Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019: A Statistical Review



It was a good year, not a great year.

In 2019, my 16th season as a cyclist, I rode 162 times for a total of 4,557 miles. That’s my 8th-highest ride total and my 10th-highest mileage total, all-time. Last year I rode 183 times for a total of 5,358 miles, so the drop-off this year was kind of like wiping out the entire month of July. But in last year’s recap I predicted lower totals for 2019, and I did surpass my goal of 3,087 miles, so there’s that.

I did 1 gravel road race and 6 cyclocross races in 2019, numbers in which I am disappointed. The cyclocross season was cold and wet, and I’m not one of those people who thinks that’s how cyclocross should be. I fully expect to race cyclocross again next fall … when I can live with the conditions. Gravel, though, might be much more of a focal point in 2020. My racing schedule is only beginning to fill out. But mountain biking probably is not part of my plans. WORS is switching to a mostly-Saturday calendar that doesn’t fit well with my work schedule, and WEMS has always been a Saturday series. Gravel and road events may dominate my 2020 until the cyclocross season begins.

My “official” mileage goal for the new season will be a very modest 3,530, the number I need to reach 75,000 lifetime miles. Unofficially, I’m expecting a big year. I am shooting for 13 metric centuries in 2020 to bring my lifetime total to 100. I rode only 5 metric centuries this year, so 13 won’t be an easy target.

Outdoor cycling is the biggest component of my fitness regimen, but it’s not the only activity. Hiking, rucking, and snowshoeing kept me moving on 10 occasions in 2019 when the weather wouldn’t permit cycling. On 9 other bad weather dates, I turned to the turbo trainer in the home gym. I hit the weights 138 times to keep the upper body strong. I avoided sickness and injury all year, and I never had more than a couple of consecutive days off from some kind of athletic activity.

So, yeah: good but not great. My challenge for the remainder of the winter is to find more goals beyond racing. That’s how I will ensure a great 2020.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Missing Only The Sunshine



OK, surely this 25-mile solo effort was the last bike ride of 2019. We cracked 50° for the fourth time in the last eight days, but we’re expecting an accumulating snowfall tomorrow and then a cold and windy New Year’s Eve. I’m done. I’ll post my year-end statistical summary on Tuesday or Wednesday.

This would have been a good day to take a camera along. I saw fog over every body of water, a Milwaukee River rushing with far greater than normal speed thanks to last night’s rain, a trio of workers in T-shirts putting a roof on a new house, and, strangest of all, entire families riding bicycles on the Eisenbahn State Trail. It felt like April out there, even riding past an abandoned but still snow-covered Sunburst ski hill … more’s the pity.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

If This Is Winter, Then Bring It On!

Taking it all in at Glacial Blue Hills! (Nathan Patton photo)


In West Bend, today’s high of 53° broke the old record for this date: 52° on December 22, 1957. The average high for this date is only 29°. Today was the first 50° day since November 21, and that was the only 50° day in November. Today may prove to be the only 50° day in December; we’ll see what Thursday brings.

As I hope you would expect of me, I spent the day outdoors. In the morning I hiked the Ice Age Trail from Washington Street to Glacial Blue Hills and back, covering almost 4 miles in about 1.5 hours. That’s not a bad effort on rocky, up-and-down terrain that still wasn’t completely free of ice and snow. In the afternoon I rode my cyclocross bike around town … not fast, not far, but as much as I felt like doing. I would have been more ambitious if not for the brisk wind that always seemed to be holding me back.

Above-average daytime highs are in the forecast every day between now and next Sunday, so there should be additional opportunities for outdoor adventure. I’m going to soak it up, but I’m not going to do structured workouts. I will ride if I want to ride, hike if I want to hike, and not worry too much about my statistics. It’s just nice to be outside this late in the year.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Week 1 Of … Let’s Say 15


During warm weather months, Saturday mornings can be occasions for bike rides, bike races, yard work … any number of outdoor activities. But during cold weather months, Saturday mornings are nothing special. Even today—a very nice day for December 21—the morning was significantly colder than the afternoon, and I’m always going to choose to be outside for the warmest hours of the day if I can.

So, I did wait until late afternoon to ride my bike today, but I didn’t waste the morning. When my overnight work shift ended I checked into the company’s fitness room for an upper body strength training session. My workout looked a lot like my home gym routine. The difference, though, is significant. At home, all of my weightlifting moves are “push” moves. It’s hard to do “pull” moves with free weights. But the big cables-and-pulleys machine at work makes these moves easy. I’m talking about things like rows and lat pulldowns, centerpiece moves for strong back muscles. And hamstring curls … can’t forget those. These are exercises I have missed for a long time. I’m going to give them my Saturday mornings between now and, I think, March 28. By then I should be riding the bike outdoors on a regular basis again, and it will be time to update the strength training program to fit my new cycling objectives.

There’s a stationary bike in the fitness room. There’s also a pair of treadmills. Don’t know if I’ll bother with the stationary bike when I have a pretty nice turbo trainer setup at home, but I might put in some treadmill time. I don’t have that option at home anymore, and with the incline cranked up it’s not a bad change-of-pace workout.



I had the fitness room to myself today and that’s not likely to change, as my office is only sparsely staffed on weekends. That’s more than OK by me. Even when I have no other plans for my Saturday, I won’t want any delays in executing my morning workout.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Remembering The Washington County Bicycle Club

Here’s Jimmy on a WCBC ride in 2014. (Denny Bolinger photo)


Five years ago today, the Washington County Bicycle Club voted itself out of existence. Nothing has sprung up to take its place on the road, and locally-organized group rides are now exceedingly rare. But there’s hope, says Jim Scharrer, who was perhaps the WCBC’s most enthusiastic member.

“I have wondered if the old WCBC group would like second Saturday show-and-go rides during summer,” Scharrer said recently. “And maybe there would be interest in a Thursday night ‘Bikes, Bands and Brews’ ride starting and finishing at Music on Main in downtown West Bend.”

Since the demise of the WCBC, Scharrer has continued to ride locally as a member of Milwaukee’s Cream City Cycle Club.

“They schedule Washington County rides every year,” Scharrer said, “and they are great at planning camping and touring events.”

Milwaukee’s Bay View Bicycle Club also makes occasional visits to Washington County, and the Ozaukee Bicycle Club includes our roads on almost all of its weekly rides. But Scharrer says it’s not these dedicated road clubs that offer the greatest potential for growth.

“Metro Milwaukee Mountain Bikers has filled the (Washington County) bike club gap,” Scharrer says, highlighting the group’s strong advocacy for the development of Glacial Blue Hills Recreation Area as a true mountain bike park. “And there is a great high school mountain biking program/team. Maybe some of these riders will find their way onto the road.”

Offering an extensive mix of on-road and off-road options, the newly-adopted Washington County Bikeway & Trail Network Plan also offers hope for the growth of local cycling, Scharrer says.

“The Washington County plan has benefits for all types of cyclists. Washington County and the surrounding area has some great low-traffic, well-maintained country roads. The Eisenbahn State Trail developed into a handy, safe way to access those scenic side roads from West Bend. Now, the county plan ties in perfectly with the Route of the Badger. Tie this into Dodge County and the progress being made on the Gold Star Memorial Trail connecting Mayville to Beaver Dam and the Wild Goose State Trail, and wow! Thanks to the people advocating and helping to connect all the trails.”

Enthusiasm for the bike park project at Glacial Blue Hills has led to a popular mountain bike ride there on Tuesdays, organized by Pedal Moraine. The new network of paved bike paths in the county plan may lead to group rides of a very different kind, something that is neither mountain biking nor traditional road riding. Whatever may come, as long as people are enjoying themselves on bikes, you can be sure Scharrer will welcome it. But when asked about his most enduring memory of the old Washington County Bike Club, he recalls perhaps the most hard-core ride in its history.

“The Alps of Ashford Ride!” Scharrer remembers: October 10, 2009. “Snow flurries, hills, more hills, scrapping the cuesheet and following bike tire tracks in the slush, post-ride beers at the Riverside Brewery … good times with good folks!”

It was like that sometimes, and maybe it could be like that again.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Slow But Still Moving



Partly inspired by a pair of really entertaining cyclocross races over in Belgium this weekend, and partly inspired to ride on what could be the last 40° day for months, today I got out for an hour and a half to do the ride you see on the map above. It wasn’t statistically impressive, but it didn’t need to be. I just wanted to ride.

Yesterday’s Ethias Cross in Essen and today’s Superprestige in Zonhoven featured outstanding competition in both the women’s and the men’s elite races. Watching them definitely influenced my choice today: I wanted the cyclocross bike to take me wherever my mood pointed. In Forest View Park, Quaas Creek Park, and Royal Oaks Park, I got to enjoy turf trails that would have been no fun with road tires.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Look Sharp!



I still have every pair of cycling shoes I’ve ever bought, but that will change with tomorrow’s garbage collection now that I have these new Shimano SH-XC501 beauties. These will be the go-to, everyday shoes for training. I expect to race in them too … perhaps only in fair weather until the “new” is gone. There might be a new helmet in my future too, but even without it I will be steppin’ out as one well-dressed cyclist in 2020!

Monday, November 25, 2019

Statistically Insignificant


Yesterday I did my first bike ride since October 27. That’s 4 full weeks out of the saddle. Searching my training logs, I had to go all the way back to December 24, 2015 through January 24, 2016 to find a longer break.

I gained 6 pounds in January 2016. Part of my motivation to ride yesterday came from the suspicion that I have gained a couple of pounds this month. I’ll know for sure when I do my December weigh-in next Sunday. This is a dangerous time of year for me. My activity level drops dramatically and I gain weight easily. It’s never a matter of whether I will, only a matter of how much before things turn around again in early spring.

By riding on Sunday, I kept alive a streak of consecutive months with at least 1 outdoor ride. The streak began in February 2014, so I’m now at 70 straight. That’s neat, I suppose, but it’s hardly one of my most cherished records. With snow in the forecast for next weekend, I don’t have high hopes for December.

I rode again today … and got rain blown into my face for all my sins. A slow hour of that was all I could stand, and the sun mocked me by reappearing almost as soon as I finished. Oh, well. It’s time now for laundry, dinner, and a nap before my new work week begins.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

West Bend Says Goodbye To ToAD

Good luck, Manitowoc!


The Tour of America’s Dairyland will not return to West Bend in 2020, a city official confirmed on Monday. ToAD came to West Bend in 2016, but during its 4-year run it failed to generate the excitement that we see at other locations like Grafton, Downer Avenue, and Wauwatosa. And the city wasn’t happy about the extra street maintenance and law enforcement costs. Racers loved the West Bend course—it was so much more interesting than a standard 4-corner criterium course—but the event never put “heads in beds.” If local hotels and restaurants got any bump from ToAD, then it wasn’t much. Falling on the Monday after the first weekend of ToAD, the West Bend race occupied the least desirable spot of the 11-day series: potential spectators went back to work, and promoters struggled to find enough volunteers to staff the event. Manitowoc will take West Bend’s spot in 2020. ToAD will announce the rest of the schedule soon.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Stationary, But Not Fixed

The next time you’re in the pain cave cursing your indoor training routine, remember: it could be worse. You could be riding a stationary bike outside. Imagine going nowhere on this:



Ouch! Please tell be there used to be a proper seat of some kind. These days, you might want to bring a stadium cushion and a handful of chamois crème. In fairness, this torture device never was intended to be used for more than a few minutes at a time. It’s part of a circuit training course at Ridge Run Park in West Bend. And the course is not without merit. Moving from station to station, you use your own body weight for resistance on some pretty ingenious machines. That “bike” though … wow.

If you simply must see it for yourself, then you will find it just west of the University Drive entrance:


Saturday, November 16, 2019

Rucking

My new cross-training tool is simple, cheap, and effective.



I may ride my bike again this year, or I may not. It doesn’t matter much, as my racing season is surely over. And with the early arrival of winter weather, my thoughts have turned to offseason cross-training options. I like to hike, but I want to make my hikes more challenging without turning them into trail runs.

The simple solution is to hike with a weighted backpack. There’s actually a word for that: rucking. It’s an activity with military roots reaching back to the earliest days of organized armies. Modern armies still march with heavy rucksacks, both in training and in combat. The physical benefits of rucking are so clear that in recent years the activity has gained popularity with civilians looking to increase their fitness. Who wouldn’t want greater aerobic capacity, stronger muscles, and better posture? Rucking offers all of those without the impact of running. We’re talking about functional fitness, not some weight room exercise that looks cool but has little practical value. You might actually have to carry something heavy someday! And unlike so many fitness routines, with rucking there’s no learning curve: just walk.

Rucking also appeals strongly to the cheapskate in me. I paid $3.79 for 40 pounds of wood pellets—the smallest quantity I could buy—and transferred 25 pounds to a barely-used book bag from my children’s elementary school days. I’m considering a repurposed book bag to be fully amortized, so I’m all-in for $3.79! How’s that for a low cost of entry to a healthy new activity?

There are many ways to weight a backpack. I chose wood pellets not just because they’re super cheap, but also because they’re small and biodegradable. Being small, the wood pellets fill the pack in every dimension. That prevents the weight from shifting, which is a problem if you use something like a weightlifting plate or a couple of bricks. Being biodegradable, the wood pellets will do no harm if the pack ruptures and the contents spill onto the trail. They’re also not food. To avoid the attention of animals and insects, I didn’t want to go with something like rice or dried beans … probably not a concern while I’m in motion, but it could be an issue when the pack is in storage.

I mentioned last year that on a couple of hikes I was probably going too hard for the friends who accompanied me. Adding weight is going to make my effort harder at the same speed. Soldiers carry considerably more than the 25 pounds I’m using. Perhaps someday I will get a bigger rucksack and go heavier, but I have to experiment first. My chief concern is that my frequently damaged left shoulder will fatigue under the weight. I did my first ruck march on November 9 and my second on November 15. Each was 40 minutes on the Eisenbahn State Trail, through a subdivision, and around Forest View Park. The terrain wasn’t strenuous and the shoulder held up, but I could feel the extra strain the weight was putting on my hips and knees.

I went hiking again today: 2 hours, 15 minutes on the Ice Age Trail from Ridge Run Park down to Paradise Drive and back. But I gave the rucksack a rest. I didn’t trust my left shoulder to hold up that long, and I didn’t want to throw off my center of gravity on a day when the trail was sure to be slippery. In the week to come I will experiment with at least one 1-hour ruck march. If the shoulder still feels good over that duration, then I’ll try 90 minutes. Like any new workout, rucking comes with a break-in period and for a while I’ll be giving my body an unfamiliar challenge. But that’s the point. Let’s find the weak spots and make them strong.

Friday, November 15, 2019

On My Calendar Already

Washington County residents, please show your support for the bike plan the county adopted earlier this year. We have a great framework, but the only way to ensure this plan comes to fruition is by staying involved and holding your elected officials accountable. Nearly 350 miles of bikeways and trails can be yours, someday, if you get behind the idea now. Please put this event on your calendar:

Monday, November 11, 2019

All But Ignored

We are fortunate to have cycling-specific media outlets on the Internet, because without them we would get very little news about our sport from the mainstream American media. Have you ever tried to find it? Here’s what I found today on America’s leading sports websites.

Bleacher Report – No cycling, but you can get coverage of the WWE. That’s right, folks: In America, the real sport of professional cycling ranks below the make-believe sport of professional wrestling.


CBS Sports – Also no. But click the unobtrusive little ellipsis where the miscellaneous interests reside and you’ll see not just pro wrestling, but also the World Series of Poker. So, cycling isn’t even worthy of mention but playing cards is a sport. Really?


ESPN – Let’s see if “Bicycling” is in this alphabetized list. No. How about “Cycling” instead? No. Wait! Cricket? esports? For fuck’s sake.


FOX Sports – More pro wrestling, more ellipsis for the sports not even as important as pro wrestling, more no.



Sports Illustrated – Surely, we can count on the venerable gold standard of American sports journalism, can’t we? No. SI can’t see past football, baseball, and basketball. Same as it ever was.


Of the big mainstream American sports media outlets, only NBC Sports is giving cycling some love. “More” is a real word, more respectable than weak, cowering ellipsis. And when we click More and click Cycling, we get cycling! Finally.



It shouldn’t be this hard.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Christmas Comes Early

It's beginning to look a lot like ... the end of the 2019 cycling season!




Since the end of October, I have been walking through a winter wonderland. What choice have I had? It has been too cold and snowy to ride through it. (Have fun on your fat bikes, you plaid-clad guzzlers of cheap domestic beer, I’m just not into that whole scene.) My workouts on Tuesday and Wednesday were leaf raking and snow shoveling, respectively. We might spend all next week below 32° and a couple of days might not even make it out of the teens. It could be April before my yard is snow-free again.

My 2019 season barely has a heartbeat. But there will be a 2020 season, and I will need new stuff when it arrives. This week was as good a time as any to do a little shopping. It made me feel connected to my sport while I am literally disconnected from my bikes.

First item on the list: a new pair of Continental Gatorskins. They should be the only tires I need for my road bike in 2020, no matter how many miles I ride. Second: a replacement bottle cage for my cyclocross bike, which also serves as my gravel and rec trail bike. I broke one of my two matte white Bontrager RL cages in a little crash back in September, and that model is now discontinued. I had to find one online before they disappear forever. The gloss white version is still widely available, but I’m damned if I’m going to have mismatched cages on my bike.

Aside from the bottle cage, I did a really good job of not breaking things this season. I had to replace a shifter on my road bike in April—SRAM Red, thank you very much, so it wasn’t cheap—but that was a case of wearing something out after years of use, not of a mishap. Really, I spent very little on repairs and replacements. Last year was good in that regard too, so maybe I’ll treat myself to some more nice things for 2020. I feel like I deserve it, and with all the money I’m not spending on race entries right now, I can afford it.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Last Milestone Of 2019?



Not a bad afternoon. I wonder when I’ll be able to say that again. With the arrival of winter weather in the week ahead, I may have finished my 2019 cycling season today. And, for what it’s worth, I hit my target. I wanted to ride enough miles today to make 2019 a Top 10 season.

1.   2015 | 6,236 miles
2.   2016 | 5,620 miles
3.   2018 | 5,358 miles
4.   2014 | 5,236 miles
5.   2011 | 5,113 miles
6.   2012 | 5,005 miles
7.   2017 | 4,933 miles
8.   2009 | 4,800 miles
9.   2010 | 4,650 miles
10.  2019 | 4,412 miles

In recent seasons I have been riding about 400 miles after October 31, and if I were to do that again this year I would push 2019 a notch or two higher. Is that worth the effort? I don’t think so.

I expect to get back above 5,000 miles next year. While my “official” goal will be only the 3,000-and-something miles I will need to hit 75,000 all-time, my pursuit of 100 career metric centuries will push me to ride longer. I’m going to need 13 metric centuries in 2020. That will be a proper challenge; I did only 5 this season.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

2019 Cross Fire



The less said about this one, the better. I made a huge mistake on Lap 1, overcooking a turn and running straight into a post at the side of the Angell Park course in Sun Prairie. In that moment I lost 5 spots and my day was more-or-less over. I finished a lowly 25th out of 29 in the Cat 1/2/3 Masters 50+ race. Lance Johnson (Velocause Centraal Cycling) took the win ahead of Christopher Berge (unattached) and series points leader Arlen Spicer (BELGIANWERKX).

Looking at the weather forecast, I’m almost certainly not racing next weekend. In the week to come, southern Wisconsin is probably going to receive the first accumulating snow of the season, and temperatures are going to drop steadily. I’m going to enjoy my time in the saddle tomorrow, as it may be my last time in the saddle this year. There are a couple of cyclocross races in November that I would like to do, and I’ll keep riding on the turbo trainer in the home gym, but I’m now ready to let go of the 2019 cycling season. If the weather doesn't improve, then I'm done.

Friday, October 25, 2019

West Bend Gets Fat


The Hugh Jass Fat Bike Series is coming to West Bend. The 2019-2020 schedule is out and our own Regner Park will be the venue on Saturday, January 25. Find out more about the series by clicking the schedule below.


Sunday, October 20, 2019

2019 Tough Udder CX

This racer demonstrates why I was content to run, not ride, through the muck hole!




Today the Wisconsin Cycling Association’s cyclocross series went to rural Waukesha County for Tough Udder CX, a race around Oak Ridge Farm, a popular place for city kids to learn about livestock and agriculture. This was the third running of Tough Udder but my first participation, and I felt the joy of a schoolboy on a field trip as I discovered the many features of its unique course.

The start, for example, was narrower than usual, and downhill on a gravel path into deep sand. So, it was fast and dangerous but we all got through it without incident and I couldn’t have asked for much more … except not to be in last place. But there I was, and there I would stay for the first half of Lap 1. I made my first pass at the water crossing, choosing to run through a muck hole that was straight out of Hillbilly Handfishin'. I might have taken the bridge, but the approach to it was winding and slow. With wet shoes and socks that will never be clean again, I pressed on and began pulling back a couple of familiar age group rivals. Dave Dineen (MOSH / Team Wisconsin) and Sean Shields (Hampshire Cycling Club) were just ahead. We could easily gauge the time gaps between us through a series of 180-degree turns that played along the course’s biggest hill.

On Lap 2 I passed Dineen and thought I was pulling away, but I made a tactical error when I tried the bridge. Dineen ran through the muck hole like a champ and was right on my wheel again. But he didn’t take back the position, and I opened a new gap by hitting the hill even more aggressively than I had on Lap 1. Early on Lap 3 I stretched that gap to a comfortable margin on a pair of long straightaways joined by a 180-degree turn. It was there that I could tell I was getting close to Shields. I ran through the muck hole again and I was quick through the deeply rutted mud that followed. Bit by bit I was gaining, but Shields wasn’t going without a fight.

By the time Lap 4 began I was feeling good about the way I was managing my race. I was good on the gravel, good through the sand, really good on the long straightaways, good enough through the muck hole—no more detours to reach the bridge!—good through the deeply rutted mud sections, and good up the hill. I was not good on the downhill legs of all those hairpins, but they were short and weren’t costing me too much time. My only remaining concern was that I would get passed by the leader of the singlespeed race that was running concurrently. That group started ahead of mine, and my race would be over if I were passed by the leader on Lap 4. I could see him coming late in the lap, so I hit the gas super hard on the straightaway that led back to the starting grid. I had to take a right-hander a little harder than I would have liked, turning from one gravel path onto another, then I sprinted past Shields across the finish line just in case the race referees decided to pull us.

They didn’t; we had one more lap to do. For a moment I wondered whether the big effort I had made in the last minutes of Lap 4 would leave me defenseless against a Shields counterattack, but I opened a good gap on the long straightaways that suited me so well. I locked up 11th place out of 15 in the Cat 1/2/3 Masters 50+ race. Series points leader Arlen Spicer (BELGIANWERKX) was today’s winner, followed by Brent Rohrs (Diablo Cycling) and John Lirette (Ben’s / Milwaukee Bicycle). A race that had begun so poorly for me turned out to be terrific fun and a real fight from the first lap to the last.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

If Just For Today ...



Tomorrow will be what people who say they love autumn are talking about: sunny skies over colorful trees and temperatures in the low 60s. Such people are not talking about the 9 weeks of autumn that remain after this weekend: 9 weeks of putrefaction to be arrested, eventually, by temperatures consistently below the freezing point. Such people seem to think that’s “winter,” but around here winter is an even more stark reality.

I am not one of those people who say they love autumn. In the last couple of weeks I have had to talk myself into my thermal gear and onto the bike for rides that have failed to inspire. It has just been work, and I have been willing to do it only because I don’t want cyclocross season to be over yet. Will tomorrow’s Tough Udder CX race in Dousman be my final race this year? Could be. When I know that my racing season is over I’m going to be OK. I’m not going to fight for every last ride and every last mile as I did in many prior seasons. I am now an even 100 miles away from making this a Top 10 season, and I will be content with that small achievement.

In recent weeks I have tried to compensate for a drop in outdoor miles with a rise in indoor minutes. I’ve made some nice changes to my home gym and it doesn’t seem as dreadful. I think I will be OK with more turbo trainer time than I have been able to endure in the past. I am also looking forward to going harder and heavier with strength training, which I have been doing in “maintenance mode” since early spring. It’s time not simply to maintain, but to make gains. Lastly, I’m eager to take on some new cross-training challenges, of which I will have more to say soon.

But today was about riding outside. I hopped aboard my road bike for the first time since breaking a spoke on October 10 and I really enjoyed the 25-mile route you see above. After my ride I got my cyclocross bike washed and lubricated for tomorrow. Off came the bottle cage. Off came the backup wheelset with the Continental Gatorskins that turned my Trek Boone into a road bike while the BMC was out of service. It’s a pure cyclocross bike again … at least for one more day.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The State Champions Next Door

Samantha & Brad Heckert received their awards in Stevens Point on October 5.




Meet the Heckerts: Brad and Samantha. See them around West Bend with their children and they look like a lot of other young couples. But see them in a mountain bike race and you’re probably seeing them leaving you behind.

Racing for Team Pedal Moraine, the Heckerts dominated their respective categories in the recently concluded Wisconsin Off-Road Series. Brad is the 2019 Wisconsin State Champion in Category 2 for the men’s 30-34 age group. Samantha is the 2019 Wisconsin State Champion in Category 3 for the women’s 30-39 age group.

En route to his state title, Brad won his age group in the Mount Morris Challenge, the Red Flint Firecracker, the WORS Cup cross country race (which, by the way, also makes him the 2019 USA Cycling Midwest Regional Champion), the Colectivo Coffee Bean Classic, and the Reforestation Ramble. Take age group distinctions out of the conversation and Brad finished third overall in Category 2, known to WORS as “Comp.”

Not to be outdone, Samantha took 6 age group wins: the Iola Bump & Jump, the Red Flint Firecracker, the WORS Cup cross country race (filtering out the non-series competitors), the Colectivo Coffee Bean Classic, the Reforestation Ramble, and the season finale, Treadfest. Coming into the last race, Samantha was in second place on series points. Her victory in Lake Geneva gave her the state title.

“I had been keeping track of my standing throughout the season, which affected how I raced all my races, but this race was a little different,” Samantha said. “I knew going into the final race that I couldn’t get sick, have a mechanical, or let certain racers pass me, and I didn’t have that kind of pressure during other races. For the other races, I was able to ‘race my own race’ and focus on racing smart while trying to kindly and tactfully pass the Cat 3 men I caught up to. My strategy going into this final race was similar to others, but I had extra motivation. I knew that if everything went well, I could have a title in my age group, and that was really motivating since I am still so new at this.”

Samantha’s introduction to mountain bike racing came last year when she entered the Reforestation Ramble. She followed up a fourth place performance in her debut with a second place finish at Treadfest, the 2018 season finale. But for 2019 she took on more than just a full WORS season; she also competed in her first triathlon.

“Balancing multiple sports has been difficult, especially because I don’t come from any specific endurance sport background,” Samantha said, “and I decided to race a triathlon while training for mountain biking. That was kind of the beauty of trying the triathlon, though. I’ve been shopping for a new sport since I stopped dancing, choreographing, and coaching a few years ago.

“I balance my training by focusing on what interests me the most, so this summer I naturally ended up prioritizing cycling, and then my secondary focus was running. For the swim, I was a complete beginner and just tried to learn how to swim correctly. During the race I crossed my fingers that I would make up my time on the ride and run.”

What’s next for Samantha? Probably an upgrade to Category 2, with longer races over more challenging terrain in 2020.

“Throughout the season I was envious of Brad for some of the features he got to experience,” Samantha said. “I’ll see how I’m able to train over the winter, but Cat 2 is the goal. I think bumping up a category would push me to keep up with the pack and would be beneficial to my growth. If I can build over the winter and show up ready in spring, I think Cat 2 is doable.

“I plan to be on the bike more in 2020 and shift my focus to cycling, specifically mountain biking. Cycling is something our entire family is able to do together, and I enjoy it the most out of all the other endurance sports I’ve tried so far.”

Brad came into the 2019 WORS season with high ambitions after a very successful 2018 season. With 6 wins in the 30-34 age group, he was last year’s state champion in the “Citizen” class—i.e., Category 3. For most people the next step would have been an upgrade to Cat 2 and at least one full season in the “Sport” sub-category. Brad elected to go straight to “Comp,” the top step of Category 2.

“Coming into the 2018 season, I started training through winter and I had a lot of success right off the bat, and I was able to gain fitness through the season,” Brad recalled. “I felt like I should have moved up to Sport, but I chose to wrap up the overall score in Citizen. I moved up to Sport for the final three races of the year, allowing Samantha to try mountain bike racing for the first time. I was confident in my training plans and wanted to really set my goals high for 2019, so I decided to challenge myself and move directly to Comp.

“My passion for cycling was taking off, and as I gained fitness I enjoyed riding longer distances. The longer WORS races challenged the pacing side of racing, and I prefer that. I really enjoy maximizing my efficiency when racing. My fitness has really taken off since 2017, when I only had 288 logged riding miles.”

Brad’s success in 2019 extended beyond his age group: finishing in third place overall brings a mandatory upgrade to Category 1 for 2020.

“I’m really excited to be racing in Elite next year,” Brad said. “My goal is to just keep improving. The first year will surely be a learning experience, so I'm not expecting results right away.

“Right now I am taking a break from the training and structure. I plan on racing more cyclocross this year but it’s still an off-season sport for me, and I try to keep it fun. I plan on taking an extended break and start training again once it gets too cold to ride outside.”

So, what will Brad always remember about his 2019 state championship season?

“I definitely won't forget the leg cramps from the first few races in Comp,” he said, “and the thoughts of going to Sport for the rest of the season! I had a rough start, but I’m glad I stuck with it. I needed that extra push. New Fane (in the Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series) was another event I'll remember, leading the start of the race 1-2 following Matt Grady for a couple laps and then finishing third, just behind Matt, in the 3-hour event.”

Team Pedal Moraine’s Matt Grady is a good benchmark for Brad. The 25-year-old Cat 1 from Cedarburg was this year’s state champion in the 19-29 age group and 10th overall. As Brad moves into the Elite ranks for the 2020 season, he and Matt can encourage each other to reach new heights.

And what will Samantha always remember about her 2019 state championship season? Perseverance.

“It was tough,” she said. “I was sick a few times and had to push through some nasty stuff during races, but in the end I completed all the events I was able to, and it paid off. This year has been huge for me in terms of personal growth, and this championship was part of that!”

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Monday, October 7, 2019

Service Above Self


Thanks to a generous grant from the West Bend Noon Rotary Club, the Eisenbahn State Trail now has two permanent bike repair stands. Both were installed this afternoon. One is on the south side of the historic train depot in downtown West Bend …



The other is installed where the Eisenbahn meets the Moraine Park Technical College connector trail …





That's Jeff Puetz of Bike Friendly West Bend in the background, assisting the Washington County Planning & Parks Department with the installation.

Each stand includes a tire pump and a set of tools secured to the stand by retractable braided steel cables. What great amenities for trail users!

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Bookends

This week started well: a 50-mile ride on the Eisenbahn State Trail on what likely will prove to be the last 80° day of 2019.

This week ended well: a 31-mile road ride at a good pace, despite high winds.

It was the rest of the week that sucked: a dramatic temperature drop, days of unbroken dark clouds, and heavy rains that have left the Riverfront Parkway impassable in Quaas Creek Park and Riverside Park. A big chunk of West Bend is flooded, and I feel like my cycling season is drowning in sympathy. The great enthusiasm I had coming out of last weekend’s cyclocross race at Humboldt Park in Milwaukee turned into complete apathy yesterday when I decided not to line up for PumpkinCross in Grafton.

OK, so I was coming off an overnight shift and I had a bit of soreness in my lower back, but those aren’t the reasons I didn’t race on Saturday. I simply didn’t want to. I was convinced the rain was coming and selfishly I hoped that it would come quickly and severely enough to absolve me of any responsibility to decide whether I would compete. As Saturday morning turned into Saturday afternoon, it was clear that the rain wouldn’t stop the race. By that time, though, I was so far away from where I needed to be mentally that there was no question about competing. I was switched off.

I spent an hour on the turbo trainer in the home gym on Saturday. I was there on Thursday too, trying to make something out of a week so abbreviated by bad weather. But those sessions were poor substitutes for riding outside, and my 6:45 in the saddle this week is my shortest effort since the last week of May. That’s 6:45 total, indoor and outdoor. Pretty lame.

I’m trying to be optimistic about the week ahead. We should be in the mid-60s and dry Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, then still reasonably warm but maybe a little wet on Thursday and Friday. I’m not worried about finding time to ride outside in the week to come. I am worried about missing another race: Saturday’s forecast for Badger Prairie Cross includes temperatures in the low 40s and high winds. We could be looking at sub-freezing wind chill, and I’m just not willing to endure it.

If only there were someplace else that had cyclocross races … someplace reliably warmer, yet still close enough to reach in a reasonable amount of time by car, and preferably with a Sunday schedule so that I can get some F-ing sleep. If you’re thinking Illinois, then you’re not alone. I ordered my I-PASS yesterday. How’s that for optimism, that chance I will do enough races south of the state line to make an Illinois Tollway auto-pay device seem like a good acquisition? I did a gravel road race in Illinois earlier this year, and I did two cyclocross races down there in 2017, so don’t say it won’t happen. I’m not ready to write off the 2019 season.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

A New Approach To An Old Problem



Since December 2012, I have been using a foam roller to work out occasional kinks and to prevent soreness. It has been a great tool for big muscles like quads and glutes, but less effective for areas like the neck and shoulders, where lots of muscles come together in a complex web. With my history of shoulder injuries I frequently experience stiffness in the trapezius, levator scapulae, and other muscles. My stretching routine simply isn’t targeting them effectively, so it’s time to try something else.

I’m convinced there’s merit in myofascial release—i.e., the breaking up of adhesions in the connective tissue that surrounds our muscles. You may have heard it called “trigger point” therapy, but essentially it’s massage. And it turns out that in a world full of expensive and elaborate massage options, the humble lacrosse ball is just the right size and density to work deep into the neck and shoulders. For only $6, last week I bought a pack of three balls. Like the model in the picture above, I place a ball between my back and the wall, then lean into it to apply pressure to the trigger points. A trigger point might be almost anywhere, so there’s a little wiggling around to find one. You will, though, know when you find them: they hurt! And this is one of those rare occasions when you should ignore your body and push through the pain. Holding pressure on the trigger point eventually results in “release” and the pain subsides. Done consistently, myofascial release should leave you with less stiffness and greater range of motion.

This technique seems to be working for me. I’ll keep one ball in the home gym, where I do most of my strength training. I’ll keep one in the bedroom, where a little stretching helps me to relax before I go to sleep. And I’ll keep one at the office, where sitting for 40 hours a week is surely contributing to the persistent stiffness. If I can remember to step away from the desk a few times during my shift, then I can quickly and easily reverse some of the damage.

I think the foam roller has been good for me as a cyclist; using lacrosse balls to loosen up the neck and shoulders probably won’t translate into better on-bike performance. But I’m not always on the bike! Addressing this problem will at least do no harm to my cycling ambitions.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Try To Remember …



… the last time September 30 looked like this! We hit 83° in West Bend, just 3° short of the all-time high temperature for this date. An average September 30 is only 65°, so we gave that a good beating! I hit the road for the ride depicted above, 50+ miles done counter-clockwise. Yes, it was windy—that’s why we were so warm—but you can’t pass up a day like this … especially when you look at the forecast. We might get 2 inches of rain tomorrow as a cold front comes through. This may have been our last 80° day of the year. Tomorrow might be our last 70° day. Things unraveled quickly last fall and it looks like they might do it again this year, but at least for today I was happy.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

2019 Humboldt Park CX


My preparation for today’s cyclocross race consisted of a 12-hour overnight shift at work in Brookfield, then a mad dash back to West Bend, then a hasty breakfast, then a somewhat-less-than-restorative 2 hours of sleep, then a trip down to Humboldt Park in the Bay View neighborhood of Milwaukee that was delayed by road construction, then registration, then a scant 20-minute warmup that included just 1 preview lap of the course. That’s not ideal, but what followed was one of the best times I have ever had in a cyclocross race.

Yesterday’s forecast promised an inch of rain, and there was some reluctance by Milwaukee County Parks to allow the race to run. Velocause Centraal Cycling, the host club, assured the parks department that it would remediate any damage to the grounds. I went to work last night knowing that the race would be held but not knowing whether it would be a mudder. Fortunately the rainfall total turned out to be much lower than anticipated. In fact, course conditions were pretty close to perfect and the Velocause folks adjusted the posts & tape throughout the day to ensure that the riders wouldn’t wear out any one line.

In the past I described the Humboldt Park race as something of a track meet. It was again today: this fifth edition of the race was the least technical, and the tacky surface made for quick acceleration, sure braking, and confident cornering. I made the most of a third row start by placing myself right behind John Lichtenberg (Diablo Cycling), with whom I’m pretty closely matched despite lopsided results in his favor: I had beaten John only once in 13 previous career matchups, but he had finished immediately ahead of me on 5 of those occasions. If I could follow him off the starting grid and at least hold his wheel through Lap 1, then I would have a chance at beating him and maybe grabbing a spot in the Top 10.

The start was chaotic and I soon found myself in front of John. I didn’t expect that to stick, but I took it as a good sign and went to work on a couple of guys who got out off the grid quicker but didn’t really belong in front of me. Lap 1 went by in a blur and I was pretty pleased with myself until Dave Eckel (MOSH / Team Wisconsin) roared past me on the final straightaway. I couldn’t let that stand, as I had beaten Dave at Manitowoc in our only other meeting this season. I quickly came back to his wheel and we spent the next few laps working almost as teammates. We chased down Sean Shields (Hampshire Cycle Club), then suddenly both Dave and Sean were comfortably behind me and I was going to be one-on-one with—drum roll, please—John Lichtenberg for the final lap.

I was up for it. I knew singlespeed superhero Carlos Casali (Franco Factory Racing p/b Brightleaf Homes) was about to overtake us, so I passed Lichtenberg on a little climb and hoped Casali would prove disruptive. On such a wide-open course, however, Casali’s arrival did nothing to impede Lichtenberg. John and I then spent the first half of the final lap locked together, vainly trying to hang on to Carlos. Lichtenberg was quick over the triple barrier and got a little gap on me, but he really pulled away as we played along the hill near the end of the lap. I just couldn’t match him there, and the finishing straight was too short for me to pull him back. Another consecutive finish! This time it was Lichtenberg in 15th and Yours Truly in 16th out of 25 in the Cat 1/2/3 Masters 50+ race. Arlen Spicer (BELGIANWERKX) was today’s winner, followed by Tim Hacker (unattached) and Christopher Berge (unattached). The 25-man field was the largest in Cat 1/2/3 Masters 50+ so far this year, and I really enjoyed having company for the entire race.

Up next is PumpkinCross in Grafton on Saturday, October 5 … I hope. The preliminary weather forecast is really unfavorable. I was good today on a hammer-down power course. In the mud I wouldn't expect to do well.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Like Two Separate Rides

At the halfway point ...


Today’s ride from my home near the southern terminus of the Eisenbahn State Trail up to the northern terminus at Eden was like two separate rides. The “out” leg was a slow slog into a nasty headwind; the “back” leg was easy-as-you-please with a great push from the wind that for the first 90 minutes had been a bitter enemy. I mean …



The stats tell the story today.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Consolation Prizes On World Cup Weekend


This was the biggest weekend of the year for cyclocross in Wisconsin. Today’s elite men’s and women’s races in the Telenet UCI Cyclocross World Cup were the centerpieces of three days of competition that included dozens of races for amateurs and professionals. Many of my friends and rivals competed, but I stayed home. Because I work overnight on Fridays, the Friday and Saturday races would not have fit easily into my schedule. And today’s World Cup races—I’ve had fun watching them before as a fan—were held in the rain on a muddy course. I understand why some people like slopfests, but they just aren’t for me. I stayed home, stayed dry, and watched the spectacle on TV.

If I do the entire Wisconsin Cycling Association cyclocross series, then I will get my fill of Waterloo anyway. The series goes to Trek headquarters on October 19 for the GP Jo Vanderaffe and on November 23 for the state championships. Throw in the Battle of Waterloo at Firemen’s Park on November 3 and maybe I should just have my mail forwarded there.

It’s disappointing that today’s weather was so rotten, but I’m more concerned about my training than I am about a missed opportunity to be a spectator. I didn’t ride outside yesterday or today, making this my first 0-for-2 weekend since June 15-16. It was still a 9.5-hour week, but I was hoping for 12 or more.

On the upside, I got a lot of other stuff done. I bought groceries, new shirts to wear at the office, and a couple of things for the house. I cut my hair, shaved off my whiskers, washed dishes, did laundry, binge-watched a show on Netflix that I didn’t particularly like but felt obliged to see through to the end, and was generally virtuous and productive.

I have cleared away every obstacle that might have prevented me from having a great time on the bike in the week to come … except the rain. There’s a lot more of it in the forecast. Monday and Tuesday look good, but it’s Saturday that really needs to be nice. I’m anxious to return to racing and the course at Humboldt Park in Milwaukee is a good one for me. I need dry conditions though, so my participation may be an 11th-hour decision.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Volumize



My 2019 cyclocross season has been busy: 3 WCA races, 6 practice races at Royal Oaks, 1 skills practice at Ridge Run … all since August 13. That’s something cyclocross-y every 3 days or so, on average.

But now there’s a little break. This year’s Royal Oaks practice series reached its conclusion yesterday, and my next WCA race is 10 days away. It’s time to ramp up the training volume, big-time. Experience has taught me that as the cyclocross season progresses my performance drops because my overall training volume drops. Cooler temperatures and fewer hours of daylight lead to less saddle time. And historically I’ve done a poor job of complementing outdoor rides with turbo trainer rides, which I know would do me a world of good if I took them seriously.

The weather still looks OK though, so I’m planning several long training rides. Today the big, beefy Gatorskins went back on the cyclocross bike—I’ll save the race tires for competition—and I covered 32 miles on the Eisenbahn State Trail. Sometime during this period I also would like to hit the Wild Goose State Trail and perhaps others, but nothing is more convenient than the Eisenbahn. It’s not hard to imagine that the trail I can see from my living room is the one I will use most often.

I’m now only 166 miles away from my 11th straight 4,000-mile season, and I mean to surpass that goal next week. This will be a Top 10 year for mileage if I surpass 4,410, but it won’t be a 5,000-mile year. And the all-time record of 6,236 miles, set in 2015, is safe until at least 2020.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

2019 Lion Cross



Making its second appearance on the WCA cyclocross calendar following a successful launch last season, today’s Lion Cross at Waterford Town Park in western Racine County was an exercise in humidity and, for me, humility.

Recent heavy rains left much of the park under water and forced the organizers to take the sand volleyball court out of the course. I didn’t mind its exclusion; on the final lap last year that feature cost me a position I had been fighting hard to win. We didn’t have rain during the race but it might have been welcome. With temperatures in the 70s and humidity in excess of 80 percent, the air was thick. On a course with no running, I didn’t hesitate to take a water bottle on my downtube. I had time for only a couple of sips, but they were comforting.

During the race I felt bad about my performance. I had a rough start, and when I lost the wheel of John Lichtenberg (Diablo Cycling) halfway through Lap 1 some of the fight went out of me. I needed a couple of laps to find it again. It helped that I was picking off singlespeed riders who had started a minute before my wave, but the biggest resurgence in my momentum came when I spotted age group foe Richard Prodans (unattached) just ahead. Prodans benefited from a better start than mine, but by Lap 4 he seemed to be out of gas. Pursuing and then dropping him gave me a small victory in the dying moments of an otherwise below average race.

I finished 13th out of 17 in the Cat 1/2/3 Masters 50+ race. John Lirette (Ben’s / Milwaukee Bicycle Co.) took the win, followed by Jarrod Kerkhoff (MSN Pro Coaching) and Lance Johnson (Velocause Centraal Cycling). Six of the 17 racers were from Illinois, but this was still the smallest field of the season. Some of the usual suspects were in Iowa this weekend for Jingle Cross. Incidentally, that's a pair of Cat 2s at the head of affairs. I was 10th out of the 14 Cat 3s.

Up next is the Trek Cup and the UCI Cyclocross World Cup races in Waterloo. I will be there on Sunday to watch the pros, then it’s back to racing for me on Saturday, Sep. 28, at Humboldt Park in Milwaukee.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Cyclocross Comes To Ridge Run … Finally!





Seven years ago I had a little fantasy about bringing cyclocross to Ridge Run Park. It didn’t seem possible though, because Ridge Run at that time was a “no bikes allowed” Washington County park and not a City of West Bend park. Then the city acquired the park from the county and today my idea became a reality.

Four other racers joined me for a skills session that included starts, barriers, and a sand pit. We didn’t do a practice race like those we run on Tuesdays at Royal Oaks; today was all about technique. I think we’ll do something like this to kick off the 2020 practice season … probably on the first Tuesday next August when the temperature is likely to be higher than what most people find comfortable for a 30-minute race. Thanks to everyone who came out today! I hope you found the session to be valuable.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

The 2019 WCA Cyclocross Season Begins!

Manitowoc’s flyover: steep stairs up, steep ramp down. (Melissa Putzer photo)





Flyover Silver Creek CX

On Saturday the Wisconsin Cycling Association’s 2019 cyclocross season kicked off in Manitowoc with the 6th edition of Flyover Silver Creek CX. Lake Michigan’s uncommonly high water level kept us off the beach this year, so the only running was up the stairs of the eponymous flyover. All the other course elements that make this race special were still in play, and I had lots of fun even if I didn’t have a particularly good result.

I got a decent start from the second row of the grid and moved well through the Little Zolder woods and then over the flyover itself. But then Lap 1 turned on me. Hitting Jeckle Hill for the first time, there was a big KA-CHUNK from my bike and for a moment I thought I had broken the frame. I soon realized that I had merely knocked my saddle tilt off-level … not a good thing, but not fatal. My confidence was a little shaken for a while—I couldn’t be absolutely sure there wasn’t additional damage—and that slowed me down. I lost a couple of positions that I would never get back, but eventually I rallied and stopped the bleeding.

Well, the figurative bleeding. The literal bleeding began a couple of laps later when my front tire slipped out on a root during the singletrack descent down the back side of Heckle Hill. The scrapes on my leg were to become the least of my worries when I got home and discovered a bent derailleur hanger. More on that later; the important thing is that the bike held together for the duration of the race.

I wasn’t making any forward progress though, and I finished 16th out of 22 in the Cat 1/2/3 Masters 50+ race. Arlen Spicer (BELGIANWERKX) took the win ahead of Ted Schaff (Diablo Cycling) and Christopher Berge (unattached). I was hoping to be the first West Bend guy, at least, but that distinction was denied to me by Wade Loberger (Team Wheel & Sprocket), who finished in 10th place.

Cross-Shooshko

Neff Cycle Service, the good folks who provide neutral tech support for the series, fixed my bent derailleur hanger today in advance of the race at Kosciuszko Park in Milwaukee. Thanks, Isaac! Knowing that the bike was back in top condition gave me a lot of confidence I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I also drew confidence from my pre-ride, during which I significantly dialed down the tire pressure. Kosciuszko Park has a well-deserved reputation as a bumpy course. It’s not very technical though, and I knew I would enjoy the long power sections once I wasn’t bouncing over them.

It was another decent start for me … not stellar, but I was running with Greg Ferguson (Trek Midwest Team) for most of Lap 1. “The Tallest Man in Cyclocross” is one of my benchmark riders; staying with him for any length of time is an achievement. Greg got away from me when we caught the back of the singlespeed field that had started before us, and he would go on to an 8th place finish. If only I could have stayed on his wheel.

I ended up 20th out of 27 in the Cat 1/2/3 Masters 50+ race. Arlen Spicer (BELGIANWERKX) won again, Christopher Berge (unattached) took 2nd and Lance Johnson (Velocause Centraal Cycling) took 3rd place. I had Johnson’s teammate, Michael Daws, in my sights on the final lap and just ran out of racetrack. Daws and I were pulling back Michael McManus (Gryphon Velo Racing), who finished 18th overall but 10th among the Cat 3s. I would be very satisfied to get such a Top 10. That may seem like a modest goal, but I’m realistic about my chances against Cat 1 and Cat 2 guys. Gotta have something to chase.

For me, today’s race was more fun than Saturday’s and that’s all down to the competition between the guys. I was never more than a couple of seconds behind one or ahead of another. There was a great ebb and flow: someone would pass me on a part of the course that suited him, then I would surge back in front on a part of the course that suited me. And I left the park feeling good about next Sunday’s race, knowing that Waterford is another power course where I can expect another good performance. Yes, another. I didn’t race badly this weekend; I simply lost to faster guys. I’ll be fine if I keep living up to my expectations of myself.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Good To The Last Drop



A couple of years ago I had enough sense to buy a bunch of chain lube from Nashbar at a really low price. Today I dipped into the final bottle; there will never be another. This was great stuff, easily the equal of—if not superior to—the expensive brands. If you were a Nashbar and/or Performance Bike customer, then what do you miss most?

Monday, September 2, 2019

Laboring

Today's ride was a labor of love: spirited but not strained.


How was your Labor Day Weekend? Got some extra time off, did you? It was otherwise with me; I worked more, but at least it was my choice to do so. And I was fairly compensated. Working 12 hours of overtime from Saturday evening into Sunday morning pumped enough extra cash into the coffers to cover all of my race registrations for the upcoming cyclocross season. Priorities!

The downside to the extra shift was that I missed a Saturday bike ride for the first time since June 15, and the 8 hours I spent in the saddle last week constituted my shortest effort since June 10-16. Cycling was still very much on my mind—I made time to watch the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships and Stage 8 of the Vuelta a España—but Saturday was a day of rest otherwise. I began Sunday by watching Stage 9 of the Vuelta, then got some long-overdue sleep, then got back on the bike for a 35-mile solo road ride. And, as I do on the first of every month, I weighed myself. At 188 pounds, I am 1 pound lighter than I was on September 1, 2018, and I’m down 15 pounds from my offseason peak. That’s a good way to go into the cyclocross season, during which I will drop a few more pounds. As I look in the mirror I fancy that I’m starting to see abs, and there’s a little idea forming in my head about how I’m going to keep from getting fat again when winter arrives.

Today began with some home and garden projects, but by mid-afternoon I was knocking out the ride you see above. That’s my fastest ride since Race The Lake on August 26, 2018. As a solo rider I live in the 17-18 mph range on ordinary training rides, but today I had the company of two other riders and we pushed each other a little bit.

Now to get some dinner and a couple of hours of sleep before my new work week begins …

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Accumulating Kilometers While I Can

Go counter-clockwise to trace the route I took today.


With my 5th metric century of 2019, today I put the finishing touches on another 200-mile week. Big blocks of training like this are about to become really tough, as cyclocross season will begin to consume my weekends. The season will start on September 7 in Manitowoc.

That should mean next weekend—Labor Day Weekend—is free for some long rides, right? Not for me. I’m picking up a 12-hour overtime shift at work on Saturday night. I’ll probably do fairly short rides both Saturday and Sunday, and Labor Day itself is just a Monday without mail: I have to work my normal hours. Tuesday’s cyclocross practice will be the highlight of my training in the week to come, and I’ll stay very entertained off the bike by watching the Vuelta a España and the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships. It’s going to be a big week, of a sort, but don’t expect another big mileage total.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

XM (No Cycling At All)



With the purchase of my new vehicle I received a trial subscription to SiriusXM satellite radio, a service that I had explored only briefly in rental cars. During the last couple of weeks I have gotten more familiar with it, learning, for example, that most SiriusXM offerings are available online and not in my car. It’s a staggering amount of programming, and I probably seem like an ideal candidate for a paid subscription: I have very focused entertainment tastes—the station that plays nothing but Beatles songs is a perfect fit—and I’m a transplant from a different part of the country where my sports team loyalties still lie. But I’m no longer someone who will spend 3 hours listening to a baseball or football game. Those days ended when I was a teenager, desperately trying to pull in distant AM stations on a cheap home stereo. And I’m not a traditional sports talk guy to whom something like ESPN can appeal. Start yakkin’ about which college basketball players are going to be drafted in which order, or which NBA star is holding out for a new contract, or which NFL teams are going to cover the spread, and I switch off. Cycling is the only sport for which I want all the tiny details, and I can’t get them.

No, not even SiriusXM, with hundreds of narrowly-defined stations serving hyper-specific interests, can satisfy me. Cycling simply isn’t on the menu. Why should that be true? Cycling has compelling competition, personalities, and controversies like any other sport. Cycling has websites and publications exclusively dedicated to it. Cycling has endless gear choices and enough technical considerations to rival motorsports. Cycling also moves at a snail’s pace compared to something like ice hockey, making it easy to describe as a commentator and to consume as a listener. But forget about live race coverage; what I’m missing is cycling talk that I can jump into for 30 minutes at a time when I’m driving.

There’s an answer: podcasts. Cycling has plenty of them and, as far as I can tell, not one of them earns a dime. That’s not necessarily a reflection on their quality though, and a collection of the best would make for a very respectable SiriusXM channel that people would follow. The podcasters are already producing the content; simply give them a better way to distribute it to a mass audience. Raise those shows from the ranks of mere vanity projects by presenting them as a curated programming lineup and give them a share of the advertising revenue. A single podcast by itself probably isn’t big enough to attract the notice of major sponsors, but wouldn’t the SiriusXM Cycling Channel look good to Trek and Specialized and Giant and Cannondale and REI and Gatorade, etc.? I just know there’s an audience for this.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Teen Titan’s Transportation



My youngest child is heading off to college, and on the eminently bikeable campus of UW-Oshkosh this old Diamondback Outlook should do just fine. It was a $25 Craigslist find about 15 years ago and it has served the family well.