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.