Category Archives: Bike

23 is the new 25

(Yeah – this one takes some explaining. First, though: Dianna – five is the new three, not the new six, because I did feel that the last mile on Thursday was a little bit of a stretch. Five would have been a completely effortless effort. Six required a little bit of endurance pushing)

Ok. All Right. Now that we’ve got that out of the way – Two workouts to sum up. Saturday was yard day. Broke up some of the potholes in the driveway, slung around 60 lb bags of asphalt patch, blah, blah blah. Got a good nap in the hammock. Scratch that – got a decent nap in the hammock while Jacob played pirate in same.

Sunday morning, the boys were up, the wife was well rested, and there were two hours before we had to be out of the house for church. My soulmate and partner says “Hey, why don’t you go run?” Why not indeed?

Saturday – nice, but still a little chilly. Sunday was quite literally perfect. High 40’s/Low 50’s, sunny, little to no wind. So I decide to do the 5 mile loop from the house around to River Road. Headed uphill first – as I headed up the trail to the old school, Louis Armstrong and Ella were crooning, the sun was shining, and it hit me exactly how good life was. Cleared the top of the hill, made a little bit of a wrong turn and about a quarter mile detour, and headed down the hill towards the river. The sun was clear of the hills on the other side, and, no lie, there were robins singing.

No other real implications – more than 5 miles, about 40 minutes, give or take.

Other than the iPod, I’m taking a decidedly low-tech approach to running for a little while. Or at least until I recharge the batteries for the Forerunner. Seriously, though – I’ve been enjoying running without the continual feedback from my little GPS guided nursemaid. Maybe it’s spring, maybe it’s a complete rejection of the treadmill mentality, maybe it’s just yet another random flight.. whatever, it’s working. Last week was 21.4 miles total, which is the biggest in a while.

OK, on to the 23 being the new 25 – I’d picked up a new cassette (a SRAM PG 970 12-23) for the Cannondale (part of upgrading the old Trek to nine-speed).

It’s beautiful.

(which reminds me that I need to take and post more pictures)

Quite literally beautiful – all chrome and shiny plastic, all kind of bits cut away – even the teeth that attach to the spline are only square on the edge that transmits force to the axle – the backside is nicked off to save grams. Will grams help me out? Heck no – I’m still dealing in pounds off of my backside. In any case, I’ve been avoiding switching to the new cassette out of caution – my old cassette is a 12-25, meaning that the “granny gear”, i.e. the biggest cog in the back, has 25 teeth, and the new cassette only goes to 23 teeth – I’m losing two inches of chain leverage to make the rear wheel spin one revolution.

(this is the part where everyone but Warren, Christian, and Fixedgear say “Uh… yeah…” and start reaching for the button back to Bloglines)

Anyhoo, the last time I rode Newport, I ended up bailing out into the 25 tooth cog on a couple of the hills. This time – not so much. Not at all, in fact, and I managed to avoid the 23 tooth cog most of the ride.

All the way into the office today WGBH, the NPR station out of Boston, was pimping the Marathon and Patriot’s Day. Yep, folks in the Bay State get an extra holiday, and miss no opportunity to rub it in. I’d feel bad about it, but I spent eight years as a Federal Employee, and got more than my share of cheesy holidays. Plus, the folks up in MA do it right – a Marathon, an 11 AM Red Sox game that gets out just in time to cheer on the runners, and commemorations of revolution, democracy, and all of that stuff that the rest of us take for granted.

Me, I was into the office early to make sure I finished up some stuff for a client and to make an 8 AM meeting. Round lunchtime, I really thought about heading out for a short ride (wanted to get a day’s rest – my shins were twinging a little bit Sunday evening, likely from swinging an 8 lb sledge on Saturday), and thought “It’s just going to get windier…”

It did. Finished up in time to easily finish the 14 mile loop I’d done on the east side of the island a couple weeks back, so I headed out. And I felt good. When I got to the turn at the Middletown line, right before you get to First Beach, I checked the clock on my cell phone (no Forerunner, no computer – just legs, lungs, and 18 or so pounds of aluminum, steel, rubber, and leather) – Wow. I’d only been out for 30 minutes, and had only about 10 minutes back to the office. Hmmm. What to do?

Hey, I thought – why not loop the other side of the island and finish the day with about 26.2? It’s appropriate, right?

A brief gripe – The biggest threat to cyclists is not, as many would propose, automobiles. Nor is it, as others would counter, crappy road conditions. Automobiles are, for the most part, easily seen, observable, and even more closely tied to good pavement than cyclists. Crappy road conditions – Well, bikes were invented in the 1800s when roads were by definition, crappy, and were (on average) faster than cars until the 19-teens and ’20s. Crappy road conditions are a figment of riders’ imaginations. Or an indication that you’re riding in Northern France/Southern Belgium.

No, dear hearts, the biggest threat to riders is pedestrians. Not joggers/runners/other folks exercising. Like cars, folks out for their health are predictable, and usually worried about playing in traffic. Random pedestrians, however, are interested in shopping, snacking, talking on their cells, chatting with their companions, and only marginally aware of anything outside of a 3′ sphere. If it’s making engine noises, maybe they’ll pay attention; definitely if it’s making honking noises.

Bikes, as any dog will tell you, are completely unholy – they move silently, without any discernible means of locomotion. So pedestrians ignore them, much like people ignore anything that does not fit into their world view, such as UFOs, etc. And pedestrians are quite happy to stroll out into the middle of a street as soon as the last car in a cycle has passed, and remain there until the next batch of cars patches.

Downtown was near suicide – it’s school spring break for most schools in New England, and Newport is spectacular as the annual flowers begin to come out and temperatures moderate. It’s all right, though – commuting in Houston lead me to perfect the bike bail-out; the key is to lunge at the pole or ped you’re about to hit, grab on, and try to get your body beneath theirs to cushion their fall… Didn’t hit anyone this time, but it wasn’t for lack of opportunity. I did nicely use that stretch of road to recover from really pushing on the first part of the loop.

So I did the western side of the island. There was a pretty stiff breeze out of the southwest, but I used a little topography to my advantage. I cut through downtown and headed west on the north side of the island, past the old fort, using the island itself to create a lee. As I made the turn at the State Park at the western tip of the island to head east on Ocean Avenue, I battled the breeze up the hill, then swung left.

The Atlantic was brilliant blue on my right, and the sun and the wind caressed my back. Honest to god, I have never been so right with the cycling gods. My legs were turning circles, not mashing and pulling, breathing was regular, not panicked and painful, and there was only the slightest sound of chain clicking on teeth over rubber crunching sand. Over the rough patches of road somehow I was able to unweight not only my butt from the saddle, but also my wrists from the tape and my feet from the pedals – I swear, I was flying.

As I came back into Newport proper and rounded the corner onto Bellair/are? amongst the mansions of the Gilded Age, there was a car of Mass. tourists down for Spring Break (middleschoolers and their parents, not college) poking along, seeing the sites. I rode up behind, and was considering doing the jerk thing and whipping around them. The driver caught me in his rear-view, and started to accelerate away. I jumped, and drafted him most of the way up the road, loving every minute of maintaining what must have been better than 20 MPH, uphill.

Pulled back into the office parking lot after about 90 minutes in the saddle. Haven’t figured out mileage, but I’m pretty confident that 26 ish is a good number. There was a detour all the way out to Third Beach along roads that give the cobbles of Flanders a run for their money. The biggest difference this time was no fooling around with maps.

But WOW. What a ride. I finished strong – the last four corners featured voices screaming in my head “The American’s approaching the finish line after a long day in the saddle. The Sprinter’s teams have really put on the pressure, but Jankowski ought to be able to hold them off…” Yep, I rode it like I stole it. So nice.

The silly thing is that I’m really looking forward to getting another 20 running miles in this week, though.

One more thing…

I forgot to pimp Friday’s Foaming Rant over at VeloNews.

The wind was really gusting now, driving the light drizzle like birdshot, but I was protected from the worst of it, even on the southbound leg of my impromptu ‘cross course. I got one, two, three laps in – “This is gonna work out just right,” I smirked to myself – and then the real deal hit, blasts of sand, water and wind like something out of the Old Testament. Chastened, I beat it for home, a rooster tail of murky water from the rear wheel striping my backside like a lash.

Which is why he gets paid for this crap and I don’t.


So the end of last week turned out to be a bust (sort of). No running, no cycling – Honest to God good excuses for all days, so I’m not going to get all weepy and introspective on you, at least not today. Saturday I’m not going to be defensive about blowing off, though right now for the life of me I can’t figure out why not. Sunday I probably should have run, but (1) We made it to church, early actually, and (2) I laid down lime and grass seed. Oh, yeah – my lovely wife took Saturday as a well-deserved Mental Health day, so I got to play daddy all day.

Sunday was a milestone in my oldest boy’s life. He turned 5 about a month ago, and for over a year, I’ve been pulling f’n teeth trying to get him to ride a sweet little BMX bike we picked up for him. He’s an overly cautious child (unlike the Baby, who is likely to end up stuck in a tree by the end of the summer – kid likes to climb and can already climb the slide, though he ends up going down headfirst unless someone’s there to set him straight) – takes after his Mother, which is not necessarily a bad thing considering my track record – and the little bit of wobbliness in a bike with training wheels scared the crap out of him.

Anyhow, I coaxed him onto the bike Sunday afternoon, dropped his brother in the jogging stroller, and headed up the street hoping to make something click. And click it did – Once we made it over a little hill by our house, I saw the light that sprockets and chains can bring, and the big anklebiter stopped riding the coaster break, and started to coast. Once I had to start jogging to keep up with him, the kid turned into a sadist, realizing “Hey, I can make daddy run!”. So the next half hour was intervals – he’d sprint on the flats and downhill, and I’d catch him and help him up the next hill. He was even starting to get into trying to grind up hills to keep me running, but he hasn’t figured out the whole standing on the pedals thing. Good times. Nate (the year old) got a kick out of it, too – not sure if it was the speed while the stroller was really cooking, or if it was just picking up on his big bro’s happiness, but he was giggling manically. Hmmm, possibly I should be scared of the baby. I should go ahead and log Sunday – it was a mile and a half, which is something.

We got the boy (Jake) some new sneaks, too, but he doesn’t need much encouragement to run.

Today was running with the “real” runners at the lab. 5 miles for me in about 41 minutes (not shabby for an overweight white boy), 5.4 for them in 40. The guys are great to run with – they’ll push, but would hang back if I asked. Instead, I pace with them until we approach the half-way point, then I drop off and head back to the beginning, trying to see if I can hold them off until we get back. Not sure what kind of run it is – I spend the first half at or above LT, and the second half slightly slower than “race pace”. It’s not quite a stress/recovery cycle like true intervals, it’s not entirely LSD (Long Slow Distance). But it’s good, since I get off my rump and push.

One more on the topic of bikes

velorution caught a sensible bit from a London cyclist about how to make cycling more mainstream. It’s a great read. I’m generally a complete free marketer kind of guy, but this bit and the Morning Edition bit on London’s serious traffic tolls to enter downtown have me wondering if there isn’t more local governments could do…

I’m doubtful that much of this could work in the US – we’ve just accepted huge distances as a fact of life. Much as I’d love to bike to work, it’s not happening at my current job. But there is more I can do to include cycling in non-commuting activities.

Anyway… Here’s my take on a couple salient items:

I am asking you to Embrace the Midstream. We must convince responsible citizens –those with good manners, good grooming, and regular attendance at the polls– that cycling is a civilised mode of transport.

The importance of this can’t be overemphasized. We’ve gone to treating cycling as something that’s exceptionally hazardous, done only by athletes, and requiring huge investments in money to do “right”. It’s not. And it shouldn’t be.

Ban Lycra and DayGlo colours. Convincing people that cycling is civilised is a job that calls for natural fibres and earth tones. Lycra is comfortable, and day glo jackets minimise your chances of being mistaken for a parking space. But Lycra is, with few exceptions–and none of them in my age bracket–unflattering. And day glo colours are equally repellent. You can’t expect to be taken seriously when you’re riding around in the sartorial equivalent of a sausage casing and wailing car alarm.

There’s a couple of corollaries to this, though: First, build roads with adequate shoulders. One of the great things about Connecticut and Rhode Island roads is that most of them have literally feet outside of traffic lanes for cyclists. So it’s not quite as important to be day-glo to avoid being run over. The second is to put the visibility on the bike – cheap lights go a long way to making the cyclist visible.

Case in point – my lovely wife has resisted my pleas to get her on a bike more regularly mostly out of fear of pulling on lycra. Until she saw this skort in the LL Bean catalog. Yep, it’s got supportive lycra. But she also could see herself walking around downtown wearing it.

But as we thrive on our status as victim and underdog we unwittingly intimidate a large number of well-adjusted people who would like to enjoy the advantages of riding. Fake it if you must, but the sooner we start looking and behaving like ordinary commuters, the more we will be accepted as and then joined by ordinary commuters.

This, I think, is just a smart course of action in all areas of life.

The more people we can persuade to identify with cyclists, the more people will become cyclists. Of course there is a need for better, safer facilities, and more government-funded incentives. But we can’t underestimate the cultural obstacles and our singular ability to help others overcome them.

Amen, brothers and sisters.


Spring seems to have finally sprung…

I put off riding until this afternoon, and almost skipped since I’d promised the boy I was going to take him to story night at his school. But the sunshine and apparent lack of blazing wind through the office windows got me to blow off the last hour of work I had until tonight and strap on the old cleats. Two true confessions:

1. I left most of my cycling kit at the house, so I ended up walking over to the bike shop and buying a new water bottle and gloves. Completely against one of my resolutions which was to stop these kind of stupid impulse purchases.

2. I broke the PC cycling code and rode without a helmet. The whole time I was riding I was afraid I was going to crash and die and be an outcast from the cycling community for being an idiot. But the wind in the hair and all felt GREAT.

Stats: 14 miles, 52 minutes. Which is an improvement over Friday’s ride, but still not what I’m used to averaging. I think that part of the issue may be that I’ve switched over to using my Forerunner for tracking rides instead of the bike’s computer. The Forerunner keeps timing and averaging speed even when I’m stopped, whereas computer ride time only “counts” while the bike’s in motion.

Great ride; the legs were good, and the course was great. One minor mistake, though. Do not ever try to adjust your glasses with one hand while trying to climb out of the saddle. I ended up jerking the handlebar, having a knee buckle, and running off the asphalt. I ended up being impressed with my bike handling on mushy grass; somehow I avoided going ass over teakettle or jerking back into traffic and ending up as someone’s hood ornament, but I did end up drawing blood when my knee hit one of the zip ties strapping the computer wire to my front fork. Not to worry, though, it’s only a flesh wound.

And I did make it home in time for Story Time.

I think the heel’s better; it didn’t hurt on my way home this evening, and has turned a lovely shade of blue.

Dean Karzanes was on NPR this morning in an odd bit of syncronicity.

Night y’all.

Random Monday Bits

Weigh in: 169 this morning! First time I’ve seen the light side of 170 since 1998, I believe. Though I may have been 165 during my last attempt at marathon workups, before adding about 30 lbs during a sympathy pregnancy.

Pro Cycling: Bobby Julich won the Criterium International over the weekend. I don’t have much cogent to say, other than to point out that he won Paris-Nice this year, and is having a bang-up year after having a lot of folks say he should have quit after last year. Bobby Julich is rapidly becoming to American cycling fans this year what Tyler Hamilton was last year – the cool, indie alternative to fealty to Lance Armstrong. Plus, he rides a cool Canadian bike.

Haven’t watched the entire tape yet, but the final climb on Sunday (before the time trial – these guys are nuts; a mountain stage and a time trial on the same day) was a thing of beauty. A 4 man break featuring CSC’s Julich and Ivan Basso (a stud in his own right; remember the Pyranees last July?), Jorge Jasche; and Thomas (Don’t call me Eric – stole that from the TDF Blog) Dekker on the final climb. Each rider was at redline, each attempted several escapes, and Dekker finally was able to chase down Jasche and cross the line in first. Huge effort, tactically beautiful, great racing.

I was down on OLN after they essentially dropped cycling from their lineup after the 2004 tour. But I’ll go ahead and say that their hour and a half show every Sunday rocks. Much as I’d like live coverage of everything, Bob Roll and the Brits doing kind of a weekly “CyclingCenter” is working out pretty well. If they’d add live coverage of the Giro and the Vuelta, I’d be completely satiated.

Random Bike Bits: I started stripping the paint off of my old Trek frame this weekend. It doesn’t want to come off easily at all. Part of the problem could be the cold – I was doing it outside with the temps in the 40’s, but I think the biggest contributor is the generally fine paint job that was on the bike. But it’s exciting to watch the steel emerge from under the yellow. The biggest lesson learned, though, is that the chainstay protector should come off before you start the stripping process…

Good Friday

Great Friday, actually, after my earlier rant…

I’m doing taxes this week, so will not be commenting much. I will still be reading y’all’s stuff – it keeps me going.

Anyhoo, after griping here Friday morning, and raining on Chris’ parade, I got off my butt and decided to talke a long lunch Friday, said “Snot be darned”, and hied hither to the pool. 1700 meters, felt great.

Then, I drove over to the Copp Family Property town park, parked the car, and hopped on the bike. 14 miles @ 15 MPH average, 56 minutes. THEN I strapped on the sneakers and ran a quick three miles. OK, ran a quick first mile, then slogged through two more.

I dunno, I guess spring was in the air…

The swim was great. I have no idea what my swimming pace is. As far as how have I been working on form – I’ve been using two guiding principles: First, if you look at critters that swim, usually they do it without making much of a rucus at the air-water interface. I suppose there’s some stealth involved, but my biggest guess is that splashing is pretty darn inefficient. Some energy that could go to pushing a body through water must go to making sound and displacing water vigorously enough to break surface tension and arc the water through the air. The second is that the motion needs to feel, well, fluid. I’ve scanned a couple books on swimming, and those two principles seem to bear out.

The bike ride: 15 MPH – Honestly, I’m a little disappointed. I thought I could push out at least a 16 MPH ride. BUT, I was holding back a bit since I wanted to at least run a little bit, and I intentionally hit a couple of pretty long climbs. For a first real ride of the season, I’m not entirely upset.

The run was much better than I’d expected after swimming and cycling. Other than your core, the three sports do work drastically different muscle groups. First mile was in the 7:30 range, second in the 8:30, and last in the 9:30 range, so I was clearly fading fast.

Saturday and Sunday were both yard work and family days. I’d been late at the office a couple of nights last week, so rather than carving time for working out, the boys and I spent a bunch of time in the yard, on the swingset, laying down lime and fertilizer, and clearing brush.

Sound of Silence

Thanks for all the great wishes for the boy’s birthday, and good words on training. Bouncing back seems to be kind of a trend; all well and good, but it’d be nicer to to just keep meeting goals.

Deciding to take a mulligan for this week was good for the psyche. Probably should have scheduled last week as a recovery week in any case; kind of funny how things work out that way. Next week is going to be busy, but I think I’ve got most things worked out.

My Cannondale, my 19 lbs of aluminum and carbon sweetness, got put back together on Friday. All degreased, all re-greased (very, very thin), new tubes and a new tire on my backup wheels, and the primary set of wheels at the bike shop for a little bit of truing. I’m comfortable working on pretty much anything on the bike (the secret is good grease, and not much of it) except for the spokes. I ran into my pastor while dropping them off – he’s in great shape, though, and his riding brings him closer to God in pretty much opposite the way that mine does. Though at the end of this season, hopefully I’ll be feeling God’s presence on the bike in the good way. Shaping the temple and all that.

Saturday was, quite possibly, the best day I’ve had in a long while. Woke up, just plain woke up not tired, not due to an alarm, not due to a screaming kid, not due to my wife kicking me since I was snoring, but just plain woke up at 6 AM. Kind of pinched myself. Luckily, I’d stashed my cycling gear in the kitchen the night before. Tiptoed out, dressed, carried the bike down the back stairs, and clipped in.

Darn it was cold.

And I’d forgotten my hat.

Screw it, I’m out for a while anyway.

Headed down the hill towards River Road. Darn, it’s cold. And now I can’t feel my ears. Hmm. Scratch the easy/fast ride along Route 1.

So, I climbed. Turned around and headed up the hill down which I’d came. Climbed up to the top, realized I could feel my cheeks and ears again, then gritted my teeth heading downhill. Turned around as soon as the ground leveled out and started up a different hill. Kept it up for an hour (computer magnet’s on the spokes of the wheels in the shop).

Man, I love the bike.

The sound of silence came in about halfway up the second hill – I clicked into a bigger cog, and suddenly realized that it was the first sound I’d heard from the bike in about a mile. Was a moment of serenity, as all the time and skinned knuckles of the last week or so paid off in a finely tuned machine.