Wednesday, June 30, 2010

At the Midpoint

Here’s a quick breakdown of my cycling statistics midway through 2010:
  • 2,290 total miles
  • 1,503 road bike miles
  • 787 trail bike miles
  • 69 rides
  • 33.19 miles per ride
  • 49 hours of indoor trainer time
Mileage by Month:
  • 350 March (PR)
  • 650 April (PR)
  • 690 May
  • 600 June
Last Year on This Date:
  • 2,205 total miles
  • 67 rides
  • 32.91 miles per ride
  • 40 hours of indoor trainer time

I feel fitter and faster than last year, but I haven't really tested myself very much in 2010. I have yet to better the PR that I set on my road TT course in 2009, but I am faster on my trail TT course. I need to attempt both of those again soon. And I want to bang out a few centuries too; I haven't done any yet this year. DeKalb stands out as the highlight of the first half of 2010. Hopefully, Race the Lake will be the highlight of the second half.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Nice Ride This Evening

Today I made no adjustments to the Raleigh; I simply got on the bike and started riding. I covered 30 miles at an average of 18.5 mph, a pretty solid solo effort over rolling terrain. It was mostly a counter-clockwise Covered Bridge Ride with a detour into Newburg on the return trip. The bike felt good and, coming off a rest day, so did I.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Looks Like This

There are many like it, but this one is mine.

Before today’s ride I swapped saddles, moving my well-worn WTB from the Giant OCR1 to the Raleigh. That change and a slight adjustment to handlebar tilt made today’s ride much more comfortable than any of the three previous rides on the Raleigh. And you can see from the picture that I went ahead and added a frame pump, the same model as the one I had for the OCR1 but small enough for the Raleigh’s geometry. There’s a thin strip of rubber pinched between the pump handle and the frame to prevent scratches (hopefully).

So, the list of outstanding issues is now pretty short. The big one continues to be the front derailleur shifting, and that likely will get professional attention. And I’m still trying to decide whether to keep the Tacx Tao cages. They’re cool, but they don’t work especially well with this frame geometry and they don’t work well with my CamelBak Podium bottles. I really like those bottles but they don’t slide easily in or out of the Tacx Tao cages … it’s like the circumference of the bottles is just a little too big and those cages have no wiggle room. I shouldn’t have to restrict myself to smaller bottles; I don’t drink enough on the bike as it is!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Social Butterfly

Turn that frown upside-down, Monarch.

What is it about Downer Avenue that turns me into someone with whom you almost wouldn’t mind being seen? I’m normally not the most outgoing person, but this evening at the penultimate stage of the Tour of America’s Dairyland I felt a little like a social butterfly. I got to Café Hollander right at 5 p.m. to rendezvous with my friend Brian and his wife Melissa. At about 5:30 we got an outdoor table and placed our order. Before the food arrived I excused myself to greet my friend Chuck, who was standing nearby with his wife and two kids. Chuck and I have known each other since 1980. He lives in Shorewood, so it wasn’t a huge surprise to see him. After dinner I spotted two more familiar faces, but the real highlight was meeting a former classmate with whom I had had no contact since we graduated from high school in June 1983! Handshakes, smiles, frites, good beer, perfect weather and a very competitive pro bike race … it all added up to a great evening.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Getting Acquainted

Today I had a little more time to get acquainted with my new bike. I rode 27 miles over familiar roads and liked the way the Raleigh felt on the short hills I had to climb. I switched over to the Easton EA70 wheelset today, and that’s a big step closer to getting the bike set up the way I want. But some fine-tuning remains. During the ride I stopped twice to play with saddle height and handlebar tilt. And I don’t know if I can live with that saddle no matter how it’s positioned. The plan for tomorrow is to ride 2-3 hours and continue to refine the fit, swapping saddles with the Giant OCR1 if necessary. After the ride it’s off to Downer Avenue to watch the pros in the Tour of America’s Dairyland.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Maiden Voyage

I got my new bike today! As soon as I got home from work I changed into clothes that I didn’t mind getting dirty and I got down to the business of unpacking the Raleigh and finishing its assembly. Of course, that also meant a simultaneous stripping of parts and accessories from the Giant OCR1: the longer Easton EA70 stem, the pedals, the computer, the heart rate monitor, the seat wedge, the bottle cages. I don’t yet have the tools to swap the cassettes, so I took my maiden voyage on the stock Mavic Aksium Race wheelset instead of my much-loved Easton EA70s.

Overall I was really pleased with the first ride, though I had only enough daylight for 15 quick miles. I’ll fine-tune the saddle height and handlebar position over the next couple of rides, but for what it’s worth I was comfortable on today’s ride. There are two mechanical issues that I’ll want to address ASAP. First, steering is very stiff, suggesting an overly-tight headset. Second, getting into or out of the big chainring requires two shifts, almost as if the shifter thinks the bike has a triple and it’s looking for a middle ring.

Then there’s the annoying little stuff. If I stay with my Tacx Tao bottle cages I won’t be able to use anything bigger than a 500ml water bottle in the seat tube cage. Those cages require strictly vertical insertion and removal, and there’s not enough headroom between the cage and the top tube. And I can’t use my frame pump; it’s simply too long for the geometry of the Raleigh. But I’m not sure I would have used it anyway, as I don’t want to damage the finish. Even though the frame pump fits securely on the OCR1, it has marred the seat tube just below the top tube.

I didn’t expect that everything would be perfect right away, and I’m happy with my progress on Day One. Among the most satisfying moments was removing the original price tag from the shifter cable: $2,199.99. I paid $1,199.99 plus $20 shipping. I won’t fret too much about buying some new water bottles and a new inflation device. Even if I go to a professional mechanic to fix my shifting and headset issues, I’ll be ahead of game.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Damned Well Better

Patience is a virtue, but one to which I can lay no claim. I need the new bike to arrive tomorrow, just like the UPS website says it will. And I need a few rain-free hours on Saturday and Sunday to really get acquainted with it. There's no WCBC ride this Saturday and many of my other riding partners will be out of town at various races. Just me and the Raleigh ... that's all I want.

Monday, June 21, 2010


Thursday can't get here soon enough. That's the day my new road bike is due to arrive. I must try to be patient: even when it gets here it won't be ready to ride. At minimum I'll need to reattach the handlebar and mount a pair of pedals. So, realistically, I'm hoping for a short test ride on Thursday followed by some more swapping of parts and adjusting of fit points. It will take a few days to get everything right.

I'm also looking forward to this Saturday's stage of the Tour of America's Dairyland. Hopefully the rain will stay away, because I really want those frites and Belgian beers at Cafe Hollander.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

What's In A Name?

Last winter at the Washington County Bicycle Club’s planning meeting, we discussed the value of naming our rides. Even a simple name imparts a personality to a ride in a way that “club ride” does not. I’m thinking about this again because I’m really disappointed with the turnout at our last two club rides. Our new adventure rides are doing OK, and while that almost certainly can be attributed to their longer and more challenging nature, the fact the they are named can’t be overlooked. Last Saturday’s route was gorgeous and so was the weather. I can’t help but wonder whether that ride would have been more successful if we had promoted it as the “Tour of Erin” instead of just “club ride.” Do non-members see “club ride” and assume it’s a members-only event? For 2011 we need to drop that designation and give every ride a unique name. Let’s make every ride an event, not just a bi-weekly obligation.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Unconventional Saturday

This was kind of a bugger, actually.

Today went pretty much as I had planned, but it was strange nonetheless. I got up early and ate breakfast #1 before driving to Hartford for the Washington County Bicycle Club ride. The 30-mile route was beautiful, taking me on many roads I had never visited before in the county’s southwestern corner. It wasn’t the completely flat route I had expected, and the short-but-steep climb on St. Augustine Road was a nice surprise. It’s twisting and tree-covered, so I didn’t know when it was going to flatten out. Too bad there weren’t more people on the ride … must have been too sunny and warm for most of our members.

After the WCBC ride I drove back to West Bend for breakfast #2, then I rode to Grafton to watch two hours of racing in the Tour of America’s Dairyland. Then I rode home—completing a very fractured metric century—and took a nap. Then came dinner, then came mowing the lawn. Tomorrow? We’ll see. It might be an Eisenbahn State Trail day.

Friday, June 18, 2010

33 1/3

Today is Paul McCartney’s 68th birthday, but I’m dedicating my bike ride to the late, great George Harrison. With today’s ride I reached an even 2,000 miles for the year. And with this being my 60th ride, I’m averaging 33 1/3 miles per ride. 33 1/3 was the title of Harrison’s 1976 album. (Yes, I have it on vinyl. Yes, it plays at exactly 33 1/3 RPM.) In making a record of my own last year—a personal record of 4,800 miles—I reached the 2,000-mile mark on June 22, so I’m still on pace for another PR this year.

I rode the flatbar Giant FCR3 today and averaged 17 mph with a mix of on-road and (mostly) trail riding … not too shabby. I thought I would give my old road bike a rest today, as I will be spending plenty of time on it tomorrow. And today I received a UPS tracking number for my new Raleigh. Its arrival is something to look forward to, while my OCR1 gently creaks.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Happy Birthday To Me

Coming to a road near you—middle of next week, probably—is this fine Raleigh Competition, my entrée into carbon fiber. I plan to swap out the Mavic Aksium wheelset for my Easton EA70s; the Aksiums will be fine indoor trainer wheels, but they’re too heavy otherwise. I’ll also swap out the 100mm stock stem for my 110mm Easton EA70. The saddle is a question mark but if the new one doesn’t work out I can steal the old one from the OCR1. And I’ll need pedals, probably just another pair of Shimano M505s, which is what I already use on both of my Giants. Drivetrain? I’m going from Ultegra/105 9-speed compact triple to Ultegra/105 10-speed compact. So, I’m expecting a lighter and more rigid bike with crisper shifting. Can’t wait for that first long day on the road and that first charge up a challenging hill!

In one sense I’m getting back to my roots: my first real road bike was a Raleigh Rapide. It wasn’t a bad bike for the 1980s, but I got it at about the same time I got my driver’s license and I never did get as much use out of the bike as I thought I would. I sold it in 1988 rather than move it with me back to Pennsylvania. After that, I didn’t own another bicycle until 2003! What was I thinking?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A New Off-Road Link

That little red line is where the new bridge will go.

Today I was very happy to see the new bridge that will span the Milwaukee River at Quaas Creek Park in West Bend, connecting the park’s trail system with the Wingate Creek Business Park. It’s a good-looking steel bridge, but it may be a little while before it’s in place. Right now it’s sitting in the parking lot of the softball complex. Once in place the bridge will be usable by cyclists, pedestrians and snowmobilers. It will be the only bridge in the four miles between River Road and County Highway M. When combined with the trail extension from the river north to Enterprise Street, the bridge will make Quaas Creek Park a really attractive place to gather for a group ride. I’ve got an idea for a fat-tire ride already, leaving the park westbound on the boardwalk, then traveling through Riverside Park to the Eisenbahn State Trail, then Glacial Blue Hills, then some meandering to the north and east before a return southbound through Sandy Knoll and over the new bridge to the finish. I promise it will be fun, but first the construction …

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Today I abandoned my plans to do RAIN, the Ride Across INdiana, on July 17. I really would have liked to try this 160-mile endurance test, but I’m forced to admit that I won’t be ready to perform at the level I expect of myself. I know I could limp to the finish, but that’s not how I want to play it. Troubles with my road bike—it’s in the shop again—have contributed to gaps in my training that I no longer have time to address. I’m actively looking for a new road bike. Once I meet that objective I will get back into a more serious program to prepare, hopefully, for something competitive later in the summer. Race the Lake and/or Ride the Rock would be worthy challenges. RAIN can wait until next year.

Omro is out too. Mechanical issues and bad weather have really held me back so far this month. It’s crazy to think that I could be ready to race on July 3, given where I am right now.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Trend or Coincidence?

This year the Washington County Bicycle Club is trying something new: the Adventure Ride Series. These five events average 60 miles, making them nearly double the length of the standard club ride and almost triple the length of a typical club ride’s short option. The two most recent adventure rides gave the club its best attendance figures so far this season, numbers bolstered by guest riders. Are people drawn to these events because the higher mileage and sometimes harder terrain makes them more interesting than the club’s other offerings? It may be too early to tell, but it bears watching. There are two more adventure rides on this year’s schedule. If they also prove successful, then it’s a good bet the series will expand for 2011. I can imagine some of these rides becoming annual favorites.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Minimum Standard

At this time of year, the 100-mile weekend is my minimum standard. Anything less and I feel like I didn’t do enough. This weekend I got my 100 miles, and that was a victory of sorts because I found the weather really depressing. There was a 5-minute period this afternoon during which the sun shone brightly enough to cast shadows of my trees onto the lawn. Other than that, this was just a gray, ugly-looking weekend. On Saturday my enthusiasm was buoyed by the nice turnout and great route for the Washington County Bicycle Club ride. Today, riding alone, my main sources of motivation were my desire to reach my minimum standard and a sense of dread regarding the weather forecast for Monday and Tuesday. With two days of rain on the way, followed by softball on Wednesday, it looks like my next ride will have to wait for Thursday evening.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Something New to Consider

Value-conscious cyclist that I am, one of my favorite abbreviations is NOS. That stands for “new old stock,” something the retailer got new from the manufacturer but didn’t sell. There’s nothing wrong with it, but it’s no longer the newest thing, and therefore no longer desirable at the MSRP (one of my least-favorite abbreviations).

In my search for a new road bike, I shouldn’t overlook this very attractively priced option. Rocky Mountain bikes are seldom seen around here—it’s a Canadian company whose only area retailer is Emery’s—but its bikes get consistently favorable reviews. The specs on the Solo 70 RSL compare very favorably to much more expensive bikes, including that Giant Defy Advanced 3. The Giant is a great bike, but it’s $600 more and I might not be able to get it in my size this late in the model year. The 2011s will hit the stores soon, with higher prices and lower specs. The Rocky Mountain Solo 70 RSL would be a great way for me to step up to carbon fiber at the price of a decent aluminum bike.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Ready for the Weekend

After three days off (and believe me: that wasn’t the plan) I got back on the bike this evening for a quick 25 miles. On Tuesday and Thursday the weather didn’t cooperate, and on Wednesday I had a softball game. So, today’s ride was my first of any kind since Monday and my first on the flatbar Giant FCR3 since the DeKalb gravel grinder on May 30.

Now I’m ready for the weekend. Tomorrow I plan to do the Washington County Bicycle Club’s Expedition Supply Ride, a metric century from Hartford to Beaver Dam and back ... unless it’s still raining at 8 a.m. On Sunday I might ride in the morning and then head to Sunburst to watch the mountain bike races. Then there’s TV: Versus will broadcast the Tour de Suisse on Saturday and the Criterium du Dauphine on Sunday. It’s going to be a cycling weekend, as it should be.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Serious Contender

Is this my next bike? Could be. The Giant Defy Advance 3 is at the very end of what I can afford—assuming I can get it for somewhat less than full retail—but in that price range it’s a great value: carbon fiber frame, Shimano 105 shifters and derailleurs (10-speed), decent saddle, brakes, etc. It would be a huge upgrade over my Giant OCR1 except for the wheelset. The wheels on the OCR1 aren’t original, they’re Easton EA70s. The Defy comes with a bomb-proof but heavy set of Mavics that would make for good indoor trainer wheels. Anyway, the Defy merits careful consideration and a test ride.

There’s still the option of buying just a frame and fork, then moving my existing components over from the OCR1. But in truth the existing components are tired. The crankset was never anything special, nor the brakes. The chain and cassette are long overdue for replacement. The saddle is cracking. I could salvage a few parts here and there but it’s probably not worth the hassle.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Paralyzed by Indecision

This much is clear: it’s time for a new road bike. My 2005 Giant OCR1 has been great to me, but it is showing signs of age and wear. In the not-too-distant future it will be relegated to indoor trainer duty. But what of the immediate future? I expect to ride another 3,000 or so miles and compete in a couple of races before the end of the 2010 riding season. If money were no object, I’d get a new bike right now and feel confident of good performances at my target events. But money is a huge object, and I’m in a Catch-22.

If I try to get to the end of the season with the OCR1, then I will have money for travel expenses, registration fees, etc. But I don’t know if I can enjoy those events on a bike that performs the way the OCR1 now does.

If I buy a new bike, then I likely will cancel my plans for several of the special events I wanted to do this summer. The money for the new bike has to come from somewhere, and those travel expenses, registration fees, etc., are discretionary expenditures, after all.

At the moment, the “buy the new bike” argument is winning. With it I could ride confidently, perhaps even ramp up my training in pursuit of loftier goals in 2011. I’m a better rider now than I was when I bought the OCR1. Taking a step up to a better equipment level should help me to continue to progress. Certainly, I’m going to take that step before next year. Doing it now would mean a shorter special event calendar for 2010, but I think it also would mean more productive training and a better 2011.

And if I decide to pull the trigger, what frame material do I choose? The knee-jerk answer was titanium, but I can’t overlook carbon fiber. Aluminum? I think I’m done with aluminum. I don’t want to be here again in 3-4 years.

More on this subject soon …

Saturday, June 5, 2010

One Problem Solved

Tonight I created a new file repository for the Washington County Bicycle Club’s schedule, waiver form, attendance sheet, maps, cuesheets, etc. The club’s current website will disappear sometime in July and the new file repository will work in conjunction with the club’s Facebook page. Hopefully people will find the new site easy to use and will print out their own maps and cuesheets whenever they plan to attend a club event. Too many riders show up without this information, trusting that someone else will have it. That’s a bad assumption. We have such a small club that you may find yourself the only veteran club member on the ride. How will it look to our guests if you don’t know the route?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Weightlifting & Cycling

A lot has been written about the relationship between weightlifting and cycling and there isn’t a clear consensus on the question of whether weightlifting provides a real benefit to the serious rider. There are people who argue eloquently that the only training a cyclist needs is cycling.

I believe that weightlifting, done properly, at least does no harm. And it almost certainly helps the cyclist to avoid losses in bone density that can come from a strictly no-impact exercise plan. During the winter I do lower body weightlifting three days a week as a complement to my trainer workouts. During the summer, just riding is all the lower body strength training I need.

For obvious reasons, most of the debate about weightlifting for cyclists concerns lower body routines. But having a strong upper body really shows up during a long day in the saddle. Fatigue in the upper body can sap your energy and distract you from what you want to achieve on your ride. I do upper body weightlifting year-round and it’s rare that I have a complaint about my arms, shoulders, neck or back, no matter how long or difficult the ride. If weightlifting isn’t your thing, try yoga or even just pushups. I throw some traditional “gym class” exercises into the mix from time to time, and you might be surprised by how effective they can be.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Little Competition

This evening’s fast group ride was just what I needed. Seven of us rolled out of West Bend and onto the familiar roads of the “Covered Bridge Ride.” Outside of town our average speed for the 26-mile route exceeded 20 mph and on a couple of occasions topped 30. I did my share of work on the front and always made an effort—albeit not always successfully—to match the accelerations of the stronger riders. I was the middle-of-the-pack guy tonight, working hard to get better. Here’s to that!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Funny How Things Work Out

I lived for 3½ years in suburban Philadelphia and never once took an interest in this. Now I look forward to the Versus broadcast of this year’s race, Sunday at 12:30 p.m.

I lived for 2 years on the corner of Bradford & Prospect in Milwaukee and regarded this as nothing more than an additional challenge in the never-ending quest to find parking near my apartment. (I would have had the same lack of interest in the Tour of America’s Dairyland, had it existed at that time.) Now trips to the Downer Avenue races are a summer tradition.

When I was a child in West Newton PA, there was an active railroad line on the west side of the Youghiogheny River. Today it’s part of the 320-mile Great Allegheny Passage, a network of rail-trails that I intend to ride all the way to Washington DC someday.

These are all great things but I wouldn’t have had any appreciation for them if I hadn’t become a cyclist. And I don’t know whether I would have become a cyclist at any other time or in any other place. I’ve moved around a lot and Washington County probably isn’t my last port-of-call, but I’ll always be grateful to it for sparking my love of this sport.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Time for a New Poll

Yeah, I know: why not all four? Someday, gentle reader, someday …

(We’re also gonna build a velodrome at Washington County Fair Park. Why should Kenosha have all the fun?)