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.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Okay, I'm Tired Now

A couple of days ago I did close to 25 miles by accident. Today I decided to do 25 on purpose. My route, an out and back, was not exactly well chosen, but it put me back on roads that I used to ride regularly. It was not well chosen because, while it has a few nasty little hills on the way out, the worst hills are all in the last four miles on the way home. Or maybe that means it was well chosen.  You might as well save the best for when you're tiredest, right?

I decided to push the pace some and hit a few of the early hills hard. You know, for me, I mean. Back when I used to ride this route, I had a turn around point at ten miles. I found myself coming up on that turn around point and realized that I was feeling great and was amazed at how quickly I had gotten there! Then I realized that I didn't quite remember the route accurately and that turn around point was still at least 3 miles away. What a downer.

Then I came to the town of Eureka. I love the signs in that town, because it looks like the people who live there are so happy to find everything. Eureka! City Limits....Eureka! Church!.....Eureka! School...

More hills. You have to understand that I climb hills in exactly the same way that a hippopotamus walks a tight rope.

Actually, I'm not sure what that means. It kind of sounded better in my head.

What I'm saying is that I really need to work on going uphill.  Today gave me plenty of practice.  I did not excel.

I saw two nice dogs. What made them nice was that one of them ignored me completely and the other one simply watched me ride by with a little doggy grin on its face.

I found myself at times cruising at the sort of speeds the bike club used to ride at.  I didn't stay at those speeds for a particularly long time, mind you, but I was there for a little while.

Here's how swamped in lactic acid I was at one point. I had to stop at an intersection and wait for some cars to go by. About a second after I turned the corner I glanced at my computer and saw the number 28. "Wow! Am I going 28 mph?!" One second after being at a complete stop? "Oh, maybe my top speed so far is 28 mph..." No. That was my cadence. I had, after all, just gotten moving again.  Shake your head and move on.

Oh, here's a thing not to do:

I was riding up a long hill. Near the top of the hill, the road forks. If you continue straight, you go uphill more and then quickly around a blind curve. If you go left and take the fork, you go even more sharply uphill. I wanted to go left. There was a car coming up fast behind me at 55 mph. It didn't seem like stopping in front of the car was the ideal thing to do, so I pulled off and let if pass. The only problem now was that I needed to take the fork quickly so that some car coming around the blind curve didn't have the chance to T-bone me. I had one foot clipped in. I hit the the pedal with the other foot and clipped in, and then I stood up and dig in hard to get a quick burst of speed, which was when I found out that my second foot hadn't actually clipped in. It slid off the pedal with results that were...let's say unpleasant and let it go at that. It probably wouldn't have been that bad if I hadn't immediately repeated the performance with similar results.

So, back to those last four miles I mentioned. I wallowed gracelessly up the hills for two miles. Then I get a mile of only slightly up, so I decided to hurt myself some more by picking up the pace.. The last mile has a beautiful down hill - big chain ring, dig in, then comes an unpleasant uphill and the ride is over.  I'm trying to make sure that I finish these rides strong, which is not something I am known for.

This is probably the most miles I've put on the bike in any 3 day period since I got back on it, and I managed to beat my target time for this ride.

I guess it's time to raise my goals again.


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Going Out of my Way

Today was a day of people encounters.

To the guy in the white pickup truck who thought it would be fun to lean out the window and shriek at me as the truck passed me:  Since I couldn’t actually understand anything you said, I’ve decided that it was something along the lines of:  “You are the epitome of cycling perfection.  I wish I could be just like you.”

To the person who shouted”  “WOOOOOOOOOOO!  You go!” as I rode past your house:  You actually sounded kind of sarcastic to me, but I’ll take your words at face value.  Thank you very much.

To the lady in the van who stared right at me as she pulled out in front of me and cut me off:  Since this is a family blog, I will restrict myself to saying that you are a boo-boo head and let it go at that.

To the boy sitting beside the lady in the van who was clearly pointing me out and remonstrating with the driver:  I like you.  If that was your mother, I’m sorry she’s a boo-boo head, but I won’t hold it against you.  Have a nice day.

To the three scary looking dogs I saw standing at the side of the road in the middle of nowhere watching me like I was a carry-out dinner that had been delivered to their doorstep while the ringing of distant banjos filled the air:  Thank you for simply staring at me as I rode past you and not actually chasing and devouring me.  I appreciate it.

I have been back on the bike for only a few weeks now, and circumstances kept me off of the bike for a week.  Not a good scenario.  In case you’re wondering, when you take a week off after only being back on the bike for a few weeks, you suffer.

My legs asked me what the heck I thought I was doing.  They told me that the week off had convinced them that I hadn’t really been serious about getting back on the bike and they threatened to go on strike, but, after a while, they decided to play along and pedal after all.

The sky was a mass of dark clouds, and it was definitely windy – one of those annoying winds that swirls around, changes direction, changes speeds and makes it very difficult to fall into any kind of a rhythm, and it looked like rain – but I decided to do 20 miles anyway.

Then, about 6 miles in, I hit the detour sign.  The road I wanted to go down was not only blocked by barricades, it had been torn up.  I wasn't feeling any cyclocross urges, so I turned around and tried to make up a new 20 mile route on the spur of the moment.  Good thing my computer's working again.

I had two target ride times in mind:  one which would let me shrug my shoulders and say, "Yeah, that's alright," and one which would make me say, "Woohoo!  I did it!"  As I was nearing the end of the ride I looked at the time on my computer.  Remember that time that would make me say, "That's alright"?  Well, I was 9 minutes slower than that!  Booooooo!  Then I checked my distance.  Whoops.  My 20 mile ride was actually a little over 24 miles.Wait a minute.  That means I have to recalculate my target times, and that means, "Woohoo!  I did it!"