There’s a storm brewin’ in our cycling club…
We rolled out last night to the best conditions of the year. Sunny, 75°, and a 3-mph north wind. We took a mile and a half to completely form up at 19-mph and we were off.
We rode as a team last night. A 20-strong team, with two tandems and a partridge in a pear tree.
It was a thing of eloquently fast cycling beauty, what unfolded last night.
Coming into the intermediate sprint I had a terrible set-up. I was fourth bike back and certain I’d be leading out the sprint train with a few hundred yards/meters to go. Scott was in front of me, with a tandem in front of him and a solo cyclist leading. I was hoping to hop on the tandem’s wheel but Scott broke early and very strong. I went with him, though I was sure I would be setting someone else to take the sprint. Scott took it to 30 and held it. As soon as he started to falter, I popped and went. Mike came screaming around me but I was willing to bet he over cooked it.
Sure enough, I stayed with my 31-mph and rolled right by Mike for the solo across the line. I was pretty stoked.
The A Group caught us with about four miles to go and the vast majority of the B Group was able to latch on and hang on for dear life. We crossed the line together having averaged better than 25 for the last five miles or so. As the sprint went, I didn’t participate in the final sprint. I don’t like sitting in with the A Group just to get into the mix right before the City Limits. That’s just a personal thing.
My GPS showed a 22.3 average, but Chuck’s showed 22.5 and Chucker’s showed 22.6… so did Scott’s. 22.6! There was a time not too long ago, that was the A Group average for the evening. We were all fist bumps and high-fives in the parking lot.
I can’t remember feeling more triumphant on Tuesday night. It was a perfect ride on a perfect night. We might get two of those all year long.
So this is where the clouds start to gather in this little tale.
We had a club meeting after the ride. Some in the club, it appears, want to start pushing for rules on the ride. Sign-in sheets, I was chastised personally for not making the B Group, a twenty to thirty strong group of grown men and women, wait for a full sixty seconds at the hard regroup location (even though I clearly stated we’d stop for 30 seconds to a minute to let any stragglers catch on who got dropped on the last hill and added that we we’d cut the stop short if we saw no stragglers)… and I was chastised by a person who couldn’t possibly keep up with our group on her best day.
I absolutely lost it.
I know where this is going. I’ve read about it all up and down the east coast. Sign in sheets, ride leaders, sweepers, max speeds… in short, it’s babysitting on a bike.
I can still remember my first Tuesday night. I showed up something like 45 minutes early so I was sure to be ready to roll. I had a guy I’d never met before come up to me and complain that he didn’t like the ride because it didn’t wait for anybody slower – that he wished the group would wait up for him. He was a 16-1/2 mile average cyclist. The A group finished over 22-mph that night. I got dropped that night after eight miles and every week after for four straight years before we made the B Group. Getting dropped was simply part of the ride. We would hang on as long as possible and hopefully find a few people to ride with the last ten miles. There were a few evenings I rode back alone.
It was this “wild west” approach to the club ride that I loved so much and kept me coming back. There were no set rules and certainly nobody to dictate how the group would ride. Today’s A Group is, opposed to the no-drop ride, an “Everybody gets dropped” ride. The B Group is only slightly more like a club ride. We have one regroup, about 20 miles in, for those who get left behind on the hardest hill. We also treat intersections with more of a neutral approach. Other than that, we hope a rider can keep up, and that’s all the support that’s required from the group.
What I love about the group is that we do what’s right, waiting for those who get dropped due to traffic, helping others back to the group as we can, not because of a rule, but because this is who we are. We don’t want our Tuesday night to be a race but we’re also not about to get into the babysitting business, either.
I won’t sit still for anyone in our B Group being relegated to the roll of bureaucratic babysitter. On a bike.
All I can say is, “Hang on, Baby Jesus… it’s gonna get bumpy”.
PS. This is why all of our weekend rides are invite only. I won’t post our rides on the club calendar.
There are a few important factors to consider when purchasing a cycling jersey. Rather than look at what can go wrong, because there’s a lot that can, let’s just stick with what to do so we can get it right. The first time. Before we get into this, I want to make one thing very clear; this post is for the discerning newbie cyclist who actually cares about how they look. If you’re one of those super-dorks who doesn’t care that your jersey is three sizes too big because “too big” means you can stuff more junk in the back pockets (even if that means all of that junk will be hanging down below your butt), wear super-dork well and own it. I’m not here to change you.
The hardest thing, IMHO, to get right when purchasing a jersey is the fit. There’s the club fit, and the pro fit, the relaxed fit, and the mountain biker’s fit… For example, I wear a medium in anything Specialized. I wear an XL for pro fit in Borah, a Medium or Large in club fit (depending on who makes the jersey), a Large jersey in Cavelo (pro-fit), a Medium in Pearl Izumi, a Medium in Primal… so how to sort all of this and keep it straight so I get the proper fitting jersey?
For ordering jerseys online, I always go with a mix of the American and European sizing. Between the two I can get very close to what I want. I also find the European sizing to be a little more exact:
With the basics out of the way, let’s get down to the goods. First, Rapha, Castelli, and some of the other wildly expensive brands are excellent choices. They will cost an arm and a leg but look impressive for years. The mid-range options, Specialized, Pearl Izumi, Bontrager, Mt. Borah, Primal, etc. will also hold up for years – that PI jersey I’m wearing in the photo on the bottom right has five hard years on it and it still looks fantastic – they also won’t make you question your sanity when you press “add to cart”. Then there are the cheaper options; Cavalo (much to my horror, I don’t think the brand exists anymore), Coconut, Funkier, etc. Cavalo is, or was as the case may be, excellent for the lower-end of cycling apparel. I have a full kit (top right) and a jersey still in my normal rotation (third from the top on the left). Coconut is fair as well (the bibs leave something to be desired, though). Funkier is exceptional for the price, IMHO (I highly recommend them – their bibs/shorts are very nice as well).
Shopping on the internet can be a little tricky, so pay attention. Always check the sizing charts and look for sayings like “race-fit” or “pro-fit” in the description. Also, make sure to look at the customer reviews for sayings like, “runs small”, “runs big” or “fits true to size”. Those will help immensely. On the other hand, if you’re looking for simplicity, shop at your local bike shop. About half of my cycling wardrobe (and it is extensive) was purchased at the local shop. First, because I have the money to shop there. Second, because my local shop sells Specialized clothing and it holds up and looks fantastic for years – the quality is exceptional. Third, because I appreciate my local shop being there. Also, if there’s any doubt on whether or not something fits, I can try it on first.
Finally, like anything, cycling jerseys often fall under the banner of, “you get what you pay for”, but there are some tremendous deals to be had in some of the Chinese merchandise. Just know going in, your Sponeed kit will never be mistaken for Specialized. Coconut will never be mistaken for Castelli… You can see the quality difference from a mile away. Okay, maybe a quarter-mile away, but you get the point. If that’s all you can afford, though, far better to ride in something you can afford to wear than not ride… or worse, ride in a tee-shirt… tucked into your shorts… God help us all, don’t go there.
In the end, with online purchasing being so prevalent lately, the best I can offer is look how the clothing fits on the website’s muscular model. You won’t look that good so the kit won’t look that good on you… So if it looks loose, baggy and ugly on the model, guess what it’ll look like on you? Not very good. If, as in the photo of the Coconut kit above, there is no model, well, hope for the best. Coconut worked out for me but there were a couple of Nashbar jerseys early on that simply had to go:
If you’re going to be riding fast, try to pick tight-fit cycling jerseys. Flappy material costs watts, so unless you have a thing for self-flagellation, better to go for something that fits a little tighter. If, on the other hand, you’re just going to cruise about, go for what you feel comfortable in. Comfort is King… with one exception.
It could be worse. No jersey is always worse than an ugly jersey. Trust me, I speak from experience. Don’t do it. Es no bueno. In fact, no shirt is even worse than aerobars on a mountain bike. Well, maybe not.
Whose Calorie Tracker is Right, Anyway? A Case Study in why it can be Difficult to Lose Weight using Fitness Tracker Data
For the longest time I relied, loosely, on data I got from Endomondo to watch what I ate while balancing a ridiculously active cycling habit. There once was a time I couldn’t eat enough “good” food to keep weight on so I added a little fast food on occasion. McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s… they were all on the table. I didn’t overdo it, of course, maybe a couple of times a week, but I didn’t shy away, either. It was a good problem to have.
Two years later it got to a point where I was eating two value meals after a Tuesday night ride to keep my weight up. And that’s about the time everything caught up to me. My problems started when I didn’t taper down the extra food and fast food after DALMAC (typically our “end of the season” tour – after that, we tend to ride a little easier). I kept eating as if I were putting in 250 mile weeks. I didn’t put on a lot of weight, but I got a little mushy, and I didn’t like it.
This year, I’m down at my fighting weight and I’m smarter going into fall. I’ve already started to taper and I’m saving fast food for big ride days only.
However, it seems I may have been using bad information all along. Take yesterday’s 54 mile ride: Endomondo gave me 3,307 calories to make up for. That’s a lot of chips and salsa, folks! Strava, for the same ride: 1,803. Where the extra 1,500 calories went, I don’t know.
Let’s look at another. Last Saturday’s 101 mile effort at 20.2-mph, the last two hours of which were in the rain. Endomondo: 6,559 Strava: 3,832. Even a short 20-miler. Endomodo: 1,216 vs. Strava: 616 calories.
Folks, I have no doubt in my mind that Endomondo is too high in their estimate, and I paid for it. That led to my troubles regulating my weight over the last couple of years.
If you like my blog, you’ll LOVE this post. Read it, in all it’s freaking brilliance.
The bottom dropped out of summer as if someone snapped their fingers. We got a few showers late one evening and bam. 91° down to 68° overnight (33 C down to 20 C) and those are the highs. We went from sweating incessantly in shorts and short-sleeves to arm and knee warmers. I thought back on my first years of cycling when I’d quit riding outside once the temps dropped below 55° (12 C). Years ago, 55 called for a thermal jacket. Nowadays arm and knee warmers with a jersey and bibs is just fine.
That’s what I rolled out in yesterday morning. The wind mentioned in the title hadn’t picked up yet and that was a bad thing. It was supposed to push us out and we were going to fight it on the way home. That meant no push. We had McMike with us which is always a good thing on a windy day. Also in attendance was my wife, Chucker, and my buddy, Mike.
It’s funny to me, as we near the end of the season, how short 60 miles is at the end of the season but how long it is at the beginning. We had a fantastic ride, the five of us. We went out at about 21-22-mph but I figured we’d bring it home around 18… Not so. We hammered on as if the 15-mph wind wasn’t trying to hold us back.
We rolled into the driveway with a fairly exceptional 19.4-mph average (my wife got 19.7 so we’re going with that!). The last few miles were pretty brutal but all things being honest, the other 54 were pretty freaking good. Riding a bike is funny that way. There are always a few rough miles where you question your sanity but for the most part, I’ve only had one or two bad rides in all of the years I’ve been riding.
And even that one or two weren’t all that bad. Now that I think about it.
I have a feeling what I’m about to let you in on is going to be viewed as cycling sacrilege. It just is what it is.
I’m a big fan of Strava since I started using it a couple of months ago, but I’ve noticed a flaw. A few weeks ago, we’re cruising the Tuesday Night Club Ride, on our way to yet another fastest TNCR ever. The B Group is so fast now, we’re actually as fast as the A group used to be a few years ago. Anyway, we’re into our third hill. It’s a bit of a pernicious hill because we’ve got a nice little downhill to it so you can get a pretty good run at it. With a little bit of a tailwind, like the one we had that particular Tuesday, we can take it at 22-mph. Under normal circumstances, say on a solo ride, I’d take that hill at about 16-18 (depending on tailwind lack thereof) and be quite happy with it. In this case, I was second or third bike, thinking about how crazy fast we’re heading up that hill and here comes a few others blasting by us till they crested the hill, out of gas. They coasted down the back side before cranking it up the next hill.
The group broke up in both instances.
I was at home looking at my data from the ride when I noticed the same two or three beat me by a second or two on the climb segments. They were charging up the hills and breaking up the group to get higher placements on the segments. The trick is starting at the back of the group and using it to get you halfway up the hill, then pass everyone up and crush it to the top. It’s not all that difficult.
It’s just… well, crappy.
On the other hand, for those who charge up the hills with them, we’re getting a lot stronger for the effort. Of course, if that’s the worst thing that happens to me on a Tuesday, I’ll be able to call it a pretty good day.
Here’s the rub, though, and I want to make this very clear so there is no misunderstanding: if you sit at the back and suck wheel in a group setting so you can “save it up” for the Strava segments, thereby blowing up the group in the process… You are an asshole. Stop it.
Is there a Noticeable Difference between a Pro Compact and a Compact Crankset – and which is Better?
Word at the water cooler is that the days of the Race and Pro Compact cranksets are numbered… I’m hearing all road bikes will be fitted with a standard 50/34 crankset with the 52/36 Pro Compact and the 53/39 Race cranksets going the way of special-order only.
That leads to my question: Is there a noticeable difference between a pro compact and a standard compact crankset that the change would matter?
It just so happens I can speak from experience. I have one of each. A 52/42 I don’t ride anymore, a 52/36, and a 50/34. The 52/36 and the 50/34 both roll with the exact same cassette, also – 11-28 10sp. Now please, bear with me, this is going to get a little geeky, but the idea is to get the average cyclist to think a little deeper than average on this.
So, to get into the nuts and bolts of this. First, it’s important to look at the pluses of the bigger “pro compact”. This is simple to do because there’s one; top-end speed. While you’ll suffer a little on the low-end, the top-end of the bigger chainring will definitely make it a little easier to either keep up with the group downhill, or bury it. There’s another side to that, though; you’re probably not fast enough to need the extra two teeth. I know this because I’m pretty fast but I’m not quite fast enough to miss them. You’re going to have to be in the 25-mph (40-kmh) average crowd to need the extra available in a 52 tooth chainring. Escape velocity with a compact 50/34 crank and an 11-28 cassette is just a shade over 40-mph (64-km/h). At 120 RPM you’ll be at about 42-mph (67-km/h). Escape velocity on a 52 tooth chainring is almost 45-mph (72-km/h).
In other words, unless you’re in the upper crust of the cycling world, and I mean the top 5% in the world, you’re not going to miss the two teeth.
Normally, I’m for the coolness aspect of cycling. A 52/36 crankset is far “cooler” than a 50/34 because the big gear is bigger. Not so in this case, though if I were ignorant of the 50/34’s benefits I would side on the bigger gears. I’m not, though. Having ridden the 50/34 extensively, I’m very much in favor of it over the 52/36 for a cyclist of my caliber (22-mph average on a fairly flat open road course). The compact crankset fits the 11-28 cassette gearing better for a flaw in the gearing selection when the cassette gears start jumping three teeth per cog. Again, what I’m about to get into is for the faster crowd 20-mph average and above. If you’re in the 18-mph crowd, there’s no circumstance I can imagine where the 52/36 is better than the 50/34.
With the 52/36 combo, there’s a hole between 18.5-mph and 21-mph where the cogs skip three teeth to fit everything in to an 11-28 cassette. It’s the same for both a 10 and 11 speed cassette. For solo cruising, that’s too big a jump exactly where you’re used to cruising. The 21-mph gear is a little bit on the tough side in a cross or headwind and the 18-1/2-mph gear is a little too easy. With the 50/34 combo, the hole is between 15 and 18-mph. Both gears are going to be a little easier than you’d normally cruise at. Faster gearing after that hole jumps two teeth per cog which means a 10-rpm jump between gears. This is easily more manageable.
On the other hand, when I’m riding with my group, I’m just fast enough to not have a problem with the gearing gap with the 52-tooth crank. In our group we’re almost always cruising between 21 & 26-mph so the 18.5-mph to 21-mph hole isn’t as “in your face”. Still, cruising with the group on the Trek, with the 50/34, is a little easier to find the right gear to match the cadence and speed I want.
So how deep does the rabbit hole go?
My friends, when the Venge’s chainrings wear out in a few years I’ll probably opt for the 50/34 combination over replacing them with what’s on there now. There’s just no reason for me to stick with the bigger combination, other than vanity. As cycling and vanity goes, the vanity is only important in how one looks on the bike. When it comes to how one rides, one looks best when one rides one’s best. Being honest, for me, riding my best is done on a 50/34 compact.