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Cycling, Wind and the Joy of Low Expectations

I used to hate cycling in the wind. No matter how hard I tried, the tailwind sections never made up for the headwind sections and my “average” always suffered for it. That reality drove me nuts….

Backing up, in Michigan, springtime means wind. Lots of it. Always. Between the beginning of March and the end of April, we’re lucky if we see ten days where the wind isn’t in the double-digits (mph, too, not km/h). When I was a runner, you just sucked it up and ran. As a cyclist, well, wind can be more of a pain in the tuchus… if you suffer from high expectations.

I almost chose to skip riding last evening. Work was busy and my phone rang right up to 5, I was stressed, it was sputtering rain on and off, and it was windy. 16-mph sustained, gusts north of 25-mph (25 km/h to 40 km/h). It was also 70 (20 C) when the sun was out… You don’t pass up 70 in Michigan, in March unless it’s pouring rain. I prepped the Trek, suited up and rolled out. I chose an easy route that would split up what little headwind there would be (only three miles total in the sixteen mile route) and stack it more toward the beginning.

And I took it easy.

Big ring heading north, east and west. Baby ring heading south – and that baby ring was quite necessary. The tailwind sections were absolute pleasure, the crosswind sections were only a pain when I had to lean my bike into a gust, and the headwind sections were about what you’d expect. And my last mile was dead into it.

I pulled into the driveway wishing I’d chosen a longer route.

Oh, of course I long for those wonderful, warm, still summer mornings where we roll out at 7am and it doesn’t matter which way you go, it all feels the same… but, as my dad always said, “Son, wish in one hand and $#!+ in the other and tell me which fills first”. I can long for those days all I want. Given another three months, they’ll be here. In the meantime, I’ll dance with the girl who brought me, as the saying goes.

See, there’s a linear measurement of “suck” that we can look to. Call it the cycling suck spectrum. On one end, you’ve got a whole day off without a care in the world to ride as many miles as you can, 77 degrees (23 C), sunshine and it’s calm. Folks, that’s about as good as it gets. On the other end, you’ve got snow, sleet, ice and a driving 40-mph wind. You’re polishing the couch with your butt. A plain, old-fashioned windy day with comfortable temps is actually on good side of the suck spectrum when you think about it.

The point is, sure wind sucks, but I t doesn’t suck bad enough that riding the couch is better, and you can take that to the bank (that’s a saying… really, you can’t actually take “riding on a windy day is better than riding the couch” to the bank… best case they laugh at you… worst case, you leave the bank with ugly bracelets and a legal bill the size of Kentucky).

Which is Better; Aero Frame or Aero Wheels… My Take

I recently watched a GCN video that, besides the fact their choice of tires on the wheels wrecked the whole experiment, their comparison pitting an aero bike against a climber, then swapping out 40 mm and 80 mm wheels to see which combination was fastest surprised me in more than one way.

I’m going to give a spoiler alert in the next couple of paragraphs, so if you want to watch the video first, please do.

Okay, spoiler alert in 3… 2… 1…

First, I don’t think there’s anyone who would try to argue the old 25-ish mm deep alloy wheels are better than even low-end carbon fiber wheels. There’s simply no comparison there. I included them for thoroughness only. There’s no question, though; as good a wheel as you can get in alloy, even a low-end deep section carbon fiber wheel will be faster – and the difference is great enough you can feel it instantly and unquestionably, so that will be enough about that.

I had the opportunity to go all-in with 80’s for my Venge but I chose to go with 50’s, instead. There isn’t a moment that goes by that I wish I’d chosen differently. Wind, specifically crosswinds kept me from going deep-deep dish. A friend has 808’s and he is blown all over the place when it gets breezy. In fact, I prefer my Trek with 38’s when it gets windy and I’ll be riding in a group. The 38’s and round tubes are superior in crosswinds – the combo is a little less squirrely. Squirrels are great. For dinner. Not so much in a group ride pace-line, but I digress… humorously.

Let’s get to that spoiler. The deep-section aero wheels fared worst. The shallow 40’s did best. Now, there was a flaw in the experiment. They used different tires for the shallow-section and deep-section wheels. They used 25’s for the deeps and 28’s for the shallows – and, if that wasn’t bad enough, butyl tubes for the deeps and tubeless for the shallows. Now, having run 25’s and 28’s, I’d take the 25’s any day of the week. The 28’s roll smooth, sure, but I don’t like the bounce when it’s time to sprint. Best, I think Specialized Turbo Pro 26 mm tires are absolutely the pinnacle of the “best of both worlds”. Technically, the best of three worlds. Excellent rolling resistance, just enough road chatter absorption, and fantastic flat protection. They’re no Turbo Cotton, but I’d rather spend my time setting up for the sprint than fixing a tire on the side of the road.

In the GCN experiment, the best combo was the aero frame with 40’s, followed by a lightweight climber’s frame with the 40’s, followed by the aero frame with the 80’s and lightweight/80’s brought up the rear. Folks, this is where real world runs circles around the lab setup. Anyone who’s seen a friend on 80’s in a crosswind knows they suck the life right out of you. They’re pushed all over and the rider has to battle to keep their bike in line with every gust. That battle sucks watts (exact same principle as lower tire pressure with wider tires – the increase rolling resistance but smooth out the ride so you’re actually faster). Put 40’s on that same bike in those winds and fast is actually easier. Now, you put those same 80’s on for a still summer’s evening and you’ll straight up fly. Problem is, how many of those still summer’s evenings are there? Not many.

So, even though the GCN boys messed up the tires, I have a funny feeling they’ll get the same results when they fix the tire issue and try the experiment again. Of course, all one has to do is look at the pro peloton to “get it”. They all roll 40’s and 50’s. You’ll never see an 80 out there unless it’s in a time trial. But hey, it’s a fun video to watch, anyway.

I Simply Ran Out of Gas… Three Miles Short of a Century.

It was a windy day, SSW and SW all day long, so we picked an east/west route so we wouldn’t be fighting it as much. Five of us rolled out to a perfect early fall morning start. My wife, Diane, Mike, Chuck and I headed off west in search of good times, laughs and miles. I’m already 600 miles (now 700) over my yearly goal of 6,000 outdoor miles, I’ve beaten every short distance speed record I’d acquired since 2011:

CYCLING, SPORT PERSONAL RECORDS
One Hour 24.38 mi
20 10 km 13:46
20 10 mi 23:59
20 20 km 29:45

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say this has been one of my best years on two wheels – in fact, better than all of that speed stuff (which is fantastic), my wife and I have learned how to love our tandem and have ridden it almost every Sunday since April.  On top of all that, I’m up to 9 centuries and 14 metric centuries for the season.

I was excited for another century yesterday.  The goal was to head to Laingsburg – a 77-mile round trip going the long way out and heading straight back home.  The morning, excepting the wind, was wonderful.  Sunshine, cool but barely arm warmer weather (the boys didn’t bother, the girls wore theirs for a time).  Chuck and I were taking decent turns into the wind, three to five miles, and the pace was fair – 18 to 20-mph.  We had a six mile south stretch into the wind that was just brutal but Chuck was dug in like a tick and hammered the whole chunk keeping the pace right around 19-mph.  That was one of the toughest turns I’ve seen all year.

It was so epic, I didn’t even bother sprinting for my favorite City Limits sign.  I straight up gave it to him.  He’d earned it. 

After that stretch, just 14 miles and change into the ride, we only had six more miles of straight headwind the whole rest of the ride.  

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My wife and Diane split off after 28 miles to head home, so that left just the three of us and some of the most glorious miles we’d turned all year long.  We made the most of a cross-headwind, but when we hit the turn-around in Laingsburg, we hammered home with a little help.  We dropped Mike off at his last mile home (I was at 77 miles) and Chuck and I headed off to lunch.  

The wind had a little more west to it so it was a little tougher into it, but I still managed to crush out a couple of miles at 20 before turning north with a tailwind.  We pulled into our favorite 100-mile lunch stop at 83 miles.  We sat in the grass in the shade of a tree and ate.  

Getting started after lunch sucked.  I was a little better than a 19-mph average but Chuck was at 18.9 and he wanted 19.  Initially he took off heading west and it looked like we’d be able to jump right back into our pace but he slowed after a half-mile and said, “Maybe anything in the 18 range will be okay.”  I almost puked on my top tube a quarter-mile later on the way up a slight incline.  Chuck took a mile of headwind and I came around for a little chunk.  We back-and-forth’ed the next few miles and I could sense I was running out of gas.  Still, we were looking at that 19 average as we exited our favorite weeknight subdivision and headed for home.  I was up front and took a mile and a half with a cross-tailwind, taking a corner heading into the wind at almost 20-mph.  Chuck asked if I wanted him to take it but I shook him off.  I told him I was good and got him to the cross-tailwind.  He took a mile, then I took one.  That left Chuck to a headwind mile that he took between 19 & 20.  I had a mile of cross-tailwind that I hammered at 21… and I ran out of gas.  I had 96 miles and some change.

Chuck asked if I was going to ride home with him to get the extra miles but I passed.  I’d had enough and took my toy home.  My last mile into the headwind was between 12 & 16-mph and that was everything I had.  I dropped down to the baby ring and spun home, shutting off my Garmin at 97.07 miles.  I didn’t even care about that last three miles.  A 5k in an 11,000 km season.

Chuck called about five minutes later.  He pulled into his driveway with a 19.03-mph average.  The exuberance in his voice was cool.  He thanked me for hammering as hard as I did because every last mile mattered.  He thanked me again, commenting on Strava a few minutes later.  

That he made 19 and was so stoked that I helped made me feel pretty fantatic.  Definitely worth leaving three miles on the road for my friend.

TNIL (Tuesday Night In Lennon): The Wind Makes an Appearance Edition

The wind was building all day long. Forecasts said it was coming, and it did. 15-mph winds with gusts above 20 (24-kmh and 32-kmh respectively) out of the west. I knew shortly after I woke up at four in the morning that TNIL was going to be tough.

After an easier than normal warm-up, we lined up to roll. We had a fairly small B Group and the A’s were flush, so one of our guys, as is usual, suggested we roll out with the A’s and let them pull us to the tailwind. This sounds brilliant, but it’s a recipe for disaster. What you envision happening is the group sharing the load, defeating the headwind as a triumphal group. Hi-five’s all around! It’s damn-near a beer commercial.

That’s not what happens, though. No, what happens is you get a knot of A guys rolling up the road, progressively in echelon to the right of the road to escape the crosswind a mile-and-a-half up the road, followed closely by eight B Group’ers all lined up in the ditch on the edge of the road with no draft. They get spit off one-by-one and take fifteen miles to come back together as a few groups. “Who wants that chaos?” I asked. I suggested we wait and roll out as a B Group. After a complaint, I relented and my buddy Chuck said, “Well that’s great, now we have to chase them down!” The chase never materialized and we rolled out as the B Group.

What came next was a wonder in teamwork and effective, enjoyable cycling. We bucked the headwind, chewed on the crosswind, bucked some more headwind and at the turn for tailwind at 16-ish miles, we had a 20-mph average. We’d lost a couple of the weaker riders but we were, relatively speaking, whole.

And just as all hell was about to break loose with a tailwind when we made the left hand hairpin turn… there was a train lazily rolling down the tracks across the road.

We ended up waiting for several minutes for the train to pass. Once it was clear, we took a minute to form up climbing a hill and BAM, just like that the hammer dropped. The pace picked up and we had us a ride on our hands. We cruised the hills with a little help from the wind and turned in for the regroup after the last big hill. After the last rider turned the corner, we rolled toward my favorite part of the ride.

Immediately after the regroup, we’ve got a nice little descent that takes us to 28-ish-mph followed by a sharp, short climb before we level out at a 2% incline that we normally take at around 21-mph. Last night we were over 23. We crested the top with two horses up front. I was second bike back and figured I’d be lead-out. The two up front took a really long turn, screaming down the -1 to -3% grade at 33-mph. My guy started to bleed speed and when he dropped to 29, I came around rather than wait for him to flick. I took it back up to 30 on the flat with six tenths of a mile to the City Limits sign. I kept the hammer down and, almost unbelievably, didn’t run out of gas. The tenths clicked by until the sign was only 100 yards away. I was watching shadows behind me and couldn’t see anyone making a move so I kept the power up… I crossed the City Limits sign first, on the front for six tenths of a mile at 30-mph. First time off the front like that.  I’ve taken the sign dozens of times but never from the lead-out position… and certainly not while leading out a group of horses like the one we had last night. I’m going to have a smile on my face for a while remembering that one.

Next up was a turn north for a couple miles. I made a mistake, trying to wave a truck by after a four-way stop and fell off the back a considerable distance. The speed after that stop was the problem. The group goes from 15 to 27-mph almost instantly because of a perfect little 1% descent. I was at 15, waving my arm to get him to go around, and stayed there while the group accelerated. I absolutely had to bust my butt to latch back on. I almost quit, but with one last rush, I latched. Thankfully, being at the back, I had enough time to fully recover. I knew the homestretch was coming up with a 15 to 20-mph tailwind.

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The last four-ish miles were insane and awesome. We managed to keep it above 27-mph the whole way, with the exception of a stop for a stop sign. That break was needed, too. If we’d have hit the hill after that intersection at speed, it would have been ugly for the tandems. Instead, the pace increased steadily and they were with us for the final push.

The final 3/4’s of a mile is slightly downhill, between 1/2 and 1%. With that tailwind, it was absolutely awesome. We were hard on the pedals at 30-mph and cooking hard for the sprint. The lead fell off and my buddy Chucker and Josh took the lead. Josh is a big dude and with him up front, I knew I could hold his wheel but I didn’t know if I’d get around him. I was in perfect position as the speed hit 33… then 34… we just nudged 35 and I didn’t bother going around him. In hindsight I should have – but 35-mph.

I finished second behind Josh. He earned it. The parade mile home was all hi-five’s and laughs. It wasn’t the fastest Tuesday night, but it was fast enough with that wind, and it was more fun that a person should have with their clothes on.

That’ll do.

A Perfectly Ugly Century… 100 Miles of Bliss

Friends, in my years of cycling, I can’t remember a year with more than two or three perfect days. When it comes to great days, we get plenty. Perfect is rare.

Yesterday was another of the rare days, though not so rare for this year. Sunny, cool to start, and almost no wind (2-mph out of the… who cares?! 2-mph!).

We rolled out at 7 am and I was searching for the early morning sun right out of the gate.  At 60° (15 C) it was a little on the brisk side and finding the sun through the early morning shade was a challenge in the first mile.  Once we started east it wasn’t so bad, the long shadows couldn’t get us.  Our third mile would be my last thought that could be construed as “complainy” the rest of the day.

Turnout at my house was a little sparse, but we picked up four along the way and ended up with a fantastic group.  We had plans for a 65 mile ride, then Chuck and I were going to add another 35 and make it a cool hundred.  We were the only takers for the century.  Jonathan thought about hanging with us but couldn’t chance being late for a meeting so he backed out.

The route we picked led us through the blooming sunflower fields.  They were spectacular in the early morning sunshine.  This is one of my favorite times in summer.

Once past the sunflower fields we kept a wonderfully steady pace between 19 & 22-mph.  Jonathan, Chuck or I would pick up the tempo every now and again but for the most part we were incredibly steady.

Two hours into our ride and that nice cool start was long behind us.  It heated up in a hurry.  With my Specialized team kit on, though, I didn’t really think about the heat much.  I’ve got three full sets now, and, while they’re visually stunning, their best attribute is heat management.

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Mike’s taking up the rear with his brand new Ican 38’s.  Four in that group are running the 38’s and I’ve got the 50’s (and the 38’s on my other bike)… I think it’s time Ican start sending me free stuff!

This is a marvelous stretch of road along a route full of fantastic asphalt and chip-seal.  We have some stretches that are pretty rough, too, but who doesn’t?  We rolled on, talking and laughing, and basically just enjoyed being together.  At 51 miles, Phill and Brad split off and headed home.  The rest of us pushed on to the first stretch of road where I could have stood a faster pace.  For most of us, we only had 13 miles to go so they were in “just get there” mode while Chuck and I were only halfway into our ride – we were still relatively fresh.  It never ceases to amaze me how much “mental” goes into cycling.  If I know I’ve only got a few miles left, I’ll allow myself to be tired and drag a little.  On the other hand, if I know I’m only halfway there, I’ll still have a spring in my step.

Anyway, I don’t want to get lost in a cycling psychology discussion.  Jonathan split off next and headed home, then Dave… and we were down to Mike, my wife, Chuck and I for the last five miles home.  Mike had hoped Chuck and I would split along the way so they could soft-pedal home but we needed 35 miles somewhere, so we stayed with them to the homestead… and kept the pace up.  When we hit the driveway, Mike lowered his shoulders and kept going to home.  I dismounted and leaned my bike against a tree and headed inside to the restroom and a water bottle refill.  Chuck unscrewed his top and handed his bottle to my wife who offered to fill it.  Bottles topped off, we rolled out – no clue how we were going to fit 35 miles in.  A friend of mine had dropped off a Garmin heart rate monitor that he wasn’t going to use anymore because he’d picked up a new one.  So, for the first time ever, I actually rode knowing what my heart rate was.  I probably averaged 110-120-something over that first 65.

We headed east, still barely a breeze and the sun shining brilliantly.  We created our own breeze as we headed out for lunch.  Chuck is a lot more daring than I am, even with my radar taillight.  He’ll ride on roads I won’t go near due to traffic, and he kept extending the out portion to where we had to ride on some heavily trafficked roads… but we kept it to four or five lane highways so cars always had an extra lane to pass us.  And it was better than a normal two-lane road.  By a long shot.

We pulled into the local Subway staring at 75 miles on the Garmin.  Our pace had stayed the same (20-23-mph) but my heart rate had gone from the mid-90’s – 120’s to 145-155 and I was HUNGRY.  We leaned our bikes against the windows outside and went in to eat.  We left our several thousand Dollar bikes outside, no lock, for the entire time we were inside (20-30 minutes) and nobody even looked sideways at them.  Call it privilege if you’re an idiot, there are no rules governing who can buy or rent a house or apartment in our town… we are generally good people, though.  We have a strong, supported police force and I am glad to live in a place where I can leave my bike outside, unattended, while I eat.  That’s enough of that.

The next 25 miles were easy(ish).  We tee’d them up and knocked ’em down.  I ended up having to ride Chuck home to get an extra two miles – and those last two were s-l-o-w… but I pulled into the driveway with 100.44 miles and a smile on my face.

So, all of that, almost 1,000 words, and you’re wondering where the ugly part is?

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There’s another 1,000 words… that route was fugly!

Hardcore Fast; Thursday Evening Speed and Happiness on a Bicycle

There comes with cycling, a virtually indescribable joy in being a part of a solid pace-line, speeding down a winding road so fast cars have a tough time keeping up.  I “train” only so I can be a part of that.  I don’t care about Strava accolades, KOM’s, PR’s, or beating other people… for me, it’s just about being a part of the group.  The speed and intricacy of it is my definition of fun.

We prepped to roll out Thursday night coming off a record event the week before. Conditions were perfect last week. This week, less desirable – better temp, more of a breeze… but we had a larger, faster group with some serious heavy hitters from Tuesday Night in Lennon.  With the fantastic weather and 0% chance of rain, I picked the Venge for this ride.

Craig and I led the group out in a double pace-line.  We had a big group, but it splintered quickly under a rubber-band effect and unfortunately, with a few new guys in the group, we missed a couple of regroup points.  We did manage to hit a couple, though, one a few minutes before this photo was taken by a friend and regular in our group who was stuck attending a graduation party (don’t worry, Gov., social distancing was being practiced – well, ish).  Coming out of the Lake Shannon loop, we were pushing, unbelievably, a 22-mph average (35-kmh).  20-mph is fast for the ride.  21 is crazy and was our record just last week.

Coming over a major hill that I PR’ed on last week, I PR’ed again (by a lot) but still got dropped and the group rolled right through the regroup point so four of us, rather than try to chase down a group we were never going to catch, cut a hard mile of the out-and-back portion of the course off and waited atop a hill that was going to hammer the lead group.  We simply stopped, took a second to catch our breath, take a drink and waited for them to appear on the way up an ugly 6% climb.

Sure enough, once we caught a glimpse of them we started rolling and took the lead as they latched on.  From that point on, we stayed together, sharing the headwind ride back.  I’d dropped from 22-mph down to 21.6, but the average climbed as much of the headwind was actually slightly downhill.  We turned right to a crosswind and hammered down the road.  Our average passed 22-mph by a tenth as we closed in on the last climb.

I, having spent way too much time up front early on while the group was sorting itself out, was completely spent.  As we rounded the corner to start the climb, I flicked off the front and didn’t bother latching on at the back.  I was popped and I just didn’t have a desire to try to keep up.  I didn’t care about the average or the record.  I eased my way up in the granny gear and lumbered down the back toward the City Limits sign and the end of our most excellent ride.

Even chilling up the last hill I beat last week’s average by six or seven tenths of a mile-an-hour.

It was all laughs back in the parking lot as we loaded our toys and headed home.  Another record breaking Thursday night… and I can feel it today!  I’ll be looking forward to a slow evening ride a little later.  I have no doubt, with excellent weather for the weekend, we’ll put together a fun, long ride for Saturday.

After having leftover pizza for dinner, I’m pretty sure I fell asleep with a smile on my face.  I surely woke up smiling.

Three Ways to Make Friends with the Wind on Your Bicycle… Or At Least Learn To Not Hate It So Much.

Michigan is notorious for windy spring days… southeastern Michigan is also relatively flat; you have to travel well north to find any hills so we in the southern lower peninsula look to the wind as our hill training.

The wind is Michigan’s mountains.  This is the initial step in making friends with the wind – and it’s a two step process.  1.  Accept that the wind is going to be a pain in the butt.  2.  Come to see the wind as a way to build fitness for later in the season when the wind calms down.

Most cyclists, when hit in the mouth with a headwind in the 18-mph (29-km/h) range over multiple days will grow weary fighting it – I’m already seeing mumbling on Strava about yet another day in the wind… but I have a strategy or three that’ll have you smiling, rather than cursing, when the gusts push back at you.

We all need somebody to lean on…

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It doesn’t exactly work in the current state of things, but under normal circumstances when the wind kicks up, find a few friends and stack ’em up!  The wind sucks a little less when you’ve got six people fighting it rather than you playing Don Quixote all by your lonesome.

Low as you go…

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When you’re battling the wind, the less you can look like a sail, the better.  Rather than having straight arms, put a little bend in them so you can get your head down a bit.  You’ll be amazed at how much it’ll help you slip through the wind.

Slow your roll, there Sparky

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Look, riding into the wind is going to suck.  It does and I’m not going to try to blow sunshine at you, hoping to convince you it won’t.  That’d be silly.  The goal is to simply pick a pace you can sustain and roll with it.  Hopefully you picked the headwind at the beginning of the ride and you can ride a tailwind home.  This last point is the key to accepting the wind for what it is.  Look at the bright side, you’re on the right side of the grass, pumping air and you’re riding a bicycle.  The only way life gets better is if someone walks up with a pile of money and hands it to you… to stay home and ride your bike.  I can tell you, that is spectacular.

Make your peace with the wind.  Of course it’s not as fun as cruising around with a 1 knot breeze without a care in the world, but you have to look at the other side of that coin… you’re riding a freaking bike!  It ain’t work, either.

A Two-Minute Mile… In Service of My Friends.

We were set to start riding at 8:30 and I knew my role.  My buddy Mike is coming back from knee surgery, he got a new one, and he’s built up his base, so now it’s time to work on speed.

I was to be the rented mule into the headwind.

This has been a new development during COVIDcation, something that I’ve worked into my daily rides with my wife to get a better workout out of a slower pace.  I take all of the headwind up front.  In doing this, we go faster into the headwind than we normally would sharing turns up front, and by the time I get to the half-way point of a 45-mile ride, I’m freaking smoked.  It takes effort just to keep up with my wife in the tailwind… and this has given me a new appreciation for riding into the headwind – I found a way to like a headwindThat is my role and I’m freakin’ good at it.

I started early, at 7:30 to get some bonus miles in before the main. I wanted a 100k out of the day and I knew I’d be tired after our ride… and it had been a while since I’d put the hammer down. I figured I could get some speed-work out of my system so I was less likely to get antsy about pace while out with Mike and my wife. I also took my Trek rather than the Venge.

I put in 13 miles at just shy of a 20-mph pace before taking it easy the last mile back to the house to spin some lactic acid out of my legs. I waited for Mike to show up, and my wife to come out the door. Assembled, lightly, we rolled out.

The first eight miles had a crosswind so we rolled at a fair, conversational pace. Then we turned left, dead into a 15-mph headwind. It was my turn to burn. I headed to the front and picked a pace I could settle into. 15+-mph headwind, 16 to 17-mph pace and I churned out mile after mile, just fast enough nobody was talking or dropping.

Just like that we were into crosswind and the ride got glorious in a hurry.  Surprisingly, I was feeling pretty spectacular, maybe a touch crispy, but I still spent a lot of time up front.  Mike was starting to wear out in the tailwind and we dropped him a couple of times but we regrouped and I still managed to pick up a 4th overall on a big 7-mile-long segment we cranked out at better than a 24-1/2-mph average.  The high point for me was a mile-long stretch that’s slightly downhill after a little rise.  I have no idea why I like it so much, but I just love to hammer that mile out.  I put the pedal(s) down just over the rise and quickly took my pace from a nice 25-mph up the rise to 33 where I held it for the mile before the road pitched up again.  There’s just something about that 30-mph pace on a skinny-tire bike that puts a huge smile on my face…  I pulled to the side of the road at the next intersection and waited for the group to catch up.

Unfortunately, traffic messed up my plan to start ahead of the small rabble and let them catch up.  I had to wait for them to pass, then chase them down… I was up to 28-mph to gain on them.  When I did catch up, then I was crispy.  I didn’t do much messing around after that, and with just five miles left, I settled down.  Three miles left, my wife took the front and I could tell she was cooked.  Her head cocked to one side, she was looking down at her stem cap rather than up the road.  Then she started drifting with the crosswind – bad enough I couldn’t draft her, I had to ride behind her and eat wind, but she wouldn’t come off the front.  After trying once tactfully, and unsuccessfully, to get her to pay attention, in a moment of idiocy and exhaustion, I blew up to shake her out of her funk.

I knew I was going to have to make amends for that one but I was still a mile-and-a-half short of my 100k.  I’d let my wife know I was going to be short and add several miles back, so I simply rolled beyond my driveway, north with a tailwind and west with a crosswind for the full mile and a half…  I didn’t want to have to crawl home into the wind on the clock, and crawl I did.  I stopped my Garmin with the requisite 62.3 miles and turned around to head home.  In the baby ring.  And just shy of the granny gear.

I made my apology to my wife the second I walked in the door.  We were right after, for the rest of the day.

I spoke with my buddy, Mike a little bit later and he was doing well.  Prior to our ride, his best solo average was in the mid-16-mph range.  He was well over 18 for the day yesterday and he was feeling very good about it… and that meant I felt good about it because I helped him get there.

Oh, and we were short sleeves and shorts most of the ride.  Temps in the sunny mid 60’s, and it was glorious.  And the forecast for today is even better.

Why Do All Modern Aero Race Road Bikes Look Alike? One Cyclist’s Hypothesis

The “good old days” of the aero road bike, just three to eight years ago, when you could get an aero road bike and your make/model looked unique:

After many, many upgrades 2020 (left) Day 1, 2013 (right)

I had an interesting chat with a friend about my post yesterday. After reading my post, he commented that he liked my Venge but…

UIM: I like the look of your Venge but beyond that, most of the top-end modern bikes look plug-ugly!

Me: They did get a little blah, didn’t they? I don’t know what happened but many of the top-end bikes ended up looking alike, and it isn’t a good thing.

UIM: Designed, possibly, by people who never ride bikes, perhaps…

He really brings up an interesting idea, but one of my examples was the 2020 Specialized S-Works Venge. If I know anything about Specialized’s employees, I know they ride bikes. A lot.  Their corporate lunch rides are famous.

That said, I offered a different hypothesis, but before I get to that, have a look at what I’m talking about:

You’ve gotta hand it to Trek, in my humble opinion.  Their model looks just like everyone else’s, but at least it looks a little racier.  That said, there isn’t a lot of room between any of them.  Represented are Canyon, Giant, Cervelo, Specialized, Trek, BMC, Cannondale, and Scott – in that order, left to right, top to bottom.

So here’s the hypothesis I presented to my friend:  This is what happens when you build your aero bike for a wind tunnel, not a cyclist.

When you’re designing a bicycle around a desired result in a wind tunnel, there are only so many ways you can go to hide from wind before all of the models start looking like one another… because everyone is chasing the exact same result and a bicycle is still a bicycle.

I think it’ll take some kind of interesting discovery or changing of the UCI rules in order for bikes to start getting a personality again.  I won’t be holding my breath, though.  Riding in the wind on a normal bike sucks… on a modern aero bike it still sucks, it just sucks less.  Don’t believe me?  Take one for a test ride on a windy day and let me know what you think.  I’ll save the “I know, right?” for then.

In the meantime, as a note to manufacturers, you’re going to have to do away with the “ghost” or “stealth” paint jobs and start splashing those frames with a little color so we can tell the difference between them.  Let’s just stay away from the 2015-2017 paint schemes and colors.  They were mostly hideous.  Bright, loud, normal reds, blues, greens… maybe an orange or an electric purple.  No more baby $#!+ colors.  Please.  For the love of God.

Thank Goodness For My Inglorious Rain Bike

I beat the rain bike up pretty good Sunday morning.  It had rained much of the day Saturday and well into the night, but we woke up to 60° temps (15 C) and partly cloudy skies.  The roads were really, really, very, incredibly wet… but I wasn’t about to miss sunshine and 60°!  Normally, 60 isn’t anything to write home about, but in Michigan, in March, 60 is glorious and rare.

Within a mile I had water and dirt dripping off the frame and drivetrain but because the bike is so solid, I had no worries.  I just rode on with my buddy, Chuck well off to my side and back so to hold the social distancing norm.  My Venge was sitting protected and comfy in my bike room.

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My rain bike isn’t perfect, of course.  It takes a noticeable amount of added effort to keep her spun up and rolling, but it’s a nice trade-off, actually… I’ve gotta put more effort into it so when I switch over to my Venge, I’m that much faster on it.

The first fourteen miles were wet and gnarly, into a mild headwind, but as we approached our stop, the wind started to pick up.  We still had eleven miles to get to tailwind.  Five miles later and that once mild headwind was a 20+mph lesson in effort.  Three miles later and we were getting into 30-mph gusts.  I laughed out loud more than once. Three miles later, the pain was over.  We turned for home, the wind having dried the roads out completely.  And the push was worth the effort to get there.

My Garmin radar died first, then my Edge 520 Plus ran out of juice… then I ran out of gas.  It had been a long week, I think, going from approximately 125 miles a week to almost 250 and without a day off the bike in two weeks.  Even with the cross-tailwind I wanted to sit up and soft pedal home a few times.  I didn’t, though.  I stayed with Chuck, trying to break it down into miles… three to go, only nine minutes.  Surely I can handle that.  Two miles, less than six minutes.  One mile.

I showered up and was off in nap land shortly after firing down some lunch.  I woke up with a smile on my face and one hell of a dirty rain bike.  An hour later, she was clean, lubed, drivetrain cleaned and lubed, and ready for another go.

My rain bike isn’t one of those ultra-cool aero road bikes.  It’s not exactly a lightweight climber, either.  It’s just an old Trek that was given a new lease on life.  There’s a certain satisfaction that comes with riding the bike, too, having rebuilt her from the ground up.

And she still tears it up in a fashion show… after I clean her up and dry behind her gears.

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