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.