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Cycling and Carbon Fiber or Aluminum?

Aluminum has its place in cycling. It’s stiff, light… erm… well, it’s stiff and light. Carbon fiber took the world by storm starting in the late 80s and early 90s but really broke metal’s hold on cycling in the late (late) 90s when Trek introduced one of the first production full carbon fiber frames and dominated the road bike market with it’s 5000 series frames (including the 5200 and 5500 frames). Carbon fiber is infinitely moldable, while aluminum is quite finite as a frame material.

So, which would you choose for your bike?

I’ve got a little of both in the stable; aluminum gravel bike, aluminum mountain bike, steel tandem, carbon fiber road bikes.

With today’s trend of wider tires, aluminum can actually make a little more sense with its main feature; stiffness. Now, we’re going to pretend for a minute that you can’t make carbon fiber stiff in one direction but compliant in another by adjusting the layout and orientation of the carbon sheets. The one killer of efficiency in a bike frame is compliance. The more the frame move as one pedals, the less efficient the frame is. If we can do anything with aluminum tubing, it’s make a stiff bike frame. The one downside of those frames in the 80s and 90s was that skinny tires made them terribly uncomfortable. Once we started throwing 28 to 32 millimeter tires on bikes, aluminum’s rigidity was able to shine because the tires could take so much of the road’s chatter away.

For this reason, I love my gravel bike. Sure, it’s heavy, but it’s not terrible at 24 pounds… until I try rolling with someone on a 17-pound carbon fiber gravel bike. That extra seven pounds takes a good bit of effort (not all seven pounds are in frame weight, obviously, it’s only a pound or two… the rest is cheaper components and wheels. I could make the bike 18 pounds if I invested some money in wheels and decent components).

Where aluminum really makes a good showing is in a tandem frame. Carbon fiber, and there’s at least one manufacturer who makes them (Calfee), is prohibitively expensive when you get to something as big as a tandem. A frame alone costs as much as my wife and my full Co-Motion Kalapuya (with a second set of road wheels) – this is enough I wouldn’t even want to afford one… but that aircraft grade aluminum beauty we ordered is going to be phenomenal when it gets here! And with the ability to ride 32s for paved roads and 45s for gravel, I have zero worries about the rigidity. In fact, I’ll welcome it next to our current steel tandem that weighs 42-pounds. The new tandem will be in the mid to upper 20s.

There’s a return to aluminum as the frame material of choice because it’s more abundant, recyclable and it’s cheap. With the wider tire fad of late, this makes that at least reasonable.

On the other hand, I’d never trade in my carbon fiber. When it comes to an awesome ride, carbon fiber is still the best – no matter how fat tires are getting:

Do eBikes have a place on mountain bike trails? A funny take on a charged question (pun intended).

Now, it should also be fairly stated that when we get to this level of purist silliness, the level I’m about to write about, we’re only talking about the wonky end of the spectrum. Mountain bikers are a finicky bunch. They just are. Disagree? Show up in your road kit and sit back on your folding chair at the trailhead… and watch how you’re looked at.

Better, there’s a question brewing amongst mountain biking organizations where it’s being murmured that e-mountain bikes shouldn’t be allowed on mountain bike trails… because they’re too fast.

They are that. However…

Let’s go with the notion that eBikes shouldn’t be on trails because they’re “too fast”. Never mind that, should you ask your average roadie if an eBike should be allowed in a group for someone past their prime but who still wants to hang with the group you’ll get quite a lot of enthusiasm about it… I’ve seen it. Let’s just forget that for a minute, though.

So here’s what I want to know; are we going to ban fast mountain bikers next? How’s about lightweight mountain bikes? Ooh, better yet, maybe we should have trails designated by class! Yeah! Then we don’t have to worry about fast mountain bikers overtaking slower folks on the trails… because they won’t be there! Then, maybe we could put some form of enforcement out there to hit people with a taser if they don’t comply to the class structure designated for that particular trail! Yeah, that’s the ticket! Then, for those who slip through the cracks, maybe we could have mountain bikers informing the authorities on other mountain bikers. That’d be great!

Oh, wait… where was that tried before? Let me think now… Oh yeah! The Nazi Socialists did that. So did the Marxist Soviet Communists and Italian Socialists… and Chinese Communists. (Never you mind that pattern, it’s all in your head!)

On second thought, maybe we can just let the older folks who still want to ride their mountain bikes have a little bit of an e-assist up the hills, no?

Just sayin’.

Disk (or Disc) Brakes and Bicycles: How to Go From Soft and Squishy to “Holy Crap!” (Even With Mechanical [Cable] Brakes).

I was told, when I purchased my tandem, that the calipers we had were meant for a flat-bar bike and that we might have to swap them for road calipers should the need arise. They were squishy, but they worked well enough that I was never afraid of riding the bike with my wife on it… and I’m about six times more careful with my best friend, wife, partner and Rear Admiral on the back of the bike than I am solo.

On the other hand, it took a second to stop the bike properly and I really didn’t like that, so this past weekend, I took to figuring them out to see if I could improve on what I had.

First things first: Your Rotors

If your rotors are wobbled (and many are – mine were) and if you’re going to keep them quiet while you ride, you have to open the calipers which makes the brakes squishy. Sometimes it’s really tricky the angle you have to be at to see where you have a wobble so I’m going to give a photo at a very tight angle to hopefully illustrate what you should be looking at to see if your rotor is straight.

In the photos above, it’s difficult to get the camera in exactly the right location to pick up the two gaps on either sides of the pads – trust me, they’re there.

You have to pay attention to which way the rotor needs to be bent to straighten it out by looking for light between the brake pads and the rotor. If everything seems to be straight, then you see a wobble to the outside, you bend that exact part of the rotor in. Opposite that if it wobbles in, bend it out. Use an adjustable crescent wrench or a special rotor tool to gently bend the rotor in or out as needed. The rotor should be dead straight when you’re done or this won’t work.

Now, assuming the calipers are properly aligned, you have two adjustments for a mechanical set of brakes once they’re centered. The cable tension/barrel adjuster and the inboard/outboard adjustment at the back of the caliper (or front with a set screw depending on the model of caliper – mine are on the back (toward the spokes). The cable tension sets the outboard pad for my calipers. Once the rotors are straight, look between the brake pads and set the cable tension with the barrel adjuster so you’ve got just a few hairs worth of space between the rotor and the outside pad. Then, turn the dial (or set screw with an Allen key) on the back so there’s just a few hairs’ space between the inboard pad and the rotor.

Give the wheel a spin. If it rubs anywhere, you’ll hear it. Get yourself in a position where you can see the wobble and figure out where the rotor is bent and straighten it. Once it’s perfectly straight, give it a spin and test the brakes. If the pads are relatively clean, it should be quite stout compared to what you had. If not, tighten down the barrel adjuster or the back set screw/dial to get it even tighter.

If done right, there should be a world of difference betwixt what you started out with and what you ended with. The key is patience. Straightening the rotors is a bit of a tedious process.

How to know if you’re an @$$hole in a group ride…

We had a 14-person deep pace-line going on a quiet country road. We were crushing it at about 23-mph when we passed a decent cyclist riding with a friend. Those of us who have put in tens of thousands of miles riding in groups know a legit cyclist from a noob, usually, with just a quick glance.

In this case, the fella may have been a decent cyclist, but he showed himself to be, unquestionably, an @$$hole. All of a sudden the yahoo starts passing up the right side of the pace-line, on the white line with barely enough room to operate. He’d work up the line a few cyclists, then fall back a little, then work up a few more in the line. I saw enough of that crap and decided I’d put an end to it. I signaled and pulled out of the group and headed up on the left (where normal American cyclists pass – right for those in left lane driving countries). I passed the lead cyclist and told him to keep the pace steady as I passed him. I then went to his right as if I’d completed a turn up front. I effectively flushed the jerk out the back. Thinking my job was done and that he’d gotten the message, I got back in the draft of the pace-line.

At which time he announced, “passing on the right”.

I moved right and said, “Like hell, you pass on the left like a normal cyclist, or did you just learn how to ride this year?” He started complaining and I cut him off. Whether he was butt hurt that we passed him or he was just looking to be a jerk, I can’t tell you. I can tell you this, you don’t pass on the inside of a pace-line… and everyone worth their clipless pedals knows this.

Later, same tour, same day, another guy decided he’d join our group. He started at the back but started leap-frogging up a few riders, squeezing into a gap less than a foot between wheels by “pushing” the rider behind him to the right. He did it again. And again. Three people complained to me about what I’d just watched.

I rode up along side him and asked, “You don’t ride in a group very much, do you?”

He replied, “Actually I do.”

I said, “Well if you do, then you know better than to do what you’re doing. You don’t leapfrog the group like that, and you certainly don’t cut off other riders to do it. If you want to get to the front to take a pull, get up there and do it. If not, get back to your place in the pace-line and wait your turn”.

He went to the front and took a pull. We rode his wheel for something like five to seven miles before we wore him out completely. Then, the next guy in line hit the gas and we dropped him off the back of the group.

Later on that evening at dinner, the guy’s dad (the son was just a few years younger than me) complained to a friend of ours in the group that I bullied the guy and made him feel unwelcome. We had a fair chuckle over that – because who would welcome someone who cuts off other riders at 23+mph to leapfrog up the group?!. In truth, he wasn’t exactly wrong… though I was the only one to speak to him, the whole group dropped him.

Now, here’s the point; if you’re in the group for your own selfish aims and you don’t know how to look out for the rest of the people you’re riding with, you’re the problem.

That’s a period at the end of that last sentence. Don’t be that person.

The Solution to the Age-Old Cycling Club Question: Why Won’t the Racers Slow Down to Take Care of the Noobs on Club Ride Night?

I get pounded every year at the annual cycling club membership meeting because certain slow riders think new prospects to a cycling club are turned off by fast riders and that those same fast cyclists should give up their ride at some random, unspoken, unknown interval (anything but “all the time”, of course) to make those new leisure bike riders feel comfortable and welcome.

Now, for the time being, let’s just ignore the obvious, laughable omission that a noob would be intimidated beyond words to ride along with a racer on a $12,000 rig who would be coasting most of the ride while the noob is pedaling away furiously, anyway. We can pretend that wouldn’t be so.

Let’s look at the real problem, because if you believe the reason your group is having membership trouble falls on someone else, well, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. The real problem is, just as in politics, the extremes rule the day and frame the discussion so both sides refuse to talk about a real solution because angry is always easier.

If you think, as a fast person, you don’t have any responsibility for bringing up new, slower cyclists, you’re as ignorant as those who say a club’s ranks would improve if the faster folks rode with the slow leisure riders every once in a while.

The real solution is much simpler; each group in a club should take care of and help the group below them. For instance, our Elite bunch, when there’s a light turnout, will team with the As and Bs and take it easy until we split for the long and short routes. After that, they go their fast way and the rest of us do the short route at our pace for the last ten miles. While there are those who can’t keep up (the A-Elite, A, and B rides are all “drop” rides), the vast majority can – especially when the Elite and A groups will take the majority of the time up front, allowing the Bs to sit back in the draft (or pull through to a very short turn up front).

The Bs should look out for the Cs and help those who aspire to ride with the faster riders achieve their goals. The Cs take care of the Ds, and so forth.

The idea that an A-Elite rider is going to give up riding with their friends to shepherd a newer rider around the block for a one-hour ten-mile loop has to be discarded. It’s simply not going to happen with any regularity. At the same time, every group in a club should be willing to help swell their own ranks by working with those one or two tiers below them.

The important point here, is that what I’ve described above actually works.

The 2022 DALMAC, For Our Group, Was A Tour for Friends; We Had A Fabulous Group For This One…

I’ve held nothing back when writing about my wife this last six months. The changes we’ve gone through have been nothing short of miraculous. Even with those changes, I never expected they’d mean having such a good time on our Lansing to Mackinaw tour, though. What became evident on the tour, though, was that the changes my wife and I made would have an effect on how I felt about and treated my friends on the ride. The bond I felt riding with my friends was much greater than before, and I have no doubt that was a result of the work Jess and I have done in our marriage.

And maybe a little luck with the weather…

I can’t ever remember having such a big group for the start of our adventure – and I can’t remember having that many stick together till the end. We had two new guys for this one, too. One was a friend of ours who has ridden with us on Tuesday nights and sometimes during the week for years. The other was the son of a long-time part of our group (who pre-dated me by almost three decades). Doug’s son, in fact, had a pretty sweet GT Edge (steel) from the early 90s with first gen Campagnolo integrated shifters, but the seat tube cracked at some point on Day One, so his mom (who was SAGing for Doug) drove him home so he could ride his fixie for the rest of the tour. He did the whole tour, minus walking 100 yards of the wall, on a 48/15 fixed gear bike, sometimes reaching speeds in excess of 32-mph on downhills. His cadence had to be in the 180s to 200s and it did not look fun (though he did have brakes on that bullhorn handlebar). Let’s just say, he’s one of the few people who could legitimately say they won DALMAC… he took the fixie division. I think he was the fixie division.

Anyway, we had a text group 17-deep for that ride and it could have been in the 20s if I included everyone. Usually it’s around nine or ten.

We ate together, walked to ice cream shops together, rode together, and helped one another with mechanical issues as needed throughout the ride. We showed up to ride our bikes but got so much more… and I got to experience all of this with a healed heart with the love of my life SAGing and riding with me.

There were a lot of comments on that group text that mentioned, or came close to, “best DALMAC ever”. I can tell you for sure, this was the best I’d ever been a part of. And for that I am grateful. One of my wife and my favorite songs of late is Pearl Jam’s Just Breathe. I usually can’t make it through the song without tearing up. There’s a line in the song that, I realized just a couple of days ago, applied to this year’s DALMAC (and many of the previous iterations):

Oh, I’m a lucky man
To count on both hands
The ones I love
Some folks just have one
Yeah, others they got none

Google “Pearl Jam Just Breathe Lyrics”…

I can’t count the friends I love on both hands. I need my toes, too. And Jessica’s fingers and toes. And maybe yours, too, when you factor in recovery. I am a lucky man.

And with that new tandem due to show up in four or five months, I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Thanks, God.

DALMAC 2022 Part Three Day Three: Moses Meets a Thunderstorm…

Everyone was fairly freaked about the weather forecast – I was, and I was fully prepared. The forecast had improved, though mildly, to show showers in the morning in our northern destination of Boyne City, then showers later in the afternoon in the town we were departing from; Lake City. Well, any budding weather aficionado will tell you this means a line of storms descending from north to south – the line of storms, typically, will extend from the southwest to the northeast across the mitten as it drops down. We were supposed to ride through it between 20 & 40 miles into the 99 mile route.

However, if you know the topography, right at that zone are a bunch of hills and valleys… and a long study of the radar futures showed the storm had the chance of splitting in two at the hills… exactly at the time we should be riding through.

I had a vest laid out, just to be sure I wouldn’t need it. I helped my wife, with whom I’d snuggled all night long as if we were newlyweds, pack up the camper before heading in for breakfast at 6:30. I headed to the back of the line and saw, much to my shock and chagrin, a motherf***er in white shorts. I stared aghast.

“WHITE SHORTS? TODAY? Are you f***ing kidding me?!” I exclaimed.

The jackass just smiled. One guy just ruined our chances of getting out of this one dry. Not a chance a guy in white shorts is getting through a 4% chance of rain dry, let alone what we were facing! A female friend of his laughed, “Yeah, he just wears those nasty things on this tour because his wife isn’t here”.

We rolled out to sketchy skies to the north, but a mild to fair temperature. It was quite wonderful, actually… though ominous. Most of the jovial banter was missing as riders envisioned vests and water resistant jackets. I kept the faith, though. The storm would split… and I was feeling pretty spectacular, anyway. I took the front and cranked the pace up – looking down at the computer a few times, seeing “25-mph” in the current speed window.

We had periods of sun, then some thicker clouds, but all seemed quiet on the northwestern front… until it wasn’t. The ugly clouds started to gather and it was looking really sketchy. While we were at the famed “pie stop” at a local church, Chuck got word from his wife that it was raining not far up ahead in Kalkaska…

We took our time eating our pieces of pie. I didn’t lose hope, though. Between the trees, every once in a while, it looked like I could see the storm splitting… and as we neared Kalkaska we could see the drying remnants of the rain on the road. But no raindrops. And just like that, the clouds started to break up again. We hammered it for lunch at the local Subway in Bellaire.

The photo above was take heading north with Torch Lake on our left – Mike was up front, though his monster pulls were limited to no more than a few miles at a time by day three. You can see the last vestiges of the earlier rain on the otherwise dry road…

We Moses’ed the rain. The storm split in two in the hills, just as predicted, and we rode right up the middle of the split without getting hit by a drop. It was quite the jovial mood as we climbed into Bellaire and could see blue sky to the north. Lunch was extra good.

After lunch, we have to climb out of Bellaire on a series of low grade but loooooooong hills. They wear on you after a bit, especially knowing you’ve got the climb to the wall to look forward to in about 20 miles. This year, though, we we dodged a rainstorm and had settled on easy-pedaling the “up” sections and saving the hammering for the flats and downhills. We had a wonderful rhythm going.

That’s Sue up front, with the clouds left behind.

We pulled into East Jordan with a fair mood about us and sunny skies (most manhole covers and storm grates for city sewer systems in the US are forged in East Jordan at the local foundry). Talk centered around dodging the storm bullet and the few of our group who were going to do the wall had a soda in preparation. The vast majority of the group was doing the mile-longer bypass, but I was meeting Jess on the wall and I wanted Jonathan to be able to do the full route with the wall for his first. Chuck, Doug, Chad and Phill went with us.

And my wife, the love of my life, as had been the case all weekend long, was there to record our ascent. She’d walked, in her road shoes and cleats, quite a way down the hill to get the best shots of us coming up because she’s awesome. I PR’d the wall this year, even though I’m fatter than normal (around 185 pounds) because my wife and I have spent so much time on the tandem together. For the first time in the five times I’ve climbed the wall, I barely struggled. I was astonished I did so well, even passing Chuck on the way up… Phill was a minute behind us. I’m always the last one up the hill! Well, not this year.

The ride into Boyne City was awesome and I spent a lot of time talking with my wife as we rolled over the rollers to town. We pulled into the high school parking lot with smiles on our faces and a good bit of satisfaction over a ride well ridden. 99 Miles with an 18.9-mph average… and more good times than a fella could shake a stick at.

DALMAC! One of Our Best Yet! Part One, Day One: Wonderful Weather, Fast Miles and a Whole Pack of Friends.

When we rolled out Thursday morning for Day One of the Four Day West tour of Dick Allen’s Lansing to Mackinaw City bicycle ride, we were all nervous about Saturday’s forecast. It had been showing rain all week long and it wasn’t improving as the day drew closer. Still, we had work to do and clear skies with a tailwind with which to do it, so we set out from Michigan State University in Lansing on an unapproved route that a buddy who lives in the area made up to avoid much of the city traffic.

The first third was relatively flat to downhill, but we were slowed by intersections as we left our State’s capitol, heading for parts north. We had a big group, filled with cyclists who’d put in some serious miles together… with two DALMAC rookies. One, the son of one of the longtime DALMAC riders. The other a friend of the group who rides with us often, when his important profession allows – the man who renewed my wife and my vows this past June.

Once out of the City proper and onto decent, paved farm roads, we had a long downhill section and we just hammered it. Our average speed went from 18-mph to well over 20 as we took advantage of perfect DALMAC Day 1 conditions. We rarely have it so good. “Perfect” isn’t an over-exaggeration.

We’d skipped the first rest stop because we were all pumped up on DALMAC adrenaline. That meant we were 52-miles in before our first real stop. Thankfully, I have enough reserves in the form of stored fat, I could have made it halfway to Mackinaw City before eating. Some of the others, not so lucky. We stopped at a little Subway in a fueling station like a pack of ravenous dogs.

After lunch, I pulled out my DALMAC secret weapon – I’d brought a 5-Hour Energy for each of the first three days and downed my first waiting to leave. The kick was awesome and I set to burning it off before we met my wife on the road somewhere around the 85 to 90-mile mark.

Sadly, and I had no idea of this at the time, all good things must come to an end and our downhill to flat profile turned to a bunch of uphill, all the way home.

We met my wife at mile 90 after some difficulties trying to find each other over Google’s GPS location system, but find her we did and she was a sight for sore eyes.

We were on a trail at this point and heading into Vestaburg and I was tuckered out. The 5-hour energy didn’t last half the time its name suggests, but we were into some decent elevation gain and it was only my second century of the year (normally I’ve got seven or eight by the time DALMAC rolls around). My wife offered for me to ride ahead with the group but I was sufficiently happy just to ride along with her and told her so.

We cruised along, not being dropped but certainly not gaining on the group for a mile when my wife got out of the saddle and commenced to chasing the group down. I held her wheel and we caught the group with a fair effort.

We were cruising along at the back of the group when one of the guys kicked up a stick and it flung head-high into the air and landed smack dab between my fork and rim. The sound it made was horrible and I feared the worst as I signaled to stop and pulled over. The group didn’t let up… they left us, probably figuring we’d be able to chase back.

The stick had wedged itself in so tight, there was no removing it, front or back. I literally had to break it in two and pull it from the fork before we could get rolling again. The group was still in sight as my wife and I started rolling, but neither of us had it in us to chase them down. And I got what I’d been hoping for since I clipped in that morning; 90% of the ride with my friends and a nice, enjoyable 10% of the ride with my wife. I recounted the ride to her as we rolled along at a reasonable, enjoyable pace.

We pulled into our camping spot and I grabbed a few things for a shower, before heading into the school. Once cleaned up, we sat around talking for a bit and I offered to ride six blocks to the local pizza/ice cream restaurant to get my wife some dinner. She found this quite romantic (as had been intended). We slow-rolled it to the restaurant, stored our race bikes in the bike rack and went in to order. They had us out the door in fewer than ten minutes and I carried my wife’s dinner back to the campsite.

Then, it was my turn. I went in and ate my free meal with our gang and talked about the day’s events. There was laughter and good cheer. I’d decided when we separated not to be butt-hurt about being dropped. I’d wanted to ride alone with my wife, anyway.

After dinner, we walked down the the ice cream shop and had some ice cream. I chose the Ripe Raspberry/Chocolate Chunk and it was fantastic.

And so ended Day One; we walked back to the campsite and turned in for the evening. I slept like a baby.

A Fine Weekend on the Tandem, Capped with a Super-Nice 50 South to Milford…

This very well could have been one of the better weekends of our marriage. The work we’ve been doing to be a better couple is really paying off but the work hasn’t stopped. We’re starting to concentrate our effort. On our Co-Motion tandem, we’re gelling as we get comfortable with our roles. While our mileage over the weekend wasn’t all that impressive (at 35, 22, & 50 for the Friday, Saturday, Sunday), ride quality was through the roof.

I prepped the bike and got dressed to roll out from 5:30 to 6:50. We were driving to the start at 6:55 with a near perfect weather report. Sunny, mild breeze, and temps that called for thin arm-warmers, but only bibs and a jersey otherwise. My wife and I went though our pre-ride routine, talking and laughing about the kids, family affairs, and a lot about how fortunate we are to be us… and just like that, were ready to go.

The trip to Milford isn’t perfect. The traffic is on the heavy side and it’s no place for a nervous person. On the other side of that, the ride is absolutely freaking beautiful – especially when we get into Kensington Metropark – and this was to be our first attempt at it on the tandem. There’s some up to this ride. There’s also some down. One hill in particular had me especially nervous. An 8% straight drop on smooth asphalt. I can hit 45-mph on the Venge, but I was nervous about how the tandem would handle speed like that.

It was a long and beautiful trip to get there and I didn’t waste any miles worrying… I’d explained the cure for speed wobbles to my wife the night before and even went as far as practicing clamping my knees to the top tube a few times when we were coasting down hills to keep from overtaking the lead riders in the pace-line. Then we hit the longest coast in the history of Southern Michigan coasting. It seemed to go on for minutes. So long, my wife and I were actually laughing about it over the wind howling in our ears.

After that long coast, we hit another sharp downhill that had us, surprisingly, hit 40-mph on the way down… and the Co-Motion was rock solid. Better than my Specialized Venge on the downhill. As we peaked over 40, I knew we could handle anything the next hill had to offer without worry.

Soon after, we were at the place where the road fell off the horizon and we could take stock of just how high we were… and how far we were about to drop. Chuck shot off the front, and Jess laughed saying something like, “we’ll be passing you in a minute”. You can’t fight gravity. I upshifted to the last gear and we hit it. Hard. We passed 45-mph with a quarter of the hill left and I stopped looking. We’d reached escape velocity and all we could do was coast and hold on. The tandem was, again, rock solid. The best descending bike I’ve ever ridden. Strava would later say our top speed was 47.7-mph, faster than I’d ever been on that hill.

We coasted for the better part of a mile waiting for the others to catch up, chatting the whole time.

Sadly, what goes down, must go up; and there was a lot of that to come in Kensington park. We took the hills at our pace and didn’t worry about how far off we fell. We knew we could catch up on the flats and downhill sections. My wife and I worked together like we’d been doing this for decades, and it was awesome.

After Kensington, we went through Milford and stopped at a coffee spot that’s a favorite of Chuck’s. I got a donut and a Mango Tango to split with Jess. It was delicious.

And with that, it was all tailwind all the way home. The ride was spectacular and quite fast. We picked our average up from 17.5 to 18.6 as we took it to the barn. It ended up being the perfect Sunday morning ride.

And the day only got better…

Thanks, God.

Boo Boo Be-Doo, Boo Boo Be-Doo… and All Of A Sudden A Real Ride Breaks Out! On the TANDEM?!

That’s right, folks. If you were to look at Strava’s analysis of our ride yesterday, you’d see a tale of two bike rides. The first twelve and the second ten miles. I’d advertised the ride as “slow and short” because my wife and I had to get our daughter to her swim meet by 10am.

We rolled out at 7:30, the earliest “safe” light to Mike leading us out at between 14-16-mph. Diane took the next turn and, surprisingly, took the pace to 19-mph. Then Brad inched that up to 20 until we passed his house. Till that point, both Diane and Brad aren’t known for driving the pace, the speed was surprising. Next in line was Dale, and he is known for driving the pace. He was up to 22 in no time and I had to call up to reign him in. I know if I’m struggling, there are others on the ride who are miserable. On the tandem, it’s a little tricky to tell but that axiom held true yesterday. The pace was brought back to “slightly offensive” and we rolled on.

Jess and I had a 22-mile route planned and figured everyone else would go longer – and I have to be honest, I hoped that would be the case. She and I haven’t had a nicely paced “us” ride where we can talk and laugh and catch up… like a date on a bike, if you will (more on that in a future post; thanks, Jesse). Alas, when we turned, the whole group turned. We were in the lead on the lone tandem and we had a nice little decline for about a half-mile. Gravity being gravity, we had the pace up to 25 as things flattened out and only brought it back to 21-1/2. I mentioned to my Rear Admiral that we should dial it back because it’s kinda not cool to pull the pace back to 19, only to drive it to 22 when we take the lead.

And so we did, and cruised on.

Until Mike came around singing, “Boo boo be-doo, boo boo be-doo”, his way of saying this is too easy. We’d been up front for a couple of miles and McMike went with him to chase him down for the Gaines City Limits Sign. We laughed and let the old farts play.

Once on Ray road, about nine miles from home, Mike came around again with his “boo boo be-do” at 21-mph. We’d just led up a hill and Jess said, “Oh, that won’t do… gimme a second to catch my breath and we’re going to get him.” She caught her breath and we put the hammer down. We passed him at 24 and held that speed. Now, we figured we’d play for a mile, then drop the pace back again, but Dale & McMike and Brad came by to keep the pace up. Jess and I held Brad’s wheel but I soon chose to go around him. Brad is a freak of nature. He’s almost 75 and has an iron will… but he’s terrible to draft off of because he hangs back a little bit and he’s a little squirrely with his tempo. He’s impossible to follow on a tandem at that speed unless you’re a lot stronger than my wife and I.

We kept the pace pegged all the way home – 23 to 26-mph the all the way to our street. Phill managed to stay on our wheel but we dropped everyone else. Our average in Gaines was in the high 16-mph range. It was 19.6 when we stopped (we were Strava’d to 19.5)…

And so it was, the tale of two rides. My wife and I were all smiles, hugs and kisses after that one. The ride was phenomenal and we had a wonderful conversation about how well we’re working together on our tandem. No place I’d rather be on a Sunday morning (or any other day for that matter!).