Group Rides

Join us for evening indoor training rides on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5:30pm at the Recycle Bicycle Shop in downtown Ellensburg.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Winter keeps draggin' on

January is almost here and this winter already feels like it's been three months long. It doesn't help that we had single digit low temperatures for almost two weeks in early December and then followed that up with 4-5 days of heavy fog. Add a little chemical de-icer on the road and there are not a lot of opportunities to get out on a bike on the road this time of year. I've got the cold weather gear but the indoor trainer in a heated room seems so much more appealing.

A few general thoughts:

1) Keep pushing hard in your off season workouts and try to include a spinning class at the Recycle Bicycle Shop occasionally. They're on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 5:00 to 6:00. It's an incredible workout in good company.

2) Start setting your realistic goals for the upcoming year. Start with the big goals - x number of miles for the year, a certain number of rides, a double century, etc. and then work yourself back to shorter term goals. For example, I have a goal of getting into the top 5 in the I Made the Grade ride in June. That's the "big" goal. From there, I back it into a training plan with shorter goals. So, let's say in March I start by getting in one big hill climb a week, April it's up to 1-2 climbs a week with 1-2 days of intervals and by the end of May I'll be at 2-3 climbs a week. The key is the goals have to be realistic.

3) Cross train during the winter. Riding only on an indoor trainer can get boring. Go skiing, snow shoeing, swimming or join the local gym. Different workouts 2-4 days a week can keep the motivation high.

4) If they call the off season changing of drivers in Nascar the "silly season", what the heck is the offseason in cycling referred to. Checking or Road Bike Action ( and some of the other cycling sites shows an incredible number of riders changing teams each off season. It's enough to make your head spin. By the way, Team Radio Shack is looking really strong - at least on paper.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Spin classes start Tuesday, November 17

Spin classes will start at the Recycle Bicycle Shop in Ellensburg Tuesday, November 17 at 5:00 pm. Classes will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays through the winter. Bring a dry change of clothes for after the workout. This is a great way to socialize and train with other local cyclists.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The mental side of a long layoff

On October 19 I had extensive sinus cavity surgery that according to the doctor was going to require 7-10 days of recovery with no heavy lifting or exertion while everything healed. During one appointment I inquired how long before I could at least get on an indoor trainer. The reply was "at least two weeks" - he didn't want the blood pressure built up.

I had an appointment 10 days after the surgery to remove to splints on each side of my septum. Of course, the first answer about riding was no sufficient for me so I asked the next doctor the same question - when can I get back on the bike? His reply was much more acceptable - "now, if you feel you can, just don't take your heart rate up to 200 and work back into it gradually." Of course, that was the answer I wanted to hear and I was on the trainer fo 30 minutes that night. It felt fantastic to just spin the pedals and sweat a little.

As athletes (I consider myself one even though I'm not at elite status) we become fixated on our training to the point it's an obsession. For me, riding provides a positive mental outlook on life, allows me the chance to temporarily escape the stress of work and the chance to enjoy all nature has to offer. Not getting to ride for almost 2 weeks (too much winter preparatory work done the weekend before the surgery) it was safe to say I was going crazy. I hate being cooped up inside and not being able to do anything. Heck, I drove into town two days after surgery to pick my son up from football practice - and I shouldn't have. But, I was going nuts.

How cycling or fitness training in general affects our mental outlook is amazing. My training rides can hurt something fierce while I'm in the middle of it but the shrinking waistline, visible abs and positive feelings that come from that ride cause me to completely forget that pain immediately after the ride and do it all over again the next day.

This week I've been able to squeeze 21-25 mile rides in during the early afternoon before it gets dark and am probably pushing harder than the doctor wants but my brain says "you've lost too much in two weeks, come on - push, push, push". Sometimes the body responds and other times it doesn't. I feel like I lost a lot of fitness over those two weeks off the bike and as much as my brain says I can do something, physically it just doesn't happen. Of course, that could also be partly related to being in my mid-40's. I'm sure the loss isn't nearly as bad as my mind says it is.

During that long layoff I had to keep myself busy with other things to keep from going absolutely crazy with not riding. Reading, light work on the chicken coop and bicycle maintenance all helped me pass the time. I slipped a few mile long, slow walks in a few times but those even made me tired. But, it was hard, I so desperately wanted to ride and it sucks when you have to give that up. Sometimes the work to stay positive during your layoff is the hardest. Work at it and try to stay occupied to take your mind off the lack of training. It's the only thing to keep you sane.

I'll soon forget about that recovery period - heck, I need to. The days are getting shorter and colder and snow will soon be here so the opportunities for outdoor training are diminishing. Besides, I've had to deal with cows on the road (twice) and a car almost running a stop sign and hitting me this week - so things are getting back to normal.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A new vintage bike in the mix

Well, another vintage bike has arrived on the scene. Courtesy of my dad it will not be ridden a lot as it is fairly rare these days.

In 1973, the Teledyne Titan was introduced as the first mass produced titanium road bikes. They were only produced through 1976. My dad purchased his from Brittain's Cycle Sport in Spokane WA some time in the 1980's.

The bikes were raced but were also notorious for feeling like spaghetti (the frames flexed a lot) and fracturing/tearing at the seat post clamp and bottom bracket.

My dad's suffered a fracture at the seat post clamp a few years ago and he was able to have it repaired this year. The bike had a few upgrades done, including new tubular tire. It is a very, nice lightweight bike. It is also one I have been instructed not to ride it except on flat terrain and non-windy day. We live in Ellensburg so I think it will be safe on the wall.

Off season training

Here we are in mid-October and we already had our first cold snap (with 90 minutes worth of snow at our place) and turbulent weather patterns. Everything from sun, sleet, wind, hail and rain with 30 to 45 degree F temperature swings.

I love fall and the changing leave colors and crisp mornings. My body also loves fall because it starts transitioning from the feeling of having to ride every day to pushing and pulling me into other activities as part of cross training and variety. Fall means cutting, chopping and stacking 3-4 cords of firewood and preparing the property for winter. It means walking a little more and enjoying the scenery - in general just slowing down a little. It means helping out with my son's AAU basketball practices. It means jogging every once in awhile. Above all else, it means getting some more rest. Cycling is still important but I typically drop from 5-6 days a week of riding to 3-4 a week. I don't stress as much if I miss a day of training.

One of the major studies that came out in 2009 discussed the loss of bone density in cyclists. Full time cyclists suffered from a considerable loss in bone mass when compared to other athletes who incorporate other types of training. As I approach my mid-forties the article definitely caught my attention. I spent over 20 yrs lifting a lot of weights and doing bodybuilding training and cycling was interspersed as additional training depending where we lived. Those roles have now been reversed. I am again % dedicated to my cycling and use weight training as a supplement in the off season.

I am now set for at least three months of gym membership - weights, treadmill and stairclimber. Add in 4-5 days of indoor training with the bike and the off season training should work well. I'll periodically get out on the road as I did through December in 2008 - but it won't be something I look hard for.

I'm looking forward to some variety and I'm sure my bikes are also as they'll get some well deserved maintenance treatment in the next few months.

So, enjoy your winter training - spice it up a little and remember the spring will come very quickly and we'll be back out on the road again.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Successful Manastash Metric

This past Saturday was the revival of the Manastash Metric Century/Half century bicycle ride. When I registered at the end of August I was #21 on their list and within a couple of weeks the number of riders was in the mid-40's. I was surprised to find out that at least 157 riders showed up on Saturday morning to enjoy this beautiful fall ride.

While cold at the start the day was gorgeous with no rain (as advertised) and a moderate wind. The four rest stops were well organized and it appeared that most riders really enjoyed themselves.

As for me, I didn't stop at the rest stops since I wanted to make sure I was back in time to drive home, grab the kids and head to the CWU football game. Even without stopping I had a fond time remembering what this ride was like when I first rode it in the mid-1980's.

Let's keep up the momentum and double the number of riders next year.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The bucket list update

A comment was posted on my last entry asking to revisit my bucket list from last November. So, I'll do that with a few other observations as well.

I've worked hard this year to get back into shape and, at almost 44 years of age, it takes so much more effort. I have fought a chronic sinus condition that has caused significant upper respiratory issues. My breathing felt somewhat normal approximately 3 months this year - and it's now September. Hopefully, this problem will be rectified with surgery on the sinus cavity scheduled for the third week of October.

So, some statistics for the first nine months.

Total riding mileage: 2,424

It's broken out this way:
  • 1,025 miles has been done on my 1984 Gitane Sprint
  • 185 on the 1984 Gitane Tour de France
  • around 1,100 on my1997 Bianchi Trofeo
  • The remainder have been on my 1987 Trek mountain bike and 1982 Nishiki Marina 12 (that's turned out to be a surprisingly nice riding bike).
I have increased the average mph speed from a year ago to between 20-21 mph on routes up to 30 miles. This is compared to 18.5 to 19 mph averages in 2008.

What's made the difference? I'd have to say it's focused training on hills, intervals and wind. You can't help but get stronger with the wind around here.

As for the bucket list I have accomplished a couple:

  • I Made the Grade - Lewiston, ID - 18 mile ride with a 7 mile, 2,000 ft climb at the end. I rode this in 1984 and have always wanted to do it again. Finished 6th out of 173 at 59 minutes and 58 seconds. This was an absolute blast of a ride. As a comparison, in 1984 I was 18 yrs old, rode a heavy old Peugeot with normal gym shorts and no training and I finished in 1 hr 10 minutes.
  • Manastash Metric Century - beautiful ride in Ellensburg WA the first Saturday in October: Scheduled to ride this in 10 days. My goal is to finish between 3 hours and 3 hours 15 minutes. This is a good fall ride with fantastic scenery.
  • Seattle to Portland - in one day (I last rode this in 1985 and would like to do it again) I am going to strive to do this in the next couple of years
  • RAMROD - Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day - my dad's favorite one day ride
  • Winchester Century - starts around Lewiston, ID
Finally, I had mentioned in November that I wanted to do some time trials. I didn't get a chance to do that in Yakima but did participate in a couple in Ellensburg late in the spring. The course is approximately 4 miles long with a moderate incline for about a mile in the middle of it. I used my 1984 Gitane Sprint with 36 spoke wheels and clip on aero bars to record a 10:25. I was really pleased with this effort - even though I coughed up a lung for two days afterward because of the effort. The next week the time wasn't as good but I still had a blast riding the time trial. If you haven't had a chance to do this type of race I encourage you to do so. It can really strengthen you both physically and mentally.

I have had a lot of fun this year riding and still kick myself for not staying consistent with it over the years. That won't happen again. Heck, I've lost 12-13 pounds this year and have a goal to lose about 10 more for "optimal hill climbing weight".

I have friends riding now who have lost anywhere from 20 to 50 pounds by riding consistently. Stick with it - there's nothing better than the good health and positive attitude cycling provides.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A successful year of group rides

This past Saturday was our last formal group ride for the year. Fall sports, school schedules and life in general has made it pretty hectic to keep going on a regular basis.

Our goal when starting the group rides this year was to create some comradery among cyclists in the Kittitas Valley and provide options for riding partners when you have just had enough of riding alone.

Fall brings shorter days, crisp air for your rides and new goals to work toward for 2010. Spinning classes will start before you know it and winter brings opportunities for cross training.

Thank you to all who joined our rides whether just once or numerous times. I hope you enjoyed the time together and will join us again next year.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Touching on cycling laws again

I posted quite awhile ago about specific laws that apply to cyclists. I found a good brochure from the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission that spells out key issues nicely. Some of the key items in the brochure are listed below:

1) What traffice laws apply to cyclists? RCW 46.61.755 - cyclists have all rights and responsibilities of a vehicle driver). RCW 46.61.750 - cyclists can be ticket for violations of traffic laws

2) Can cyclists ride side-by-side? Yes, no more than two abreast. (RCW 46.61.770)

3) What lane position would a cyclist use?

When traveling slower than traffic, cyclists should ride as far right as is SAFE. There are exceptions:
  • when preparing to turn
  • when passing another vehicle
  • when on a multi-lane one way road
Cyclists may occupy the middle of the lane when

  • traveling at the speed of traffic
  • when the lane is too narrow to permit a car to share the lane
  • when road conditions (poor surface, drain grates, parked cars, etc) prevent riding to the far right
At intersections cyclists should utilize the rightmost lane or portion of lane designated for their destination. HOwever, if no turn lane is available, cyclists should occupy the left side of the lane to turn left, just right of the center of the lane of travel straight and the right side to turn right.

Some of the most important things to remember

  1. a motorcycle is often hard for a driver to see and we're even harder. Wear bright clothing and even warning lights
  2. Obey all traffic laws
  3. Always scan for possible hazards to avoid
  4. Approaching an intersection always have your hands ready on the brakes for that car suddenly pulling out or turning left in front of you (had that happen three times already this summer)
You can get more information on the brochure I found at the Washington Traffic Safety Commission website.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Manastash Metric needs riders

The first Saturday in October is the Manastash Metric Century/Half Metric Century ride in the Kittitas Valley. This is a fun, challenging and scenic ride that almost always has beautiful fall weather.

As of today there are only 21 riders registered. More are needed. Please check out information for the ride at their website. Register before September 1 before the entry fees go up.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Farrar riding well

I have to give a shout out to Wenatchee's Tyler Farrar who is continuing an excellent year of racing on the pro circuit with multiple wins in the Eneco Tour this past week and an overall position of 2nd after todays stage - 15 seconds off the leader.

I've been following Farrar since the Giro d'Italia and it's been fun to watch his improvement in each race and stage. To have a successful racer who grew up just over an hour from Ellensburg is encouraging for up and coming riders in the Pacific Northwest.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The dog days of summer

I like baseball and have always found it interesting that August was referred to as the dog days of summer. I guess August is the month where the length of the 162 game season and the summer heat start to really wear on a player.

I was thinking this week on one of my rides that I've hit the dog days of summer for cycling. The temperatures have been higher than normal and the winds just don't want to let up this year. I'd love to ride in the early morning but my wife runs then and I've got to get to work so I am relegated to afternoons - usually the hottest part of the afternoon with the strongest winds.

Needless to say the motivation has suffered a little the past couple of weeks. To mix things up a little I have added some longer, faster paced walks and even a couple of runs in. I have had three knee surgeries so the running is held to a minimum. Still it is a nice change of pace to do something a little different. I'd swim if I didn't sink like a rock so, for now, I stick to land based activities.

So if you're struggling with consistency on the bike or a lack of motivation to get out and fight the elements go out and change things. Add some variety - go for a run, a swim or hike the ridge. Heck, load your bike up into your vehicle and head to a different place to ride. I keep mine in the car when I'm at work and have been able to ride this summer in five different locations. Just the little change of scenery does wonders to make the ride seem less of a struggle. Finally, find a friend to ride with. It's amazing how fast your ride goes (not literally for some of us) when you just have someone to talk to.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Tour de France withdrawals

What to do now that the Tour de France is over? For three weeks I was up early on the Internet watching the live broadcast on Versus of the day's stage. I even had it plugged into my car stereo on the way to work everyday so I could listen to the commentary on the race.

Today was the first day (outside of the two rest days during the race) where there was nothing on. Talk about an empty void in my day. The excitement of watching the strategy play out, seeing the pain on the riders faces and being blown away at how incredibly fit these athletes are made the day seem just "ho-hum". Only work was calling.

I did an early 5:30 am ride to avoid the afternoon heat but it still wasn't the same. I guess the only positive is the years are going by so fast the Tour will be back before we know it. At least there's always the Vuelta in Spain.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Group ride change for Saturday, July 25th

There have been some requests to move the group ride to an early start time and Saturday's. So, on July 25th we'll start at 9:30 am and see how the turn out is and evaluate whether we'll permanently change the time for the rest of the summer.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

County chip sealing has started

Kittitas County has started their summer chip sealing projects. Below is a list of the county roads being sealed. I have not added roads inside town since there are easy ways to get around them. Ride safe and be aware of traffic as fog lines have yet to be repainted. Personally, I stay off these roads if at all possible for at least a year to let the cars wear the gravel down a little.

Lower county:
Vantage Highway
Reecer Creek Rd
Lower Green Canyon Rd
Clarke Rd

Upper county - starts July 13th
West Park
Kachess River Rd
Evergreen Way
Kachess Dam
Silver Trail Rd
Smith Drive
Cabin Creek
Airport Rd

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Tour has begun

One of the depressing things about choosing not to have satellite t.v. (cable isn't an option) is I can't watch the Tour de France. I used to watch the delayed broadcasts for years when I had cable t.v. and thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought I would really miss most of the sports on t.v. when I gave up the cable. However, the cycling events is all I have really missed.

The Tour is going strong with three stages completed. I have been able to watch internet broadcasts, which isn't the same, but at least gives me a little bit of satisfaction occasionally.

The suspense is already increasing to a media frenzy. How will Astana handle having Armstrong, Contador and Leipheimer on the same team? Will any of these three really respect the man who becomes the leader on the team? Will Mark Cavendish continue his sprinting dominance? Can local ride, Tyler Farrar of Wenatchee, rise to meet the expectations of the Pacific Northwest and America? And, it goes on.

Already there's been suspense with crashes, extreme heat and a move by Lance Armstrong during today's Stage 3 that surprised other general classification riders and allowed him to move from 10th to 3rd in the overall standings. With a team time trial set tomorrow Armstrong has a great shot of wearing the yellow jersey at the conclusion of that stage. Ah, I love the suspense and speculation. Who says Nascar's off season is silly - cycling can beat it any day for chaos.

Finally, I just to comment on something I heard the broadcasters on Versus say during Stage 2. And, of course, it revolves around doping. They stated there were very few professional cyclists that were doping now because of the testing rules that are in place. Excuse me for being skeptical but I just have a hard time accepting that. Too many riders are still being suspended for doping violations on an annual basis.

Finally, I'll go out on a limb with my predictions for the Tour de France winner:

1. Sastre
2. Contador
3. Armstrong
4. Menchov
5. Leipheimer

Monday, June 22, 2009

A great weekend

A couple of posts back I mentioned how I was trying to cope with getting older. Well, for a brief period this past Saturday, I forgot about the age and experienced the action of riding/racing in a large group of riders.

Saturday was the 29th annual I Made The Grade in Clarkston, WA. The ride is a short 17.5 mile course with a 6.5 - 7 mile climb out of the valley at the end. The final climb covers approximatley 1837 feet of elevation change. Ellensburg was represented by three riders - myself, Chris Bruya and John Brown. For John this was his 5th time at the ride, my second (and first in 25 yrs) and Chris' first time.

For most people the ride is a fun and social event. For probably 20-30 of us it's a serious racing event with a lot of jockeying for position before the hill. I chose to ride my 1984 Gitane Tour de France, Chris was on his beautiful red and white Sekai and John had a blue and white Specialized Roubaix.

The lead group jumped out pretty quick and suddenly settled into a slow pace at around 19-20 miles per hour. It seemed nobody really wanted to get out and lead the group to the hill. So, after a couple of miles about 5 of us got serious and picked the pace up to 23.5 to 24 mph. It was a blast to be in this group and riding just inches off the wheel of the rider in front of me.
I think we all had a nice sense of accomplishment after the ride and enjoyed the best part - riding back down to the start finish.

Next year is the 30th anniversary of the ride and we need some more Ellensburg representation.

The truck loaded with our family "team" bikes

At the top of the hill

Chris Bruya before the start

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Cancer and doping had an article last week about 3 time Tour de France champion Laurent Fignon and his fight with intestinal cancer. You can read it here. I have several thoughts on this article and some of the comments contained in it. I was never a huge fan of Fignon but I did really enjoy the battles he had while racing, especially with Greg Lemond.

First, if Fignon's book is really going to get into the doping he's done and how rampant it has been, and probably still is, then I'd be real interested in reading it. Let's hope it is translated to English.

Second, fans are living in a make believe world to think cheating is not rampant in the elite levels of sports. Cycling has had plenty of scandals, and deaths, related to doping. Athletes and teams have proven repeatedly they'll do whatever to get an edge - sometimes it's legal, but pushing the rules and other times it not legal at all.

Tyler Hamilton just received an 8 year suspension for his latest battle with a positive test. Alex Stieda wrote about the temptation of doping in Bicycling magazine. And, now Fignon brings it up. Positive tests for doping/steroids/whatever you want to call it have come up in baseball, cycling, track and field, football, etc. There have even been reports of steroid use in professional golf. I don't know if that's true, but it wouldn't surprise me. At the elite level of sports, with so much on the line (aka money) cheating will always be present.

Third, from an average athlete's perspective all the risk of doping and performance enhancing drugs just doesn't seem to be worth it. I remember being approached about using steroids when I was doing bodybuilding training. Tempting? Of course, it was. Did I do it? Heck, no. I viewed it as cheating and wasn't willing to use them. I was around a couple of guys in college who did use steroids and I didn't like what I saw. However, for elite athletes who may see it as that little bit of an extra edge, I can understand why you'd take it.

Fourth, does doping cause cancer? Who knows. I'm sure it doesn't help but it is way too soon to jump to that conclusion. There are too many things these days that might or might not cause cancer.

Fifth, my thoughts and prayers go out to Laurent Fignon for a speedy recovery. We need voices like his still out there in the cycling world to hopefully help clean up the sport.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Struggling with getting older

As my fitness continues to improve so does my frustration. It's probably a frustration that we all have at some point as we age. It takes longer to get in good shape, requires harder work to maintain it and is easier to overtrain.

I crossed 1,000 miles in training for the year today. That's not much for folks who commute by bike everyday, but I don't have that luxury. So, my fitness comes in 20 to 25 mile increments with occasional days in the 40 to 50 mile range. I have also found I can't have two hard days in a row. That realization really hit home today during my ride. I rode 46 total miles yesterday with much of it into the teeth of a 20 mph wind and a slight uphill grade. The temperatures were close to 90 degrees Farenheit and despite drinking two bottles of Gatorade and one of water I was pretty wiped out when I got home. Today the legs felt a little sore but overall not too bad when I started my ride. Then I got to the hills and the bottom dropped out. I just had no power and it all was revolving around the fatigue in my legs. It was depressing to think I couldn't do what I wanted today. But, at the same time, it was another learning experience. Instead of light, slower rides for "off days" I actually take an off day and stay off the bike completely. I am fresher the next day and have an easier time maintaining speed.

On the positive side, my average speed continues to increase. Last year I struggled to maintain 18.5 to 19 mph averages. With a large family I don't have the disposable cash for heart rate monitors or power meters so I do the best I can. I've added some interval training for the first time and climb at least one decent hill a week. With this work my averages, over the same routes, and with similar conditions, are now consistently between 19.5 and 20.5 mph. My body is getting stronger. The other benefit is I continue to drop weight. My goal is to get back to between 150 and 155 lbs - a good hill climbing weight for me. I started the year in January around 175 and am down to 164 at the last check.

Continue working hard and you'll see the progress. As difficult as it is, learn to embrace the wind (ok - anything 20 mph or less) and train with it. It definitely makes you stronger. And, above all have fun.

The Giro is over

The last stage - an individual time trial - at the Giro d'Italia was completed yesterday with Russian Dennis Menchov holding on to the overall win, despite falling with 700 meters to go in the race. The roads were rough, wet and very slick and, in the blink of an eye, Menchov's front wheel shot out from underneath him and he hit the ground sliding between 30 and 40 feet before stopping. His team mechanic had a back up bike off the team car extremely fast and Menchov was back up and riding within about 10 seconds. Quite an intense finish to a tough, tough race. Many of the mountain stages had gradients of 11 to 13% in places and one stage had a 16% grade the riders had to climb.

Some overall observations about Americans in the race - Lance Armstrong was visibly getting stronger as the race progressed. By the last few mountain stages he was riding longer and longer up the climbs before being dropped by the leaders. It will be interesting to see if this race took too much out of him only 5 or 6 weeks before the Tour de France starts. Levi Leipheimer continues to struggle in the grand tours. Wenatchee's Tyler Farrar had a good showing in the sprints and it will be fun to watch his progress in the Tour de France.

On another note, Americans have some good looking prospects coming into their own for future professional careers. The most notable is Taylor Phinney who, this past weekend, won the junior version of the infamous Paris-Roubaix race that covers some of the nastiest roads you'll see in bicycle racing.

It should be a fun summer of bicycle racing on the pro circuits. Finally, for some fun racing action check out the Friday night race series at the Marymoor Velodrome in Redmond, WA.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Finding a local ride

If you have been struggling to find a new route to ride for your training check out Map My Ride .

Each of our group rides has been mapped and there are several other riders in the area that have created routes also. You can search by zip code and bike ride to locate a good selection of options.

Giro d'Italia

For those of you who get your television via over the air antenna, and who have the digital converter box, you can watch each stage of the Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy) on Universal Sports - channel 23-2.

It's been an interesting race so far with 11 stages to go. Narrow streets, steep, windy mountain descents and sustained breakaways make for some interesting t.v. Even if you haven't watched a race before, and think it would be boring, it's amazing how much strategy is involved. Which team is going to push the pace for their big star, who is going to be told to sprint ahead for a breakaway, when do you actually break and the strategy of setting up for the final sprint to the finish line.

Thursday will be one of the most interesting with a 61km (37.9 mile) individual time trial over some pretty rough, hilly terrain. This is each rider against the clock and it has the potential to break the overall standings wide open.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The feel of vintage steel

I've spent this past week riding my 1984 Gitane Sprint, Vitus 788 lugged steel frame bike. It has been such a pleasure, especially since I've gotten the fit dialed in a little better, that it's hard to describe.

I spent a lot of time from the summer of 1985 through 1996 riding my 1984 Peugeot PSV10 over all kind of terrain and learning to love the feel of a French racing bike. The Gitane brings back many, many memories of those early days of my cycling life. As I described on the forums, the ride feels visceral compared to the 1997 Bianchi that I have had as a primary bike for the past 12 years. The handling is crisp, almost twitchy, yet precise. The bike inspires such a confidence that you cannot help to become a better rider.

In some circles my bike is considered vintage. In others, it's considered old fashioned with it's 6 spd freewheel and downtube friction shifters. It's amazing how fast I switched back into friction shifting from indexed. I rode the bike for about 90 miles this week and when I started I was glancing at the freewheel when shifting to ensure I was hitting the right gear. Now, it's all by feel - the shifting is quick and precise. The freewheel hums as the bike just glides along the country roads.

I've added my Scott clip on aero bars from the early 90's - some might say it's a "cheesy" look, but it's the first time I've been comfortable using them so I'll keep them on for now.

Group rides = fun

The goal of our group rides was to provide a way for cyclists in the area to meet and enjoy each other's company while riding. For the most part the rides have been on fairly flat courses with moderate wind - a luxury for Ellensburg. I missed one weekend's ride due to my wife's participation in the Bloomsday run in Spokane and, I have to say, I really missed it.

Yesterday, I decided it was time to add a little hill climbing to our ride. Although, this ended up being a little more than a little climb, it required some good effort for about 2 miles. At the steepest part I was up off the saddle in the 42-21 and 42-24 gears. Those in the group with a triple chainring set up didn't need to stand but definitely had to drop into the small ring.

The sense of accomplishment and satisfaction after climbing a good hill is like none other. Besides, coming down was an absolute blast for me - not so much for the others. Let's face it, I'm somewhat aggressive on hills - both up and down.

The approach - you could see it for a couple of miles

Going under I-82 - the steepest portion

The Kittitas Valley - what a view

The day was not completely without incident as two of us experienced flats with the rear wheel on the way back up Canyon Rd. Two tubes later (one with an insanely long valve stem) and we were rolling again.

Next week we'll be back to a flatter course (for those not doing the Crime Stoppers ride in the canyon) and hopefully the weather will continue to be perfect.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Taking that time off

Today was the second group ride here in Ellensburg and we were lucky to deal with moderate winds (after four horrendous days of 25 mph + steady wind) and a nice 19 mile route.

I'm not sure about the others in the ride but I felt pretty strong. I rode the 9.5 miles to the start (slightly downhill and with some wind) at a 23.5 mph avg pace. The group ride averaged 15-17 mph and then I had the 9.5 mile uphill trek home which took 36 minutes.

On the way home I pondered why I felt strong today and I could only come up with one thing - rest. I've been very busy with coaching my son's baseball team and watching my daughter play softball. Because of our six days a week schedule at the ball fields the riding is a little more sparse and has to be of good quality. This past week consisted of:

Sunday - group ride - total 34 miles
Monday - 8 miles - shake down ride for my daughter's Trek that was just overhauled
Tuesday - 21 miles - in 20+ mph winds on one of my 1984 Gitane bikes.
Wednesday - day off
Thursday - day off
Friday - day off
Saturday - 35 minutes on the indoor trainer

So, that's a total of only 63 miles for the week. However, when I was by myself I pushed hard and kept the heart rate up in the 170-180 range. My normal riding schedule usually has a day off after three days of riding to give my old knees a break. Now, with the two extra days off I'm feeling more refreshed and extra power in the legs when I climb back in the saddle for a ride. I'm not losing nearly as much aerobic capacity as my brain thinks I am.

So, train hard, but take those rest days. Even if your rest day has some riding in it - take it slow and easy and give yourself a chance to recuperate.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Group ride #1

I want to thank the riders that showed up today for our first group ride. We had a total of 7 cyclists (including one tandem) meet to tackle the first ride of the year - a nice 23 mile relatively flat course on an absolutely gorgeous spring day.

We will continue every Sunday through the summer with the exception of holiday weekends - Memorial Day, Labor Day and July 4th weekend. Other than that all are welcome to come and ride with us and enjoy the comradery and conversation that comes with cycling together.

I apologize for the fuzzy photo but it gives an idea of the beautiful day we had.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Conquering the hill

Four weeks I posted about my struggles up one of the steeper hills in our area. shows steady gradient of 7-9% with the steepest part at 11%.

The fact that I failed to make it up that hill and almost passed out trying had really bothered me. In contemplating what may have gone wrong I started pointing the blame at over aggressive riding at the bottom of the hill.

Yesterday I had 90 minutes of free time while my daughter was at softball practice. I was determined to tackle that hill again. So, this time I rode an easy 18-19 mph pace to the hill, tackled the early bottom portion without pushing real hard and then settled in for the big part of the climb. It wasn't too long before I hit the lowest (39-26) gear. After a hundred yards I realized the hill was just too steep to sit the whole way. I shifted to the 39-23 and stood up for all but the last 400 yards or so. Lowest speed was 6.5 mph and the high toward the top was 10.5 mph.

The best part of the ride was the downhill - 50.1 mph was the maximum. And, it was still as exhilirating as it was 23 years ago.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Group Rides start soon

Spring is finally trying to make an appearance here in the Kittitas Valley. The four days of 65+ degree weather since Saturday have been a blessing to those who tolerated the wind and cold of March while trying to ride outside.

Sunday, April 19th will be the first day for group rides. The start time is 1:30 pm and leaves from the Ellensburg High School parking lot. Early season rides will be 15-20 miles and will lengthen as the season goes on. Riders are encouraged to ride more after the formal group ride if the desire is for a higher mileage total on the day.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Spring break and time off the bike

This past week was spring break in Ellensburg and for a cyclist with a family it can be frustrating. We had a mini-vacation to N. Idaho and there was no room, or time for the bike to go. After the prior Saturday's ride a little recuperation was probably not a bad thing.

We got home on Wednesday evening and I spent Thursday afternoon starting the build on my 1982 Nishiki. I still need some shifters and possibly a shorter bottom bracket spindle and then I'll have it ready to test.

Friday was spent in Seattle and by the evening I was going nuts having not been on a bike for 6 days. I hooked my winter training bike up to the trainer in my bedroom and proceeded to watch Gonzaga get trounced by North Carolina in the NCAA tournament. At least I was riding - and sweating - again.

Today, we had things scheduled in the morning and the early afternoon with a dinner get together in the early evening. I decided I absolutely had to get on the road and headed out a little after 4:30 pm a personal time trial to our dinner location. I decided I would push fairly hard but not all out because of the cool air and some upper respiratory problems I've been dealing with.

The temperature was in the low 40's with a 5 -10 mph wind when I started. 5.5 miles into the ride and the wind kicked up a notch and heavier rain drops started to fall. Good thing the ride was a short one. I fought the headwind for 2 miles and struggled to maintain a 19-20 mph pace. Turning southeast at the 7.6 mile mark brought a crossing tailwind and I was able to pick up the pace maintaining 25-27 mph for about three miles before slowing to go through a traffic area. As I was within 3/4 mile of the finish I noticed some friends behind me and decided I wasn't going to let them pass me. The wind was directly behind and I was quickly up to 29 mph before finishing - with them behind me. Overall the ride was 12.14 miles with a time of 33 minutes 57 seconds and an average speed of 21.5 mph. I felt real good about that pace having not ridden on the road in a week.

I do need to figure out my breathing. I am encountering side cramps on almost every ride which is indicative of the diaphragm having spasms. Today it didn't hit until the last moderate hill so I was able to push through the pain to finish.

Another few weeks and we'll start group rides. My outside riding will be limited for the beginning part of April thanks to baseball practice (I'm the coach) almost every day. I'll have to stay consistent on the trainer.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Oh, the pain

A couple of posts ago I wrote about climbing hills and specifically:

"I discovered early on in my cycling life that I was good at climbing hills and learned to enjoy them. In college 5-6 of us would ride out Umptanum Rd and head up a 2-3 mile hill, with the steepest part at an 11% grade. I would consistently finish first or second in the group. The best part of those rides, of course, was coming back down - which we did stupidly without helmets and at speeds over 50 mph. I would climb that hill with 13-21 gearing in the rear and 52-42 up front. But, I was also in my late teens and early 20's and had plenty of lung capacity to spare. I learned then that hills can make you a much stronger rider."

Well, today my original plans were scrapped by a rain squall so I made a round about circuit to the above hill which I attempted three years ago when I was woefully out of shape. Today I was feeling pretty strong and figured it couldn't hurt to try the hill. Here's the hill from As you can see it's a "real" hill. Well, it's also a humbling hill. At 43, I discovered a few things:

1) I'm not 20 anymore so for some reason my engine now feels like a 4-cylinder instead of a rumbling V-8. A lot of it has to do with conditioning and much also has to do with age. I actually had to stop part way up because my heart was beating so fast I felt like I would pass out.

2) I think 170 mm crank arms are, by far, a better choice for a ride like this. I'm not suited well to a longer arm and just mashing the gears. Although, with 8-9% steady grade for well over a mile there's not a lot of spinning possible - at least for me.

3) A hill like this is scary fast coming down. I was wiped and didn't even pedal and still hit 45 mph coasting down the hill. It was exhilarating to say the least.

I was really disappointed because I only made it to within a half mile of the top. My heart and lungs just couldn't take any more. So, while the disappointment was there and the speed wasn't - 7 mph was the low point going up the hill. I do have the consolation of knowing I was close and by the end of the summer feel I will conquer this hill regularly as my conditioning improves. Dropping another 10-15 pounds wouldn't hurt either so gravity has less to work with.

This was an extreme hill and I'm fine on all the others around here so I'll keep working at it and set little goals to reach each time and keep the riding positive.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Our safety and the rules of the road

I found this blog posting very interesting. It was in the New York Times and, while I'm about as far from New York as you can get, this article really typifies what I feel regarding that subset of cyclists (sometimes the younger crowd and other times the older folks) who ignore the laws in our states and the rules of the road.

We have enough problems in society today with daily stress, non-stop lives and a shaky economy that many drivers have a very "short fuse". I am very aware of my surroundings while riding and make it a point to stop at intersections when required, use hand signals when turning and give a cars plenty of notice on my intentions. I also yield to cars when I am supposed to.

I know my actions may not improve many driver's perceptions of cyclists (just look at internet comments at newspaper websites when there's a vehicle/bicycle accident) but I am determined to ensure I'm not the one on a bike that is inflaming the drivers and fostering those negative perceptions.

Be careful. Know the law and obey the rules of the road.

Bone density and training

I had read a couple of things on in the past few weeks about a study regarding road cyclists and the loss of bone density as we get older. I didn't put a lot of credence into it but did find a short article on Bicycling magazine's website tonight. Here's a link to the article:

This just in

Bottom line is we should get some weight resistance training in also as part of our cross training. I found it interesting that the loss of bone density isn't as severe in mountain biker as it is with road cyclists.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Climbing Hills

You may find this odd but I am dreaming every night of conquering hills on my bike. Most people dread the pain and struggle of climbing a hill. While you definietly can suffer while climbing a hill, it can also be so rewarding.

I discovered early on in my cycling life that I was good at climbing hills and learned to enjoy them. In college 5-6 of us would ride out Umptanum Rd and head up a 2-3 mile hill, with the steepest part at an 11% grade. I would consistently finish first or second in the group. The best part of those rides, of course, was coming back down - which we did stupidly without helmets and at speeds over 50 mph. I would climb that hill with 13-21 gearing in the rear and 52-42 up front. But, I was also in my late teens and early 20's and had plenty of lung capacity to spare. I learned then that hills can make you a much stronger rider.

These days I'm running a lowest gear in the back of 26 and a 39 up front. I don't need that gearing on all the hills around here, but it's nice to know it's there if I need it. I normally run a 39-21 or 39-23 on most of the hills.

I was reading an old article by Davis Phinney earlier this week and was surprised by a comment that you should be shifting to a higher gear as you get further up a hill to increase your speed. I maintain a consistent cadence for the most part but definitely need to work on increasing the speed in a higher gear at the top of a climb. So, thus, begins my renewed vigor in hill climbing for this year - and obviously the root of my dreams as I visualize success.

I encourage you to work those hills. Become stronger and more confident as a rider. There's nothing better than the feeling of dropping other riders on a hill.

Try this for a training ride - head out to Hungry Junction Rd and the wonderful short hill that peaks at a 19% grade. Do intervals on the hill - ride up, turn around and head back down and ride to recover for 5 minutes before heading up the hill again. Start at two intervals and try to work your way to five of them by the end of the year.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Some progress, albeit slow

The Nishiki Marina 12 build is making progress. So, far the old Dia-Compe brake levers with suicide bars have come off and were replaced with Dia-Compe aero levers. Suntour Superbe brakes have been added to the front and rear and I was able to find a downtube shifter clamp and cable guide clamp.

This week I'll put the rear derailleur on. I am struggling with the crankset to use. It currently has a 175mm Shimano 600 crank on it and I found a 53 tooth chainring that will fit it in the local bike shop on Tuesday. I also purchased a 39 tooth chainring from Ebay today. I'm not convinced that this longer crank arm will work for me so I will probably look to trade for a 170mm crank or just use the Sugino one I have and try to find a smaller inner ring for it (currently at 44 teeth).

The brakes don't have quite enough reach for 700c wheels so I'll stick with the bigger 27 inch wheels for now and either switch to narrower 27 inch rims and tires or convert the brakes to longer reach in the future so the bike will accomodate 700c rims.

So, the bike will go together with a mix of parts but I'm really looking forward to getting it on the road. So far just coasting around the driveway it has felt pretty comfortable.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Bike Swap

This past Saturday was the Seattle area Cascade Bicycle Club's annual bike swap. This was the first swap of any kind that I have attended. And, I have to say, I had an absolute blast.

The doors opened at 9:00am and we arrived about 10:15 to find ourselves around 150th in line or so. The forty five minute wait went by really quick and then the insanity started. Maybe it's the nature of a swap meet or maybe it's the economy but it was a "madhouse" in that building. There were approximately 100 vendors - some large and some only having one half of a table. There was a lot of used parts and clothing and quite a bit of new stuff at some of the larger booths.

And deals could be had. I bought a nearly new Selle Italia Mundialita saddle (very similar to my Italia Turbo Saddle) for $8. My friend with me bought what looked to be brand new handlebars for $5 and a SRAM derailleur and grip shifters for his mountain bike for $20.

What did I wish I had more cash for? The celeste Bianchi frame and fork that was $100 was to die for and sold in less than twenty minutes. An older Specialized Allez carbon with aluminum lugs looked really nice. And, then of course there was the beautiful and complete Eddy Merckx steel bike. Next year I'll definitely have a list with me and will spend even more time.

I will say my best deal came via One of the members was giving away an older Nishiki bike that was my size. This is a great way for me to get into a bike and take it apart followed by building it back up. I received a "goodie" box that was incredible. The frame was made by Giant for Nishiki in April, 1982 so the bike is most likely a late 1982 model or early 1983 model. I have already started disassembling the bike and preparing for different parts to go on it.

Monday, February 16, 2009


Webster's New World Dictionary defines patience as 1a. "the will or ability to wait or endure without complaint" or "1b. steadiness, endurance or perseverance in performing a task." It also states "patience implies the bearing of suffering, provocation, delay, tediousness, etc. with calmness and self-control."

Why am I looking up the definition of patience? In short, because it's now February and the weather is sometimes good and mostly bad. Winter can be a long haul and I should be thankful this year hasn't been that bad. I was able to ride until the third week of December, got a couple of days on the road in January before it turned bitterly cold again, and then pulled off 116.5 miles a couple of weeks at the beginning of February.

It takes a lot of perseverance to do the indoor training consistently and wait out the weather and icy roads. I won't ride when the roads are wet with the chemical de-icer - I don't want that stuff on my bike, let alone myself.

I've felt the positive results this year of sticking with my indoor program(on the bike 4-5 days a week and lifting weights 2-3 days) in not losing the fitness level I had at the end of the year that I find mentally I am able stay motivated a little more. Besides bringing nasty, sweat soaked clothes into the house and watching the pained expression on my wife's face is almost enough motivation itself. She finds it disgusting that I can sweat that much in a workout.

Stay positive, spring is quickly coming and we'll be outside riding soon.

Friday, February 6, 2009

What a spinning class

There are benefits to living in a small town. Each winter the owner of our local bicycle shop has spinning classes inside the store. Bring your own bike and hook up to a trainer (I've brought my own trainer the past couple of weeks because we ran out. Until this past December I had always done indoor training by myself with headphones or in front of the TV with Tour de France videos or a movie.

This year I am forcing myself to attend one of these classes each week for three reasons:

1) I can meet other local cyclists and get more people informed about the group rides we want to do.
2) Provide a spark to the training routine
3) To get some quality conversation in with other cyclists (riding by yourself gets pretty boring).

These are fantastic and tough workouts that find me soaked in sweat by the end. Last night was "time trial" night. This consists of ten minutes of warm up and then three twelve minute sessions in a large gear and 80-90 repetition pedal stroke. There is a five minute rest (lower gear) break after each session. The goals are to keep a consistent heart rate above 150 for each session. I usually average between 170 and 180 beats per minute and get up over 190 for the final five minutes or so. At 43, that's about all my body can take.

It's a mind and body cleansing experience, though, and I look forward to it every week.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Premiere cycling races in the Northwest

USA Cycling has announced that Bend, OR will host national cycling championships for junior, under-23 and elite divisions for the next two years. This is a fantastic opportunity to have national level competition in the Pacific Northwest.

You can read about it here.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

2009 outside riding is starting

The weather has given us a reprieve. After two days of riding at the beginning of January when the weather warmed to the mid-40 degree F range we spent the final three weeks of January back below freezing making the riding a little too cold for me.

This past week we again reached the 40 degree mark and I hit the road on Sunday Kevin Adkisson, the CWU track and field coach, for a 39 mile ride. Everything went well until a goat head thorn caused a flat with my front tire. 15-20 minutes later we had a new tube in and some air in the tire so we could finish our ride. Some observations of that ride:

  1. it felt real good to be outside riding, even if it was cold
  2. harder effort rides are tough in the cold weather because it's tougher to breathe in the cold air in large amounts.
  3. winter training has really helped - I felt strong for most of the ride
  4. always carry a spare tube and have a good frame pump
  5. riding with friends makes it go by so much faster

Monday I was able to squeeze in a 18 mile ride in 57 minutes which felt good. Observations for this one:

  1. cold air makes it tough for sustained, hard efforts
  2. dogs don't care if it's cold or not - they run just as fast
  3. I can now ride until 4:45 pm with plenty of light
  4. the long 8 mile steady climb home still sucks

Overall, the benefits of the winter training are very evident. The 2.5 mile hill in the middle of our ride on Sunday did not take nearly as much out of me as it did back in July. In fact, I probably could have ridden it another mile per hour or two faster - as it is we maintained a comfortable 10.5 to 11.0 mph up a steady 5-6% grade. I'm anxious to try it again on my own and see how hard I can push it up the hill.

So, folks, get out and ride as soon as you can. It's great for both body and spirit.

EDIT: On Wednesday I decided to do the 38 mile ride from Sunday again by myself just to see where I'm at. The results showed me at 2 hrs and 5 minutes, 10 minutes faster than the first time I did it in July and an average speed of 18.2 vs. 17.5 in July. I was able to maintain 11.5 to 12.0 mph up the hill for all but the final 1/3 mile or so and that definitely felt good.

On the ride home I have to go up Hungry Junction Rd (you can coast down this thing at 35 mph or higher) and it's always a killer because it's at the tail end of your ride. Out of curiosity I mapped the hill on and discovered the steepest portion is a 19% grade. Holy !!$$&#*@#$". No wonder your legs take a good half mile to recover after going up it. Fortunately, it's short.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Basics about riding

I have had a couple of conversations lately with people about cycling and how they struggle with the "gears" and figuring out how to ride effectively. In otherwords, when to shift, positions on the bike, etc.

In the days of riding (when I was 12-16 yrs. old) my early 10 speed bikes we just looked at the rear group of gears and said we were in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th gear by which one the chain was postioned on. The formal discussion of gearing is not quite as simple. To start there are some basic terms you should know regarding the gearing on your bike.

The system is comprised of the two rings in the front called chainrings attached to the arms and pedals - the whole assembly (arms and chainrings) being called the crankset. The smaller group of rings on the rear wheel are most commonly called a cassette or freehub on newer bikes. My older bikes have a system called a freewheel on the rear and the difference between it and a cassette is not important for this discussion.

You can have either a double (two chainrings) or a triple (three chainrings) up front. The ring size is determined by the number of teeth on the rings. My Bianchi has a 53-39 set up. This means the biggest ring in the front has 53 teeth on it and the smaller one as 39 teeth. The most common combination for many years was 52-42 - three of my older bikes are set up this way. I have one with a 50-45 set up and two with 52-40. Increasingly popular today is the "compact double". This is a chainring set of 50-34.

The rear cassette size is also determined by the number of teeth on each ring. My Bianchi has eight rings with the number of teeth being 13-14-15-17-19-21-23-26. You will often hear this referred to as a 13-26. I have "6 speed" bikes with freewheel gearing of 13-26, 14-24, 14-30 and 14-28.

You might hear riders say they are in their 53-17 gear. That means the chain is on the larger chainring on the front and the 17 tooth ring on the back. Each revolution of the pedals causes the bike to travel a certain distance. This distance is often referred to as gear inches and is a reflection of the rings you have selected to ride in. You can find gear ratio calculators on the Internet. As an example, in the 53-17 with my Bianchi my bike travels 81.9 inches per pedal revolution. If I "drop down" on the rear to the smaller 15 tooth cog (53-15) my gear inch ratio changes to 92.9 inches, or I'm now in a higher gear. Dropping to a 39-17 (smaller front ring) changes the gear inches to 60.9 or a lower gear. So, when someone tells you to shift into a higher gear you want to actually move to a smaller ring on the rear.

All this is confusing, right. Well, the easiest thing to do is refer to your gears by the number of teeth and then pedal with a comfortable cadence, or pedal revolutions per minute. Anywhere from 85-100 revolutions per minute should work for most people. If you start spinning too fast then shift to a smaller ring on the rear (higher gear ratio). If you find you're struggling to keep proper pedal speed then shift to a larger ring (lower gear ratio). I focus on my cadence a lot, especially now that I'm older. The speed will progress as get comfortable with the cadence, shifting and get my aerobic capacity increased.

Finally, what position should you use for your hands. For the most part the majority of your work will probably be with your hands resting on the brake hoods. Moving your hands to the drops, or lowest portion of the bars, will put you in a little more aerodynamic position and also one I find provides a little more power from the quadriceps. As I start to climb up a hill I'll move my hand to the top middle of the handlebar to allow as much oxygen as possible into my lungs. I may also scoot back on the seat a little to get some extra leverage in pulling up on the pedals at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Always, pull up with your heal as you are pedaling, it not only gets all of your leg muscles working, but it can help alleviate some of the stress on your thighs.

Again, with your hands, 85% of us are not competitive racers or triathletes. We want to ride hard and do the best we can, but common sense needs to also prevail. Ride with a cadence that feels right and a position that is comfortable. If you ever do decide to ride a time trial, do a triathlon or choose to race you can then focus on the positions that will help you for the specific activity you are doing.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Favorite ride of 2008

I have discovered MapMyRide on the internet and used it today to map my favorite route of 2008 - which was only 43 miles. One of the reasons I enjoy this ride is the 8 miles or so of climbing right in the middle of it. The first 5 miles are a 5% grade at least according to MapMyRide.

You can be assured I'm going to be playing with the mapping on this site a whole lot more.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

So why the classic bikes

I was really hoping to get one last ride in before the end of the year but the good 'ol arctic blast we had for most of December prevented that from happening. I feel like I've been living in Canada, Alaska or Siberia for the past three weeks. I value my safety too much to attempt a ride on these country roads.

Over the course of being stuck indoors for my training I've done a lot of thinking about why I like the classic bicycles. As background I have always enjoyed classic cars - mostly those of the 1960's and usually lesser known Fords - Galaxie, Fairlane and Falcon. I had a 1965 Falcon once - and then sold it just before graduating from college. I still like the older cars but the reality is I'm not very mechanically inclined with automobiles and have a large family so having one isn't in the cards.

I graduated from high school in 1984 and went to college in the mid to late 1980's when guys like Greg Lemond, Davis Phinney, Nelson Vails, Mark Gorski, Alexi Grewal, Andy Hampsten and Bobby Livingston were big names in U.S. men's cycling. I'll never forget going to the 1985 U.S. National Track Cycling Championships at Marymoor Park's velodrome in Redmond, WA. What excitement to get to watch that caliber of cyclist in the Pacific Northwest. It was exhilirating to watch Greg Lemond become the first American winner of the Tour de France (on a non-cable broadcast, even) in 1986. Then in 1989 to watch him make up a 50 second deficit to win the Tour by 8 seconds on the last stage of the race was the best sporting feat I had ever seen. Those were the best days in American cycling (until 1999.)

So the 1980's hold a special place in my heart which made it easier to begin collecting bicycles from this era, even if a lot of the manufacturers were being consolidated and sending their frame construction to the Far East. Some say the bicycles of that decade started to lose their personality. But, they hold a special place in my heart.

I absolutely loved my 1984 Peugeot and when I got my Bianchi in 1997 it took a long time to quit longing for the responsiveness of the Peugeot. The Bianchi felt as responsive as a slug. When I bought the 1984 Gitane Sprint this year and rode it for the first time I couldn't wipe the smile off my face. Some of that feel from my original Peugeot was back and I was hooked. Then came the Gitane Tour de France - now I was really addicted. What a bike! The owner of our local bike shop commented to my mother-in-law, when she was buying a gift card for me for Christmas, that I was into restoring old bikes. You bet I am and below are some reasons why:

  1. Steel is reliable, been around for a long time and pretty indestructable as long as you take care of it. Granted I'd still love a Klein Quantum aluminum bike from the late 1980's.
  2. Classic bikes are cool. It seems all the mid to high end frames today look the same - either aluminum or carbon, with some titanium sprinkled in here and there. There's no individuality. Give me an old, reliable, quality steel bike any day.
  3. Downtube, friction shifters are pretty easy to operate and really not that much of an inconvenience.
  4. I don't have to pay insurance for the bikes or fill up with gas for that matter.
  5. I'm staying in shape while I ride them.
  6. I can still keep up with guys on their higher dollar, modern 20 or 30 speed bikes, on my little old 12 speed.
  7. There is a sense of nostalgia while riding these bikes.
  8. There is a strong community of classic and vintage owners on the internet which is fun to be involved with.
  9. There are typically less mechanical headaches with a bike than a car.

I'm sure I'll end up with more bikes and I'll ride them all. It's just a matter of time.