Gettin’ tough

Weather has been weird around Central Texas lately. While much of the rest of the country is dealing with late winter snow, it’s been extremely dry around here, and extremely windy. I got out for a ride yesterday after work, and it was 88F! The heat gave me a headache before the 15 mile ride was over.

Quite a change from last weekend, when I went out for a group ride with some folks who are training for the Hill Country Ride for AIDS. It was cool, but not bad, and the forecast called for a cold front later in the day. Plenty of time to get in a ride before the bad weather hit. I got to the bike shop starting point in plenty of time, but it seemed that the weather was worsening by the minute. Near the appointed start time, the cold front hit — hours earlier than forecast — and brought rain.


Dismal prospects.

I was about ready to call it quits before the ride started. But the rain eased up, and the wind picked up. We decided to go ahead.

The group got less than two miles from the bike shop. The north wind was howling. The leaders stopped under a bridge for a confab.

groupThe leaders confer. Would we bail on the ride, or toughen up and go on?

We decided to go on. The wind was tough. But once we put a couple of miles behind us, we were warmed up, and suddenly, the weather wasn’t an issue anymore. It was a good ride through the city, with some decent hills to climb.

So I was looking forward to this morning’s ride. It would be with a different group — a Bike MS training ride — and would start just a mile from my house. But after the high temps of Friday — actually setting a record of 91F (32.7C) — the forecast resembled last week’s. But colder. And windier. But it was a route I wanted to ride, and I figured it would be a good opportunity for me to learn more about our upcoming Houston-to-Austin extravaganza.

This time, the forecast was right. Again, it was very tempting to forget the whole thing when I saw the conditions. But I rode over to the starting point, and riders starting dribbling in, many sharing tales of fighting the wind during their rides to the start.

However, the ride leader told us all we would abandon the planned route. The strong wind would simply make it too dangerous, because of the exposed roads we’d be riding. Instead, we would ride through the neighborhood, which iteself offers some decent hills.

The route, though on familiar streets, was one I hadn’t ridden before. Amazing how streets that seem flat in a car become a challenge on the bike. Once again, after a couple of miles, we were warmed up. The route turned onto my old standby, Mopac. On the eastbound leg, I hit a wind-assisted 35.2 mph, without much effort on my part. But turning north, the wind hit us in the face again.

Several times, I nearly lost control fighting the strong gusts (Oh, by the way, your helpful tips from a couple of weeks ago really came in handy today). I was in the small chainring, on a large cog, much of the way. Going downhill at 8, 7, even 6 mph and fighting to stay upright isn’t a lot of fun.

But we got through it without a mishap. I rode a shorter route today than I’d planned, but it felt like double the distance. If nothing else, I’ve learned over the past two weekends that skipping rides because of perceived tough conditions isn’t necessary. We’ve already got our ride planned for tomorrow. The forecast? Cold and windy. Again.

Bike computers

garminOne of the rituals of biking I go through every time I come back from a ride is to unclip my cyclocomputer from its handlebar mount, and later enter all the data from that ride into an Excel spreadsheet I keep. I like to look at the data at intervals, to see if I’m actually making progress. Am I riding longer, farther, at a higher average speed?

I posted about my computer last year, after I put it on the bike. It’s a Cateye Strada Cadence, and I think it’s terrific. I’ve been most impressed by the accuracy of its mileage. It is a hard-wired computer, though, and the wires sometimes get in the way, especially when I’m mounting the bike on the car’s bike rack. I have a hunch that if I get a different computer at some point, it will be a wireless.

My previous computer was an Ascent Delta V. It was wireless, so was convenient. I liked the fact that I could “scan” the data, that is, it would display distance, average speed, top speed, elapsed time for a few seconds each, then advance to the next one. The Cateye doesn’t do that. No big deal.

I supposed the next step would be to move up to a GPS computer, like a Garmin 705. The bike routes I’ve seen displayed with Garmin data are pretty nifty. The expense of a GPS unit, however, is something the Noob household is not in a position to bear at the moment. So it’ll have to wait. Years, maybe.

What’s your preference? Is there a minimum set of functions each cyclocomputer should have? Or do we even need to care about the data they accumulate? And how much are you willing to spend to get that data?

When does your riding become training?

I’ve hemmed and hawed about training a time or three, and long-time readers know I’m not a gung-ho training fan, like some of my friends. I started biking because I like it, it’s fun, and it offers some nice side benefits like improved fitness. I’ve kinda gotten into the biking culture, too.

But now that my Bike MS ride is less than two months away, I realize that I’m really behind where I ought to be to get ready for two loooong days in the saddle back to back. It’s time to get down to business.

Two weekends ago, I was able to bike Friday, Saturday and Sunday, for a total of 50 miles.  Last weekend, I rode on Saturday and Sunday, for a total of 39 miles, but under tougher conditions and in hillier terrain.  Since it looks like the demands of work will prevent me from getting out to ride during the week, I am planning to cave in and hit the stationary bike at the club at least two mornings a week.  I’ll be using some upcoming organized rides in the area for my longer mileage rides over the next month and a half, along with any training rides my new team might happen to come up with.

In other words, I’m starting to train.  It’ll be training with a definite goal in mind.  I’ll have to ride 100 miles the first day, and 85 miles the second day for the Bike MS.  Primarily, I’ll be working to increase my endurance, rather than my speed.  I figure that with more time in the saddle, speed will come.  However, I’ll still make use of tried and true training techniques, like intervals.  These can be worked into most any bike ride I take.

I guess there comes a point for most of us where we target something beyond just a regular, nice bike ride, and try to do something more.  One of this blog’s loyal readers asked me, “When does your riding become training?”

It just did.