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After last night’s Tuesday Night In Lennon, I was struck by the same thought I’ve been hit with after most Tuesday night club rides – and I just figured out how to organize the emotions so I could put the whole box of rocks into words… simply.
I’m going to deviate from the norm in which I burn up too many words on the first half so I can save all the goods for the fastest part of the ride. This should keep the post from growing into a two-cup minimum monster of a post.
Imagine, if you will, the start of any Tuesday night this year with a wind out of the west. It’s headwind for the first half of the ride and the second half is fast and loose. We had wind last night, but it wasn’t terrible, just barely into the double digits and we fought through it really well – and it was just cut up enough between the crosswind (north) and the headwind (west) that we had a 23.5-mph average at Shipman Road. Unfortunately, Shipman sucks worst with a west wind. It’s a cross-headwind that just smashes us into an echelon that’s always too big for our lane. I chose the left lane of the double pace-line, fighting crosswind for the first six miles, so I’d be on the protected side on Shipman, and it paid dividends. As they say, you can pay me now, or pay me later, but you’ll pay. With some help from a couple of the Elite Group, we kept the whole pace-line together through the hills till we split off into two groups. Nobody was dropped in the hills so we managed a rolling regroup. That’s where the fun starts.
With the headwind behind us and the group split in two, we chose to single it up so we could get longer breaks before taking a turn at the front. We’ve got a fairly long, not too steep hill to climb after we drop into a valley that, if we’re not careful, can hammer the tandems into the ground, so Chuck usually calls for calm till we crest the hill – and that’s exactly how it went last night, and it worked perfectly. We climbed the hill at around 21-mph – and before you ask, I know, that’s fast for going up. I can’t explain it, the hill is an easy climb. Over the crest, it was all hands in the drops, maximum warp over the half-mile descent. The tandems were up front for most of the mile to the City Limits sign. Through town was a little quicker than normal but we were stopped at a busy intersection, waiting for traffic to clear. Once through the intersection, I was expecting the pace to ease as we worked our way up a couple of shallow hills, but it was intense. We were running out of daylight and we were driving the pace to get home before dark.
Two miles later, we were at the homestretch: full tailwind, only three molehills to crest, and a lot of downhill to the finish. Coming around the righthand corner at full speed, we took the pace up to the mid-20s (mph – or 40 km/h) over the course of a mile and kept it pegged, except at those molehills. Down a quick descent to a busy intersection and we had to time a car going by but for the most part, blew right through the intersection. Mike took the lead up the hill and kept pace “reasonable” to “perfect” for the tandems to make it without too much trouble. Over the crest, it’s basically a 0.5 to 1% descent all the way to the finish and it’s always hot for those last two miles.
The tandems had worked their way to the front and were sitting one, two with a half-mile left and they took it to “11”. It’s funny, how at 23-25-mph, the pack can get a little squirrely, but when the pace goes to, say, 30-mph (48-kmh), everyone straightens out in a hurry. That was the case last night. The first tandem pulled off to the back and the second took over. Chucker was behind them and I was behind Chucker. Mike was behind me. And it was on.
I’m pretty sure I was in the drops, but can’t be sure. Chucker rides in the drops at all times, and Mike was behind me. The tandem pulled off just as we got to the sprint point and Chuck dropped the hammer, adding at least another 2-mph to the 30.5, catching me by surprise. I couldn’t quite answer his surge and Mike didn’t have it to come around me. I started to close the gap on Chucker, but he gained too much gap on his jump. We shot across the line at 55 feet per second, 31.5-mph, or 51-km/h… And just like that, we sat up, shifted to easier gearing and reset the computers for the cooldown mile back to the parking lot. We patted each other on the back and had a few laughs on the way back. We’d crossed the City Limits finish line at 22.9-mph for our average. Fantastic for October. The mood was effusive – “You’re riding great, man”… “No, you’re the one putting out massive wattage, you’re riding mid-season form!”, etc., etc. I love being a part of that, after we’ve laid it all out.
It was hotdogs and tailwind, baby.
The mosquitos were horrible when we got back, so we packed up quick and headed for home. Once I caught my breath, about a mile up the road, my thoughts settled and I tried to pay attention…
My thoughts were all centered on gratitude.
It occurred to me the refrain is almost always the same. When the bike is packed in the car and I’m heading home after a Tuesday night, all I can think is, “How did I get so lucky to be able to be a part of such a great group?”
Once the bike is put in its prominent resting place in the living room and I’m showered and not stinky anymore, after I’ve eaten and I’m sitting quietly with my thoughts, I’m simply grateful to be a part of that wonderful group.
I also realized last night, it’s not so important the why, as much as it is just enjoying this gift as it is.
And so I shall.
If you follow me on Strava, you’ve likely seen my weekday route doesn’t change. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday it’s the same 22.75 miles every time. We go over the same chopped up roads (one mile each of two stretches of road so unconscionably bad, most normal people would be shocked we haven’t done something different).
It has occurred to me we could change it up, but people expect to see us on the road by now (we’ve been riding the route for four years, now) and it’s the least traveled roads we have in the area just after rush hour. And it’s comfortable.
The reality is, it’s not really about the roads we ride on as much as it about being outside, pedaling away the day’s troubles – usually with a good friend.
I was thinking about this very thing last night as Chuck and I were cruising down the road, 21-mph into the wind, hellbent for nowhere… just because.
My Specialized Venge is still in the shop, so I’m riding my Trek 5200. It’s a little more work than the Venge but fits like a glove. I thought to myself as I was pushing the pace up front, down in the drops with my chin hovering over the stem cap, “If this was the only bike I had to ride, I’d be okay with it”. Oh, I’d mess around with a few things – a new fork for starters, maybe one of those cool conversion kits to change it from a threaded to a threadless headset.. but if that was it, if that was the last bike for me, I could be good with it.
With the corn fields coming down, I had a straight line of sight for a half-mile at the intersection and I could see we were clear a tenth of a mile before I ever got to the intersection, so I hit the hard right turn at 20-mph, leaning the bike into it, feeling the tires grip the asphalt enough the bike felt like it was on a rail. I was back on the pedals as soon as I was sure I wouldn’t scrape the inside one on the asphalt… and the warning bars at the train track dropped, lights flashing. So I stopped. Maybe the third time all year we were stopped at that track.
The train was moving so fast it brought the debris being kicked up by a harvester tending to his soybean field on the other side of the track a quarter-mile away. Little chunks of soybean plant hit my face as the train pushed by. I liked the smell of it. And just like that, the train was gone. I crossed the track before the residual breeze blew by and the warning bars lifted… and I realized halfway across how stupid that choice was because I was at an acute angle to the track. I was lucky I didn’t drop a tire between the track and ties. I’d have gone down in a heap. Instantly.
Once through the backed up traffic and through a left turn, it was another mile of crap road before a double loop in a subdivision. I said “good evening” to two ladies who walk the subdivision the same time we pass through. I caught the elder lady off guard and startled her a bit so I apologized and made sure to announce us, well in advance, the second time around.
The final noteworthy turn on the ride is a left, coming down off a small hill so the pace tends to be hot, in the mid-20s (40-kmh), so you really have to lean into the turn if you’re going to make it without smashing face-first into a mailbox. I’ve almost gone off the road three times.
After all that, it was tailwind most of the way home for us but we were an odd mix of putting the watts down and taking it easy. I didn’t care either way, we were really just keeping the legs loose for the last full Tuesday Night In Lennon of the season.
While I love a great, scenic route for a bike ride, when it comes to my daily ride, it’s not about where I’m going so much as why. Riding a bike, especially with a friend, puts a smile on my face and helps me to remeber why I’m such a grateful guy.
There was one thing I didn’t note about Tuesday night’s most excellent ride because this needed a post of its own, not just an honorable mention…
As I pulled into the parking lot, geared up to ride, some folks who normally ride Tuesday mornings were loading up. They rode later than normal because the morning’s weather was a mess. What’s special about this little tale, is an older fella had ridden with them and was just getting off his eBike. I’d met him before, but he doesn’t hang out with the same crowd I do, so I rarely see him. It was good to see him and I went over to say hello. He had a smile from ear to ear stretched across his mug (I know that smile). We had a nice, short conversation and I headed over to say hi to the others as well.
Later, I read on Strava that the older fella’s wish, made when he was a younger chap, was to ride with his friend, Jim, when he was 90.
Tuesday was his 90th birthday, and he had the cupcake to prove it.
First, 90, bro, and still riding – and not a trike. He wasn’t fast, but he beat his friend, who is much younger, back to the parking lot.
Second, we purists may tend to look down our nose at eBikes but the vast majority of us know they have a place in cycling. After seeing what I saw in that parking lot, I have even more respect for them. I knew they had their place, but I got to see that first hand in Armand’s smile.
EBikes are a wish come true for some.
Long live Armand, Jim, Lee & Vickie. And eBikes. And regular bikes. And tandems.
Ride hard, folks. All of a sudden, you’re 90… and still riding. So shall it be for us all.
My wife and I went to see our daughter perform in halftime show with her university’s marching band over the weekend. It was an awesome, close game and the halftime performance was fantastic. And seeing my kid was special. They do a postgame performance and photo for posterity and my wife and I stayed till the very end, taking a couple of photos from our seats on the 45 yard-line, about six rows up… but I couldn’t tell what the formation was meant to be. My wife and I had the same thought at the same time; let’s improve the vantage point. We ran up the concrete steps to get a better perch. Three-quarters of the way up we were both turned to snap a photo.
Still not good enough.
My wife saw exactly where I was going and handed her phone to me and said, “you go right ahead”. I ran up the last quarter and snapped the photo about eight seconds before they broke formation.
Now, we’re not talking “walked the steps fast”, “sauntered”, “trotted”… I ran those suckers. So, I’m thinking, afterward, how many 50-year-old men can run up 100 stadium steps to get a photo without having to take an oxygen time out in the back of an ambulance? Surely, I jest… but I will say it isn’t many and I was quite stoked I didn’t fall over in a heap.
We had an odd weekend for cycling last weekend. The day of the game, well before we left, my wife and I went for a sweet 41-mile ride at a 19-mph pace with several of our friends. I felt I could have ridden another 60 at that pace, easily. We had a 40-mile dirt road ride planned for Sunday but rain had us, wisely, sitting that one out. My weekday riding buddy, Chuck and I went out for an easy 20-some-miler for his “New Bike Day”, having just brought home his 2021 Specialized Tarmac SL7 the night before.
That left us in a quandry for what to do yesterday evening… we opted to save the legs for tonight and ride easy. We just lolled around the neighborhood along our normal route, kicking the tires on a few things that needed discussing. I rolled into the driveway with a 16.5-mph average over 22 miles and had barely broken a sweat. I noticed, as I was preparing dinner, how loose and good I felt.
While I do have my struggles related to fitness (I’m hard pressed finding the “want to” to get to a gym, and I love to eat good food), and recovery isn’t always a walk in the park, in the overall scheme of things, I’m feeling pretty fantastic about being me.
And I think that’s as it should be, really. I’m not “all that and a bag of chips”, but I’m content with who I’ve become. I’ll take that.
My wife and I started with an awesome ride with friends. It was really quite foggy at the start (we’ve had a lot of rain), but once the fog broke, it turned into a magnificently fun time. I was glad I didn’t decide to bail when the veil of fog descended… it had been clear as crystal before sunrise. We all had our best blinkie accessories and visibility wasn’t too horrible.
Then, a shower, lunch, and a nap.
Next, we were off to my kid’s college football game to see her perform in the halftime show. It was a wonderful time for us, and it was a tight game, though we prevailed when the clock hit zeros, by one point.
We finished the night up by taking our daughter out to dinner and driving home hand-in-hand.
passed out fell asleep seconds after heads hit pillows with smiles on our faces and love in our hearts.
And we slept in (even me).
Today will be another busy, fun day. A ride, a cycling club board meeting, bowling this evening…
Once over the shock and initial boredom that comes in early recovery (if you’re bored, volunteer for service work – you won’t be bored anymore), if one works for it, life will become so full you’ll need a master planner just to keep up.
And the best part is, you’ll be having so much fun, you’ll wonder how you ever had time to get drunk.
That isn’t overselling recovery, either. The key is putting in the work to make it happen. No farmer ever sat on his ass waiting for God to plant his fields. Recovery works the same way. You harvest only what you plant.
It’s Not The Big Things That Will Wreck Recovery, It’s The Little Drip, Drip, Drip That’ll Bring On The Deluge
This is one of those funny times where recovery intersects with cycling. Generally speaking, I get through the big things in life pretty easy. For instance, our well went out over the weekend. The only thing that survived was the well pipe – and that’s a good thing, because that’s half the cost of a well. Unfortunately, most everything else was bad. New pump, new tank, new plumbing, new electrical… folks, it was a big check I had to write Monday afternoon.
Sadly, Brent, I am thankful I hadn’t bought a couple of fat bikes…
Because the good news is, I could write the check and be done with it. Not only that, I still have a reserve left. In a few months of frugality, we should be right as rain again. No financing, no credit card debt, no having to get a loan to cover the cost… we just have to live a little more wisely through the winter and things should be right back to normal, no big deal. It was a big deal, though.
On the other hand…
Last evening, I’m out riding with my buddy, Chuck. We don’t have many nice evenings left and it’s getting dark pretty quick, nowadays. We’re going to be on the gravel bikes with lights and reflective gear shortly, so we want to make the best of what we’ve got. I chose to wear a cycling cap under my helmet, a rarity now that I’ve got a Bontrager Specter helmet. I don’t have to worry about bees getting through the wavecell part of the helmet in one piece, so I normally don’t wear a cycling cap under that helmet. I do have to worry about the cold, though. And it wasn’t great out. A damp, gloomy, 67 degrees that felt like 55… I was in arm sun covers and my cycling cap in addition to my normal kit. Just fine for an easy cruise.
Well, we picked up the pace on the way home, though – mainly my fault – and I started sweating. With three miles to go, I was up front and hammering down the road into the wind at near 21-mph and all of a sudden, my cap hits full saturation. A drip hits my right eye. Then another. Then like a leaky faucet, drip, drip, drip, drip… at the speed we were going and my choice of glasses, the little drips I never have to worry about were hitting me dead in the eye.
In the space of a minute, I was about eight seconds away from hucking my $150 helmet into the ditch in a huff. I went from mild-mannered, just happy to be on a ride, to full-on, “motherf***er” in a half-mile. I squeezed the sweat out of my helmet pads and took the full mess right in the face… and it was done. I wiped my face off with my sleeve and calmed down.
Now, it’s likely a combination of having my well go bad, in conjunction with not knowing that I could have saved a grand or more if I’d have known our tank was bad, but that was a little beyond my pay grade… but it was that little drip of sweat from my helmet that completely raged me out.
There is a simple recovery explanation for this phenomenon: when those big things hit, the program kicks in. Am I working my steps? What do I need to look at? Where am I in my spiritual foundation right now? Do I have any amends to make? We do this reflexively and immediately as we grow in the recovery way of life. This protects us from the trauma of tough things happening in life.
But those little things can build up in a hurry because they’re “just little things” that don’t require a four-alarm “bring out the twelve steps” reaction. Pretty soon, all of that little crap adds up to rage and, if we’re not careful, we do something stupid… or worse, go straight to “I want a freaking drink”.
Fortunately for me, Wednesday is a meeting night and I got to bring all of this up – it even related to another fella who spoke before I did. In the end, I used my experience (strength and hope), in my normal self-depricating way, to show how it works for me… and how it doesn’t.
Today I thank God for the little things. They’re an excellent reminder of just how fragile sobriety can be. And that I’ve still got a lot of work to do.
And so I shall. Recover hard, my friends. You may not get another chance to come back.
I got home from the office an hour earlier than normal, yesterday. It was a hard week so I took a bit of liberty so I could sneak in a ride before bowling. My wife called shortly after I left to inform me my order from JensonUSA showed up, too. Two new Shimano 105 chainrings and a new medium cage 105 10-speed rear derailleur.
I had the new parts on and derailleurs adjusted in less than a half-hour, and I won’t lie, I was pretty stoked at how quickly I got the parts on and derailleurs dialed in. I dressed and headed out for the test ride. The test was perfect. I hit every gear quickly, no lag in any gear, and the new chainrings were an excellent upgrade to the aftermarket chainrings I’d had on the bike.
Unfortunately, I’ve got something that’s creaking wildly when I get out of the saddle. I installed the pedals from my Trek when I got home to see if the pedals had gone bad (not it), so the next logical issue is the seat post. I removed it, cleaned it, hit it with some carbon paste and installed it again late last night so I’ve got my fingers crossed that’s the issue.
If not, it gets expensive.
Now, I was fortunate. I spend so much time tinkering with my bikes, I knew something was amiss a few weeks ago. The shifting was still quite good, but the derailleur was finicky about the barrel adjuster setting. It had to be just right, within a quarter-turn, or the chain would skip lightly in certain gear selections (it sounded like the barrel adjustment was just a touch off). New cable housings, expertly installed so as to avoid friction in the cable, didn’t help and once I knew the cable and housings weren’t an issue, the need for a new derailleur was a no-brainer. The chainrings were an added bonus. I was assuming that’s what was causing the gravel grinding sound when I got out of the saddle. I was incorrect, but drivetrain-wise, I’m set for at least another five, maybe ten years once I get the source of the noise corrected.
Where this gets fun and exciting for me is what’s next for that old Ultegra 10-speed derailleur. Next, I’m going to try to refurbish it with a new kit to see if I can’t get it back to working like new so I can put it back on the Venge and save the 105 derailleur for “just in case” either the 105 on the Trek or Ultegra on the Venge goes kaput in the future.
I’d have taken a new photo, but to be honest, it doesn’t look much different from the old photo… and I was way too busy having fun to bother…
Road Cycling and A Tire Air Pressure Conundrum: I Forgot to Air Up My Tires and Accidentally Found Out What I Was Missing!
I’ve been pumping my tires to 90 psi for quite a while, now. Before you scroll immediately to the comments section, I’m no lightweight. Running 26 mm tires at 70 psi would be a fantastic idea if I want a pinch flat every time I roll over a railroad track.
I had a lot on my angst Tuesday night. My Venge has been acting up a little bit, lately. The problem is a combination of worn chainrings and a rear derailleur that appears to be on its last leg (more on that in the coming weeks – I’ve got a few things I’m going to try to bring it back), so as I was prepping the bike for the fastest ride of the week, I forgot to air up my tires before I left.
I didn’t even think about it till after the warm-up, which was ridiculously fast. We were sitting on better than a 21-mph average after eight miles. Every one of those eight miles is on excellent asphalt, though, so it never occurred to me that anything was amiss. In fact, when I rolled into the parking lot after 10-1/2 miles, I was just trying to remember if I’d aired them up.
I thought about asking one of the others to use their pump, but convinced myself I must have aired them up and decided that’d be a waste of time.
The Main Event started off calm and collected, and again, on excellent asphalt for the first six miles so everything appeared normal. The road is fine for miles seven and eight, but stress cracks every twelve feet (four meters) make the next three miles… erm, a pain in the ass. I hate that section of road. It bums me out every time we hit the first crack (you would expect nothing less of my choice of words, :D)…
This Tuesday was different, though. We were well into the bad section when I realized I wasn’t as angry as I normally am on that section of road. In fact, I was gliding over cracks I used to have to clench for. Not only that, the above average speed over that section wasn’t near as taxing as it should have been. Then, one of the guys who likes to take stints off the front launched one of his attacks… it was way too much for me, but the group surged and started to reel him in. I decided to give the tires a go to see if they’d squish. The group was at 26-ish already and I went off the front at 30+, out of the saddle for a few pedal strokes… and the tires didn’t squish for the effort. I blew by the guy and stayed out there for a minute.
I’d be willing to bet the others thought I had ulterior motives, and that was a part, but I wanted to see how squishy the tires would be with a real effort. As the group caught me, I knew I was onto something. But there was one more test before I could give it the stamp of approval: The tracks in Vernon.
We drop down off of a fast climb into the City of Vernon and, just as we’re cooling down from the City Limits sign sprint, we hit one of the gnarliest railroad track crossings in lower Michigan. That bastard has ended many a Tuesday night rides with a group for a pinch flat. The tandems dropped the hammer at the crest of the hill leading to the descent and we had an excellent lead-out train. None of us opted to sprint for the sign, I’d like to think one of the tandems earned it so we let them have it without contest.
Up over the railroad tracks and off the other side without so much as a hiccup and we were clear. And I knew for sure, whatever the magic number was when I got home, that was my new air pressure. 80 psi.
Now, the obvious issue here is the pinch flat. I don’t exactly want to find out the hard way that, yes indeed, 80 psi is too low because I just blew out my tire and crunched my rim on a train track. Instead, I started at 100 psi and let pressure out till the ride got comfortable (but not squishy) and went a few pounds higher. That had me at 85 to 87 psi. 80 is a lot better, though…
And there you have it, an avid enthusiast’s account of how to accidentally stumble on a more comfortable (and faster because of it) ride.
First, let’s get into how to know your rear “mech” or derailleur is going bad. This is a very simple assessment. Complexly. The derailleur will become increasingly more difficult to “dial in” to a point it will shift well going up or down the cassette, but not both (unless you’ve got it set just right – then, a short while later, that won’t work, either).
There’s only one big problem: the same diagnosis applies for about a dozen other problems in shifting as it pertains to the drivetrain. Worn chain rings, worn cassette, worn chain, worn master link, loose chainring bolts, too much tension in the cable, too little tension in the cable, a kink in the cable, dirty shift cable housing, old cable housing… sweat or dirt that clogged a cable housing ferule, a dirty shifter, sweat or sports drink that leaks down to and gums up the cable guide below the bottom bracket housing… and that’s just a good start!
The point is, the only way to really know it’s your derailleur is to make sure all of the above items are eliminated first. If you’ve got those issues well under control and your shifting is still suspicious (and you’ve got five to 20 years on a derailleur, it’s a fair bet your mech is tired. I like to be in the perfect gear at any given moment, so I shift a lot. It makes sense that I’ll only get eight years out of a derailleur. Give or take.
Now, I know some will replace their drivetrains every few years. I know one guy who lives in the UK where it rains a lot, and changes out his drivetrain yearly. I can get five to ten years out of a drivetrain, but I don’t ride much in the rain, either. Usually, cleaning the drivetrain or replacing cables and housings will do the trick for any shifting issues I’ve got.
Recently, though, I’ve had to replace the derailleur on the Trek and the Venge is up next. First, there’s no question the chainrings are bad, so those have to go as well. However, it’s quite easy to tell the Ultegra rear derailleur is on its last leg. I’ve got a new stainless cable, new housings, new ferules all the way back to the rear mech. It shifts like butter at the shifter… except it’s almost impossible to dial in at the rear barrel adjuster. The derailleur is going.
So, the answer is to hop on down to the bike shop and order a new 10 speed Ultegra rear derailleur, right? Wrong. You can’t get them anymore. Not new, anyway… unless you’re willing to pay $70 for the new part and $150 for shipping (I’m not kidding). And a used mech from eBay will likely get me into the same mess I’m already in… So, the answer is a new 105 10 speed rear derailleur. They’re still made and sold new and run about $45 to $60 before shipping. Mine is on the way, with the new chainrings (I got about five years out of the current chainrings) and the order was big enough I didn’t pay for shipping.
Now, ordering the rear derailleur isn’t perfectly simple – nor is ordering the chainrings.
First, for the derailleur, you’ve got to decide on a short or medium cage. If you’re using big rings (52 & 53 tooth) with a corncob cassette (say 11-23), you’re going to want a short cage. With a compact setup (50/34 or smaller) with a bigger cassette (say 11-28 or 11-32), you’re going to want a medium cage which will allow for a bigger cassette for those climby days. I’ve covered chainrings elsewhere. For derailleurs, I really had to hem and haw over the Venge but I ended up going for the medium cage. I could have gone short, but I wanted the option for when I’m older to use a bigger cassette (currently 11-25 or 11-28 as the mood and amount of “up” suits me).
So, that’s the first option. There is a second… but it’s sketchy. And I’m going to try it after the new derailleur gets here.
The second option is to rebuild the old derailleur. You can purchase kits that include a new spring and grommets to refurbish an old mech, and there are plenty of videos on the web that show how to accomplish this. There’s also, for the real adventurous, a third option. The part that holds the replaceable spring has two holes. One for less tension and one for more tension. If the spring is worn out, and mine likely is because my derailleur is obviously clean and well-lubed because I take care of my stuff, common sense suggests I should be able to switch spring holes to add a little more tension to the spring which should get me a few more years out of it (?).
I’m not going to mess with that until the new mech is here and installed, though. I’ve got about another month of riding left on the Venge. I’m not about to shelve the bike until the cold weather has me storing it for the winter.
More to come…
I am a proper peacock on a road bike. I offer the distinction of the bicycle type because on a gravel bike I’d be fine, but on a mountain bike, my normal dress would be wildly outside of norms… or overdoing it.
Now, the coming sentence is going to be a little controversial. Please give me a moment to make my case before you storm off in a huff.
The Rules as written by Velominati helped me immensely to get a firm sense of how to look good on a bicycle. First, I really enjoyed the blatantly over-the-top arrogant humor and I was able to keep that in context to use “The Rules” as a guide rather than a straight jacket. I can only offer this, don’t get lost in the over-the-top snarky nature of the rules. Just use them.
So, there are a few simple suggestions people can employ to bring out that inner peacock that will, hopefully keep one spectacular without devolving into looking like you’re in a clown suit.
- Helmet is the proper size. Too big and you look like a mushroom. Too small and you look like… well, quite goofy! You want a happy medium and the helmet should match the color scheme of the bike or the tertiary color of the bike/kit color scheme (in the case above, if I didn’t have red, white). Purchasing tip: Don’t settle if the shop doesn’t have the proper size for your melon. A drive to the next shop, or God forbid, buying on online, is better than being stuck with a poorly sized melon protector. And while we’re at it, the idea is for the thing to protect your head in a crash – if it’s the wrong size, it may not do that as intended.
- The rules say no saddle bags, but those knuckleheads have never done multi-day tours where you have to stow arm warmers or rain jackets in your back pockets, along with food and phone. That’s too much crap when you throw in flat tire repair tools. A cool, small saddle bag is the way to go so you’ve got room to store extra clothing that was required because you’re out long enough to experience a 30-degree swing in temperature (12 in Cs).
- The idea is to show off by looking good, not by sticking out like a sore thumb. A clown suit, multi-colored, obnoxiously loud in hyper-viz colors is likely going to be over-the-top and the louder you go, the tougher it is to pull it all together to make it look good. If you want to be seen, try a rear blinkie or a Garmin radar taillight. However, this look can be carefully pulled off – it just isn’t easy to do. Ask Mario Cipollini… and if you’re going to go that route, it doesn’t hurt to be able to sprint like him.
- While pro kits are a little more common, a good guide is to stick with the retro stuff and leave the current pro kit to the pros. Do what makes you happy here… with one exception; don’t, under any circumstances, choose the world or national champion kit. Choosing that is like painting a bullseye on your back that says, “make me prove I deserve to wear this”. You will be ridden like a redheaded stepchild till you rightly blow up and bonk yourself to a crawl… and the others who blew you up will take pleasure in riding away from your bonked self and then recount the tragedy for the next twenty years. It will go like this, “Remember when we blew up the German National Champion? That was awesome!” Don’t be that person.
- Manufacturer team kit is always awesome. This isn’t to be confused with “Pro Team Kit”. I have three pro-quality Specialized “team” kits. I bought all of them on sale because they’re wildly expensive and entirely awesome. When weather is going to be excessively hot and you’re going to be riding with the big dogs and you really need the performance kit, the top of the line from one of the manufacturers, often referred to as their team kit, is awesome to have. Take advantage! (See gallery below).
- White shoes(!). In baseball, and a few other sports, white shoes are left to the superstars. Not so in cycling. White shoes, while near impossible to keep clean, are spectacular. Period, end of discussion. Just, um, try to keep ’em clean.
- White bar tape? If you race, approximately 60% of all pros have white bar tape and saddles – even when white bar tape doesn’t make sense. It’s a “thing”. A “I have a team mechanic to keep my bar tape clean and bright. You don’t” thing. If you do go with white bar tape, the saddle should also be white. Otherwise, your bike will look unbalanced. Black tape is fine and wonderful… and you don’t need a private mechanic to keep it clean looking:
Examples of manufacturer team kit above… and local team jerseys below – local team kit is absolutely fabulous – you can never go wrong flying your local colors. Assenmacher’s is our local shop, the Affable Hammers are our local team.
To wrap this post up, being a peacock, properly, is never a bad thing. Going to far, into the clownish, is. Know the difference and ride with confidence. And don’t sweat the rules. Too much. Try to see the humor in them and use them for good.