Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Torture numbers, and they'll confess to anything. (Gregg Easterbrook)

A bit of fun started when I decided to tidy up some old bicycle records. Old files. Pre-GPS era files. Pre-ubiquitous-cell-phone era files. Luckily, they were all post-home computer era files. So they were tidy little spreadsheets instead of scrolls of parchment or clay tablets.

The truth is, your cycling data can make delightful memories. Especially if you know what to keep and what to throw away. You don't want to keep just the stuff that makes you look good. We've been on gruesome rides where I was totally happy with a single-digit average speed.  And my favorite tale for years was the 5-mile "shortcut" that was supposed to save us over an hour but ended up costing us a whole lot more than that. Then there are the rides of (ahem) unusual length thanks to wrong turns and mis-read or absent signs or cues. Or the rides to outrun approaching weather. You can get some pretty amazing data doing that, particularly if there's a favorable tailwind.

Old, well-curated statistics can be better than old photographs for cyclists. Remember: you never know when you may need a good laugh or two.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Many are called but few get up. (Oliver Herford)

Four days a week we start the day with a long bike ride. Some days I just want to stay in bed and sleep. Those are the days when coffee doesn't begin to wake me up and the first miles of the ride are painful and ugly. My eyes feel heavy, my legs wooden.

Then the magic happens, just like always. Some people call it "the zone"; I call it "flow". Suddenly my speed increases slightly as my pedaling smooths out. My shoulders relax. My muscles feel better, looser and stronger. The day seems brighter, the route more interesting.

That is what happens when you slip into the flow of the ride.

The hardest lesson I had to learn when we began riding was that some days you really, really, really don't want to get out there and ride. You want to sleep in. Or go shopping. Or grab a coffee with a friend. I had to learn to trust that the day will be better if I start it with a bike ride. No matter how you feel when the alarm goes off, the flow comes if you just get out there and ride.

Pedal, pedal, pedal.




Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Palatka Bicycle Weekend

A lot of cycling events take place in the area around Palatka, Florida. We wanted to know why. So we decided to go to one and see why the area was so popular. Al picked the Palatka Bicycle Weekend.

It was a very good choice. The event sponsored by Putnam Blueways and Trails. It is an annual event with a variety of ride lengths. The routes we rode (two metrics) were excellent. The roads were quiet. The scenery excellent. The SAG stops well handled. The routes were well marked. The GPS guidance was good. Most important, this was one of those delightful events where pacelines were few and groups of 2 and 3 riders were the norm.

The routes make use of the fine trail system in Putnam County to move riders into the quiet of the rural countryside. Most of the route is coastal flat. On the second day a portion of the route was through some lovely rolling hills. Nothing to scare flatlanders, just enough climbing to put a bit of fun into the ride.

Palatka is a small city on the west bank of the St. Johns River. The ride headquarters were at the new visitors center which is right on the river at the head of a lovely riverfront park. It is just a bit over a half-hour drive from St. Augustine, but there is pleasant lodging right in Palatka. (We stayed at the new Hampton Inn right next to the ride headquarters.)

Will we do this event again? Yes, we certainly will. This is a two thumbs up event.
Riding through the farming section of the county.

The portion of the route along the St. Johns River was delightful.
One of the tiny old towns were rode through.

A typical quiet rural road from our Sunday route.

Monday, March 27, 2017

The best car safety device is a rear-view mirror with a cop in it. (Dudley Moore)

This past weekend we packed our bike gear and luggage, popped the bikes into the car's bike rack, and headed off for a quick road trip. We were off to ride a pleasant metric century ride near Punta Gorda. Which would let us spend a night on Florida's West Coast and have the next day to scout biking possibilities in the Naples to Chokoloskee area.

I have some pretty vivid memories of our first bike rides in the Naples and Marco Island area. It was years ago, and the biking was truly awful.  Through roads were rare to nonexistent. Roads all seemed to lead you into high-speed highways with absolutely no shoulders. On a 1-to-10 scale where 1 was a "road" where your bike constantly sinks to its drivetrain in loose sand (definitely not the "hardpack" promised by the map), the roads in the Naples area back then might (might) get a 2.5 rating from me. Like I said: awful.

Things have changed. There are nice paved shoulders. Many of these are wide enough to be clearly marked as bike lanes. There's a multi-path that goes east, too. It has gaps, but then there's that bike lane to move to. In fact, as long as you are comfortable with riding in a bike lane next to fast-moving traffic, you can easily ride from Naples or Marco Island to Chokoloskee. OK, so we could definitely think about a short road trip to Naples sometime. You can ride a bike here without feeling like a kamikaze.

Our new car's many safety features did their thing on the drive home. Cameras turned on and off, warning chimes softly warned you periodically to pay attention, and a couple of times the car automatically braked when someone cut in front of us too closely.

I want a device on my bike that sounds an air horn at cars that pass too close to me on the road. Actually, in the perfect world of my dreams, I'd rather have a lot of cops out there ticketing guys who don't respect cyclists!


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

I've got a great ambition to die of exhaustion rather than boredom. (Thomas Carlyle)

On Tuesdays I chase Al up the Rickenbacker Causeway and around Virginia Key and Key Biscayne. Loop after loop after loop. He stops at points to check on me, then he sprints off, gradually moving into the distance once again.

Tuesday is the day of the week I work the hardest. Tuesday is all about me and my power meter. The game on Tuesday is to push muscles to exhaustion. But with care. I use the power meter to pace myself. You see, the Tuesday game may be to push muscles to exhaustion...but I still have to finish the day's miles. (Which right now is 50 miles. No stopping early. No Uber. And soon the miles will increase...)

OK, you are wondering where Al comes into this. Well, it is way more fun to chase something than just to focus on numbers. I never catch Al, but that really doesn't matter. It may be silly, but I now totally understand why dogs chase cars. It is just a whole lot of fun.

You can make any muscle stronger by working it to exhaustion. Which is great for older, smaller riders like me. I can't push out the big power numbers. But I don't need to. I'm small enough that I don't need big power to move me down the road and up the hills. And I'm retired. Which means I have the time to push smaller numbers for more miles, and so get stronger to go faster and longer.

And best of all, I'm not bored.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Change is inevitable--except from a vending machine. (Robert C. Gallagher)

My current road bike is a Trek Domane. It's my third Trek; with each road bike the fit got better. When I first rode my current bike, I instantly knew it was perfect.

When I started riding again after my accident, something had changed. I had a lot to work on, so I put off thinking about bike fit. As the weeks went by, however, it didn't get better.

I finally rolled the bike over to the guy I rely on to help me with all issues related to bike fit. I explained that my right shoulder felt bad when I rode and worse afterward.

I was clueless, but a slightly shorter stem sounded like the way to go. He listened patiently, then explained that that would compromise my steering. He suggested that we move the seat forward a bit and raise the seat a bit as well.

I asked if that wouldn't just put more strain on my arms and shoulders. He assured me it wouldn't be a problem. He said it would actually increase my power a bit. (OK. I liked the sound of that. It was a bribe to get me to try the seat change, but I'm a sucker for bribes.)

I followed him back to the work area. He moved the seat forward less than the width of my pinky fingernail. He raised the seat a smidge.

It was everything I could do not to begin blubbering that a change that small could not possibly make a difference. My shoulder really hurt. I needed a big change. But I kept it to myself, and just did what I always did with this guy: I trusted him.

The next day I went for a 50 mile ride with friends. For the first time in two months, my shoulder didn't hurt. It was a frigging miracle.

Life is all about details and small changes. And trust.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Let us not be too particular; it is better to have old secondhand diamonds than none at all. (Mark Twain)

I was talking with a friend from Georgia. She (like Al and me) is retired and rides a lot. She was lamenting that riding lots of miles in the same locale wasn't as much fun as touring. I agreed: I sometimes get sort of bored with our regular routes around town.

Then I thought about that for a second. It certainly hasn't dampened my enthusiasm for riding my bike around Miami. I always find something interesting or silly or new to check out. And I always feel great at the end of a ride.

My friend and I compared notes about the places that stood out in our memories. The Blue Ridge Parkway. Crater Lake. Texas Hill Country. The Chisos Mountains. Upper Michigan. The Dakotas. Idaho. Nova Scotia. They were wonderful places to visit. That's when we laughed and pondered what it would be like to actually live and ride in those places day after day after day. Yep. We'd probably get a little bored.

You ride where you live. I'm pretty lucky. I live in Miami. We've got palm trees and beaches and beautiful bridges and causeways.

I don't have much reason to complain. (Pedal, pedal, pedal...)