How Far We Goin’?

Every week, our club president posts possible routes for the Saturday and Sunday club rides. Generally, the routes are a mix. Sometimes, the distance is a bit longer, but the roads are comparatively flat. Other times, a lot of climbing is involved, but the routes are a bit shorter.

Among newer riders, or riders who are coming back after some time off the bike, distance always seems to be THE measure by which a riding decision is made. The magic length is about 45 miles. Anything beyond that, and people will either beg off, or come up with a shorter route of their own.

Here’s the curious thing: Routes are usually 40-60 miles. There really isn’t a lot of variation. At the beginning of spring, it’s relatively easy for people who haven’t ridden much to start out with shorter rides, between 30-35 miles, and quickly work up to the 45-mile range. From there, stretching to 50 and even 60 isn’t a big deal.

So why is it that when he posts a ride, it’s always followed on our club’s Yahoo group by inquiries about the length? It shouldn’t matter by now — just jump in, and if you’re left behind, you’ll have a cue sheet or a map, or a Garmin display to get you home safely.

Oh, what’s that? You didn’t bother to follow the link the club president left with the route information? He posts turn-by-turn directions as well as a Garmin map. There’s really no excuse not to make a small effort to become acquainted with the directions we’ll follow on ride day.

And yet, it appears that for some people, that small effort is too much trouble. It results in riders taking wrong turns during the ride. Sometimes, their mistakes are discovered, and someone is dispatched to chase them down and get them back on the right route. But since our Sunday rides are not no-drop rides (at least for the A riders), often no help is sent.

We’ve got a ride coming up Sunday that I’ve never ridden before. Well, to be correct, I haven’t ridden about a third of the route. So I’ll be sure to have the cue sheet with me.

It’s a good thing, because after the route was posted today, one of the first responses was: “Joe, I have just one word: howlongisit?”

I was pleased to see the response: “Nottoofar.”

Some Basic Tips For Noobs

I decided not to ride Sunday morning, because it was pouring rain when I woke up. Dumb move. Things were pretty well dried out by 9 a.m., and if I’d been a little more patient, I could have gone. As it was, I did a short ride with my wife, as I mentioned in the last post.

But I wanted to make up for the lost B ride, so I posted that I would go Monday morning, since it was a holiday. We would do the Same Fitzhugh route that the A’s did on Sunday. Three others came out to join me, including Yasmin and Frank, two new B riders who rode with us for the first time last week.

Both of them have recently bought new bikes, and they’re both strong riders who will only get stronger and faster as they keep riding. As we negotiated the rolling hills along Fitzhugh Road, Frank stayed with Buddy, who moved well out in front. Yasmin got ahead of me, and while I had some trouble sticking with her, we were closer together than Buddy and Frank were to us.

At the turnaround, about 16 miles out from the start, Yasmin complained that her saddle was bothering her. She’s a tall woman, and the bike frame she had appeared to be sized for a man. But the saddle was a narrow racing style. I could relate to her distress. I rode a narrow racing saddle for about a year, when I finally ditched it some something wider and more comfortable.

“When you take it back to the shop, ask them to fit you with a wider saddle,” I suggested. Because of women’s wider pelvises, they need wider saddles than men, anyway.

At another rest stop farther on, both Yasmin and Frank expressed concern about their hands. They were getting numb, and they were shaking them out periodically.

In Frank’s case, he was riding with his elbows locked. “One of the guys told me to ride with my elbows bent,” he said. “I’m trying to get used to that.” Bending the elbows takes weight off the hands. The saddle should have been positioned in such a way that the elbows naturally bend when the rider is in his standard riding position. When I had my bike fitting some years ago, the fitter said it’s more common that people have their saddle too far back rather than too far forward. For most people, he said, moving the saddle forward will provide that elbow bend and make for a more comfortable riding position.

Fitters often use KOPS, or Knee Over Pedal Spindle, as a way to determine saddle fore-aft position. But the other day I was re-reading Peter White’s excellent contrarian article about bike fitting, where he pooh-poohs that notion. It’s all about balance, he says, the kind of balance between power and comfort. The article inspired me to do some tweaking on my saddle position.

It turned out that Yasmin was pushing her hands against the brake hoods. While that seems like a normal position for a new rider, it can cause the hands to go numb quickly. I showed them how to position the hands so the pressure is on the outside heels of the hands, not the webbing between the thumb and forefinger. “It usually doesn’t take much of a shift in position to relieve the pressure,” I said.

We wrapped up the ride and went our separate ways. I hope the tips about saddle width, bending the elbows, and hand position will help Frank and Yasmin enjoy their riding. I fully expect it will have negative consequences for me — it’ll just make them stronger riders, and I’ll be left behind again.

Sore Butt

It was pouring rain when I woke up at 6 a.m. to get ready for the Sunday club ride. I figured I’d let it play out, and then decide if I would try to ride.

Our club president posted an advisory that the ride would start an hour later, to let the roads dry out — but it looked to me that things would still be wet, so I bagged a ride.

However, around 9 a.m., things were starting to dry out, and my wife insisted we go out for a ride. She’s been busy with her business this week, and has gotten out only once. Even with wet pavement, I thought a neighborhood ride would be fine.

We rode out four and a half miles to a turnaround on a favorite ride of Pat’s, when I suggested we add some distance. She was feeling great, glad to be on the bike, so we set off. We took some detours through area streets we don’t normally ride, bombed down a nice hill, and did a lap of the Veloway. By the time we got home, we had one 15.5 miles.

That’s just getting warmed up for me, but it was farther than she had ridden all year, I think. I took off to add some more miles, since Sunday is my normal long mileage day anyway, but some residual showers forced me to turn around earlier than I’d planned, and I got back to the house with only 25 miles on the bike computer.

Later, as we watched some TV, she said her butt was sore. “I can really tell I was on the bike longer today,” she said.

That’s good, though. Pat has a tendency to do short rides, and not stretch out her distances. Now that summer is here, we can ride farther, and maybe even get her ready for some more challenges, like some organized rides in the area.

In this case, a sore butt is just an indication of a training effect.

Home Made Electrolyte Drink

Summer is here. Lately, when I stick my head outdoors in the early morning, the temperature hadn’t dropped below 70 overnight. That can make for some uncomfortable riding. There’s plenty of material online about drinking enough during a ride, and eating, too. Today I want to share a trick I learned last year from another online source.

I just wish I knew who it was whose idea I’m stealing. No doubt one of the many blogs I read. I came across this tip right after I had run out of an electrolyte replenisher that I’d been using regularly, and it seemed like it might work. Here it is:

Fill a water bottle almost to the top with cold water, then add a pinch of salt. There should be enough salt that you can taste it in the water, but not so much that the salty flavor overwhelms you. To cut the taste of the salt, spritz in a generous shot of lemon juice. I use the plastic squeeze bottle juice, but there’s no reason you can’t use fresh whole lemons.

Voila! Instant electrolyte replenisher! Oh, sure — it doesn’t have all the mineral salts you find in “real” electrolyte drinks. But sodium and chlorine seem to take care of most of my needs. And for a guy who doesn’t ride farther than 50 miles at a crack, this concoction works fine.

Try it on your next longish ride, and see what you think.

The Well-Equipped (Colorado) Cyclist

C_catalog_13Had a chance today to spend some time with one of my favorite items of cycling literature — the Colorado Cyclist catalog. I’d been missing it — after getting it regularly for a couple of years, it stopped coming. I’m not sure why it started up again, but I’m glad it did. It gives me the opportunity to see just what kind of gear I, who considers himself one of the top B-level riders in the country, should be sporting on club rides (or any other ride, for that matter).

For those of you not in the know, Colorado Cyclist is an online (and brick and mortar) cycling shop based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Its large (80-page), full-color catalog is full of gear to drool over — both hardware such as bikes and components, and soft goods, such as clothing. Here’s what the well-dressed cyclist is wearing this year.

Oakley sunglasses. The XL Black Plaid are particularly cool. They come with a G30 lens for bright days, and a VR50 lens for low light. A steal at $279.00.

Sidi Wire Carbon shoes. They have a new closure system “utilizing low-friction line material that doesn’t bind.” In white or yellow (which is really screaming hi-visibility green). $499.99.

The Kask Vertigo helmet. This can be adjusted for fit by using either a dial or a finger push system. I guess you pay extra for two systems. This goes for $299.99.

I’ve always liked the European flair of Assos cycling gear. This year, their SS Mille jersey has two types of breathable fabric, and the three traditional pockets across the back are placed in an “innovative” manner — but they don’t have a picture of them so we can see the innovation. This, and several other Assos jersey models, goes for $199.99. But their “intermediate” long-sleeved S7 jersey will set you back $369.99.

To further deck yourself out like the pro cyclist you could be, pair the jersey with a pair of Assos tk.607_S5 Bib Knickers. $339.99.

Now that you look the part, be sure to saddle up the appropriate mount. I see that Colorado Cyclist is selling Focus bikes now. The Izalco pro 1.0 goes for $4,800.00 — not bad, by premium bike standards. And what do I find on the back cover? A Focus Cayo 1.0 for a mere $1,699.00. Okay, it’s the 2012 model, but still…

I do like the way the catalog displays shorts. They have large color pictures of the chamois pads for all their shorts, and you can get a sense of how the padding might work for you. It’s something I wish all sellers would do for this crucial piece of equipment.

But really, for the kind of riding I do, and my level of ability, this catalog is simply a compendium of high-end stuff I either can’t afford, don’t need, or am unworthy of. But it’s fun to go through it — kind of like my wife poring over the jewels in the Ross-Simons catalog. Those aren’t going to see the inside of this house either — but it’s fun to dream.

Some New B’s

As in newbies? Well, okay. Some people who had been lurking on our club’s Yahoo group turned out for a neighborhood ride last week, and I invited them to ride the roads as part of the B ride Sunday.

It was a good B ride turnout, augmented by some A riders who needed a recovery from grueling efforts the previous day. Yasmin and Frank joined us for the first time,Victoria for the second or third, and Penny came out for the first time in about a year.

I chose a route to Buda, about a 30-mile round trip.

Any concerns I had about the new riders’ ability were dashed when we reached Davis Hill, about three miles into the ride. I couldn’t catch the newcomers going up. Thank goodness for stoplights, so I could work my way to the front of the pack again.

The ride south was made difficult by the brisk headwind we faced, but it was far from the worst I’ve seen. Just a couple of miles north of Buda, here comes George from the A ride. He had won the sprint into the Walgreens store in Buda, and while the rest of the A’s continued south, George decided to ride the rest of the way with us.

The Walgreens, at 15 miles into the ride, is a traditional rest stop. We swapped stories about club members who had broken bones while riding, which I’m sure didn’t ease any concerns the New B’s had. But instead of turning around at that point, we decided to keep going, at least for a few more miles.

Victoria peeled off to head home for a family obligation, and the rest of us headed back to Buda. Here’s where we hit our first glitch.

Buddy was looking back to make sure everyone had made the turn onto Main Street, when his front wheel went into a curb. He did a nice shoulder roll and landed mostly on grass, but complained of a wrenched back. However, he decided to keep going all the way back and deal with the soreness when he got home.

Buddy (second from left) is  rolling again after his mishap.

Buddy (second from left) is rolling again after his mishap.

The group strung out on the way back, and we made several stops to regroup. Our highlight was when we reached Slaughter Lane. That’s a four-lane divided road with no shoulder. We opted to form a “bus” and occupy the right lane for the two miles back to Starbucks. It was a good move. For the first time ever, not one car honked at us while going past.

The get together at Starbucks is often as much fun as the ride itself. Janice, who is killer good with the A’s, couldn’t wait to see if she had regained Queen of the Mountain status for a Strava segment on the A ride. She had, and spent some time extolling the virtues of Strava to Yasmin, who appeared anxious to join the Strava herd.

Judy, George, Laura, and Penny unwind after the ride.

Judy, George, Laura, and Penny unwind after the ride.

Pippa (l.) learns from Janice that Pippa's Queen of the Mountain is no more.

Pippa (l.) learns from Janice (r.) that Pippa’s Queen of the Mountain is no more.

Mike, an emergency room physician, performed a field amputation of some excess chin strap on Penny’s helmet. “This will keep you from looking like a newbie,” he told her. She wasn’t convinced, and was concerned that she would have too little strap to work with when adjusting her helmet. The jury is still out on that one.

"No!" says Laura, Mike's wife. "You're cutting it too short!"

“No!” says Laura, Mike’s wife. “You’re cutting it too short!”

All in all, it was a good ride. We did 34 miles at a reasonable — and sometimes quick — pace. The new B’s held their own with the pack, and it looks like they’ll be back for more. Frank has already checked into buying some club kit.

Mid-Week Stutters

I was looking forward to my time off from school, so I could finally start building up some decent mileage and get myself in shape for the rest of the summer’s riding. But the best laid plans, as they say…

I spent most of Tuesday in Houston on business with my wife. Got back too late to ride.

Then, rain popped up this morning. After my last fall, I must admit, I’ve wimped out. I will no longer ride in the rain.

So, my big ride plans have stumbled somewhat. In the meantime, I can find some amusement in the plans of other members of my club.

There’s a good organized ride coming up Saturday — the Real Ale Ride. I’ve ridden it once, and volunteered for it once. It’s a great ride, but in my opinion, has gotten overpriced. However, a contingent from the club are heading out there.

One of the ladies, in particular, was making big plans. She wanted to do the 100-mile version, but learned that the longest route is 85 miles. Not to be stymied in reaching her mileage goal, she immediate upped it — to 150 miles.

Her plan is to ride the 85 miles. Then, she’ll start the course again — this time taking the 65-mile route. Or, maybe turn around at the finish, ride back for 32.5 miles, then turn around and ride to the finish again. What?

“150 miles on a road bike is not really that long,” she said. “I’ve done longer on a mountain bike.” She’s looking for others to join her in her quest.

So far, no takers.