Friday, November 1, 2013

You Did What?!

This has been a bad week for riding.

Or I’ve been slack.

One or the other, but I’m going with the first one.

Today I got home late but was still determined to squeeze in a ride.  With the sun ominously low in the sky, I set out for a twelve mile ride, that being all I had time for.  Since the ride was so short, I decided I was going to go as hard as I could and just rip the route up.

It only took about a third of a mile for my legs and the wind together to tell me that, while I should still feel free to go as hard as I could, I wouldn’t be ripping anything up, except possibly my legs and maybe my self esteem.

Still, it’s a ride, right?

Now I had a choice to make.  I could ride the route clockwise, in which case I would get the worst of the wind at the beginning and the end, or I could ride it counterclockwise and get the worst of the wind in the middle of the ride.  (I think that’s all backwards for our friends in the other hemisphere.)
I would have liked the second option if it wasn’t for the fact that it would have put me on the busiest road for the longest time during the worst traffic.

Let’s see…setting off into the wind or dramatically increasing my chances of getting splatted by a car…wind it is.

Four miles of headwind, right turn, unpleasant crosswind for a bit and then here comes the right turn that will put the wind at my back.  Ahead of me is a car waiting to turn left onto the same road I want to turn right onto.  There is no other traffic, so why is that car simply sitting in the road waiting to turn instead of  actually turning?

Is the driver waiting for the guy on the bike?

Sort of. 

In fact, she waited a good thirty seconds, until I was almost in the turn, and then she turned right across my path.  Oh, boy.  I turn after her, and she takes off down the road.  I watch the car grow smaller and smaller and then bigger and bigger as she slows down. 

What the heck?

(There is no need to cue the music from Jaws here.)

With a very nice wind behind me, I catch up with her.  She is doing 21 point something or other mph, and, as I am closing in on her, cars are coming up behind me and passing me and then passing her, and then there I am, drafting off of this car.

I don’t want to be drafting off of this car.  First of all, drafting off of a stranger is…how shall we put it…fundamentally unwise.  Second of all, I’m interested in riding hard and getting stronger, and drafting isn’t going to get me there.

Then, in unique experience for me, I feel like I can pass this car and leave her behind.  Perhaps putting myself in front of this particular driver isn’t the wisest move in the world, either, but I do it.  As I am passing her, I notice that, despite her slow speed, she isn’t looking for anything.  In fact, she has her face resolutely and apparently immovably pointed straight ahead.

I think to myself, “You’re driving a car and you just got passed by a guy on a bicycle!  And not only a guy on a bicycle, but by me.  Is this one of the signs of the apocalypse?”

I hit 25 mph (tailwind!) and I’m off.  I never see my friend in the car again.  I get nearly two blessed miles of that tailwind, and then it’s another right turn and the going gets harder and another right turn and I’m into the headwind again for another few miles, but I’m still going as hard as I can, which is not quite the same effort as it was at the beginning of the ride, I can tell you.

Pretty soon I’m back home, and, as it turns out, I have clocked my highest average speed for a ride since I got back on the bike.  Now, I now guys who could surely trim as much as five or even ten minutes off my time, but I’m happy with it.  It’s one more sign of improving fitness.


Monday, October 28, 2013

We Don't Need No Stinking Dogs...

I didn't get to go no the Slo'Bros ride, which means that, next week, when the three of us are riding,
I'll hear about the 57 people who attended this week.

Still, I had a great route planned out for a ride today…

Well, I had most of a great route planned out for a ride…

Okay, so I had a piece of a route planned out and I figured I’d wing it after that, which probably explains why I ended up getting lost.

I would like to say that, despite what Don Bluth would have you think, I do not believe that all dogs go to heaven.  Some of the dogs I encountered on this ride are surely bound for somewhere else.

So the goal today was 30 miles.  I figured I would ride to a certain point and measure the distance.  That turned out to be ten miles, so I would do a 10 mile loop, return to that point and ride the ten miles back home.  Easy.  Until I got lost.

The beauty of this route is that it would avoid a particularly hilly seven mile stretch of road near my house and would have me riding in a part of the county where I haven’t ridden for quite a while.

Did I mention that I got lost?

There was a distinct paucity of street signs on the roads I was riding, so I was operating by dead reckoning, and I must have reckoned wrong.  Eventually I sort of figured out where I was, but by then I was clearly way off course, and there was no way I was going to get back home the way I came.  The best I could do was to point myself toward where I thought home was and hope.

This crazy notion ended up with me riding along a highway for a mile or so before I could turn off it, and then guess where I finally ended up……on that hilly road I had been trying to avoid.  Oh, and forget the seven mile stretch, I ended up all the way at the end of the road, which meant I had 10 miles of it to ride, right into the teeth of the wind.

You know, until that point, I was really riding strong.  I felt as good as I have ever felt on the bike and was just flying, no matter which way the road turned.  Then somebody flipped a switch and I just ran out of gas.  Those last ten miles were a grind, up and down, but mostly up, and then my legs simply ran out of up.  I would have been okay on the flat if there had been any, and I could always be lazy and simply coast downhill, but I just out of up.  Unfortunately the road wasn’t.

How windy was it?  I coasted downhill and actually lost speed.  I call that a headwind.

Also, there were dogs.  I think I encountered every unleashed, bicycle hating, spittle drooling, super sprinting dog in the county.  It got to the point where I was just so disgusted by them that I was yelling at the universe about it.

The best was an Australian shepherd who just wanted to race me.  He stayed on the grass and stopped at his property line.  The worst was a Rottweiler who suddenly burst out of the grass next to me growling deep in his chest and came into the road after me.  There was a little hill ahead of me, and as I gave a kick to get up it, my calf cramped up, but I had to keep pedaling anyway.   Having a slavering Rottweiler on your back wheel will give you a surprising amount of motivation, but this part of the ride was not as much fun as some other parts.

Still, I ended up with 33 miles, my longest ride recently, and, despite the last ten miles, I ended up with a decent pace.  Who knows, there may be some actual fitness in my future.

Friday, October 25, 2013

First Chilly Ride of the Season

In the book The Beasts of Tarzan, (stay with me...I'm going to get to cycling here)  our hero is able, by the force of his will, to control the savage apes of the tribe of Akut and Sheeta the panther and to prevent them from unleashing their bestial fury on the good people around him.  I mention this, because I have experienced the modern day equivalent of this.

Riding uphill and into a  headwind (I know, it sounds like I’m always riding uphill and into a headwind…funny how that works) I spotted a lady who had pulled into her driveway and stopped to check her mail.  Her two dogs were streaking across the yard toward me, the hapless cyclist, clearly aiming for the point where their paths would intersect mine.  At that moment this woman, a jewel among women, stopped both of those dogs dead in their tracks with a single word.  (That word, in case you’re wondering, was Stop.)  Both dogs froze and simply watched in helpless frustration as I sailed on by.  Lucky me.

It was cold. 

Well, it was 59.  That sure seems cold, especially when you get moving in the bike and add in some wind.  I had forgotten how hard it is to ride when you start adding on the cold weather gear.  This time it was winter socks, light weight tights (if it’s okay for Batman, I guess it’s okay for me), underarmour (which is not as useful for a superhero as it sounds from the name) and my good old winter Walz cap with the earflaps.  

(I was once told, by someone who had never seen a German school boy, that the cap made me look like one.  This was later refuted by someone who had not only seen plenty of German school  boys but had, in fact, been a German school boy.  I guess you can’t get more authoritative than that.)

The route was pretty much square (a lot like me, really), and the wind was a major factor.  The northward leg was terrible.  The eastward leg was worse.  Then I turned south and starting thinking, “Hey, this isn’t so bad”, and when I turned west, I was flying.  At least the wind remained steady and didn’t flip flop on me.  Don’t you love it when you start out going into the wind and wind switches direction so you also end up going into the wind?

When it's cold out, it's hard to get on the bike and ride, even though I know that, once I get going, I'll warm up and it will be fine (assuming that I remember to bring my full fingered gloves and that I can remember to get to the store and buy some new Toasty Toes.)  (Yes, Toasty Toes.  Don't blame me.  I didn't come up with the name.)

Now, presented as a time saving service, what follows now is the short version of this post for those of you who didn't have time to read the long version:

...It was cold.  I rode.  I didn't get attacked by dogs...

Hmm.  It occurs to me that putting the time saving version at the end of the long version was not the best possible arrangement.

Oh, well.  Too late now.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Slo-Bros Ride Again...Sort Of

I'm beginning to suspect that the Slo'Bros are fibbing to me. It's like the whole Clark Kent - Superman thing - you never see them together. I'm begining to think that Clark Kent might actually be superman. I know that sounds crazy, but it just might be true. Well, when I go on a Slo-Bros ride, there are usually only three of us, except yesterday when there were only two of us. But I always hear about the last ride, the one I wasn't on, when there were whole bunches of people...Dave and Bobby and Karen and Spanky and Alfalfa and Darla...

So we had a small Slo-'ros ride (two people - not exactly a group ride), and we rode what used to be one of the standard club routes. It was a lot of fun to be back on those roads, though, I have to admit, I had forgotten all the little hills and false flats that were on the particular route we rode.

We encountered three of the most lackadaisical dogs I have ever seen. Oh, they chased us, but their hearts really weren't in it. We really didn't even have to speed up to get away from them, and, since we were just loafing along at a Slo'Bros pace, that tells you something. (Note to the universe: this is not a complaint, and it is not necessary to send slavering packs of rapidly running dogs after me on any future ride in order to make up for this.)

In typical cycling fashion we talked about:*

      the riders who weren't on the ride

      the wind

      the hills

      various body parts


      previous rides
     the meaning of life from the perspective of the theology of Thomas Aquinas as contrasted with
     epistemological nihilism.

*This list may not, strictly speaking, be entirely accurate in all respects

 Do you know what that is a picture of?  Two brown chamois.

I posted this picture because, as we were riding, a car came up behind us and laid on its horn and scared us.  This picture seemed an appropriate way to express our feelings.

We did violate the official Slo'Bros charter at the end of the ride by charging side by side up a notorious hill at the end of the ride, which was a lot of fun but rather painful.  We could never have gotten away with that if there had been any other Slo'Bros on the ride, and we wouldn't have tried.

In the end it was a great ride, and it got me over 70 miles for the week, which is my new highest total since I got back on the bike.

Progress, progress, progress.



Friday, October 18, 2013


Today we answer questions from noncyclists.  None of these questions were actually sent to the blog, but they are questions that I have been asked during my numerous personal appearances.  (I appear at my home, at the place I work, that sort of thing.)

What do you do when you’re out riding and it starts to rain?

How do you answer this question without sounding sarcastic?  You get wet.  I always want to ask people who ask me this question what other answer they think is possible.  Okay, during a really big storm I know some people who hid in a handy shed in a stranger’s yard or under a carport.  That does happen, but mostly you just get wet.  It would be interesting to speculate on what the owner of the shed or carport thinks if they happen to look out the window and see a bunch of wild cyclists hiding under their roof, but that one hasn’t come up yet.

Do you have to wear those clothes?

No.  So far as I know, there is no law requiring cycling clothes.  After seeing me in them, some people might want to pass a law against cyclng clothes, but that’s a different story entirely.  My first group rides I wore plain old shorts and a T-shirt.  I gradually moved up to a cycling jersey.  It took a lot longer to move up to cycling shorts, and I kind went back to a long T-shirt for a while to hide the shorts, but the kit is just too comfortable to pass up, and eventually you get used to it.  Some of the passersby may never get used to it, but you will.

What’s the longest you’ve ever ridden?

We’ll assume this means “in one day” and the answer is 200 miles.  Yes, I know that’s completely ridiculous.  I didn’t finish the ride strong, and I had a nice guy pacing me the last several miles to get me to the finish, and I didn’t really want to sit down for a few days after that, also, I didn’t want to taste anything sweet for about a month, but I did finish.

200 miles?  Are you crazy?

Yes.   It’s really the only explanation.

How much did your bike cost?

Now, in fact, I was at the bike shop watching my bike get tuned up one day, when a guy came in with his bike.  It was simply a bike, very old, rusted, beat up, but functional.  He took a look at my bike and asked how much it cost.  The mechanic looked at the guy’s bike and then lied and said “$200.00.”  The guy looked quite smug and told us that he’d only paid $20.00 for his.  He clearly thought I was a sucker for paying so much for a bike, and that he had gotten a great deal, and maybe he had.

So, why did you lie to him about the price?

Because, let’s face it, even a bottom end road bike is fairly pricey, and you get tired to people looking at you like you’re a moron for spending so much of your hard earned cash on a bicycle when you could go to the local “if they don’t sell it you don’t need it” megamart and a buy cheap bike there.  It’s just like musicians and their instruments.  You’d paid how much for that violin?  (Or accordion or bagpipes or didgeridoo or whatever you happen to play.)   To some people it’s worth it and to some it’s not.  You know who you are.

Not that this is a question, but I always figured that, rather than looking at the cost of your bike, figure out how much it cost you per mile.  That’s pretty steep in the beginning, but, if you ride enough you get it down to pennies.

So, what do you think about Lance Armstrong?

Again?  Really?  Okay, so I realize that Lance is probably the only professional cyclist that a lot of Americans have ever heard of, but there are one or two others out there.  Even If you want to limit yourself to American cyclists, let’s talk about Chris Horner or Tyler Farrar or Greg LeMond or let’s branch out into the rest of the world and talk about Jens Voigt or Andy Schleck.  Wait, I have an idea!  Let me tell you about this guy named Eddy Merckx…

But you didn’t answer the Lance Armstrong question.

Oh, enough about Lance.  Don’t you know anything else about pro cycling?

I know they all take drugs.

They do not all take drugs.

Of course they do.

Tell you what – go read Racing Through the Dark by David Millar and then we’ll talk.  Now, do you have any questions that don’t involve doping.

Do they still run that Tour de France thing?

What?  Of course they do.  Why would you ask that?

Well, since Lance Armstrong isn’t racing anymore—

Okay.  Do you have any questions that don’t involve doping or Lance Armstrong?


Great.  That’s all for today, folks.  See you next time.