Ringing out the old – 2008 biking stats

hny2aOn this New Year’s Eve, it’s time to look back at where I’ve been, biking-wise, over the past 12 months. First of all, let’s recap the last four months, as I have done in April and August. Then we’ll recap the entire year.

September-December:

  • Total rides: 38
  • Total mileage: 863.1
  • Avg. speed: 15.73 mph
  • Highest avg. speed on a single ride: 17.65 mph
  • Highest maximum speed on a single ride: 38.6 mph
  • Longest single ride: 101.4 mile

Monthly mileage

  • September: 271.5
  • October: 302.5
  • November: 131.8
  • December: 157.3

I’m astounded by the amount of riding I did, especially when it didn’t feel like I was doing as much as I could have. I’m blown away by my stats for the entire year:

Year-long stats 2008:

  • Total miles: 2,677
  • Avg. speed: 15.09 mph
  • Highest avg. speed on a single ride: 17.65 mph
  • Highest maximum speed on a single ride: 39.5 mph
  • Longest single ride: 101.4 miles
  • Average ride distance: 20.625 miles

Highlights of the year: My century, obviously, given how much I seem to have posted about it. But hey, for a 57-year-old guy, I think it was a big deal. I took the League of American Bicyclists Road I course, which made me a more competent, smarter, and safer rider. I joined a local bike club, and although I am not a regular at their Sunday morning rides, the group did challenge me to go faster and longer. Finally, this blog. It’s been online a little over 10 months, and I am gratified by the amount of page views I’ve gotten. I’ll post a detailed recap of the blogging year on its anniversary in February.

Goals for the coming year: I’ve already mentioned that I’ll be riding in the MS 150 from Houston to Austin. I plan on joining a team to train for the ride, and to ride in several organized events leading up to the MS ride in April. After that, who knows? I want to get better. Better for me could include a number of different factors: faster, more endurance, more skill, or a combination of the three. Oh, and it’s time to shed some extra weight. I need to drop about 30 pounds. Biking will be the major element of that effort.

Here’s to a happy, healthy and prosperous 2009 from the Bike Noob!

CO2 — A new top post

co2Here’s a minor milestone for the Bike Noob blog — there’s a new King of All Posts. “CO2 cartridges or a pump?” from July 29, 2008 has overtaken “Smoked by an Old Guy” from April 16.

“CO2″ has racked up 1,082 page views, passing Smoked’s total of 1,078. Both posts got a little added push after I created the Favorite Posts tab at the top of the blog, but lately, I’ve watched CO2′s visits jump by as much as 30 a day to rapidly close the gap.

“Smoked By An Old Guy” has some sentimental value for me, because it was this post that made this blog catch on. Kent Peterson, the author of the popular “Kent’s Bike Blog,” spotlighted this story on his blog, and my daily number of page views surged. So once again, thanks Kent.

I appreciate the attention both posts continue to get, and I wonder: Are there still some unresolved issues about using CO2 cartridges as opposed to pumps? Let me know — I’m interested in what you have to say on the matter, and I’ll be happy to update everyone on where the sentiment lies.

Latest numb toe remedy — new shoes!

After my experiences with numb toes on rides this year, I finally came to the conclusion that the only way to deal with the problem was to get new shoes. I must have dropped some well-placed hints, because under the Christmas tree this year, there they were!

shoesThey’re the Road Comp model by Specialized. Mrs. Noob has worn Specialized shoes for two years, and loves them. I’ve also heard good things about the brand from other bikers. Yes, I know everyone lusts after Sidis, but they’re a little too pricey. And these weren’t cheap.

Santa must have thought you wear the same size for biking as for your everyday street shoes, because he brought size 42.5 (9 1/2 US). They were a tight fit. My feet tend to swell during exercise, and I always buy sport shoes a size larger than my street shoes. My LBS happily made the exchange for size 44, and while I was in there, they even mounted the new cleats.

One of the main features I was looking for in a new shoe was a carbon sole. I figured the stiffness of carbon would help control the numb toe problem. These soles are as hard as rock.

I’ve worn them on two rides since Christmas. The leather tongue is a little long, and hits my instep right where it curves up into the shin. I think that will work itself out with a little more riding. They’re snug without being tight, because of that ratcheting fastener for the top strap. I like Specialized’s Body Geometry line of equipment anyway — they seem to pay attention to our anatomical needs.

While we’re talking about bike things for Christmas, I also got that seat post-mounted dual water bottle cage I posted about last week, a pair of yellow biking socks (“Because you don’t have any socks that match your yellow jersey.”), and a new long sleeve jersey. So it was a good biking Christmas for me.

The title of this post might be a bit misleading. Whether these shoes will fix the numb toe thing is still undetermined. Both my rides in the new shoes were fairly short — 15 and 17 miles — and I really didn’t get a sense of how the toe is behaving. I’ll have to report back on that in a future post.

Biking is hurting my golfing

The Bike Noob tees it up in Michigan last summer.

The Bike Noob tees it up in Michigan last summer.

In addition to biking, my other pastime is golfing. I’ve been at it for 20 years. I’m no good at it — but now I’m getting worse.

I go out most Saturday mornings with a regular group. Play often improves as the season goes on — I usually register the low net score in the group at least once during the summer — but this year, it didn’t happen. In fact, my handicap soared from a 14 to an 18.

Now, on the plus side, I get a stroke on each hole. But on the minus side, my actual play is a lot worse than that. I shot a 98 the other day, which is 10 strokes worse than my expected score on our par-70 course.

The reason for my poor play on the links is, of course, biking. I used to stop off at the driving range at least once a week, maybe twice, to practice my shots and hone my swing. Now, I head straight for home to change into cycling clothes and get out on the road for a quick pre-evening ride. Where a good weekend for me used to be two rounds of golf, now on Saturdays I won’t stick around the course after our round. I’ll head home to ride. On many Saturdays between August and October, I skipped golf entirely. I was training for my century, so I chose to ride instead. And my Sundays are dedicated to my weekly long ride, whether it be with the cycling club or on my own. A friend at the golf club recently asked me about my woeful game, and I replied, “If it’s a choice between biking and golf, I’ll take a bike ride.”

I really enjoy golf. It’s a skill, but to maintain that skill level, you must apply yourself. The great pianist Paderewski said, “If I miss a day of practice, I know. If I miss two days, my teacher knows. If I miss five days, the audience knows.” It’s just as true with golf. With some time off in the coming weeks, I will concentrate more on splitting my time between the saddle and the tee box. The weather here will be good for golf. As I write this, it’s 72F at 9 a.m., with a high forecast for 80F later today. Great golf weather. But then again, it’s great biking weather too…

Merry Christmas!

The Bike Noob is enjoying the holidays with my wife, the long-suffering Mrs. Noob, and our son, who flew in from Minnesota. Riding is not on my mind for these few days, although with moderating temperatures I think I might get out there a time or two.  I hope you are all having as nice a holiday as we are. Greetings to Bike Noob readers from around the world.

Merry Christmas!

Feliz Navidad

Joyeux Noël

Fröhliche Weihnachten

Feliz Natal

Geseënde Kersfees

God Jul

Vrolijk Kerstfeest

Shub Naya Baras

Skittish

Maybe it’s my experience with two crashes in the last three months, but on the road lately, I seem to be a less aggressive rider than I used to be.

The other day, I was doing my weekly ride on the Veloway. It’s got some nice sections with tight curves — curves that invite you to stomp on the pedals and lean hard into the turn. I always look forward to those, especially a right-left-right combo near the end of the loop. I get down in the drops, and always check my cyclocomputer to see if I’ve hit my goal of 22 mph through the esses.

This time, I didn’t even come close. I did 18 mph on the first lap. Wow. I chalked it up to a warmup lap, and figured it would get better. The second time through, I hit 20 mph. That’s still off my goal.

I noticed that the line I took through the curves both times was wider than the one I follow when I’m really “on.” Why would that be?

Well, it’s been foggy the last few mornings, and that left the road surface damp. But it’s only really iffy at the approach to the hill I’ve mentioned in the past — the one where I lost control and crashed last month. A puddle collects right at the base of the hill, right on my line. So I’m going to go slower through there in any case, until it’s acceptably dry.

The esses don’t have that problem. They were damp, but not wet. I made a point of concentrating on the line the third time through. But by now, the light mist that accompanied the fog had turned to drizzle. I picked up a little speed — 21 mph — but cut my ride short and headed for home.

I guess I’m just out of practice. The amount of riding I’m doing has suffered lately because of cooler weather and demands at work. I know that more frequent riding will get me back into the feel of the bike. Now that we’re into the year-end break, I’ll get out there more often — I hope.

What to get?

I’m terrible when it comes to giving Christmas presents.  It takes me forever to come up with a good idea.  Sometimes, I’ll receive hints, or even outright demands, but they’re for mundane things that don’t resonate with me.  So I skip getting the thing someone wants, and get them what I think is cool.  Sometimes it works.  Often, it backfires.

So this year, I’m turning to you, the patient and forgiving readers of Bike Noob.  I need some biking-related gift ideas.  Now, I’m not going to run out and buy my friend’s brother-in-law a Pinarello Prince, so keep your suggestions within a reasonable price threshold.

To help generate some ideas, I’ll just toss out the suggestion (demand?) I gave Mrs. Noob:

cageNot the seat, or the seat post, but the water bottle cages.  I know, not very imaginative, but I want one.  What do you want, or suggest that I buy as a gift for my biking friend(s)?

The 700C x 25 debate

Betcha didn’t even know there was a debate on this arcane topic, didja? It came up the other day when a club member, who is a pretty good rider and is usually out front on our group rides, said he’d switched to the slightly wider 25 mm tire. He said he was pleased at the better ride, better traction, better cornering — all at no appreciable increase in rolling resistance.

That touched off a firestorm on our club Yahoo board. Why, there must have been eight or nine comments bouncing back and forth about the relative merits of the 25s vs. the skinny 23s that most of us “macho” bikers ride.

And one member pointed out that the size of the contact patch (where the rubber meets the road) is more dependent upon the circumference of the rider’s waist than the width of the tire itself. The wider the waist, the greater the bulk, the higher the weight, the more tire deformation — they all add up to more traction, but with more rolling resistance.

A 23 mm tire on the left, 25 mm on right.  The difference is obvious.

A 23 mm tire on the left, 25 mm on right. The difference is obvious.

Although, if you want to really gauge rolling resistance, the famous wheelbuilder Jobst Brandt has a nifty little interactive page that lets you calculate the rolling resistance of your tires after you enter the effective frontal area of the tire, its drag coefficient, the air density, the combined weight of the rider and bike, the phase of the moon, the odds of your maternal grandmother being born on a Sunday, and multiplying that by the slope of the regression line of the area of adhesion.

I haven’t tried 700 x 25 tires on my bike. It came with 23s, and I’ve been happy with them. But for a smoother ride, it might be worth the switch. Can you enlighten me any further on this burning topic?

White socks

Not the Chicago baseball team, the White Sox. No, rather, I was just musing about why I would even bother to buy white bicycling socks, when I know this is going to happen:

whitesox1

After today’s ride. Maybe some Stain Stick will take care of the problem. Maybe more care around the bike will eliminate the problem altogether.

Bowling and biking don’t mix

Went to a Happy Hour with my wife last night — one of the groups she belongs to had a holiday get together at local bowling alley.

I haven’t bowled in more than 15 years, and didn’t intend to last night, but things happen, and the next thing I knew, I was wriggling into some rental bowling shoes and picking a nicked and gouged ball off the rack.

When I was a little kid, I bowled a lot. My grandparents were bowling fanatics, and Grampa taught me a five-step approach to the line. Those five steps are short, mincing little steps, and as a grownup, I feel like an idiot when I roll a ball that way, so I decided three long steps would be the way to go.

I picked the spot on the lane where I intended to roll the ball, and began my approach. Left, right, left — rightleft! That five-step move I had learned so long ago wouldn’t go away! The additional two steps automatically happened. I sailed the ball down the lane as I tried to catch my left foot from crossing the foul line. BRAAP! The foul alarm blared. The newfangled electronic scoring thingy flashed FOUL! in big red letters. And I grabbed my left hamstring.

Holy cripes, did it hurt. I pulled something back there. The combination of trying to check the two added steps plus rolling a 16-pound ball and trying to look graceful while doing it (Who am I kidding? I never look graceful at anything) put my leg in an awkward position and caused the muscle pull.

It was still sore this morning when I got up.  Mrs. Noob wanted to go for a ride, so after some chores around the house, we saddled up for a jaunt to the Veloway.  Not too bad, except for a stiff wind that almost knocked us off our bikes a time or two.

At the Veloway, I took off for some quick laps.  Pat held back, fighting the wind.  I could feel the hamstring, but besides a little soreness, it seemed okay.  No doubt the exercise was warming the muscle and making it feel better.

Pat decided to do only one lap, and I caught up to her after I finished two.  We headed home with the wind mostly at our backs this time.  I stretched and showered, and wow! does that hamstring hurt.

I’m walking around the house like an old man, kind of hobbling.  I know it’ll work itself out in another day or two, but I really can do without this kind of strain.  I think I’ll avoid bowling from here on out.