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Fit Recovery’s Cycling Wisdom for the Day Part 1
I’m going to start a new simple series of easy points. Today marks the first:
Clip-on aero bars… Too many bike riders have them. Only cyclists know how, or when, to use them.
If that simple statement angers you, you’re a bike rider.
Tuesday Night Club Ride: The Perfect Night Edition
Every cyclist has experienced the perfect ride. They are few and far between.
I was ready to roll at five minutes past five. Five minutes early. The parking lot only held two cars, other than mine. No worries, the weather was absolutely perfect. Upper 70’s (that’s 25 for you folks across the pond), not a cloud in the sky and a breeze that was struggling to make it to 4 mph if you could feel it at all.
McMike pulled into the lot and readied himself, then Phill. And we rolled.
Rather than blow words on a warm-up, I’ll simply say that it was stupid fast. Fastest of the season. Eight miles and I just ticked past 25 minutes. Oddly, I was up front the whole way…. I never pull that long at that speed for a warm-up.
The parking lot started to fill up with fifteen minutes to go. As has been the case for a month, we had more B guys than A guys. They rolled as we sat on our top tubes talking about the last weekend’s rides. After a couple of minutes we rolled. My new friend Doug and I up front with the group forming up behind us. We took the first two miles and worked up to 22 mph before heading back for a rest. That first quarter mile was the last time we saw a speed under 20 mph till we hit the hills.
We had two new guys with us and they worked into the group seamlessly – at least from what I saw but I spent most of the ride up front.
See, with no wind, riding even four bikes back, if you tuck into the draft just right, it feels like it pulls you down the road. Recovery from a decent turn up front is easy and quick. Eight miles in, Phill and I took a monster three-mile pull north of 22-23 mph and I was recovered within a mile.
So it went for the entire rest of the ride. I was feeling like it was the beginning of the season. My legs felt vibrant and strong – in fact, everything was working right last night. Lungs, heart, even my melon committee decided I felt good and just sat in the background chanting, “Go. Go. Go. Go.” I took the first sprint point at 22 miles without a challenge at 32 mph and I had plenty left in the tank. I stayed up front and pulled the group for another mile and a half.
I spent way too much time up front over the next eight miles but didn’t care, I was on. Approaching the finish line I found myself up front again, at 24 mph and decided rather than push it too hard, I’d keep it there and see if I couldn’t sprint off the front for the City Limits sign. I launched at exactly the right time and left everyone flat-footed. I only needed 28 mph to create an insurmountable gap and I coasted across the line.
We managed our best time of the season last evening and we were all smiles as we pulled into the parking lot. The two new guys worked out great and even took a few turns at the front – and were both stoked to come back.
I would say, without a doubt, that was the best weather we’ve had all year long on Tuesday night. Add to that the two new guys who rode quite well and the fact that I felt so good… Well, let’s just say it’s even better than noodle salad.
Shut Up and Ride, B!+€#! Your Fat @$$ Ain’t Getting any Younger.
That is, of course, a gender-neutral “b!tch” because the title is roughly the argument I present to that @$$hole in my melon committee who is incessantly nagging for a day off.
This is what I thought on the way up “The Wall “, long about the time I wanted to walk it up the last half: “F@ck you, motherf@cker! You will push those motherf@ckin’ pedals around till you’re on top of that f@ckin’ hill. Now MOVE!”
That is not a happy-go-lucky smile on my face. Happy showed up at the top of the hill.
I know most people want pretty happy talk nowadays. Nice, little motivational quotes like… cripes I can’t even think of any right now. The Web oozes with that bullshit. Oh, here’s a good one I read the other day:
Our Existence is our presence that the world can see, feel and experience through our work, our impact, our presence.
What a crock of $#!+. If one were to speak to oneself like that, well, just plan on riding with the D group I guess.
Dude, I truly believe that had I thought that gobbledygook, I wouldn’t have walked my bike up that hill. I’d have taken the old-timer’s route around it.
I’ll never understand all of that silly happy talk, and for that I am grateful.
Ride hard my friends.
The Easier Way to Clean a Bicycle Chain – A Brilliant “Hack”
One of the most important maintenance activities concerning a bicycle is cleaning the chain. With the miles I put in, I have to attend to it every week or two. Anything that can make it faster and easier, I’m all over it. I read about a simple hack a while back that makes it so ridiculously quick (and easy) that I had to share it (now that I finally got around to actually putting it together)…
First, because I use Finish Line Ceramic Wet Lube, all I need to clean the outside of the chain is a damp, soapy towel…. Then, to clean in between the plates and rollers, my new tool:
In the photo above, notice that I have the brushes separated a little bit. I did this for ease of cleaning after use. I simply put the brushes over the chain and squeeze. I worked them back an forth a little bit because I’m a little silly that way:
Sure enough, the chain isn’t perfect, but certainly quite clean (except that stupid plate right in the middle of the photo, because that’s just my dumb luck):
Anyway, cleaning the chain took a mere two minutes. I did, for the record, go back and get the offending plate. Sheesh.
Try it out, it’s as easy as it gets.
Post-DALMAC Bike Pr*n… Taking the Time to Clean the Steed
434 miles last week, 10,000+ miles since I bought the bike. This is why I take the time to keep my bike clean… It’s worth the effort. A clean bike is a quiet bike. A quiet bike makes its owner happy.
Cycling with Friends is Best when Paying Forward… or Back.
Last year, on the fourth day of DALMAC, I hit a monster pothole and broke the bottle cage that was holding a tool keg on a saddle mount. I needed a new cage so I could carry my tools and thankfully the first stop of the day was at a bike shop in Harbor Springs… Unfortunately, with all of the activity, it took them quite a few minutes to mount a new one on the seat tube and then mount the one on the seat tube on the saddle mount. The group I was with headed up the road but my two best friends, Mike and Phill, hung back to pull me back to the group. They worked their asses off to get me to the next stop in enough time I could fire down a quick burger before we headed out for the final 25 miles.
I don’t know as I’ll ever forget that.
This year Phill was struggling to hold on with the group after the bike shop stop (no potholes or busted cages this year!). There are some gnarly hills coming out of Harbor Springs and Phill was losing contact on every one. I, on the other hand, was feeling quite lively. I could have, had I felt like it, been among the first three guys up every hill and I was working back and forth in the group to take photos and fill gaps for guys. The group waited for Phill twice, but after the third time he dropped on a hill, they kept rolling.
Entering the tunnel of trees at the start of 119, I held back and waited for my friend to catch up. I pulled for him the entire 8 miles up to the next stop and even caught a few other stragglers from the group who hopped on. I even managed to snap a few photos along the way…
At some point, Phill said that I didn’t have to wait, that he’d make it eventually. I replied, “I seem to remember a friend of mine doing this exact same thing for me last year.” I can’t describe the feeling of usefulness and good that comes with helping a friend like that, hopefully that comes through in the recounting of the day.
We made excellent time and had plenty left to scarf down some good food. In Good Hart, MI of all places.
Now this is one of very few times you’ll ever see me admit this flat out on this blog, and I only offer this to emphasize its importance…
Several people who have commented on some of my posts lately have noticed that, to me, cycling is much more than just riding a bicycle. Cycling is about friends and family sharing a wonderful experience and staying fit together. My cycling friends are just as important to me as my AA friends.
If I don’t have my cycling friends, included in that group are my wife and daughters, cycling would be diminished to a workout, a trip to the gym. Cycling is vastly more than just a way to build muscle and health. Cycling is belonging to a great family, the vast majority of which are exceptional people.
After we hit the finish line yesterday and were headed to the showers, my friend found me, came over, and thanked me for sticking with him.
I offered that it was my pleasure and thanked him for letting me return the favor. He would have had to knock me off my bike to get me to leave him.
That’s just how we roll.
DALMAC Day 2: Mrs. Bgddy Freshlegs Saves the Day.
In case I haven’t made it perfectly clear in the past, my wife ROCKS. We bucked a headwind all day again yesterday but we managed to knock more than a half-hour off our rolling time.
We also had much nicer, though cooler, weather to start. A gentle breeze that intensified as the day wore on.
Our group grew as we passed other riders along the way but we’d spit one off the back as fast as we picked new riders up.
By the time we hit 65 miles, a few of the guys had had enough. They decided to break of and do the short route.
Matt, Chuck, Doug and I stuck with the long route. We were there to ride our bikes with our buds, so cutting miles off didn’t make sense, even if we were hurting.
Much to my amazement, we actually toned it down to an enjoyable level… until we got passed by a Kubota. Doug moved first and I jumped on his wheel.
Dude, the farmer driving that bad boy was cool. He knew we were there, even waived to us. That photo was taken at 25 mph, and it was like we were pedaling for 20.
When I noticed Chuck and Matt didn’t make the jump, we stopped for a photo op… you’ll understand why.
I don’t do that enough. Too much get-there-itis.
So, Mrs. Bgddy shows up like an angel, at 91 miles out of 101 and pulls us home the whole way, and fast enough that our average went up from 8.3 mph to 8.5… and then set up the camper while I sat there catching my breath.
Words cannot to that justice.
Still on pace for a 3,200 mile month. 😎
The Sweet Smell of Happiness
My brothers and I would stay up north, at my grandma’s house, for a week or two every summer. Alpena, Michigan, right on Lake Huron. We would play with the neighborhood kids all day long, never setting foot indoors until it was dinner time. We would swim in a neighbor’s pool, an in-ground monster with a 10′ deep end and a diving board. Those were the days!
Fast forward ten years and I’m a teenager. I’ve got my own car and those days are well behind me. I’ve got things to do and places to be! I’ve got a job so I can feed the car. Sadly, nobody’s ever made their millions working the drive-thru at a hamburger joint.
Fast forward five more years and those childhood days aren’t even a memory, they’re gone. I’ve morphed from an awkward kid to an insecure kid to a full-blown alcoholic. I’ve got money problems, legal problems and nothing I try can fix the predicament I created. Survival instincts have kicked in and I’m too worried about my next drink to bother with thinking about when I was a kid – or how far I’ve fallen.
Fast forward another five years and I’ve sobered up. God has done for me what I couldn’t do for myself. Now it’s time to make up for those lost years. Life is all about making something of myself now. No time for anything other than work but rollerblading at the local county park… This is where I learned that fitness is almost as important to sobriety as air and willingness.
Fast forward five more years and I’m engaged to be married. My wife and I have a small house, I have a steady job and I am fully committed to living a sober life. I am finally an adult.
Fast forward five more years and I’m a runner now. We’re out for a run and I’m pushing my daughters in a double running stroller. I have a career now and my wife and I are not exactly happy together but we’re making it. I am sober and just trying to figure life out. It’s hot and humid… That’s when I run through a wood-lined section of road and a sweet smell takes me back to those days of playing up north at my grandma’s house with my friends. I have no idea what it is, but it makes me happy.
Fast forward ten years. You guessed it, still happily sober but my wife and I have figured our marriage out (with a lot of help) and we’re in the middle of the happiest streak we’ve ever had. I’ve been into cycling for a few years now, having trained for and done a couple of triathlons and deciding the swim and run were messing up a perfectly good bike ride. In fact, one of the best parts of riding is the fact that I ride through that favorite smell of mine a lot more often. It seems every week or so now, I get that waft of pure joy. I still can’t figure out what it is but it makes me happy like nothing else I know.
Fast forward to the ride from Lansing to Mackinaw City last year, on the fourth day. The day before, I rode through that sweet smell in the air so many times I lost count. Today we’re riding up the coast of Lake Michigan and I’m in the middle of at least a two-mile-long stretch and that sweet smell of my awesome childhood surrounds me. I have a grin stretched from ear to ear, enjoying the sunshine and looking all around me. And that’s where it finally hit me.
It’s the sweet smell of cedar.
The one smell on this earth that takes me back instantly to those perfect carefree days, playing in my grandma’s neighborhood is the smell of cedar. Not Godforsaken cedar chips, actual, real cedar trees. Combine that with the one activity that makes me feel like a kid again, cycling, and it’s nirvana.
Soon I’ll complete that journey again. Day three and four are gonna be awesome…
The Best Assenmacher 100 Yet… No Noodle Salad, but Coney Dogs’ll Do.
Last year for the Assenmacher 100 the whole Affable Hammers gang left right at 8 am. We started out with 40 and within 20 miles we caught and picked up two more groups. We had a full peloton of more than 70 cyclists in a double pace line.
Cars couldn’t pass and motorists became obviously agitated trying to get by us.
This year we decided to stagger the groups so that didn’t happen. We also split up the A’s and B’s, not so much to shrink the group but so we could enjoy the ride rather than finish with our tongues hanging out, completely dusted.
It turned out to be an excellent idea.
We had a deep group and the strongest tandem couple on the whole course:
Ladies and gentlemen, we had a 10-14 mph wind in our face for all of 54 miles and they pulled the whole way. I was second or third bike for 45 of those miles before I finally went back for a rest, and we averaged 19.4 when we pulled into the rest stop at 57 miles.
We fueled up, filled our bottles, and let some water back out and rolled – but not before we took a minute for a group photo:
20 miles after that photo, Adam was done. Put a fork in him done. We were sitting at 19.8 mph but had a wicked tailwind. Dave, the middle guy in yellow and I took the front and pulled for five miles. I headed back a few bikes and took a spot in front of Adam and Diane so I could make sure they got the best draft possible.
We were cranking out miles north of 24 mph.
This is why I chose to go along with a B group. I could have gone with the A guys. I’d have been spit off the back somewhere around 80 miles and I’d still have ended with a 21 to 22 mph average. I’d have been hanging on at the back the whole time, tongue hanging out, and I’d have been spent.
Instead, we finished the hundred miles at 4:58:10 and I was useful to my friends.
I enjoy helping people I like ride faster than they would if I wasn’t there. I like being a contributing member of the group. In the end, being able to say I was useful at 20.2 mph is way better than only being able to say I finished with a 21.5 mph average. Any day of the week and, in this case, twice on Sunday.
So, back to the title… No noodle salad on hand and we had tacos for dinner so noodle salad would have been a little off. However, two minutes after we pulled into the parking lot I was munching on two coney dogs, and they were good.
That was good enough.
This will go down as one of my most enjoyable Assenmacher Hundreds. I worked hard but I had big fun. And my buddy, Mike, recovering from open heart surgery, was at one of the corners cheering us on. It was a special day, all around.
A Fantastic Weekend of Miles and Munching…
Sunday was a perfect day for a bike ride. The wind was light, the temps were cool (just below room temperature) and the miles were long. The couple on the tandem wound up with two flats on the ride and that took a little more than a few minutes to figure out. Once we did, though, it was all hands on deck. I ended up with 58 miles on the day and enough left in the tank that I had a great time down at my sister’s house with my wife and kids playing Giant Jenga. They simply don’t make enough days like yesterday.
I wrote about Saturday already. Almost identical in terms of weather and our group was a lot bigger so there was a little more help out there – though hiding behind a tandem for most of the day wasn’t all bad either.
Then there’s our new cat. I don’t have to tell you how cool this cat is.
The week was actually a little disappointing as I only ended up with 235 miles. I was hoping for 250 or more but just didn’t have the time to fit them in. Such is life I suppose. Still, 237 is nothing to sniff at and this week is quite promising as well, as long as the weather cooperates. I’ll just have to see how it goes – as of right now, it doesn’t look good. Of course, this is Michigan. Anything can happen.
As for the “munching” part, well it was my daughter’s birthday. We ate like we meant it. Oh, and lots of noodle salad. Three weeks to DALMAC! WOOHOO!