Do You Shave Your Legs Yet?

You should. At least, if you’re a racer guy type of rider.

Even since I began road cycling, I’ve been reading of the debate over leg shaving. To me, the arguments in favor never seemed compelling enough. Band-Aids will come off easier after a crash. It’s more aerodynamic (Yeah, right). It’s easier to slide tights or leg warmers over them when it’s chilly outside.

Then, I learned that some friends were shaving their legs. Heck, even one of our fine guest posters gave in to the craze. Bosh, says I.

But another friend pointed me to a video posted by the folks over at Specialized bikes. They actually conducted experiments in a wind tunnel to see if leg shaving had any benefits. The quick answer: You betcha.

Riders who shaved their legs saved an average of 70 seconds over 40 kilometers. Being able to finish more than a minute ahead of your competition just might make shaving worth it. Take a look at the video.

But for me, racing never was a consideration. And whether I finish my Sunday ride a minute or so faster doesn’t matter in the least. What does is whether I had fun, whether I shared some good times with friends, and whether I got some much-needed exercise. I will continue to view leg shaving as a silly affectation of our sport.

But if you decide to go that route, I will no longer ridicule you.


A Different Kind of Clipless Fall

Had a great Sunday ride in fall temperatures. I enjoy riding in arm warmers, and the cooler weather might have been a factor in my improved performance on hills. I had a PR on one hill that has bedeviled me for years.

I approached the house after a little more than two hours on the bike, thinking about all the work I had to do for the rest of the day. I turned into the driveway, applied the brakes, unclipped my right foot, put it down, and turned the handlebars slightly to the right.

A picture perfect finish to the ride. But then I slightly raised my right foot at the same time I attempted to unclip from the left pedal. For some reason, the cleat wouldn’t come loose. But the shift in weight rocked the front wheel over to the left, and I felt that familiar old feeling — I was going down on my left side, and I couldn’t do anything to stop it.

This time, I quickly got the bike off my body and sprang up, looking up and down the block to see if any of the neighbors had seen my embarrassing tumble. No one was outside. Dignity intact.

Clipless falls happen to every rider, I’m sure. I had mine early on, but I’ve also had some after riding for some time. But I’ver never had one when I was stopped with one foot already on the ground.

No pictures. I got the bike into the garage and closed the door behind me.

The Lost Weekend

The_Lost_Weekend_posterNo, this post is not about a Ray Milland film from the 1940s. I’ll be traveling this weekend to Oklahoma, where I will attend a conference. That means much of my time will be spent sitting in open, airy rooms where they pack in too many seats, listening to speakers who never learned how to make an effective presentation.

The downside of that (you mean, that was the upside?) is that I won’t be able to get in any biking.

With any luck, I’ll be back Sunday in time to take out the mountain bike for awhile. Its gears are all working properly now, but I haven’t ridden it since I got it back from the mechanic two weeks ago. We’ve had a lot of rain around here lately, and the trails have been muddy. They ought to be dry enough to ride now.

Don’t cha just hate it when the demands of everyday life trump the fun stuff?

Bike-Work Balance

We finally had a taste of fall here over the weekend. It only lasted a day and a half, but the hint of the new season got me taking stock of some recent developments around here.

I’ve really cut back on my riding. The start of the new school year does that to me every year, but this time around it’s tougher. You see, in addition to being an instructor, this semester I’m also a student. I’m enrolled in a class for faculty that teaches us how to prepare a class for delivery online.

Now, you’d think for a blogger that wouldn’t be too difficult. But this class is far more rigorous than I expected. That’s good — it means we won’t take it lightly. And it’s really opened my eyes to some of the issues that must be confronted when moving a class online. But the work I’m doing on the class on my own time is eating into other areas of my life. Like biking.

Friday has always been a dependable biking day, and I can usually get some miles in then. Even if I have a bunch of meetings, which happens once a month, I can get home in time to take an hour ride. Not this time.

Friday is online class day. I’m expected to be working face-to-face with my instructors, adding to the materials I’ve already created. It’s been a month since I’ve ridden on Friday.

Tuesday evenings, I can often get home early to sneak in a ride of 12-15 miles. Not this time around. I’m at my desk, working on online materials.

Then there’s the work around the house that must be taken care of — nothing unique to me. I know we all have our household tasks to perform.

The problem for me is time management. Right now, I’m managing my time to make sure my online class work gets done. I’m not making a priority of any of the other stuff.

The upside of it is, I’m fresh on the bike. I took a two-hour ride Sunday, and racked up a couple of Strava personal records. I know that’s because my legs haven’t been put to work during the week. It felt good.

The downside is, if I continue to ride less, my fitness will suffer.

Well, it’s just a series of trade-offs. I’ll get to the end of this class in late November, and it ought to allow me additional time starting in January to ride. And blog. And rake leaves, and hang a new storm door, and fix the loose shingles on the roof, and… and…

In the meantime, if my blogging gets spotty, you’ll know why.

The Octogenarian Record-Holder

My virtual friend Steve Martin, he of “There and Back Again” fame, linked earlier today to a feel-good story: a British cyclist who broke the one-hour cycling record in the 80-84 year-old category. Sidney Schuman is 84.

He covered 28.388 kilometers (17.64 miles) in one hour.

Sidney Schuman, one-hour record holder.

Sidney Schuman, one-hour record holder.

“This is not much of a record,” he said, “But that’s not the point.”

The point is that maybe 21 years from now, his record might be broken by a guy who now spends some time blogging about biking.

Deer Flies and Fire Ants

If you ride for any length of time, you’re bound to have an encounter with bees. But sometimes, inhabitants of the insect world can be other types — and cause even more discomfort than a bee sting.

While pedaling beside a stormwater runoff basin during the week, I felt a sharp stinging sensation in my right arm — as though a red-hot needle had just pricked the surface of my skin. I couldn’t react right away, because the path took a turn into some woods and I needed to concentrate on my line. But shortly after, I looked down at my arm and saw a deer fly just sitting there. It hadn’t moved, but also didn’t seem to have done any more damage than the initial prick. Good thing about deer flies: They’re not very quick. I stopped the bike and smacked it. It squashed like a rotten tomato.

The bite did no harm. I had no swelling, no inflammation. Maybe I got lucky. The luck didn’t last long.

Saturday evening, I was installing a new garden hose on the side of the house. A few spots on my lawn are starting to brown out, and it was time to wet them down before the once-a-week sprinkling I give the entire lawn (We have an in-ground sprinkler system, but we’re allowed to water by hand whenever we want). I was in my usual Texas summer attire: shorts and old boat shoes with holes in the soles. Nothing unusual.

Until something did feel unusual. Not quite the same sensation as the deer fly bite, but I felt tiny things crawling over my feet and ankles. In the gathering dusk, I had trouble seeing exactly what they were, but I knew. Fire ants. I must have stepped on a hidden ant hill and set them to swarming.

I dropped the hose and dashed into the house. My wife ordered me into the shower to wash down my feet, while she found some hydrocortisone cream. I smeared that all over my feet when I got out of the shower, and found some Benadryl — the strongest antihistamine we have in the house. For the last hour before going to bed, I applied cold compresses to my feet.

Not a pretty sight. Doesn't feel great, either.

Not a pretty sight. Doesn’t feel great, either.

I was doubtful whether I would make the Sunday club ride. That would be disappointing, because we already had some B riders lined up, and it would be nice to ride with other people instead of on my own.

The Benadryl did its job — I slept like the dead until my dogs woke me up around 5 a.m. The first thing I did was assess the damage. It looked pretty much as the picture shows. Some of the bites had already started to rise into small blisters. Those are the ones that dare you to scratch them. But if you do, all manner of bad stuff can happen. I set about getting ready for the ride.

When feet are enclosed in snug cycling shoes, the fire ant bites aren’t noticeable. We did a nice 45-mil ride to Kyle and back, and I was hardly bothered by the bites at all — except for one on the inside of my middle finger. That must have happened when I tried to flick off one of the ants. It just grabbed my finger instead. And it was right at the spot where my finger curls around the handlebar. I constantly had to adjust my grip on the ride, so as not to rub on the bite.

So, two good things out of this adventure: the deer fly bite had no consequences, and you can ride though a dozen or more fire ant bites without them bothering you.

I’ll be sure to let you know if I’m proved wrong on that score the next time I don’t take precautions when working in the yard.