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Venge Day 2023 (Better Late Than Never?)

I’ve been writing about Venge Day since 2014… so nine years (!). Venge Day is simply the first day of the new season the weather is good enough that I’ll choose my Specialized Venge over my Trek 5200.

Venge Day normally hits in March or April. This is the latest by a month, I’m thinking.

I don’t know what I was thinking waiting this long.

Normally, after my wife drove us home on a Thursday evening, we’d take the tandem out. Last night she had a board meeting, though, so I had to ride alone if I was going to ride. The weather was about a 4-mph breeze out of the southeast shy of being perfect. Sunny, 70°, glorious. I was tired, though. Work has been brutal lately and I just wanted to lay down and chill for a bit, but having the argument in my head, all I could think of was what a waste of time that would be. I decided to get ready.

I almost took the Trek because I had a tough time finding my aero seatpost Garmin Radar Mount… until I remembered it was on my gravel bike. I aired the tires, put a full water bottle on the bike, got dressed in my Affable Hammers kit and rolled my Venge out the door.

The first half-mile was a bit on the “what am I doing out here, I’m way too tired for this” side… but then my legs got my heart and head into the game and it was on. My head cleared up and I started smiling.

Folks, I did all of twelve miles and had an ear-to-ear grin for eleven of them.

Venge Day was exceedingly late this year, but my God was it good!

Hood Angle as It Relates to a Road Bike’s Cockpit Fit and Finish

One of the mechanics at the local shop, a super-fast kid just shy of pro caliber, once told me that all of the cool kids set their hoods parallel to the ground, so guess how I set my hoods up?

Correct! Parallel to the ground. Because that’s what the cool kids do. Err somethin’.

I rode like that for the better part of the time I’ve been cycling, until the other day. I watched a video on YouTube the other day that centered on exactly that, and it turns out, not surprising in the least, riding that way is not very good for the wrists. Now, what shouldn’t be surprising is that I knew I didn’t like riding like that. I’ve known that for a while. It wasn’t horrible, of course, but it wasn’t all that great, either.

I just happened to pick up an angle finder app on my phone for this, and I can tell you this: the Venge was dead zeroed in terms of hood rise. The Trek had a 2° rise. I think that’s shown in the photos, but you have to look pretty closely to see it.

So, the other day I got to thinking, maybe I’ll change that hood angle, after all. Especially on the Trek, because the stem is just a hair long and if I bring the hoods up, it’ll naturally shorten the reach to the hoods.

Now, the suggestion in the video is for between 10 & 20° of a rise in the hood angle. My arms come in a little steeper so I cut that down by 2° and now the Trek and Venge are within a couple tenths of a degree from each other at 8.2 & 8.3° respectively.

I rode for the first time with my hoods at the increased angle Friday and I absolutely love it. My shoulders are much more comfortable with the slightly shorter reach and I love the fact I don’t have to de-cock my wrists to reach the hoods anymore.

I don’t know if my bikes will look quite as sharp, but I have to face the reality; I’m starting down the path of being an older cyclist. It’s at least time to start acting like an adult on the bike. It’s also going to be exceedingly fun to set up our new tandem when it finally gets here. It should be a matter of weeks, now.

I can’t wait.

What’s the Fastest Tire Pressure for a Tandem?!

Much has been made of tire pressure over the last few years, but mainly centered around road, gravel and mountain single bikes. What about tandems?!

My wife and I ride 30-mm Specialized Turbo Pro tires and we’ve been riding 100-psi for quite a while, but we’re not your sleight, sub 160-pound cyclists. We could be, but American barbecue just tastes too damn good. We rode 28s in the same brand and line for a year before at the same pressure… and even with Michigan roads, we’ve only ever had one pinch flat, and the feel was fantastic. In my opinion, we’re at the right pressure for those tires and our current weight.

The simplest way to explain this, without getting too deep into the nerdy weeds of cycling’s geekdom is that we want the lowest pressure possible without pinch flatting when you hit something reasonable. Now, this is not the easiest thing to find, obviously. It’s not like you’re going to want to take six spares and a floor pump out with you so you can figure your optimal pressure, so here’s what my did, in a nutshell.

We started out at the max pressure for the tires, I think 125 or something. Unless you’re a really big tandem couple, that’s way too much pressure, and I knew that from being way too geeky about this stuff. So, I dropped 20-psi off that right from the beginning. Then, I had to consider we’re two people on two tires (not two on four), so my normal 85-psi on my 26mm tires for my road bike wasn’t going to be enough. We went with 100 and gave it a run. I hit a couple of railroad crossings on that ride and everything was smooth. Next ride out I dropped five psi and everything was fine but the ride felt a touch squishy… bouncy when we really got into a rhythm. I dropped five more the next ride and we pinch flatted. 100 psi it was.

Now, some will have us running to a tire pressure gauge that’ll give us the nearest tenth of a psi and try to dial it in to the nearest psi. In fact, I could be that silly… but my wife wouldn’t put up with that ridiculous shit, so I keep it simple to the nearest five psi.

I roll 90-ish psi on my Trek 5200 with 24mm tires, 85 on my Specialized Venge with 26mm tires and we roll 100 psi on our tandem… with zero pinch flats.

I’m down as low as I want to go without being silly… and without squishing when we sprint. And that, my friends, is the proper balance.

How I Set Up Different Bikes with Different Geometries Across Different Species to Feel Alike… Or, At Least, To Be Comfortable.

Que Mission Impossible music…

It’s not. Please give me a minute…

I have become the bike setup guru for my wife and me. I have watched countless videos (and by countless, I mean that), spoken with experts, and conversed casually with more avid enthusiast cyclists than I can list in my pursuit of setup perfection. I am a middle-aged, Lycra-clad kid on a toy worth several Thousands of Dollars (how many Thousands of Dollars depends on which toy…).

Originally, back several years ago, I was all about speed and a sleek, low cockpit with the brake/shifter hoods parallel to the ground. Today, with a few extra barbecue pounds on board, I’ve tempered that need to have a bike that looks cool with something that more approximates my age and, erm… flexibility.

Now, contrary to popular opinion, we’re not stuck with one exact geometry that should work across multiple bikes. We can set multiple bikes up identically, or we can also tailor each bike to a different need. This is exactly what I’ve done with my wife and her three road bikes and a gravel bike, and my two road bikes and a gravel. And let’s not forget the newly most important of all those, our tandem!

My wife’s bikes were super tricky because each has a spectacularly different geometry and size for each bike. One compact 54cm frame with a triathlon-specific geometry (a Specialized Alias), one classic 54cm frame (a steel Assenmacher), and a 56 compact frame (a Specialized Secteur). There’s no way to set all of those identically.

My road and gravel bikes were easier to set up alike but I chose to set each one up for specific purposes. I didn’t have the triathlon geometry to mess with. I have two compact 56cm frames and one classic 58.

Then there’s the tandem!

Point is, that’s a lot of bikes to set up with different pedals, cranks, cleats, shoes… etc.. Anyway, the saddle height can be different betwixt gravel and road pedals and shoes.

I started with my bikes because I could feel what I wanted or needed. That was a problem when moving over to my wife’s bikes. I tended to leave my wife to the local shop owner, a good friend of ours, because he was a pro and I was lost without having the benefit of feel. In the end, I came to realize nobody could put the energy and attention I could to my wife’s comfort like I could, so I learned some new tricks. Learning to set my wife’s bikes and the associated setups was exceedingly difficult because she didn’t have the same database of knowledge or the same dictionary I did so we had to work on both of our vocabularies to get things situated.

Delving right into this, the areas of importance, assuming we’re on a properly sized bike, are as follows:

Crank arm length is first. That can be within a little bit one way or the other, but I’m still with the old camp that says you want to be pretty close to that recommended crank arm length without going (too) far over it. Without that, I feel it’s too difficult to get anything else right. Then, saddle height, saddle setback, saddle tilt, stem length, stem rise, spacer stack, handlebar reach and drop (this has to do with the actual handlebar reach to the hoods and the drop depth). We don’t need the cockpit right to get the saddle set properly, as long as the handlebar is close enough and high or low enough to rest our hands on the top of the handlebar as we get started. Then I work in that order… going back to height after setback and tilt are done. I’d say the bike I had the toughest time nailing down was the tandem. First, you’ve gotta get everything a little more close than any other bike because you’re in the saddle so much on a tandem. You don’t get the same out of the saddle climbing relief because, unless you and your rear admiral are experts, climbing out of the saddle is HARD on a tandem (you can’t rock the bike like you would on a single bike, not without falling off of it). Saddle height, setback and tilt are exceedingly crucial.

For my wife, it was a challenge because her road bikes are so different. Her gravel bike, I got right by pure luck. Had no idea what I was doing, we adjusted height, setback and tilt a few times and all of a sudden, Jess was like, “Hey, that’s perfect!” The tandem took a lot of work because she had a lot of symptoms that had to be addressed. Saddle height first, because the saddle on the tandem is substantially lower on the tandem than it is on her gravel bike. Same with her road bikes. In fact, I think she’s got four different saddle heights on five different bikes! Again, though, only her trainer bike and gravel bikes are close in geometry (and they’re the two that are closest in saddle height).

The key takeaways from my experience with setting my wife up are that saddle height can change, sometimes dramatically, across a range different geometries. Meanwhile, the setback can be vastly different depending on the geometry of the bike (my wife’s Specialized Alias, the TT-road bike mashup) but can be made to feel like the others if the order above is followed.

In my next post I’m going to look at just the cockpit… because I’ve evolved over the last twelve years.

In Cycling, Variety Isn’t The Spice of Life. Nor is Carbon Fiber… Though Carbon Fiber Does Help.

I’m atop my Trek 5200 for an indoor commute to nowhere watching Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back for the umpteenth time, and it occurred to me how much I love this bike. It’s nowhere near as fast as my Specialized Venge, but it’s as comfortable or slightly better… and I had a hand in rebuilding it from the ground up. Put simply, the old alloy wheels that came on the bike sucked the life out of a ride so upgrading to wider rims allowed for wider tires which meant a better ride quality, too.

Now, the Trek needed the upgrade to carbon fiber wheels.

I also ditched the original Ultegra triple for a more efficient and 14-years newer 105 compact double. The compact 50/34 chainrings match my 18 to 24-mph average pace perfectly. The old 52/36 put a cadence hole between 19 & 22-mph so I always felt like I was in the wrong gear. I could have gone with an 11-26 cassette and fixed the gap but I felt I needed the 28 for climbing. For that reason, I went to compact rings and haven’t looked back.

With that out of the way and with those upgrades, there’s nothing I can do on my Venge that I can’t do on my 5200. Conversely, there’s plenty I will do on the Trek I wouldn’t on the Venge. It does take a noticeable amount of effort to make the Trek perform like the aero bike, but it’s not a bridge too far.

My eight-year-old Venge is perfect in my eyes. It’s light. It’s sleek. It’s aero. It’s got decent wheels. Great components. It ticks all of the boxes except “new” and that’s a box I don’t care much about.

My 5200 checks light, decent wheels and decent components, but it’s got something that the Venge couldn’t have; me as a designer. For having that history with my Trek, I’ll always have a special place in my heart for that bike above all others. It’s kind of funny and ironic, really. Now that I’ve got a whole stable full of bikes, I’ve come to realize it’s not about having new stuff so much as it is a great bike that’s mechanically sound. It did take me eight years to get that Trek to where it is now.

Above: My 5200 as it sits today. Below: My 5200 in March of 2012. Just a few months after I brought it home.

Why the Specialized S-Works Crux ISN’T The One (All-Purpose Bike)

I watched a YouTube video (link below) that suggests in the Title that the S-Works Crux, a $12,500 bicycle, might be The ONE. The ONE all-purpose bike that let’s you do it all. Group rides, road rides, dirt rides, the whole nine.

It is, without a doubt, a decent bike. Especially the eTap wireless electronic shifting option. I’m going to pull the curtains back on this one pretty fast, though. The ONE, this ain’t.

At around 17-pounds (7.7 kg), it’s a fairly light gravel bike. However, while it does have a decent set of Roval wheels on it out of the box, you’d need a road set of 50s to make the most of a club ride. Especially so you don’t have to swap tires to ride gravel or road. Unless, of course, you like spending your free time swapping tires around throughout the summer months… oh, and working a little harder than everyone else in the group your riding… So you’re looking at another $1,000 to $2,000 for your road wheels, plus another $120-ish for tires. Oh, and rotors, and a cassette… and shims so you can swap one set for the other without messing with the brake calipers. Throw on another $300.

We’re not done yet, though. That $12,500 bike that is already up around $14,000, comes with a 1x drivetrain. With a 10t to 44t cassette and a 40t chainring. Now, the fella in the video actually said he spins out at about 34-mph in the last gear 40/10. This makes sense. I could probably get it to 37 with a little extra kick, but you’re out of gear there. I can get 45-mph out of a 50/34 and 11/28 cassette. 37 is pretty good, though, so maybe swap out a 42t chainring for a little extra oomph in the sprint? Hold on, though, sparky. There’s another problem that must be addressed before we call this good. You’re looking at a 12-speed 1x system with a 10 to 44t cassette.

Having already played this game before, here are the cogs:


You’ve got a 1-tooth jump for the smallest three cogs, but you’ll always be in the wrong gear going from the 12 to 15. So I’m not going to bother doing the math on Sheldon Brown’s gear calculator site. Actually, I will. And wouldn’t you know it, I was right. See below for the results.

You’ve got a massive hole between 19 & 24-mph. So you’d need to shrink that chainring so the hole is in the slower speeds. But we need a bigger chain ring for the sprint!

So let’s throw another $700 at the problem and get a front derailleur, a double crank with a legit 50/34 crankset on it (surprisingly, it looks like the original shifter might work with a 1 or 2x).

So your $12,500 Crux is now just shy of $15,000 and you’re finally ready for a road ride! Wow, I’m tired. And exceptionally broke.

The Crux isn’t The ONE. I’d take my 10-year-old 16-pound Venge over a brand new S-Works Crux out of the box in a road ride any day of the week and twice, literally, on Sunday. And I’d work you into the ground on your S-Works Crux with a smile on my face…

The Anatomy of a Super Cool Road Bike

I’ve gotten a little fat and happy over the last several years and I was more than a little nervous about slamming the stem and flipping a 10 degree stem in addition, but I look my bike, as in the photo above, and I just can’t help but think, “That’s one beautiful bike!”

If you haven’t noticed, I love taking photos of my bike propped against “No Bikes Allowed” or “No Parking at Any Time” signs.

Before I get into this too deeply, the very definition of the anatomy of a super cool race bike begins with “It’s one you can ride”. We start there, because if I’d have put myself in an uncomfortable position, on any of my bikes, to the extent I can’t ride one efficiently, well that’d just be silly.

Beyond that, let’s get into the low-hanging fruit first: my saddle bag, or posterior man-satchel as they’re sometimes referred to. A saddle bag is “technically” against the rules, but we break the rules when it is necessary. When riding a 40-mile club ride with our buddies, we can stuff our spare tire kit in our back pocket. When you’re on a 400-mile multi-day tour, carrying all of that crap in your back pocket sucks – especially when you need space to store arm warmers and food because you’re riding a hundred miles a day with your buddies and the temperature will jump by as much as 30 degrees (F)… and you don’t have a damned team car to take your cool weather gear so that stuff has to be stowed in a pocket.

Next, we’ll go for that rearward facing blinkie. Not exactly de rigueur, but I like to be seen and the Garmin Varia is the best light on the market for that. Not only because we’ve had police drive up to us and compliment us on our choice of rear blinkie, but because it doubles as a radar.

So, complain if you will. I can take it. On both counts.

Next up, I’m going to ask you to disregard the poor staging of my Venge in the photos above. I know how to take a proper photo of a bicycle, I just enjoy the randomness of simply propping a bike up on a sign in a casual manner, rather than messing around with staging it to make sure the perfect length Presta valve stems are at 6:00 and the cranks are parallel to the ground or in line with the chainstays (whichever you prefer, but the latter obviously looks better – see below).

That said, let’s get down to the details of what makes a super-cool road bike super-cool!

  • No rust
  • No crud
  • No dirt
  • Excellent working order
  • Shimano 105 or better groupset, or the Campagnolo or SRAM equivalent – and for those not in the know, matching a groupset is preferable (even between SRAM and Shimano which should work across lines up to 11-speed).
  • Decent wheelset (carbon fiber isn’t necessary, but it doesn’t hurt)
  • A modern threadless stem (with a carbon fiber fork) should have one 5mm spacer below and one above the stem (this is to ensure the carbon fiber isn’t crushed by tightening a stem to the fork)
  • Stem should either follow the top tube or be as close to parallel as possible while still allowing for comfortable cycling (see above and below)
  • Comfortable saddle with level one or two padding (carbon fiber is preferable, but not a requirement – it is a good way to save an easy quarter of a pound)
  • Pedals should match secondary color of the bike, if at all possible (if not, black is the standard). Keep in mind, too much of the secondary color can get to “gaudy” in a hurry! Proceed with caution.
  • Hoods, if tolerable and allowing for proper wrist alignment, should be parallel to the ground, but preferably have a 5 degree rise to allow for the aforementioned proper wrist alignment (see below)
  • Black bar tape is standard, though colors can and should be incorporated where sensible and prudent without being gaudy.
  • A decal or two can make a wonderful addition, as can be seen below; an A100 sticker on the seat tube just below the top tube and a Punisher skull on the downtube to remind one of their badassery when their tongue is dangling in close proximity to it because the ride is so damned fast, are perfect examples (see below):

Above, and also: A perfect representation of the 5 degree rise of a shifter lever hood on my Trek 5200.

And so there you have it, a super-cool bike and a bonus super-cool classic…

Ride hard, and your approximation of fast, my friends.

Cycling and Carbon Fiber or Aluminum?

Aluminum has its place in cycling. It’s stiff, light… erm… well, it’s stiff and light. Carbon fiber took the world by storm starting in the late 80s and early 90s but really broke metal’s hold on cycling in the late (late) 90s when Trek introduced one of the first production full carbon fiber frames and dominated the road bike market with it’s 5000 series frames (including the 5200 and 5500 frames). Carbon fiber is infinitely moldable, while aluminum is quite finite as a frame material.

So, which would you choose for your bike?

I’ve got a little of both in the stable; aluminum gravel bike, aluminum mountain bike, steel tandem, carbon fiber road bikes.

With today’s trend of wider tires, aluminum can actually make a little more sense with its main feature; stiffness. Now, we’re going to pretend for a minute that you can’t make carbon fiber stiff in one direction but compliant in another by adjusting the layout and orientation of the carbon sheets. The one killer of efficiency in a bike frame is compliance. The more the frame move as one pedals, the less efficient the frame is. If we can do anything with aluminum tubing, it’s make a stiff bike frame. The one downside of those frames in the 80s and 90s was that skinny tires made them terribly uncomfortable. Once we started throwing 28 to 32 millimeter tires on bikes, aluminum’s rigidity was able to shine because the tires could take so much of the road’s chatter away.

For this reason, I love my gravel bike. Sure, it’s heavy, but it’s not terrible at 24 pounds… until I try rolling with someone on a 17-pound carbon fiber gravel bike. That extra seven pounds takes a good bit of effort (not all seven pounds are in frame weight, obviously, it’s only a pound or two… the rest is cheaper components and wheels. I could make the bike 18 pounds if I invested some money in wheels and decent components).

Where aluminum really makes a good showing is in a tandem frame. Carbon fiber, and there’s at least one manufacturer who makes them (Calfee), is prohibitively expensive when you get to something as big as a tandem. A frame alone costs as much as my wife and my full Co-Motion Kalapuya (with a second set of road wheels) – this is enough I wouldn’t even want to afford one… but that aircraft grade aluminum beauty we ordered is going to be phenomenal when it gets here! And with the ability to ride 32s for paved roads and 45s for gravel, I have zero worries about the rigidity. In fact, I’ll welcome it next to our current steel tandem that weighs 42-pounds. The new tandem will be in the mid to upper 20s.

There’s a return to aluminum as the frame material of choice because it’s more abundant, recyclable and it’s cheap. With the wider tire fad of late, this makes that at least reasonable.

On the other hand, I’d never trade in my carbon fiber. When it comes to an awesome ride, carbon fiber is still the best – no matter how fat tires are getting:

Running Errands on a Specialized Venge…

You might not think a Specialized Venge is the best bike to run errands on, and you’d be right if whatever you’re picking up or dropping off on said errand doesn’t fit in a back pocket. In this case, thankfully, I was dropping off my youngest daughter’s first car to her so she could drive it home and a love letter off to my wife who had meetings through the evening.

With some “me” time, I packed the Venge into the car, drove to the school pool, dropped the keys to my ecstatic daughter and headed to the parking lot to put a nice little love letter I’d written on my wife’s windshield. That errand fit in my back pocket. Her car wasn’t there, though. I gave her a call. She’d gone to get a quick bite to eat at a fast food joint before her next meeting and would be on her way back in a few minutes. We made plans to meet up in ten minutes so I rode around a nearby subdivision to kill some time.

We met, I handed my wife her love letter, she cried a little and we hugged and kissed and talked about how fortunate we were… and my daughter drove up behind us to say hello, good-bye and thank you. My wife and I snapped pictures of her behind the wheel. I kissed my wife once more and rode off to finish my ride as she sat and ate dinner, watching my daughter’s boyfriend’s soccer game.

My ride, though my Venge felt a little foreign with all of its carbon fiber and twitchiness against the tandem I’ve put so many miles on with my wife, was spectacular. I rode around a couple of subs and headed back toward home, stopping at the middle school parking lot where my wife had been parked to see if I might be lucky enough to see her one last… and there she was, sitting in her car watching the game. I pulled up along side, startling her a little bit as she was engrossed in the game.

We said a few wonderful words that will remain in the parking lot, kissed one last time and I rode home to finish the evening with a nice 17-ish miles, thankful for everything I’ve learned over the last six months. I am not a perfect man. But I’m much better. My wife is not a perfect woman. She is much better as well. Together, we are dynamic. And that is good enough for government work.

DALMAC 2022 Part Three Day Three: Moses Meets a Thunderstorm…

Everyone was fairly freaked about the weather forecast – I was, and I was fully prepared. The forecast had improved, though mildly, to show showers in the morning in our northern destination of Boyne City, then showers later in the afternoon in the town we were departing from; Lake City. Well, any budding weather aficionado will tell you this means a line of storms descending from north to south – the line of storms, typically, will extend from the southwest to the northeast across the mitten as it drops down. We were supposed to ride through it between 20 & 40 miles into the 99 mile route.

However, if you know the topography, right at that zone are a bunch of hills and valleys… and a long study of the radar futures showed the storm had the chance of splitting in two at the hills… exactly at the time we should be riding through.

I had a vest laid out, just to be sure I wouldn’t need it. I helped my wife, with whom I’d snuggled all night long as if we were newlyweds, pack up the camper before heading in for breakfast at 6:30. I headed to the back of the line and saw, much to my shock and chagrin, a motherf***er in white shorts. I stared aghast.

“WHITE SHORTS? TODAY? Are you f***ing kidding me?!” I exclaimed.

The jackass just smiled. One guy just ruined our chances of getting out of this one dry. Not a chance a guy in white shorts is getting through a 4% chance of rain dry, let alone what we were facing! A female friend of his laughed, “Yeah, he just wears those nasty things on this tour because his wife isn’t here”.

We rolled out to sketchy skies to the north, but a mild to fair temperature. It was quite wonderful, actually… though ominous. Most of the jovial banter was missing as riders envisioned vests and water resistant jackets. I kept the faith, though. The storm would split… and I was feeling pretty spectacular, anyway. I took the front and cranked the pace up – looking down at the computer a few times, seeing “25-mph” in the current speed window.

We had periods of sun, then some thicker clouds, but all seemed quiet on the northwestern front… until it wasn’t. The ugly clouds started to gather and it was looking really sketchy. While we were at the famed “pie stop” at a local church, Chuck got word from his wife that it was raining not far up ahead in Kalkaska…

We took our time eating our pieces of pie. I didn’t lose hope, though. Between the trees, every once in a while, it looked like I could see the storm splitting… and as we neared Kalkaska we could see the drying remnants of the rain on the road. But no raindrops. And just like that, the clouds started to break up again. We hammered it for lunch at the local Subway in Bellaire.

The photo above was take heading north with Torch Lake on our left – Mike was up front, though his monster pulls were limited to no more than a few miles at a time by day three. You can see the last vestiges of the earlier rain on the otherwise dry road…

We Moses’ed the rain. The storm split in two in the hills, just as predicted, and we rode right up the middle of the split without getting hit by a drop. It was quite the jovial mood as we climbed into Bellaire and could see blue sky to the north. Lunch was extra good.

After lunch, we have to climb out of Bellaire on a series of low grade but loooooooong hills. They wear on you after a bit, especially knowing you’ve got the climb to the wall to look forward to in about 20 miles. This year, though, we we dodged a rainstorm and had settled on easy-pedaling the “up” sections and saving the hammering for the flats and downhills. We had a wonderful rhythm going.

That’s Sue up front, with the clouds left behind.

We pulled into East Jordan with a fair mood about us and sunny skies (most manhole covers and storm grates for city sewer systems in the US are forged in East Jordan at the local foundry). Talk centered around dodging the storm bullet and the few of our group who were going to do the wall had a soda in preparation. The vast majority of the group was doing the mile-longer bypass, but I was meeting Jess on the wall and I wanted Jonathan to be able to do the full route with the wall for his first. Chuck, Doug, Chad and Phill went with us.

And my wife, the love of my life, as had been the case all weekend long, was there to record our ascent. She’d walked, in her road shoes and cleats, quite a way down the hill to get the best shots of us coming up because she’s awesome. I PR’d the wall this year, even though I’m fatter than normal (around 185 pounds) because my wife and I have spent so much time on the tandem together. For the first time in the five times I’ve climbed the wall, I barely struggled. I was astonished I did so well, even passing Chuck on the way up… Phill was a minute behind us. I’m always the last one up the hill! Well, not this year.

The ride into Boyne City was awesome and I spent a lot of time talking with my wife as we rolled over the rollers to town. We pulled into the high school parking lot with smiles on our faces and a good bit of satisfaction over a ride well ridden. 99 Miles with an 18.9-mph average… and more good times than a fella could shake a stick at.