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TNIL: Fast, Furious & Grateful Edition

After last night’s Tuesday Night In Lennon, I was struck by the same thought I’ve been hit with after most Tuesday night club rides – and I just figured out how to organize the emotions so I could put the whole box of rocks into words… simply.

I’m going to deviate from the norm in which I burn up too many words on the first half so I can save all the goods for the fastest part of the ride. This should keep the post from growing into a two-cup minimum monster of a post.

Imagine, if you will, the start of any Tuesday night this year with a wind out of the west. It’s headwind for the first half of the ride and the second half is fast and loose. We had wind last night, but it wasn’t terrible, just barely into the double digits and we fought through it really well – and it was just cut up enough between the crosswind (north) and the headwind (west) that we had a 23.5-mph average at Shipman Road. Unfortunately, Shipman sucks worst with a west wind. It’s a cross-headwind that just smashes us into an echelon that’s always too big for our lane. I chose the left lane of the double pace-line, fighting crosswind for the first six miles, so I’d be on the protected side on Shipman, and it paid dividends. As they say, you can pay me now, or pay me later, but you’ll pay. With some help from a couple of the Elite Group, we kept the whole pace-line together through the hills till we split off into two groups. Nobody was dropped in the hills so we managed a rolling regroup. That’s where the fun starts.

With the headwind behind us and the group split in two, we chose to single it up so we could get longer breaks before taking a turn at the front. We’ve got a fairly long, not too steep hill to climb after we drop into a valley that, if we’re not careful, can hammer the tandems into the ground, so Chuck usually calls for calm till we crest the hill – and that’s exactly how it went last night, and it worked perfectly. We climbed the hill at around 21-mph – and before you ask, I know, that’s fast for going up. I can’t explain it, the hill is an easy climb. Over the crest, it was all hands in the drops, maximum warp over the half-mile descent. The tandems were up front for most of the mile to the City Limits sign. Through town was a little quicker than normal but we were stopped at a busy intersection, waiting for traffic to clear. Once through the intersection, I was expecting the pace to ease as we worked our way up a couple of shallow hills, but it was intense. We were running out of daylight and we were driving the pace to get home before dark.

Two miles later, we were at the homestretch: full tailwind, only three molehills to crest, and a lot of downhill to the finish. Coming around the righthand corner at full speed, we took the pace up to the mid-20s (mph – or 40 km/h) over the course of a mile and kept it pegged, except at those molehills. Down a quick descent to a busy intersection and we had to time a car going by but for the most part, blew right through the intersection. Mike took the lead up the hill and kept pace “reasonable” to “perfect” for the tandems to make it without too much trouble. Over the crest, it’s basically a 0.5 to 1% descent all the way to the finish and it’s always hot for those last two miles.

The tandems had worked their way to the front and were sitting one, two with a half-mile left and they took it to “11”. It’s funny, how at 23-25-mph, the pack can get a little squirrely, but when the pace goes to, say, 30-mph (48-kmh), everyone straightens out in a hurry. That was the case last night. The first tandem pulled off to the back and the second took over. Chucker was behind them and I was behind Chucker. Mike was behind me. And it was on.

I’m pretty sure I was in the drops, but can’t be sure. Chucker rides in the drops at all times, and Mike was behind me. The tandem pulled off just as we got to the sprint point and Chuck dropped the hammer, adding at least another 2-mph to the 30.5, catching me by surprise. I couldn’t quite answer his surge and Mike didn’t have it to come around me. I started to close the gap on Chucker, but he gained too much gap on his jump. We shot across the line at 55 feet per second, 31.5-mph, or 51-km/h… And just like that, we sat up, shifted to easier gearing and reset the computers for the cooldown mile back to the parking lot. We patted each other on the back and had a few laughs on the way back. We’d crossed the City Limits finish line at 22.9-mph for our average. Fantastic for October. The mood was effusive – “You’re riding great, man”… “No, you’re the one putting out massive wattage, you’re riding mid-season form!”, etc., etc. I love being a part of that, after we’ve laid it all out.

It was hotdogs and tailwind, baby.

The mosquitos were horrible when we got back, so we packed up quick and headed for home. Once I caught my breath, about a mile up the road, my thoughts settled and I tried to pay attention…

My thoughts were all centered on gratitude.

It occurred to me the refrain is almost always the same. When the bike is packed in the car and I’m heading home after a Tuesday night, all I can think is, “How did I get so lucky to be able to be a part of such a great group?”

Once the bike is put in its prominent resting place in the living room and I’m showered and not stinky anymore, after I’ve eaten and I’m sitting quietly with my thoughts, I’m simply grateful to be a part of that wonderful group.

I also realized last night, it’s not so important the why, as much as it is just enjoying this gift as it is.

And so I shall.

Hotdogs and Tailwind: Meat, Bikes, Good Friends, Good Times and Happiness

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.

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.

Just Like That, My Classic Trek Is Ready for DALMAC… And a Great Test Run with My Buddy, Chucker

I’ve always tried to get my Trek 5200, my first race bike, to be as good as my Specialized Venge. I’ve done everything I could to make it as light and fast as I could afford. It is, today, as close as I’ve ever had it to that ideal… it’s been a labor of love, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it (as difficult as it’s been at times).

This last mess really pressed what mechanical skills and knowledge I’ve got. This one even got me to expand on that base… it’s been a while since I dug into the files to do some serious research.

When it was all done, I addressed a lot of issues that needed attention, though. Things I couldn’t see when I built the Trek from the ground up.

Even installing new chain rings can have on affect on chain line, shifting, derailleur setting (front), and overall performance (I went from aftermarket to Shimano 105 chainrings).

And so last night I made some final checks to make sure everything was operating properly before rolling out to meet my buddy, Chuck for our normal Monday evening ride.

I know the front derailleur is probably adjusted a little tight, relying on a lot of tension on the cable from the barrel adjuster, but it operates perfectly. That reality makes it a little tough to tinker with anymore. Every gear, minimal trim…

So with calling that good enough, I rolled out. I had my eyes set on really giving it some power to make sure my skipping problem really was solved.

I was on the gas in a hurry. Today’s weather is going to be a $#!+show so I knew I wouldn’t have to preserve my legs… I’ll ride the couch tonight. The Trek responded well and I immediately jumped to 20-mph. The legs were feeling some of their pre-DALMAC glory so much that being on the gas actually felt good.

I was right on time, pulling into Chuck’s subdivision. He was rounding the corner to the exit street as I was turning onto it from the main road. I did an about face and we rolled it to the first intersection where we had to wait a few seconds for traffic to clear.

We had a rare and slight tailwind heading west and I was feeling really good, so I put the hammer down a little bit, raising our normal 16-17-mph, easygoing pace to 22. I held the front for two miles and gave it to Chuck who held the pace. We had us a little ride going. Chuck took the next two miles, leaving me a half-mile on Morrish road coming out of a quick one-mile subdivision… and that’s when I saw him, flashing light, just about to turn on Hill road – the same way we’d turn. He was riding pretty upright… I was betting eBike.

We were already up to 22 when he turned and I instituted full-on hunter/killer chase down mode. I hopped the pace up to 24 as we approached the intersection, waited for the four-way stop intersection to clear and making our turn. I’d made up some distance but I wanted to pick that bike off within the next mile. Down in the drops and with a slight tailwind, I dropped the hammer and had it up to 26-mph on the pool table-smooth pavement. I could feel the lactic acid building in my legs as we flirted with 27 (43-km/h). We were closing the gap fast. At a quarter-mile I could tell he was on an eBike for sure, and he was going down.

It was a fairly cool bike, too. Relaxed, upright geometry, large battery pack, fat tires (looked like 26″ as we were going by)… he saw us coming in his mirror and moved to the gravel shoulder, unnecessarily. We blew by him at 25-mph as if he were riding a beach cruiser. I dropped the speed back to a more reasonable 22-mph to the next intersection. Chuck took over next and we stayed on the gas for another mile before turning into our two-loop subdivision. I offered that, if Chuck wanted to dial it back to normal, I’d be good with that – or we could keep it up.

I was hoping for “dial it back”. And that’s what he chose.

The next four miles, two laps around the subdivision was fun and easy. We had flashes of fast, though. Entering the subdivision for the second loop, we’ve got a slight hill about 75 yards up the road and I wanted to give the little ring a good run to see if it skipped. I still have the yips over the skipping and I’ve got to dispel this heinous $#!+ and put it in the past. I dropped seamlessly to the small ring and two up on the cassette to keep the same cadence and got, hesitantly, out of the saddle. As the hill started, I increased the wattage till I knew it should be skipping… then gave it more on the next pedal stroke, and more… and I just went up the hill. On the last stroke to the crest, I really gave it some juice – measured at first, then increasingly dropped the hammer. Nothing. No skip, not even a hesitation or change in pitch at the chain/chainring. I was pretty sure that was it. I sat down and shifted to the big ring again, then down two in the back, a smile on my face. I’m glad that freaking saga is over.

Three miles later, we were into another subdivision with a bigger hill in front of us and I decided to hit that one with a little more gusto – not quite normal “let’s sprint up this sucker”, but I didn’t worry about being ginger with it, either. Down to the little ring, up one in the back as the hill started up… out of the saddle… power down, side to side with a little sway… and nothing. Just straight up the hill. With that, I knew she was ready for DALMAC. I can take The Wall, no problem.

The next five miles were a weight off my shoulders. I love my 5200.

We had smoked chicken nachos for dinner and afterward, as Monday Night Football was firing up (and how about Gladys Knight?! She’s amazing by any normal standards, but at 77? Wow. The National Anthem was a little too much “pop/blues” for my liking [I’m a traditional fellow as the Anthem goes], but she did a fine job of it and definitely put her stamp on the rendition), I was looking for something to work on as I didn’t have anything left to do on the Trek… so I turned my attention to my wife’s gravel bike… I had a new Sora medium cage derailleur waiting to go on the bike. And so I went at it. More on that later. It went perfectly.

Sunday Funday: The Goldilocks Ride of the Week

Saturday’s ride was fun and the weather was beautiful, if a bit on the windy side. Mike, Diane and I did a 57-miler at a moderate, enjoyable pace. Bowling season started Friday night, so I was exceedingly tired and my plant/slide leg was a cramp waiting to happen as I hadn’t thrown a bowling ball in a year-and-a-half. It was great to be back, though.

For Sunday’s ride, with the Trek fixed and my wife still battling allergies (and likely heading home early), I prepped the Trek for duty. We had a decent turnout, too. Matt, Mike, Diane & Jeff on Diane’s tandem, Chucker, Jay, my wife and I… and we picked up Phill & Greg on the road. The weather report for the previous four days had Sunday as a washout – even Saturday afternoon when I posted the ride, I had to add the caveat “weather permitting”. Well, as ride time approached, the forecast improved considerably with rain holding off till well into the afternoon/evening. It was going to be cloudy, but with barely a breeze and perfect temps for cycling [upper 60s to mid 70s, or 20 to 23 C]). I rode over to Mikes to pick him up but later found he’d gone the long way to avoid traffic… I picked up four extra miles.

We rolled out easy at first, Mike and I up front and kicking the tires on cycling topics of the day. After a mile or so, we started picking up the pace and the tandem took over once we rolled over the two-mile mark. We picked up Phill on the road a short time later, pushing a decent pace (around 21-mph). Then we caught Greg and Jeff & Diane engaged chase mode. We went from 19 to 21-mph to 21 to 23-mph (33 to 37 km/h) and every time we started making headway, Greg would pull away. Before I knew it we were up to 25-27-mph and still not gaining on him. My wife was first off the back, then Mike and Phill… I drifted back to pull everyone back together as the tandem and Matt caught Greg.

He’d been messing with us (we had a huge laugh about this later on – I had a feeling as it was unfolding).

From there, it was a normal “follow the tandem” ride. On the gas on the flats and downhill parts, rest up the hills. We talked and laughed… it was like a lunch get-together among friends, but on bikes, burning calories instead of consuming them. Pressed to choose a word, “fantastic” would do.

It’s days like this that make me realize just how fortunate we are to be able to simply pedal off and find quiet roads to cruise whenever we want. While we have our fair share of jerks, they’re really few and far between.

My wife, not feeling up to bigger miles, turned for home at an opportune time while the rest of us pressed on, heading west. We had a lot of laughs along the way – and that’s exactly as it should be on a Sunday Funday.

As we headed for home, the sky started darkening and it looked for a minute like we might get caught out.

Nothing materialized, though. It turned out to be a pleasant day all around. I went for the Durand sign, breaking the speed limit by a considerable amount (7-mph over) as I crossed the line, just to see if I could lay full power down on the Trek. The bike (and drivetrain) took it just as it should. We took a two-mile detour to get around a 4-lane train track that’s taken more of us out than I can count on two hands and a foot. It comes in at an odd angle so, if you’re going to safely cross them, on a three-lane road you have to go all the way over to the left edge of the oncoming lane and cross all the way to the right side of the proper lane so you don’t catch a wheel in the space between the tracks and asphalt. Diane also wanted the miles – she figured she’d need the extra two to get 50. I’m almost always for more miles, so it sounded great to me.

Five miles from home we passed my wife on the side of the road, talking to Brad. I motioned everyone by me and told them I’d ride home with her. The homestretch is a fairly busy road – especially with three miles left to our house, so “safety in numbers”. I joined the conversation for a bit and then we rolled out for home at a liesurely but decent pace.

Of course, I pulled into the driveway with 49.9 miles and that simply wouldn’t do, so I had to head out and get my two-tenths to get me over 50.

All’s well that ends well.

Later, at our annual Volunteer Appreciation dinner, Matt, Mike, Greg and I all had a chuckle over Greg’s baiting of the tandem, but we also talked about what a fantastic ride it was. It wasn’t too fast, definitely wasn’t too slow… it was simply perfect.

A Goldilocks ride.