January 1, 2014 – My First Ride of 2014

With a winter storm predicted for January 2nd and 3rd, I decided to take advantage of the clear roads and get in a ride for January.  I want to keep my string of riding at least one day per month.  Well, that string is not in danger until at least February 28th.   So I ventured out on my ride.

I got off to a later start than I wanted.  I rolled out at about 1:30 p.m. heading on a southwest route to Upton, Mass.  I planned a 33 mile loop.  I was fighting the low winter sun, in my eyes, while heading southwest.   When I looped back towards home it was not a problem.

My biggest problem was a stupid mistake on my part.  I didn’t wear booties.  I thought two pair of wool socks under my cycling shoes would be adequate.  I was wrong.  Your body does not produce enough circulation in cold weather to reach the extremities.  Also if you have aluminum pedals they act as heat sinks in that they draw heat away.  So my feet were damn cold by the time I got home.  I warm otherwise in the 23 degree weather.

Overall I did 33 miles in a little over 2:30 minutes  By the time I was rolling into my driveway my lights were working well and I am glad I had them.

Stay safe out there in the cold weather.

Winter is coming 2013 to 2014

First let me say this:  I made my goal of riding at least once a month for every month in 2013.  It is just past the first week of December and I have slightly over 1600 road miles for the year.  These do not include any miles on an indoor trainer.  January and February of 2013 were tough.  I only got one ride in each month.  March showed improvement and June I was really putting on the mileage.  July we had a heat wave where it was almost too hot to ride, unless you got up really early.

This brings me back to winter.  I live just outside Boston.  The temperature this morning was 28 degrees.  The roads were dry and I could have gone out, but I did not.  I am hoping on some new cold weather riding gear for Christmas.  I do have enough to keep my upper body warm, but I need some nice leg and foot warmers.

I hope in 2014 that I can ride more.  I want to see if I can get between 2500 and 3000 miles in 2014.  I hope we do not have a snowy winter.  Around Christmas is nice, but the rest of the year I hope the roads are snow and sand free.  I know I will have to change my road slicks for something with more traction, but I hope to keep riding through winter.  Another thing that I can’t stress to much.  Watch out for black ice, sand and ice that forms after a thaw of snowfall.  Anyway, be careful on the roads this winter, and don’t be afraid to take your share of the road when it narrows.  A.J.

This Season is Winding Down – Lessons Learned

It’s a chilly November afternoon outside.  We just changed back to standard time so it will be getting darker sooner and less afternoon daylight for riding.  As winter approaches there will be less time for riding.  October was my lowest riding total since April if not earlier.  Part of it was due to the government shutdown because my wife was home and come up with a list of things to do before winter.  This time of year also brings up a peak in my migraines both in number and severity.  Instead of the migraines being quickly dispatched in a couple of hours, I had a few that hung on for days.  I also had oral surgery with about 10 days to go in the month and the doctor told me no bike riding until the stitches come out in two weeks.  What time is better for me to reflect than right now?

 

I am not hanging up my bike yet.  I would still like to get in 300 – 400 miles before the weather really gets nasty.  If I get half of that I will be happy.  I will be prepared as I have ordered a new steed for my stable.  This has more of a touring stance, will take slightly wider tires and I plan to put fenders and possibly a rear rack on it.  Face it, I am in my 50’s and I am not going to go out racing in “crits” or cyclo-cross.  I also need to loose a decent amount of weight to even get near what it would take to race and this body has a bad knee and arthritic hip.  No, I just ride to be in club rides and socialize afterwords.  I do want to do more centuries next summer, not metric either but at least one full century.

What have I learned?

  • No matter how much you ride you still have to watch your diet.   Hydration is important – drink plenty of water and electrolytes on those long hot rides.  Lack of hydration can lead to headaches.  I learned on the D2R2 that by drinking water every 5-10 minutes from my camelbak or water bottle, I did not suffer.  I filled up at every water station and even sat and drank a bottle while there.  I ate wisely.  By doing this I was able to climb those hills that killed me in the past and it did not take me two to three days to recover once I got home, just about a day instead, which was much better.
  • I need to train better during the off season.  Last year between Halloween and right after Christmas, I did nothing.   I paid for it, dearly.  I gained too much weight which I have fought to take off all summer and am still fighting now.  But I am turning the corner, I have a plan in place.  If, I can’t get out on the roads, I will be at the gym or if the day is really bad, down in my basement working out.  I will control myself over the holidays.
  • Fenders can be your friends.  After being caught in a few rainstorms this summer, and riding on the crappy sandy roads of spring I learned that fenders can keep dirt and grit away from your drive train, giving it longer life.  Also your legs and preventing that skunk stripe on your back.
  • Going from rim brakes to disc in mid-season can be tricky and everyone should know that rim brakes just suck when it gets wet.
  • When planning a ride on “ride with gps” or any other website, try to Google Earth or Map the road.  Avoid roads that go by cement plants or may have heavy truck traffic. They just leave a lot of sand in the road or tear up the pavement.  If you have doubts about a busy section drive it in your car first.
  • Potholes are costly.  I found this out on Hartford Road east-bound near Bellingham, Massachusetts.  This is a heavily traveled road, has a cement plant and the road has potholes galore.  I hit a pothole so hard that my jaw rattled and I almost lost my breath.  I could not avoid the pothole as I did not see it in time and there was traffic to my left and a drop-off to my right.   I am now lighter in the wallet but richer in experience from that mishap.
  • If you show up thirty minutes early for a group ride and don’t see your group or other riders check your directions but first do a quick drive around the block as there may have been a different entrance or they are meeting at the other side of the school.
  • Expect some snide act from a pick up truck with confederate flags on it.
  • Pedal bearings wear out and go side to side.  If you are wearing clipless pedals this could have unintended consequences.

I will probably remember more and I will post them here.  I will also post about my new steed once it comes in and I get a chance to ride it.   I also hope to keep you posted during the winter.

 

Green Street Hill is My Bitch!

Hills, some people love them, others hate them.  If you live in New England you can’t avoid them.  Hills challenge us, they make our lungs and legs burn.  Some hills are deceptive, they start with a nice ascent then a false descent.  After that false descent it you go around a curve and it kicks you in the ass and face at the same time.  After that it grabs you and says: “Hey sucker, you going to be a little wimp and get off and push?”  Well in western New England on the D2R2 there is one hill that really kicked me and I will save that for some other time.  The hill I want to talk about is Green Street Hill between Northborough and Berlin, Massachusetts.

As I said in the title this hill is my bitch, but I have conquered it several times now.  But on some days it is still waiting lurking calling to me.  It teases me when I think I need to do some hill work.   What is tough about this hill?  Well it starts out gentle enough then it makes an nice little descent after about 1/4 mile going around a curve to your left.  At 1/2 mile it turns to the right and gives you the face slap and butt kick.  I even heard three women cyclists, in their late 30’s early 40’s, refer to this hill as “that fuckin’ hill!”  At 1/2 mile until you crest one mile later it is all pain, very little shade as you work your way up this hill.  You climb from 363 feet to 636 feet, that is 273 feet.  That’s right, in one mile you climb the equivalent of a 27 story building.  The grades on this hill vary, but there is one stretch of over 9%.  This means for every 100 ft you go forward, you have gone up 9 vertical feet.

Why do I ride this hill?  It is good practice, it’s there and there are sadists ride leaders in my club (Charles River Wheel-men) that get their kicks out of putting this hill on their routes.  But, I can’t blame them.  Once you are up there you can ride places with nice views.   Here is a link to that hill.  http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/313422997

Until next time – A.J.

 

September Going to October

A beautiful fall Columbus Day Weekend and I have been sidelined since Thursday with the migraine from hell.  On the pain scale I have had worse, where I have had to go to emergency room, but none this stubborn that just want to hang around.  Just when you think it’s gone, it rears its ugly pain.  So my bike riding has been suffering.  It’s hard to get into riding shape when you are laying in bed hiding from the light.

Before this migraine crap came along I did manage a few rides.  I have a new favorite 29-30 mile route.  Yes it has climbing but damn, unless you live on the coast or down on Cape Cod almost every route has some hills.  I will have to post some pictures of this route as the scenery is gorgeous.

I had some observations and other things I wanted to talk about on this post but the migraine has me suffering from CRS (cant remember shit).

September Already?

This is the South Natick Dam.  A scenic spot.  This was taken, on August 30, 2013.  Where has the summer gone?
This is the South Natick Dam. A scenic spot. This was taken, on August 30, 2013. Where has the summer gone?

According to the meteorologists, the summer is over.  Now we can get on with the crisp morning rides of fall.  In this weather we cn still have pleasant rides in later morning and into the afternoon without worrying about blistering heat.  I did a ride yesterday, my first since the D2R2, and actually had to use my arm warmers.

I have also started my off season weight routine.  I wasn’t happy about my weight this summer and I could feel it on my climbs.  My goal is to be in shape for the spring century in May of 2014.

I am still riding, though presently it is on my mountain bike.  I have my semi-road slicks on it and I am able to maintain a decent pace.  It’s not as fast as a healthy road bike, but my road bike is not healthy.  I was riding my road bike just before the D2R2 and hit a bad pothole.  I had no choice.  I saw it coming but had a big drop off of about a foot into sand on one side and riding into the side of an SUV on the other side.  I braced myself and hit it hard.  My jaw even hurt.  So earlier this week I finally had the chance to put the bike up on the repair stand and the real wheel was way out of round.  The bottom bracket even squeaks.  This is beyond my capability maybe.  But I don’t have the time to play around with it as I want to do more road biking before winter and also need to paint two sheds and 11 windows before it gets too cold.

Anyway hang in there and keep riding.  A.J.

D2R2 2013 – My Ride!

One of the easier climbs on the D2R2 since it is on paved road.  It is still about a 12 percent grade though.
One of the easier climbs on the D2R2 since it is on paved road. It is still about a 12 percent grade though.

 

A peaceful place for lunch.
A peaceful place for lunch.

 

The dam at lunch
The dam at lunch

 

Crossing into Vermont.  The practice of these markers was to show which side of the border you are on.
Crossing into Vermont. The practice of these markers was to show which side of the border you are on.

 

I am on a ridge, which is probably the most scenic towards the end of the day.  The town of Deerfield, MA is down in the valley and is the finish point.  I am about 1/2 mile from the final rest stop before another grueling 7-10 mile to the finish.
I am on a ridge, which is probably the most scenic towards the end of the day. The town of Deerfield, MA is down in the valley and is the finish point. I am about 1/2 mile from the final rest stop before another grueling 7-10 mile to the finish.

 

The tall mountain you see is Mount Monandock which is in New Hampshire.  This picture was taken on the same ridge and from the same spot I took the picture of Deerfield.
The tall mountain you see is Mount Monandock which is in New Hampshire. This picture was taken on the same ridge and from the same spot I took the picture of Deerfield.

 

This was the second time doing this ride. I must say that it went a lot better than the last time, where I drove out the morning of the ride and shredded a rear tire on my car and sat on the Mass Pike for almost two hours while it got fixed. I ended up getting a late start as a result. This year I used some of my credit card points and stayed at a nice hotel nearby and got a good nights sleep. This allowed me to get out early enough and not feel rushed about getting out on the ride at a decent time. However, two minor flies tried to land in my ointment, but I managed to swat them back.

The first fly that tried to land was my GPS. All the time I spent mapping out the course from the cue sheets to my computer to download to my GPS was for nothing. I forgot to download it! Another rider who also had a GPS reminded me that I wasn’t totally sunk as at least the GPS would show the upcoming roads and if I paid close attention to the cue sheets. Also, since I was getting a good start I found that I was really never that far out of sight of other riders, either ahead or behind me, who were on the same course. Fly number one swatted!

The second fly arrived in the form of a couple of other riders I was going to ride with. They were nice enough guys, don’t get me wrong, but one guy told me that they planned to hammer through the course. He had a cross bike and his friend had a mountain bike. I decided to give it a try and kept up a reasonable pace. I figured I could keep up with the pair since one of them was also riding a mountain bike. Well gearing is everything, I was geared to low to keep up with them and I did not want to expend all my energy in the first few miles so I told them to go ahead. A wise choice and my second fly was swatted.

I will say my navigation was a lot better this year. I did not get lost. My climbing was better too. I learned from past experience and had the right gearing for climbing and my tires were better suited than the last time.

I only got off my bike to walk it twice, unlike the last time when it seemed like I was walking it uphill a lot. I do believe I have to credit all my riding this summer which included a lot of hills on my road bike (but the hills in eastern Mass were paved and not a steep and long). The first time I walked it was part of the way up my first dirt hill climb. I thought as I dismounted, “crap, this is going to be a bad day”. It turned out to be more of a result of forgetting my trail riding skills as I was out of position in navigating a climb and dismounted halfway up a hill. It’s just not that easy to remount a mountain bike while going uphill on a crappy trail. The rest of the day was grand. Yes, I got passed by more than several riders going uphill. But they were huffing and puffing pushing higher gears. I had the foresight, for once, to have my gearing changed out so I could sit back push a high cadence of about 80 rpm and move forward uphill at just above a fast walking pace.

The only other time I walked my bike was a result of the final gnarly downhill. It is a tough downhill, not really steep but about a mile long with twists curves short uphills before going back down. There are granite ledges or steps sticking out of the road, deep ruts running in different directions, rocks of all sizes, holes some filled with deep, deep sand some not that you could not see until it was almost too late. The reason being was that you the road went in and out of the shade so your eyes could not adjust quickly enough. The deep sand got me and took me down. The only casualty was my pride and a little dirt on my knee as well as a small bruise. After that, I decided to walk my bike a little until the road improved and I could see where I was going better. Again I forgot an old mountain bike trick, you have to power through these sections, it seems counter-intuitive as you want to brake. I remembered that lesson a little too late.

If you are reading this, you know I made it. If you would have asked me in the middle of the ride if I was going to do this again next year, I would have probably said no. I am still not sure. I want to see how my off-season goes and if I can shed a few more pounds.

As for the ride experience itself. It is run like a well oiled machine. The volunteers that work behind the scenes and at the food and waterstops are fantastic! They were helpful and were always smiling, which must be hard to do given that there were probably a lot of grumpy riders who misjudged their riding ability. There was plenty to eat and drink before, during and after the ride. The scenery on this ride is outstanding and I have several pics that I will upload later. I just have to say that it is a great experience and the ride is for a good cause. The Franklin Land Trust (www.franklinlandtrust.org). A.J.

Deerfield Dirt Road Randonee’ (D2R2) Preparation and Why do Roadies Seem Stuck Up

My preparation for the D2R2 this past three weeks has not gone as planned. Yes, I did get in a few rides including a 50 miler, but not as much as I wanted. Why? Well my wife decided to take these past three weeks for vacation. This meant less time on the bike and more on the the honey do list. In the past two weeks we have powerwashed, cleaned and repainted our deck and railings, and took the siding off our old shed and re-sided it. My son also had surgery for a deviated septum so more time was lost. Yes, life happens. Despite what we want, life does not revolve around bicycling.

Am I ready? Yes. I am looking forward to riding this year. I updated the rear cassette for better climbing gearing, and I went down to 1.5 in wide semi road slick tires from the 1.75 knobbies I rode last time. I may not be in the best shape weight wise, but I can’t do much about it now. I also know that I will not go out hard like I did last time and have learned from my past mistakes. I expect to be out on the road all day. I want to get an early start and not push it. I will just take my time and try to enjoy the ride as much as possible. I will let you know how I do

So Why Do Roadies Seem Stuck Up?
The last three weeks I have been riding my mountain bike on the road. I have semi-road slicks on it plus skinnier tires. This is for my D2R2 preparation. When I am out on my bike I acknowledge other riders, a kindred spirit. On my road bike both mountain bikers and roadies wave back or say hello. I even had a flat on my road bike and a fellow road biker helped me out. Now let’s turn to my mountain bike. I wave or acknowledge other riders, mountain bikers return the wave, but a lot of roadies think it is beneath them to acknowledge me. WTF? Now I can understand why some mountain bike riders say that roadies suck. I try to tell them they are over generalizing, but are they? I don’t know.

Until next time, keep pedaling.

Onwards to August

It’s hard to believe we are heading into the second week of August. It seems like yesterday I was wondering if summer and good riding weather would get here. There is still plenty of good riding weather left, at least through mid-October. In two weeks I still have the D2R2 on my plate. More on that later.

This summer has flown. In June I had one of my highest mileage months in a long time. However, July came along with two long heat waves. My mileage was down as a result. The heat was brutal and when you get older you find that you just can’t handle the heat as well. There was one week in July where I didn’t even think of pulling my bike out for a ride. The first week of August has seen weather that is more like September and I have got some rides in. However, my wife took this time off for her vacation and my work at home list has really limited my time in the saddle. I really need to get on my mountain bike more as I plan to ride it in the D2R2. My body and reflexes have to get used to a different bike.

I am looking forward to the D2R2. I know what to expect and I hope the weather and my car cooperates this year (as well as my bike). I know to take plenty of water this year, keep hydrated and keep my energy. The ride is tough, with the 100k having close to 8,000 feet of climbing. Not just any climbing but long climbs, and steep climbs mainly on dirt roads. I anticipate 8-9 hours from the time I start until the time I roll into the finish. This includes water stops, rest stops as well as lunch. I figure I will be wiped out for a few days after this ride, but I should be ready for the CRW Labor Day Extravaganza. I just need to make sure my road bike will be ready.

Yes, my road bike has taken a beating. The last ride I was on I noticed some more creaks and groans and they weren’t coming from my bones. My bike was telling me something and I need to check the trueness of the wheels and maybe overhaul the bottom bracket.

That is it for now. Stay Safe! A.J.

Organized Rides – Why Sometimes They Give Bike Riders a Bad Reputation

Time for me to get up on my soapbox again. I belong to a bicycle club and we have group rides. Everyone knows each other and we are considerate to each other and to automobile drivers. We get over to the right, as safe as the road will allow and ride single file when cars approach. The state law says we can ride two abreast and we do, but when a car is coming we quickly and safely get over to single file. Now on to organized rides.

When I talk about organized rides, I am talking about rides that are put on by organizations (bike clubs, charities, whatever) that you pay a fee to ride in. I am not talking about races, I am talking about rides. I was in such a ride this past weekend. This was put on by my bike club, but it is a couple of weeks before a huge charity ride. I will explain the charity ride first.

The charity ride is called the Pan Mass Challenge, it is a one or two day ride that ends on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. It benefits a local cancer institute and it is a good charity. I have no problems with where the money goes. I do have gripes about the way the ride is set up. For an average individual you have to come up with about $4,400 dollars and you have to give the charity your credit card number when you sign up. After the ride you have about 90 days to collect your pledges or else your credit card gets charged. Some people are fortunate enough to have an employer who will match their donations so they only have to come up with $2,200. Other people ride in teams. Teams pay more, but I believe per person the cost is less (I could be wrong). Anyway the team concept is what I find annoying.

On the recent ride I did (Climb to the Clouds) there were several of these teams who were preparing for the Pan Mass. For the most part these teams were pretty good, but there were a couple of teams, that if I were a cop, I would have pulled them over and cited them. These teams would ride sometimes 3-4 abreast and pass other riders when there were cars behind them wanting to get by. Yes, I know they were teams because they all wore matching jerseys and shorts (kits in bike language). They were especially bad on some of the more narrower curvey roads. They also showed disrespect for other riders. There were a couple of cases where they would pass other riders on the right, courtesy calls for passing on the left; when passing on the left they would not make their presence known; and I personally had one ride come so close to me that he almost bumped my shoulder and handle bars. He was in a group that was moving very fast in a double pace line. Come guys this is not a race, why do you treat it as one? One town on this ride had to put a cruiser at a four way intersection because groups of riders were rolling through the four way stop.

The behavior I described above is not acceptable. If we want motorists to respect us on the road, we should be more respectful of them. Save your racing behavior for actual races. Just because you have enough money to buy an expensive bike, and matching kit so you and your riders can call yourself a team, it doesn’t make you a good rider. You are not a professional rider competing in some grand tour. You are just out on a recreational ride, put on by a charity or other organization. You got that speed racer!

One other thing, before you decide to ride in a two day charity event where you have to ride 100 miles per day, start your training early. If you haven’t ridden a bike in more than 3 years, don’t go out and buy a new bike or get your old one fixed up and start your training with only 4-6 weeks before the event. Believe me, you won’t have a happy outcome. Start training well before then and get your base mileage in. If the furthest you have ridden on your bike in one day is 10 miles the next day add 10%, leave days for rest and recovery. You probably shouldn’t push more than 4 days a week at first and never more than six. If your longest ride of the week has been 65 miles, the next week try for 72 or 73. Do some other training as well but listen to your body and make sure you get rest.