Monday, December 29, 2014


     About this time several years ago, I took up my friend Walt Esquivel's challenge to do 77 push-ups on July 7th.  The plan was for 11 on January 1, 22 on February 2, 33 on March 3 et cetera.  To see where I was physically, I pushed out 20 with a big effort.  That convinced me I needed more of a plan than just increasing by eleven each month.  I turned to and liked their program.  By the time July 7th rolled around, I was able to do 77 consecutive, good-form push-ups.  Unfortunately, I was in Georgia at the time and not able to attend the official challenge completion.
     Each year after the cycling season, I start back being more regular with the push-ups.  Usually I start at week 4 and work my way back up.  Interestingly, I have never done 100 and truthfully probably never will.  But 77 remains my goal.  I just completed Day 3 of Week 5, which works out to a total of 200 push-ups.  I created a closed group for this, and might just do it as an event this year.
     I hate doing abominable abdominal work.  Two years ago I incorporated planks into my regimen.  Planks are a good core exercise.  Last year, for my 2nd Annual Plank Praxis, I invited 13 folks and 9 joined.  What we learned over the two years are that keeping a regular program over the year is impossible for the average person. One tip: do it early, like between coffee and breakfast.  What I found worked best for me was to set a monthly minutes goal, thereby giving some leeway as to when they could be done.  I started off with 30 minutes and worked my way up to 60 minutes in May before cycling and trips interfered.  I'm back on the program and did 5 minutes yesterday, although the longest set was only a minute and a half.  I should get it up to two minutes for New Year's Day (while watching the Rose Parade) and have set a January goal of 60 minutes.  I'll be setting up a 3rd Annual Plank Praxis on Facebook later today.  If you would like to join in but don't receive an invitation, shoot me a message.
     Yoga also gets more attention now.  I found out yesterday that my hamstrings were quite a bit shorter than they were in May.  Really, I know better, but stretching daily just wasn't getting done.  That is my New Year's Resolution (maybe not daily, but regularly).
     Stay healthy and active this winter, even if it isn't always on the bike.

Sunday, December 28, 2014


Today is cold (36 degrees F) and drizzly.  I have cold weather gear, but don't like getting out in the wet, so skipped today's Bicycle Sport Shop Ride.  Only two showed up (the ride leaders), so they tooled around town, including Mount Bonnell, where they encountered sleet.  That brought back a memory from riding in the Alps with Marty Jemison on one of my Tour de France rides.  The full account is in my book, Gotta Go!

Day Three:  Col Agnel ~ 30 Miles

            Today was a short day, with a very short warm-up, then the 20.5km Hors Category climb.  However, we were a tad off in our timing, and should have started about an hour earlier, or ridden faster, or not ridden at all (just kidding).  Yesterday’s brilliance had been replaced by morning puffy clouds.  I brought my Camelbak, which included my rain pants (for wind protection) and wind jacket, because mountain tops are always windy.  The clouds thickened as we moved out.  This is the third highest paved mountain pass in Europe.  My rule for mountain riding is to always have your rain gear.  My rain jacket had not made it into the Camelbak.  Serious oops!
            Marty had said the climbs were 6% on average, with some at 9%.  Truthfully, my gps is not all that accurate on altitudes, but I saw a lot of 9%, 11%, and a 14% (this, where most folks say it is 10%).  I really didn’t have much energy today, no pop in the legs.  Then it started to rain.
            Drizzle at first, then slightly harder.  About 5km from the top, the cold wind came up and the temperature dropped.  Officially, they say 9 degrees centigrade.  I found a spot to get my rain pants on, and Jill lent me her rain jacket.  At 3km from the top, the caravan caught us.  Once the caravan comes, no one is allowed on the road.  We were stuck, cold and wet as swag came slinging our way.  Jill caught my eye, and when there was a break in the caravan and the gendarme turned his head, we started walking briskly up the road and didn’t turn around to see what the reaction was.
            Marty had secured some seating area in a lodge 2km from the top.  Once Jill, Roger, and I turned one switchback, we got on the bikes and rode the next couple hundred yards to where the gendarme was about to get unhappy with us, but it was at the entrance to the lodge, so we were getting off anyhow.  Marty rushed us up to place the bikes next to the rail (one floor up) and we pushed in the door and sat down on a bench.  This lodge had room for maybe fifty and probably there were over a hundred cold, shivering cycling fans ordering hot food and drinks as fast as the servers could take the orders.  The really great part is they had a big screen TV, so it was pretty much a party. 
            My shivering abated after about a half an hour, but I really never got warm.  Even when the pros finally came by, about ten of us stayed inside and watched the TV.  Once the broom wagon passed, we would be allowed to get on our bikes and descend back the way we came.  Unfortunately, that is also the time the freezing rain got harder (I think I am using this term incorrectly, maybe what we had was sleet.  In any case, you get the picture).  We delayed our departure. 
            I told Jill I only had about five minutes of non-cycling energy to fight the cold, so once we left the lodge, I wanted to be on the bike as soon as possible.  Marty was anxious to find Gotti and Jason, who had managed to become separated from us.  So, Marty and I would ride at his speed, and Jill, Roger and John would come somewhat slower.  We waited until we saw a patch of blue sky coming at us, and then moved out.
            Within minutes of starting the descent, solid precipitation hit us, but only flecks.  The road was wet but not slick.  Marty kept checking behind, but as I kept up, he let it out some more.  I didn’t think I could go so fast on a wet road.  Thankfully, this col had very few switchbacks.  We ran into traffic jams of folks going both up and down the mountain, and the road through the small hamlets only had the width of one car.  What a mess.  Thankfully, bikes could squeeze between the cars and the buildings, and bikes were faster.
            About halfway down we came to a restaurant and spotted Jason and  Gotti.  What a fine place to get hot chocolate.  Marty ordered then turned around to see a tour guide he knew, and their entourage.  Time passed as they discussed today’s ride.  Eventually, our whole group was together and had finally warmed up. With the temperature about 15 degrees warmer and the no rain, we cycled the final miles back down to the van. 

            Byran says if you have an adventure and don’t die, it was a good one.  This fell into that category.  Interestingly, I thoroughly enjoyed passing the cars.  Of course, I only followed Marty, and everybody in the cars were cycling fans so the usual angst didn’t materialize. What a cool experience.

Friday, December 19, 2014


     I'm referring to a bike fit, of course.  Not just having the sales rep making sure a 52 or 56cm frame is what you want, but a real, professional fit, with maybe a video with light-dots or string measurements of lots of body parts.  We recently have had several discussions after our Sunday morning Bicycle Sport Shop rides regarding ill-fitting bikes and how just a millimeter or two can make a world of difference in your riding comfort and power.
     Today my friend Jim posted he had such a pro fit from Skot at BSS, and "found that I needed significant adjustment of my pedal configuration to meet my hip width and knee action. We also found that I needed to bring my seat forward 15mm."  Jim is very tall and I love hiding behind him in a headwind.  He was driven to getting a fit by having a strained (or pulled, I forget which) gluteus medius (or some such).  His post is getting a lot of responses, mainly because he is very popular, but also because 15mm is a HUGE adjustment.  For the metrically challenged, think of it as a half inch.  Many of the responses were testimonials for how great Skot is, and what a large difference he made in their riding.
     Well, I cannot give Skot a testimonial because I was fitted in 2001.  And, I wasn't fitted to my bike, I was measured and the bike built to my measurements.  I flew to Indianapolis and checked in with Vern LaMere at the National Institute for Fitness and Sport.  In the Human Performance Lab Vern took a bunch of measurements (picture Harry Potter choosing his wand; or the wand choosing the wizard), took video from the side, back, front and then sent all this to Roark (which is in Brownsburg, IN), who built the bike.

     Not wanting to "waste" a trip to Indiana, I also had Vern give me a VO2 test (submax because I didn't have a doctor's permission).  I still have the results, but cognition of what the numbers mean has gone the way of the Dodo bird.  But I had just finished cycling coast to coast a few months before, so I was still in really good shape.
      Back to getting a proper fit, other than dropping a few pounds, my body hasn't changed dimensions, so my bike still fits perfectly.  My time-trial bike is also a story of getting a great fit.  In 2009 I went to Jack and Adams for a Felt (no need to go into why I ended up there).  I spent about an hour arriving at the right size.  Then we had to order the bike, Jack not stocking the expensive B-2 frame with Dura Ace and Zipp 404 and 808 wheels.  They built it up and when it came in, Jack spent several hours getting me fitted.  Seat height came first, then he tried several different stems before he was satisfied.  He gently corrected my arm position, and thankfully liked my imitation of a flat back.  Except for Nationals (where I was 13th in the 10k, but fastest from Texas), I haven't been off the podium with my Felt.
     I may have to up my game now in order to keep behind Jim, but I'm glad he is properly fitted to his bike.


     Professor Moody's admonition to the students of Hogwarts also applies to cyclists.  I've just looked at a GoPro video of a guy tooling along the highway when a deer suddenly jumps into him (not the one in Africa).  In this case, lack of vigilance was not the cause of the problem.  But it got me to thinking, specifically about last Sunday's ride and why it is a good thing to take a few minutes to check out your bike on a regular basis.
     We stopped at a convenience store for a break, and I leaned my bike on the wall,  As I munched my Clif bar and meandered around I glanced back at my bike.  This was a full-frontal view; I did a double-take.  Certainly my eyes deceived me, because it appeared the saddle was out-of-line.  I went to the rear, and moved the bike to a vertical position.  I went back to the front.  I asked my buddies for verification.  Yes, off-kilter.  Puzzling.
     I'm trying to remember the last time I adjusted the saddle.  I know for a fact that my time-trial bike hasn't had any adjustment in the six years I've had it.  The last time I remember moving the saddle was 2009, when I did the Land's End to John O'Groats ride.  Certainly it hasn't been that long.  Maybe when it was in the bike shop.  Of course, when or who is not germane to my topic.
      What I am advocating is a cursory inspection of your bike at least once a week, or 200 miles.  Check the handlebars and saddle alignment.  I  scratched a line on my saddle post so I know where it should be.  A piece of tape also works.  About handlebars, several years ago on a Sunday group ride, I was going down a slight hill when my handlebar bolt broke.  Fortunately, my friends got on each side of me until we could get stopped, so I made a graceful dismount.
     I read somewhere that you should inspect your tires after each ride, but I don't unless the road surface was particularly dirty or wet.  Wet tires pick up more crud which tends to stick to the tire and might embed itself, eventually causing a flat.  You might be surprised how black a rag might be when you run it around the brake patch of the wheel.
     I carry a rag or paper towel in the back of my Rav4.  At the end of each ride, before loading the bike, I wipe the chain.  As I read on the Rock N Roll website, the movement of the chain creates static electricity which attracts dirt.  This dirt mixes with the lubricant on the outside of the chain, which in turn acts like a sponge drawing out the working-lubricant.  Cleaning your chain after each ride prolongs the effectiveness of the lube, thus you don't need to re-lube as often.
      Checking the wheel alignment should also be part of your routine, saving you from a range of problems such as minor braking difficulties to a broken spoke (which in itself can lead to serious consequences).  When I purchased my bike in 2001, it came with Rolf Vector Pro wheels.  You never have to true them.  I haven't trued my time-trial Zipps either, but they have relatively few miles on them. I can say that even before 2001, I was terrible at trueing a wheel and usually ended up going to the bike shop.
     It only takes a few minutes to give your bike a once-over.  Make it a habit.