Four or five years ago my friends, Mike, Chuck, Phill, Matt and a few others, would take turns pulling me around on a ride. I would do my share, of course, but they would take double, even triple the turn I could. They didn’t complain, they just rode. They put up with small mistakes I made as I learned how to ride with others.
Two years ago I could take longer turns up front but we are distance cyclists, and I would run out if gas after 80-85 miles and rely on my friends to get me home (this is due to the fact that I would go way too hard early in the ride).
Today I can do more. I learned how to be a valuable part of a group. I’ve got my legs and I love to put them to use. I also know how to (and finally can) sit at the back for a few miles to recharge so I’ve got more for the end of the ride….
This weekend was a tale of two different rides. Saturday we had plenty of heavy hitters so I spent the first thirty miles enjoying the ride and the second thirty making sure my wife had the best draft and chance of finishing strong. Making sure my wife had a great draft meant I was often out if position. She rocked it and I had fun.
Sunday, with rain in the forecast and a small window through which to ride, I spent a lot of time up front. There were no one mile turns, three to five miles at a crack. We had a small group, but that kept it simple and fun with plenty of room for talking back and forth. Purely on the Fun Scale, Sunday’s 41 miler was where it was at – the only way it could have been better is if it had been longer but as we were cranking out the last eight miles we’d get hit with rain so it was decided we’d head for home… With three miles to go, I took the front at 18 mph into the wind. I cranked it up to 21 and held it there even though it hurt. I took it all the way home and by the time we hit my road I’d had enough. I’ve found that if I’m feeling a little melancholy about a ride being a little shorter than I’d prefer, all I have to do is pull for the last three miles. By the time that seven or eight minutes are over, I’ll have had enough.
221 miles for the week. 12 hours on the nose, and about 13,500 calories burned. While that’s all cool, what was really important is the amount of fun I had. Immeasurable.
I had it Wrong About Cycling; There can be a Balance between Speed and Fun. It Doesn’t have to be All Speed All the Time.
Over the last five years I’ve worked hard at getting faster on my bike(s), concentrated so intensely on being the fastest I could be, that I looked at my hobby with tunnel vision. My most popular post, out of more than 4,000 that I’ve written, is about how I got fast, to a 23 mph average.
That tunnel vision served me well. I did get fast. After three or four years I got my “cycling legs”, and now I’m fit enough to really enjoy riding and helping the group I’m riding with.
Last year, after trying to hang with the racers for several years, I decided that I didn’t want to work hard enough to get there, and I was close. A few friends of mine and I built a second group for the club ride on Tuesday night and I was free…
I worked hard with the new group. I became one of their horses and spent a lot of time up front. Not only did that keep my fitness up, the effort improved it. At the same time I went from constantly being on the edge of my ability to being able to actually enjoy the effort.
This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy cycling the prior years, because I did. I just enjoyed the effort more after the change.
Then there are the weekend rides. Over the last three years there were five or six of us who rode regularly on the weekends together. This year, we are between nine and twelve on any given weekend morning and we’re actually drawing a few of the A guys who are willing to sacrifice a little bit of pace to enjoy the ride. That was completely unexpected.
I always assumed that once you could keep the pace with the racers, that’s always where you’d prefer to ride. That was my blind spot. The few faster guys that we’ve had join us have been surprisingly enthusiastic about being able to just have fun rather than race all of the time.
Now, this does produce trouble now and again. Their cruising pace is pretty hard for some of our normal riders so we have to dial them back from time to time. Where I misunderstood was in thinking being held back would suck and would compromise fitness (if you’re being dialed back, you obviously don’t work as hard). The counter is to spend a lot of time up front, problem solved.
There are limits, of course. Using myself as an example, I’m good from a 17 mph average to 22. 23 is a lot of work and 16 is too easy.
A couple of years ago, everything was 20 mph average or better. It was all go, all the time. This year we’re anywhere between 17-1/2 and 21 for an average and I’m enjoying cycling a lot more.
Now the question is, if I hadn’t been all go all the time from the beginning, would I be having as much fun today? Now that’s a good question, and I’ll answer it like this: Without the fitness gained at the beginning, I’d be working harder now and not enjoying the ride as much. There is no doubt, though, having fun and enjoying cycling is way more fun than always being on the edge, focusing only on the ass and wheel in front of me.
I tend to laugh at people who whine about getting dropped at a club ride. Our club ride is “Everyone Gets Dropped” so I got dropped every week for four or five years before I wised up and formed The B Group™, but I never whined about getting dropped. I knew my fitness, or lack thereof, was the problem. For the whiners, however, their complaints will invariably devolve into “why can’t they just slow down!”
Why indeed. They don’t slow down because half of their fun is going fast. Waiting for a slow whiner is most definitely not fun. So, first, don’t be that guy/girl. If you don’t want to get dropped, don’t be that person because a few in the group will attack just to drop you. If you think that’s mean and nasty, try riding around with another hostage taker who is just like you, only 5 miles an hour slower and babysit them for 30 miles. You’ll know exactly what I mean.
Second, is be a safe, courteous cyclist in a group. If you’re not thinking about those around you, those around you are biding their time to attack your @$$ and leave you behind. Know that this is happening. Does someone from the group always attack right after you take a long pull up front? Guess what… It’s possibly because you’re an unsafe @$$hole. If you don’t want to get dropped, don’t be that guy. I specified “guy” because the vast majority of women don’t act like that – at least I’ve never seen it. Ladies, if you’re an unsafe @$$hole who doesn’t care about the cyclists you ride with, please leave me a comment below so I can put that little bit of sexism to bed… But wait, is it really sexism if you think women typically act better than men in a given situation? I suppose that might be reverse sexism, no? Anyway, I digress… Don’t be the unsafe @$$hole of the group – or if you are, you’d better be the strongest in the group. We have one in our group and I’ll attack him on every hill we hit because he sucks on hills and he’s dangerous to ride with. We’ve all tried talking to him but he just won’t change – so we drop him. Every time he shows up. It is
almost a game at this point. I almost feel bad for the dude, but making it home safe is more important.
Third, don’t be the one who always shows up late, lest you arrive one day to find the group decided to leave five minutes early and your butt’s out. You’ll be dropped before you even get your shoes on!
Fourth, Aero bars. I understand the attraction to them, I do. With the right setup a road rig can be made faster with them. Know this: If you ride on the bars anywhere but the very front of the pack or the very last position and a touch off the back of the pack – anywhere but those two positions, what it says about you is that you are either arrogant or an idiot (usually both). You’re too far from the brakes. Period. You will be dropped at the first opportunity.
Fifth, and this is a big one, don’t have a gnarly, squeaky bike. If it’s squeaking or creaking and you don’t know why, take it to the shop to get it fixed! Nothing is worse than riding behind, “squeak, squeak, squeak, click, squeak, squeak, squeak, click” all day long.
Sixth, and finally, don’t be stinky. I don’t care if you’re a hippie, use some pit stick and wash your cycling kit before you ride with the gang. Nothing is more off-putting than riding behind someone who hasn’t used deodorant in six months. Well, I say nothing, but a stinky @$$/b@lls/v@g is worse. If you can smell it, everyone else can, and it’s even gnarlier to them. Trust me. Unless you live in France.
To wrap this post up with a nice little bow, if any of this post pissed you off… Well, Sparky, you’ve got some work to do. Get after it. Otherwise, keep riding alone.
It was supposed to be raining yesterday afternoon and I was supposed to have a day off. Mostly sunny, 85 degrees.
I have this thing; I can’t take a sunny day off. It is what it is. I spend all winter cooped up, there’s simply no way I can look at a sunny, mid ’80’s day and say, “Nah, I’ll couch it and watch the baseball game.” Not after three months of snow, ice and bike riding in freezing temperatures and riding on the modern equivalent of a hamster wheel.
So I suited up, prepped my bike and geared up.
30 mph wind gusts. The first mile was slow but fine. The second, well look at the trees and flag. I almost was blown to a stop, then off the road so I turned around and headed home. There’s a difference between dedicated and stupid, and I do know where that line is drawn, even if I try to dance on it.
So I was three slow miles from an actual day off. I’ll call that good enough for government work.
I made it home a little early yesterday and I had every intention of not riding a bike.
Look at me. Every intention.
It was windy (20+ mph). But it was sunny. It was hot. But it was warm! It wasn’t raining and there’s a chance of showers this evening. I had to do it. Had to.
Seriously though, at least it was slow(ish).
Besides, my bike had developed an interesting click when I pedaled under power. It sounded like dirt in the crank but the shop recommended a few things to try first. I tried three new things and I wanted to see if any of them worked.
One of two things did the trick. I had two sticking keys in the free hub (the free hub holds the cassette on the wheel. When you stop pedaling, that clicking you hear is the teeth in the free hub). I cleaned those keys and got them to stop sticking and put the rear huh back together (I think that’s what did it).
Then I looked at the spokes. Where they cross on the rear wheel, they tend to rub together. They can wear a groove that will click when the wheel goes around. I did find two crossing spokes that were grooved. I put a piece of paper between the spokes….
Whichever it was, the click is gone.
So maybe I’ll get a day off today… and maybe not. I need some rain! Chuckle.
¡No Mas! ¡No Mas! Listening to One’s Body Sounds Cool, but Every Now and Again I Need to Tell Mine What’s What.
Okay, I’m tired. I know it, even if I’m not riding like it. Most days I’d tell you, I simply need a recovery ride, chill out a little bit, sit up and spin my legs… I might get away with that, but I really don’t know.
Check it out:
Last Friday: 39 miles
Last Saturday: 60 miles
Sunday: 49 miles
Monday: 32 miles
Tuesday: 39 miles
Better, averages, in order of appearance: 18.4, 19.5, 17.6 merciful mph, 19, 20.4. It’s the last two combined with the distance. 219 miles in five days is a lot, but at those speeds and this early in the season? Those are August numbers…
After just 16 days in a row, I’m taking a day off (it just happens to coincide with my youngest daughter’s band concert). I’ve already gone 60 days in a row this year but this feels different. There’s nothing wrong, really, in fact I feel quite strong and rode very well last night. I just want to keep that going.
In this case, my body is saying, “Roll with it, big fella. Keep riding.” Rather than listen to it, I’m taking a day off. At least I think I am, as of 4:30 this morning…
Often, I can buy into the whole “listen to my own body” thing, as long as I am truthful in my interpretation of what it’s saying. Too often I see people choose to confuse “lazy” as a means of “listening”. I worked very hard over the winter to be fit this spring. My strategy paid off and I want to keep it rolling and in this case rather than listen to my body, which is technically saying “go”, I think I’m going to tell it to chill out a minute.
Maybe you think I’m right, maybe wrong…. In the end, what matters is what I think and what I can get behind – my end goal is always stronger, faster, fitter. In this instance, a day off makes sense.
The Noob’s Guide to Cycling: How to Find YOUR Proper “Level” for Your Saddle (Or More Aptly Stated, How I Found Mine)
Or conversely, How we ride on those hard freaking saddles all day long!
If you listen to enough sources about how to properly level a saddle, you can come up with so many different answers your head will spin. You’ll be left dazed, confused and babbling, wondering just what the hell to do!
Fear not, my friends! There is a simple solution. Well, kind of simple. And kind of not. Really. Err….
The owner of our local shop is a “level it front to back and call it good” guy. That works for the Selle Italia saddle on my Trek:
That method does not work for the Specialized Romin saddle on my Venge though. Not by a long shot:
The flat saddle on the Trek is different from the one on the Venge. You can see the dip in the middle/back of the saddle:
That little dip is the sweet spot on the saddle. Now, another common way to level that saddle is to level the nose, or the front half of the saddle with a spirit level, but that’s not exactly right either – unless you’re a pro with a ridiculous drop from the saddle to the handlebar.
I only have 4″ (10.2 cm) of drop from the saddle to the handlebar. I say “only” because 4″ by pro standards isn’t much. By amateur standards, it’s a lot. If I were to level the front of the saddle, I would have to lower the nose another 3-4 mm. Did it, tried it, felt like I was being pushed to the front of the saddle and every couple of minutes I’d have to scoot my butt back to the sweet spot.
Once I had the front half of the saddle level, I brought the nose up a millimeter or two, rode it like that for two days, then raised the nose again and rode it for two more days… That’s the last time the saddle was touched. My saddle, that style of saddle, is meant to cradle the cyclist, whether on the hoods or in the drops. The front and back of the saddle support me just enough so I’m neither sliding forward nor does the nose feel like it’s jamming into my…. um… err…. gorunias.
What’s a gorunia you ask? (Go-roon-ya)
Well, you get kicked in ’em, it’s gorunia (gonna ruin ya)…
Anywho, with the contoured saddles, the idea is not to level the saddle but to set it so the saddle cradles you while you ride. It takes a little figuring out to get right but once you do, my God is it sweet.
The process of setting it is very simple. Level it (either back to front or just level the front half). Ride the bike. If it feels like the saddle is pushing you forward, tilt the nose up a little bit and ride some more. If the nose feels like its digging into your nether region, especially when you’re in the drops, lower the nose a little bit and ride. Rinse and repeat until your saddle cradles you. .. At that point, don’t touch it!