Friday, May 31, 2013

Ready For Wausau

For all the complaints, May didn’t turn out too badly. We never got the consistently warm and dry weather we would have liked, but it was a pretty good month nonetheless. I did 21 rides this month for a total of 635 miles. That puts me at 1,449 year-to-date, which is still behind last year’s pace but ahead of my pace in 2011, the year I rode a personal-best 5,113 miles. This year’s goal is 4,570—that’s the number I need to reach 40,000 “lifetime” miles since becoming a serious cyclist in 2004—so I’m making good progress.

Before my first race in 2012, I had 1,353 miles in my legs. When I line up in Wausau for Sunday's Red Eye Rendezvous, I’ll have 1,449 plus whatever I do on Saturday. And these are quality miles, especially the ones I have ridden lately. I had a big mileage figure two weeks ago, then a maintenance week highlighted by my trip to Nashville, and “taper” time this week with a lower mileage total but more intensity. My weight is right where it was last year at Iola, I am rested and I feel ready.

The biggest unknown is how I will handle the technical elements of the Wausau course. I haven’t been on singletrack since my misadventures at New Fane on April 30. I have ridden the 29er around the block a few times to ensure proper shifting, braking, wheel alignment, etc., but nothing would benefit me more than pre-riding the course. Hope for warm weather and dry trails. Sunday looks OK but Saturday could be stormy.

Wausau isn’t the most technical course on the WORS calendar. My ability to hammer on the open ski trails and to climb the bigger hills is what I will count on most. And if it turns out to be a slop-fest, I’m mentally prepared to endure it. I don’t know if I will get on the podium in my first Sport (Cat 2) race, but that’s my goal.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Between The Raindrops

There was good cycling to be had today, but you needed patience to find it. The weather forecast was actually right: the rain moved out and the temperature shot up into the low 70s late this afternoon. I hopped aboard my cyclocross bike and did an out-and-back ride on the Eisenbahn State Trail. I needed 57 minutes to reach my turnaround point in Campbellsport and 56 minutes to get back to my house. I always shoot for sub-60 minutes in each direction and a negative split. When wind isn’t a factor—and today it was calm—then the return trip should be a little faster because it’s slightly downhill.

Back at home I swapped in a different left-side pedal and then rode in a couple of experimental circles around my block. I have a noise that seems to be coming from the left side, but changing pedals didn’t fix it. The bottom bracket was serviced recently so I hope that’s not still a problem.

After a quick change of clothes I drove to Washington County Fair Park to catch the last night of the criterium practice series that has been running since early April. Turnout was a little bit lower this week; many riders likely were scared off by threatening skies. For those who showed up the roads remained dry and it was a good, safe trio of 20-minute races to end the series. Watch for its return in 2014.

Riders from Belgianwerkx and Team Extreme dominated the racing this evening.

Patience will continue to be the watchword for the remainder of the week. There’s a chance of rain every day through Saturday, but every day also should present opportunities to ride. My greatest hope is that I will be able to visit New Fane with the 29er to tune up for Sunday's WORS race at Wausau. But the trails might never dry out this week. I will take whatever I can get, even if it’s just a fast 60 minutes on the road during my lunch break. Wausau is supposed to be dry on Sunday but there’s rain in its Saturday forecast, and that could wipe out the pre-ride. I’m in wait-and-see mode: my best option might be to travel to Wausau early Sunday morning. I would like to do the pre-ride, but if it gets washed out then there’s no reason to be there on Saturday. Shivering all night as rain pounds on my tent would be a poor prelude to my 2013 racing debut.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Dark Comedy In Three Acts

Dramatis personæ
Narrator ………. a rogue
Denny ………… an oracle
Chorus …...…… the Washington County Bicycle Club


NARRATOR appears off stage and pilots his bicycle briskly for 10 minutes until he arrives at Regner Park where DENNY and CHORUS await.

Act I

NARRATOR and DENNY lead CHORUS away to the northeast. CHORUS lags behind on Creek Road. DENNY sees writing on the wall and exits, stage right, while NARRATOR waits for CHORUS. An hour passes. NARRATOR and CHORUS arrive in Random Lake. NARRATOR can’t average 14.5 mph forever without getting annoyed and exits, stage left.

Act II

NARRATOR rides solo and watches with satisfaction as his average speed climbs. Then the Fates play their card: NARRATOR’s rear derailleur cable snaps (2:13), leading to additional complications (2:20).


NARRATOR defies the Fates and heroically completes the ride with just two speeds: 53x12 on the flats and 39x12 on the hills. NARRATOR raises his average speed for the entire ride by 1.5 mph despite the mechanical difficulties.


NARRATOR leaves bike at Pedal Moraine for service. He had to go there anyway for an out-of-true front wheel on his cyclocross bike, but the road bike derailleur issue may cost him a chance to do Monday’s time trial test.

Friday, May 24, 2013


I’m back at home, safe and sound. It was a good business trip to Nashville. I did three bike rides while I was there: 27.75 miles on Monday, 28.75 miles on Tuesday, and 26.5 miles on Thursday. I would have liked to ride on Wednesday as well, but there was rain during much of the day and I just didn’t have a good window of opportunity. Still, those three rides kept my training on track.

I didn’t want the hassle of navigating, so I confined my rides to Nashville’s network of bike paths, bike lanes and bike routes. Nashville has its share of hills, and the bike paths aren’t completely flat. In the Midwest we’re familiar with trails in former railroad corridors, but Nashville’s bike paths tend to follow rivers and creeks. There are some steep climbs/descents in the ravines. The toughest climb—a section of Stones River Road now closed to motor vehicles—averages 6 percent for 500 meters but kicks up to 10-12 percent at its steepest point. There’s nothing like that on our Eisenbahn or Ozaukee Interurban.

Nashville’s cycling infrastructure, as I experienced it, had three distinct areas:

  • Two Rivers Park east to the J. Percy Priest Dam: very scenic with more elevation change than one would expect on a bike path.
  • Two Rivers Park west to downtown: flat and fast.
  • Downtown and points farther west: good for commuters and tourists, but not a place for a fast ride until you're a couple of miles west of the state capitol.

Speed limit 15? I may have exceeded that by just a little bit on this quiet section west of downtown.
Nashville has done a lot to develop its riverfront in the last two decades. LP Field, home of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, is a major attraction on the east side of the Cumberland River. There’s a nice bike/pedestrian bridge to connect the stadium to the central business district, and on each side of the bridge you’ll find bike share stations.

On Tuesday evening I learned that on Wednesday there would be a criterium around the football stadium. For a moment I actually toyed with the idea of buying the 1-day USA Cycling road license and joining the race as a Cat 5. But common sense prevailed. The risk of injury was unacceptably high. Imagine that phone call: “Hi, dear. I have badly injured myself in a bike race and I can’t drive, so could you fly down here ASAP to drive the car and me back to Wisconsin? It’s only 600 miles and ... ” Click! Re-dial. Busy signal (divorce lawyer).

It’s good to be home. Not super-thrilled about having to put on thermal everything for tomorrow’s Washington County Bicycle Club ride, but it looks like there are better days coming next week.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Feelin' Strong ... And So Long

Nice weekend! The weather was beautiful and the cycling was outstanding. But glancing at the forecast for the week to come, I’m happy that I will be in Nashville TN and not in Wisconsin.

On Saturday I did a 45-mile ride with the Bay View Bicycle Club, repeating a route I first completed with BVBC in October 2010.

Scott Siebers, Andy Sikorski and I smile for the camera at the ride’s end in Dundee.

I began today with a trio of cycling broadcasts. I watched the Giro d’Italia and the Tour of Norway on EuroSport, then the final stage of the Tour of California on NBC. But then it was time for me to do my own ride. I covered 34 miles to finish the week with 205 miles total. It was my first 200-mile week of 2013 and I have been feeling really good on the bike. The base is solid. I need to mix in more intensity and more singletrack practice over the next two weeks.

So, now it’s off to Nashville. I hope to reach my hotel late tomorrow afternoon while there’s still enough daylight to explore the surrounding area by bike. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday my time belongs to my employer, but there should be opportunities to ride at the end of each day. Friday is a bit of a wildcard: I will have time to ride in the morning before I drive home, but we’ll see how much enthusiasm I have for it when the time comes. I will be doing a time trial test on Memorial Day, so Friday might be a good day to be completely off the bike. Also unknown: whether I will update this blog during my trip. Facebook and Twitter updates are more likely. If you don't hear from me in the meantime, then expect a blog update next weekend.

Friday, May 17, 2013

2013 Bike-to-Work Day

Today is Bike-to-Work Day in West Bend, part of National Bike Month. Early this morning I made the trip up the Eisenbahn State Trail to Rivershores, paused for just a few minutes to talk with friends, then hurried back to where my job gets done: home. This is my third spring as a home-based employee. From 2001 through 2010, I made a 70-mile roundtrip commute between West Bend and Brookfield, five days a week. For me, what once was impractical to do by bicycle is now unnecessary.

There was a time when commuting by bicycle would have been my best option, but I failed to realize it. In the early 1990s I lived on the east side of Milwaukee and worked downtown. It would have made a lot of sense to take a bike to work, but I didn’t own one. Instead I took the bus or spent a lot of money on parking for my car.

If I had been a bike commuter, then perhaps today I would be more interested in their advocacy efforts and more sensitive to their calls for protected bike lanes and other infrastructure designed to keep bikes and motor vehicles separated. But that’s not how things played out. For me, cycling is recreation not transportation. Intellectually I get what the commuters are saying, but I don’t feel any kinship with them.

That makes me even more emotionally distant from the organization behind the new Urban Cycling Hall of Fame. Apparently, we’re now going to give formal recognition to bike couriers and alleycat race winners for their extraordinary contributions to cycling. Really? Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised; reality television already has created celebrities out of working-class nobodies from almost every imaginable profession, however mundane.

Call me old fashioned, but I like my halls of fame to be pretty damned obvious in scope and mission. At the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown NY, you might accidentally learn about a great player whose name you didn’t know before, but you go there because of players like Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Hank Aaron and Willie Mays. Their exploits surpassed well-known and became legendary; no one need insist upon their greatness.

The Urban Cycling Hall of Fame, I’m sure, will be nothing more than a circle jerk of hipsters armed with GoPro video cameras and an unhealthy contempt for traffic laws. This morning in West Bend, I observed two dozen bike commuters riding sensibly and lawfully. If you want to be an advocate for cycling, just do more of that.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Something Different

See, I don't always go through Newburg. Today's route took me around West Bend, counter-clockwise.

Today’s ride didn’t take me anywhere I had not been before, but it was enjoyable for its novelty nonetheless. There are some roads that I almost always ride in just one direction. Take Congress Drive, for example. For every time I ride it southbound from Newburg, I probably ride it twenty times northbound. I was a little pressed for time after work today, so I stayed close to home for a fast 25 miles over a route that combined familiar roads in a way that was new to me.

I had less time than usual because I had promised to help with trail construction at Pleasant Valley Park. I was there for two hours with two other volunteers and we made good progress. A 1-mile section of beginner-friendly trail should be ready to open soon. It will be a while for the more advanced trail sections, as they will require bridge construction and a lot of additional earth work. When complete, the new system will be a lot like New Fane, but you won’t need a state trail pass. I’m looking forward to having another option.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Us And Them

For as long as this blog has existed, it has carried a banner that reads, “Washington County WI: A great place to be a cyclist!” And it’s true that we have hundreds of miles of excellent cycling roads, some terrific trails and dozens of very accomplished riders. But with the gnawing doubt that eventually makes all of us wonder whether the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, lately I have been taking long looks at Ozaukee County.

Something’s different. I can’t say why that should be, it just is. Until 1853, Washington County included all of the land from its current boundary east to Lake Michigan. Ozaukee County didn’t exist politically until it was carved out of Washington County like Eve from Adam’s rib. Even now it’s very easy to cross the county line without realizing that you are doing so. The counties are so alike, and yet whatever the difference is, you can see it in the cycling communities. As well as they get along together, they’re not the same.

On Monday I went to Mequon to join the Belgianwerkx shop ride for the first time. I rode with 20 others on a 31.5-mile route at an average moving speed of 18 mph. In Washington County you can’t find a shop ride that goes that far or that fast, if you can find a shop ride at all.

On Wednesday I joined the Ozaukee Bicycle Club and did its very fast, very competitive group ride for the first time. I was just one rider in a group of about 70. OBC has rides throughout the week, not just on weekends. The Washington County Bicycle Club rides only on every other Saturday. OBC will do more rides in the next three weeks than the WCBC will do all year.

This isn’t a population thing; they have 87,000 people and we have 133,000. So how are they able to create and sustain groups and rides that dwarf ours? I think one answer is that they are not afraid or ashamed to be who they are. Not all of their rides are right for everyone, and they expect people to know the difference. In Washington County it seems like we’re trying so hard to please everyone that we end up pleasing almost no one. We’re convinced that with just a little encouragement that nice lady from our Spinning class or the guy who just bought a $300 hybrid to go “biking” will turn into cyclists. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen someone make the transition.

“Us and them. And after all, we’re only ordinary men.” Except we’re not ordinary at all. That nice lady is in our Spinning class because she got bored with the treadmill and she hasn’t yet discovered the elliptical. That guy on the $300 hybrid likes his every-other-weekend ride on the park path.  They don’t want to be like us.

Should the Washington County cycling community be more like the Ozaukee County cycling community? That question may resolve itself. Without shop rides or club rides to satisfy them here, our riders are turning to Ozaukee County with increasing frequency. And it’s more than a little ironic that most of the OBC rides pass through Washington County. The problem is not with our roads. The problem is our reluctance to say, “This is us, and you are welcome to join us if you are able.”

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Cheesehead Roubaix Elevation Question

Going into last Sunday’s Cheesehead Roubaix, I would have liked to give the riders some idea of how much climbing they would face. But I didn’t have that information. I thought of the route—I still think of the route—as mostly flat. I also thought that actually riding the route would settle the issue. With so much GPS data at our disposal, surely we would have enough consistency in our numbers.

Not quite. I collected my own data, plus readings from the GPS devices of nine other riders. The range was disappointingly large:


Let’s throw out the highest number. It comes from a rider who took a small detour from the published route. And let’s throw out the two lowest numbers, including my 1,099, as they are so different from the others that they are very unlikely to be accurate. The average of the remaining readings is 2,309.

Here’s where marketing comes into play. When I promote Cheesehead Roubaix next year—assuming no course changes—I can say it has more than 2,000 feet of climbing or about 2,300 feet of climbing. That’s accurate enough in that context, though I’d really like a hard answer.

But even if I had an irrefutable number from the US Geological Survey, it still wouldn’t settle the question of whether Cheesehead Roubaix is “flat.” I’m the guy who thinks Lovers Lane is beautiful, so clearly beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I think that goes for flat vs. hilly too.