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Cycling in the Rain; Not Exactly Singing, But There Was No Complaining, Either

Desperation will make a man do things he normally wouldn’t. We’ve got another two or three days left of this ridiculous rainy weather and it’s only supposed to get worse until Friday. Yesterday afternoon was looking fantastic as the day wore on. It was hot, of course, but sunny with a nice breeze. I spent the early afternoon with my wife, daughters and my side of the family before heading home to ride. They’re here from all over the country for my daughter’s open house and so we could get everyone back together – it’s been seven years.

I got home just before 5 and cleaned up my bike a little from Sunday’s ride, then got ready. I was out the door and spinning towards Chucker’s house at five after with a smile on my face. I noticed my left cleat had my heel out a little, so I made a mental note to use Chuck’s Allen wrench collection to rectify that. I made my right turn after the first mile, looking left to make sure no traffic was coming – and that’s when I saw the storm cloud. Bigger than a mountain and heading northeast. Unfortunately, the start of that cloud was probably two miles south of where I was. We were going to get wet.

Thankfully, as hot as it was, I was actually looking forward to getting a little drenched. The operative word there is “little”. We got a lot. I was riding into my own rooster tail whenever we approached 22-mph – which prompted my Strava Title for the ride; ‘Twas an Alice in Chains Kinda Ride… Chucker started singing “Here Comes the Rooster” as he rode by and pulled in front of me, dousing me with his rooster tail… to which I responded by coming back around at 25-mph, singing, “Yea-ah yea-aah”, then gave the universal, “nom-nom-nom”.

The road was pooling water and I hit a pretty gnarly pothole hidden under a puddle that sent a shock up my arm but was no worse for the wear.

Five miles later it was drying up and we weren’t kicking up rooster tails anymore, but we weren’t fast enough to bother drafting, either. And then my drivetrain started squeaking a little bit. It was either the chain or the jockey wheels. Too much time in the rain finally caught up.

Once safely in the driveway with a little more than 22 easy miles, I started cleaning my bike waiting for my wife and daughters to get home (my girls got their second shot yesterday) but she called in the middle of my cleaning and asked me to get dinner started because she was tired out, so I dropped everything and got to it. Once done with dinner I went back to it and finished what I’d started. The bike was a mess (I’ll probably have to think about emptying the frame out of water…).

I won’t lie, I hate all of the extra maintenance needed when I ride in the rain… but other than that, it isn’t all that bad! Except eating rooster tails. That part I could live without.

An Update on My Trek’s Drivetrain; A Most Exciting Turn of the Crank…

I’ve got 103 miles on the Trek since I first reported changing around my rear derailleur and drivetrain to all Shimano (with the exception of the chain rings and chain – the chainrings will stay, the chain, read on). Some hard miles, too, including Friday’s push into an ugly headwind to ride the tailwind home, often hitting speeds of 35-mph (56 kph) and Sunday Funday which turned into a hot mess of awesome by the time we pulled into the driveway.

The derailleur was the difference maker – the old one having been worn out, but switching the drivetrain to a mix of 105 and Ultegra, but all Shimano, was the cherry on top.

I haven’t missed a shift since, and it’s been a long time since I could say that with the Trek. My 5200 is back to running like a well-oiled lubed machine again and the more I ride it, the more I enjoy it. Unfortunately, however, that wasn’t quite the end of the Trek’s problems. It had developed a creak. At first I thought it was in the steering assembly but I had that tightened perfectly to the point 1/8th a turn tighter would have the steering start catching mildly. When that didn’t work, I thought maybe it’d be grit in the bottom bracket bearings but I cleaned that out beautifully and it still creaked… I’d tried everything to stop the creaking until I got the idea that maybe the headset bearings weren’t lubed well enough the last time I took it in for a tutorial on how my Chris King threaded headset worked (it’s very ingenious and exceptionally tricky – and definitely a topic for another l-l-l-o-o-o-o-n-n-n-g post)… I was torn between taking the steering assembly apart or messing with the bottom bracket bearings when I finally decided to start with the steering assembly and go from there. On taking everything apart and inspecting the bearings, there was no lube on the fork’s bottom race (where the bearing sits). None. This is one of the most critical places on a bike to lube. So while I was in there, I slathered a goodly amount of lube on the race and the upper and lower bearings and put everything back together. Before I tested it out, though, it was also time for a new chain. I’d ordered a Shimano Ultegra/Dura-Ace chain and two KMC reusable Missing Links last week from Jenson’s (I love Jenson USA) and figured while I was at it, I’d put the new chain on as well (and the old chain was about ten miles from being shot anyway, according to my chain wear indicator tool).

I degreased the chain, installed it and lubed it with my new favorite, Squirt wax based chain lube and let it sit to dry while tending to my wife’s bike (cleaned the bottom bracket, new chain, cleaned the crankset). I took the 5200 out for the test-ride last evening. It was glorious. Not a single creak and the shifting, now that all of the componentry is Shimano 105/Ultegra, was every bit as good as the shifting on the Venge. It was perfect.

Now I’ve really got a dilemma in trying to figure out which bike to ride… And that’s my kind of dilemma!

Bicycle Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder: Behold! Bike Pron! And The Great Paint Debate!

My riding buddy, Chuck, is awaiting his brand new Specialized Tarmac SL5 (hydraulic disc, Ultegra Di2, etc, etc). He’s also got a set of Roval 50’s on the way as well, because he decided late that he wanted the SL7 instead, but that would have kicked him to the back of the que and likely meant he wouldn’t get his bike till the spring of 2022 when leaving things as they are will mean his 5 will be here in a couple of months (some time in March).

Chuck’s issue, beyond the badass Roval 50’s, was the blue paintjob. I, on the other hand, prefer the silver for one spectacular reason that I’ll get to in a minute.

I have been locked into black and red for a long time, since 2012. Oh, sure, I can get away with a blue jersey now and again (I own three, but only one I wear regularly on the Trek), but for the most part, if I want to look good atop the good bike, I’ve gotta be in red and black.

Chuck, if he had gone with the blue Tarmac, would have been locked into blue black and gray for the next decade, possibly longer. On the silver SL5 he can wear anything and get away with it. White, blue, red, black, gray, silver… he’ll get away with anything he wants.

Now, having been locked into red and black for so long, there are worse color schemes out there – in fact in the 2021 Tarmac SL5 line, even. The other two SL5’s are a terrible peach/pink and a baby blue to $#!+ brown paintjob… I don’t know how they got those by the big wigs, but having to always hunt for red and black can be a little monotonous. God only knows what you’d wear on the peach bike, but on the baby $#!+ model, you’d be stuck with throwback AG2R kits… until you sold the bike (or had the ugly bastard repainted red & black).

In the end, bicycle beauty is in the eye of the beholder. While there’s a lot we can do to influence that beauty with proper a proper setup, paint schemes are left to the owner. Unless you’re the owner of this:

If that’s your bike, I’m sorry, first, for poking fun. Second, take your palm and firmly smack your forehead.

Tuesday Night In Lennon: Keep Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin’ Edition

84° (29 C), partly cloudy, wind 5-mph from the southwest.

There was only one choice to make and it was easy.

The Venge, baby…

I readied my Venge and gear for the ride. Matching Specialized Team kit, S-Works helmet, Torch 2.0 shoes. Water bottles, tools… and out the door.

Out in Lennon, at the church parking lot, there were only three others there. We rolled out together for a warm-up. Two A guys, me and another B guy. It started out easy enough but got out of hand in a hurry. We were pushing crazy speed into the barely there breeze. We turned north with a tailwind and the tempo picked up. I’m going to save you the suspense. We pulled into the parking lot with a 20-mph average.

Who does a freaking 20-mph warm-up?  Why?!

After the warm-up, the first thing I noticed was the B Group was in trouble.  We had four solid “up front” people show up and about six who would want to hide most of the ride.  This doesn’t exactly bode well for a record setting night.  The decision was made, not by me, to roll out with the A’s.  I don’t know what the deal was, but they took it easy on us again this week.  I made it the full 20-ish miles to Shiatown where we dropped off the back for the shorter route home.  We were rockin’ a 23.3-mph average… and had tailwind all the way home.

I led the group out after the regroup and took the first mile uphill before the sprint into Vernon.  I was four bikes back by the time we came into view of the sign.  I put the hammer down early and liberally and got a fantastic separation within a few pedal strokes.  Nobody else had a chance and I cruised over the line near 33-mph and a smile on my face.

Then it was time to knuckle down for the final push home.  I was glad I was on the Venge, too – it’s just utterly fantastic at speed.  I could tell my regular riding buddy, Chuck wanted to up the average because once we cleared a busy intersection, he cranked the speed up in a hurry.  He flicked off and I took the next turn keeping it near 27-mph before dropping to the back.  We held anywhere between 24 & 28-mph all the way till the last couple of miles.

I was in entirely the wrong position.  I knew I was going to be the leadout.  There was no way around it other than a quick turn and a flick and I’m not about to do that.  I got down in the drops and waited for Mike to flick off.  He drifted off the front at 24-1/2-mph and that was my cue…

I thought about going hard as if I’d been let out of the gate, but I chose to take it up gradually to give Mike a chance to latch on.  The speedometer topped 25… 26… 27… I almost flicked off but decided to do it right and give the guys a “blaze of glory” sendoff.  I put my head down and pounded on the pedals.  I was giving it everything I had coming around a lazy left curve before the final straightaway before the sprint.  I was almost to 28 (45 kmh) when I ran out of gas just as Josh and the boys were coming by.  I sat up and still held 26 across the line.

The average ranged between 23.1 (me) to 23.4 (Chucker) for the ride.  Not a record, but a solid ride.  I still can’t believe we, as the B Group, are averaging 23-mph – and so smoothly.

I think I was still smiling when I fell asleep last night (I know I was when I woke up this morning).

At Least I’m Consistent… Miles, Weight Loss, Good Food and Happiness

I couldn’t have written my fitness and mileage for the 2020 season any better – everything else, well that’s a different story!  I started off slow, but I picked up steam with the lock down and COVIDcation 2020.

April – Full COVIDcation, didn’t work a day:                                  1,062 miles.

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May – Back to work, but fantastic weather meant:                       1,060 miles.

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June – More fantastic weather, but busy!  Still:                              1,058 miles.

At least it’s consistent!

I dropped 10 pounds in April.  Another three in May and another couple in June.  Best part is it’s been fairly easy.  I haven’t much changed what I’ve been eating, though I have changed how much.  The truth is, I got used to eating just a little too much.  And, if I’m being honest, enjoying eating just a little too much (there are two possible meanings in that simple sentence.  Yes, to both).  I’ve simply had to stop it and, with an ideal increase in mileage, the weight’s come off.

The way I see it, I’ve got about ten to go over the next three months.  If I can do that, I’ll be right where I want to be going into winter… the only trick being watching what the hell I’m eating over winter.  Typically, that’s not gone so well.

A First For Me, The 2020 Bikeathlawn and a Father’s Day Message

Yesterday was an interesting one. It was warm when we woke up, for June’s standards. Our longest day of the year, it was a balmy 64° when I rolled out of bed (early as usual). I’d picked my Trek for yesterday’s ride to give it a day in the sun and readied my our bikes when the time came at around 5am. We were rolling out at 7 to beat as much of the coming heat as we could.

We started out slow – and for once, I had no worries about pace. Only three showed. With my wife and I we had five and I’d planned on taking a lot of the headwind up front. I’ve grown to enjoy those days, actually, settling in for a five or six mile pull before making it back to the front after seven or eight more (Chuck took another five or more, Mike, my wife and Phill would take one or less, then it was my turn again). Once Chuck and I get done with the headwind the others take longer turns up front and we can relax a bit.

Our route yesterday, a fantastic ride down to Oak Grove, with a little ingenuity, was extended from its normal 47 miles to 60. I rode my cycling buddy, Mike home to make it 64 miles and some change. The ride was pre-loaded with headwind and after a few miles heading west, we got right into it. The wind, thankfully, was still on the gentle, enjoyable side so we made excellent time riding into it. With the temp in the mid-60’s (18 C), the cycling was absolutely perfect. It started out as one of those days where you’re simply thankful for being on the right side of the grass, pumping air. If ever there were a two-wheeled Hallmark ride, this was it.

At 22 miles, we were almost completely done with headwind. We had a few miles toward the end of the ride to contend with, but other than that it was cross and tailwind all the way home. And the temperature started climbing. 44 miles in, it was hot. We’d just stopped at a cyclist-friendly convenience store and I picked up an ice-cold Coke for my wife and I. It was nothing short of spectacular… and after ten miles, that and the gel I’d taken in were kicking in. I went from dragging a little to feeling fantastic. The rest of the ride was pure joy on two wheels.

After cleaning up, some lunch and a 20-minute nap, it was time to tackle the grass… thankfully, on a riding mower because my yard is WAY too big for a push-mower. The grass took a couple of hours.

After, with the yard looking fantastic, I had a creak to address in my wife’s bike. She had complained about it during our ride and I had no clue what I was getting into. I kept my tee-shirt on and donned an old pair of very nice Specialized RBX Pro shorts I keep in the drawer for trainer season. It only took a quarter mile to diagnose the problem; the seat post securing aperture. I took the bike into the house, removed the seat post, removed the securing mechanism, cleaned it, lubed the bolt and reinstalled it. Perfectly quiet… a new record.

My wife had taken the girls to the lake so I was on my own. I could have sat down on the couch and put my feet up but I was overcome with a desire to ride again. Tinkering on my wife’s bike set me off. I decided to take the Venge out for a parade lap around the neighborhood… and so it was. I didn’t even bother changing my shirt. I just popped on a helmet and rolled out. It took me seven miles to realize I’d walked out the door without my spare tire kit because I had no back pocket to put it in. And a parade lap it was. I was very tired and hot, but the ride was great fun. Another 13-1/2 miles in just shy of 50 minutes (I really took my time).

When I pulled into the driveway, I was ready done. Put a fork in me. 100+k bike, mow the lawn, and another 21 k’s, my first bikeathlawn.

Another shower, some dinner, and I was down for the count. I slept like a baby and dreamt of sunshine, carbon fiber and noodle salad.

It’s as good as it gets.

To all of the dads out there, happy Father’s Day! May your day be the best of days.

The Noob’s Guide to Cycling: Why Is My Front Hub “Ticking”?

You’ve just installed brand, spankin’ new tires on your brand spankin’ new wheels…

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Looks a little something like that.  You take that spectacular steed out for your first spin and you notice this faint “ticking” sound.  It’s relatively quiet at slow speeds and virtually disappears over 27-mph (43-km/h)… In between 15 and 25-mph, though, it’s maddening!

You’re sure you’ll have to send those brand new, beautiful, lightweight, aero wheels back and what a pain in the butt that’ll be.  They’re so fast.  

Hold up there, Sparky.  Don’t be all doom and gloom!

Flip your bike upside down (preferably on carpet or something so you don’t damage anything).  Look at your tires.  See all those little nubs sticking off either side?

Pull them all off.  Now take it for a spin.  You’re welcome, have a wonderful day.

Of course, I’ve spun this so I’m brilliant.  I was really the dope thinking he’d have to send his brand new wheels back.  Chuckle.

Cycling with Friends: Part 6,491

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Cycling, and How to Fix a Catastrophic Flat Tire… Without Having to Walk Home.

You know when you hit something in the road and it’s bad. Your tire flats almost instantly. A catastrophic blowout can be a little spooky, unless you’re prepared.

I’ve been carrying the same flat kit for five years and never needed the extra pieces… until Sunday morning, 25 miles out. Way too far to walk home…

One minute I was happily cruising down the road with my friends, the next I was on the side of the road with my rear wheel off, wondering how I was going to limp my bike home.

I was prepared, though.  I hadn’t been carrying around extra measures for nothing. I got my tire levers out of my pack and pulled the tube and tire. I inspected the inside of the tire… the puncture was clean through the Michelin Pro 4 Endurance kevlar.  It had to be a piece of metal or glass in the road I hadn’t seen. I reached into my pack and pulled out a package of Specialized Flat Boys. Scuffed up the inside of the tire with the sandpaper and applied the adhesive patch over the gash. Then I installed the tire, then the new tube… and then, the trick; a good old-fashioned Dollar bill folded in half, twice – once the short way, then once the long way.

Without that dollar I’d have been pooched. Even with the Flat Boy or another patch, it wouldn’t have been enough to keep the tube in the tire. The inflated tube would have pushed through the tear in the tire and it would’ve blown inside of minutes.  Instead, I rode the remaining 40 miles of that ride with a smile on my face (wondering the whole time if the roadside patch would hold).

One final, very important little tip: Make sure the tire flap from the gash is pointing the right way, no matter the rotational recommendation of the tire.  You want the gash facing so the rotating tire will slap it shut every time around.  If it’s backwards, the road can open it up a little bit every revolution.  When the gash is atop the wheel, as in my first photo, you want the flap pointing to the back of the bike.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t add the last little laugh line from my buddy, Brad.  I was standing in line at the counter to purchase a Coca-Cola (orange vanilla, it’s FANTASTIC) and Brad comes up behind me and says, “Hey, I’ll pay for that Coke for ya so you don’t have to take your bike apart”.  We had a good laugh over that one.

Cycling and Diagnosing a Minor Ticking Sound… It could be a Wheel-y Big Pain in the Keister, or not. Diagnosing Clicking Spokes that Sound like a Derailleur Problem.

Diagnosing small ticks and noises that a bicycle makes (but shouldn’t) can be easy… Sounds like it comes from the bottom bracket, it’s random in that it doesn’t happen at exactly the same place in the pedal stroke every time around… Dirt in the crank. Take it apart, clean it up, lube the parts, put it back together, Bob’s your uncle.

Then there are the tougher ones… Fairly random, loud click, usually under pressure when pedaling hard. Gets worse over time… You’ve taken the time to check all usual suspect bolts are properly tightened. Check the seat post. Loosen the collar bolt, raise and lower the saddle a few times (be sure to mark the post with a piece of electrical tape or a marker so you can replace the post where it was), take it out and clean it. Replace it, maybe using some carbon paste if necessary… creak’s gone. I had that one happen to me – took two days to nail it down on the Venge and it drove me NUTS.

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Then you’ve got the chain ring bolts, headset, rear derailleur hanger bolt, seat collar bolt(s), front derailleur bolt and stem bolts… even a bad quick release or the cassette lock nut. Every once in a while I’ll run into something that takes a “shotgun approach”. Do a bunch of stuff and hope one of them does the trick.

The key is to listen carefully and to regularly tighten suspect bolts (seat collar, stem, etc.) and to revisit when necessary – and definitely don’t forget the chain ring bolts… and isolate whatever part is causing the trouble. Oh, and one last thing – even after you’ve impeccably looked after your bike, know things will happen, it’s what bikes do. With my seat post story earlier, I have a regular maintenance schedule for the Venge where I check the tight on the main culprit bolts once a week. It takes about 35 seconds. I’d just gone through the ritual before we left for a road trip to Kentucky for the Horsey Hundred. About halfway through the century my bike started creaking. First under pressure, only when pedaling hard up a hill. We were in Kentucky, mind you, there are a few hills on the route. I went so far as to put little pieces of paper between each of the spokes where they crossed because I thought maybe the sound was coming from the wheel… I did this in the middle of the hundred. I was literally thinking about throwing my $5,000 race bike into the ditch and walking away (thankfully the thought passed).

When that didn’t fix the creak, upon getting back to the hotel room with my wife, I checked all of the culprit bolts again. All of them, including the derailleur hanger bolt. Everything was properly snug. Out of exasperation, I loosened the seat post collar and moved the seat post up and down several times before clamping it back down. The bike was silent thereafter.

Now that brings me to an interesting one… What if it’s the wheel?

Over time, the spokes can “find a home” where they cross. If you pinch them, they’ll click and you’ll feel where the spokes ground a little groove in each other when they load and unload under your weight while riding. It’ll happen over five or six years (maybe sooner if you’re heavier – I’m 175 pounds and this took five years of hard miles on the Trek’s wheels – but keep in mind, I ride two bikes throughout the season – the Trek gets the ugly, wet miles).

Let’s start with what it sounds like. It’ll almost sound like you’re half-shifted in the rear cassette only there won’t be much of a rhythm to it… If you’re half-shifted (either you’ve limp-shifted or your derailleur needs a quarter-twist on the barrel adjuster, in whichever direction you’re shifting is slow, up or down the cassette) it’s a constant “tick-tick-tick-tick” as you pedal. On the other hand, if it’s your spokes, it’ll be more random but you’ll definitely get a sense of a rhythm – “tick, tick… tick, tick, tick… tick, tick…” The “ticks” will sound like they’re coming from the cassette almost and they’ll sound similar but the spoke problem won’t be quite as loud.

There are a couple of ways to treat this.

First, check the rear derailleur indexing. With the bike upside down and whilst advancing the pedals, turn the barrel adjuster one way until you get a clicking sound, then turn it the other way until you get a clicking sound. Then turn it halfway in between and check the shifting to make sure it’s spot on. Make minor adjustments as necessary. Truthfully, this shouldn’t be necessary. If it’s your derailleur that’s out, when you advance the pedals with the bike upside down (or on a stand), you’ll hear the clicking. If it’s the spokes, you won’t – you need the wheel to load and unload to get the clicks. Still best to be sure.

Simplest, and least painful, is to rub some heavy lube in between the spokes where they cross. This should help and may even fix the problem so you won’t have to do anything else.

Next, if that doesn’t work, is to take a thin file and pinch the spokes together so you can access the groove. Simply file the groove out with a couple of light passes with the file. Then lube the spokes and you should be good. Now, notice I didn’t write, “file the hell out of the spokes”? You want to be gentle here so you don’t compromise the integrity of the spoke.

Finally, if that doesn’t work, have the wheel relaced.

The easiest way I know to isolate the problem, so you know what you’ve got, is to use a spare wheel. I have a separate rear wheel for the Trek so I don’t use a good wheel on my trainer over the winter. If the problem is indeed the wheel, you can use a different wheel to check it. The click will obviously go away with a different wheel on the bike. Another way is to put pieces of paper between the spokes to isolate them, as I described earlier: