Friday, November 22, 2013

Cars and Bicycles need to learn to Coexist

Every time I leave the house on my bike, wearing only a piece of styrofoam as protection, my wife reminds me to be careful. My response is generally, "I always am, I have the two best reasons to come home."  My reasons being my beautiful wife and my soon to be born baby daughter (I am so excited about both by the way). I can control the way I interact with cars and the road, but that is it. When I think about it, that is not much that is in my control.

A month ago a friend of mine linked to an article on Facebook that got me thinking about the risks I am taking every time I am on the road riding my bike or driving my car. There is a constant stream of incidents between all users on the road.  I want to focus on cars and bikes, since that is my greatest area of concern.

Now, as a cyclist I have had my fair share of interesting interactions on the road.  Not mentioning all of them I have had cars swerve at me, people cuss me out while they drive by, and my favorite, people tell me to get off the road or ride on the sidewalk (this is actually illegal in some places). I would say there are four kinds of drivers when there are bikes around.  The first is the accommodating driver, this driver will pass at reasonable speeds and is perfectly fine with a bike on the shoulder or taking up two feet of the lane. The second is the prankster, this driver thinks it is funny to mess with a cyclist by swerving, honking and trying to startle the rider, and generally screwing around. The last two are the groups I am least comfortable with. Third, there is the driver who hates the cyclist. In their mind we are a complete inconvenience or there have been sour experiences in the past. This driver thinks bikes are a nuisance and has been known to take matters into their own hands. Finally, there is the uncomfortable driver. I would say this is my least favorite, they are unpredictable.  This driver will tail a cyclist or group and insanely slow speeds, waiting until they have six lanes to pass.  When this happens I know that this driver is tensing up and could be building a frustration towards the rider.

It is no secret that cars and cyclists need to learn to coexist.  The road is to be shared by both and everybody should be allowed to use it while feeling safe. There are so many people who write and talk about this every year.

I am not sure why both groups think they are solely entitled to the road.  Lets just calm down and be considerate for one another.  No one is intentionally trying to inconvenience or injure anyone else (I have been in situations where this is the case). Let us, drivers and cyclist, do our individual part to foster cooperation in the road.

Cyclist, do your best to be visible and FOLLOW THE LAW.  Unless you are in a sanctioned race a stop sign or light will not ruin your ride. If you ride like you are supposed to be there than you will be okay.

Drivers, pass cautiously with enough space. I guarantee the cyclist is not purposely sucking up 5-10 seconds of your life. Please treat bikes like they are another car, they are entitled to the road and they should follow the same laws.

Sorry that this was a bit of a ramble. Until next time, be safe and push a little harder.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Mt Hamilton

Big weekend rides are quickly becoming my favorite rides. They often become more than a simple ride, they are almost a microcosm of life. I say this at risk of over glorifying a bike ride but the more experience the more I feel justified in my statement. My most recent encounter with this was my ride to the top of Mt Hamilton and back down while I was visiting family in the San Francisco Bay Area.

I had been gearing up for the ride for weeks. I have attempted it twice before as I live in the woods and not in California. Both time previous I only finished part of the rides. I was determined to get it done this time.

I started of early in the morning. I was riding from home because I live a mere 25 miles from the Lick Observatory and about 5 miles from the base of the climb. It was a beautiful and chilly Fall California morning. I took it easy on my way to the climb because I knew I would be pushing myself, I am a mere recreational cyclist, no pro or anywhere near pro ability. I start up the first of the three climbs and I pass a group of riders getting prepped to get on the road. About 2 1/2 miles up the first climb I carelessly hit a large crack in the pavement, causing me to go down.  I quickly notice that my tire went flat and I examined my tire to see what else might be wrong... 

My tire was shot.

I get on the phone and start arranging my ride home, the mountain beat me yet again. That is when I remember Rule #5. I start to look around to figure out what I can do to get back on the road until I can get a new wheel. while I am sitting on the side of the road the group I saw at the beginning of the climb went by and offered their support but none of them had a spare tire so they kept on their way. I quickly suck down my GU Espresso Love and remount the tire with the empty packet keeping my spare tube from pushing through the hole. Success! I was back on my bike and heading up the road. I eventually got over the first climb, descended into the flat and caught back up with the group on the second climb.  I joined in with the main part of this group and we shared some conversation and after a while I pulled off to try to get in touch with my dad who was bringing me a new wheel.

After a few moments I got going again and caught up to a pair of riders who were shortly joined by two others returning from the top to continue on with their friends. I made a comment about how they were dominating the climb and the woman chimed back, "I have cancer surgery this week, so I might as well kick something's ass." These were the words of a determined woman.  Well did not ride with this group for long or ask for anymore details, this statement stuck with me. It almost seemed like the suffering that day was a practice run for what was ahead. I too shortly reached the top of the second climb and decided to wait in the parking lot at the top for my wheel.

Alright, I have a new wheel, headed down to the base of the final climb. I have about 9 miles to the top, 7 of which are steep uphill. This is where I was turned back due to cramping on my last attempt. I hit the bottom and begin going up, I immediately feel a searing in my legs, this climb is the steepest and longest of the three.  The difference is at the top there are no more climbs.  A few miles up this climb I rode by another couple, this pair was much different than anyone else on the mountain.  They were riding touring bikes packed to the gills with gear. I immediately felt light in comparison. As I do, I made conversation. This pair started in Portland and was on their way to Yosemite in route to South America.

This has just become one of the more interesting days of my life. Everyone on the climb had a story and was on a journey. I never would have met these people without the shared love for the bicycle and a desire to explore the world on it. 

I made it to the top, the view was worth it but it was of little interest to me after some of the brief conversations I shared on the way to it.

I had a frigid descent mixed with two short climbs to get back out. I rode passed dozens of people on the way down. I could only imagine what each of their journeys was.

A group ride unites people from different places and experiences. Everyone for a short while is on the same mission no matter what is going on in their lives. The longer I ride the more experiences like this I compile.  There is a mini community on the mountain.

As always... Keep pushing.  Don't use the bike to run away but to enrich the experiences in your life. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

California Bound

I am heading out to California this weekend. My family is throwing a baby shower for my wife and I so we get to spend the weekend in Milpitas, just north of San Jose.  This is the area that I grew up in and I have so many memories.  It will be good to spend some downtime with my beautiful wife, see some family and friends, and hopefully get a couple rides in.

I have recently given up on shipping my bike out when I go so I have started using my brother in-law's bike. It is a size smaller but I can manage for a couple of rides.  the ride I am most looking forward to is Mt Hamilton.  The summit is 25 miles away from my house and roughly a 3,500 ft elevation gain. I also rather enjoy (hate, because it is terribly hard) the Sierra rd climb and Calaveras rd out to Sunol.  These are both so close that I almost have to ride around to get warmed up enough to start the climbs. The last time I was out, I drove up to livermore and went up Mt Diablo. Diablo is ten miles long and summits around 3,600 ft.

I have never finished Mt Hamilton. I ride mostly rolling terrain and have zero access to any sustained climbing in Wisconsin. That being said, my first attempt was at the end of the season and in the rain. I submitted and ended up catching a ride down the mountain. I had never done any descending and I did not want to start in the rain, I am not trying to win any races and Strava records are not worth my life.  The second attempt was at early in the season and I made it all the way to the base of the actual Hamilton climb, a mere 7 miles from the summit, and the man with the hammer visited me.  I bonked hard, I could barely stop my bike and stand up, my legs were cramping so bad.  I had to turn around.  I knew I had about 8 miles of climbing to get back out to the final descent of my return trip.

Hopefully, I will be able to tweet a selfie on the summit of Hamilton this time.  A bit better than the gloomy view I got last time.

My other goal on one of trips out there is to get up north of the Golden Gate and do some riding as well as spending some time on the bike in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


We got our first snow today (pic is just the beginning)...and I am not impressed.

It was cold this morning as we headed out for what we planned to be a century ride, a bit over 32 degrees. The temperature rose slightly throughout the day, getting near 40 but after we stopped for some lunch it began to drop back down. We knew that the forecast was telling us that around three the rain might start and it began just before that and we were still about an hour out. With the rain beginning and the temp back at 34 degrees we started pushing harder to keep warm and make it back to our cars. We made it, we were wet, cold and as I always am after a big ride, hungry.

Shortly after I started towards home in my car the rain began to turn to snow and that trend continued for the rest of the night. We now have a thin layer outside.

This snow will not stick as the ground has yet to freeze but it means three things to me...

First, It is going to get a whole lot harder to ride my bike. It will take me five times longer to get dressed for a ride and I will have to thoroughly clean my bike after nearly every ride. The worst part is there will be fewer days that are safe to ride.

Second, ski season is nearly upon us. I am a pair of XC ski boots away to having a full set. My wife found a set of skis that were my size and were in reasonable shape at a local Goodwill and the other day we acquired some poles. This means I am getting close. While the Midwest is well known for being flat there are a few hills here in Wisconsin and in the U.P. that are reasonable to slide down on skis. Most of them even have chair lifts and ski patrols. As I do not have the funds to fly/drive to Colorado, this will due for now.

Third, it is cold. Everything you do in your daily life requires more planning. Driving to work means you need to let your car run for five minutes before you can leave. If it snowed the night before, well...everything needs to be shoveled or cleaned off. Any roads other than the main highways are left slightly covered and this makes traveling them both more fun and more time consuming.

Thanks for bearing with my slight rant about winter but the first snow is always a bit jarring. It means that winter is really around the corner and there is nothing you or I can do about it. The only way to defeat winter is by finding someway to enjoy it.

I will say, had we ended our ride in the snow rather than the freezing rain, I would have felt about two times as sweet.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fender Season

The days of beautiful, sunny, dry, and warm are behind us, at least for us in the northern parts of the country. I know there are many places that have to deal with rainy weather on a year round basis and still have strong cycling communities (Seattle and London), but here in the woods our summers are mostly dry and then fall through spring we see quite a bit more precipitation. Last fall I purchased fenders in the attempt to keep cleaning time down.

I used to avoid wet rides but as I fell deeper into cycling, I cared less about the weather.  A lot of this transition was finding the proper clothing, see my post on winter gear.  I owe the inspiration to ride no matter the weather to retired pro Robbie Ventura.  I made a comment about the challenge of riding in Chicago while I was working for Vision Quest Coaching and he said something along the lines of, year round riding is all about having the correct clothing. I got to a point where I was personally comfortable in about any temperature, I am sure there are some pieces that I can add to my gear but I am content with what I have.

Now my bike is another story.  I was getting fed up with cleaning my bike for an hour after an hour long ride.  If you ride in the rain or snow getting your bike dirty is inevitable, but there are ways to keep that to a minimum.  There are always special articles on how the pro mechanics prep the bikes but the reality is they have the ability to wash the bikes after any race in sub ideal weather.

My solution was a set of CRUD Roadracer MK2 fenders. The piece that appealed the most to me was that they were super light and provided full coverage.  As I only have my one bike I wanted sleek close fitting fender and The Roadracers met my expectations.  They do feel a bit flimsy out of the box and take a bit of getting set up but once they are on you barely notice them.  I felt a lot better riding in the rain and snow knowing that I was not spraying my drive train with grimy water.  I also spared myself and anyone I was riding with from a black shower.

This is a hard time of year for me.  Most of the activities I enjoy require good weather but I enjoy riding too much to let the weather be in complete control.  I feel like I now have the option to set up my rollers for an easy spin or get out and enjoy some fresh air.

As always, get out on your bike and spend a little more time in the big ring.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Garmin Edge 510 Setup and First Impressions

It is good day, I finally received my Garmin Edge 510 in the mail. Out of the box It took me a couple minutes to organize all of the connectors, adaptors, and components that showed up. I got the package with the out front mount, heart rate monitor and cadence and speed sensor.

Along with the main parts shown above I had a second adaptor pad for the cadence sensor, a variety of plug adaptors for the power converter, stem mounts and the magnets that I need to get everything set up.  I also had an Allen wrench that allowed me to place the out front mount.  The only thing that I needed that was not in the box was a small Phillips screwdriver to adjust the speed sensor arm.  

The mount went on my bars easy and was simple to line up.  I just used the provided Allen wrench to undo and re-tighten the single bolt on the mount.  I did not have to add an adaptor or mess with the set up of the mount.  There is a way to turn the mount in order to use it with aero bars.

The speed/cadence sensor took a little bit more work and more zip ties than came with the kit.  Due to the curve of my bike's chainstay I had a some difficulty getting both sensors to register.  The first time I set it up everything was perfect except the spoke magnet hit the sensor every time it went by.  When I moved it far enough forward to clear the cadence sensor no longer registered.

I had to set the cadence sensor and magnet up first and then work on the spoke magnet.  You might notice form the picture that I had to mount the magnet on a drive side spoke to get the clearance that I needed.  Alright all set up and ready for a ride.

Wait... Time to set up the Edge unit itself.

If you want to set it up and start riding the Edge will provide you with plenty of data as they have a basic training screen set up already. This step took me to the manual (I know guys are not supposed to read these things). You can customize your workout data in almost unlimited ways. After consulting my Garmin expert I realized how to customize the data that I can see. As you set this up you can select multiple training pages to scroll through, this might be especially helpful if you have a power meter or are doing laps or specific workout. As for me I just want one maybe two pages that provide me with all of my data. Each page can provide up to ten streams of data. There are a couple stock pages and a page where you can race against yourself.

I am sure I will adjust my visible data as I play around with this but I like the fact that I can set up as little or as much data as I want.  The amount of data available to the rider is limitless. 

I have done it...I have joined the Garmin crowd and even better I have provided yet another drop in the sea that is Garmin reviews.

Monday, October 14, 2013

One of those weeks

We have all had a week where life just gets crazy and schedules take over the time for exercise.  In my case, that week has becomes two weeks.  I have been on my bike once in two weeks.  The one ride I had was with a good friend and ended up being a sweet ride but still, one ride.  I feel the urgency of the oncoming winter, the forecast is looking gloomy. Plummeting temps and rain/SNOW in and out of the forecast. I just want to spend the last few good days on my bike before riding outside becomes more of a challenge.

So lets back up a bit.  Life has been busy for me here in the woods.  Two weeks ago one of our yellow labs had a litter of puppies.  If you follow me on instagram or twitter you may have already seen pictures.  This started very early on a Monday morning.  The first pup was born somewhere between 12 and 2 am while the last of the six was born around 11 pm that night.

A few months ago my wife and I found out we were having a baby!!! The Friday before the pups were born we found out we are having a girl.  Not that finding out the sex of our baby has made life more hectic it just allowed us to start registering for items for showers.

I have also had the blessing of sub jobs, which keep me busy and make it hard to fit in bike rides as the days are much shorter.  They also make it harder to take time off my primary job.

Life has been crazy good.  I am looking forward to being a dad for the first time and I am making connections in the schools in the area.  The puppies have been amazing to watch grow and my wife and I have been celebrating our sixth wonderful year of marriage.  It is great to be married to my best friend. I love you.

This is where I urge all those who love to ride to realize that there are things that are more important that the bike. I have tried to make sure that I am keeping my priorities straight.

Well... as of this post it looks like I will be receiving my new bike toy (Garmin edge 510) and rain on the same day... Wahwah.

More to come, in the mean time, keep pushing forward.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

My Personal Cycling Kit

I have mentioned before that cycling is a sport of gear.  It is also a sport of fashion. There are hundreds of clothing companies and many of them have large custom businesses to appeal to the small teams, clubs, rides, and organizations. If you are like me you want a kit that represents you. There are some sweet matching bib and jersey combinations available.  It gets even better when you are part of a team and you get a team kit. There is something about a team kit that makes you pedal harder and there is nothing cooler than a team working a paceline during a training ride (This is where I would cut to a title sponsor's commercial during the Tour of California where they are trying to justify the massive amounts they spent on a bike racing team). A team kit provides a sense of belonging or reputation. Obviously the best kit is a pro kit as a part of the team. I think a custom kit would be the ultimate. I love the idea of having something unique that completely represents me or the group I like to ride with. I could design every aspect, it would fit my style, and my goals. This may seem like vanity, to an extent it is...ok it totally is. It is cool though.

I know the the kit has no bearing on ability. Different pieces might make you more comfortable on the bike or help you adapt to different weather but ultimately it is the motor in that kit that pushes. I have seen some of the best riders in some of the worst outfits and I have seen some of the nicest kits on the least capable cyclists. A kit is setting a first impression. I have found that with a good group, the only impression that matters in the end is how hard you ride and if you added to the safety and enjoyment of the group.

If I were to take the region that I ride in and the interests that I have off my bike, I am sure my personalized kit would be very, very, unique. I imagine that it would look a lot like Sugoi's Lumberjack jersey with bib-shorts that look an awful lot like Carhartts. I have spent a lot of time working maintenance at camps and resorts in the woods of Wisconsin and this means I get to play with my chainsaw. I have done a lot of manual labor and not much beats Carhartts in toughness.  I found this particular while Ted King was posting pics of a ride on instagram.

Sugoi Lumberjack Jersey

The next feature would be something similar to Axel's Axes, one of the logos found on the Bontrager Cycling Team. It really is unfortunate that this is already a trademarked logo because it is great. I even like the star because it is an unofficial logo of Northern California, the place I was raised.

Axel's Axes
I have played around with some very simple designs and I think the style kit that fits me best is a simple two or three color kit. I picture black, white, and red with very understated logos. I generally like to keep it simple. I would put a name on the back with one or two sponsors on the side pockets with NWC on the left front chest.  The bibs would be black with NWC at the bottom on the sides. Unfortunately, my bike doesn't have understated logos to match. It has roughly a million Fuji name tags.

So this custom kit is a dream, and really always will be. I would love to be in a position where I could design, build, and sell my ideas but that would require me to be super sweet or have an awesome design. Until then, I will pedal in whatever I can get my hands on and I will keep on pushing.

Monday, October 7, 2013

On Being a Self Sponsored Cyclist

I like to think of myself as a self sponsored cyclist.  I do not make any money riding my bike, nor do I acquire any gear from vendors.  My only semi sponsorship is through Hammer Nutrition, which I have been using for a few years now and I am extremely happy with.  Like most cyclist, I pay for my own gear.  There was a brief time where Performance Bike paid me in tires, clothing and gear to work on their shop floor and sell bikes.  I occasionally ended up with a little money from that deal.  However, as I have posted before I try not to get caught up in the most recent trends and equipment to hit the market.  I try to remind myself that the pros are riding the next big thing because their bike, clothing and component sponsors have tons of money tied up in them for development and marketing.  These athletes are performing superhuman feats in front of millions and providing feedback to the companies.  I am seen by a dozen motorists and maybe a dozen cyclists if I am in a group ride, which is probably a good thing as I am performing very normal feats and I am not often asked for my thoughts on my nine-speed Shimano 105. 

I often wait months before I make a big purchase, either to save up the money or determine if it is something I really want.  I put way more miles on my equipment than I should, my drive train is about a thousand miles past needing replacement, and I have just mounted one old tire to replace the new one that I wore through this summer.  I am now riding a sweet bike with two different colored tires.  That being said, when I make a new purchase that does not consist of nutrition or a bike bottle, I have thought about it.  I need to make sure that I am safe on the bike and I will be able to make it home.

Early in the summer I had a crash a block away from my house, who does that, as I was headed out for a ride, it ripped a small hole in my tire and finished off my tube.  I recovered all of the gear that I spilled on the tarmac and set to replacing the tube.  As I began pumping my tube with my frame pump, the stem snapped off.  This is when I decided to walk the block home a call it quits.  Immediately after returning home I went online, very few bike shops in the woods, and ordered a CO2 pump and what will most likely be fifty years worth of cartridges.  This was one of the few impulse purchases I have made.  I had been thinking about it but it took an experience where the gear I had was insufficient for my needs to do it.  Even then, I did my research and read as many reviews as I could.  I would not be stranded with two bad tubes because my pump broke the stem off again.

Even though I am not a pro or specifically training for a race, I want to get the most out of my rides.  I have been a lifelong athlete and I am most consistent with my exercise when I am able to see improvement and find some manner competition.  I started to look at power meters, GPS computers, and iPhone apps.  I had to, unfortunately, rule out a power meter almost as soon as I started to think about it.  It would be awesome to see what kind of data I could play around with and I could tune my rides to give me the greatest improvement.  The drawback is I don't have PowerTap or SRM sending me devices to mount on my bike.  I am, after all, broke and self sponsored.  This might become an option in the future if I come into a large sum of money, become a gear reviewer, or race seriously.  The next step down was a GPS computer.  I looked at what I was able to afford and the honest truth was my phone was able to do all of those things and an iPhone mount was a quarter of the price.

This begins my summer of riding with my iPhone in a LifeProof case, mounted on my handlebars.  The case was great and easy to use.  i even had a few rides where it was pouring rain and I had no issues.  I could get past the bulk because it was the least expensive option and it did its job well.  I even went all out and paid two bucks for MapMyRide+.  For a few months I rode with both Strava and MapMyRide running in the background as I rode.  I loved the way MapMyRide was set up and the information it provided me was great.  MMR even has current speed, which was +- ten MPH at any given time.  Ultimately, I settled on Strava.  Yes, the same Strava that has both ruined and improved cycling.  The only reason Strava won was it has the best forum for competition.  As summer wore on I noticed my phone was nearly dead after a two hour ride and I was constantly having to turn my screen back on to see any information.  I was missing my thirty dollar computer that was always on and had a battery life of roughly a year.  There was also the obnoxious need to pause and restart my ride to keep my ride data from being usable.  I would forget to pause it or restart it and I would ride a hard section and want to see what happened only to find that it had not recorded.  By the end of the summer I began to reconsider a GPS computer.  I love the way both apps worked I just needed something more rider friendly than my phone.  I decided to pull the trigger and buy a Garmin Edge 510.  This was decision that took a year and many reviews to make.  I will put a few rides in it and let my reader know what I think.  In the mean time, ride hard and have fun.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Fall Ride

 I set out on this surprisingly warm morning with the intent of meeting my wife at the soccer fields to support some of our friends.  I was treated to gusting winds that blew me all over the road for what turned out to be a thirty-two mile ride to a field thirteen miles from my house.  This ride, while windy, was a blast.  The trees were in great fall form, bursting with color.  The leaves were blowing all over the place and at time I was riding through showers of red, yellow, orange, and brown leaves.  I couldn't help but take pictures.

My ride took me on Military Road, which stretches from Three Lakes to Eagle River.  This is one of the most beautiful ten mile stretches of road I have come across in the woods.  Sure, it does not compare with epic views from coastal or mountain rides but the beauty is found in the isolation, winding roads and rolling terrain.

This particular stretch of road has one sign that makes me laugh every time I see it...

Now it is hard to tell as I have already started up this epic four to five percent grade but it is...not steep, or long.  I think about a few rides I have done out in California, Mt Hamilton, Sierra Rd climb, Mt Diablo, cruising the foothills behind my parents house, and I can't take this sign seriously.  This hill is roughly three hundred yards long and maybe hits five percent.  Not what I would consider a hill worth marking.  In fact, it is sad that someone feels the need to let us know that a car may have to push a little harder on the gas pedal.

Okay, with that behind me...

This ride was much more satisfying than I thought it would be.  It was a beautiful and warm fall day, unexpected even, the wind added challenge and the trees, beauty.  I remembered why I love riding my bike.  I have a chance to explore on my terms, under my own ability.  You never know what surprise awaits you out on the road until you are there.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What do you listen to?

I am interested to see what music is most popular on cyclists' and runners' playlist while the workout.  I know there are mixed feelings on the use of headphones and music while on the road but that is not what I am concerned with at the moment.  When I am riding I really like anything with a rhythmic beat and varying intensity.  This allows for natural interval work and consistent rest periods.  My playlist has a lot of Mumford and Sons, Of Monsters and Men, and Daft Punk.  I really like the energy and passion  in the artists' voices.

Please post in the comment box the song, artist, style of music, or podcast that you most prefer while you exercise.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Riding Year Round, in the Cold

So... my last post was wishful thinking.  It is time to embrace the coming seasons.  It really is beautiful even though in my weaker moments I long to be back in California.  Riding up here goes from winding roads weaving between lakes to falling red, orange, and brown leaves to peaceful muffled snow lined roads.  The roads are perfect for a road bike.  The cold is coming no matter what I do.

Yesterday's ride to and from work was the first time I could sense fall in the air.  The chilly temps and the constant wind gave me a taste of the things to come.  Blustery fall and winter rides are more about getting out and turning the pedals over than improving speed and distance.  These rides are a grind.  While it can be challenging, it is important to get out and push.  This is where the base fitness and mental strength begins for the next summer.  My goal is to ride year round no matter what.  I can have some great rides on my rollers but the basement can get rather boring.  On my rollers I watch Breaking Away, American Flyers, or some archived race footage and  I need to get outside.
The key to success in the cooler climates is the proper clothing.  This can be a challenge as there is no one size fits all solution.  Every cyclist has a different heat production/loss.  We all need to find what works through trial and error.  I thought I would share what I have found and I have been on some pretty cold bike rides.

I realized pretty quickly that my feet and hands are my weak points, as long as they have enough coverage I will be okay.  To accomplish this for my hands, I began using lobster mitts.  My hands nearly sweat at five degrees.  I don't have to worry about cold hands anymore.  The split mitt takes a ride or two to get comfortable with but once that is done they are easy to ride with.  Now, protecting my feet are my Garneau shoe covers.  These are great, they are lightweight, keep the wind off and are mostly water resistant.  All good except that they need to go on before my shoes.  This is a huge pain if you want to take them off  in the middle of a ride.  My next pair of shoe covers will be ones that close in the back.

My head and face just need to be protected from the wind and do not need a whole lot of insulation.  Enter my Gore Bike Wear hat and mask.  The hat is more than enough to keep my head toasty down to the coldest rides I have done.  The mask took a little bit of adjustment.  I had to figure out what temp it worked best.  The best feature is that it can be quickly removed and replace while on the bike.  The only downside is it has a tendency to slip down a bit.  I will experiment with a Buff gaiter this fall and get back to you.

As for tights, there are so many options out there.  It is impossible to determine which ones work by looking at a picture online,(that is all I have in the woods) you really need to try them out.  Last winter my wife got me some Pearl Izumi AmFIB Bib-Tights  and they were key to getting out in all temperatures and conditions.  The ones with no chamois allow me to ride in the bibs I am already comfortable in.  If I needed a bit extra warmth for my joints, I could layer them with my knee warmers.  The AmFib tights have a softshell front to protect from the wind and water and fleece lined lycra on the back to keep warmth in while maintaining mobility.  The AmFIB paired with the Pearl Izumi Pro Softshell and five degrees is no problem to ride in.

Now the downside of winter riding is getting all of these layers on.  Generally, if it takes more than five minutes to get ready for a ride you are doing it wrong.  In the winter replace five with fifteen and you are about right.  It is definitely much easier to ride in the basement in cycling shorts but there is nothing that beats being out on the road.  It would be easy to ride in sunny moderate climate all year but when the weather is rough it shows a deeper beauty that you will never find in the perfect weather.  So lets put on some Justin Timberlake and get suited up.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Winter...Stay Away

The weather is cooling off and the days are getting shorter up near Canada (so we are not that far north but still).  Days that once started at 5:15 am and ended at 9:30 pm are now becoming dark at 7:15 pm.  It feels like they are getting shorter five minutes earlier each day.  I say this because finding time to get in a meaningful ride is becoming more a challenge.  This is the time of year I start trying to figure out what winter training will look like.  I see my rollers and I dread the long dark winter.  Last winter I invested in clothing that will allow me to ride even when it is a balmy 5 degrees.  Last winter I was able to get outside four times but the rides were slow and short.  After one ride I had a six inch icicle hanging from my bottom bracket and my rear derailleur froze up.
Even with my fenders I still had to take my bike apart and clean it in my basement after almost every ride.  One hour of riding equals two hours of cleaning, argh.  That is not my idea of a good ride to work ratio.  The worst part is I am still fighting the damage done last winter.  Dealing with a long winter is part of life up here.  Well it is still a ways off and midday or low light rides might be the norm for a little while yet. Even though it seems like winter is right around the corner I need to focus on the great days that still exist this year.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Bike We Ride

I have been thinking a lot about the bike I ride.  It is not the bike I originally purchased and is a mix of parts that only sort of fit.  I do not think many roadies look at my bike with envy.  Basically, it is 9 speed (yup, now two speeds behind) Shimano 105 from my '07 Trek 1500 mounted on an '05 Fuji Professional frame (with a crack in the top tube).

Cycling is a world of shiny new toys, there is always revolutionary technology, a new piece of equipment, or some secretive update that the pros are using.  There are hundreds of companies fighting to stand apart and make your ride faster, more compliant, lighter, more comfortable, more aerodynamic, and cooler looking.  The result is a consumer that is always talking about the newest thing.  This year, Sram released their true 22 when only a season before they revamped their top end equipment.  It feels like sometimes we get lost in a world of gear and forget that we are simply riding a bike.

It can be hard to pedal In a group when the guys around you are riding new Madones with zipp wheels or an electronic Ultegra equipped Venge.  Don't get me wrong they are beautiful bikes and I would love to ride one if I could.  However, I have come to realize that the most important component on a bike is the rider.  Without a rider a bike is no more than a drying rack.

Sure, a power meter will help focus my training, a lighter bike will make climbing easier, and 22 gears will allow me to keep the most efficient cadence.  In my situation I have more weight to shave off personally than I can ever shave off my bike.  When it comes down to it I am still riding in that group and taking my turns in a pace line.  We all ride different bikes and we all ride for different reasons, lets do a better job of enjoying the ride and less of wondering how the newest piece of equipment will make us better.  Don't lose focus on what we are all on the bike to do...

Ride, as fast as we can...or have fun.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Tuesday Night Ride

Tonight I had a good ride with the Eagle River Depot Ride.
This has been a fun group to ride with. They are friendly and inviting. The best part is we always have a wide variety of riders from those out enjoying a bike to those who want to really push.  Often, someone from out of town.  It is great to see a strong cycling community build up in town joins the mix.  Ultimately, we are all out there to have fun, get stronger, and enjoy our bikes.  If you are ever up in Eagle River WI, check it out.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Day Off

52 miles of biking here...

and here...


led me to eating all of this.

On a more serious note, this was very good day off.  I was able to squeeze in some morning reading with my dogs. Following that, I had a great ride in near perfect weather on 52 miles of winding roads with over a 1,000 feet increase in elevation.  My other goal today was to locate the source of a foul smell coming from inside my car.  The last few days after transporting some leaves it started to smell of death...  I found the source.  A shrew had crawled into the trim inside my car and died.  Unfortunately, I don't think that smell will be going away very quickly.  Finally, my wife reported that the local ice cream shop, Lick-a-dee splitz, just received a shipment of plain coffee ice cream.  Well... back to work tomorrow.  Until then, I am off to get ice cream.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The road calls

Everywhere I go I am sizing up the roads for their ability to be ridden. I find that I see the the inclines, curves, declines, and quality of the Tarmac differently since I have started to ride my bike.  There are many times I wish I could pull my car over and get on my bike.  I currently live in one of the most underappreciated cycling areas. Sure we do not have any long climbs or big bike shops. What we do have, is miles and miles of quiet, rolling, and winding roads.  I can go out for a two hour ride and see maybe two cars when I am off the highway.  I am living my life and riding my bike in one of the most beautiful places in Northern Wisconsin.