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I’ve said, for years, “good times and noodle salad”, from the movie As Good As It Gets, when someone asks how fun an event was. It became my way of saying, “it was as good as it gets”. I was just five years sober when that movie came out (29 is only a month away). I loved that saying and have used it regularly for at least the last decade.
Chuck and I were out riding Friday, our usual weekday loop, casually, and he comes up with hotdogs and tailwind. Now that’s going to stick. It’s got everything I love! Meat, bikes, good friends, good times and happiness.
Sunday’s ride was an excellent example. It was a cold start – 47 F or 8 C – but it felt even colder than that. I was a touch underdressed, but that usually works out after the shock of the first couple of miles, and the sun was supposed to come out, so I imagined it would warm up quickly.
“Imagined” is the operative word in that sentence.
It was cold and gloomy until we pulled into our first stop at 14-miles. I went into the gas station just to warm up. We had just shy of 30 miles left and I was a little disheartened that it was still so cloudy. The weather report had the clouds clearing just after we left.
After a snack and use of the facilities, we mounted up and rolled out. As we crested the first hill of the day, the clouds had an end and we were riding right for it. The headwind was starting to pick up but we were maintaining a healthy, but not too intense, 17-mph pace into it. We’d go three miles into it, get a break for a mile, then another three.. and before we knew it, we hit the edge of the clouds… and just like that, the sun beat down on us and warmed things up to “enjoyable”. Sadly, however, not to temperatures warm enough to remove my gloves, so photos from here out will be Slim Pickens.
We hit our first crossing tailwind of the day at 21.3 miles. Our first tailwind at 23, and it was all fun after that. We had some speedy sections, but for the most part kept it fun and enjoyable, though with a tailwind that kept increasing in intensity, “fun and enjoyable” became 25-mph at about 125 watts… and here comes Chuck, along side the group, “Hotdogs and tailwind”, he shouted. I added a Rick Flair, “WOOOOOO!” and we all cracked up.
The rest of the ride, just shy of 42 miles in total, was a blast. We simply took it to the barn.
I spent the rest of the day on the couch, catching up on sleep I didn’t know I needed. About 3:00 I was feeling a bit stupid for sitting on the couch all day… almost dirty. So I got up off my duff and went outside to cut the grass. I hit every blade I could get to around the flooded, low-lying spots in my yard. It only took about 50 minutes.
It was a fantastic weekend. Normally, I’d end it by saying it was good times and noodle salad. At least for a while, I think I’ll stick with the more apropos, “hotdogs and tailwind”. That fits me just a little better, anyway.
Saturday morning, my wife and I, pressed for time and trying to fit a ride in between rain and a family fun-filled day at my daughter’s university for college football, opted to take the tandem out. The only bike I have with fenders, there’s nothing better on wet roads. I barely have to clean the bike after a ride on rain-soaked roads – it’s truly wonderful.
My wife and I are in a great place right now and even though it had been several weeks since our last tandem ride, we were clicking within a half-mile from the driveway. We talked with friends, had a couple of laughs and generally a wonderful time pedaling together. We had no speed goals and thankfully didn’t have anyone wanting to hammer the pace. Chucker and his wife were on their tandem and Chuck & Mike (K) rounded our group.
Mid-way through our ride, I thought back on how much we’d struggle just trying to get a canoe down a river. Let’s just say we didn’t work well together back then, and leave it at that. We found kayaks much more agreeable.
We rounded out a nice 20-mile ride and got ready to head down to the game with my wife’s parents, our younger daughter and her boyfriend. We could only have had a finer evening if the home team had won. Unfortunately, they were outplayed from the first drive and though they gave it a great effort, with an opportunity to tie the game on the final drive, they came up a little short.
We had a sparkling dinner at a restaurant downtown, recommended by a few locals sitting near us in the stands. The food was fantastic and having the family together was as good as it gets. We arrived home late into the evening, exhausted. After a couple of quick games of cards, we headed to bed. I don’t remember how long it took me to fall asleep, but if it was more than 60 seconds, I’d be shocked.
Buying our tandem was an exercise in faith for us. We’d hoped our daughters would take to riding it with me but that never happened.
As my friend, Mike likes to say, “A tandem is a marriage maker or a marriage breaker”. I’m glad it’s the former for us.
It’s been a rough couple of
weeks months bike-wise. The Venge, after shifting horribly for a minute (frayed, and eventually broken, shifter cable) and getting new chainrings, chain, cassette and a rear derailleur, is now in the shop for open-bottom bracket surgery (this is a long story for another day). Then, after finally getting my Trek’s drivetrain figured out so it didn’t skip every time a mouse farted, I’d developed a nasty creak in the fork somewhere.
The shifting problem, or “chain skipping” problem to be clearer, ended up being a worn inner chainring. Don’t ask me how it got worn when I barely use it, but once I put the new chainrings on the bike, everything worked exactly as it should. The click/creak issue was a little more challenging.
First, the Trek’s click/creak wasn’t that big a deal. The Venge, that’s BIG. Second, we’re about a week away from full-blown gravel season so I’m almost ready to mount the Trek on the Trainer for the winter. Third, the Trek is 22-years-old! Should I be surprised if it creaks a little?
Well, it creaked a lot. Mainly out of the saddle, and I could recreate the creak by straddling the bike and torqueing on the handlebar.
It was simple deduction, Watson. It had to be the headset.
And I tried everything over two weeks. Specialty bearing grease (thick and tacky – not BBQ sauce!), tightening the grip nuts, loosening the grip nuts, regular lube, but lots of it… I even sanded some ridges of the fork race to make sure the surface wasn’t the problem.
That last item actually made it worse for a minute.
I was just about to throw in the towel and live with it until I got the Venge back so I could then take it to the shop and let them deal with it… when I decided to give her one last go. I thought, “Dammit, I know what I’m doing and I’m not about to let that creak win.”
As it turned out, the Chris King Gripnut, which is possibly on its last leg, has to be exactly the proper torque, or some pitting in the fork race from years of prior abuse, will allow the fork to move, ever so slightly, producing a click or creak when the handlebars are torqued out of the saddle. If the Gripnut is exactly right, and the locking Gripnut is tightened to within an inch of its life, the creak will go away. The trick is getting “exactly” exactly where it needs to be. Too tight and the steering drags (and the bike gyroscopes when the wheels roll). Too loose and it creaks.
I spent a perfectly quiet 22 miles on it last evening and it was glorious. Climbing hills, albeit small one’s, out of the saddle, gearing up for a sprint, it’s all good. I tried it all.
I almost got a little misty as Chucker and I were doing our second bonus lap around our favorite subdivision. I’ve got a lot of devotion wrapped up into that perfectly spec’ed out and kitted classic 1999 Trek 5200. I rebuilt it myself from the ground up, had it painted by one of my best cycling friends on the planet, in the exact colors I wanted, including having a nameplate set into the clearcoat on either side of the top tube… and it was my first road bike – a bike I barely had the cash for when I was only a few years into my first construction company.
I’m just as attached to the Trek as I am my Venge, and I’ve always used it as my go-to bike when I absolutely, positively need a bike I can rely on no matter what the weather throws at me. So, to get it back to “whole” again, and vastly superior to what it was when I brought it home (and 2-1/2 pounds lighter), is a relief.
I love that bike.
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.
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.
Knee-Slapper of the Day from Dr. Anthony Fauci: “We’ll have to wait and see” if we can gather for Christmas…
Never in my adult life can I remember the Washington Bubble being so off from the rest of the country. It’s absolutely astonishing to watch. Better, I’ve also never seen so many of those empty suits caught exhibiting behavior contrary to that which they preach.
Over the weekend, when asked by a reporter if families would have to limit their family Christmas visits for a second year, Dr. Anthony Fauci said, ““It’s just too soon to tell. We’ve just got to concentrate on continuing to get those numbers down and not try to jump ahead by weeks or months and say what we’re going to do at a particular time. Let’s focus like a laser on continuing to get those cases down, and we can do it by people getting vaccinated. And also, in this situation where boosters are appropriate to get people boosted“
I get together with my family because it’s Friday. You’re literally nuts if you think I’m limiting my family visits after I’m vaccinated (and likely had Covid in March of 2020). After all that we’ve been through, I’m amazed that, not only are these knuckleheads talking about people limiting their Holiday plans (and Christmas is a capital “H” Holiday), after they’ve demonstrably broken their own advice so often, what’s shocking is they think sane people are listening in the first place!
I can promise you, I’m no less sophisticated and vaccinated than the ex-president and his friends who partied hard (and unmasked) for his birthday. I’ll be doing the same this Christmas, regardless of what any political hack has to say about it. Come to think of it, there won’t be any booze at our family gatherings, so those gatherings will be even more sophisticated. Technically.
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…
I chose recovery over the alternative very early in life. I was only legal to drink for a little more than a year when I decided I’d had enough.
I was about 30 minutes short of homeless. I technically had a car but couldn’t afford to keep it up. My health was already failing. After having bloodwork done, a doctor told me I had the liver of a 60-year-old chronic alcoholic and I’d likely be worm food before my 30th birthday if I didn’t quit drinking. I was 21.
I stayed drunk for another year after that. Doctor Jim figured the real doctor was lying to scare me. What can I say? Adding alcohol makes me stupid.
I got myself into quite a bit of trouble over the next year and a judge decided it might be a good idea for me to quit drinking. The whole entire State of Michigan, everybody, agreed. It said so on all of the paperwork… The People of the State of Michigan… vs. Me.
I took that chance after a considerable amount of hemming and hawing. By “considerable”, I mean a freaking lot. When I walked through the doors of the treatment center, I had every intention of doing my time and using again when I got out.
But I didn’t. I had a life-altering change of mind in treatment… shortly after the DTs started. At 22 years-old, who gets the DTs?
Once the decision was made, I almost never looked back. I did for about 30 seconds and it scared the hell out of me so I severed ties with all of my old friends. I completely (read entirely) left my old life in the rearview. I gave everything I had to recovery… and I did recover.
I’m in the middle of celebrating 21 years of borrowed time on the right side of the grass. Figure, if I’d kept drinking and died at 30 as predicted… and I’m 51…
My life doesn’t even resemble what I started out as. I don’t even know who that stupid kid is anymore. Life has only gotten better. Happier. I understand peace and enjoy it thoroughly.
As I like to say, “The hardest thing I’ll ever do in my lifetime I did at 22-years-old. I lived through hell on earth. Anything after that* is a party by comparison”.
Keep coming back. No matter what. Even if your ass falls off. If your ass does fall off, put it in a plastic bag and take it to a meeting. Someone there will be able to show you how they put theirs back on. If you work for it, your life will get so good, you’ll think it can’t possibly get any better. Six months later, you’ll realize it did. All by itself. This is a promise, if you work for it. I’ve been at that point in life so many times I’ve lost count, but I keep coming back.
I want to see for myself exactly how good it can get before I slide into my casket in a cloud of dust and shout as I croak, “Wow, what a ride!”
*Anything after living through hell on earth is a party… if I work for the good stuff. If I simply quit drinking and do nothing, guess what I’ll get?
My ultimate goal in dying is to skid sideways in a cloud of dust into my casket and exclaim, “Wow! What a ride!” Then croak and fall in.
That would be just fine with me.
I realized, however, just yesterday morning that this goal might be rather… erm… selfish. I believe I’ve been a little lulled into a false sense of awesomeness by being “a good guy”. I realized there’s another who will be on that ride, skidding sideways in a cloud of dust with me… and she’s not been properly accounted for on that journey.
This wasn’t an epiphany in which I realized that I’ve been living all wrong all along and a complete 180 is necessary. No, I have done a much better job of it than my dad did and he did a very good job of “dad”. He’ll always be remembered fondly by all of his kids. He wasn’t a good husband, though. My mom was a handful and a long way from perfect, no doubt, but my dad didn’t do much with what he had. Again, I do a better job of husband than my dad did, but I saw room for improvement yesterday – a blind spot, if you will.
My wife and I had to drop off our daughter for a swim meet yesterday morning. It was raining and had been for hours (and would continue raining for many more) so there was no ride to be had. We’d hoped to sneak one in, but neither of us had a desire to ride in that mess. My wife was sitting drinking her coffee and I was thinking about my little ” I want to skid sideways into the casket in a cloud of dust” goal when I realized it would be a lot more fun if my wife and I were riding together.
It was then I could see that I can be a better riding buddy for my wife. A big overhaul isn’t necessary, but there are small things I can do much better. I kissed my wife’s neck a few times and let her know I realized I should be doing better and will continue to in the future. I’ve got a new way to look at our life together and it’s rather exciting, really.
Shortly thereafter, we were in the car with our daughter, on the way to drop her off for the bus ride to the meet. We went home and got ready to head to the swim meet ourselves, but decided to have breakfast at a local diner we rarely frequent. We talked about current events and future plans, and it was good. We had a fantastic time at the meet and our daughter did well. After her last event, it was in the car and off to our eldest daughter’s university football game where she’d be performing in the marching band. We missed the first home game for DALMAC, so this was our first time seeing the band perform a real show.
It was fantastic and a joy to behold. My wife and I had a fabulous time and even got to have our picture taken with the EMU Eagles’ mascot.
The handler is hiding behind us. The eagle is very much alive and we were instructed to keep our fingers at our waist if we wished to go home with all of them. She bites, apparently. The bird was unquestionably magnificent and I had to quell the urge to put my pointer in the air and shout, “‘Merica!”.
The halftime show was phenomenal and the home team won by a handy margin (59 – 21). I’m proud to be the papa of a kid who’s playing in such a wonderful band – that first note was an absolute punch to the mug (that’s a good thing – the sound was enormous). After the game, we took our daughter out for dinner then dropped her off at her dorm before driving around the campus to take a look after dark. It’s a lot prettier than when I attended 30 years ago (damn, that’s amazing to me).
My wife and I headed home hand-in-hand, having shared a great one together.
We’re heading out for a ride this morning, followed by a nap on the couch, a nice dinner at the dinner table, and bowling this evening. I will remember that the goal is for my wife and I to skid into the casket sideways in a cloud of dust exclaiming, “Wow! What a RIDE!” Together.
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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.