Wednesday, December 31, 2008

YEAR END

I can post my December mileage today because I won't be riding. My cycling year ended yesterday. I left home in tights, arm-warmers, and wind vest with the temperature quickly rising from 30 degrees when I woke up to 50 degrees when I started. I dropped the arm-warmers after 20 minutes and stopped for a short rest and divest myself of the tights, and vest. My Camelbak HAWG easily held these. I knew I was in trouble at the halfway mark, 31 miles, when I started wishing for a SAG wagon. Unfortunately, this 62 mile ride was out-and-back. With the sun out and temperature rising, the wind also increased, mainly in my face. Keep in mind I am in the middle of nowhere. So far, I saw two cyclists and four cars (after getting out of town). I adjusted my route to shave off four miles, and cut back to "survival pedaling." Actually, I didn't have a lot of push all day, so spinning in easy gears wasn't much of a change. I ended up at 58 miles in just over 4 saddle hours. I was sunburned, wind swept, and energy depleted. Today, with a cold north wind forecast, will be a recovery day, with stretching and abdominal work. Tomorrow at 10am is the annual Jingle Bell Ride and I need to be ready to start the year well. I ended December with 173.5 miles outside riding.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

CYCLING GIFTS


What do you get for the cyclist who has "everything?" Of course, for you I recommend purchasing my book, but what do I receive? I really didn't have the gifts under my Christmoose tree, but positioned them for show & tell. You can never have too many socks, but in case you can't see the details, the green ones have Santa Clause riding a penny farthing. So, now I have appropriate socks for Christmas. The really cool blue things are shoe covers to help me go faster when I time trial. Hopefully, they will also inspire me to train harder so as to justify wearing them. I am debating whether or not to go whole hog and get a skin suit and aero helmet. Since I'm not really fast, this seems extravagant.

GETTING PUZZLED


If you have read my book, you know that we spend a week or so in Suches, Georgia. From the cabin, I can cycle the Georgia mountains, including Brasstown Bald, in the morning or before the kids and grandkids arrive. Last year we had some adventures hiking the Appalachian Trail. This year for Christmas my son gifted us with a custom-made topo map, with our cabin as the center. I say "us" but usually I shout encouragement to Marilane from my recliner as I do anything other than work a puzzle. Anyhow, after everyone left, about 8pm, we cleaned up the kitchen a bit, then Marilane sat down to work on the puzzle, 400 pieces and no picture to give clues. A while later (probably two hours, maybe less), I wandered over to offer congratulations on completing the frame and saw some familiar names on the pieces, so sat down to put a few together. I lost track of time becoming engrossed in putting pieces together. Perhaps all those tiny squiggly red lines showing altitude mesmerized me. About 3am we called it quits. But at 6:15am I was awake and shortly thereafter so was Marilane, and we were back at it. Taking short breaks for breakfast and lunch, we completed the puzzle at 1:20pm.
Why is this story in my cycling blog? My lower back is soooooo stiff from sitting, standing, leaning that I can barely move, let alone contemplate riding. At least my knees stopped hurting.
Actually, this is all part of the plan. Not the knees and back part, but something always happens during the holidays, so I schedule no riding for the month of December. If I manage to get a ride in, so much the better, but not riding cause no stress (like it does in February and March) because that is what I am supposed to do (not ride).

Sunday, December 21, 2008

SCALING BACK


If you go to Ben's Dec 5 post, you will see a picture of feet on a scale. Also similar is the weight, and our goal weight is the same. Likewise, the reason for shedding 10 pounds is the same: racing a bicycle as fast as we can. The difference is length and speed. Since I have over 20 years on him and riding against guys in my 5-year age group (65-69), I don't have to be as fast, and the longest race is 40km and the time-trials are only 5km and 10km. So, keep up with the two of us as 2009 progresses. Another difference: Ben says he started weight management in early December, I won't even try until January 1. My first race is mid-March.

FORGETFUL PLUS LAZY EQUALS PAIN

We had a cycling window of opportunity and seventeen of us started out on a 27 mile ride. A few wanted the 41 mile option, but relented. Even before starting, I cut that even shorter because I didn't want to take a long break at the halfway mark. With just a few pedal strokes, I realized something was different. I had shimmed my Sidis so I could be comfortable on my tt bike, but had forgotten to raise the seat on my road bike. My first thought was, it is a short ride, I'll attend to it when I get home. So I cycled with the group and stood more often to make sure the hamstrings were stretched properly. Eight miles into the ride I cut off from the group and finished out at 20 miles. Btw, not much wind, overcast (I had changed lenses to pink), and I thoroughly enjoyed pedaling noiselessly through the countryside, having only three cars pass me. With about 5 miles to go my knees started talking to me. I had forgotten about them! Three Advil immediately upon arriving at home, but here it is the next day and they still don't like me. Lesson learned: No bike ride is too short not to fix your seat height immediately. I carry the tools in my saddle pack and even taking my time, I estimate three minutes to make the correction. Of course, now I have an excuse to not ride today, and since the temperature is dropping quickly from 65 to 45 and will go to 30 before it stops, and the wind is bitterly cold, I am not putting a lot of effort to get out.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

MAYBE THIS SHIMMY WILL WORK

Because I am a fair weather rider, plus this being the Christmas Season, I haven't been outside on the bike these past few days. I rode on my trainer in the kitchen, just puttering around until January and serious training. One of the things I did was put shims back on my shoes. I switched to Speedplay (skipping the long, sad story about my Campys) pedals and got confused in installation because Speedplay has a unique bolt head. I have two shims (because I fudged a centimeter on my tt bike) before getting to the Speedplay attaching cleat. Anyhow, I think I have everything properly engineered and had hoped to get out today to test them, but will wait until tomorrow and the fog and wet will have moved east.
I haven't changed anything but the pedals on my Roark since 2001. But my friend Ben really likes his Transition (click on over to his blog Dec 7 post). He buys top-of-the-line bikes and components, but I never get any of his hand-me-downs. I lost count of the number of bikes he has purchased since we rode across the USA in 2001. Of course, he is much faster than I (and a lot younger, but we don't mention that) and has more competition he has to keep up with. This paragraph may seem (or be) rambling, but, like JK Rowling, these topics will show up in later posts.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

MEETING GOALS

I'm back from a non-cycling vacation and putting in a quick word, since there has been a post inquiring about if I met my mileage goal (see previous post). Sadly, the answer is "no." In retrospect, I believe there was no reasonable way to get there this time. My calendar of events kept getting in the way. It's not like I wasn't riding. For instance, the Katy Trail on a mountain bike was a daily ride of 40-60 miles for a week and a good work-out, but no long rides. Same with riding in the Alps: seventeen miles up a mountain (and back) is only thirty-four miles, but really strenuous. But the goal will not change for next year, because I firmly believe I need that much riding to improve my racing/time trialing. I'll also work in some additional technique training. And, since I know what vacations do to my schedule, I can plan better. Better planning, and keeping to your plan, works in any goal-setting, not just cycling. We learned that in Management 101: Review plans and pick the best one; implement the activities necessary; review if you are on-course and don't be afraid to change if you aren't. Anyhow, I have my spreadsheet set up and will post the cycling monthly. Already in December, I am six days with zero miles. For those interested, we were cruising from Vienna to Nurnburg. I hope to complete that write-up in my magazine blog (budgettravel.com then click on mybudget travel)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

BIKE MIRRORS

I detest helmet mirrors. Several friends swear by them, and since they always seem to know when cars are approaching, I guess they work well for them and I appreciate it. I tried several and didn't like it at all. Perhaps having the mirror on the left eye and me being right eye dominant might have something to do with it. I have been using the Rhode Gear mirror that attaches to the hood with a velcro strap. That worked fairly well, but in truth, they seem to break a lot. I have four broken mirrors, that is, mirrors that have become detached from the rest of the assembly. They install in seconds, that's good. My friend Cecil has had some Italian bar end jobs that look cool and he says they work great. So, after the last broken mirror, I went on-line to research a bit. I found SpinTech mirrors, ordered and installed them and took my first ride yesterday. They exceeded expectations with zero movement and since there is one on each side, great visibility. They adjusted easily. The downsides so far: I keep looking at my left hood instead of the bar end, and I pushed the right one out of kilter with my knee when I stopped at a light, not noticing until somewhat later. 1000% better than the Rhode Gear (OK, maybe only three times better). For the record, I went a week without a mirror and managed to strain my neck/back while looking over my shoulder. When I was young, I let drivers worry about not hitting me. It is now a different age and attitude, so I take as many preventive measures as possible.

Monday, November 17, 2008

STANDING TO PEDAL

Several times recently, friends have come to a steep hill that required standing to keep momentum and when they did, their quads cramped. There are different reasons for this happening, one of which is the muscles are stiff from under-utilization. The counteraction I use on long rides is standing to pedal at least every fifteen minutes. Therefore at some inclines, where the group is spinning up seated, I will drop a couple of gears and stand for maybe thirty seconds or five sets of eight or whatever. This way, I am keeping the muscles loose and not calling on them to push hard, just stay flexible. Standing also helps the back, not to mention giving the other muscles a short break. If you aren't doing this now, give it a try, then drop me a line.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

ERRAND RUNNING BY BICYCLE

My friend, Grace, at Seniorbicycling.blogspot.com just posted an article about all of the short trips Americans take in their cars and how much we could save in gas, plus become more fit, if we walked or cycled. I commented that I don't use my bike to run errands. But her article got me thinking about the possibility. Result: I still won't. Rather than formulate coherent sentences, I'll just throw out a list as things cross my mind.
  1. I don't live 1.5 miles from anyplace I trade. The closest is three miles.
  2. I don't have a commuter bike, I have a custom titanium with high end components.
  3. Theft is a worry. There are locks for the bike, but the seat and pedals are vunerable; vandalism is a higher worry (big boot into the wheel, bent derailleur).
  4. How to carry whatever I purchase.
  5. I certainly don't need the exercise.
  6. Wearing lycra to shop or conduct business is not me. I see lots of oddly dressed folks, but I don't want to be one of them.
  7. Traffic diversity: some streets are safe, some are death traps for the unwary cyclist.
  8. Weather. Even at commuter speed, cycling in 90 degrees for even ten minutes can make a person socially unwelcome.
  9. What to do with helmet and gloves.
  10. BTW, time is not an issue.

Since I ride 2-700 miles a week, perhaps I can sell my emissions offsets....

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

CAFFEINE VS BEER

I just read the article on Velonews about the Australian study that post-ride caffeine can help speed muscle recovery. They say more study is necessary. It won't be meaningful to me until they do a side-by-side comparison to beer. I can drink more beer post-ride than coffee, plus it will let me take a nap afterward. Golly, it was 30+ years ago that, as a disciple of Dr. George Sheehan, I believed what he wrote about beer being a good carbohydrate-replacement drink and experimented with running 4 three-mile loops and consuming a beer after each loop. To tell the truth, that didn't go too well, but the Aussies will need some powerful statistics to get me to switch.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

PATIENCE AND UNDERSTANDING ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA

Apparently, I have not descended from my soapbox. However it sounds, do not consider the following a complaint. It is more of an observation. Yesterday I participated in a 100km charity ride, The Wurst Ride. It gets the name from the beer and bratwurst reward at the end. The charity is the Bob Woodruff Foundation, helping those with serious brain trauma. Generally I avoid charity rides, because I find them dangerous (the object of this post). But, the group I belong to, Austin Flyers, wanted to support this charity and it was not a time to let personal likes or dislikes get in the way. By their nature, charity rides bring out a lot of folks who want to do something to support the charity, and the skill level runs the experience gamut. Don't get me wrong, the Wurst Ride is well run and rates an A and the odds are that I will do it next year. But next year I won't get caught near the back when the ride begins. You would think that if you are fit enough to ride 100km, you could handle your bike reasonably well. For the first five miles folks were wobbling all over the road, thank goodness for two lanes of highway being open for us. If they started the ride at 8mph, Lord knows how long it would take to finish. Why they thought they were the only riders on the road, instead of one in a thousand, is beyond me. There were some walking their bikes up short hills that I didn't even get out of my big ring for. In spite of the harsh words, because I knew what would happen, I have no ill feelings toward the slow wobblers. At least they were out riding on a spectacular, beautiful day. But, you need to be aware and bring your patience and until the groups string out into where everyone is riding with the same experience level, be on high alert for the unexpected. And by all means, continue to support deserving charities.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

"IN SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH..."

I am back on my soapbox and really don't know what set me off. Hang with me through the negatives: Not being sick does NOT mean you are healthy! Even the marriage vows imply an "either-or" situation, but really health is more of a continuum with sick being on one end, non-sick in the middle, and really good health on the other end (if I wanted to be precise, death would be on one end, and various degrees of ill-health moving up, but see no reason to be morbid just to make a point). So many people are content to be non-sick and never move up to being healthy. One reason is you have to work at it. When I was younger and working, I would get the question "Why do you exercise (run) so much? It won't make you live longer." (Generally these were 1-pack-a-day smokers and six-pack beer guzzling couch potatoes) I never debated "live longer" because that is so "iffy" but I was on firm ground pointing out that my quality of life would be better, longer. In retirement, my exposure to the general populace is less, and most of my acquaintances have my lifestyle. Anyhow, I felt great when running marathons, feel great now riding 60-80 miles or short races and time trials. I like how it feels being on the high end of the healthy continuum and urge all I can to opt for being healthy rather than being contentedly non-sick.

Monday, November 3, 2008

CHAPPED LIPS

How chapped do your lips have to get when the weather turns chilly before you remember to put the container in your car (or saddle pack)? Several years ago I switched to a shea butter lip balm to get away from lanolin. Years ago when I ran, I had no problem with Vasoline, and still use it as a back up. However, this summer I forgot to remove the stick from the car, and in the Texas heat, it melted and ran all over the console. Therefore, the replacement remained in the house. Lip protection is the last thing I put on, right after taking a good gulp of liquid. Hence, if it is in the car, it is available whether I leave from the house or drive to the start. But after a ride, my mind is empty, oxygen depleted, running on memory, and wanting only to recuperate in the house, so putting it from the bathroom to the car takes something additional. The first bout of dry lips was the additional memory device I needed this year. I'm getting better, it took several cases a few years ago, deep into January, before it nestled close at hand in the driver-side door. I know, if I had kept with the Vasoline in a tube, none of this might have happened. Sorry, I like the shea butter.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

CANCER CANCELS VOTE


My friend, Judy, has been battling cancer. Judy was my first "focus group," the first person to read my manuscript. She was the one who suggested adding Definitions, because she didn't ride a bike and was unfamiliar with many of the terms. However, I couldn't really trust her to say anything negative about the book, she was so enthusiastic about the whole thing. Anyhow, Judy couldn't bring herself to like any of the presidential candidates, so declared she would write me in. She had also mentioned the yard signs in her neighborhood. Several days later she had a sign of her own. Unfortunately, she passed away before she could vote. Judy, we'll miss you.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

ADJUSTING TO THE WEATHER

Somewhat as a follow-up to my previous post, the weather yesterday started at 40 degrees at 6am and had moved to 41 degrees at 8:45am. My first inclination was to set up the trainer in the kitchen, but the wind was calm and the sun was out. Certainly it had to warm up soon. Anyhow, I put on my shorts and tights, a long-sleeve cotton shirt under my bike jersey, and slightly heavier socks. By 9:15 I walked outside to mount up. It felt much warmer than 41 so I checked and sure enough the temperature had risen to 48. Okay, I knew I had over-dressed, so went back in and removed the long sleeve shirt, switched to a wind vest over the jersey because I wanted two layers on my chest and arm warmers, kept the tights on. The 30 mile ride had no real challenges and turned out to be quite pleasant. After 30 minutes I lowered the arm warmers, but the wind had come up so the vest stayed in place, as did the tights. It didn't get warm until a few miles from home, so I saw no reason to stop to remove anything. The temperature when I got home was 58 degrees. Once again I guessed correctly on what to wear. Of course, like any layering action, had the temperature risen more rapidly, the outer clothing could have come off earlier.
The second point about colder weather is hydration. Yes, you cut back on how much you drink, but you still need to stay hydrated. For instance, in normal summer heat (under 90 degrees) I drink two 24 ounce bottles on this ride; in hot,humid heat I switch to a Camelbak with about 70 ounces; but in the cool, dry weather like yesterday, I only consumed 30-32 ounces. My time was also about ten minutes quicker than normal, so that might account for a few ounces less. My point is: take the same amount of liquid with you on your rides until you find out how much less you really need. It may surprise you that it is only a few ounces.

Monday, October 20, 2008

HOW MANY CYCLISTS DOES IT TAKE TO CHANGE A TUBE?

I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but a picture wouldn't work. About a dozen of us (60%-40% male to female) were riding yesterday. The least experienced (female) rider in the group managed to let a small nail get through the tire and flatted and we all stopped. Immediately, a gallant male removed the back wheel (and I gallantly held the bike) and stripped the tire and tube off. Another male searched the tire for the hole, found it and determined a boot was not necessary. First male put the new tube on the wheel, then reached for the tire. I mentioned I had never seen this procedure before, but he continued until realizing you really can't do it this way (group laughter, red face). Second male then took the tire and tube, put the tube inside the tire and proceeded to install on the wheel. For the record, I always put one side of the tire on the rim, insert the tube, then the other side. Anyhow, that done, second male scorned the compressed air offered, and attached his frame pump and inflated the tube. Working assiduously on the pump, he hadn't noticed that the tire had not seated properly until almost finished. Glancing up, he uttered an expletive and let all the air out before the tube exploded (group laughter, red face). Tire properly seated, he again inflated the tube to a sufficient level. Triumphantly, he released the pump and removed it with a flourish. Unfortunately, it wasn't a clean jerk and he managed to also remove the valve stem with the pump (astonished group exclamation, laughter, really red face). One of the ladies had another spare tube and got it, took the wheel, took the tire, installed everything back on the wheel. Owner of the wheel then approached the wheel with her compressed air. Just before releasing it, one of the other males yelped and asked if she had done this before (because about eight cyclists had their hands over their ears). Short explanation: she had a 650 tire and a large CO2 cylinder. This third male gently explained that was too much air for the tube and would require an experienced hand. He then aired up the tire, all was well, and we finished the ride. All told, we had six cyclists involved on this one flat.
Additional note: We were not a group of friends, probably no more than three people knew each other. But, as experienced cyclists who knew group protocol, everyone stopped, pitched in or stayed out of the way as needed, and no one really got fussed over the odd happenings. That is one of the things that makes group cycling a lot of fun.

NOT AN EXPERT!

I will post two blogs today and needed to post this one before going on to the next. I never refer to myself as an expert. I use the term "experienced." I consider an expert as one who knows just about everything there is about a subject. I would rather not have that pressure, especially since I really don't know a lot about cycling. However, I have no problem with being experienced, because I am. Therefore, those things that I have experienced, I know about, but all the other stuff I leave to others. Also, by avoiding being an expert, I also avoid embarassing myself. Read next post.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I HATE 60 DEGREES!
Many years ago I read an article (that I attribute to Davis Phinney, but it may have been Alex Stieda) which included this advice: "Under 65 degrees, cover your knees." There isn't a lot of fat or blood to help ward off the cold and wind, and you really want the knees working smoothly. Over the years, while generally adhering to this maxim, I have modified it to the extent that if the sun is out, go lower, and if there isn't any wind or if only a slight warm wind, go lower. Naturally, we are talking about training rides or social rides, and by "go lower" I mean maybe 5 degrees. That is where we get to 60 degrees. Yesterday was 60 degrees, cloudy (like, absolutely no sun peeking through), and a slight north (ie, chilly) wind. So, the debate began. Finally, I decided against tights because I was doing hill climbing (eight steep climbs in 19 miles) and would eventually warm up, but went with arm warmers. The arm warmers were to keep me from getting chilled during the first fifteen minutes. Everything went as expected and I had a good practice. For the record, the big climb this day (Courtyard if you know Austin) is about a half mile long, has three ramps of about 16% and the last one at 23% (my gps goes from 22% to 24%) and the numbers don't really matter, it is a steep climb. Anyhow, my knees survived. The moral of today: cycling is more enjoyable when you are comfortably and properly dressed. BTW, unless peer pressure is unbearable, I will stay indoors (on my bike) under 40 degrees.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

CORRECTION

Last week I used an imprecise term and even though no one has brought it to my attention, feel the need to explain how I got there. My acupuncturist is also a Chinese Herbalist and my main resource into staying healthy. Whenever I give credit, I refer to my acupuncturist and do not differentiate that the topic may actually be herbs. Thus, when I advised that folks under stress, including frustration, should protect their liver, that belonged in the Chinese Medicine category and not acupuncture (not that the needles cannot relieve stress, they do and that is probably where most of the needles I get go). There is a great primer on Chinese Medicine, called Between Heaven and Earth by Harriet Beinfield and Efrem Korngold I linked to Amazon, but you can find it lots of places.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

CYCLING BENEFIT FROM BAILOUT

The most dreaded words a citizen wants to hear: "We're from the government, and we're here to help (or, in rural areas "hep") you." Check out http://seniorbicycling.blogspot.com/ and the feature article (and, by the way, mark this as a favorite or follower). Some of the pork in the bailout package includes a $20 per employee, per month tax credit, for each employee who regularly rides a bike to work. I am fundamentally (a recently overused word) against tacking on extras that cannot generate approval on their own merit, and I really don't believe the extent of the bailout was necessary, however will take a "wait and see" attitude to see how it is handled. As for the incentive to ride your bike, that sounds well and good, but the only thing I see is fraud/abuse and beauracracy eating into a good idea. Also, besides regular road rage, the commuting cyclist will encounter tax rage directed upon them. And if you think the employer will trickle that $20/month down to the cyclist, you really are a pollyanna.

Monday, October 6, 2008

TRAINING FINALLY PAYING DIVIDENDS

I trained (definition: cycled a lot) for the Senior Games State Finals, held last week. These consist of two time trials of 5km and 10km and two races of 20km and 40km. For the first time since my initial entry five years ago I failed to garner a medal, which is neither here nor there. Yesterday, for the first time, I was able to stay with the fast group in our Sunday rides. What happens on Sunday is a large group starts out from the bike shop. We stay together through town for about seven miles, then the pace picks up. In a few more miles we come to a stop sign, turn right and begin an incline (too shallow to be a hill) and the pace picks up some more and a lot of people can't hang. Yesterday I climbed easily, pedaled smoothly, and thanks to drafting, was able to ride with this lead group, at least for the five or so miles to the rest stop and turn around point. The return was with the slower group, but I still finished strong. My lament is that I should have trained harder earlier and my fear is that, with the season over, my form will revert to previous levels. I resolve to hold my form through the winter; stay tuned to see if that happens, or if it goes the way of New Year Resolutions.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

LANCE, I FEEL YOUR FRUSTRATIONS

Of course, the source of the frustration is not the same. I saw on TV that 85% of respondents believe you raced clean. The other 15% are waiting around for you to finally confess in order for them to say "I told you so." You are frustrated because you cannot prove a negative, and they are frustrated because their dream will never be. At least you realize that nothing you can say or do will change their mind and have moved on, (except you must respond to each slight they sling at you). It all seems so simple to me: start with talent, then practice as hard as Lance does, and you should see similar results. Less practice, less results. My frustration is not about cycling, but about good health. Of course cycling keeps me in shape, but when pressed about staying healthy, I mention I do yoga, stretch daily, work out with weights, see my acupuncturist regularly when well, more often when the body needs it, and take some alternative medicines/foods. For instance, I advocate a nasal wash (Neti pot) with a saline solution during cold season. Even though I suffer very little from colds, people with stuffy noses can't bring themselves to follow my example, even after asking my opinion. Anytime I am out in a brisk wind, I brew some ginger root in water, thus ginger tea, sweeten with honey, and offset the effects of the wind. This helps ward off breathing difficulties. When ginger doesn't do the trick, and breathing becomes congested, Oil of Oregano seems to sort it out in a day or two. So far, I am batting zero in convincing folks it works. In truth, I am very thankful my frustrations are only due to minor stuff, and not the magnitude of yours, but still, frustrations of any sort can be wearing on a person, so protect your liver (acupuncturist term).

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Getting Back to Business

The Senior Games and training for them are over. I need to get faster. I have cycled in the Alps concurrent with the Tour de France, cruised the Baltics, including several bike rides, toured St. Petersburg, hiked in England since my last post. I had a passing thought on updating the blog, but it passed. However, more computer time is in my immediate future and both the website and the blog should receive overdue improvements and updates. Don't be a stranger.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Delayed Entries

I will be a tad slow in entries as I edit the Katy Trail write-up and get ready to go to Georgia to ride in the mountains, including the infamous Brasstown Bald, followed by a book festival in New York, followed by training for, then riding in the Alps in conjunction with Le Tour de France. I'll catch up whenever possible. Thanks for your patience.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

RIDING THE KATY TRAIL
Four of us drove 700 miles to Clinton, Missouri to enjoy five days of riding. The full account will appear as a chapter in my next book, but, in my opinion, the Katy Trail is the best choice for a first rail-trail. The trail is well groomed, crushed limestone (or other rock), has excellent, clean trailheads, most of which have water fountains and clean rest rooms. The trailheads themselves are well situated and decent intervals. We made reservations early this year, then had to wait as lots of rain and thunderstorms and floods, followed by earthquake and tornadoes battered Missouri. Luck was with us and we had 4 perfect days and one with a little rain. Treat yourself to riding this trail, visit their website at www.bikekatytrail.com or email me with specific questions. I rode my suspended mountain bike but my friend put some 32mm tires on his road bike and did just fine. All of our lodging was superior, but Doll House B&B in Rhineland took top honors.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

TIME TRIALING
I got hooked on time trials a few years ago. It is a great exercise and allows me to be competitive without having to jostle for position with a bunch of other cyclists coming to the finish line. I found that I was better than a lot of guys, but not even close to the top. I have a few gold medals, but only because the fast riders skipped the race. I keep saying I'm not in it for medals, but because medals are an indication of fitness, then by default, I really am in it for the medals. I chose the Senior Games because they divide the competitors into 5-year age brackets and us older guys really cannot compete head-to-head with the good younger ones. Even so, I realize that those who are more physically gifted than me will be faster. That being said, they serve as a carrot to my training. Over the last few years, my training has intensified as I try to cut their margin of victory. It may be finally paying off, in that my third place finishes no longer look like I rode in a different county. No longer are they off their bikes and chatting as I come across the line, but instead are still in their warm-down pedalling. As stated, this is a great exercise. You need to be explosive off the line, keep an aero position for a long period, keep a high heart rate for much longer than you would on a touring ride, and stay mentally in the race by constantly monitoring your body, your bike, and the road. For heart rate, I do spin classes, especially in the winter, and use the Chris Carmichael Time Trial method (I used to run the tape, but it finally wore out) weekly, putting my bike on a trainer in the kitchen. But the qualifiers are completed (silver and bronze last weekend) and for the summer I will concentrate on climbing, since Alpe d'Huez is on my horizon in July.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

MILES - Several years ago, or precisely after Lance's first Race for the Roses, I asked an upcoming Cat 1 racer how I could get stronger (i.e. faster). His answer was simple: put more miles in you legs. The pros call it putting pain in the bank (or some such phrase), but that seems a tad draconian for an old guy who just wanted to be a little bit better. But however you label it, the more miles you put in your legs, the better off you are. For instance, early this year I could ride 40 or 50 miles without discomfort, but I felt stiff and wooden as I rode. At the time I only averaged 200 miles a month. February saw an increase to 450 and March 550 and in April I began to feel much more at ease in my rides. Because April is a racing month, my mileage dropped back to 350 as I tested my new tt bike, and put more time into sprint practice, plus the races themselves. But to get back to feeling at ease, all of a sudden, rather than just sitting on the saddle I felt more a part of it, like I was sitting in it. On the corners, I was leaning better and on the steep hills, I felt smooth in standing and powering up. So, if you and your bike are feeling estranged, you might spend another 25 miles a week with it and see if you can't warm up to each other. By the way, I am aiming at 750-800 per month. We shall see if that comes about.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

SOME TOURING TALK
I set this blog up to discuss touring and the places I have been, and where I will be going. However, as you can see, touring does not occupy 100% of my cycling thoughts. Actually, I ramble a lot, so a coherent plan is not what I had in mind. For instance, my next trip is in May, and three others and myself will drive up to Clinton, Missouri and take a week to ride the Katy Trail. I rode the John Wayne trail in Washington State several years ago and it was a lot of fun. Last year was the Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal from Pittsburg to Washington, DC, and it was good, but the logistics licked a little of the red off the apple. If I am lucky, I might squeeze in the Mickelson Trail in South Dakota later in the year. The Silver Comet out of Atlanta is on my later agenda. All of these are Rail-Trails, mostly converted defunct railroad right of ways, or the route with the rails removed. As such, there is no climbing unless you get off the trail. Rail-Trails are excellent beginner rides, since there is no vehicular traffic (except for detours and getting to off-trail lodging and food), and hardly any people at all. Go to http://www.railtrails.org/index.html to find a trail near you. These are best traveled with a mountain bike or hybrid, even an old balloon tire single speed with coaster brakes would not have a problem. The trails are hardpack or small gravel and even though I could use my road bike, I prefer suspension travel on these trails. If you think this sounds like something you might like, let me know if I can clarify anything for you.

Monday, April 21, 2008

ROAD RAGE
It doesn't matter if you talk til you're blue in the face, some folks would rather be dead right than submit to being subservient in a traffic situation. These are the same folks who weave in and out, run stop signs and worse, red lights, but demand that automobiles adhere to their strict rules. These are the cyclists who make it difficult on the rest of us. I admit to cruising through stop signs as long as there is no traffic anywhere in sight, but not red lights. But my subject today is road rage.
Back in the "old days" most people went to work during the day, did their shift, then, if they were so inclined, stopped off for a drink or two. I mention this to make the point that riding during the day was much safer than now. Today, it seems more folks driving around all day and are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, maybe even excess testosterone. Just the other day someone leaned out the window, foaming at the mouth, to rant and rave merely because he caught sight of me (not because I did anything to provoke him) on my bike. This is an all-too-common experience.
Why anybody who is as exposed as a cyclist is, would respond with a crude gesture (first amendment protection will not fend off a two ton auto), is beyond me. You must be the better person, plus realize they are not inclined to rational thought processes.
In some communities, motorcyclists (and cyclists too, I guess) are allowed to ride between lanes. But if not, then you should take it on the chin, and not pass a passel of cars at a red light, jump the light, then make them find a way to pass you again. We are talking about a one lane road/street, not one with a bike lane or shoulder. Granted, it is sooo much fun to get through rush hour traffic faster than a car, and usually quite self-satisfying. But you are not in their shoes, you are in yours, so judge not and be not pompous.
Smile and wave (all 5 fingers, spread wide) a lot, when you can. Most of the time, the smile is returned. If you get a scowl and 1 finger, give that car/driver room to move on.
Please don't get the idea that riding in traffic is all about being passive. Over 50% of the drivers have no clue as to how to get along with a cyclist (as opposed to those who intentionally want to harm or intimidate), so it is up to the cyclist to help them. For instance, take up a lot of lane if it is so narrow that both you and the car can't go side-by-side. If you squeeze to the right, they might attempt to pass.... If you stay more in the center, they will stay back until a safe move can be made. More later.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

COMMUTING
Moving on to something more germane to today's environment: Bicycle Commuting. By the way, I'm retired and try my best to stay out of everyone's way during peak traffic times. But I have ridden my bike to work in the past, and I know folks who do that now. Riding to and from work is a very efficient method for putting miles in your legs. When training for my coast-to-coast ride, I had my wife drop me and the bike off at work, and then would ride home the long way. At the time, coats and ties were required work attire, and the logistics were more than I wanted to tackle. Earlier, when I only had a three mile commute, I could leave the coat at work, and wouldn't be too sweaty when I got there in the morning. I was also about halfway home before most had left the parking lot.
If I had to decide today, my first consideration would be: how much time do I sit in stop and go traffic? If I can do 20 miles in 20 minutes in a car vs an hour and 20 minutes on a bike, I believe I would find a better way to save gas/environment. If it starts approaching a wash in time, then the bike gets the nod. The logistics of a fresh body, clothes, etc also come into play. Getting caught at work without a vehicle could be bad. For instance, what is a single parent who gets a call from school to do? Sometimes, biking to work is not a good choice. On the other hand, try scheduling one day a week as a test.
So that I am not labeled a hypocrit, I am happy for everyone who can work bicycle commuting into their lives, but I see too many negatives to recommend it for the majority of cyclists. When I did it, it was short term and with a specific goal to be reached. Once achieved, I drove the car. But these are different times...carpe diem!
LANCE ON DRUGS.
Since I ride a lot in and around Austin, the first thing people ask is if I have ridden with Lance (usually with a smirk on their face) and the second thing is if I think he really used performance enhancing drugs. I make this my first entry so that I can get it out of the way. I have NO opinion. I can recite the pros and cons of other talking heads, but truthfully, I have no judgement to make. Apparently everyone he beat took drugs and still couldn't win. Maybe if they trained as hard as he did, they might have made a better showing. He never failed a drug test, but neither did Marion Jones. Now, I DO have an opinion about those small folks with an agenda on bringing him down. Their soul must be as black as the ace of spades as they use heresay and inuendo to try to be the first to crush the hope of so many cancer victims/survivors just to bring glory to themselves. Should the day come when someone comes forward with absolute proof, I will be sad, but until that day comes, I will let the past stay in the past.