Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Halftime 2020

With a very strong month of June my cycling statistics look good here on the last day of the first half of 2020. I rode a personal best 843 miles this month, bringing my year-to-date total to 2,096. I was at 1,909 on this date last year. I’ve done 77 rides in 2020 versus 67 by this date in 2019. More is better.

Beyond the numbers, there have been some really nice moments on the bike in the last week. I’m in Pennsylvania right now, traveling with my son and staying at my mother’s house. En route to suburban Philadelphia, my son and I stopped in my hometown of West Newton—a tiny community 25 miles southeast of Pittsburgh—and did a little ride around my old neighborhood. I had not seen West Newton from the saddle of a bike since … 1976, maybe? Anyway, that was Saturday evening. Early Sunday morning I left my son at the hotel and rode into West Newton on the Great Allegheny Passage, a massive rail trail that connects Pittsburgh and Washington DC. It was my first time on the trail; that corridor was an active rail line when I lived in West Newton. Riding it had long been an objective, but I got only a brief taste on this trip. I’ll be back for more someday.

So, now I’m in eastern Pennsylvania, gradually finding bikeable seams in a road network almost completely choked by East Coast traffic. There are still a few country roads that wouldn’t look out of place in Washington County WI, but I’m really impressed with the new biking infrastructure that has popped up since I last visited in 2014. There are wonderful little pieces of paved trail all over suburban Bucks County. Unfortunately many of them just end abruptly and you have to take your chances on the road until you find another one. But someday the gaps in the network will fill in and this will be a real paradise for riders. Bring your climbing legs though, because these are not rail trails! Midwesterners would be shocked by the big rolling hills on some of these recreation trails.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Not A Weak Week

Sunday's unconventional route: south loop counter-clockwise, then north loop clockwise.

I rode a solid metric century on Sunday to put an exclamation mark on the end of my busiest week ever: 263.57 miles in 15:47:52. Those numbers top the old marks of 252 miles and 15 hours that I set July 2-8, 2018. And just like the previous effort, this new effort was the product of a week without a rest day.

So, you know at some point I’m going to have to do a 300-mile week now, right? It won’t be in the week to come, though, as abundant rain and an unusually urgent schedule of non-cycling chores are likely to force at least two rest days.

With the first half of 2020 winding down, I really want only the 146 miles I need to hit 2,000 miles, year-to-date, and the 216 miles I need to establish a new personal record for June. Those would be eminently achievable numbers during any other 9-day period in summer, but I’m making no guarantees.

Saturday, June 20, 2020


I don’t know how it began, but in recent weeks I have become very interested in South Korea. My curiosity has led to a series of time consuming but ultimately rewarding explorations on YouTube. If these videos represent typical lives in South Korea, then the country is remarkably similar to the United States ... at least in the big cities, where it seems everyone lives in tiny apartments whose kitchens are made superfluous by the occupants’ daily restaurant visits. Enjoying food is obviously a very big deal there, and even the most delicate of Korea’s almost uniformly slim and gorgeous women tuck in with unrestrained enthusiasm.

Cycling appears to be popular in South Korea too, but here also I should be careful not to make too many generalizations based on a handful of videos. There are 52 million South Koreans, after all, and I’m sure most of them aren’t trying to be social media influencers. But of those who are … holy crap, do they spend money on bike stuff! Top-of-the-line carbon road bikes. Closets full of expensive jerseys and jackets. Shelves covered with thousands of dollars worth of shoes, helmets, and designer sunglasses. It’s unbelievable.

Here’s one example:

Here’s another:

Interestingly, both male and female Korean cyclists show a clear preference for solid colors. I have found few examples of multicolored kit, which is a big difference from the logo-heavy, rolling billboard look of American and European cycling apparel. I’m interpreting this as an example of a cultural bias for modesty that also can be seen on Korea’s highways, where virtually every car is a plain white, silver, or black sedan.

In the videos I have seen many examples of excellent cycling infrastructure: mile after mile of bicycle freeways, with pedestrians removed to their own parallel paths. Maybe the conspicuous consumption of cycling products is intended to impress fellow riders in these dense urban environments. Maybe starting each ride in $1,000 worth of kit is simply the price you pay to hang out with the cool kids. And maybe I’m seeing only the nicest pieces of the collections; I understand that someone preparing to make a video isn’t going to wear his/her nastiest old jersey or a threadbare, ass crack-revealing pair of shorts.

On the other hand, how much stuff do you need? I have one helmet. I have two pairs of shoes because one might get wet and need a day to dry out. I have two pairs of glasses, one for full sun and one for low light conditions. But spend your money any way you wish. Me? I’m more of a waste not one ₩on kind of guy, but it’s interesting to see how other people live, even when—perhaps especially when—I can’t figure out how they can afford it.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Let It … Snow?

Winter seems far away on a day like this, but ...
Because of COVID-19 there has been almost nothing but bad news for the 2020 cycling season. There was more this week. The Wisconsin Off-Road Series announced, eventually, that half of its schedule is cancelled. And the future of the remaining four races doesn’t look bright. In Illinois, both the Chicago Cyclocross Cup and Heart of Illinois series have been cancelled, though individual races may take place. The USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships—scheduled for December 8-13 in suburban Chicago—are in danger. USA Cycling will make a decision on or before September 15. News of the Chicago Cyclocross Cup cancellation has led at least one Wisconsin race promoter to question whether our series will follow. Half of our races are scheduled for venues in Dane and Milwaukee counties, where local restrictions could make it impossible to bring together large crowds of racers.

But yesterday brought good news from, of all places, West Bend. You will recall that the city welcomed the Hugh Jass Fat Bike Series to Regner Park last winter. Next winter West Bend will have an entire Hugh Jass weekend: January 23-24. The Saturday race will take place in Regner Park and the Sunday race will be at Lac Lawrann Conservancy. The city is providing a $1,500 grant to promote the weekend, which it estimates will attract 1,500 attendees.

“West Bend is becoming a bicycling destination and I am most intrigued by the potential of the Hugh Jass Bike Race,” District 2 Alderman Mark Allen said in the city’s press release. “This event has expanded into a two-day weekend, which encourages participants and spectators to stay overnight and explore all that West Bend has to offer.”

The Hugh Jass weekend is going to put me in the very weird position of hoping we have snow on the ground, but good news for bike racing in West Bend is good news for me.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Happy 55th Birthday!

This was a good day to turn 55. I had an easy overnight shift, working from my home office. Then I picked up some gardening supplies—hopefully the last ones I will need this season—and completed my outdoor projects bright and early. I slept well, ate a late lunch, and hopped aboard my Trek Boone for the out-and-back Eisenbahn State Trail ride you see above. It was exactly the ride I wanted to do today, and it was my first trip to Eden this year (I usually turn around in Campbellsport.)

There’s pizza for dinner tonight.

Oh, and both of my children sent birthday greetings today. We’ll see what Sunday brings. If they remember that it’s Father’s Day, then this will have been an uncommonly good week.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Fitness Bands

Sturdy screw eyes set into an exposed wall stud hold the bands at a variety of angles.

Six months ago I wrote about spending time in the fitness center at work, and although I was able to do several workouts there I was not able to accomplish all that I wanted. Blame COVID-19 for some of the shortfall; my office has been closed since March and I had expected to continue those workouts into early April, at least. As I wrote back in December, the big benefit of the fitness center workouts was the “pull” exercises, something for which I was not equipped in my home gym where “push” exercises predominate. Machines are simply better for pull exercises, and my home gym had only free weights.

Things have changed. For less than $20 I recently outfitted my home gym with a set of fitness bands. They don’t approach the resistance options of a $1,000+ machine, but they allow me to get some work done. And, in truth, the most important work I require of them is not a job for heavy weights anyway: I need to target my rotator cuffs, especially the left one.

You’ve heard about my series of shoulder injuries before. Well, that left shoulder hasn’t been the same since I broke my collarbone in a mountain bike race in 2013. The bone healed but clearly there was soft tissue damage that continues to trouble me. I don’t go through every day in pain, but I know the difference between 100% and whatever I’m reduced to now. So, I have embarked on a course of new exercises to target my rotator cuffs and upper back muscles. I didn’t really know how to work them before—shame on me for waiting almost 7 seven years post-injury to figure this out—but I’m already certain the fitness bands are the right tools.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020


Anticipating the rain and cooler temperatures that arrived this afternoon, today I started my bike ride in the morning for the first time since October 26, at which time (11:56 a.m.) I was warming up for my final cyclocross race of 2019. My last training ride with a morning start was on September 11, 2019 (10:13 a.m.). Riding in the afternoon almost always make more sense for me, as it’s almost always warmer … but it does come with higher winds.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Piles Of Miles

An updated take on the old Covered Bridge Ride, completed counter-clockwise this afternoon.

With 12 hours in the saddle and a total of 200 miles, this was my biggest week so far this year. There had not been a week like it since August 19-25, 2019. I ride better as I ride more, so this week was really good for me and I plan to keep my training volume high.

But there was more bad news for racing. The Wisconsin Cycling Association canceled its road and track seasons. Let’s be honest: the road season was doomed as soon as the Tour of America’s Dairyland pulled the plug on 2020. As I have mentioned here before, the WCA road season has become little more than a training series for ToAD. Organizers want to hold their events before ToAD to ensure a good turnout. Without ToAD there might have been enough pent-up demand for racing that a standalone criterium could be financially successful, but why take the risk?

The Wisconsin Off-Road Series was supposed to make its Go / No Go decision on June 2, but missed its self-imposed deadline and now plans to make a statement on or before Wednesday the 10th. It’s hard to imagine the news will be good, as a couple of individual races in the already diminished mountain bike series have canceled for 2020. Is it still a series if it’s only 6 races? If the race calendar stretches into September and October, are middle school and high school students going to risk their NICA seasons by incorporating WORS races? We’ll see.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

World Bicycle Day

It’s World Bicycle Day. Did you even know that was a thing? Apparently it has been a United Nations initiative for the last three years. According to the UN, World Bicycle Day:
Well, cool. Thanks for encouraging, UN.