Sunday, July 26, 2020


This was a full-on summer day, the likes of which West Bend rarely sees. We’ve had a few 90° days this year but I don’t think the others came close to that 107° “feels like” reading. I’m sure the combination of air temperature, sun, high WSW winds, and high humidity made today a challenge for a lot of people.

But I revel in hot weather, so there was no hiding next to the air conditioner for me. I knocked out a 33-mile ride to complete yet another 200-mile week. (It’s a good thing I keep my own training log in Microsoft Excel, as Garmin Connect is still down.) I should hit 3,000 miles, year-to-date, in the week to come. Tomorrow I will do my 100th ride this season, and by mid-August I expect to reach this year’s “official” mileage goal: 3,530.

At this point, though, I won’t be satisfied with 2020 unless I get to 5,000 miles. That’s a worthy goal in this climate which, as we all know, far more frequently feels like 7° than like 107°.

Friday, July 24, 2020

Garmin Connect Is Down, But …

Technology is great, isn’t it? Until it doesn’t work! I’ve made my living for the last 25 years on the fact that it breaks with some frequency. And when it breaks, usually there’s a person to blame. Computers are remarkably good at doing what they’re told, but tell them bad things and they do bad things.

Most bad instructions are unintentional. In the case of the outage currently affecting Garmin, they’re not. The maker of GPS devices and fitness trackers is recovering from a ransomware attack. Ransomware is software that infects the target’s system like a virus until the target pays the hacker to remove it. Some targets simply pay up; those who refuse to be extorted find a way to remove the ransomware or fall back to some system restore point.

If you use the Garmin Connect website to track your workouts, then you have been affected for the last couple of days and you probably will be affected at least through the weekend. Your device will still talk to the satellites, giving you real-time information like speed and distance, but you won’t be able to upload the data to Garmin Connect. In this look-at-me era of social media, the temporary inability to share your activities with friends, foes, and followers may feel like a great imposition, but you’ll live. Your device will keep your data safe until Garmin Connect comes back online.

Now, if you absolutely can’t wait to see whether you crushed today’s FTP test while simultaneously setting the world Everesting record, then here are a couple of options … one of which you’ve seen on this blog before.

FitTrackView is a handy utility that can read the FIT file on your device and turn it into a map like the one you see above. If you want a little more of a statistical breakdown and/or you don’t want to download an application, provides distance, duration, average speed, and elevation gain/loss. The site defaults to metric and the column headings may retain those values even when you update your preferences, but this screenshot shows my ride today in miles, mph, and so forth:

Google lists a bunch of utilities that read FIT and GPX files, so your Garmin data doesn’t need to stay locked up on your device when Garmin Connect is down. Explore your options, but explore carefully. You don’t want to invite trouble on your system while you’re compensating for trouble on Garmin’s.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Full Stop.

Today the Wisconsin Cycling Association announced the cancellation of its 2020 cyclocross season. No one should be surprised, but it’s OK to be disappointed. And it’s OK to miss the Tuesday evening practice series at Royal Oaks Park in West Bend, which would have begun its 9th season next month. I’ll try to bring that back in 2021 if there’s a demand for it.

I now have literally nothing to train for in 2020, and my season really is going to be just an accumulation of statistics. It’s a good thing I find them motivating, though I know they mean nothing to anyone else. Today is a rest day for me. I’ll be back in the saddle tomorrow and I hope I won’t be too bummed about cyclocross to give a good effort.

My numbers are important to me and this week none is more important than 40. This is my first week back at full employment since early April. In my July 7 blog post I was kvetching about having to return to the office while still being limited to a 32-hour schedule, but happy days are here again … relatively speaking. I will feel that 20 percent bump in my paychecks starting next Friday.

With a lot of free time on my hands and a little extra walkin’ around money, I might run my odometer up to 5,000 miles and then leave the bikes alone for a while. I never allow myself to do as much hiking as I would like. Maybe this fall will provide the perfect opportunity to hit the trails on foot or to explore some new interest.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

It’s What You Value

In a strange season that probably won’t come with any licenses, trail passes, race entries, or special event fees, I’m still finding ways to spend money on cycling. The bikes have been running like champs, but I’ve been forced to replace some of the little things that enhance my sport.

It seems like half of my cycling wardrobe instantly got old and worn out, and I have had to throw away several pieces. This week I purchased more bib shorts. I started wearing bibs in 2011 and in recent years I have switched to bibs exclusively during warm weather months. I still have some regular cycling shorts—all in scandalously poor condition—but I use them only under tights on chilly rides. You’re welcome.

Many of my socks have died this year too, so I will be buying more of those soon. I’m doing OK on jerseys, but two of my nicest have dead zippers that prevent me from wearing them. They are in great shape otherwise, so today I hired a local seamstress to repair or replace the zippers at a considerable discount to the replacement price of the jerseys themselves.

I went through another tail light this year, so I replaced it immediately. I ride with a tail light even on bright, sunny days, as I am convinced it enhances safety in traffic. And I got a new CO2 inflator to replace one on which I couldn’t rely. Fortunately, I haven’t had to use it; this has been a year without flat tires … so far. I replaced my cable lock while I was in Pennsylvania, as the trip revealed the frustratingly fickle nature of the old lock. Busting open a knuckle while trying repeatedly to lock my bike to my car rack was the last straw. Accessories like these are really nice to have and they don’t cost a fortune. I paid about $100 for the lot.

But there may be a larger expense on the horizon: my GPS device. In recent weeks I have seen erratic behavior from my Garmin. It’s an old Edge 500 … probably past its expected service life. Still, I hope I don’t have to drop $200-300 on a new device this year. When the time comes, it will be nice not waiting so long for the device to acquire a satellite signal and not having to import my activities manually on the Garmin Connect website. And hopefully the new device will be a little smarter beneath overhanging trees, where the current device under-reports my speed and distance.

This could be a $500-750 year for clothing and accessories. That’s not insubstantial but it’s not the end of the world. I’m making these acquisitions with the expectation that I will get several seasons out of them, just as I did with their predecessors. It’s money I wish I didn’t have to spend, but it’s money well-spent.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

I Was Right But It Still Sucks

When the company for which I work as a contractor announced several weeks ago that its employees would be forced to take a week of vacation at the end of June, I saw an opportunity to travel to Pennsylvania and work from my mother’s house. It wasn’t vacation for me in the sense that I didn’t have to work at all; I just temporarily moved the location of my home office to facilitate my first visit to my mother’s house in 6 years. And I suspected that it was a now-or-never proposition, that the week off would be followed swiftly by a return to the office for all workers. So it has proved: the word came on Monday that I am expected back in Brookfield tonight.

This is by no means good news. I have been working remotely since March. Doing so has given me 90-120 minutes per workday that otherwise would go to shaving, showering, dressing, driving … all those things that go into being a commuter. I’ve grown accustomed to sleeping until just minutes before the start of my shift, but now I’m going back to setting the alarm clock for an hour of preparation time. But the real burr under my saddle is money. Since early April I have been permitted to work only 32 hours per week. Working from home was offsetting some of that 20 percent reduction in income. Now I have the worst of both worlds: my commuting costs are going back up but my income is not. There’s no end in sight for the reduced work schedule.

What does all this mean in dollars and cents? At current gas prices, it comes out to about $25 a week. Doesn’t sound like much, but that’s $625 by the end of the year, enough to pay for the cyclocross season that I’m now almost certain isn’t going to happen for me even if it isn’t cancelled outright by the Wisconsin Cycling Association.

Anno Domini 2020, you can go straight to hell.

Monday, July 6, 2020

The 2021 WORS Schedule

With its 2020 season wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic, this morning the Wisconsin Off-Road Series provided a ray of hope for 2021 with the announcement of this schedule:

05/01 – Iola Bump & Jump @ Iola Winter Sports Area, Iola
05/16 – Englewood Open @ Englewood Farm, Fall River
06/12 – Battle of CamRock @ CamRock 3 Park, Rockdale
06/27 – Red Barn Classic @ The Farm (Trek Headquarters), Waterloo
07/18 – Colectivo Coffee Bean Classic @ Minooka Park, Waukesha
08/01 – Mount Morris Challenge @ Nordic Mountain, Mount Morris
08/21 – Reforestation Ramble @ Brown County Reforestation Camp, Suamico
08/28 – Treadfest @ Alpine Valley Resort, Elkhorn

At this moment, there’s still a chance that three races from the 2020 schedule will run as independent events now that the series is officially cancelled:

08/15 – Reforestation Ramble
08/29 – Treadfest
10/10 – Battle of CamRock

But each day brings more news of a resurgence in COVID-19 infections. If these events are held, then their race formats may differ significantly from WORS standards. We could see mountain bike time trials or extremely limited field sizes as the organizers attempt to hold their events without exposing racers to the dangers of a large gathering. I’m rooting for them … especially as they may provide a workable template to save the NICA season for Wisconsin’s high school and middle school racers.

Friday, July 3, 2020


As my vacation in Pennsylvania nears its end, I have become the recipient of an unexpected bit of good fortune. After a few days of map gazing and on-bike experimentation, on Thursday I combined two now-familiar loops into a single ride. One of those loops took me through an affluent neighborhood where dog walkers outnumbered motorists by a wide margin. On the side of the road, waiting for the garbage truck, was a CycleOps magnetic trainer equipped with a climbing riser block and a trainer skewer. The house was for sale and these relics of the pre- smart trainer era would not be accompanying the owner to his new address.

The “used” market for bike trainers is weak. Maybe this collection had been intended for a garage sale made illegal or impractical by Pennsylvania’s stricter COVID-19 quarantine. Maybe it had failed to attract any attention on Craigslist. Whatever the case, it attracted my attention. When my ride was done I got in my car and returned for it. At full retail today, that’s $275 worth of stuff! The trainer is $230, the climbing riser block is $30, and the trainer skewer is $15. So, why didn’t the owner want it? He told me himself. As luck would have it, he was returning from a walk through the neighborhood just at the moment I pulled up. He’s relocating to South Carolina, where the warmer climate will allow him to ride outside year-round. (It will sometimes rain there, I thought, but I kept that observation to myself to prevent any last-second disappointment.)

So, what will I do with a second trainer? I’ve got two uses in mind. During the racing season, the new-to-me trainer can stay in the trunk of my car to give me a parking lot warmup option. During the offseason, this trainer can join its mate in my home gym to create a modest cycling studio I can share with a friend. Indoor training is always more fun with company, and I just made it easier for you, for free.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Read It And Weep

There will be no World Cup Waterloo in 2020. This is a huge loss for Trek and for Wisconsin ... and it is perhaps a permanent loss for cyclocross in North America. COVID-19 forced the hand of the organizers this season, but by next season it would have been obvious that in an expanded World Cup there was no real incentive for the Europeans to come here. They have so many races in Europe that they can pursue all of their series ambitions there without the hassles, dangers, and (most of all) expenses of a trip to North America. Trek is hopeful for next season, but I'm unconvinced.