Riding Season is in Full Swing for 2014

May was a month of starts and stops for me.   I had good times and bad.  Thankfully no accidents but a couple of mechanical breakdowns that should not happen to a bike that is less than 6 months old and does not even have 600 miles on it.   I won’t bore you with the details since they are covered under warranty, but it is pretty damn frustating and one could have been almost dangerous to a less experienced rider.

I spent a lot of this month preparing to lead my first ride for my club the Charles River Wheelmen (CRW).  I had to set up a long and short route, map it out, ride it to see if there if the route is appropriate and safe and then go back and arrow the route.  It’s not as simple as it sounds.  Arrowing is best if you do it with someone because you can carry more spray cans and have someone to talk to.  I had some obstacles to overcome which included bad cracking pavement, sand, wet weather, time and street cleaners.  Street cleaners have a nasty habit of obliterating arrows.  I retouched the best I could, but the I found out the arrow that the dreaded street sweepers might have messed up one turn.

As for the ride itself we had about 20 to 25 riders.  About 1/3 went on the long ride and the rest on the short ride.   I received a lot of compliments.

As for my other riding activities I volunteered to help park cars for the CRW Spring Century and then took off and rode the metric+ (65 miles).  I road at a pace of over 15 mph which was one of my best in a long time.

Now if the weather, my home improvements and bike all align and cooperate, this should be  great summer to ride.

 

 

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April Showers bring May Flowers and Hopefully an End to Potholes.

It is now May 3.  I doubled my mileage for the year in April and hopefully in May I do one metric century and maybe add a full century to it.  Now if the weather and my migraines cooperate, I should be able to do it.

My fund raising for my MS Ride is going well,  I am halfway there with about two months to go.  If you want to donate, contact me at ajgemperline@gmail.com and I will guide you through the process.

In April I had my bike refitted as well as my bio-mechanics evaluated.  I found out that one of my legs is shorter than the other and some adjustments here and there including putting a shim in the cleat of my shoe should correct it.  I highly recommend it for anyone who plans to ride a lot, over 1,200 miles per year, or has experienced some pain during or after their ride.

Another accomplishment I did this month was to put, or I should I say fit SKS Longboard Fenders on my Cannondale Synapse with Disc Brakes.  There is a Youtube video on how to put them on a regular road bike and you have to use this as there are no written instructions or diagrams included.  I had to watch the video several times but it was about 50 percent useful.  The rest of it was trial and error.  There was some error belive me, as well as some modifications.   All in all, I probably spent the greater part of a day and evening getting the fenders to fit, including doing some cutting of the front fender to fit around the front fork.

I am looking forward to May,  the weather is still moderate, but the only problem up here will be the Mayflys.  So I will have to remember to use insect repellent.  I hope everyone else has good riding this month.

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The Weather and Roads are Improving.

Here is is, April 22, 2014.  So far this month I have racked up 212 miles, bringing my total for the year to 436 miles.  I did back-to-back rides Sunday and Monday of approximately 38 miles and 48 miles respectively.  To say the least, I was tired last night and went to bed about 3 hours earlier than I normally do.

The good news is I felt strong on the hills.  I even took on my dreaded nemesis, Green Street Hill in Northboro.  At no time during the whole ride or with the steep pitch ups in the climbs did my heart rate reach my max and trigger warnings.  It was a great day for a ride.  It started out cold but halfway through I had to shed my windbreaker and buy some more water.

As for the roads, they still  are not in the best condition.  Most of the potholes have been filled but there are still some nasty man-eaters out there if you do not pay attention.

So stay safe out there and get out and ride!

 

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Spring is FINALLY Here! (The roads still suck but are improving.)

If you have been following my mileage (see widget page) you will notice my mileage has been going up.  The snow is gone, except for the big piles in parking lots , driveways and some shady places.  The temperatures are getting above freezing during the day for a while now.   The street sweepers and road crews have been out cleaning up the sand and fixing the potholes.  So spring is definitely here.  It is time to get in more mileage.

My goals are for this year are to do at least one or two centuries plus ride at least one metric per month, from May through October.  This is rather ambitious, I know.  I also want to log 2,000 miles.  I had 1,650 miles last year.  So I think this is obtainable maybe even 2,500.

One other event I have decided to do is to ride the National MS Society Cape Cod Getaway.  This is a two day ride totaling 150 miles, from Boston to Provincetown, MA,  this includes an overnight stay in Bourne, MA.  It is a charity ride and as far as charity rides go this one does not break the back or bank of the rider by requiring an outrageous amount of money to be raised in order to ride.  However, I would appreciate your donation.  The ride is the last weekend in June and my goal is to raise $750.  You can donate to me by going to this page.

https://main.nationalmssociety.org/goto/gemperline2014

You may have to copy and paste that link into your browser.   Thank you in advance.  A.J.

 

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Winter is STILL here and the roads SUCK!

What started out as a promising January did not continue.  It got cold, snowed, stayed cold snowed some more with a very brief warm-up then more storms, cold weather and potholes.  There was one pothole in Boston that was so big that when the driver hit it the airbags in his car were triggered.

So February was a tough month to keep my base up.  I went to the gym, took and I am enrolled in a body toning class.  It’s still no substitute for good road riding.  Since I could not get out on the road,  I found the next best thing.  I went to a Cyclops computer training clinic and road 11 miles.  This is not an ordinary resistance trainer.  A bicycle is hooked up to the trainer with a heavier skewer for the rear wheel.  The trainer is fluid filled and hooked up to a computer. Information is logged into the computer such as your height weight and if you have a heart rate monitor.  You pedal for about two minutes to calibrate everything and then a course is selected.

I had two courses selected for me.  The first course was climbing up Mount Wachusett.  It is about a 4 mile climb and I actually did this ride this past summer.  The ride on the Cyclops trainer was just as tough.  The view on the computer screen matched my speed and when the grade steepened on the climb the resistance matched it.  If I didn’t know better, I would swear I was out on Mt Wachusett.  It was that real.  The next ride was 15 mile relatively flat ride somewhere in Iceland.  I could certainly distinguish the ups, downs and flat areas.   Overall I got in 11 miles.

So, I think for next year I might sign up for some of these training sessions.  One local bike shop has 20 session pass for about $175.  They also have options for storing your bike over the winter.  This would be a great option if you have a spare bike, that way you don’t have to schlep your bike back and forth to the training session in crappy weather.  So if you are looking to add some variety to your training during the winter, I recommend that you look in to this.

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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