WOW! It Has Been Almost A Year Since I Last Posted!

Yes, I did ride in 2015, 1,941 miles, not as much as I was hoping for. This year 782 miles so far at the end of April. It helps when you have a mild winter. I have upped my routine and I am trying to track my training. Both of my bikes have Ultegra Groupsets and one has a Stages Power Meter. I am considering putting one on the other bike.

I have a couple of goals this year. At least 4 metrics are planned, and maybe even one full century. I also want to put 2,500 miles in the books. So stay tuned.

Winter Blahs!

It’s January 22, 2014.  I just spent over an hour and a half snowblowing and shoveling out from this last winter blast in New England.  It is now 7 degrees F outside.  For the next several days we will be in a polar vortex, so any ice on the road won’t have much chance of melting.  There is also a chance for more snow in the coming week.  I am just thankful that I got 119 miles of riding in this month.  It sure beats last year when I only got in about 15 in January.

How do I cope with these cold days.  Well I do have a stationary exercise bike in my basement.  No, it is not one of my road bikes on a training stand.  It is just a resistance trainer.  I have a couple of Carmichael Training System DVDs as well as a few other more scenic ones where I don’t have to look at people sweating on their bikes in a gym like setting.  I also am doing some kettlebell training and other core training for my abs.  Next to your legs, I have been told your abs are most important for balance and power.  I am body toning.  This weight and resistance training won’t bulk me up but it will give me more tone and strength.  I still can’t wait to ride outside again.

Riding outside in winter is not for the faint of heart.  You have to be prepared.  You should have a wicking underlayer as well as breathable top layers and the ability to vent the heat your body will build up during a strenous workout outside.  If not, that sweat stays trapped and gets cold and may lower your body temperature leading to hypothermia.  I highly recommend that you wear booties for your bike shoes, especially if you have the ventilated type of shoes.  If you don’t have booties, your pedals will act like heat sinks and draw heat away from your feet, even in temperatures as low as 35 degrees F.  Also, when riding a bike you are creating your own wind chill.  So if it 30 degrees out on dry roads, check your wind chill chart for your average speed and the speed the wind is blowing to figure out how really cold it is going to be.  As for my hand, I wear padded bicycle gloves underneath my three finger mittens.  I have never had any problems with my hands.

Another issue to consider when riding in the winter is the road itself.  Freezing and thawing will bring out potholes galore.  You have to be vigilant.  With the low sun of winter there is more glare on the road.  This glare hides such dangers as black ice, sand and potholes.  Any of these can put you down on the road with a hard fall, or at least give you a flat tire or damaged rim.  Also beware of black ice if you go out when it was warm and the snow was melting but the return temperature is below freezing.

Other equipment you should have for winter are blinking lights front and rear and fenders.  In winter it gets darker earlier, especially when the clouds move in.  If your blinking front light can turn into a headlight, all the better.  Hi visibility or reflective clothing will also help you be seen.  Drivers don’t expect bicyclists out in the winter and when you ride near intersections you should go out more towards the middle of the road to be seen, especially if there are tall snow banks.  Fenders are important in that they help keep the majority of road grime from your drive train.  When I mean fenders I mean front and rear.  They also keep the grime off your clothes and help to keep you dryer.  After your ride, take the time to clean up your bike,  clean your chain and drive train, and give it a nice wipe down.  If you have caliper brakes take a soft cloth and get the sand a loose grime off the rims.

So is winter riding worth it?  If you ask me, heck yes!  You don’t have to put up with bugs that seem to want to bug you as you go up a steep hill, barely doing 6mph.  There is more to see, since the leaves are all gone.  You can sometime get the scent of a wood fire as you go past a house, and when you are done a cup of hot tea or chocolate really hits the spot.  “Another added benefit is that winter rides can help get you lean by burning brown fat, which unlike regular fat is only triggered by cold weather and burns calories instead of storing them.  Fully activiated brown fat can raise your restin metabolism by 20 percent…” (Source Bicycling Training Journal, Rodale Press page 8 (c) 2012).   So if you can, get out and ride this winter.  A.J.

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

March April and Now May

What can I say? The weather in March sucked! The winter wouldn’t end. There was lots of snow still around and in the day time it would get just above freezing in the afternoon and refreeze at night. The morning temperatures were cold so lots of black ice. It was just plain sloppy. I did manage to get a couple of rides in but they were cold rides. Both rides included a fairly nasty short climb of almost 15%. Talk about quad burners.

April got better, temperatures still chilly at times but the snow was gone. The biggest hazard was potholes, followed by the excess piles of sand that gathered along the side of the road and at intersections. This meant my “winter tires” (700×28) are still on the bike, the road slicks (700×23) are still sitting in the basement.

The last week of April into the first week of May turned out to signal the start of spring. I got into some group rides. One group ride I had to bail on because I flatted my front tire before I even got my second foot clipped in. Some days it just goes against you. I told the group to go ahead and I would try to catch up since I had GPS. Well my GPS got confused, or maybe the operator confused it. Anyway there were a couple of roads on the route that split and the ran parallel for a bit before finally diverging. My only saving grace was this group ride was in my backyard so I was familiar enough with the roads to make it back to the start. It was one of my faster rides as I averaged 14+mph over 24 miles.

So far in May I have finally become comfortable with my GPS. I still have an occasional screw-up but overall I like it a lot. The distances of my rides have increased. I did a 40 just a couple of days ago followed up by a 20 miler. I have also ridden a couple of times in my short sleeve jersey which is really a nice feeling. One other good sign is that the road crews are out filling potholes, the street sweepers have cleaned up a lot of sand and debris. I am thinking that in the very near future my road slicks will make their appearance.

Look for more of my updates soon, especially since riding season is in full swing. Also follow me on Facebook: General Thoughts/Issues on Bicycling. A.J.

My First Group Ride of the Year!

I met up with my buddies in the Charles River Wheelmen Bicycling Club. This is a social bicycling club open to everyone. We met at a member’s house and had a choice between a supershort (25 miles), short (about 36 miles) and a long ride (around 54 miles). Since I had ridden 4 miles to get there and about 4 miles to get back I opted for the short ride, which would give me close to 33 miles for the year. This was the first group ride of the year for a few riders. Despite temperatures in the low 40’s at the start, I guess the snow discouraged a lot of potential riders as there were about 10 of us at the start.

I had ridden parts of this route this past Monday. So I knew where the the nasty hills were. It also helped that this route was practically in my back yard so I knew what to expect. A few riders went out fast maybe too fast. I guess they were excited for the first ride of the season. I was beginning to feel discouraged a bit almost resigning myself to be tail-end-charlie or pretty close. However, as the ride went on I started to reel back in some the riders that took off early. I passed a couple of riders before the big hill on this ride and by the time I topped the big hill, I was up with a few more. At the halfway point of the super short route we were all riding together. With a few miles to go there were just me another guy up front. By the time we got back to the finish we all were within a minute of each other and sat around and chatted about the ride and biking in general. It was a good time with good friends. I am looking forward to more rides this season. BTW I had a friend take a picture of me to show what it takes to ride in cold weather.