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The Goldilocks Saddle Status and the Position Proposition; Attaining True Perfection in Your Saddle Position – and Transferring That from One Bike to Another, Easily

Now, I’m going to keep this as simple as I can, for an insanely difficult and controversial topic. There are three things at play that pertain to positioning the saddle properly, and two that go to the size of the saddle that are absolute musts to achieve something close to perfection. Maybe “really, really close”.

First and foremost, I’ve never found there to be a saddle that corrects for a lack of saddle time. There are comfortable saddles, sure, but time must be spent in the saddle. There’s no way around this.

Before I get into locating the saddle, let’s talk about saddle size and style. The general rule is, the more flexible you are, the flatter the saddle you can comfortably ride. The less flexible, the more contour you’ll want in the saddle. The contouring of the saddle allows the hips to open up when you ride in an aggressive, road bike position. Getting the contour of the saddle to your liking is a big piece in this puzzle of perfecting the saddle.

After contour, there’s width. I’ve read, from much smarter people than I, that a saddle that isn’t wide enough is excruciating. This hasn’t been my experience at all. My problems have always centered on saddles that were too wide. Now, there are interesting things at play here. First, the more aggressive a position we ride in, the thinner the saddle should be. The more upright we ride, the wider the saddle.

I can comfortably ride on a 143 mm saddle on our tandem, but those are excruciating on my road bikes. I rub the insides of my of my pelvic bones on the edges of the saddle in an aggressive setup. On my Trek 5200 (below, left) I run a 138. On my Specialized Venge (below, right) I run a 128 that is pure heaven next to a 143.

After we get the contour, next we move to width. I was measured at a 143 mm width, but that works for an upright position, call it the tandem riding position I mentioned earlier. The more aggressive I ride, on my two road bikes, the less width I want. When it comes down the the bottom line, I don’t mess with what works and keeps my heinie happy. I just roll with it.

The best way to figure your saddle width is to get measured at a shop that has a proprietor or two who know what they’re doing. Make sure to let them know how aggressive your setup on the bike is (if they don’t already know), or take a picture – or even the bike – with you to get measured.

With that out of the way, we’re going to get down to the nitty gritty and position. I’ve been of two minds on this. For a while, I was like, “Yeah, saddle height is important, but as long as you’re close, say within a few millimeters without going too high, it’s all good”. I disagree with that point currently. I’ve got an exact number that works on all of my bikes – and by exact, I mean that word. Before we get height drilled in, though, I should get into the fore/aft positioning of the saddle, because we do this first because this affects the up/down location.

Simply stated, on a road bike, the fore/aft position gets a normal rider’s leading edge of their knee directly above the pedal spindle when the feet are clipped in and the pedals are parallel to the ground. I like to check this when I’m setting a new saddle by getting the height close to where I want it (my personal norm is 36-5/8″ on the nose, maybe a 32nd of an inch less). Then I warm up for a minute or two and check the level by setting my crank arms parallel to the ground and running a 4′ level from the pedal spindle up to the leading edge of my knee. That should be plumb, up and down.

With that set, I move to the height. I’ll go with the 36-5/8″ and give it a ride, preferably outdoors because the trainer just doesn’t do the real world feel justice. Then I set the tilt of the saddle, while I’m out, so I’m perfectly balanced and cradled with my hands down in the drops or on the hoods. Once that’s done, I can drill in my saddle height over the next few rides. 36-5/8″ is close enough, but I may lower it just a touch if something doesn’t quite feel right over, say, 100 miles in a few days.

And that’s how I get to my Goldilocks saddle height position. It’s not too high (any higher and I’ll have some form of pain), it’s not too low. It’s just right.

It’s a lot of effort, yes, but it pays off… in the end.

I couldn’t resist.

A TNIL Breakdown; Crankset Woes Lead to Limping My Toy Back Solo

Yesterday was rough. I’ve been working on emotional stuff for the last two months and I’m starting to get into the difficult items that I like to keep swept under the rug… which, ironically, leads me to sweeping ALL of my emotions under the rug and makes me a difficult husband and dad. The good thing this time around is that I have a vast array of tools at my disposal I didn’t have before. We had a funeral to go to, for my wife’s aunt and that was hard on my heart seeing all of that grief. My wife’s uncle is devastated. They were inseparable and together for something like 61 years. There was a lot of love in that room, though. The service and lunch after finished around 3 yesterday afternoon so we headed home for a 20-minute nap. I readied my Venge for Lennon and my wife decided to check out a gravel group nearby.

I arrived at the church parking lot a little bit late, but got ready and Chuck and I headed out for a quick seven mile warm-up loop. We had just enough time and with a southerly wind, we were making fast work of it. Until we got about a mile from the parking lot and I realized I’d developed something of a “click” every time the pedals went ’round. In the parking lot, when I went to unclip from my pedal, the left crank arm felt odd… and it only took a shake of that crank arm to know I had a major problem – and one that requires a long Torx 45 key to fix.

I took the dust cap off with Chucker’s multi-tool 6-mm Allen key but I didn’t know what I could do about the Torx-45… I pulled out my 5-mm Allen key from my pouch, lined it up in the bolt hole and turned it, cockeyed, and shored up the bolt. It wasn’t perfect, but it was tight and the slop was taken out of the crankset. I crossed my fingers as the group rolled out for the main event.

Four miles later I knew I wasn’t going to be finishing with the group. I probably could have toughed it out but I didn’t want to do permanent damage to my $600 S-Works crank. I turned around and hobbled my Venge back to the parking lot.

I got to work on it as soon as I got home. I knew I was going to test-ride it, so I didn’t even bother changing out of my kit. Now, there’s a trick to the S-Works crank. There’s an adjustable washer that sets the crank arm width inside the bottom bracket shell so that everything is tight, but without binding. When the bike came back from surgery on the crank, in hindsight it’s likely I didn’t set the washer correctly which caused the crankset to pinch on the bottom bracket bearings, which required I not tighten the bolt all the way to keep everything from binding… we’re talking fractions of a millimeter here.

Rather than mess around, I took everything apart yesterday, including the lock washer – I stripped the whole damn system down, cleaned everything, and put it all back together with some Loctite Blue on the threads… and sure enough, it went back together perfectly. Including the lock washer that I’d absolutely installed wrong the first time. This time I was able to tighten down the bolt as should be done.

I took the bike out for a test six miles and it was spectacular. Perfect.

It was a bummer of a lesson to learn on a Tuesday night, but I’ll stick with being glad I learned it.

What Does It Feel Like To Have Your Saddle Too Low, Too High… Or When FINALLY Attaining Goldilocks Saddle Status?

So, my wife and I were on our tandem Sunday. She’d mentioned that she’d like to have her saddle raised a little after our ride Saturday. I knew mine was a little low, too, but I forgot to raise either.

A day earlier, as a part of my normal yearly maintenance on the tandem, I’d removed, cleaned and lubed both seatposts. While I marked the insertion depth with electrical tape, I must have installed both seatposts just a hair lower than they’d been before. We’re talking less than two millimeters here.

So, what does it feel like when a saddle is slightly too low?

First, if we’re only talking about a millimeter or two, you’ll be slightly robbed of power. It’ll feel like you’re working too hard for the speed/power you’re generating – but not as much as it is if the saddle is too high. Second, when you pedal hard, which happens a lot on a tandem, it’ll feel like you’re jamming your sit bones/butt into the saddle as you pedal if the saddle is too low. Over the course of 20 or 30 miles you’ll develop a hot spot on your heinie that can be relieved by standing up, off the saddle, but it’ll get worse as the miles tick by. I’m not talking about a “chaffing” hot spot, either… I’m talking about an actual hot spot from the pressure of sitting too hard on the saddle to get the pedals ’round. This is a sure sign, more than what your pedal stroke feels like, that your saddle needs to be raised. Again, mine was just a millimeter or two (same for my wife’s), but I developed the aforementioned hot spot and I could literally feel my sit bones jamming into the saddle as I rode.

Now, the cool thing is what happened when we pulled over to the side of the road so one in our group could take a nature stop… I quickly raised both saddles and we rolled.

We were 2-mph faster and the hot spot pain went away immediately. For both my wife and I.

Now, if the saddle is too high, the pain is different. It’ll be on the inner-thighs from your legs bottoming out at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Your hips will rock as well, to get your foot to the bottom of the pedal stroke. Finally, your power to the pedals will be greatly affected because you’ll have to rock your hips to get to the bottom of the pedal stroke.

The key is to find the “butter zone” in betwixt too low and too high. Once you do, it’s magical. Maybe try a tandem…

The Legitimate Classic Racing Road Bike and It’s Relevance in Today’s High-Priced Carbon (Fiber) World

So there we were, Sunday morning. The sun was up in all its glory and the high-priced carbon fiber was on display (with the exception of Diane’s alloy tandem)… but I wasn’t on my Venge – and I honestly thought I should have my head examined as I pumped up the tires on my 23-year-old carbon Trek 5200. The Trek doesn’t fit better than my decade-and-a-half newer Venge, but the Trek does feel spectacular in its own way, even if you can feel the difference between the more modern Specialized aero bike and the old round tube Trek.

Where the newer high-end aero bikes matter is at higher speeds. Call it above 25-mph. The old round tube bikes are mainly fine and dandy below that, but at the higher speeds they tend to be more work contrasted against the modern-day aero bikes. It’s not an exaggeration to say you can quite literally feel an aero bike cut into the air. I’m not even talking about a headwind, with enough miles on a standard round tube bike, you’ll literally feel an aero bike cut the air better (it’s actually quite satisfying, especially putting in a long ride on the classic, then switching immediately to the aero bike for another bonus jaunt).

The second big difference between the two bikes is the bottom bracket stiffness. It doesn’t take a specialist to notice the size difference of the bottom bracket shells between the two bikes. While the Trek was unquestionably legit as a race bike in its day (one of the winningest frames in State cycling history), technology has passed it by. The Venge is stiff in response to watts to pedal while the 5200 frame bends slightly against the effort. The difference isn’t obnoxious by any means, but it is absolutely noticeable.

As for how the old school road race bike fits in today’s world, while it’s heavier, twitchier, and slightly slower, there’s no reason it can’t be useful in even the fastest crowds. The only issue would be if you’re on the bottom end of the “fast scale” and you’re having to work really hard to keep up. I struggle a little bit and take shorter turns up front on the Trek while I can push the pace and take longer turns on the Specialized.

Beyond that, I think the Trek is a “classic beautiful”. The Venge, on the other hand, is straight up badass on carbon fiber wheels. I still have a tough time picking which bike I want to ride from time to time, but only on any other day but Tuesday. The Tuesday night big club ride is reserved for the bazooka, opposed to the hunting rifle.

Tuesday Night On the Go-Fast Bike. In Shorts. And Short Sleeves!

The sun beat down like a wonderful, warm… erm… dude, it was the sun. And it was out and shining. Finally! Just as you were about to be lulled into a lovely sun-induced coma… the wind would reach out and smack you right in the kisser. That said, the warm-up was still fantastic. Phenomenal. Glorious.

That’s right, ladies and gents. The go-fast bike won the internal debate of which bike going away. When you need the big guns, ya best bring ‘em. Thankfully, we’d shown up before Craig so the warm-up was smooth, calm and collected, and I think, at around 18-1/2-mph. Jonathan, Chuck and I had a wonderful time of it (kinda like a warm-up should be).

The wind was horrible but with the warmth, there wasn’t a complaint among us. We picked up Winston along the way who was on the bike outdoors for the first time this year and had a few laughs before taking it to the parking lot and lining up for the main event. The parking lot was bustling with activity as we rolled in. We had a big group… and with nary a knee-warmer in sight, it was going to be a fast ride.

We started out at the stroke of six, the pack forming and tightening quicker than usual. Once we were together, the hammer was dropped and the pace ramped up like someone was chasing us. I was game, but I don’t think I was ready for it, either.

With a healthy tailwind, the pace picked up to a surprising (not really) 28-ish-mph. Within the first five miles we were already pushing a 24-mph average. In April. Even with the tailwind that was freakishly fast so early… but I didn’t struggle horribly, either – and I expected to. I did have to pull a strategic fallback once we hit the hills, but I held onto the group, and the draft in an oppressive headwind. By the time we hit the turnoff for Shiatown we were looking at a 23-mph average which was quite impressive considering the headwind we were into for the last several miles.

An important note at this point; even in shorts and short-sleeves, the temperature was just this side of perfect. Not too hot, not cool at all and I’d been getting along well.

The two tandems, Jonathan, the Chucks and I made the turn. We took a drink and caught our breath for the push home. Dave got us rolling and it was on again. The trip home, with a lot of headwind and a few miles of crossing tailwind, was hard but enjoyable until you got up front to lead the group into the headwind. It was absolutely crushing – at least 15-mph on the beak, so turns were short and in the neighborhood of 18-21-mph. I was half looking over my shoulder, wondering if the A group would catch us. The plan was to jump on their train as the cruised by… but they never caught us. We pulled across the line with a 21-1/2-mph average and I was cooked. In a good way, of course. What a night!

I got a quick bite to eat on the way home. I finished famished and I knew if I didn’t eat soon, things were going to get ugly. Once properly fed, I got cleaned up and talked with my wife for a bit before we turned in for the night.

I went to sleep and woke up with a smile on my face. Thank God for spouses, love, and go-fast bikes. And thank Him a little more for a ray of sunshine after an agonizingly long winter.

Is Magnesium A Superior Bike Frame Material… When Compared to Carbon Fiber?

Trigger (heh) warning: This is some funny $#!+. Read at your peril. If you’re allergic to laughter and happiness. Err somethin’. Anyway, without further ado:

So sayeth Ollie at GCN, that magnesium could be the new frame material of choice for frame building. It’s plentiful, easy to manufacture, easy to manipulate, repair and coat… and it’s fairly light. It’s less dense than Titanium, therefore lighter, so that’s a great start.

It’s not all a bed of roses, though. Magnesium is flammable when it’s met with water. Take a little bead and drop it in some water and see what ha… you know what, don’t. Take my word (or watch the embedded video below). That, you might think, would be a problem for a cyclist getting caught in a rainstorm and having their bicycle burst into flames! Well, it’s not so disastrous, really. But it makes for a funny point.

If you’ve been following GCN’s videos of late, Ollie is very excited that magnesium is the eighth most abundant material on the planet, even more abundant than aluminum! Impressive indeed. GCN has been running the green theme for a while, now, presumably trying to be sufficiently woke that they remain relevant in today’s “we’re woker than you, and here’s why” environment (where everyone tries to out-woke the next to a point you can only win by being so woke you kill yourself to show how woke woke really is – a game I’m content losing to someone else). Where this gets fun is GCN having just done a video in which they explore the idea of running out of carbon fiber.

If you don’t get the irony, carbon is the single most abundant element on the planet. I didn’t bother watching the carbon fiber video, but presumably, while we might run out of the chemicals to make the epoxy, we won’t be running out of carbon any time soon. Hell, just the amount emanating from Washington DC would keep the bicycle industry in decent supply for the next 138-years. Give or take.

But let’s get real about this. Let’s go beyond the petty virtue signaling and posturing of which material is “better for the environment” – it’s probably magnesium, but there will be flaws that must be ignored in order to make that idea work. The dreaded trade-offs are unavoidable and I highly doubt the only one would be weight or the metal bursting into flames. Simply put, if you’re not building out of bamboo (a fully sustainable grass), they’ll be able to out-woke you. If that matters to you.

In any event, with a proper ceramic coating inside and out to keep your frame from bursting into flames should it get wet (it’s a little more stable than that, I’m being a bit facetious for fun), magnesium could be the wave of the future for bike frames, so smack my ass and call me impressed. While they did make a point of how recyclable magnesium was, they didn’t say how recyclable it would be after being coated with a ceramic-based finish… but let’s not allow reality to intrude on feeling good about magnesium, eh?

Come to think about it, I’ll probably still keep my Venge, thank you very much. Virtuous or not. It’s light. And fast. And aero. And beautiful… and whilst made with carbon and chemical epoxies, it’s painted with… erm… you know, paint. Now, should my beautiful Venge break (because carbon won’t burst into flames when wet), well, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens in that event.

Shimano 105 10-speed Vs. 11-speed drivetrains

This is going to be a straight up assessment between the old 10-speed and new(ish) 11-speed Shimano 105 drivetrains… with a little Ultegra mixed in just for fun.

First, if you don’t like reading about bike stuff and you currently have a 105 or Ultegra 10-speed drivetrain, I’ll save you the trouble. Finish this paragraph and be on your way. Stop everything else, immediately. Either hibernate your computer and head over to your local bike shop and have one of the employees order an Ultegra or 105 11-speed drivetrain or, if you can install the set yourself, order one online. Just remember not to take the stuff you bought online to the bike shop. That said, upgrading will be worth every penny if you can reasonably afford those pennies – and there will be a lot of them involved.

If you like to read about bike stuff, let’s continue with the always important why.

Shimano’s 10-speed drivetrains are famously flawed. Or perhaps that’s infamously? How about notoriously?. The simple reality is, the springs in the rear derailleur are reportedly, and quite obnoxiously, too weak so the shifting, when viewed against the 11-speed drivetrain, is suboptimal once the springs start to… erm… get sprung (stretch over time). This isn’t to say the 10-speed is crap, because it isn’t. It’s just not as good as the 11-speed because they worked out the spring tension issue in the eleven speed edition.

How this flaw manifests itself in the 10-speed system is that, once a rear derailleur is “of a certain age”, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep enough friction out of the system enough for the weak spring to allow the drivetrain to shift properly all the way up and down the cassette. You can install brand new cable housings, new end caps, stainless steel cables, new cable liner (at the entrance and exit points of the housing/frame interface points). You can literally do everything right and the derailleur won’t dial in unless the barrel adjuster is dialed in perfectly, within a quarter-turn.

Eventually, that quarter-turn won’t be enough and you’ll need a new derailleur.

Now, for the time being, you can still pick up a 10-speed 105 derailleur but how long this will last is anyone’s guess. You can also pick up a refurbishing kit, something I was supposed to try over the winter but never got around to, that comes with a new spring. I’ve heard refurbishing the rear mech helps considerably.

As I alluded to earlier, this flaw was rectified in the 11-speed drivetrain. My wife has 105 11-speed and I have the 10 on both my Venge and Trek and I can tell you unequivocally, the 11-speed is vastly easier to keep operating smoothly. It’s not a night and day difference, but it’s big enough to notice. Especially when that tensioning spring starts to weaken after 20,000-ish miles.

To wrap this up, go back to the top of the post… once your 10-speed drivetrain starts to wear out, I’d make the jump to 11-speed. It’s worth the headache savings alone.

Road Cycling: Diagnosing and Fixing a Chain Line Issue in a Modern Road Bike (Easily, Quickly, and Permanently).

So, I had an interesting conundrum pop up with the Venge. At the end of last season I bought and installed two new chainrings for the 10 speed drivetrain. I also picked up a new rear derailleur, a cassette (11-28) and a new Dura Ace chain for the refurbishing of the bike as the crankset required some hefty work and new bottom bracket bearings. I figured if I was going to get the bottom bracket fixed, I may as well go all out and really give it the business. I had knockoff SRAM chainrings on both my Specialized Venge and my Trek 5200 that faired quite well but wore out quickly. The rings on the Venge were still quite good but the rings on the Trek started giving me skipping problems when I tried to climb a hill.

I opted for Shimano 105 chainrings so I could have a full Shimano 105 system on the Trek and a 105/Ultegra mix on the Venge.

The change on the Trek was flawless. Not so much on the Venge. For some reason, on the Venge, the new 105 chainrings rode outboard of the knockoff SRAM chainrings they replaced. This meant a chain skip when the bike was shifted to the big chainring and big cog in the back. Now, for those puritans among us, I am quite aware we’re not supposed to cross-chain and ride in that particular gear but I’m also a realist. There will be five or six times a year where I need that one last gear to crest a hill without shifting to the baby ring. I will cross-chain in that situation. Every time. If I’ve got a skip, though, I’m worried about the chain dropping from the big to the little chainring whilst, and at the same time, putting some decent power to the pedals. That just won’t do.

The fix for this is simple, but a little complex. You have to change a lot, simply.

Now, if the chainrings need to move outward, a shim at the crank will work well. If, however, the chain line needs to move in, toward the bike, we’re limited by the crank. The easiest fix is to move the cassette out and to do this I simply added a shim to the cassette body. With the cassette moved out, I had to change the set screws on, at the very least, the rear derailleur, but possibly both front and rear (I did both in this case). If you don’t check the set screws, two very bad things will happen. First, you’ll be able to shift the chain beyond the last, biggest cog into the spokes of your wheel. This can be a costly mistake. So, for the big cassette cog, you adjust the outer set screw for the rear derailleur clockwise to move the pulley wheel outbound so the pulley wheel lines up directly below the biggest cog. To check that it’s out far enough, turn the pedals and shift all the way to the smallest cog. Then, without touching the shifter, turn the pedals slowly and operate the derailleur so the chain slides up the gears to the big cog. If the pulley wheel is set correctly you won’t be able to push the chain beyond the big cog (if you can, be very careful here – if you push the chain into the spokes, the chain will damage them big time which is why you were pedaling slowly). Then you have to adjust the pulley wheel for the smallest cog as well, especially if you’re experiencing a little click that won’t go away when you shift into the smallest cog and the barrel adjuster won’t make it go away – or the adjuster will make the click stop but the bike won’t shift properly in the rest of the gears. For this adjustment, you turn the inner set screw counterclockwise until the jockey wheel is just outboard of that smallest cog.

Then adjust your front derailleur if necessary.

At that point, Bob’s your uncle. Give the bike a spin to make sure the fix is right (there’s a chance you may need to double check the set screw adjustments).

Cycling Stories: Mountain Mayhem, Brutus Road

My friend, Jonathan sent me the following text in response to my announcing our first group ride of the 2022 season this past Saturday, about the note that it was a “no-drop” ride. Now, you have to understand how “no-drop” works in a cycling context, and how that differs in the group I ride with before we get into Brutus Road. A no-drop ride is pretty self-explanatory. The slowest rider who shows up dictates the pace of the ride. They will not be dropped by the group. In the group I ride with, no-drop means “you’d better keep up or you’ll be dropped repeatedly… but allowed to catch up at the next intersection before take off and drop you again”. It’s a little more complicated than a simple “no-drop”, but fast riders gonna be fast. Even on March 5th (in the northern hemisphere). So, Jonathan’s text:

Just wanted to double check, does your sending out [Saturday’s ride] mean you are going to go? Just don’t want to end up riding in the E Group at 14-mph, LOL.

Me: I think I will. Mike is going to want to ride early in the morning when it’s still freezing and I have no desire for that silliness.

Okay. I’ll probably go either way. I can always do a solo TT. 14 is the lowest I can go without falling over.

Me: I’ll see you there. Worst case we ride together and have a good laugh. Oh, I guarantee you can get down to 2-mph. Brutus Road up north. I kid you not. Brutus Road, that’s the freaking name. Mike shut his Garmin down cuz he was going too slow and I passed Phill going 2-mph.

Chuck, Mike, Phill and I were up north (we call the upper lower peninsula “up north” in Michigan. The UP is the upper peninsula of Michigan) for Mountain Mayhem: Beat the Heat Edition. My wife was along for the trip but she didn’t ride. The course featured, as the name would imply, an exceptional amount of climbing, especially for a bunch of down-state flatlanders – about 80-ish’ of up per mile averaged out over the 100 mile ride, and a good deal of it was at the end of the ride. Including the climb I’m about to describe which, if memory serves, was right around 80 miles in.

We were riding along on a mercifully flat stretch when Chuck’s Garmin alerted him we were approaching a turn in a tenth of a mile. The sign read, as we approached, Brutus Road. Now, imagine yourself 80 miles into a hundo called “Mountain Mayhem” and you see “Brutus Road”. Imagine the joy when you look up, literally, and see the hill only looks to be a few hundred yards long. You get down into the granny gear and start up the 18%er. Just as you’re nearing the top and about to breathe a sigh of relief, you see the false crest. The hill keeps going, just at a shallower 12% pitch so it only looked like you were near the top. It’s at this point you and your friends realize you weren’t prepared for this. You were damn-near out of breath just from the initial climb let alone the rest of the monster you still had left to conquer.

Mike’s Garmin was set to shut off for anything below 1.5-mph (something like 2.25 km/h). It beeped at him to let him know he’d stopped. On the way up a hill. I gritted my teeth and steeled my nerves and pushed the pedals. I passed Mike as his Garmin beeped and started reeling Phill in. As I pulled even, I could see 1.5 mph on his computer. Mine said 2. The lactic acid was threatening to seize my leg muscles up but I pushed for the summit. Chuck, a mountain goat in his own right, was far enough ahead I wasn’t going to catch him. Just as I saw the end, I realized that 10%er didn’t end. It just eased to 5%.

Thankfully, however, 5% after what we’d been through, felt like a gift. The hill stretched on for another quarter-mile before we finally hit a bit of a downhill. There was no descent after, we’d climbed out of a valley.

And we laughed about Mike’s Garmin shutting off and Phill seeing just how slow he could go without falling over all the way to the last rest stop. After we caught our breath.

And so was Brutus Road. Forever cemented in my memory.

Venge Day 2022; A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

It’s rare that we get a day good nice enough to want to ride before the 15th of March, so you can imagine how rare it is to not only have a day nice enough I had to ride, let alone nice enough I’d even think about taking the Venge out. That’s exactly what we had yesterday, though. It was 50 (10 C) when the train rolled out at 1 in the afternoon from our meeting place in Lennon. My wife, weary of a slugfest at the afternoon ride, rode with my buddy, Mike – who was also worried about an afternoon slugfest. I can understand why they rode separately, but they rode at 9am when it was still below freezing… there’s no way I was missing out on that 20 degree increase in temp (10 C).

I had a choice to make, though. My Trek 5200 was already prepped and ready to go. It was the right bike for the day… but 50 degrees and rising to 56? And a 1% chance of rain? I went back and forth in my head for two hours. Now, for those who don’t remember the sordid details, I’d just had my Venge operated on at the very tail end of last season; the crankset had to be drilled and tapped and a new connecting bolt installed because the bottom bracket bearings finally gave up. I wanted to see how the bike behaved now that it was fixed. I wanted to put it through the paces of a real ride (I’d gotten the bike back on the very last day of the year that was still reasonable for a short test ride to make sure the crank was quiet).

I probably should have taken the Trek. But I didn’t. As the morning clouds broke and gave way to brilliant sunshine and the temperature went from “cold, but creeping up” to damn-near t-shirt weather, I couldn’t resist.

A group of maybe 14 or 15 of us showed up (Chucker, Jonathan, Pickett, me… Big Joe, Ukulele Dave, Phill, Brad, Mike K, Jim, Sam, Jay, a new lady whose name I didn’t know and another lady who showed up just a few times… I think that was everybody). We rolled out together but quickly split into groups. Pickett, Chucker, Jonathan and I formed the tip of the spear and Mike and Jay held on for several miles. Mike was on a wide-tire gravel bike converted from a mountain bike so there’s no way he was holding on with our group. Jay struggled in the wind but stayed with us for 9 or 10 miles before giving up and taking a shortcut home.

I was feeling quite spectacular, especially with a bunch of tailwind to start. The Venge was amazing. The new bottom bracket bearings were perfect and the S-Works crankset was flawless. The new chain, cassette and chainrings, rear derailleur and stainless steel shifter cables in new housings had the bike shifting like it was brand new – better, even. Still, it took a few miles to get over that wobbly, “first ride off the trainer” feeling. Once through that, it was a party. For about… erm… 18 to 20 miles.

Getting into the hills, things started getting a little rough. We’d started out with the group around a 17-mph average but had crept that up to almost 19 as we got into the hilly section of the ride. We had a bit of a crossing headwind off the right shoulder so the turns up front got a lot shorter. Climbing hills that we normally hit between 19 & 23-mph were hard at 17 – and this had nothing to do with a headwind, all legs. I’d hit that magical “way too early in the season” spot where your legs start to rubberize. I pushed through it, though, and crested the last hill the four of us intact.

Next, we had a fantastic several mile long stretch of tailwind and we made the most of it. Coming over the crest of a small hill, we hit the 3/4-mile slight downhill hard, topping 31-mph and raising our average to well over 19-mph. Even though I was short on breath, all I could think as we shot down the road was, “this is why I ride, right here”. There with three friends, rotating up front like we’d barely missed a beat… it just makes me feel good about being me.

After the last of the tailwind came a fairly brutal five-ish mile stretch into a crossing headwind. It was brutal, only because my energy level was dropping pretty quickly. I’d go from okay to red zone at the front just trying to get over a little molehill. I dropped off the back momentarily with just a couple of miles left but the guys waited a few seconds for me. I caught my breath, caught up, and we pushed for home.

We pulled into the parking lot with a solid 19.2-mph average – excellent for a first ride of the season, and outstanding considering the 10 to 16-mph wind for only the four of us. Turned out, I wasn’t the only one feeling the pain on that ride. Jonathan was right there in the pain cave with me.

We all met up in the parking lot afterward and it was hi-fives and smiles. It was so good to see everyone again – to have something to feel good about, and to be outside after a long winter indoors. It was a great Venge Day for 2022.