Category Archives: Bike

Cycling Podcasts, 2017 Edition

So, Oomloop Het Newsbladt is up this weekend. Is it road season yet?

I listen to a lot of podcasts. I’ve got a long-ish commute, and, while being in New England means that summer days are beautiful and almost endless, winter evenings are cold, damp, and almost endless, too, so I spend a lot of time in the basement on the trainer watching Zwift go by and pretending I’m actually fit.

Being an American, road bike racing isn’t something that was easy to come by when I was a kid in the ’80s. It was on the radar, since Greg “LeMan” LeMonde was wrecking stuff in Europe, and it’s pretty easy to get on the American news cycle by going and doing anything better than Frenchmen. My first real exposure to cycling was during Armstrong’s post-cancer run and the 7 Tours de France which have been stricken from the history.

Podcasts have played a huge part in my appreciation of Pro Cycling – they’ve filled in the appreciation for the non-Grand-Tour races, non-American teams, and the sport in general. Cillian Kelly deserves a special shout for filling the history gap.

Podcasting about pro bike races is pretty darn effective in a way that it’s not for other sports. For other sports, it’s tough to discern between similar plays if you haven’t seen them – a double play can be turned dozens of different ways, but to really capture each one requires hundreds of words. Most sports commentary is best done with video. Pictures of cycling, though, are pretty similar (unless it’s wrecks).

With a bike race, however, much of the action is actually hidden from the video. I gladly watch hours of shots of the peleton flying past countryside around the world; but it’s tough to pick out How The Race Was Won ™ over a multi-hour race. Different people see different things; and there’s 180 different stories – racers with different schedules, different goals, different skills; any one of whom can be the key to a given race.

Which is why cycling podcasts are the absolute bomb-diggity. The ones I’ll list here have a couple of common threads. Generally, the ones I like also come from people whose writing I also really like – good writers and good speakers. I think all of the ones I’m listing here are group podcasts – see previous paragraph about different people seeing different things. And finally, all of the ones I like are produced by cyclists themselves. Cycling is unique in that it’s much easier to relate to – get out and ride a bike. As soon as you see someone else riding, try to catch them, and it’s a race. That’s kind of reductionist, i know, but when was the last time most of the folks watching the NFL pulled together a pickup game?

So, kind of in order, here’s my six (6) recommendations for cycling podcasts to follow.

  • The Cycling Podcast: Richard Moore, Lionel Birnie, Daniel Friebe, and Orla Chennaoui are all fixtures in the British cycling press. Weekly show, monthly show focusing on women’s cycling, and a “Friends of the Podcast” program which gets you 11 extra episodes (in depth reporting) for about $12/year. Daily shows from the Grand Tours. TCP strikes a great balance between on-the-ground reporting, personalities, and direct relationships to the current pro-riders. They’re a little Sky-heavy, but, eh?
  • The Recon Ride: Dane Cash and Cosmo Catalano (Who I’ve plugged twice already this post) have been doing a pre-Pro Tour race podcast for about a year. They got picked up by CyclingNews this spring. Solid format – race review, team review, and predictions; my only gripe is that they don’t do post-race stuff.
  • The Slow Ride Podcast: This one is a new one for me. I picked them up after US Cyclocross Nationals in Hartford this year thanks to their capturing Jeremy Hyde’s deraileur failure. Only a couple episodes in, but they’ve got the chemistry/rider criteria down really well.
  • The Velocast: The first podcast I paid money for, and haven’t regretted a dime. Scott and John are cranky old Scotsmen. Occasionally get on the ground, but fill the time well. Daily Grand Tour shows, weekly shows otherwise, and an amazing “This Week In Cycling History” with Cillian Kelly.
  • Velonews: Velonews is probably the best US magazine covering bike racing; the crew shines in the podcast. Weekly. They’ve also got a good training/racing bit that comes out weekly. I really hope the magazine can hang on.
  • The Paceline: This podcast doesn’t have a whole lot of pro race content, but I mention it because Elden Nelson (now a fixture on RKP) and Patrick Brady have entertained me with their writing for years, and the podcast has an occasional nugget.

And, while it doesn’t count as a podcast, I’ll recommend GCN as a great source of trainer videos, race reports, and bike culture.

Pshew. Blogging is hard. What did I miss?

Zwiftly Getting Largzer

Bleh.

Or more accurately Blerch.

Yep, that pasty bum has gotten me down for the last month or so, and the onset of winter hasn’t helped much. Nor has recovery from Lyme, or changing positions at work, or coming into the last third of the current graduate degree, or Melissa being in AWESOME shape and about to crush the Houston Marathon.

But, I think I’ve found at least part of the solution.

Last winter, I invested in a Kinetic Road Machine, and put in a pretty decent two months on TrainerRoad. I really kind of liked the structure, and loved having NO excuses not to train, as the weather is always about 65 and New England sunny in my basement. Plus, I could throw on “Victory at Sea” and catch up on some propaganda.

Trainerroad was good – really good. The workouts were great, and the structure was pretty nice. Reasonably priced; great value. I thought I was going to be back this winter.

But, earlier this month, Strava reminded me that I got a free 2 months of Zwift since I’ve been wasting money on Strava Premium for the last couple of years (Wasting since I’m obviously not using it; really enjoy the service). So, I figured I’d go ahead and try it.

Getting set up in Zwift was about as close to painless as I’ve had. They’ve got a great iOS app that I installed on my phone that uses the pairings I’ve already got for the bluetooth cadence, heart rate, and Kinetic trainer with the Strava app, and a pretty lightweight application that runs on the 8 year old Mac Mini I’ve got in the basement to run Plex.

They’ve also added workouts – I ran the FTP test tonight:

The workouts look almost right for me- enough to chose from; enough plans that I’ll stay interested, and already tied in. The thing that’s missing that Trainerroad had, is detailed control over the training plan, and the ability to select a plan, and have no thought necessary when logging in to workout – the right one is already selected.

Anyway, all is good. Miss you, Blog World.

Learning to Love Moving (again)

First Saturday of fall, and New England has her moxie back – cold and damp, despite having been hot and humid 10 days ago. Nike+ run club had “speed” work on the calendar in the form of 5 x 400m repeats. So, wanting to get really back in the spin of things, I decided that N and I should ride to the track, run, and then get coffee. So, not really a pure run, not a pure ride, but something in the middle.

So, with fall being upon us, many local riders have hung up the wheels and won’t be seen again until Memorial Day. Making sure to emphasize the change of seasons, Mother Nature made sure it was grey and cold; I don’t think that we passed another rider all day.

OnOurWay

The sky threatened more rain, but that was mostly just bluster.

Grey

I’ve been riding a lot this summer with #2 son. He’d asked for a real bike for his birthday, and we hooked him up. That, plus me being down a notch this year with Lyme has given us a great chance to ride. At the end of track season last year, he got diagnosed with exercise induced asthma, got an inhaler (we’ve filed the TUE), and has been kicking butt and taking names. To the point where his word cloud project at school was focused on cycling.

WordCloud

So, I kind of strong-armed him into doing a bike-run-bike with me Saturday morning, despite the fact that most of his friends were sitting in their basements playing Density, or some such other game. Bike of choice was the Nashbar Cross bike, since it’s got a rack on the back where I could strap my runners. The ride up to the high school is one of my favorites; hill up to Flanders right out of the gate from the house; long, downhill-ish straight, and one little kicker before rolling into the school. Not a lot of traffic, and a good warmup.

At the track, we stopped, changed into the sneakers, and watched the JV crew gear up for a game. For the 400 repeats, I got a little confused by the Nike+ app until I figured it out. There’s no warmup period; rather, the app starts with the first 400. Press go, and it starts timing the interval. Press stop after the first interval, and the recovery timer starts, then press go for the next interval. Didn’t figure that out for a while, possibly due to my heart trying to escape my throat.

Yay.Track

So, I’m not much of a speed guy. I’m not much of an endurance guy either any more, but I’ve never really claimed to be a speed guy. I’ve dutifully avoided the track for most of my life, with the exception of twice a year during my Navy days running the Physical Readiness Test – 12 laps a year, like it or not. Today, I got to relive why.

The first 400 kind of didn’t count, since it wasn’t until about 150 in that I realized the Nike+ app had started the rep as soon as I started the workout. N started at the same time as me, and had opened up about 50 meters by the time I realized I was supposed to be going hard, but I caught him by the end of the first 400.

After the first 400, I’d kind of jogged it while fiddling with my phone, and was surprised when the distance started counting up again, indicating that I’d started it. So, I ran that one slightly faster, mostly out of surprise.

After that one, my lungs were trying to climb up out of my throat, probably because that’s the easier way to get oxygen into them, so I decided to extend my recovery period to a whole easy lap in between 400 efforts. N caught up to me again, looked like he was having fun, and said “How many more?” “Only three”, I said, and we crossed the start, and he was off.

For the first half a lap, I thought I could catch him on the back stretch, but the lungs were gasping, I started to taste half-chewed dates (pre-outing breakfast) in my throat, and I decided just to hold on until I was done. Which I did, and after that lap, decided that, not only would i extend the rest interval to a whole lap, but that it was OK if I walked that lap.

The last two 400’s were tough, and I was thrilled to be walking at the end of them. So, N talked XC strategy with a couple of the high school runners who were doing an 800s workout, and I pretended to take my time getting my bike shoes back on. Then, back to the bike!

Our high school backs up to an awesome bit of state park land with some of the finest two track in the Northeast. Plus, the high school is on the top of a hill overlooking the sound, so, with the cross bikes, we were looking at about 2 miles of downhill, which we bombed.

EnterTheDeepDarkWoods

The kid cleaned it, no problem. I had to stop to pick up my running shoes; they were insufficiently strapped to the bike rack, and managed to either bounce off or get stripped off by some of the verdant but dying vegetation covering the trails. Another 4 miles of spinning, and we were downtown, and at the toughest part of the outing: which place to get coffee.

Bartleby’s, our usual, must be on the Fred schedule. It’s the start/finish of several local rides, and there are bikes stacked up outside most weekend (and weekday) mornings. But, in a clear sign that cycling season should be over, the chairs were not outside, and no bikes were leaning against the building. Kind of shocking. So, we stopped at the Green Marble – tougher to people watch, but still had tables and chairs out, and, if I’ve got to be pressed, probably has the best latte in town.

PostRideLatte

A thousand steps

So, this is what the next step of recovery looks like:

N and I at Bluff Point

The weekend was AWESOME. Two good bike rides, a kayak trip, sunshine without turning bright red as an antibiotic side effect – quality.

Saturday morning, #2 son and I went and crushed 18 miles of cross – down through Bluff Point, and even a little bit of singletrack along the railroad through Haley Farm. We did have to stop for coffee and conversation at Green Marble.

Monday morning, Melissa and I got out for our first ride together since June – boy, have i missed this. Not an epic ride, but a bit of our life together that’s been missing.

And today – 90 degrees (but dry!) and 1.5 miles running, and another 1.2 alternating run/walk so as to not blow out the knee. On Jamestown, and a dip in the Atlantic to cool down. Possibly too long floating on my back, feeling the sun beat down.

Life is OK, and I think I’ll be better soon.

Bonk. Or Whatever

Really? Haven’t posted since March? Well, crap. This winter really, really, really, sucked the life out of me. Let’s see, what have I done since then:

Another YAM Scram and Relay Vermont City Marathon:

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The Inaugural Mystic Half Marathon (Yep, that’s my boy, bringing home the age group hardware):

Mystic Half

A little bit of backpacking at Philmont in New Mexico:

Winter that never ends

Riding to get Ice Cream:

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Riding because I’m married to the finest woman on the planet (person on the planet, actually)

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Riding to fight homelessness:

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Drinking some beers:

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(Maybe lots of beers)

Anyway, today was the last day of the kids being at YMCA Camp Woodstock, so I did a pseudo-brick: Actually, a BSOTSD (Bike and Swim On The Same Day, if BRIC is a Bike and Run in Combination).

The swim was OUTSTANDING! We’ve been sending the kids up to YMCA Camp Woodstock in Woodstock, CT (Duh, but everyone assumes it’s Woodstock NY, so I usually mention it). The kids absolutely love it, and I’m jealous as all get out. It’s a plain, old traditional summer camp – swimming, and outside, and climbing, and stuff. Coed. I’m jealous.

Anyway, the last couple of years, on either dropoff or pickup we’ve gone on giant bike rides, or I’ve swum in the pond, or whatever.

Today? Well, can you ask for a nicer day?

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No, no you cannot.

Swim was great – 10 minutes out, 10 minutes back. Water was perfect, and this everything felt smooth.

So, got the kids home, unpacking, etc. And decided to run out for a bike.

Occasionally, there’s beach traffic backed up on IH-95 south on Mondays, so I take a back road across the RI border. For about 10 years, I’ve been thinking “Man, that’d be an awesome ride.” So, today, I rode it.

I had an epiphany earlier this week: Cold Brew Coffee as the basis of an energy drink. 1 part Cold Brew, two parts Water, a pinch of salt, and a teaspoon of sweet. Loaded it up and hit the road.

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I was right – the course was outstanding. Good long drag down CT 184 to the border for the first hour. An hour of mostly downhill and rollers to Westerly, through fields and dairys. The birds sang, the breeze blew, and the sun beat down on my ears.

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The last hour was the drag from Westerly back to Mystic, which I’ve ridden a thousand times (Maybe hyperbole, maybe not…). And, after 2 hours in the sun, only two bottles of drink, and one Kashi granola bar, I pooped out.

If you’ve never bonked before, it’s kind of interesting. Just before, you are feeling somewhat fine – maybe in the hole, maybe a little on the good side. Then, in the space of 100 pedal strokes, everything just kind of leaves you. Air stops entering your lungs, your heart stops pumping, and your legs just don’t want to work. A saddle that’s been comfortably beneath you for thousands of miles is suddenly assaulting your rump.

Anyway, this happened to me just as I came to the light at RT 1 and Flanders road. I coasted through to the shade on the west side, and sat down. SOmehow after finishing my last bottle and sitting for a couple minutes, I was able to get back on the bike and limp home.

The bonk was glorious. Which isn’t to say I’d like to do it again anytime soon, but there’s something satisfying about finding the limit, pushing past it, and realizing that there’s work to be done to move that limit further out.

29 Days of March to go

Tony and I still have much work to do.

I arrived at the office today after a 2 hour work delay to allow New England to shovel out. Winter, it seems, doesn’t really believe in the power of positive thinking and goal setting. Or at least that’s what it thinks. So, I set a determined face, and decided to double down on my quest to end this season until sometime later in 2015 when I decide it’s time to break out the skis again.

Plowing being what it is, and work being what it is (namely, a time sink into which daylight hours disappear), resigned myself to a little bit of time riding the rollers in the basement. Fortunately, the past weekend was the beginning of the Belgian spring classics season, so there were plenty of quality youtube videos from Cyclocosm and others to get me through 50 minutes of trying to simultaneously:

  • Smooth out my pedal stroke
  • Not Puke
  • Not ride off the edge of the rollers
  • Playlist can be accessed here, or watched below:

    Quality pool of sweat under the bike when I was done.

    Progress to date:
    Still 4 lbs above beginning of winter weight, 19 lbs to semi-fighting weight. Winter gains an additional 4″ of snow.

    #nostrava Saturday

    So, an idiot with aerobars hit and killed a pedestrian in Central Park this week. And, BikeSnobNYC wrote a decent proposal to de-Strava-fy for the weekend out of solidarity for the dead woman’s family.

    So, I did.

    Missy and I did our semi-regular loop this Saturday morning. It’s glorious here – started the day at about 50 degrees, up to mid 60s by the time we made it downtown for lattes. The loop’s almost perfect – a quick kicker of a climb about 5K into it, rollers for the next 15K, coffee at about 25K, and we’re home and dusted less than two hours after we leave and about 25 miles later. Half the ride has water views, most of it has very little traffic and great shoulders – you should come ride with us.

    The above is from last weekend. Missy uses a garmin and doesn’t upload to Strava, and she says we went faster this week than last week. But, honestly, that’s not why we were out there. It was a gorgeous day, we sweated a bunch, spent some quality time together, and helped accelerate the eventual heat death of the universe. Not much more a guy can ask for.

    I’ve got to point out here that I can’t blame Strava for one idiot on a bike, and I plan to go back to logging bike rides on Strava as soon as I ride again after today. Strava is kind of a net positive to my mind, a place where one can track progress and evaluate fitness trends. I’ve used it to find good rides and runs as I’ve traveled, and it’s probably kept me safer overall than if it didn’t exist.

    The bigger takeaway I’ve got, though, is that we, as individuals, put a pretty low price on other people’s lives sometimes. I’m participating in #nostrava weekend because I think we need to change that. As a driver, I’d also like to see something similar started when a motorist kills a cyclist or pedestrian, but that really takes the form of being a more conscientious driver every day, as the country averages about 100 fatalities from automobiles EVERY SINGLE DAY EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR. And a lot of those are from folks who didn’t think they were trying to set a personal speed record.

    Be good to each other out there, no matter what your mode of transport.

    Spring

    Huh. February. Where’d that go?

    Actually, it’s pretty much for the best that February is a black hole for this year. Pretty decent month running, great month spinning, but, like the old joke goes:

    Why does February not have 30 days?

    ‘Cause if it did, I’d have to kill myself.

    Not quite that bad, but, holy cow, I was ready for March to arrive.

    Anyhow, rode to work this morning. Had a meeting in Mystic, so caught a ride for me and my bike over to the meeting, and closed out the day here:

    Even better was Saturday. Solid 10K run on a leg that’s coming back from a near miss with PF, and a great spin – about 15 miles, then this:

    Then an easy 5 home. In shorts.

    Spring’s a magical time. I think that there’s a good chunk of survivor camaraderie going on – on my ride in this morning, there were at least two cases in which drivers actually yielded the right of way to me. Stunned. It’s usually pretty easy to ride around here, but this morning was especially nice.

    Lots and lots of happiness.

    Survived birthday season with the boys, and looking forward to spring. Only cloud on the horizon is that Missy and I didn’t get a relay team for the Vermont City Marathon. Can’t have everything, I suppose.

    Popped the Commute Zero

    I’d like to claim that I’m way, way, harder core than I am.

    But, simple fact of the matter is that I haven’t actually commuted to work since 8 November, and hadn’t ridden the bike outside since my snowy mountain bike epic in December.

    Bleh.

    There’s excuses – Daylight savings time, sun not rising till after 7 and setting before 430. Whatever. Like other things, everybody’s got ’em.

    Today, ran out of excuses. Temp in the morning was mid-20s, sky was light by 630, and forecast to get to the 40’s before the end of the day. Awesome. Good ride in, slow despite a winter’s dedication to spin class, but the bike worked.

    Biggest difficulty was in getting started – After over two months off, absolutely nothing was where it was supposed to be. Couldn’t find light batteries, couldn’t find gloves (and the ones I found weren’t thick enough by a long shot). Legs felt like sausages, bike felt heavy, and seemed like a consistent headwind.

    Funny thing, though – I haven’t been able to quit smiling since I got to the office, knowing that I get to ride home. Headwinds on the way to work become tailwinds on the way home. Lots of slow tough rides lead to fast legs. Moving legs like sausages makes them legs like pistons.

    Other stuff:

      If you haven’t, Mr. Cosmo Catalano has been, singlehandedly, providing the absolute best bike racing compendium weekly with The Week In Bike. Even my kids have started to look forward to this. Poor them.
      No real progress on deciding on an epic for this year. New job is exceptional, but I may be traveling for most of August, which throws a wrench (spanner) in using August for the execution of the Epic.
      In another life, I’m both a Cubmaster and an Assistant Scoutmaster. Still kind of ambivalent about the whole paramilitary structure of scouting, having spent a little bit of time working for the ghost of Hyman Rickover. But! Our troop got picked to go to Philmont in 2015. Which means that I can either grow more muscles to haul my pack at altitude, or I can finally drop the 30 lbs I’ve been meaning to for, well, ever.

    So, that’s about it. Miss the dwindling RBF.

    Not Having Anywhere in Particular to Go – Advent Day 5

    Misty day – started clear, and I sat at my desk watching a warm front blow in off of the North Atlantic, bringing with it drizzle, then mist, then quality Yankee fog. By the end of the day, New London was a glow out the window, and the foghorn at the Coast Guard station had begun to blow.

    There’s a fine tradition in the sea services that the extra money in the first paycheck that comes with a promotion gets spent on buying drinks for one’s shipmates. Usually, it’s called a “wetting down”, and it comes from the old Navy days when one used to have gold embroidered stripes around the cuff to mark rank, and used to end with the newly promoted officer in the ocean. Today, the swim is usually avoided out of courtesy to the person buying the drinks, but the trip to the pub is still pretty much a requirement.

    Anyway, we had a guy get promoted in our shop, and he was buying at a bar down on the New London waterfront. So, rather than jumping in the car, I pulled one of the spare bikes out of our building’s basement, and strolled down to the shindig.

    And the simple act of using the bike as pure transportation, unhurried and unburdened, was great.

    Beer was drunk, toasts were given, stories told, and I headed back to the office to pick up the car and head home.