My cycling brother from another mother and all-around good buddy, Mike, will often, out of nowhere, exclaim on a bike ride, “I love my bike”.
Most would mistakenly think this means he simply loves his bike – I clearly love mine – but that’s only part of what he means by that fantastically complex statement.
We were out on our first 50-mile ride of the year (my buddy, Chuck and I put in some bonus miles for a crisp 100k), about eight or nine deep in a pace-line, sprinting for City Limits signs, just enjoying that we were outside, and Mike, with a smile stretched all the way across his face, blurts out, “I love my bike.”
What it really means is, I love life on my bike, riding with friends, having the time of our lives.
Good times and noodle salad, my friends.
I love my bike.
I don’t make bones about my faith. I don’t toot a trumpet from on high, either.
I believe that God did for me what I couldn’t do for myself in terms of finding and embracing a life in recovery. Too many things worked out too perfectly for me to see the light and sober up so early for me to believe differently. My life, flawed as it may be, turned out way too good – and after such a miserable showing early on when I was trying everything based on my own will – to believe anything other than “there is a Higher Power, and I ain’t It”.
Today is going to be a day for great rejoicing, and likely, great violence. It is unfortunate that some humans simply can’t bear to see others happy. It just is what it is. I can say this with utter certainty, though; there will be vastly more rejoicing than violence today, and we’ll hear much more about the violence than the rejoicing – and that should tell you something.
I prayed for peace and prosperity for all this morning. I started the day out thanking God for this wonderful life I have, for my sobriety, and for the ability to enjoy that which I have, immensely. I thanked God for the life that led to my wife and kids – and for everything that led up to that.
For those who celebrate Easter, Happy Easter. For those who don’t, Happy Sunday. And for those on the fence, Happy Easter Sunday.
It’s another day in paradise… as long as we understand; paradise is what we make of it.
In my post yesterday, I mentioned my saint of a wife for taking double duty now that I’m working out of town and commuting every day. By the time 8pm rolls around, I’m done. Cooked. Stick a fork in me, it’s time to rest. My normal Thursday meeting is at 7:30, so this presents a little bit of trouble for me driving home.
My wife has been taking me to my meeting so I don’t have to drive – she lets me sleep in the car on the way home. Since she’s been taking me, I’ve never stayed awake all the way home and I’m usually out sooner than five minutes after leaving the parking lot.
My wife knows, just as well as I do, that I have to make my meetings. Meetings are what keep me grounded in the program. They’re what keep my head screwed on straight. They’re what remind me just how powerless I am in the face of my addiction(s).
My friends, I read a lot of hoopla centered around how abstinence from drugs or alcohol shouldn’t be necessary for “recovery”. Those who believe that bullshit don’t know people like me. I am, and always will be, until the day before I’m lowered into the ground, a two-fisted drinker. One in each hand and a case between my legs. I have tried everything there is to not be that way and the best I got was a few overnight stays at the Livingston County Hotel – also known as the Livingston County Jail.
To thine own self be true, and my truth is there is a zero percent chance of me drinking successfully. To that end, I keep going to meetings because I’m just dumb enough to try to find ways around that reality.
Last night was that reminder. We had a new guy, fresh off a relapse on heroin and alcohol (two downers, that’ll tell you something). Two small kids, an ex-wife, and he’s already trying to get back together with her. He’s been straight for a few days and he shakes like a leaf. Listening to him talk, he’s an absolute mess. He’s even worse off than not having a clue, because he’d been in once before so he’s just arrogant enough to think he knows what he’s talking about… he just can’t keep from sticking a needle in his arm or drinking when the heroin money runs out.
But for the grace of God, there go I, and I know this down to my baby toes. I will make my meetings, even if my ass falls off. And in the event it does, I’ll put it in a plastic bag and take it to a meeting because they’ll be able to show me how to put it back on. Because that’s simply how it works.
I will remain teachable today.
In my post just yesterday I was lamenting riding on the trainer so I could better deal with work. We were supposed to see some rain but it, miraculously, held off. Well, there was a 20% chance, but in Michigan, a 20% chance of rain means a 100% chance you’ll end up 20% wet.
So I took the Trek.
The wind was out of the southeast, typical for this time of year, so when I rolled out I crept up to 23-mph pretty quickly. The headwind I turned into after the first mile made me chuckle – I just put my head down, hands on the drops, and rolled. After picking my buddy, Chuck up, the fun began. Tailwind for miles. The clouds parted, the sun came out in all of its early spring glory, and we rolled on.
Then, the headwind… and nothing. We kept our speed up over 20 and had an easy 19-mph average going until we turned south. That was a bear. I’d come off a decent two-mile pull north of 21-mph into a cross headwind so I was gassed. Chuck rolled around me and took the lead but the wind had picked up and switched mainly to the south – we were almost dead into it. Chuck took a mile and was down to 16-mph when I came around him. I gave him a few seconds to latch on at the back and started to speed up. I took it up to 18-19-mph but only held that for a half-mile before I started to breathe a little too heavy. By the end of my mile I was down to 17-mph and having a tough time holding it. The headwind was nasty.
Then a mile east, which was a little easier, then the home stretch.
While the last half might sound more like work than fun, I really couldn’t have been happier to be outside. My legs felt great after a couple of days inside on the trainer and the mild temperatures (and sunshine) were desperately needed. I pulled in the driveway with a smile on my face and that good feeling is still with me this morning. I needed that.
Do not take any part of this post as if I were complaining. You would be mistaken, and I apologize for not better articulating that I am not a victim in this – I feel lucky to be doing what I do for a living.
I’ve got three hours from when I get home till I’ve gotta be in bed sleeping, if I want to be rested and up in time to get to work. By rested, I mean six hours of sleep. Six is enough, by the way. I can’t sleep much longer. I did, Monday, what is almost unconscionable for a cyclist; on a perfectly sunny, if just a touch cool day, I chose the trainer over riding outside. The truth is, after walking my job all day and the two-hour commute home, I was tired and I didn’t want to have to get dressed, get the bike prepped, then get my butt out the door for my hour ride… it just seemed like trying to fit in a lot at the time.
Well, yesterday I drove through a rain shower that was going to hit our Tuesday Night Club Ride so I opted to stay home… even though the shower only showed up as a blip on the radar. Those who did show up got hammered. My buddy, Chuck says he’s going to have to switch weather apps because the one he’s using is obviously worthless… and I even let him know that I was driving through a rain shower. I rode inside and also got my sleep.
Sadly, we’ve got rain in the forecast for today, tomorrow evening, and Friday… as of right now, it’s afternoon rain for Saturday and Sunday, so we might get lucky and squeeze some miles in over the weekend. Thankfully, no freezing temperatures.
Point is, I’m sacrificing a lot in terms of my normal riding to do this job. It’s worth it, by a long shot, but I’m having to be creative to fit everything in…
And I have to mention my saint of a wife. Without her, what I’m doing would be impossible.
I’ve only got one road bike that’s still straight off the rack, my gravel bike. It’s a level up from “entry-level” and I don’t plan on putting any money into it, other than maintaining it. I bought the bike to beat it up in the dirt.
My regular road bikes don’t look a thing like they did when I brought them home. Building them has been one of my great joys in cycling. It’s not the cheapest way to go, not by a long shot, but there’s nothing plain Jane about either of them anymore.
The best I could afford when I bough my Venge was the entry-level model. This isn’t to say it was the equivalent of a Specialized Allez, it wasn’t; the Venge I bought was the cheapest form of the full bike. Some of the upgrades I bought for the Venge helped with the performance, others are simply for looks.
Now, I’m going to come at this from an angle of my own personal experience. I am not an authority on what’s cool and what isn’t – in fact a lot of this is up to choice and opinion. On the other hand, I do know cool from gaudy and that’s because I tried gaudy first. Take what you like, and leave the rest.
On white bar tape
The Venge is my race bike, if I raced. And I don’t. I won’t. I don’t have the time or the want to. There are those out there who insist on white bar tape on the race bike. Their lesser bikes, like the rain bike, black is acceptable, but for the race steed it’s said white is a must. I don’t necessarily buy into that. White bar tape would look (and be) entirely out of place on my Venge. Now, if you look at a lot of the pro peloton, yes, white tape is prevalent, but it’s not a 100% thing (not even for Sky). If white works on your good bike, by all means, have at it. If it doesn’t, don’t sweat it.
Cool vs. Gaudy
Too much of a good thing is gaudy, a line I try to tip-toe on with the Venge. The red Look pedals, the red and black Blackburn cages… if I went red cable housings and bar tape, it’d be way too much. Even the one red bottle cage is pushing it a bit, though I think it works. This one is up to one’s opinion, just be wary of going too far.
Introduction of an additional color to the paint scheme
Originally, white didn’t have a place on my bike. My first set of after-market wheels were black with white and red decals, so I added a stem that had white as well. With the tiny white pinstripes on my saddle, it brought everything into balance. Then those wheels broke on a particularly bad pothole that I nailed dead-center. I bought replacement hoops but couldn’t get new decals. In fact, I couldn’t get replacement hoops from Vuelta, either (rims). I had to resort to Velocity hoops (who were spectacular to work with)… So I lost the decals for a while and that threw my bike’s color scheme out of balance. I could make the argument that I still had the pinstripes on the saddle, but that was a stretch. I lived with it, though, because the stem I’d bought was awesome and super-light. Then I picked up my Selle Italia carbon saddle – the white pinstripes were much more prominent on that, and so my bike was back to being well-balanced again. The point is, introducing too many colors that don’t fit the color scheme is a risky proposition. If one part goes bad and needs replacing, your whole “color scheme” can be thrown off. Proceed with caution.
Next up is practicality. My ultra-light stem, while it feeds my “weight wienie” side and the color scheme of the bike, there was a practical nature to it as well. First, it is exactly the proper length for my needed “reach” to the cockpit/handlebar. I can reach the bar top, hoods and drops comfortably, without strain, and I can ride in the drops comfortably for at least an hour. As well, the angle of the stem was a choice as well. Follow the top tube slope, of flatten the cockpit out with a steeper, inverted stem? Well, with the aggressive geometry of the bike, I opted for the stem that followed the top tube’s slope so it rises a little. If I’d have gone with a -17° stem, I would have had too much drop for the ride to be comfortable. The bike would have looked cooler, but looks don’t matter if you can’t stand riding the bike… I won’t ever sacrifice practicality for pretty, and vehemently recommend against that.
Where the rubber meets the road
If you look at a lot of new bikes, they’re all the same with the exception of paint scheme. Other than bottle cages, you really don’t have a lot of real estate with which to display your “pizzazz”. I went out of my way to make sure that my bike was my own – it’s got personality to it – and the process of making it so has been an absolute joy.
It is just about to start raining – 100% chance, it’s the calm before the storm. It won’t stop there, though. At some point that rain will turn to snow. We’re supposed to get less than an inch, but c’mon already. Tomorrow is supposed to be nice enough to ride, though. Snow in April isn’t unprecedented, but it is rare.
We knew this was coming so we packed as many miles as we could into yesterday. It was chilly and quite windy, but the sun was out in all its glory. It was close to freezing when we woke up but the temperature quickly rose to a balmy 40° (4 C) by 9am. The trick was the wind. Below 15-mph (24 km/h) is manageable, but the forecast called for 18-mph. Simple enough, but we also got gusts up to 32-mph (51 km/h). I wasn’t prepared for that.
Under perfectly sunny skies, the turnout for a Saturday morning was quite excellent – surprisingly good. We rode from my friend, Chuck’s house, so Mrs. Bgddy and I drove over… I love bonus miles, but not in that kind of blustery cold – and we’d have been dead into a headwind almost all the way to his house. We were just about set to roll when Winston called Chuck – he’d been riding down to meet us but, in his words, he’d calculated the extra time for his hangover into the time he left his house, but didn’t account for the hangover plus the headwind. He was running several minutes late.
We stood around until the shivering started. We decided to ride up to him, then we’d turn around and start the ride, proper.
And so it was. The first 25 miles were all into a headwind or cross-headwind. It was fun, even funny at times, though brutal. We just hunkered down, got in the drops, and pressed on. Once it started warming up, the wind wasn’t so horrible, too – and warm up it did. In fact, even before we turned to let the wind push us home, it got downright nice out. The sun was gloriously bright and the temp climbed to a point it was fun to ride – even into the wind. All of a sudden, a nice ride had broken out. After paying for it, the ride home with the tailwind was entirely enjoyable.
We got back to Chuck’s house with smiles on our faces and 44-1/4 miles under our early-season belts. We had some challenges on that ride, but we pulled together as a group to get through it and I left feeling that euphoric joy that we cyclists get to enjoy so often. The feeling lasted all day.
After a shower and some lunch, my wife and I laid down for a nap. After which, I had to run some errands that took me by the bike shop. As any enthusiast would, I stopped in to pick up my late-season tires and to say high to the crew. As I was looking around I noticed an older couple looking at cycling shorts and I overheard the wife ask if you wear underwear with them. I took overhearing the question as a sign and explained why commando is the way to go with cycling shorts. It turned out they had hybrids that they decided to dust off and ride so they had some questions. I did my best to answer all of them – including explaining why riding on the wrong side of the road is disastrously bad form, even downright dangerous.
There’s nothing like a good ride in the morning to get you into a mood to help some new folks into the sport. It was a good day, indeed.
And now it’s almost time to put some miles in on the hamster wheel…. ugh.