have a Look at a Friend’s Post: Just a little leak — unironedman

Hawthorn blossom in the park It didn’t all start with the failed fostering of Ernie the wonder hound. But he certainly was the actual nail in the proverbial. Ernie is a 40 kg greyhound, and we took him on a few months back with a view to fostering and possibly adopting. He didn’t so much […]

Just a little leak — unironedman

https://royalnationallifeboatinstitution.enthuse.com/pf/declan-kenny

Please have a look at my friend from Ireland’s post… The link above is the important part as he’s raising money for life savers… so they can have proper kit and training to save lives. Good stuff. Donate if you can, even if it’s a small amount.

The Goldilocks Saddle Status and the Position Proposition; Attaining True Perfection in Your Saddle Position – and Transferring That from One Bike to Another, Easily

Now, I’m going to keep this as simple as I can, for an insanely difficult and controversial topic. There are three things at play that pertain to positioning the saddle properly, and two that go to the size of the saddle that are absolute musts to achieve something close to perfection. Maybe “really, really close”.

First and foremost, I’ve never found there to be a saddle that corrects for a lack of saddle time. There are comfortable saddles, sure, but time must be spent in the saddle. There’s no way around this.

Before I get into locating the saddle, let’s talk about saddle size and style. The general rule is, the more flexible you are, the flatter the saddle you can comfortably ride. The less flexible, the more contour you’ll want in the saddle. The contouring of the saddle allows the hips to open up when you ride in an aggressive, road bike position. Getting the contour of the saddle to your liking is a big piece in this puzzle of perfecting the saddle.

After contour, there’s width. I’ve read, from much smarter people than I, that a saddle that isn’t wide enough is excruciating. This hasn’t been my experience at all. My problems have always centered on saddles that were too wide. Now, there are interesting things at play here. First, the more aggressive a position we ride in, the thinner the saddle should be. The more upright we ride, the wider the saddle.

I can comfortably ride on a 143 mm saddle on our tandem, but those are excruciating on my road bikes. I rub the insides of my of my pelvic bones on the edges of the saddle in an aggressive setup. On my Trek 5200 (below, left) I run a 138. On my Specialized Venge (below, right) I run a 128 that is pure heaven next to a 143.

After we get the contour, next we move to width. I was measured at a 143 mm width, but that works for an upright position, call it the tandem riding position I mentioned earlier. The more aggressive I ride, on my two road bikes, the less width I want. When it comes down the the bottom line, I don’t mess with what works and keeps my heinie happy. I just roll with it.

The best way to figure your saddle width is to get measured at a shop that has a proprietor or two who know what they’re doing. Make sure to let them know how aggressive your setup on the bike is (if they don’t already know), or take a picture – or even the bike – with you to get measured.

With that out of the way, we’re going to get down to the nitty gritty and position. I’ve been of two minds on this. For a while, I was like, “Yeah, saddle height is important, but as long as you’re close, say within a few millimeters without going too high, it’s all good”. I disagree with that point currently. I’ve got an exact number that works on all of my bikes – and by exact, I mean that word. Before we get height drilled in, though, I should get into the fore/aft positioning of the saddle, because we do this first because this affects the up/down location.

Simply stated, on a road bike, the fore/aft position gets a normal rider’s leading edge of their knee directly above the pedal spindle when the feet are clipped in and the pedals are parallel to the ground. I like to check this when I’m setting a new saddle by getting the height close to where I want it (my personal norm is 36-5/8″ on the nose, maybe a 32nd of an inch less). Then I warm up for a minute or two and check the level by setting my crank arms parallel to the ground and running a 4′ level from the pedal spindle up to the leading edge of my knee. That should be plumb, up and down.

With that set, I move to the height. I’ll go with the 36-5/8″ and give it a ride, preferably outdoors because the trainer just doesn’t do the real world feel justice. Then I set the tilt of the saddle, while I’m out, so I’m perfectly balanced and cradled with my hands down in the drops or on the hoods. Once that’s done, I can drill in my saddle height over the next few rides. 36-5/8″ is close enough, but I may lower it just a touch if something doesn’t quite feel right over, say, 100 miles in a few days.

And that’s how I get to my Goldilocks saddle height position. It’s not too high (any higher and I’ll have some form of pain), it’s not too low. It’s just right.

It’s a lot of effort, yes, but it pays off… in the end.

I couldn’t resist.

A TNIL Breakdown; Crankset Woes Lead to Limping My Toy Back Solo

Yesterday was rough. I’ve been working on emotional stuff for the last two months and I’m starting to get into the difficult items that I like to keep swept under the rug… which, ironically, leads me to sweeping ALL of my emotions under the rug and makes me a difficult husband and dad. The good thing this time around is that I have a vast array of tools at my disposal I didn’t have before. We had a funeral to go to, for my wife’s aunt and that was hard on my heart seeing all of that grief. My wife’s uncle is devastated. They were inseparable and together for something like 61 years. There was a lot of love in that room, though. The service and lunch after finished around 3 yesterday afternoon so we headed home for a 20-minute nap. I readied my Venge for Lennon and my wife decided to check out a gravel group nearby.

I arrived at the church parking lot a little bit late, but got ready and Chuck and I headed out for a quick seven mile warm-up loop. We had just enough time and with a southerly wind, we were making fast work of it. Until we got about a mile from the parking lot and I realized I’d developed something of a “click” every time the pedals went ’round. In the parking lot, when I went to unclip from my pedal, the left crank arm felt odd… and it only took a shake of that crank arm to know I had a major problem – and one that requires a long Torx 45 key to fix.

I took the dust cap off with Chucker’s multi-tool 6-mm Allen key but I didn’t know what I could do about the Torx-45… I pulled out my 5-mm Allen key from my pouch, lined it up in the bolt hole and turned it, cockeyed, and shored up the bolt. It wasn’t perfect, but it was tight and the slop was taken out of the crankset. I crossed my fingers as the group rolled out for the main event.

Four miles later I knew I wasn’t going to be finishing with the group. I probably could have toughed it out but I didn’t want to do permanent damage to my $600 S-Works crank. I turned around and hobbled my Venge back to the parking lot.

I got to work on it as soon as I got home. I knew I was going to test-ride it, so I didn’t even bother changing out of my kit. Now, there’s a trick to the S-Works crank. There’s an adjustable washer that sets the crank arm width inside the bottom bracket shell so that everything is tight, but without binding. When the bike came back from surgery on the crank, in hindsight it’s likely I didn’t set the washer correctly which caused the crankset to pinch on the bottom bracket bearings, which required I not tighten the bolt all the way to keep everything from binding… we’re talking fractions of a millimeter here.

Rather than mess around, I took everything apart yesterday, including the lock washer – I stripped the whole damn system down, cleaned everything, and put it all back together with some Loctite Blue on the threads… and sure enough, it went back together perfectly. Including the lock washer that I’d absolutely installed wrong the first time. This time I was able to tighten down the bolt as should be done.

I took the bike out for a test six miles and it was spectacular. Perfect.

It was a bummer of a lesson to learn on a Tuesday night, but I’ll stick with being glad I learned it.

Happy Mother’s Day to Mom’s Everywhere.

I love celebrating Mother’s Day for my wife. This year’s will be better than usual as we’ll have a couple of generations of moms for this one. We’re having a big cookout in the backyard and the weather will be perfect. Sunny, light breeze and decently warm but not hot.

We’re starting it off with a bike ride, as we do all Mother’s Days. Then, it’s party time for the rest of the day.

Moms, enjoy your day. I hope it’s a special one.

What Does It Feel Like To Have Your Saddle Too Low, Too High… Or When FINALLY Attaining Goldilocks Saddle Status?

So, my wife and I were on our tandem Sunday. She’d mentioned that she’d like to have her saddle raised a little after our ride Saturday. I knew mine was a little low, too, but I forgot to raise either.

A day earlier, as a part of my normal yearly maintenance on the tandem, I’d removed, cleaned and lubed both seatposts. While I marked the insertion depth with electrical tape, I must have installed both seatposts just a hair lower than they’d been before. We’re talking less than two millimeters here.

So, what does it feel like when a saddle is slightly too low?

First, if we’re only talking about a millimeter or two, you’ll be slightly robbed of power. It’ll feel like you’re working too hard for the speed/power you’re generating – but not as much as it is if the saddle is too high. Second, when you pedal hard, which happens a lot on a tandem, it’ll feel like you’re jamming your sit bones/butt into the saddle as you pedal if the saddle is too low. Over the course of 20 or 30 miles you’ll develop a hot spot on your heinie that can be relieved by standing up, off the saddle, but it’ll get worse as the miles tick by. I’m not talking about a “chaffing” hot spot, either… I’m talking about an actual hot spot from the pressure of sitting too hard on the saddle to get the pedals ’round. This is a sure sign, more than what your pedal stroke feels like, that your saddle needs to be raised. Again, mine was just a millimeter or two (same for my wife’s), but I developed the aforementioned hot spot and I could literally feel my sit bones jamming into the saddle as I rode.

Now, the cool thing is what happened when we pulled over to the side of the road so one in our group could take a nature stop… I quickly raised both saddles and we rolled.

We were 2-mph faster and the hot spot pain went away immediately. For both my wife and I.

Now, if the saddle is too high, the pain is different. It’ll be on the inner-thighs from your legs bottoming out at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Your hips will rock as well, to get your foot to the bottom of the pedal stroke. Finally, your power to the pedals will be greatly affected because you’ll have to rock your hips to get to the bottom of the pedal stroke.

The key is to find the “butter zone” in betwixt too low and too high. Once you do, it’s magical. Maybe try a tandem…