The Spam is Outta Control

WordPress, the platform I use for this blog, has a pretty good spam catcher. I know it’s pretty good, because every morning when I check my dashboard it tells me it caught x number of spam comments.

But it’s having a tough time keeping up with the barrage of spam that’s been hitting me lately. Monday, it caught almost 200 spam comments. This morning, another 79.

The problem is, with that many comments barraging the blog, some spam is bound to get through. So after deleting the dozens of comments WordPress managed to catch, I have to go back and delete the ones that got through, one by one.

Most often, the readers of this blog won’t even be aware of the spam that got through the gates, because the spammers pick ancient posts to spam — from two or three years ago, or even older than that.

This morning, they got to a post from just last week. I cleared it off, but also deleted a legitimate comment by a reader who responded to the spam. I hope I didn’t offend him by doing so.

I don’t know of a way around the problem. I’ll keep deleting the junk that gets through, and remain grateful that WordPress is as good as it is at catching most of the malefactors.

The Disappearing Bike Blogs

I’m guessing that most readers of Bike Noob make a stop here along with several other bike blogs. I know I have about a dozen I check out on a regular basis. But one thing I’ve noticed lately is that some of the blogs I’ve been visiting have disappeared.

In some cases, the blogger notes that he or she is ending the blog. The reasons are similar: the blogger has run out of new things to write about, the enjoyment of blogging has faded, or maybe the interest is no longer there.

In other cases, the blog is simply abandoned. After a lapse of months, it’s apparent there will be no more posts on the blog. Reluctantly, I delete it from my blogroll or my RSS feed. I’ll try to find another to take its place. One thing about bike blogs — there are plenty around.

The challenge for bloggers is to come up with topics to write about. I once read that everything about biking has already been written. It’s quite easy to find out basic information about biking. Books, back magazines, online searches. The more successful blogs are able to mine a narrow topic area. They might stick with descriptions of rides, for example, or a particular style of bike. The best ones have developed their own personality over time — a personality that clicks with readers and keeps them coming back. The ones that don’t have a focus are the ones that fold eventually.

I can understand the problem. Writer’s block is something I’ve always had to deal with. I keep a file of post ideas, but often run through them quickly, and have to start over again.

Bike Noob isn’t going away any time soon, even though I seem to be in one of my periodic low productivity cycles. But readers here gravitate to posts about basic equipment, rides, or improving riding ability. In the meantime, I’ll do my best to come up with topics to write about, and always be learning something new.

My Favorite Posts of 2012

I got a kick out of looking back at 2012 on this blog, and learning what you found to be the most interesting posts of the year. As I’ve noted in the past, sometimes what my readers find to be interesting, and what I find to be interesting are two different things.

So I’m going to build on the last post, by taking a little time to spotlight my favorite posts on Bike Noob in 2012. These aren’t ranked according to page views, as the ones in the last post were — instead, they’re just some writings that I thought characterized the kind of bike rider I am, and what my cycling interests are.

And yes, my account of the Hotter ‘n Hell Hundred was right up there among my favorites — but since it was one of your favorites, too, I won’t go into that again.

But one thing I learned from riding the Hotter ‘n Hell — I’m not one for the long distances. Just a couple days later, I threw cold water on my century accomplishment by writing, I’m Through With Centuries. Apparently, a lot of you share that sentiment.

But a lot of you think the long distances are worth shooting for. In that case, taking a cue from the randonneurs might be something to consider. So You’re Interested in Randonneuring? got a lot of traffic, and even though I’m not planning on riding any brevets, the information available on rando sites is applicable to most any kind of cycling.

Although I’m no randonneur, the occasional longer ride still appeals to me, and I decided to celebrate my birthday by Riding My Age. Being joined in the effort by a Bike Noob reader made the day that much more enjoyable.

The nerve I touched when writing about “Car Back” — noted in the last post — prompted me to follow up by trying to make sense out of that piece of legalese in most transportation codes: Riding as far to the right as “practicable.” As Far Right As Practicable stirred up some discussion about just how far right we should be. Always good to remind ourselves of the rule.

And then there was the inspirational. A team of disabled Spanish cyclists shooting for the Olympics were featured in a documentary called “The Unstoppables.” It’s easy for us to get caught up in building mileage, building speed, riding in bad weather, and all the challenges and difficulties associated with that. I put some clips from the doc in a post, and suggested the Next Time You’re Down About Biking, Watch This. Their efforts to fully fund the documentary continue.

As the year winds down, my biking appears to be doing the same. I thought I’d ride a lot during the Christmas break, but it’s been four days since I last got out. Maybe Friday…but I’m looking at the light drizzle we have now, and I want to make sure it’s all gone in the morning.

Most Popular Posts of 2012

Well, we’re approaching the end of 2012, and that leads to a lot of looking back at the big events of the year. For me, it was the birth of my first grandchild. During the four days we spent in Minnesota with him, I didn’t even miss biking.

But in the world of Bike Noob, we can look back, too. I thought it would be fun to check the analytics on the blog and figure out the most popular posts of the past year.

During the four and a half years I’ve been blogging, I’ve noticed that posts that are popular when first put up might fail to attract eyeballs as time goes by. Conversely, other posts might start slow and gradually get more views later on. That certainly seems to be the case here, with some posts whose popularity in the last 12 months has come as a surprise to me.

Here they are — the top 10 blog posts of 2012:

10. What Does “Car Back” Mean to You? Jan. 31. I’m bugged when cyclists don’t get into a single line when traffic is behind them.

9. Have You Ever Fitted Yourself? Feb. 26. Apparently, a lot of you have.

8. Four Years of Noobishness. Feb. 19. Includes links to five of the most popular posts of all time.

7. The Hotter ‘n Hell Hundred. Aug. 26. My cycling highlight of the year.

6. Stravalogisms. Jul. 26. The GPS-based ride mapper has spawned a lot of descriptions — some not so complimentary.

5. Testing Some More “Fitover” Sunglasses. April 12. A lot of you must be in the same boat as I am.

4. Moisture Wicking Base Layers. Jan. 24. Boy, you folks really must sweat a lot!

3. How Long Do Your Tires Last? May 31. I think 3,000 miles is good, but some of you beat that by a long shot.

2. How Much CO2? Feb. 9. 12 gram or 16 gram? And at what cost?

1. Steel vs. Aluminum. April 29. My impressions of 11 days of riding my friend David’s steel road bike.

Thanks, everyone, for making 2012 a great year for Bike Noob. I have more page views than ever before, and it’s gratifying to know that there’s still an audience for stuff I put up. Next, I’ll tell you what some of my favorite posts of the year were.

Blog Trollers Begone!

This post is somewhat off-topic, in that it’s not about biking, but about blogging. From time to time, I get emails from people who offer to contribute a guest post. Here are my thoughts on the matter.

Over the years Bike Noob has been running, I’ve even accepted some of these offers. Sometimes, the resulting post has been all right. It deals with biking in a manner that I hadn’t yet addressed here, and the link wasn’t obnoxious. A few times, the post has be excellent. Much of the time though, the writer is not a cyclist and contributes something on the level of an eHow post — so simplistic as to be potentially insulting to Bike Noob readers.

I wouldn’t even mention this, except that over the last three days, I’ve gotten three such offers. Here’s the problem: the wording of the offers is so similar, I wonder if they’re coming from the same place, just under different names. The pitch goes something like, “I am looking for blog sites to post guest articles. The article will be 100 percent Copyscape protected (a plagiarism checker), and will run about 500 words. The article will be published only on your site, and informative to your readers.” The pitch also requests a link back to the writer’s own blog, or business, or some gizmo they’re associated with.

If it’s about cycling, I’ll carefully consider the request. I’ll vet the writer, either by visiting his or her blog and evaluating the quality of the writing, or I’ll ask a few questions about their cycling experience. For the overt link hunters, I’ll send a polite “thanks, but no thanks” reply.

I blog because I like to write about my experiences, and I hope that my experiences might ring a bell with my readers. The feedback I get indicates that this is so. I do accept guest posts, and if you’ve read this blog for a bit, you’re already familiar with Don Blount and Jeff Hemmel, two cyclists who have contributed their own guest posts for about three years. But the stuff Don and Jeff write about is in the same vein as I write about, and it’s for the interest and entertainment of our readers — not an attempt to market one’s own (perhaps non-bike related) business.

So guest post trollers, be gone! If guest posts appear here, it will be because they have something to contribute that will interest my readers (I hope). In fact, you’ll be seeing at least one guest post in the next couple of weeks from someone we haven’t heard from before. Stay tuned.

Four Years of Noobishness

Yeah, do you believe it? This marks the fourth anniversary of the Bike Noob blog. One thing I’ve noticed since I started writing in 2008 is that cycling seems to have gained in popularity, so much so that it’s now featured in one of those Internet “what they think — what I think” memes that’s going around:

Click to embiggen.

That fits me to a “t” — especially the chimp. I’m him.

I’ve been wondering what keeps bringing people back here to read my posts, and it occurred to me that if I just dig into the statistics provided by the fine folks at WordPress, I might get a clue. So here are the five most popular Bike Noob posts of all time:

5. Metric century. I hadn’t checked all time stats for a while, and this one surprised me. It makes perfect sense, though. A metric century is probably the first major mileage milestone targeted by noob riders.

4. The Selle San Marco Ponza. This is the racing-style saddle I rode for about a year, including on two century rides. I wonder now how I did it, it was so uncomfortable after about an hour. The Ponza is a fairly well-known saddle, and I seem to get lots of traffic from people looking for a review.

3. Triple chainrings — or compact double? For a long time, this was the number one post on this site. I think once new riders get a bike and ride it for awhile, they start to wonder about the advantages or disadvantages of whatever chainring setup they don’t have. To the point that…

2. Triple vs. Compact Double –Again! is the second most-viewed post on the site. Folks, I think we’ve run out our discussion on this one.

And the most-viewed post on Bike Noob of all time?

1. CO2 cartridges or a pump? This post goes back to the first few months of this blog, so its longevity has something to do with its popularity. It’s also one that I listed in my “Favorite Posts” tab, which undoubtedly drove traffic to it. But clearly, these kinds of basic equipment discussions pique the interest of the target audience for Bike Noob — riders who are either new to our pastime, or who are looking for straightforward information about the basics of our sport. And to the post itself, altho I carry a cartridge and an inflator, I will still rely on the pump in the event of a flat.

So — equipment and/or accessories tops our interest quotient. That continues on down the list. Other popular posts include a survey of Speedplay pedals, cleat position (under the ball of the foot for power, but all the way back for long-distance comfort), wet or dry chainlube, and cyclocomputers.

My guest posters, Jeff Hemmel and Don Blount, have also contributed posts on equipment. Jeff’s reviews of the Bontrager Inform and Bontrager Affinity saddles are right up there in page views, as are Don’s posts on trainers vs. rollers and the Bont ctt3 shoes with the moldable insole.

It’s hard to pigeonhole the least-viewed posts — they tend to be all over the map, although many of them were posted in the blog’s first year, before Bike Noob caught fire and rose to become one of the pre-eminent blogs in all of bikingdom. Several of them had to do with specific rides I took. Lots of bike blogs write about rides, so maybe that shouldn’t be a focus here. We’ll see.

I’ve taken down the tab for Favorite Posts, simply because I think it has driven traffic to those posts to the exclusion of others, and for that reason I think I’m not getting an accurate picture of what really interests my readers. We’ll see if the stats appreciably change in the coming year. Besides, if I were to list what I consider MY favorite posts, they’d probably be a different five altogether. (Remember “Smoked By An Old Guy?”)

And while I’m mentioning Favorite Posts, I should note that after two years, it’s time to redo the look of this blog. Nothing drastic, but enough to keep it fresh.

Anyway, in the coming year, I pledge to try my best to keep you interested and engaged with what you read here, as you follow the ramblings of an oldish and unmechanically-inclined cyclist of middling ability and an entry-level bike who just happens to love getting out on two wheels.

A Three-Year-Old Noob?

February 18. That’s the day I put up my first post on Bike Noob.  Three years ago.

Unbelievable. A blog I started just to get a feel for writing a blog has turned into something that I would be hard pressed to do without. The greatest reward for me in writing this thing is how much I have learned — about blogging, about biking, and about other seemingly unrelated topics.

Certainly, my cycling horizons have broadened in the last three years. I started by just taking bike rides that were a little longer than most of my acquaintances took, and what happened? I started riding with a club (which showed me how much room for improvement there was), I bought a new bike (which is now a not-so-new bike — it’s three years old, too, and I’m looking enviously at other velocipedes — I just have no idea what I want), I started doing organized rides and eventually worked my way up to a century, I did organized time trials (but haven’t gotten into actual bike racing, and don’t plan to), I devoured every book, article, magazine, blog, online forum, Twitter feed, etc.,  I could find about biking (and I’m still hungry for more).

I’m seeing a lot more biking blogs out there than there were when I started. A lot of them are better than this one, and I’m wondering if I can maintain the freshness of my posts with all the “competition.”  But as long as I can stay interested, I’ll keep trying to be interesting.

The best part about Bike Noob, as far as this noob is concerned, is you — the reader. I’ve enjoyed the feedback I get in the comments. I promise to do my part to make this place more two-way than it has been, and try to engage you in online conversations via the comments. I know your time is precious, so when you take a few minutes to add your thoughts to my posts, I truly appreciate it. I’ve already made some virtual friends as a result of this venture — I hope to make more in the coming year.

In the meantime, get out and ride! (And keep the rubber side down.)