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Attempting to Return to Cycling from Covid Just a Little Too Soon

My wife had to work late into the evening last night so I decided I’d take my Covid laden butt outside for a much needed session on the Venge.

The first mile was awesome. Slow, but awesome. After that first mile, though, my throat started aching with the minimal effort – and I mean minimal. I knew I was done before I crossed the 5k mark. After a while, I realized it wasn’t my throat, it was the upper quarter of my lungs that were hurting. I’d felt that before… but it’s worse this time. Not much, but noticeably.

So I did the second smart thing; I took my toy and went home. I pulled into the driveway with just shy of nine miles and a healthy desire to not be on my bike anymore.

Now, strangely, once I got into the shower I felt markedly better. My lungs stopped hurting and I regained my strength and desire to stand up in said shower. I knew long before I got into that shower that riding was not my brightest idea. I had to give it a try, though.

Today will be another glorious day, so I’ll try again (hopefully on the tandem with my wife).

UPDATE: On further introspection, perhaps I’ll wait till my fever breaks for real…

Saddle Tilt and Pain in Cycling

Assuming we’re not dealing with the “more padding is better padding” crowd, who are simply misunderstanding “padding” and how padding relates or “works” in regard to to riding a bicycle in general, I’d like to take a moment to delve into one of my favorite topics of late since I started working with my wife on her saddles, saddle tilt. As I’ve written here before, I consider myself quite picky as saddle height, setback and tilt go. If I’m a millimeter off in either, I can feel it and I don’t like it. Too much height and I feel frontal pressure, which differs from the frontal pressure of having the nose too high. With the saddle too low, I feel back pressure on the glutes. With the saddle tilted too far down, I slide off the saddle and that drives me nuts… but not near as nuts as when I’ve got the nose too high!

My wife is unquestionably more sensitive than I am. She feels pressure at half-millimeter increments. It’s almost a little unnerving, but I’ve taken to the challenge and dedicated myself to figuring this out for her. Once I took the issue on like that, it seemed less daunting because, well, I love a good challenge to be vanquished. Doubly so when my wife is the benefactor of my diligence because being on a tandem, I can’t truly be happy as the Captain until my wife is happy as the Rear Admiral.

I had an extensive Body Geometry fitting on my Venge that took something like three hours after I tried setting my bike up myself with the knowledge I’d accrued watching YouTube videos. The only change the fitting showed I needed was to drop the saddle by about two millimeters. I was really stoked that I’d gotten it that close on my own. From that point I’ve simply fine-tuned everything by feel.

My issue is in translating what I have in my melon to what my wife is feeling, without knowing how to make the translation. It’s interesting to say the least, but we’ve begun the process and it’s exciting.

The key, as I’ve written numerous times before, is in getting the saddle to cradle the rider on the bar tops, hoods and in the drops. How I get to this is simple. First, I know my saddle height; 36-5/8″, give or take. Next, I level the saddle to zero, then drop the nose 2 degrees. From there, I go for a ride and adjust by feel. If I feel pressure at the front in the drops, I lower the saddle nose. If I feel no pressure at the front but feel like I’m sliding off the saddle, I raise the nose a smidge. It’s really as simple as that. Once I get that “cradled” feeling, I’m done.

I’m Back! However, Sadly, with an Uninvited Guest

I’m back to writing today, after what very well could be my longest break from writing since I started – I took a full ten days off.

Sadly, we brought an uninvited guest back with us in the form of Covid. Technically, I don’t know I have it, but I’ve been playing kissy-face with my wife the entire time and she showed a positive test result eleven seconds after the drops hit the “S” reservoir on the test.

I’ve got the tiniest of headaches and a little bit of a scratchy throat. Other than that, if my wife hadn’t taken a test that showed positive, I’d likely put this to allergies or something less sinister (and this is definitely my second time around with Covid after having it in the early weeks of the pandemic, just before everything was shut down, possibly third just this past February). My wife, however, has it worse than I. She’s vaccinated and boosted, like me, but she’s got the full slate of symptoms (sore throat, sinus issues, headache, achy body, tired, etc., etc.), though she seems to have turned the corner enough that she’ll wait out the symptoms.

So, I’ll be write back at it in the morning with a new batch of cycling posts interspersed with some recovery topics I picked up on from my time away…

It’s time for an unscheduled break from writing…

I took yesterday off and I actually worked on a post this morning after sleeping in with my wife till almost 9 am – the latest I’d slept in since we’ve been married (unless I was sick).

It was amazing, but I don’t want to get used to it.

Anyway, I was working on a post and I got to thinking… I haven’t taken time off writing in a while, so now is the time.

I’ll be back Monday July 25th.

Awesome adventures till then!

Tuesday Night in Lennon: Popped Edition

We had a small group in Lennon last night and it was windy, out of the northwest. This is not a good recipe – especially as my wife and tandem partner had to work late (as it turned out, very late). Only Chucker and I showed for the warm-up, so it was low key and I felt quite good with the easy pace on the Venge. It was good to be on the Venge, but I felt off at the same time. It was reinforced that I’d prefer my wife on the tandem any day of the week and twice on Sunday…

We rolled out into the headwind for the first third of the ride. I chose the left lane of the double pace-line so I’d get peppered with headwind to start but be protected down the long stretch down Shipman road. I’ve quietly and successfully employed this strategy for years – and it always works… as long as I stick to it.

Getting hammered by the northwest wind wasn’t great, but I was able to hide behind Greg’s wheel and I spent a lot of time in the drops or low on the hoods to stay out of the wind. My mood lightened as I caught up with folks I hadn’t ridden with in months but riding without Jess just isn’t as fun. It’ll do, ya know?

I was doing quite well when we hit Shipman road, but riders started getting dropped off the right side, meaning I was no longer protected once I got to the back after a short stint up front. I believe I made it three or four miles, but once the tandem dropped off to my left, I took the right lane to even the pace-lines out and I only lasted three turns up front and popped about three from the front. And by popped, I mean popped. Done. As soon as I hit the unprotected side, my heart rate jumped from the 150s to the 170s and I was done.

Thankfully, I was right by a massive shortcut so I took my toy and went home.

I only lasted 8-1/2 miles, but I definitely wasn’t the first off the back, so I’ll take solace in that. And on the positive side, it was really nice to feel a little out of place on my Venge. It was good to feel a little bummed that I had to ride a single over the tandem. My wife is awesome.

UPDATE: I received a text this morning from Chucker… The A guys ended up with a 24-mph average for the night… and everyone we normally ride with popped.

Another Wonderful Sunday Funday on the Tandem with My Wife… and A Little QOM Hunting

There’s a route my wife and I do each year at the end of July – always on single bikes till this year, that’s got a looong stretch with what is usually a prevailing tailwind and a slight downhill grade the whole way (there are a few shallow rises, but the general grade is downhill), that ends with a sprint for the Flushing City Limits sign.

It’s very fast. The KOM is out of reach for me without a huge tailwind. The QOM, however…

My wife and I rolled out Sunday morning on our new favorite bike. I can’t put into words how blessed I feel that my wife and I both love riding the tandem at the same time in our marriage. There’s no place I’d rather be than being the Captain to her Rear Admiral.

We started out with our normal Sunday Funday easy pace at the front of a small pack. Well, it was only Diane and Jeff on Diane’s tandem and Mike on his good bike. The pack grew, though. We picked up Phill and Matt along the way. The morning started out unseasonably cool but it warmed up quickly enough with abundant sunshine and good friends. We’d picked a north route because we had a slight breeze out of the southeast – and north is perfect on a Sunday (a little heavy with the traffic on a Saturday). I noticed within the first couple of miles that we were in good shape – we were perfectly synchronized in our effort.

The morning warmed quickly and after 14-miles we’d ditched the arm-warmers:

We rolled on happily at an excellently wonderful pace – where you’re not taxed but you’re still working at it… it’s a fantastic feeling on the tandem when everything is working well.

30 miles into the ride, my wife, trying out some new Terry cycling shorts I bought for her, did something that almost had me crashing into the ditch; she started talking about adding miles to our 40-mile route. I couldn’t believe it. I said I was up for whatever she wanted to do, so rather than bee-line it home, we headed further west to check out some rarely traveled roads… which led us inexorably to the easterly return trip on West Pierson Road. As I mentioned earlier, typically you’ve got a westerly wind to push you down the road which means the KOM for the finishing segment is unbelievably fast – 32 mph. Yesterday, we had a slight (but not insignificant) crossing headwind. Still, we managed the 3.2-mile stretch in just 8m:14s and nabbed my wife the QOM (in fact, we beat out her old QOM time on that one). There is nothing more satisfying for me than helping my wife pick up a QOM on the tandem (not even getting a KOM for myself). We also nabbed a second QOM for Jess on the ride, the sprint end of that section at 28.7-mph… with a crossing headwind. It was awesome.

Of all of the cool things to come out of the changes my wife and I have made in the last six months, that smile is one of the coolest. Seeing the shear joy is such a wonderful blessing.

After than several mile stretch, I was about cooked. We were 40-miles in and still had a dozen miles to home so we stopped at a fire station so I could get a gel out of the saddle bag. I wasn’t hungry, but my energy level was fading. After that stop we beat a path for home.

We pulled into the driveway with 52 fantastic miles. Sunday Funday just keeps getting better.

Good times and noodle salad.

Struggling In Recovery? Don’t Give Up Five Minutes Before the Miracle Happens…

Recovery isn’t always a bed of roses, especially in the first five years. My favorite line in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, after the first three words on page 112, is “Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path”.

When we’re having a tough time, no matter how long one has in the program, it’s always best to fall back on that line. I need to always be mindful to follow the path.

Don’t give up five minutes before the miracle happens.

The Story of How My Wife and I Found Happiness on a Tandem (While Finding Each Other Off It) Part Two

Part one is here and handled the period from when we picked up our Co-Motion Periscope in 2016 to just this spring, six years later. Part two picks up mid-June of ’22 at the Sunrise Adventure Tour in Alpena, day one. My wife and I had, within the last few months, just fallen in love. All over again. We’d found ourselves off the bike…

We woke up in the morning and it was already windy – and they were calling for gale-force winds before the end of the day. I thought we were going to have the wind stacked right, though; headwind to start, tailwind to finish.

Still dark out and in the wee hours of the morning, we went to the bathroom facility and cleaned up to roll out. It was a cool morning, chilly, actually. As one would expect, we were kitted out in our matching jerseys from the local shop but also included knee and arm warmers. Once dressed, we took the registration kit we had and headed over to the start. We worked late check-in till 9 before prepping the tandem to roll out.

The morning had warmed quickly with the rising sun and we ditched the arm-warmers before we ever clipped in, and the wind really wasn’t as bad as had been advertised. With the hour-late start, I wondered how long it would take to reel in our first straggling cyclist. We counted down and shoved off, taking our time getting into our groove. Within three or four miles we were cruising down the road comfortably. City streets gave way to rural, quiet, immaculate roads. The scenery was wonderful and the air untouched from the hustle and bustle of southern Michigan’s over-concentrated heavy industry 180 miles away. I couldn’t help but take deep breaths to take in the awesome cedar smell in the air. My wife and I, our vows just renewed, talked of fun, happy, lovey things throughout much of the ride.

For me, it felt like a dream come true. We were the only bike on the road for two hours until we started reeling people in. We stopped when the desire, or scenery, struck us and we acted like we were newlyweds again, all while having the comfortability that comes with 25-years of marriage. It was the best of both worlds. Jess, my wife, was happier than I’d ever seen her on a bicycle. Hell, I was too, for that matter – all of these years and I’m thinking I was having the time of my life riding with friends. I was on a tandem with my best friend sitting right behind me. I let my wife know regularly how happy I was to be riding with her.

The wind really started howling as we approached Alpena again and my wife was more than a little nervous and asked if we should walk. I reassured her that I had us steady and we rolled on. Carefully. I can’t remember what our mileage was or what our average pace was when we finished. For the first time since I started cycling, I didn’t care. We’d just completed the most enjoyable ride I’d ever been on.

The rest of the evening was perfect leading into Saturday…

I was nervous for day two of Sunrise Adventure. It was a 40-mile out and back with headwind all the way out but tailwind all the way back. The starting temp was a little cooler, but the abundant sunshine made the cool temp livable. With arm and leg warmers. We rolled out into the wind on what turned out to be the most beautiful ride I’d ever been on. Every turn proved more beautiful. We’d suffered a popped synchronizing chain which requires loosening a few bolts and the eccentric bottom bracket shell. We ended up rolling out 20 minutes after everyone else. Jess usually doesn’t ride two hard rides in a row like that, let alone three, so we just took it steady into the wind. I made sure to reassure her several times that, should we end up out there alone, I’d be perfectly happy to spend the time with her whatever pace we ended up with.

As it turned out, there was no need to worry. We had a blast and rode very well together.

At one of the rest stops, my wife asked if we could move her saddle forward a little bit. I pulled out a 5-mil Allen key that I carry in the saddle bag and tended to it immediately. This was the result:

From there, simply put, we hauled ass. We took the route all the way up to Preque Isle to some of the most beautiful road I’ve ever had the privilege of riding. My wife saw a turn-off on the right and quickly said, “Oh my God, it’s beautiful!” I quickly looked right and just barely caught a glimpse of a gorgeous beach. I asked if she wanted to check it out and whipped the bike around to head back to the parking lot. This is what we saw:

It was amazing. That wasn’t even the best, though. That was yet to come at the Presque Isle Lighthouse built in 1840…

The trip back, with a steady diet of tailwind, was nothing short of outstanding. We were perfectly synched all day and had a most wonderful ride.

We had a wonderful lunch after the ride at The Fresh Palate and then a huge dinner at a fantastic Mexican restaurant on the water. We fell asleep watching Castle in each other’s arms, my wife resting her head in the crook of my shoulder. If I had to define peace and contentment in a marriage, that was it.

And that left day three, a lovely loop north and west up to Long Lake. It was another perfect ride followed by a nice lunch together before we packed up our pop-up camper and rolled for home.

That tour, in my mind, cemented us as a tandem couple. For me, simply because I love riding with my wife. For Jess, it was a little more than just wanting to ride with me. I gather, through what we talked about all weekend long, that she needed to feel safe to ride at our pace, whatever that was. She needed to know that this would indeed be an adventure and that we’d be taking the scenic route with plenty of stops along the way to see the sights… and I gave her exactly what she was looking for.

My transformation as a cyclist from someone who rides to be fast to someone who rides to be reasonably fit and to have wonderful rides and adventures with my wife because it’s awesome fun was complete.

We found each other through the pale din of resentment and repaired our marriage off the bike. Then we found true happiness on one big, heavy, wonderful tandem. Neither one of us could be happier.

I just can’t get part two of our tandem story cranked out today…

My wife and I stayed in bed a little longer than normal after dealing with a couple of issues that popped up yesterday, so I just haven’t been able to get the post done to my satisfaction. I’ll post it tomorrow.

In the meantime, this was from my recent birthday ride with my daughter. I never thought I’d get her back on a bike. It was a happy time.

My birthday cake literally said, “Good times & noodle salad”. Heh! My wife has an awesome sense of humor.

Before you head to the comments section, I know, I know! Some rides don’t require a helmet, and this was one of those… and it was strangely awesome riding without one for once!

The Story of How My Wife and I Found Happiness on a Tandem (While Finding Each Other Off It) Part One of Two.

We brought our first tandem home on May 13th of 2016.

To tell you the truth, it doesn’t look much different today. We’ve got a nice saddle bag on the seatpost and we’ve got fenders on it, but other than that, it’s the same bike we brought home.

I was excited to start riding with my wife and kids right away. My wife and I struggled mildly with a power/control issues too numerous to bother with. We started off graciously enough, but over time I think it’s fair to say we both allowed some off the bike resentments to get in the way of our enjoyment of the new tandem. As the resentments built up over time, they made our time on the tandem tougher. Even through all of that, I’d catch a glimpse of how excellent we could be on the bike and that made me love it.

I wanted for us to flourish on our tandem.

After that, though, call it 2018, we shelved the tandem except on the rare occasion. It was in the spring of 2020, the pandemic, that a friend suggested we should ride the tandem more. With an unknown amount of time off for CovidPanic, we decided to give it another go. We fared much better through the pandemic. I’d like to think I softened a little bit and my wife got stronger. We also started a “Sunday Funday” where we’d drop the pace from an expected 20-ish-mph down to 17 to 18-mph. This meant we didn’t have to struggle so much to keep the pace and our friends got a break from the hammer-fests.

We flourished, even choosing to ride the tandem on successive weekend days – even on weekdays now and again. I was really enjoying riding the tandem at the end of the 2021 season and we were both looking forward to 2022’s spring session as the snow started to melt in late February.

Then, in March, through a series of seemingly fluke events (that we choose to see as God helping us do what we couldn’t for ourselves), I came to realize that, while I was a decent man and a good husband, I was woefully self-centered and I could do a lot better. Once I saw the full extent of my transgressions, I broke down. I called my wife and asked her to meet me so we could talk about a few things I’d come to realize. I was in tears by the end of the call.

Early March was the beginning of a complete transformation of our marriage. With those changes, my wife and I went from tolerating each other to wanting to be together. We fixed almost all of what had been keeping us at arm’s length from one another… and that translated to riding the tandem.

March turned into April and April into May and we were on the tandem more days a week than on the single bikes. We even started taking the tandem to the Tuesday night hammer-fest in Lennon.

As May turned to June, Jess and I were starting to fire on all cylinders off the bike and that translated into fantastic times on the bike. We were 100% in love again. We renewed our vows a few days after our 25th Wedding Anniversary, and after ordering a new top-of-the-line gravel bike tandem with a spare set of road wheels to mark the occasion. Our Silver Anniversary present to each other is a new super-lightweight tandem.

The real kick to cement our relationship and our love of tandem riding came at a mid-June tour. A tour we went on alone, not knowing or having ridden with anyone else that was riding. We volunteered as well (as it turned out, to handle registration). This was the trip that showed us both that things were going to be different, and vastly better, for the rest of our lives together. We also took the tandem for our first solo road trip… and I knew we were going to have to ride the medium routes so we didn’t wear ourselves out to bring the tandem.

My wife checked the navigation and there were two ways up, one a little slower than the other but far more beautiful of a journey. I asked if we could take the back way, up the coast through Au Gres, Tawas and Oscoda, Michigan toward our final destination of Alpena. My parents rented a cottage on Lake Huron in Oscoda every summer for several years running and my grandmother used to live in Alpena where our parents would send us for a week or two every summer to get a break from us. I imagine my wife almost fainted when I asked for the scenic route!

Then, on the way up, we passed a beautiful park beach heading through Oscoda and my wife asked if we could turn around to walk on the beach for a minute. I can’t remember what I said specifically, but it was resoundingly affirmative. Let’s say, “Heck yeah”! And we whipped around at the first gas station we came to and headed back to the park.

We took a few selfies on the beach and went for a ten minute walk, and even did a little wading before heading back to the car. As we headed up the road, my wife asked what I’d done with her husband that I was willing to take the scenic route and stop along the way to take a look at the scenery. She asked where my get-there-itis went.

I took a minute to gather my thoughts and put it simply that the change was real and I was just happy to be with her, that we could take as long as she wanted. We both got misty over the exchange.

When we arrived, we set up the camper and headed over to pick up a few subs for lunch – one each for us and one for the ride coordinator.

The view from our campsite…

We headed over to start with our volunteer work. My wife asked to do the registration and I asked to work alongside her. I said as long as we could work together, I would work as long as they needed us. We worked from 1 in the afternoon till almost 8:30 in the evening and we absolutely rocked registration out. It was astonishingly smooth.

My wife started crying as we drove to dinner after I spoke to a local to find a great place to eat. She couldn’t believe I would work beside her, for that long, without even a complaint about how long we were working – she was sure I’d have wanted to work at something else. I welled up and the floodgates opened. I explained that I was not the same guy anymore. Working with her on the registration, was a blast. Even though we were working, we were side-by-side, working together, so there was a connection that made it good enough just to be together. We ate dinner at a fine restaurant, choosing a booth, sitting next to each other so we could hold hands… and we shared our appetizer and entrees.

I don’t know what time we got back to the camper, but it was late. We turned in and cuddled tight. You couldn’t fit a piece of paper betwixt us…

Originally, this was going to be a one part post but it’s already getting long. I’m going to split it here and say, “Stay tuned for Part Two” due out Friday.