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“A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.”https://apple.news/AbDg0IxIXSTOlwPP9yHudMQ
I’m not necessarily a big fan of Apple’s “all the radical left-wing narrative that’s fit for you to see” approach to news, but if you’re only relying on only one side of the media (whichever side, dears), or if you think yours is the “correct narrative”, you’re undoubtedly missing the incredibly important “other half of the story” your side conveniently leaves out to push its narrative.
With that being said and tucked away, I didn’t know Albert Einstein was a big fan of the pursuit of happiness, but according to the linked article above, in addition to his work on relativity and other big “physicist’s issues”, it appears he was big on happiness.
Interestingly, if you’ve read more than a post or two about recovery and the joy I get from riding with my friends, you already know I agree with his assessment.
Indeed, calm and modest are easy, fun and beautiful. Sure, money is awesome for nice vacations and seeing the world, but we rarely see how hard it is to stay rich. We tend to think it’s all Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. There are trade offs, though. It’s rarely that that simple.
I know what modest looks like. Though keep in mind, there are different levels of “modest” – I was without great means but I always had a roof, a car and a job, the exception being just before I found recovery when I was skating on very thin ice). Early in our marriage, my wife and I lived a very modest life.
In the end, life is what I make of it and I’ve always found the ability to be happy living modestly.
Though I wouldn’t kick being rich out of bed for eating crackers, either.
When one’s thoughts drift to a versatile tape, those thoughts always drift to duct tape (it’s not duck tape). Part of this, of course, is comedic gold. The rest is the reality that duct tape is some truly wonderful stuff.
This infatuation with duct tape ends at home improvement, though (or lack thereof, as the case often tends to be when one resorts to duct tape).
For we avid enthusiast cyclists, our “tape of all trades” is electrical tape. And not just any electrical tape, either. I’m talking about the good stuff.
Anyone can pick up some cheap, brittle electrical tape at the local hardware store that will either fail because of the crap adhesive or crack because of the cheap material, but for those of us who demand excellence in operative use, we go for the Scotch Super 33 or Super 88 (7 mil for the 33 and 8.5 mil for the 88):
The working temperature range on the Scotch electrical tape is phenomenal and will, if you’re using it on a bicycle, work in temperatures beyond those that can be comfortably cycled in… so it won’t fail like the cheap stuff as soon as temperatures dip below freezing.
I like to add four or five extra wraps at my bar tape so that, should the need arise (and it has), I’ve always got an extra foot. In fact, just at the beginning of fall, a few friends of mine and I were out for a ride when one of them had their bar tape unravel from the bottom (the plug had popped out at some point). Before long he was trailing a foot-long piece of bar tape from his drop. He tried to hold onto it for a bit, but when he complained about it at our next stop, I just pulled off a few inches of my extra tape, ripped it off so the end would be at the underside of the bar where you couldn’t see it, and handed him the piece.
He wrapped his bar back up, secured it with the tape and we rolled on for the rest of the ride (20 or 30 miles if memory serves) without an issue. Electrical tape also makes an excellent frame protector, especially for black bikes. Helicopter tape is great, but electrical tape works better and won’t leave an impossible-to-remove layer of glue on your frame when you peel it off.
Brake a shifter cable? No problem. Take some of that extra tape and secure it to the frame so you can ride home. Brake a bottle cage? BAM, electricians tape will hold that broke piece of plastic or carbon fiber together till you can get home. Split a tire on a piece of road debris? A couple layers of well placed electrical tape will hold your tube in (or hold a dollar bill in place) till you can get home to fix it.
I’m sure I could come up with a few more uses, but you get the idea. The humble bumble electrical tape is a cyclist’s best friend. Long live electrical tape!
I’ve got a lot of bikes to look after. We have a detached garage and far too many bikes to store in the bike room over the winter so I have to employ some pretty aggressive tactics to keep my bikes shiny while they’re waiting for spring locked up in the garage. I’ll start with the easy, first.
The obvious winner for keeping the bikes rust-free is storing the bikes indoors, in a temperature controlled environment whenever possible. My wife once asked if we could store my Venge and Trek out in the garage for the winter. I said that was possible, but if either developed a spot of rust, I’d get a new bike. My bike room stayed “the bike room”, though I imagine I’ve paid a price for that.
*Notice all of the bikes that are hung from the wheels above/right are hung from alloy wheels. I don’t hang the carbon fiber wheels like that. It’s probably a little hyper-sensitive, but I’d rather not risk it. I don’t need a $750 “oops”.
With the good bikes in the bike room, there’s a level of care I can take to keep the others tip-top because the only thing I hate more than a noisy bike is a bike with rusty parts. First, it helps to know which parts will give you trouble. Your main bolts, the cable retention bolts on the derailleurs, the front derailleur frame bolt, the stem bolts and your stem cap bolts are obvious. What about the set screws for your rim brakes, though? I hit them all with a light coating of lube. I even take a towel and soak a corner with a good chain lube and use a 1 or 2 mm Allen key to get the insides of the bolt heads. Basically, anything steel.
Then, I’ll clean the chains and hit them with a light spray lube. This will keep them from rusting out in the garage.
Now, if you use a wax lube as I do, you have to degrease the chains in the spring before you hit them with the wax lube again, but it’s worth that extra effort to save the chains from rusting (or maybe rub a thin coat of the wax lube on a towel over the outside of the chain – I’d imagine that would work, too). Look at it this way; I’ve got eight chains on seven bikes to deal with in the spring. If I have to buy a new chain for every bike, we’re talking near $400 by the time I’m done. I’d rather put a new chain on the bikes when they’re useful life is over.
Then there’s the cassette. This will rust without a little preventative maintenance as well.
With a little forethought and an hour, I can protect my bikes so they’re shiny and ready for duty come spring.
Finally, I use the winter to perform any needed maintenance tasks that might be needed. I’ll bring each bike in and make sure the cables, housings and endcaps are clean and the shifting is right. If anything needs replacing, I’ll handle it while the snow is flying and I’m handling my workouts on the trainer.
What Happens When A Road or Mountain Bike Saddle is Too Wide: Complications in Bike Setup… and One Major Pain In One’s Heinie.
I’ve written about this topic in the past, butt it keeps rearing its ugly head – and this time I’d gone radical in the name of… being a weight weenie! Of all things. Now, after enough double entendres in one sentence to choke a chicken, it’s time to get serious because this really is no laughing matter. The truth is, I’ve got a much better understanding of how saddles work – and more important, how the width of a saddle can have an affect on the sitting area. Because I’m still riding on one.
My true saddle width is somewhere between 128 and 138. A 138 is plenty comfortable but I’ve ridden quite a few centuries on a 128 with nothing but glowing reviews. My Bontrager Montrose Pro Carbon saddles aren’t all that special, either. They’re contoured rather than flat with minimal but fantastic padded support, and they’re light. 140-ish grams if I remember. Just shy of a third of a pound for a saddle. There are lighter saddles out there, down to 80 grams, but I tried a minimalist 110 gram saddle with virutually no padding and I just couldn’t make it work (and it wasn’t for a lack of effort). I have thousands of miles on those saddles and I learned something I didn’t know over the last few weeks.
I used to ride a Specialized Romin 143 that I thought was the cat’s pajamas. I had one on my race road bike and one on my rain road bike, and put tens of thousands of miles on them. At first, the local shop set me up with Specialized’s Body Geometry fitting. I’d done my best and was excited to see how I stacked up against all of the glorious video equipment and high-class software analytics that could be thrown at bike fitting.
The shop lowered my saddle two millimeters after the three hour fitting process.
Over the years and six to ten thousand mile years, I developed a sore spot on my left inner-thigh bone, just forward of the sit bone (my left leg is a little shorter than my right). I simply lived with it for years as it wasn’t a full-time pain. It was fleeting. A few years ago it stuck around for a while and I decided to lower my saddle a couple of millimeters to see if that would fix it. That worked for the most part.
Until I found a Bontrager Montrose Pro Carbon on sale for around $120. The Romin I had on the Trek at the time was heavy – 276 grams or a little less than two-thirds of a pound. The Montrose had a 138 mm width, though, and I was supposed to be a 143. I threw caution to the wind, figuring it was worth the risk to drop that much weight with so little money (they normally ran around $300). When my saddle came in, I fitted it on the Trek and rode it for the first time, it was glorious.
After giving it two months with nothing but good to say about the saddle, I went back to buy a second for my Venge. You find a saddle that feels that good, it doesn’t matter the brand mismatch. Sadly, they were out of the 138 but they had 128s in stock. I gave it a go. I dropped even more weight off the Specialized and the feel wasn’t all that different from the 138. I expected the 128 to hurt a little because it wasn’t wide enough, but that worry turned out to be unnecessary.
And once I had both Montrose saddles on my road bikes, I found I could raise the saddles, comfortably, back to the old shop setting. 36-5/8″ (93 cm or 930.2750 mm) and I don’t have that pain on my left inner thigh bone just forward of my sit bone anymore.
That is, I didn’t have that pain anymore until I started riding my gravel bike that has a 143 mm Specialized Romin 143 mm saddle on it and I hit a bump… and that’s when it all started to make sense.
The pain I’ve been experiencing gets worse the wider the saddle gets, too. My Trek originally came with a 155 mm saddle that had me so sore I thought it was a running injury. As it turned out, after a few days off the bike, the pain subsided – then flared right back up after riding again.
The point is, saddle width is a little tricky to diagnose and it can present as other things, such as a saddle being too high. There’s also a difference between finding something that’s livable and something perfect, as was my case with the small difference between a 143 and a 138 mm saddle. The more I ride, the more that little bit mattered.
Matching the Setups of Dissimilar Road Bikes; An Exercise in Patience, It Is Possible. And Worth the Effort.
One of my proudest achievements since I began tinkering on bikes was setting my 1999 Trek 5200, a 58 cm classic standard frame, to match my Specialized Venge, a compact 56cm aero frame. As they are today, I can get on either bike and I can’t feel much of a difference between the two.
With the bikes stood handlebar to handlebar and saddle to saddle, you can hardly tell the setups apart, as dissimalar as the frames are. The Trek, even though it was my first bike, was intentionally set up to match my Venge, but it wasn’t easy:
Now, for the picky amongst you, you’ll notice the the Trek’s handlebar is slightly higher than that of the Venge. This is by design – I’ve actually got a 5-mil spacer beneath the stem of the Trek. There are a couple of reasons for the lowered handlebar on the Venge. First, the Venge is the race bike (or at least my “fast” bike). Second, the compact geometry of the Venge makes riding lower more comfortable than I can on the Trek. I don’t necessarily know the how and why of this, I just know it’s so. I can’t ride that low, comfortably, on the Trek (I tried). Finally, my Trek is the rain bike (and also my long tour bike). I figured I’d rather be slightly more more upright and comfortable when I’m on a long tour or facing the prospect of getting wet. When I tested the Trek with the handlebar slammed, I stopped using the drops because the reach was a little too much. Or I’m possibly a little too… erm, old to bend like that.
Here’s what made it all work:
- Stems. I’ve got a 12 degree x 100 mm stem on the Venge and a 17 degree 90 mm stem on the Trek. This was how I got the bar in the right spot on both bikes – this took a lot of trial and error and more than a couple of stems that my wife
doesn’tdidn’t know about.
- I have the same saddle on each bike – Bontrager Montrose Pro Carbon. The saddle on the Trek is a 138 mm and the saddle on the Venge is a 128 mm. I rode 143s for years but I don’t imagine I’ll ever go back. 143 is just a little too wide for my liking.
- Saddle height and fore/aft location on the seatpost. The length I went to get the saddle height right was nothing short of epic. Half a decade and more changes than you can shake a stick at. And the best part is the height changed over the years.
Starting with the saddle height, because that should be easiest, I started out at 36-3/4″ from the top of the pedal to the top of the saddle following the center of the top tube. I had a Specialized Body Geometry fitting done and that was lowered by an eighth of an inch. Then I lowered it by another eighth going by “feel”. The reason I couldn’t quite get comfortable wasn’t the height of the saddle, it was the width. When I switched to the Montrose saddles, I was able to raise both up to their final resting place of 36-5/8″ (or exactly where the BG fitting had me in 2014). Sadly, the thinnest saddle Specialized makes is a 143 so I’ve got a Trek saddle on my Specialized (I’ll get into this most interesting conundrum in another post).
Getting the stems right was an exercise in futility on the Trek. I’ve been through… counting… five stems before finally settling on the flipped 90 mm, 17 degree beauty you see in the photo above. I’ve only ever had one other stem on the Venge, an ultra-light carbon-wrapped aluminum beauty from FSA. Sadly, that stem only came in 6 degrees, so flipped, it followed the line of the top tube and it was very light, but I never really loved the look. I went back to the heavier Specialized Stem that came on the bike, with a -4 degree insert, I got it to 12 degrees, flipped (eventually I’ll put a 100 mm x 12 degree S-Works stem on the Venge):
Now, before I get into anything else, because of the contortion of the handlebar with the 6 degree stem on the left, my hoods are at the same stack height from the ground in both photos.
The simplest measurement was the fore/aft position of the saddle – whichever saddle I had on either bike, whatever the saddle height was at the time, it didn’t matter: shoes on and clipped in, with the crank arms perfectly parallel to the ground, the outer edge of my knee is perfectly plumb with the leading edge of the crank arm. It’s the same on both bikes.
And that’s exactly why this is so tricky to get right; you have to match the stem and the drop of the handlebars to where the saddle goes on two entirely different frames. If you get the reach wrong by 10 millimeters, you’ll feel scrunched into the cockpit or too stretched out to comfortably reach the hoods/drop. Then you have to match the angle of the stem to where you want the handlebar. Now this is made easier with shims that you can use under the stem to raise it, but it’s a pretty intricate puzzle with one bike. It’s crazy trying to get two, with dissimilar frames, to match up.
It is possible, though. It just takes some patience (and money). And it’s absolutely worth the effort.
I hated riding in the cold weather. Well, hate is a powerful word that’s misused and overused to a point it doesn’t mean what it should. I really, really, really, really didn’t like riding in the cold… until I bought a jacket that could keep me warm in the worst of it (well, at least the worst of what I’m willing to go out in).
Now that I’ve got a decent winter cycling jacket, freezing is only bad when I get in the shower and my butt itches where the leg warmers wouldn’t cover, and I can live with that. I haven’t been skipping out on riding with Chuck after work like I used to because of that. We’re in the dark about halfway through the ride now, and last night’s was one of those that used to have me cursing my lunacy for even throwing a leg over my top tube – just below freezing with a bit of a south wind. It was cold.
Chuck is a little insane, too. He’ll ride in weather that’d make an eskimo call him nuts and laugh out loud as he rides by. I’m a lot more… um… practical, and I don’t have a distaste for the trainer that he does.
So we rolled out a little early yesterday afternoon. I was nice and toasty. Of course, I only had about twelve square inches of skin showing, because damn, but I was comfortable at least. We headed a couple of miles south, into the wind before hitting dirt. South felt an awful lot like work and we had a lot of it ahead of us.
Now this is the one thing that really gets me about Chuck. All season long, unless we’re both really tired, we tend to push the pace a little bit – even when we shouldn’t. We ride every day so there has to be easy days in there because we want to save the good legs for the fast days (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday). One or the other of us will get up front and start pushing the pace and all of a sudden, we’ve got a real ride on our hands.
This doesn’t happen on winter rides. If I get to going a little too fast, Chuck will pull up along side me and just hang there until I dial it back a little. If I get behind him for a draft, he’ll take the pace down to “easy” in a minute.
After a long season of hammering to stay as fast as is fun, when Chuck gets to winter he’s like, “Nope. Not messing with that “pacey” stuff.”
The ride last night was awesome for exactly that reason. We talked most of the way and just had fun.
I hit a rock with about 1-1/2 miles to go. My headlight just didn’t pick it up. It was one of those that rattles your sphincter because you didn’t see it coming, but I just went over it… no worries about veering off course or anything. I had the right grip pressure on the hoods. As we started up the last hill, Chuck said, “Well, it turned out to be a good night for a ride.” Three seconds later my tire was flat and I was pulling over to the side of the road.
Fortunately, Chuck had a headlamp so fixing the flat was relatively easy (I’ll have to start carrying one of those in my back pocket… that was handy) and we were off and rolling again in less than five minutes to finish up the ride.
After showering and having something to eat, I had some last-minute maintenance to deal with on the gravel bikes. I switched to the grippy tires for the weekend as we’ll be dealing with looser than normal gravel on many of the local roads.
So there I was, changing out tires, thinking about how lucky I am to have The Chucker. I’d have been indoors and complaining about the monotony of the trainer weeks ago. Hotdogs and tailwind, my friends. It’s as good as it gets.
And not those kinds of hotdogs. I can see the comments already! Get your head out of the gutter. Actually, I may have to go back to “good times and noodle salad” when talking about my friends… “Hotdogs and tailwind” is… well… not that there’s anything wrong with that if you’re into hotdogs and tailwind… erm… yeah.
We rolled out at 8 Sunday morning. It was… um, crisp. Yes, that’s the word. Right at freezing, thankfully there wasn’t much of a breeze. Until last year, I didn’t have much love for riding in the cold. It was better than riding indoors on the trainer, but not by much. Then I bought a winter jacket from Funkier that changed everything.
I don’t love riding in the cold, now. But I can like it.
Jeff and Diane were on Diane’s mountain tandem. My wife and I were on our gravel bikes and Mike was riding his mountain bike because he hates his gravel bike.
We had a set route to start out, and we started modifying it right out of the gate after the first mile. The first modification was one I thought we’d be doing in the first place as it’s a part of the natural route. I was just glad to be outside so I just rolled with it and voted for the most miles every time someone offered a change. I’m a safe bet that way under normal circumstances. Once we made that first turn, it was just a natural follow your nose, no thinking route to stay on the dirt. There was no “choosing” which way to go… till we got to the bike trail, what should have been the furthest point before we headed back.
My wife had opted for the “follow the trail” option, so we did. Diane added on as we neared an intersection, though and offered a neat modification I’d never done. Rather than continue on the trail for another mile through a school campus, we continued onto the paved road for a mile-and-a-half, then turned onto another paved road for about a mile before turning on to a gravel road I never knew was there. I’d ridden the paved part more than a hundred times over the years, but the dirt road is on a downhill section right before an s-curve that’s so much fun I’m always hammering to pick up speed for the curve – I never paid attention to anything other than that. The new road was beautiful – it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere.
The pace was rarely tough but we weren’t slow enough to watch the grass grow, either. We did get a little fast on the pavement, mainly so we could get off of it quicker, but the rest of the ride was… just fun. There was conversation and joking and I just enjoyed being outdoors. And, as it turned out, we enjoyed being outside just long enough… we made it back just in time to stay dry.
It was like going for a long walk with good friends. But on bikes. Which meant the long walk wasn’t spoiled by… you know, walking.
I got roped into shaving my legs by the internet (and being a little bit gullible). That may read funny, but it’s the God’s honest truth. First, The Rules (I know). Second, everything I read out there on the webz said if you don’t want to look like a noob, leg, meet razor, razor, meet leg. Commence with the shaving.
The first time I climbed into bed with my wife after shaving, she was all like, “Wait a second! I like it!” She gently, ahem, recommended the clean legs stay.
And so it’s been for the better part of a decade. The real question is why?
Now, back when I started shaving, we all kinda figured shaving the guns was more aerodynamic but there was no data on it. Today there is. Shaved versus hairy legs were tested in Specialized Bicycles’ wind tunnel and the analysis showed a significant benefit. This is a fantastic “why”. It was my “second” why.
Next up we’ve got the road rash theory. For those who regularly try to stop their bikes very quickly, with their body rather than the brakes, having shorn legs means its easier to pick out gravel and less painful for bandage removal. These are two big pluses. But how many crashes have I been involved in where I needed that perk? That would be zero. In a decade. This is mainly for racers. Oh, and it sounds good.
Finally, we’re going to go where the rubber meets the road. I’m going to be candid and honest where many won’t, possibly because it’s a little vain: Bro, shaved legs just look awesome. It is what it is. Go to a big group ride and look at the difference between those who do and those who don’t shave. That’s all you’ll need to see. The hairy dudes will look out of place – even if they can lay down the watts.
The tough part here, and this gets fun (and even a little “political” without having anything to do with politics), is that shaving the legs is entirely unnecessary in a club setting. Five years ago, everyone who threw their leg over a hybrid shaved. Nowadays, you’re down to 75% of the club ride. Heck, I know a few guys who refuse to shave simply to be the “anti-everybody else” guy, hence the “politics without politics” angle.
I will say the same thing I’ve always said; shave or don’t. Nobody really cares as long as you’re competent on your bike. Just know this: if you don’t, you’ll be working harder than all of the shaved dudes to go as fast as they do. Fair or not, it is what it is.
Smooth and sporty, baby. That’s how we roll. On the asphalt. If you’re only into gravel or mountain biking, please return your seat back to the proper position and prepare for landing. You guys stick with being a sasquatch.
I was tinkering on my mountain bike over the weekend, a heavy behemoth of a hard tail 29er with a decent component spec. Hydraulic discs, decent Shimano group set, upgraded fork… there’s a lot to like about that bike – especially that my wife bought it for me as a Valentine’s Day present six year ago. It’s slow, though, next to its Specialized counterparts in the bike room (technically, that’s the spare bedroom, but “bike room” sounds really cool).
The shifting had gone all kittywampus on me last year and I wanted to figure it out. I don’t ride the bike often, but being responsible for the maintenance of eight bikes, I’ve gotten pretty good at it, and it was the Rockhopper’s time. It took two minutes to identify the issue. A big blob of dirt lodged in the barrel adjuster (not outside the barrel adjuster, in the barrel adjuster). I was expecting something much more… complex. I loosened the cable retaining bolt, cleaned the dirt out of the end cap and barrel adjuster, lubed everything, put it together and adjusted the shifting to perfect… and put it in the bike room. I have a tough time with the whole “speed” thing. I like to go fast so it’s hard to put that bike on the road when my gravel bike is easy to push 33% faster.
I’ve got two road bikes, a gravel bike and my mountain bike in the bike room for the time being. With my wife’s gravel bike, it gets a little crowded, but it’s that time of year when all of the bikes get used in a bit of a rotation. I rode the gravel bike Saturday. A fantastic (if cold) day for a ride. Sunday, I almost had the mountain bike out the door when it started spitting freezing rain. I rode the Trek rain bike on the trainer. Monday I was on Extra-Super-Duper-Hyper Secure Covid Lockdown (our COO tested positive, though we have no close contact, out of an abundance of caution, etc., etc.) so I rode the Trek on the trainer after going in to get tested (I feel fine, if a little stuffy from the weather change).
I picked my race road bike up from the shop that afternoon after getting tested, though I did wear a good KN-95 mask in the store, because I’m not an @$$hole. I also found out later that evening that the test was negatory.
Tuesday, my honorary Italian cycling brother from a Polish mother, Chuck(er), texted me while I was at work to see if I wanted to ride. I checked with my wife that I was clear and that’s when it hit me: ride the Rockhopper (mountain bike, for those not up on Specialized parlance).
Now, I knew Chuck would have his gravel bike and that I’d be at a severe disadvantage, but it looked like so much… fun. I texted him to see if he wanted to ride his mountain bike, too. He wasn’t as enthusiastic as I, but urged me to take it. He said he wanted a slow roll anyway.
I almost took the Diverge.
But I didn’t. And I had one of the more enjoyable night rides I’ve had. The shifting was butter-perfect. The beefy 29”x2.0” tires ate the dirt up… well, if the dirt hadn’t been packed down and absolutely perfect they’d have eaten it up. The tires were plush on the bumps, though. Way better than the paltry 30mm semi-slicks on the gravel bike.
I was smiling for most of the 22 miles even though it was just over freezing when we finished and I had to work quite a bit harder than I normally would. This is why I have a tough time giving up the speed of the road bikes when the weather is nice. When it turns cold, though, the additional speed just makes it colder. This is when the slow bikes shine. And my Rockhopper really put a smile on my face last night.
I posted a photo of all of my bikes in the bike room yesterday:
I’ve been thinking lately, if I had to live without one of my bikes, which would go?
Being blunt; I’m at S-1 but I’ve got the perfect stable. The saying applies more to bicycles than it does to those with a desire to stay married; variety is the spice of life.
If I had to, I could live without one of my bikes. Damned if I had to figure out which one, though.
And so it is, the case for three bikes, easy; road, mountain and gravel… with a fourth swing-road bike for rain days (also known as a “winter” bike in the UK).
As an aside, I could make the case for a fifth bike, while we’re at it; a tandem. While caution should always be taken when riding a tandem with one’s spouse, because without expert communication things get dicey in a hurry, our tandem was worth every penny. I love that riding that bike with my wife. Absolutely love it.
It’s a simple word, really. Sadly, many aren’t lucky enough to have a ready group (or sometimes even one friend) to ride with who can ride when their schedule allows, often at the drop of a hat. My friend Chucker and I are two peas in a pod this way. He and I get out of work at almost the same time, work 20 minutes from each other, and we live two mile apart. I can make it over to his house in six to eight minutes depending on how hard I want to push it to get there. If he’s had to work late, I’ll cruise by his neighborhood and get a few extra miles in till he’s had time to get ready. We ride most days of the week together.
Then there are days like yesterday. It was a special one for me. Phill showed up for the morning ride and the two of us rolled out to pick up Mike on the dirt road a half-mile down the road. The three of us picked up Chuck (not to be confused with Chucker) a mile or so later, and the four of us headed off down the road on our gravel bikes. This was a special group for me because Phill was the first guy I rode with who showed me the ropes on Tuesday night ten years (technically, nine years and one… two… three… five months) ago. Chuck helped us get unlost on my second Assenmacher 100 when we got dropped and took a wrong turn. Then there’s Mike. He and I have been thick as thieves on bicycles (without the crime) since I fell in with the group. We’ve put in a lot of miles together, the four of us.
Mike is incredibly slow on dirt roads because he hates his gravel bike and has no love for dirt. This meant a very slow roll, but time to talk like we normally wouldn’t on the asphalt. We took full advantage of it, recounting rides past and revisiting old stories that made us laugh and tales of woe that we were thankful to push through. The time passed like it didn’t matter. I don’t think we were passed by one car, either, in 24 miles. Maybe one.
We wandered around, following our noses and even talked Mike into deviating from our planned route home to check out a subdivision. Once Mike is ready to go home, he can rarely be persuaded to change course. He’s like an old hound dog who’s been out in the field too long when he’s ready to go home.
After checking out what turned out to be a senior living mobile home park, I brought up something Chucker and I had been talking about several days earlier when we saw a pace-line of Canada geese that stretched for miles. There had to be hundreds of them, and Chucker wondered aloud how fast they fly, guessing around 25 to 30-mph. I Googled it the next day; 40 to 50-mph with a top speed above 60 (!). Chuck responded as I did when I first read the 40-50-mph cruising speed. Then he mentioned that the two at the back of the pace-line are likely named for a couple of guys in our group who are famous for sucking wheel (and have earned the right to do so – not a one of us is anything but cool with this as we prefer them riding with us however they can). I picked that up the hand off and ran with it and we were laughing our asses off for the next couple of miles as we figured out who went where as it pertained to a pace-line of geese.
By the time Phill and I got to my house, Chuck and Mike having split off for home, I stopped my Garmin on the slowest ride of the year for me – I could have comfortably ridden that on my mountain bike – and I’ve never been so thankful for a slow ride since I first turned a crank as a kid. It was one of the best rides of the year; one I’ll do my best never to forget. I hope we have many more like it.
That’s one of the best cogs in cycling. It’s the 53/11 of cycling. Hotdogs, tailwind, and friends. And that’s as good as it gets.