Monday, August 31, 2020

August 2020: A Mileage PR

This month I rode 835 miles to set a new personal record for August, beating the 827 miles I rode in August 2018. June 2020 was a record month too, and hopefully September 2020 will be. These are nice little goals in a season without racing.

My record for September is 800 miles, set in 2009. It’s the oldest of my monthly records, so it’s a good target for an upgrade. In subsequent Septembers I haven’t come close to 800 miles:

Throw out 2013. I spent most of that September recovering from a badly fractured collarbone. My average in the remaining nine Septembers was 590 miles. I never got within 100 miles of a new record. But I think I can this season, because there’s nothing to distract me. In 2011 I started racing cyclocross, and that led to a lot of low-mileage weekends. Two fairly ordinary weekends are the difference between a 590-mile September and an 800-mile September, so I like my chances.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

A Million Feet Of Climbing

Early in the 2013 season I switched from a traditional cycling computer to a Garmin GPS device. In the 7½ years since, I have logged some pretty big numbers. Garmin has given me a way to track a huge variety of statistics that were unavailable on my old cycling computer. But actually I don’t even scratch the surface. On most rides I’m interested only in time, speed, and distance.

I am sort of interested in elevation gain, though Garmin has given me reason to suspect inaccuracies in those calculations. But there’s a threshold above which the raw numbers are so big that a couple of percentage points of miscalculation become meaningless. So, today I celebrate the completion of 1,000,000 feet of climbing since deploying my first Garmin device. That’s more than 189 miles, more than 34 times the elevation change between sea level and the summit of Mt. Everest.

Not bad for a cyclist whose rides are almost exclusively confined to the relatively flat Midwest, right? Well, this is just another Fun With Statistics moment; there’s no polka dot jersey for me. I spread those 1,000,000 feet of climbing over a total distance of 39,448 miles—208,285,440 feet—making my average gradient a very manageable one half of one percent!

It sure felt steeper.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Meeting My 2020 Mileage Goal

On today’s ride—the loop displayed above, completed counter-clockwise—I surpassed my primary mileage goal for 2020. And based on my recent history, there was little doubt that I would surpass 3,530 miles. Nevertheless, that was the goal because that was the number I needed to hit for 75,000 lifetime miles, and I like my round numbers. Next year’s goal will be whatever I still need for 80,000 as I continue to work on the longer-term goal of 100,000 by the time I turn 60 in June 2025.

Reaching this year’s goal with so many good weeks of riding still to come, I’m pushing on for 5,000 miles and I think I’ll get there before the end of October. But another target of opportunity has appeared: a personal record for the month of August. I’m now 215 miles away with 9 days to go and, at least for now, a very favorable weather forecast. It’s almost a moral imperative to chase that record. With no races or special events this year, my only competition is my past performance.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Never Will I Ever, Vol. 1

Cycling is not the same thing for everyone. I know mountain bikers with zero interest in any other kind of riding. I know roadies whose tires will never touch dirt, grass, or gravel. I know commuters who can’t understand what all the sweating, heavy breathing, power meters, and Strava segments are supposed to prove. For this blog I try to be open to almost everything that can be called cycling, even if I don’t find it especially appealing. In my life as a cyclist I am fortunate that I can enjoy more than just one discipline. I’ve done traditional road races, time trials, cross country mountain bike races, gravel races … even BMX if I can count my childhood in the 1970s. And outside of competition I do really enjoy simply riding around, on country roads and rec trails most particularly.

But I have my likes and dislikes, my preferences and prejudices. Some things in the cycling universe are so distasteful to me that Never Will I Ever associate myself with them. Submitted for your consideration are these five pieces of the ill-fitting jigsaw puzzle we call cycling, and I’m labeling them Vol. 1 because I fully expect to find more things to hate in the not-too-distant future.


If I were riding for transportation, then an e-bike might be a good choice. But I ride for fitness and competition. I want to get stronger and faster. If I can’t do it under my own power, then I can’t do it.


They’re just too dorky. Sorry. As with e-bikes, if I ever get to the point where I can’t ride a proper bicycle, then I’m done being a cyclist.


Like any brand, Specialized has supporters and detractors who argue the merits of its product line. I don’t have a problem with Specialized’s technical specifications—its stuff is almost indistinguishable from that of Trek, Cannondale, Giant, etc.—but I do have a problem with Specialized’s business practices, and for that reason I refuse to patronize the company. Get out your Google if you don’t understand my objections; I’m probably leaving myself open to a lawsuit if I enumerate them here. Goodness knows, Specialized has lawyers.


Fine products, no doubt, but worth the high price tag? I can’t be convinced. Short-sleeve jerseys at $195, bib shorts at $270, sunglasses at $180, shoes at $355, socks at $30 a pair … you must be out of your mind. I’m going to keep outfitting myself with Aero Tech Designs, Louis Garneau, and one or two other high-quality, high-value brands. That may hurt my chances of being invited to tea at Buckingham Palace, but at least I won’t lose $1,000 of kit in my next crash.


Preventing crashes should be a high priority for any cyclist, so why do so many shut out the sounds that could warn them of danger? Earbuds have no place in cycling. If you’re that bored, then maybe you should find something else to do. And I don’t care where you’re riding. Even on a rec trail, earbuds are a bad idea. You may not have motor vehicles to worry about, but can you hear another rider coming up from behind? Can you hear that rustling in the weeds that could be an animal ready to dart across your path?

There! That’s better. Good to get it off my chest.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Double Take

Once in a while a pro cyclist hits a hot streak and it seems like he or she can do no wrong. Consider the defending UCI world champion, Annemiek van Vleuten, who so far this season has won everything worth winning in women’s road racing: Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Emakumeen Nafarroako Klasikoa, Clasica Femenina Navarra, Durango-Durango Emakumeen Saria, and last weekend’s Strade Bianche. You’d be crazy to bet against her right now, in a one-day race, in a stage race, or in a time trial.

Then there’s Wout van Aert, who yesterday completed an amazing Strade Bianche / Milano-Sanremo double, winning very different races by employing very different tactics. It’s to Van Aert that I owe today’s headline. Sure, “Double Take” could simply refer to his pair of victories, but I literally did a double take when I noted in Sunday’s race summary that he’s still only 25 years old! It doesn’t seem possible. Cyclocross fan that I am, I’ve been watching Van Aert for years. He was world champion in 2016, 2017, and 2018 … not as a U23 racer, but at the elite level! You wonder how far he can go. It’s no stretch of the imagination to say that he will get at least one good shot at becoming the world champion on the road someday.

It’s great to have racing again, and there’s more in the week to come. The Critérium du Dauphiné, probably the most important tuneup for the Tour de France, starts on Wednesday. All five stages will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Gold, so I know what I’ll be having with my breakfast. Il Lombardia will run on Saturday, and that’s a great one-day race but I doubt I’ll be able to find a stream I can watch here in the States.

Speaking of streaming coverage … USA Cycling’s decision on August 6 to move cyclocross nationals from suburban Chicago to Iowa City means I won’t be attending the championships in person, so I hope USA Cycling streams the event as it has in recent years. But really I don’t expect the championships to occur at all. COVID-19 is still an ugly reality, and the fact that Iowa has fewer public health restrictions than Illinois doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to hold the races. It would be mighty strange to have national championships for a sport that didn’t have a regular season, and one wonders about the legitimacy of the competition when so many of the best racers will skip the event due to the risk of infection. Keep your fingers crossed for a widely-available vaccine before December.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

3 Down, 2 To Go?

Here I am at the conclusion of another 200-mile week. Today I reached 3,000 miles, year-to-date, and I really want to reach 5,000 miles before I call an end to my 2020 season. At this rate I should have everything wrapped up on Sunday, October 11. Then I can get into some cross-training activities, stop obsessing over the weather forecast, and relax a little. So, all I need is 10 more 200-mile weeks … consecutively. No problem, right?