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TNIL: More Fun than Should Be Legal With Your Clothes On! Edition

I’ve come up with a new writing project for the remainder of the year – something I’ve come close to touching on but haven’t quite hit the right tone. I’m going to put into words how good it feels, the doubt, exhilaration and the sense of accomplishment that goes with slogging it out with a group of good friends in the headwind, wanting to quit but taking your lumps at the front anyway, to make it to the tailwind and the homestretch as you struggle to keep your breathing calm… then glance at your computer to see it tick by 34-mph as you’re bridging a gap to get back to the lead group that dropped the tandem as they rocket for the City Limits sign… and make it.

It’s freakin’ awesome. Anyway…

Last night’s edition was a perfect example of exactly how gnarly it can get in the wind – and it’s been a while for us. Basically, we’re windy from March through June, then we get a break from July through much of September… but in October the wind, she blows again. Even the warm-up was a bit of a mess with the days dropping time faster than seems fair. We had a southwest wind – my favorite, if we have to have wind. One road in particular, sucks, but the back 40% of the ride is stellar (we chew up 10% with a crossing tailwind at the beginning of the ride).

We rolled out into the wind with, if the count was correct, eleven riders on ten bikes. I was up front with Dave for the first three-quarters of a mile and that was enough for both of us. We retreated to the back for a break. After the next three-quarters, we turned northward for a little help and the pace picked up in a hurry, from 21-mph to 27. With the Venge in the shop for a major problem that needs fixing (and is entirely above my paygrade), I was on the Trek, which is quite a bit more work at those speeds (though it is a shade better in a crosswind). That was followed by another mile-long slog into the wind, and Dave and I were back up front for that one. One last mile north before the pain started and, as we got to the back of the group Dave said, “Hey, why don’t we ever get one of these?” (referring to a pull with a tailwind). I was too gassed to respond. I just nodded till I caught my breath.

And right on cue, Shipman Road. Dead. Into. The. Wind. Our pace slipped from 26-mph to 20-21. Turns up front were mercifully short, but the rapid turnover meant only a 2-1/2 mile break before we were back up front again. My heart rate would jump from the 140s to the mid-170s in a matter of a minute trying to hammer through the wind. More than once I thought about throwing in the towel and heading back early. I didn’t, though. I put my head down, gritted my teeth, and gripped the drops just a little tighter, and hammered that $#!+ out. And I stayed with the group. A couple of miles south and we were back into a cross-headwind and the beginning of the hills. Those first three hills suck with no wind, but we were close now. I was only a mile from a crossing tailwind.

I was at the front up the last hill, just a molehill of a thing, and down into the final stretch before tailwind… and even downhill into that wind sucked. Knowing another hill was coming as soon as we turned, I flicked off a little early so I could recover my breathing for a minute before we headed up. And it worked.

We crested the first hill with the group intact. The pace, with the crosswind, stayed around 22-mph. In a bit of a dick move, I switched lines in the double pace-line so I could hide a little from the southerly part of the wind. The first half of the ride took a lot out of me and I was struggling hard.

19 miles in, we hit the real tailwind. Most of us went short, four chose the long route, and Chuck had us slow up the main hill till we crested and the pace went from 20-ish to 30.

Rolling into Vernon, we were lined up single-file and I had no intentions of challenging for the sign – besides, we were at almost 30-mph on flat ground… why? And here comes Chuck, right off the front and he says as he goes by, “New bike!” We busted up laughing as he pipped us for the sign by about three meters.

The next few miles heading north were fairly easy, if fast, but the homestretch was where it was at. We made the right turn and the pace stuck from 23 to 28-mph depending on whether or not we had a slight grade up or down. After an intersection we were able to cruise through, we had one last hill and the tandem was up (which was perfect so they could lead the pack at their pace) and I was second with the whole pack behind, single file. The tandem flicked off as they crested the hill and I went by, giving them 20-ish seconds to get on the back… and then I slowly ramped up the speed from 21 to 26, and I flicked off for a rest.

This is the magical part of the ride – everything we’ve worked for through the headwind, our hearts beating against our rib cage… our lungs burning half the time… sweat dripping all over the bike… and it comes down to that last two miles. I was in awesome shape after my turn up front. I flicked off the front with just enough juice left to latch on at the back, behind the tandem. The pace, at this point, was my fault. The group held together and the pace was fantastic. Diane, Mike’s wife on the back of the tandem, is a wonderful, but little woman… they’re a great draft, though, but when the pace picks up, the drops are necessary to stay in the groove. I was in the drops as we hurtled down the road for the finish line, the Lennon City Limits sign. With just under three-quarters of a mile to go, we were at 27-mph, but someone up front put the hammer down. The tandem had made a move to lead out, but Diane smacked Mike square in the ass and he dropped the pace a little bit, creating a gap. Two others behind me recognized the problem and came around me. The lead four were pulling away and I got on Clark and Dale’s wheels to catch them. The pace went from a decent 28 to crazy, and was still climbing when I glanced down and saw 34-mph (55-km/h). Folks, that kind of sustained speed on flat ground is simply awesome… it’s like all of your senses are woken up… we caught the lead group with about 50′ (maybe 15 meters) left, and literally less than a second later, at just shy of 35-mph, we shot across the line.

35-mph is 51 feet per second. It doesn’t seem like much in a car, but on 18 pounds of carbon fiber and aluminum alloy, it’s 50 feet per second of pure awesome.

Ride hard, my friends. If it doesn’t put you in the hospital, it’ll put a massive smile on your face.

TNIL: Days Are Getting Short Edition

We showed up early yesterday. After a day of epic rain, another damp day, and clouds all morning long, the clouds parted and sun shone brilliantly. We had a bit of a breeze from the northeast, but nothing horrible. Todd, Chucker, David, Brad and I rolled out for the warm-up. It wasn’t “hot” by any stretch, but it wasn’t cool, either. Just above room temperature – a little cool for my liking (I had arm covers just in case), but certainly not bad. The warm-up started slow but picked up pace in a hurry. Todd and I were gabbing up front about bikes… obviously near and dear to my heart, I didn’t even realized we were doing 23 with a slight crossing tailwind until I looked down at my computer a few miles in. Chuck and I split off for a couple of extra miles as we were going to be early getting back. We took the pace down a bit and enjoyed the ride back to the parking lot, still arriving with an 18.6-mph average, where we waited for the start.

One of the Elite guys was running late so about ten of us in the A Group decided to roll out in front of the Elite gang. In all the years of the B/A Group, I can’t ever remember going first. I gave us eight miles before they caught up. We rolled out easy, but with a tailwind to start, the pace picked up quickly. Three miles in we were already up to a 22-ish-mph average… and that’s about where it stayed. We were in a double pace-line and we were dealing with some crossing headwind for much of the first six miles, but after that we had a massive stretch of tailwind that we took full advantage of, pushing the pace beyond 25-mph. I kept expecting the Elite guys to roll by, but it never happened. Looking at Strava’s “fly-by”, they never got within a mile of us until we stopped at our regroup point and stopped to wait a minute for a few guys to catch up who got chewed up in the hills.

The last eight miles was going to be entirely into the wind, but it had calmed down considerably – I’d be surprised if it topped 5-mph (maybe 8 km/h). We rolled out and quickly singled the pace-line. This stretches us out and makes it a little more difficult to pass, but we were on less-traveled roads and the longer break between pulls up front was quite nice. We hammered the pace for the parking lot like we were being chased… technically, we were. We hit the homestretch and the tandem I was behind had a hard time keeping up with the lead tandem with just 2-1/2 miles to go. I jumped in and gave them a little 40-watt push every chance I could, then I’d drop back and catch my breath for a few seconds, then give them another push.

Once we leveled out, the lead tandem and three others were putting some distance on us. I made a decision to take the lead and try to bridge the gap and pull them up. I came around them at 24-mph and told Mike, “I got you” and I went by. I took the pace to 25 and held it for a short dozen seconds before ramping up the pace to north of 26 (42 kph). I burned every match I had as I closed the distance to zero. Then the lead tandem came off to head to the back for a rest and that left me third bike and way into the red. Dave picked the tempo up and I held on for as long as I could, but I was too smoked to match him.

I signaled I was out and dropped off the back. I took an easier stroll back with the tandem I’d been riding with as they’d fallen off, too.

We crossed the line with a 22-mph average and no sign of the Elite Group.

A group of girls from the church was there handing out water and Gatorades to anyone who wanted. They’d been there almost every Tuesday night, all year long. Some of the nicest, most thoughtful kids I’ve ever met. I said hello, as I always do, and we made small talk for a few minutes before I headed over to my car. It was already dusk and getting dark fast. We’ll be able to manage 5:45 for one more week, then it’ll be down to 5:30. Another week after, we’ll be doing the night ride, and it’ll be all over but the shouting at that point.

This is one of the few years that I’m really bummed is coming to a close. It’s been a great, fun year.

Road Cycling and A Tire Air Pressure Conundrum: I Forgot to Air Up My Tires and Accidentally Found Out What I Was Missing!

I’ve been pumping my tires to 90 psi for quite a while, now. Before you scroll immediately to the comments section, I’m no lightweight. Running 26 mm tires at 70 psi would be a fantastic idea if I want a pinch flat every time I roll over a railroad track.

I had a lot on my angst Tuesday night. My Venge has been acting up a little bit, lately. The problem is a combination of worn chainrings and a rear derailleur that appears to be on its last leg (more on that in the coming weeks – I’ve got a few things I’m going to try to bring it back), so as I was prepping the bike for the fastest ride of the week, I forgot to air up my tires before I left.

I didn’t even think about it till after the warm-up, which was ridiculously fast. We were sitting on better than a 21-mph average after eight miles. Every one of those eight miles is on excellent asphalt, though, so it never occurred to me that anything was amiss. In fact, when I rolled into the parking lot after 10-1/2 miles, I was just trying to remember if I’d aired them up.

I thought about asking one of the others to use their pump, but convinced myself I must have aired them up and decided that’d be a waste of time.

The Main Event started off calm and collected, and again, on excellent asphalt for the first six miles so everything appeared normal. The road is fine for miles seven and eight, but stress cracks every twelve feet (four meters) make the next three miles… erm, a pain in the ass. I hate that section of road. It bums me out every time we hit the first crack (you would expect nothing less of my choice of words, :D)…

This Tuesday was different, though. We were well into the bad section when I realized I wasn’t as angry as I normally am on that section of road. In fact, I was gliding over cracks I used to have to clench for. Not only that, the above average speed over that section wasn’t near as taxing as it should have been. Then, one of the guys who likes to take stints off the front launched one of his attacks… it was way too much for me, but the group surged and started to reel him in. I decided to give the tires a go to see if they’d squish. The group was at 26-ish already and I went off the front at 30+, out of the saddle for a few pedal strokes… and the tires didn’t squish for the effort. I blew by the guy and stayed out there for a minute.

I’d be willing to bet the others thought I had ulterior motives, and that was a part, but I wanted to see how squishy the tires would be with a real effort. As the group caught me, I knew I was onto something. But there was one more test before I could give it the stamp of approval: The tracks in Vernon.

We drop down off of a fast climb into the City of Vernon and, just as we’re cooling down from the City Limits sign sprint, we hit one of the gnarliest railroad track crossings in lower Michigan. That bastard has ended many a Tuesday night rides with a group for a pinch flat. The tandems dropped the hammer at the crest of the hill leading to the descent and we had an excellent lead-out train. None of us opted to sprint for the sign, I’d like to think one of the tandems earned it so we let them have it without contest.

Up over the railroad tracks and off the other side without so much as a hiccup and we were clear. And I knew for sure, whatever the magic number was when I got home, that was my new air pressure. 80 psi.

Now, the obvious issue here is the pinch flat. I don’t exactly want to find out the hard way that, yes indeed, 80 psi is too low because I just blew out my tire and crunched my rim on a train track. Instead, I started at 100 psi and let pressure out till the ride got comfortable (but not squishy) and went a few pounds higher. That had me at 85 to 87 psi. 80 is a lot better, though…

And there you have it, an avid enthusiast’s account of how to accidentally stumble on a more comfortable (and faster because of it) ride.

TNIL: Still Got It Edition

It’s rare, this late in September, to get a night as good as we had last night. Upper 60’s (around room temperature), low single-digit winds, not a cloud in the sky (or not many, at least)… it was perfect cycling weather. And perfect always means fast.

Even the warm-up was fast. After 8-ish miles we were sitting on a little better than a 21-mph average. Chuck and I cooled it down after leaving the group, but I wasn’t exactly ecstatic whilst, and at the same time, hurtling down the f’ing road at 26-mph on the warm-up. That’s 34 & 42 km/h in Moose Latin [aka real freaking fast]. In hindsight, I needed that warm-up, though. Over the course of that really, really fast warm-up, my legs loosened up. I felt… good.

We didn’t have enough for a B Group so we all set off together.

The start for the main event was mild, a smart way to start to the ride. Too fast, as is often the case, and everyone is into the red too soon which means trouble later. Instead, at a mile-and-a-half, we turned into the wind, then the speed ramped up in a hurry and we were (for the most part) ready for it. The pace went from the low 20s to the upper 20s and stayed there.

The next sixteen miles were a picture of efficiency and speed. We were very fast all the way to the hills, taking our average to 24.3-mph (39-km/h). I limited the duration of my turns up front so I didn’t burn up too soon.

As we got to the first set of hills, the tandems started having problems. The elite guys, as much as I love them, don’t have an “off” button – or even a 75% button where they can ease off just a bit to let the tandems stay on.

My weekday riding buddy, Chucker was off the back with the first tandem as we shot up the tri-tiered hill at 24-mph. I stayed with the second tandem until we got dropped on the next hill when the pace was ramped from 21 to 28 in a matter of seconds. Tandems simply can’t deal with that level of acceleration (unless there’s a downhill slope involved – in that case, stay to the right, out of the way) and I didn’t want much more of that anyway. I was thankful to see the tandem had fallen off as I slinked off the back. Had they stayed on, I’d have had to grab their wheel and I was running short on want to.

I took the lead to give Mike and Diane a rest and we beat a path for the regroup spot, figuring at least a couple of guys would drop off and we could wait for Chucker and the other tandem.

And just like clockwork, Clark & Dave were waiting as we crested the hill to make the left at Shiatown. Chucker and Dave and Sherry were maybe 45 seconds behind us and when they made the turn, we were off.

The remaining ten miles were almost entirely into the mild wind and we got right to it. Turns at the front were short, but useful.

I always get itchy about holding off the elite group and I had an eerie feeling they might make it. Their route is a couple of miles longer than ours (almost three), so it makes for an interesting chase. With a tailwind, they’ve come close a few times, but with a head wind, they’ve got a good shot – add to that our extended wait at Shiatown, I thought they might have a chance.

We were moving, though. 23 to 25-mph on the flats, a little slower on what little hills we had left, but we handled the wind quite well. Coming into the home stretch, the pace was ramped up to 28-mph and we flew across the line with nary an elite guy in site and better than a 23-mph average (37 km/h). It was hi-fives, fist bumps and laughs all the way back to the parking lot and we were off our bikes and starting to pack up when the Elite Group rolled in.

I’m pretty sure I fell asleep with a smile on my face…

Back on the Venge and Happy Again: Finally, Some Better Weather

Or, yet another ode to my Specialized Venge…

My buddy, Chuck and I rolled out early yesterday afternoon. The weather was as close to perfect as we’re going to get at the end of September, and after four days of rain and no outdoor riding, it was a relief to get outside.

It was so spectacularly beautiful I got to take the Venge, whose days are unquestionably numbered for this 2021.

I installed a new shifter cable and housings for the rear derailleur last week, from front to back. Shimano housings and caps with a high-end stainless cable, this time. I went with the good stuff.

I simply couldn’t believe how well the system shifts. I could downshift with my pinkie finger if I wanted.

I see many of my friends buying new bikes and every now and then I think to myself, “Ya know, self, one of those spiffy new rigs with the new hydraulic disk brakes and all the trimmings wouldn’t be so bad”…

Then I throw my leg over my Venge and, without a creak, click or groan, it launches when I put the watts down. Unlike every other bike I own, I can literally feel the Venge cut through the air… and it’s not even 16 pounds. Do you know how much you have to spend to best 16 with hydraulic disk brakes?!

Then I think, “Nope. I’ve already got the best of both worlds (aero and lightweight) under me. I’d have to spend upwards of $6,000 to downgrade…”

It’s right about then I lean into a corner and I can feel the little asphalt grabbers on my Turbo Pro tires dig in so it feels like my Venge is on a roller coaster rail as I round the corner. A wry smile stretches across my face and my decision to stay with my Venge is confirmed once again.

That badass rocket is staying right where it belongs. At the top of my stable.

I wipe the dust off, drop it into the little/little gear combo (while a bike should never be ridden in this gear selection, storing the bike in that combo de-stresses the cables and derailleur springs) and roll it to its place of prominence in our bike room (aka the in-law bedroom).

I love that bike!

Cycling and How to Be A Proper Peacock on Your Bike (without overdoing it)

I am a proper peacock on a road bike. I offer the distinction of the bicycle type because on a gravel bike I’d be fine, but on a mountain bike, my normal dress would be wildly outside of norms… or overdoing it.

Now, the coming sentence is going to be a little controversial. Please give me a moment to make my case before you storm off in a huff.

The Rules as written by Velominati helped me immensely to get a firm sense of how to look good on a bicycle. First, I really enjoyed the blatantly over-the-top arrogant humor and I was able to keep that in context to use “The Rules” as a guide rather than a straight jacket. I can only offer this, don’t get lost in the over-the-top snarky nature of the rules. Just use them.

So, there are a few simple suggestions people can employ to bring out that inner peacock that will, hopefully keep one spectacular without devolving into looking like you’re in a clown suit.

  1. Helmet is the proper size. Too big and you look like a mushroom. Too small and you look like… well, quite goofy! You want a happy medium and the helmet should match the color scheme of the bike or the tertiary color of the bike/kit color scheme (in the case above, if I didn’t have red, white). Purchasing tip: Don’t settle if the shop doesn’t have the proper size for your melon. A drive to the next shop, or God forbid, buying on online, is better than being stuck with a poorly sized melon protector. And while we’re at it, the idea is for the thing to protect your head in a crash – if it’s the wrong size, it may not do that as intended.
  2. The rules say no saddle bags, but those knuckleheads have never done multi-day tours where you have to stow arm warmers or rain jackets in your back pockets, along with food and phone. That’s too much crap when you throw in flat tire repair tools. A cool, small saddle bag is the way to go so you’ve got room to store extra clothing that was required because you’re out long enough to experience a 30-degree swing in temperature (12 in Cs).
  3. The idea is to show off by looking good, not by sticking out like a sore thumb. A clown suit, multi-colored, obnoxiously loud in hyper-viz colors is likely going to be over-the-top and the louder you go, the tougher it is to pull it all together to make it look good. If you want to be seen, try a rear blinkie or a Garmin radar taillight. However, this look can be carefully pulled off – it just isn’t easy to do. Ask Mario Cipollini… and if you’re going to go that route, it doesn’t hurt to be able to sprint like him.
  4. While pro kits are a little more common, a good guide is to stick with the retro stuff and leave the current pro kit to the pros. Do what makes you happy here… with one exception; don’t, under any circumstances, choose the world or national champion kit. Choosing that is like painting a bullseye on your back that says, “make me prove I deserve to wear this”. You will be ridden like a redheaded stepchild till you rightly blow up and bonk yourself to a crawl… and the others who blew you up will take pleasure in riding away from your bonked self and then recount the tragedy for the next twenty years. It will go like this, “Remember when we blew up the German National Champion? That was awesome!” Don’t be that person.
  5. Manufacturer team kit is always awesome. This isn’t to be confused with “Pro Team Kit”. I have three pro-quality Specialized “team” kits. I bought all of them on sale because they’re wildly expensive and entirely awesome. When weather is going to be excessively hot and you’re going to be riding with the big dogs and you really need the performance kit, the top of the line from one of the manufacturers, often referred to as their team kit, is awesome to have. Take advantage! (See gallery below).
  6. White shoes(!). In baseball, and a few other sports, white shoes are left to the superstars. Not so in cycling. White shoes, while near impossible to keep clean, are spectacular. Period, end of discussion. Just, um, try to keep ’em clean.
  7. White bar tape? If you race, approximately 60% of all pros have white bar tape and saddles – even when white bar tape doesn’t make sense. It’s a “thing”. A “I have a team mechanic to keep my bar tape clean and bright. You don’t” thing. If you do go with white bar tape, the saddle should also be white. Otherwise, your bike will look unbalanced. Black tape is fine and wonderful… and you don’t need a private mechanic to keep it clean looking:

Examples of manufacturer team kit above… and local team jerseys below – local team kit is absolutely fabulous – you can never go wrong flying your local colors. Assenmacher’s is our local shop, the Affable Hammers are our local team.

To wrap this post up, being a peacock, properly, is never a bad thing. Going to far, into the clownish, is. Know the difference and ride with confidence. And don’t sweat the rules. Too much. Try to see the humor in them and use them for good.

Bicycle Race: DALMAC Day 4 – The Parade Lap to the Sprint In Mackinaw City

Thursday and Friday were beautiful days for a century. Saturday was sketchy but we got away, largely unscathed. It rained Sunday night, but miracle of miracles, it cleared up Sunday morning… and I mean clear.

Paved surfaces showed dampness, but it was nothing to worry about, and the temperature was fantastic, in the low 60s. We ate a hearty breakfast and got ready to roll.

The last day of DALMAC is bittersweet. In a few hours, all of the fun, laughter and good cheer will be memories as we head for home. On the other hand, day four gives a cyclist everything a route could give – it’s one of the most beautiful cycling routes in the country. There’s a “Wow” every few miles.

There’s also lots of up, and we were climbing just 1.4 miles into the morning.

Now, a funny thing happens to we weekend warriors after three speedy centuries in a row… I don’t care how fit you are, a 3 to 6% climb for two miles hurts if you try to push it. Thankfully, we had Doc Mike and Diane on their tandem, so they paced us up the hills and absolutely bombed the downhills. Once out of Boyne City, there’s a section of rollers through Walloon Lake that’s made for tandems – plus you have the beauty of the lake on your left, through the trees.

After Walloon, we go off course and hit an old favorite along the southeast side of the lake, the seven sisters – a series of rollers that starts with a short, steep climb that we dubbed “The Wall Part Two”, then winds and bends its way along the lake shore to the Walloon Lake Country Club. It’s a beautiful, fun section of road (though there is one dangerous corner riders have to watch out for as it tends to get windswept and sand drifts over the road surface – it’s sketchy at best). Once through the seven sisters, it’s more hills and valleys, followed by a fast descent into Petoskey. Be careful of the righthand turn at the bottom – my top speed coming down the hill was 50-mph.

Once through Petoskey, you’re only seven short miles from Harbor Springs and one of the most beautiful stretches of road in Michigan.

Most years, I take photos of everyone as we pass between the beach and the beautiful houses. This year was different. Mike and I split off from the main group to see the houses before the main drag along the beach, so we were behind and had to hammer it to catch up to the group again.

Believe it or not, that selfie up there was at speed… Ken is an exceptional cyclist and managed to get right up next to me as I went to take his picture and said, “No, let’s do a selfie instead!” I was amazed he could get that close while keeping steady – well above my pay grade!

This year, rather than press on after the stop in downtown Harbor Springs, we went back to the harbor to take a photo of the group – something we’d never done in all the years I’ve ridden DALMAC:

Next up is the long climb out of Harbor Springs to the tunnel of trees. When entering the chute, hold onto your butt – top speed is, without pedaling, around 40-mph. The next twelve miles are simply breathtaking.

After Goodhart and Cross Village, we head north again, over inland roads to avoid the choppiness of North Lake Shore Drive – had it to do over again, I’d stay on Lake Shore as the spectacular scenery is worth dodging some rough patches of road.

Finally, we hit Cecil Bay Road along the coast:

If you zoom in on that middle image, you can actually see the top of the Mackinaw Bridge. We’re just four miles out on that last photo…

We hit W. Central Ave and the homestretch with a massive tailwind. Chad came off the front and gave me the leadout. He said, “Take it home, Jim”. I did. I kept the pace reasonable for a bit, but ramped it up as we dropped down a small hill. I took it all the way to 37-ish-mph last I looked and brought it across the line. 75 miles in the books.

That brought our total for the four-day tour to 377 miles at an average speed north of 19-mph. And then, the obligatory dip in Lake Michigan. It was warm outside, but the water took a little getting used to!…

And all that was left was the ride home. Thankfully, we gave two friends a lift so the good times, laughs and stories continued all the way to our driveway.

What a weekend.

The Assenmacher 💯, A Perfect Day and an Attempted PR for 100 Miles…

The forecast couldn’t have been better. 58 degrees at the start, rising to 80, mostly sunny and a whole 1 to 3-mph for the “wind” all day long. We couldn’t even call that a breeze. It was the perfect day for a 100 mile ride…

We rolled out at three minutes after 8, heading for Gaines and a few friends who had rolled early. I told them we’d be passing through at 8:34. We had a massive double-paceline eleven deep and most of us were not only experienced pace-line riders, we’d ridden together for years. And thankfully the Elite riders were off of a race the day before – they didn’t have any desire to hammer the pace. The cycling of the pace-line was smooth and efficient.

And the breaks between pulls were huge. Not only that, with almost no wind, it doesn’t matter as much where you are in the pace-line (in terms of which lane), you get a great draft. Best, everyone in our group took their turns up front. The elite guys a little more frequently than some of the A guys, but there wasn’t much wheel sucking to speak of. And that makes for a smooth ride.

The clock hit 8:34 twelve seconds before we rounded the corner to the first stop – that, we skipped. Twelve miles in is way too soon for a stop.

And so we hammered on, down through Byron, then toward Bancroft. Greg, one of the elite guys, had lamented a week earlier on the pre-ride that we’d changed the route to skip the sod farm leg of the route due to road construction in Bancroft because we’d miss the sunflower fields. The powers that be decided it would be safer to bypass that part of the route so riders wouldn’t be confronted with having to cross a road that had been ground up, with only dirt and gravel remaining. I asked Greg as we rolled on if he wanted to do the original route by the sod farm. I wanted to get that shot, anyway, of the group hammering by the rows of sunflowers, and we had the sunniest day possible. The decision was made on the fly to do the original route.

Sadly, as sunny as it was, the sunflowers hadn’t had time to look up yet. We were simply too fast. We were sitting on a 21.8-mph average at this point and the mood was jovial throughout the group. We talked and caught up with each other until we were third bike or so, when the draft wasn’t quite the help as it was further back. Then we’d get to our turn up front and head back to strike up another conversation. d you’ll see an intersection up ahead. We make a right there and head down, then up a short, shallow incline before we hit a long stretch with some downhill to it.

I came off the back and worked up the group, taking a photo of each pair all the way up the line so I could send them to my friends later. Halfway up the line and I’m thinking, “This is so cool! Charging to the front of the group at near 28-mph, snapping pictures of my friends… I’d always wanted to be able to have the strength and confidence to do this”… as I snapped the last photo, I was ready to head to the back and cough up the rest of what was left of one of my lungs.

Todd was a lot happier looking than I was at that point!

I drifted back and took my place in line.

We stopped for the first time at mile 29, just long enough to get something quick to eat and use the portable facilities. When we were all topped off and relieved, we rolled out easy and steadily picked up the pace till we were back to our 23 to 25-mph. At the back it felt like you could hide a truck in the draft. With the decent group we had and everyone taking their lumps up front, we didn’t have the same yo-yo effect you normally expect at the back with a big group, it was just smooth.

I was on the Venge for this one and I won’t lie, there wasn’t one solitary thought of wishing I’d brought the Trek… and on this route, the Venge could have had a 1x drivetrain. I didn’t drop out of the big ring once.

We stopped for lunch at the 55-mile mark with a 22-mph average. I didn’t eat much, a peanut butter & jelly sammich, a pickle, and drank some Gatorade. I was feeling quite spectacular as we rolled out but I didn’t want to get too cocky… we had a gnarly hill coming up and I about want to lose my lunch on that hill every year.

Except this year. We were down to 15-mph by the time we got to the top, but I quickly caught my breath and we rolled on. After I recovered so quickly from that nemesis hill, I knew I had a special day going. I took my lumps at the front and enjoyed my rests at the back. I’ve been on this kick lately, thinking about how my best days in my early teen centered around riding my bike to a friend’s house to hang out for the day. He lived seven or eight miles away, all on dirt roads.

Here I am now, and not much has changed, though the bike ride is the fun part. Oh, and the bikes are vastly superior next to what I had as a kid.

We skipped the rest stop at mile 72. I wanted to stop but the elite guys were starting to get a little antsy. Heading through the town of Owosso, they raced through a couple of lights with surges from 22-mph to near 30. A few of our guys got stuck at one of the lights, so we decided to just let them go.

And this is where this story gets a little dicey. I knew what they were doing and I was with the lead group that made it through the lights – I’d managed to go with the surges. And I almost went with them. Looking back, I think I had the legs, but not with the surging… and when those guys have one of us on and they don’t want us there, they have a tendency to keep surging till we’ve had enough. Well, I didn’t want to put up with that, either. I chose to stay with my normal riding friends and call it good… after all, we were sitting on a 22-mph average.

The remaining 25-miles were excellent once we got a few issues sorted. Enjoyable, even. The best I can remember feeling on the homestretch of the A-100. Turns up front weren’t too difficult but they weren’t easy, either. Even so, we had at least ten in our single-file pace-line to share the load. They were also slower, so that 22 average slipped to 21.9, then 21.8 as we were approaching Lennon, seven miles from home. We were nearing the Tuesday night sprint point at around 22-mph when Mike says, “Well, go on and get that sign”. I’d planned on sitting in, but you can’t sit still on a prompt like that. I upshifted and hit the gas ramping it all the way up to 32 (52 km/h) and crossing the line before checking to see if anyone had come. I was up the road by a massive amount so I took it down to about 14-mph to let everyone catch up. I went a little too hard and put myself in a bit of a hurt locker. I recovered quickly, though, and we pressed on. One in the group didn’t approve of my sprinting for the sign, but I took it for what it was… we were all a little tired and cranky at that point. Anyway, with six to go, Chuck took a monster pull into the little, baby headwind and we crushed it. Stuck at a stop light with a mile to go, we were looking up the last hill of the day. You can hardly call it a molehill, but that freaking hill will suck the life right out of you that late in the day. I passed the parking lot with 99.7 miles and tacked on another two tenths before turning back. 100.1 Miles in 4:37:06. I was pretty sure that was going to be a PR as I thought my old century record, set in 2013, was 21.6-mph.

After looking it up, that one was at 21.7, also. I missed a PR by 8 seconds (though I really didn’t learn that till Monday morning). The important takeaway is that I felt great when we finished. I had more than the normal fumes I’m running on at the end of a century, and I wasn’t cramping or struggling to catch my breath. It was one of the best century rides I’ve ever been a part of.

I headed home after getting something to eat and showered up. I’d hoped to take a nap but was soaring a little too high. I couldn’t close my eyes, so I got back in the car and headed back to help with the cleanup effort. We finished, dropping off the last truck at 6:45. My daughter, who had been helping since before dawn, was passed out tired in the back of my car. I dropped my wife at her car and went to pick up the pizza, letting my kid sleep. Pizza was the perfect capper to the perfect day. I even remembered my sunscreen so I didn’t get burned. Heh.

TNIL: Ultra-Hot & Melty Edition (Or Conversely, Oh How I ❤️ My Venge Edition)

The thermometer in my car hit 91 preposterous degrees (33 C) on the way over to Lennon. There was a breeze, but at 91 sticky degrees, it felt more like getting hit with a furnace vent.

Chuck and I did the warm-up uneventfully, except one a$$#0le in a POS Chevy pickup who disagreed vehemently with “share the road” and laid on his horn about a quarter-mile before he got to us without another car in sight for miles. I’m guessing, but I think the 45 second blast on his horn meant “get off the road because I’m too stupid to pass you while you’re on the road surface”… but I’m not sure. I made fun of him enough that he pulled over to yell at us. We gave it back and rode by him so he had to pass us again. I made a wild, “well there you go, the lane is yours to pass” gesture with my hand as he yelled something out the window in “I have sex with goats in the barn” English. I couldn’t quite make it out and laughed at him as he went by.

I’m not always Mr. Etiquette, thinking about positively representing the sport, but some people… I’m imperfect. I’ll keep trying.

We were short riders again, maybe 15 between the A Elites and A’s so we rolled together. This time, there were more of us than them, and that gave me the warm fuzzies.

Levi and I led the rabble out, starting slow and ramping the pace up as the mile and a half ticked off. We were up to 23 when we flicked off to head back for a rest.

With a tailwind, the pace got quick, in a hurry. But it was good. That Pad Thai for lunch must have worked because I was feeling uncharacteristically fantastic. I also didn’t push my luck with long pulls, either. I gave it my best and got out of the way. Then we turned into the wind – crossing for a few miles, and that was a struggle, but then dead into it. The pulls were shorter but the pace moderated a little, and the draft was great.

Then we hit the hills.

I’d kept my breathing in check so I had some gas in reserve for the hills but it’s always surprising how fast the elite guys can shimmy up an incline that’d normally slow us down a bit. They took it a little easy on us, but not too easy. With a little extra want to I got through the hills and we were back on our normal Tuesday night route home. Heading for the homestretch we had better than a 22-mph average and we were on the gas hard. 26-mph uphill and I was wondering who had visited a priest for confession to be given that for penance. I stayed glued to Todd’s wheel, though… and we turned for the home stretch. I was expecting a smooth ride home. Fast, yes, but… reasonable. We were all melting by this point in the ride.

All hell broke lose.

The pace went from 26 to 32 in a matter of seconds (42 km/h to 51.5 km/h). I managed to stay connected for a bit more than a mile and I drifted back after a shake-up at the front had the group a little kittywampus and tucked in behind David. I told him I didn’t have much left and wouldn’t be able to hang… but he started falling off the group. He made a valiant effort to reconnect but he just didn’t have that last 20 yards. I came around close so he’d immediately get in my draft and charged off for the front group. I bridged the gap at 32-mph but Dave wasn’t there when I checked my six.

Well, I wasn’t about to leave him out there all on his own after I rode him like that, so I slipped quietly off the back of the lead group. I could also see Chuck and Clark in the background as well, so I told Dave to hold up a bit and we’d grab those two for a legit charge home. The caught up with two miles to go and we were after it. We raised our pace from 22.1 to 22.2 over the course of the next two miles and pounded the pedals for the City Limits sign north of 28-mph. And just like that, it was over.

I reset my Garmin for the cruise back to the parking lot and it was hi-fives and fist bumps all around. The official average was 22.5-mph for just shy of 30 miles. It was fantastic.

I’d had several thoughts throughout last night’s ride about how amazing my Venge is. My 5200 is a legendary race bike from the late 90s – more state-level wins than any other bike frame in the history of bicycles from what I’m told by our local cycling historian. I love that bike. But my Venge, fourteen years newer, is simply astonishing stood next to the Trek. When you push the pedals on the Venge, the forward reaction is simply violent in comparison. The bike just goes. Everything about the Specialized is perfect down to the chainring bolts. It’s quiet, fast, stout, and aero as they got in 2014.

That bike gave me everything it had last night and I feel lucky to own it. I’d have kept up on the Trek but it would have been a whole lot harder… and it would have been likely I’d have dropped a couple miles sooner as well.

An Amazing 3rd Annual Mike Adams’ Firecracker 100 K 4th of July Ride

The gist of this post, what I’m about to write, is unfair. Let me be very, very clear… I don’t care that it’s not fair. Genes, want to, or whatever it may be, I love the heat. While everyone else is melting as temps top 90 degrees (32 C), I’m in all my glory.

And so we began at 7:30. I met Mike and Chuck at the corner and we rolled to the meeting spot. We picked up Diane and Jeff on Diane’s tandem along the way and quickly went from taking it easy to rolling out. We were there just a few miles later, waiting for everyone to get their bikes out and shoes on. At just a few minutes past 8 we were ready to roll out. We had a great group, eleven strong.

The pace started out easy but it didn’t stay that way long. The breeze was light but we could feel it heading directly into the teeth of it. The best way to put it would be to say it dampened the pace slightly, but the flag shows it all.

As we rolled on, the pace picked up. Pulls up front were short, usually a mile each, and it got lively – in a fun way, not in a “please make the bad man stop” way. We were picking them up and putting them down, as they say.

As the ride wore on, I realized something fantastic; I was feeling awesome. That shouldn’t have been on the second big day – I should have been dragging, at least a little bit (after contemplating this, I’ve got an interesting idea why this is… more later).

The temperature climbed a lot more than we did on the flat-ish route and all of a sudden, after two flicked off in front of us, Mike and I were up front together. I know where to look, of course, but I can actually see the spike in pace exactly when the two of us took over the front. We went from 20-mph to 23 as if someone flipped a switch. We were off the front within a minute. I looked at Mike and smiled, “Some idiot left us up front unsupervised!” Mike responded, “No governor”. Exactly right – zero governor. We dialed it back to let everyone catch up and kept the pace reasonable, thereafter.

The remainder of the ride was sheer bliss on two wheels. Mike and I would end up at the front a couple of more times together and while we were careful not to bury anybody, we bumped up against the pace that was just slightly less than tongues dangling in spokes.

We altered the route for the better a couple of times, taking out a few stretches of gnarly pavement for pristine roads, new in one instance as we took it to the barn. After dropping everyone at the elementary school in town, Mike, Diane, Jeff, Chuck and I rolled for home. I pulled into the driveway with 75-1/2 miles and a 19.1-mph average (my wife’s average for the actual 100 k was 19.6).

DALMAC training is excellent – and today is day three. In fact, I have to start getting ready so we can pack the car and head out to my friend’s house…