It’s Time

It’s been awhile in coming, but I have finally concluded it’s time. This is the end of Bike Noob.

I’ve enjoyed writing the blog over the last seven years, watching the page views rise, and fall, and rise again. I’ve gotten to vicariously know some of you from your comments on my posts.

But lately, I’ve been less than enthusiastic when I realize it’s time to write another post. I’ve stockpiled ideas, and pulled them out when I needed them, although more often than not, the blog is a reflection of what I’m thinking about at the time I write it. When I started, I had a plan to post three times a week — Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday. I stuck to that plan for longer than I thought possible. But sometime in about 2013, I fell out of that routine. Missed a post? Not a big deal — you can write one tomorrow.

Except that when tomorrow came, I’d be in the same blase state as the previous day. Lately, I’ve been going a week without posting anything new. It’s really bad when I go more than a week without posting anything.

But lots of blogs don’t post on a regular basis. I’ve got several of them bookmarked in my feed reader. I wonder if they’ve abandoned their blogs without taking note of the fact. Then, lo and behold, one of them will write something — and disappear for another several months. I don’t want to do that. First of all, the rewards disappear. Page views plummet when new posts don’t appear regularly. I suspect bloggers who put up something every day — even if it’s not really worth putting up — have more traffic than I do. I know I have more traffic than folks who don’t post for weeks on end.

I’ve been able to keep this blog going because of some wonderful help from two guest posters — Jeff Hemmel and Don Blount. Jeff’s a freelance writer from Florida, and Don is a newspaper editor in California. They both started out as noobs like me, but unlike me, they both made rapid and substantial progress in their biking. Their contributions have kept Bike Noob around longer than it would have been otherwise.

I’ve watched my biking evolve over the past few years. Century rides don’t appeal to me anymore, but I love rides in the country of 30-45 miles. I used to train to get faster. Now, I couldn’t care less about that. It’s more about the ride than about the records. I discovered mountain biking — something I ignored for years, but when I tried it, found it to be tons of fun. I don’t worry about the weather anymore — if it’s raining, like it was this morning, I just find something else to do.

I’ve even been getting back to the basics of biking, as they were before MAMILS crowded the roads. I’ve been riding in cargo shorts, with (horrors!) cotton socks. They don’t get saturated with sweat, not by a long shot. I forgot my helmet the other day, and just kept going. Heck, when I was a kid, I’d ride my bike everywhere, and never wear a helmet.

Well, anyhow, all of those things put together have convinced me it’s time to pull the plug. Keep on pedaling, keep the rubber side down. I’ll still be on the roads and trails with you — you just won’t be hearing about it from me any more.


Rolling Coal

The Bike Hugger Facebook page pointed me to an interesting piece today from Jalopnik — it seems that in New Jersey, they’ve outlawed the practice of “rolling coal.” That’s when a big ‘ol, jacked up four-wheel drive pickup passes you while blasting a cloud of black smoke back in your face. It’s about as funny as the jerks who interrupt female TV reporters by yelling a particularly nasty obscenity.

Here's hoping you don't run into something like this.

Here’s hoping you don’t run into something like this.

It’s happened to me only once — just about a year ago. I had made the mistake of taking a major state highway to get back to the start of my ride quicker. Even though I was in the clearly-marked bike lane, some pickup-driving doofus decided I shouldn’t be there at all, so he proceeded to demonstrate what his exhausts could do. Luckily for me, it lasted only a couple of seconds. He was soon well ahead, and there was enough of a breeze that day to dissipate the smoke quickly.

Sure, it was already against the law. The EPA has a regulation against it. But the New Jersey legislature wanted to pass its own law just to bring it to everyone’s attention, and hopefully to get the police to enforce the ban more strongly.

Now, if New Jersey can do it — New Jersey, mind you — what say the rest of the states get on the bandwagon? Shut these coal rollers down.


Selective Enforcement

One of the members of my cycling club sent out an email to the group the other day, warning of police ticketing cyclists who failed to stop before turning right on a red light. It seems there were three squad cars, all writing out tickets.

Now, this kind of thing has gone on before, but I haven’t heard a lot about it in several years. And what struck me as odd about this instance was that it took place on a Wednesday morning, at about 11 a.m. That doesn’t strike me as a busy biking time, but apparently there were enough wayward bikers out there to keep the police busy for a little while.

The intersection in question is one I go through all the time. And I’m guilty of making the right turn on red without stopping, too. I do it if no traffic is coming from the left. If there are cars coming through the intersection, I stop.

But what got my goat about this incident was that the guy who wrote the email said just 100 feet away from the enforcement effort, he was nearly hit by a teenage girl in a BMW, texting. While not stopping at a red light is not a good thing to do, texting while driving is a whole lot worse.

I wonder if the police ever set up texting stops?

They’re Paving Paradise

Okay, that’s perhaps a bit of an overstatement. Austin is not a biking paradise, regardless of what you’ve heard.

But the reason has to do with the point of this post. The city has gotten too big, too fast. We’re now at about 843,000, which makes us the 11th-largest city in the United States. The roads I enjoyed biking on when I took up the sport eight years ago are not as inviting as they once were.

Just on Sunday’s ride, I made a jaunt out to the southeastern part of the city, where it starts becoming rural — or, at least, semi-rural. It used to be, that once you got east of Interstate 35, buildings spread out quickly, giving way to small spreads of several acres. But this is what I saw today:


Yet another apartment complex going up. Now, we’re a poor city for mass transit, so most of the people who move into these places will be driving cars, which will add to the already horrendous traffic conditions. There are enough apartment complexes going up farther and farther from downtown, that our formerly nice biking roads are being increasingly crowded with motor vehicle traffic.

And if not apartments, houses are springing up, too. I headed for a well-known country club which had once been out by itself. Now, one of the roads leading out of the club’s neighborhoods has be extended farther east, into what had been previously scrub land. The new development has a golf theme, with streets like Boros Drive and Mickelson Lane, and the houses don’t appear to be anywhere near as nice as the ones closer to the golf course.

Occasionally, I have put my bike on the car’s bike rack, and headed some distance from home to ride in the country. I can still get in a 25-mile ride just cruising streets in my neighborhood, but suburban riding doesn’t give the same joy as a nice spin in the country. I think I’ll be driving to my rides a lot more in the future.

Reaching and Maintaining That Riding Weight

Guest poster Don Blount is back, with an item on getting back to his best weight — and staying there.

BlountOnBikingFor some, it may not be their thing to weigh, measure or tally just about everything they eat and drink.

But it works for me.

This system has helped me lose weight and keep it off for nearly two years.

And this philosophy has become more than a “diet” or “eating plan,” it has become part of my lifestyle. It works with my personality.

I watch what I eat, schedule my exercise and as a result I am able to maintain the weight that I want.

This was my Thursday dinner: chicken, green beans and red potatoes

This was my Thursday dinner: chicken, green beans and red potatoes

I have written previously about my weight loss, counting calories, etc.

I learned that for me to maintain a good cycling weight and a better weight overall than the 196 pounds I carried a few years ago that I need accountability.

It is not enough for me to go: “Oh, I will eat smaller portions and exercise more.” I need something to tell me what a portion size is and how much exercise I have done.

On most days for lunch I will take a salad. This has chicken, carrots and cheese in addition to lettuce and a balsamic vinegar/extra virgin olive oil dressing.

On most days for lunch I will take a salad. This has chicken, carrots and cheese in addition to lettuce and a balsamic vinegar/extra virgin olive oil dressing.

I learned that I cannot maintain a proper weight solely through diet or solely through exercise; that I need a combination of the two.

I learned that it is difficult for me to eat solely 1,750 calories a day I find that a normal day’s intake for me is about 2,600 calories. A normal day of movement for me – exercise, walking and the like – burns about 900 calories, which reduces my net calorie intake to that 1,750 range. And it also means the proper combination of protein, fat, carbs, etc. but that’s a topic for another post.

After the work is done, I have my day's meals prepared: lunch, dinner and snacks.

After the work is done, I have my day’s meals prepared: lunch, dinner and snacks.

Going into hip replacement surgery I knew that the level and intensity of my exercise would be greatly restricted, by my standards I basically sat for five weeks, and I expected to gain at least a few pounds. And have gained about five pounds.

Still, I am not sweating that weight gain, at least not yet, as I become more active I expect to get back to my normal riding weight.


The Long Road Back

The great concert pianist, Ignace Paderewski, is quoted as saying: “When I miss a day of practice, I know it. When I miss two days, my teacher knows it. When I miss five days, the audience knows it.”

As you know, I’ve missed the equivalent of a month on the bike, with just a few days sprinkled in there where I actually got a chance to ride. And boy, do I know it.

Our friend, Don Blount, has just told us about the rehabilitation regimen he’s putting himself through to return to biking from surgery. Don is a focused, goal-driven kind of guy. I take more of a recreational approach to my biking. I want to have a good day on the bike, maybe cover a decent amount of ground, and feel like I’ve accomplished something when it’s over.

It didn’t feel that way Saturday.

My own fault, really. We’ve had a good amount of rain here this spring — for Central Texas, that is — and my yard has exploded in green. The growing grass, combined with the live oaks that have shed last year’s leaves over the last few weeks, have left me a mess to take care of. I spent much of Saturday morning shoveling leaves into bags (that’s right — there were so many in such big piles, I didn’t have to do a lot of raking), trimming overgrown ground cover around trees, and cutting the grass in the front yard for the first time this year. By the time I was done, I was bushed.

But it was a beautiful, 90-degree (32C) day, and there was no way I was going to pass up riding under these conditions.

I picked a favorite route, one that would take me through my neighborhood and out to Austin’s Veloway. If I did two laps of the Veloway after the trip to get there, I’d have about 18 miles.

But halfway around my first lap of the Veloway, I knew I had had it. I completed the lap and headed home. Fifteen miles, and I was so tired that I flopped on the bed in my bike clothes, immediately fell asleep, and didn’t wake up for three hours.

Okay, it was the yard work and the 90-degree temps that did me in. Sunday would be better, because I was going out first thing in the morning.

I met my riding buddy Maggie, and we agreed to take a new trail (new to us) that would get us up a hill to a busy road. She had been on the trail once, and was unsure about the exact route, but she led the way without a hitch. The trail was rough in spots, but a good one. We circled around to a paved hill near my house, and she suggested working our way over to another trail that would take us back down the hill.

Maggie grabs a drink before we head down the rocky trail.

Maggie grabs a drink before we head down the rocky trail. (Click to enlarge.)

This is a rough trail. I glanced off a rock, and my foot flew off the pedal. It was all I could do to keep the bike under control as it picked up speed down a rocky cut. I didn’t want to brake too much, because if I hit a rock at slow speed, it could mean an endo.

We got down it okay, but the skies decided to open up then, accompanied by bolts of lightning. We headed over to my house before the worst of it hit.

My wife was happy to see Maggie, because they had a lot of catching up to do. After a half hour or so, the weather had cleared, and she headed home. I showered, then sat down at the computer to do some work.

It was getting up that got me. The hilly trails rendered the backs of my thighs really sore. I could walk it off all right, but for the rest of the day, whenever I stood up, I had to wait for the soreness to pass.

Maggie told me she had had hip problems at the same time I was off the bike, so we’re both embarking on comebacks of our own. I hope it won’t be a long one — there’s a lot of riding to be made up. But I’m out of practice, and I know it.



They Tried to Make Me Go to Rehab — I Said Yes, Yes, Yes!

Guest poster Don Blount sets an example for us all by the way he’s coming back from hip replacement surgery.

April 20 marked 39 days since I underwent surgery to replace my left hip.

Since then my focus has been on recovery, rehab and rest.

This is my second hip replacement; my right hip was replaced with an artificial joint in 2004. But this time around a less-invasive surgery has enabled me to recover more quickly.

I checked into the hospital at 12:30 p.m. March 12, underwent surgery later that day, and was on my way home by 2:30 p.m. March 13, a stay of 26 hours.

Because I was fit, my surgeon’s directions was to monitor any swelling I had in my leg. A physical therapist instructed me to not overdo it.

I was on a bike trainer by Sunday. I was not pedaling fast, hard or with any resistance but I was pedaling.


I spent my days doing rehab exercises and reading while elevating and icing my leg. I read nine books in 30 days and watched live at least part of every game of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

My rehab includes:

  • Bike. First on the trainer and now on the road.

Bike_Selfie copy

  • Pool. I have a series of exercises to do in the pool to strengthen my hip and legs. This workout takes about 50 minutes.
  • Gym. Leg extensions, leg curls, leg presses, calf raises, resistance bands, treadmill and elliptical trainer. This workout takes about 90 minutes. Here’s a look.
  • Exercises for core, hamstrings, quadriceps and glutes and stretches for quadriceps. Click here to view workout video:

I am still working on walking without a limp and building my stamina. I find that rest includes a lot of naps after rehab work.

Without question, cycling has helped me through this process. Physically, I am in better shape and that has its obvious benefits. But mentally having ridden hills, centuries and double centuries helped me too. As I have told others, recovering from hip replacement surgery is nothing compared to going up a long difficult climb.

Overall, I am pleased with my progress. I returned to work on April 15 and although I am doing well, I do not receive full clearance until June 12, which is three months after surgery. Hmm, that would put the Bass Lake Powerhouse Double Century just under four months away….