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I Am Going To Miss You Anna!

anna Getting Ready For RAGBRAI

Getting Ready For RAGBRAI

For the past five summers I’ve ridden with Anna, a female cyclist who lives near me, as she trained for RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa). Anna is not only a great athlete, but she has also written several product reviews for this blog as well (Lululemon Cycling Clothing, Panoptx 7Eye Briza Women’s Cycling Sunglasses, and Sip, Clip and Go Coffee). Before our first ride this summer Anna informed me that she and her husband will be moving out-of-state before long, so this would be our last year of cycling together. Even though I ride with a lot of different cyclists every year, both male and female, I am really going to miss riding with Anna!

I remember the day I met Anna quite well—I had just returned from several weeks of photographing archaeological sites in the Middle East the day before and was not only tired, but my legs were stiff from being confined to a small vehicle for a few weeks and then cramped into an airplane for the 21-hour trip back home. I was only a few blocks away few my house when I got passed by a young blonde woman who passed me like I was sitting still! No one ever likes getting passed on a bike, but getting passed by a woman was more than I could bear (sorry folks, I’m Old School). It took me a mile to catch up to her and I just said, “You caught me sleeping” as I passed her. Two miles later I stopped for some road construction and Anna pulled up next to me and introduced herself—then asked about what route I was taking and asked if she could join me. Since then we have ridden a lot of miles together between the time in mid-June when she gets out of school (she is a teacher) and the time she leaves for RAGBRAI.

I am not sure where she is moving to yet, but I am certain she will find someone else to ride with her next year as she prepares for RAGBRAI (she goes every year). Therefore, I would like to give that person a warning: Hiding behind that lovely smile Anna has a mean streak. Over the years I have learned that you should never tell her that you don’t feel well or that you are tired. When you say, “Anna, my legs are sore so let’s take it easy today,” she hears, “Anna, drop down into your aerobars and set a pace that will make me puke before we hit 20 miles!” Last year I had to spend a few months off the bike due to a medical problem and then ended up having surgery on my esophagus just a week before I met up with Anna for our first ride of the summer. A few miles into the ride I told her I was having trouble keeping up with her because of the surgery—she just smiled and said, “Just sounds like an excuse to me!” Like a gladiator in the Colosseum—no mercy expected and none given!

If you are one of the thousands of cyclists heading out to Iowa next week for RAGBRAI you can look for Anna in her “Team Big” jersey. If you see her, please tell her “Hello” for me!

Anna, I wish you well wherever you and Nate end up moving to. May the wind always be at your back!

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2014 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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3,000 Miles Down

A rare photo of the All Seasons Cyclist without snow on the ground!

A rare photo of the All Seasons Cyclist without snow on the ground!

A few months ago I mentioned that the first 1,000 miles of the year are the hardest—at the time I didn’t know how difficult the second 1,000 miles was going to be! My first 1,000 miles for this year were all in the snow, while the second 1,000 miles seemed to be all going into a strong headwind (I live in the Chicago area). Fortunately, the third 1,000 miles proved to be a lot easier and this morning I passed the 3,000 mile mark for the year. For the past several years I have averaged a little over 6,000 miles of cycling per year. Last year I was just one short bike ride away from 5,000 miles because I had to take some time off the bike due to surgery (and then I was rather slow for a while during recovery). The brutal winter we had this year has put me seriously behind my normal schedule and it is rather doubtful that I will hit 6,000 miles this year.

A visit from the Puncture Fairy

A visit from the Puncture Fairy

This morning I rode with a friend of mine, Anna, and she had a visit from the Puncture Fairy about 50 miles into our ride. I am not sure what Anna did to tick off the Puncture Fairy, but she double-flatted today!

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2014 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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Men’s Performance Cycling Jersey From Tribesports

Several months ago the folks from Tribesports asked me to review one of their new cycling jerseys. I warned them at the time that it would be a while before I could review a summer cycling jersey since the Chicago area was in the middle of their worst winter in recorded history. Warm weather has finally arrived (about three months late) and I’ve now had a chance to ride several hundred miles while wearing this jersey. Here’s the bottom line: If you want a sharp-looking, professional quality men’s cycling jersey at a great price, then head over to Tribesports and order one today. If you need a bit more information before placing your order, then continue reading this article!

Men's Performance Cycling Jersey

Tribesports Men’s Performance Cycling Jersey

Out of the more than 400 product reviews I’ve written in the past few years I’ve never used photos supplied by the manufacturer before. However, today I am going to use them because this jersey is so beautiful that the review deserved better photos than I could take (black clothing is really hard to photograph). The Tribsports Men’s Performance Cycling Jersey is incredibly well designed—in fact, I believe it even exceeds that of a top-end Pearl Izumi jersey. This jersey is designed for warm weather cycling and has breathable moisture wicking fabric that pulls moisture away from your skin for quick evaporation, along with ample ventilation under the arm pits to keep your cool. The fabric is a 4-way stretch material (88% polyester, 12% spandex), and is given an antibacterial coating during the manufacturing process to help keep odors down.

Tribesports Men's Performance Cycling Jersey

Tribesports Men’s Performance Cycling Jersey

This premium jersey has several nice touches that separate it from most of the jerseys you will find at your local sporting goods store. First, the two rear cargo pockets are noticeably deeper than any of the other jerseys I own (8″ deep by 5″ wide). In addition, there is a 5″ deep zippered pocket on top of the right rear pocket. A silicon rear hem grip will keep the tail of the jersey in place (and it works extremely well). There is also 360 degree reflective piping to help cars see you in low-light situations (but don’t forget to put a trail light on your bike as well!).

This jersey is available in five sizes (S, M, L, XL, XXL). I believe this jersey is true to size, but slightly tighter than a standard Pearl Izumi jersey, so if you are on the borderline between two sizes I’d go up not down in size. I own over 60 cycling jerseys (yes, I am a collector) and the Tribesports jersey than is more comfortable than his one costs nearly twice as much!

Tribesports Men's Performance Cycling Jersey

Tribesports Men’s Performance Cycling Jersey

Tribesports is a fairly new company (just three years old), and they only sell through their website. They do not have any retail outlets, television ads, or celebrity endorsements. As a result, their overhead is lower than most other sporting goods manufacturers and they pass the savings on to their customers.

The only thing I did not like about this jersey is that the primary color is black. Black fabric absorbs heat, so I would never wear it when the temperature was in the 90’s (and that’s not been a problem this year). Also, while riding on the road I prefer to wear hi-vis yellow jerseys for easier visibility.

The Tribsports Men’s Performance Cycling Jersey retails for $80, but if your “join the tribe” you get a 15% discount off all listed prices. The membership is free and it took me less than one minute to join (all they need is your name, address, phone number, and email address). So, with the discount this beautiful jersey can be yours for only $68, and Tribesports offers free shipping on all orders over $65.

 

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I’m Not Dead Yet

Surly Necromancer Pugsley Fat Bike

My Surly Necromancer basking in the sun along the Des Plaines River in Illinois

It has been nearly a month since my last post and in the past few days I’ve received a few letters from fellow bloggers who were wondering if I was OK. Well, in the words of the poor guy in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, “I’m not dead.” In fact, I feel better than I have in many years.

Everyone in the Midwest knows how brutal this past winter was (second highest snowfall in Chicago history along with the coldest four-month period in Chicago history). About a month ago a really strange thing happened—I got up one morning and there was a really bright light up in the sky and it was giving off heat! It was such a strange sight that I almost called the police department, but a friend told me that it was something called “the sun.” It was such a pleasant thing that I got on my road bike and haven’t done much else since then (which explains why I haven’t been writing articles for this blog).

My first 1,500 miles for the year were all done on the snow and ice—which means that I rarely saw any other cyclists. However, now that the sun is out all of those wimps who spent the winter inside riding their bikes in the basement are now back on the roads (heaven help us all).

In a few days I will be publishing a review of the Tribesports Cycling Jersey—it is an extremely high-quality jersey that sells for an unbelievably low price.

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2014 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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A Visit From The Puncture Fairy

My inner tube with a vertical split along the seam

My inner tube with a vertical split along the seam

Last week a friend of mine told me that he had two flats on his bike within the past few weeks—and like a total idiot I told him that I hadn’t had a flat in over nearly 6,000 miles. Experienced cyclists already know what happened next—my careless words summoned the Puncture Fairy and I got a flat on my next ride! For the uninformed, the Puncture Fairy is an evil little creature that shows up when you least expect it and wreaks havoc in your life (I know, she has the same job description as a mother-in-law). The quickest way to summon the Puncture Fairy is to mention that you’ve not had a flat in a while.

This past Saturday I went out for a 70-mile ride and about halfway through I heard a small explosion and then the front tire popped off the rim of my bike. Fortunately, I was climbing a step hill and was not going very fast at the time. If the problem had occurred just a few minutes before it could have been fatal since I had been riding on a busy highway at just under 40 MPH (yes, I was going downhill and had a strong tailwind). While the Puncture Fairy decided to pay me a visit, at least she showed me a bit of mercy concerning the timing. I’ve repaired a lot of flat tires over the years and can easily swap out an inner tube and be on my way in under five minutes. However, this was the very first time I’ve had a flat as a result of inner tube failure instead of a puncture. This time my inner tube split vertically along the seam (about 1.5″ long), and when the seam burst it knocked my tire off of the rim (which made it even faster to change the tire since I didn’t have to use a lever to get it off the rim).

The reason I told you this story is because it is finally spring and many folks are just getting their bikes out of the garage for the first time since last fall (which also means they missed a lot of good winter biking weather). Before you take your bike out for a ride you really need to make sure that you have a patch kit, spare inner tube, and a tire lever or two with you. If you don’t know how to change a tire I strongly suggest that you practice in your garage using the same tire levers that you carry with you when you ride.

Road debris sliced right through this tire

Road debris sliced right through this tire

You also need to have a back-up plan for when the Puncture Fairy really decides to ruin your day by slicing your tire in addition to puncturing your inner tube. Last summer I went out for a long ride with a young woman and on our way home she hit a piece of road debris and it sliced through her front tire like a hot knife going through warm butter. I took her tire off the rim, but it was a lost cause—not even a Park Tool Emergency Tire Boot could cover the damage.

Here is the piece of road debris that the young woman hit

Here is the piece of road debris that the young woman hit

The woman told me to just ride back to my house and she’d walk back (her car was at my house). However, this was not going to work for two reasons. First, I am a gentleman and the thought of leaving a lady by the side of the ride with a flat tire just wasn’t an option. Second, my wife would have shot me when I got home if she found out I left a woman by the side of the road home with a broken bike. So, I called my dear wife and she picked up the woman and her bike and then I rode home (and as slow as my wife drives I nearly beat them there).

When was the last time the Puncture Fairy paid you a visit?

 

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The Performance Zone: Sports Nutrition And Recovery

The Performance Zone

The Performance Zone: Sports Nutrition And Recovery

I took up cycling a little over thirteen years ago and am still embarrassed by how little I knew about sports nutrition at the time. I’m talking about the “cover your face and hide” type of embarrassment. I started cycling to lose weight and ignorantly thought the best way to do it would be to starve myself on a ride and drink only water. It was not just a bad idea—it was just plain stupid. After an hour ride I was worn out and it took me two days to recover. However, I used to take solace in the fact I had given myself a “good workout” (what a fool).

As I grew more accustomed to cycling my friends tell me I was “bonking” or “hitting the wall.” I didn’t know what either of these phrases meant at the time—but my well-meaning friends told me I just needed to eat a lot of carbs during a bike ride and everything would be fine. Without any guidance I began ingesting too many carbs and started gaining weight again—in spite of increasing my workout time! It was a really discouraging time in my life!

Somehow I eventually found and read The Performance Zone: Your Nutrition Action Plan for Greater Endurance & Sports Performance, by John Ivy and Robert Portman, and my cycling life changed forever! This book is a primer on how your muscles grow, work, get fuel and recover. The book explains how to calculate your hydration, carbohydrate and protein needs for numerous sports. I would call The Performance Zone a “must read” for anyone participating in endurance sports, such as cycling, hockey, swimming, football, etc. Over the past ten years I’ve bought at least a dozen copies of this book—some of the copies were given  to fellow athletes, other times I bought copies to replace ones I “loaned” to friends (some of my friends can’t add or subtract, but they are great “book keepers”).

In my situation, based upon cycling speed, weight and a few other factors, I was able to plot out a suitable course of action. I followed the instructions and started consuming 30 grams of carbohydrates every 30 minutes and my performance vastly improved (I am close to being a Clydesdale, so your nutritional needs will vary). Not only did my speed and distance improve, but so did my recovery time. I quickly went from getting exhausted after an hour ride to riding for three or four hours before work and then doing it again the next morning. Eventually I worked my way up to doing Century rides before going to the office!

This paperback book is available from Amazon.com for under $10.00 (Basic Health Publications, Inc., 146 pages). While this book is a great introduction to sports nutrition, there are a few other books I would also recommend to serious cyclists, such as The Paleo Diet for Athletes, The Athletes Guide to Recovery, and Distance Cycling.

 
 

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Repainting A Well Used Bike

New Powder Coating On My Surly Necromancer Pugsley

New Powder Coating On My Surly Necromancer Pugsley

If you think this past winter was hard on you, just think about what it did to your bike! I rode all winter long, mainly on my Surly Necromancer Pugsley Fat Bike, and all the road salt I rode through took its toll. Compared to my other bikes the Necromancer is barely used—it has less than 3,000 miles on it! However, out of 3,000 miles it probably only has 200 miles of use in good weather. I’ve ridden this bike on sandy beaches and in Lake Michigan (in water up past my hubs). It also has a lot of miles through the mud and the swampy water of the Des Plaines River, but the majority of miles were in freezing weather as I traveled through snow and ice (that was my main purpose for buying this bike in the first place).

While I dearly love the Surly Necromancer, I was never happy with the original paint job. Straight out of the box you could see it had an inferior paint job (as compared to most other bikes). The original paint scratched easily and even with a good coat of paste wax it never did shine! I enjoy getting my bikes filthy in the mud, sand and snow, but when they are sitting in my garage I want them to look like brand new (I know that psychological counseling could probably cure this affliction, but cleaning supplies are cheaper than therapy). Even though this bike is only three years old I decided to have it stripped down and repainted.

Two weeks ago I took the Necromancer down to the local bike shop, Zion Cyclery, and they took everything off the bike and handed me the frame and front fork—which I then took to J & J Powder Coating in Zion, Illinois. The guys at J & J Powder Coating ran my bike frame through a chemical bath to remove the old paint and surface grime (and some rust). They then closed up the openings on the bike (mainly the braze-ons) and applied a thick coat of black powder to the frame and baked it at over 300 degrees. Powder coating is much thicker, and far more durable, than liquid based paints. After the initial powder coating they applied a thick layer of clear coat which not only makes the paint sparkle, but also adds another durable layer of protection to the frame. The guys at J & J Powder Coating only charged $120 for their work, and I think that is a very fair price! Unfortunately, you can only powder coat steel or aluminum bike frames. If you have a carbon fiber bike you’ll have to take it to an auto body shop (or motorcycle shop) to have it painted. By the way, painting your bike could possibly void the warranty on your bike’s frame (but not always), so check with your local bike shop first.

The Shiny Front Fork Now Has Beautiful New Decals

The Shiny Front Fork Now Has Beautiful New Decals

Once I picked up my repainted frame and fork I took it back to Zion Cyclery where Kurt, mechanic extraordinaire, rebuilt the bike. Because of the rust on the original parts, he replaced nearly every bolt and piece of hardware on the bike (with stainless steel parts when possible). He also had to replace the bottom bracket (even a sealed bottom bracket can only take so much time under water). I debated whether to replace the decals on the bike. The decals on the top tube had rubbed off because I frequently use a top tube bag in the winter to carry some of my gear and the straps on the bag cut through the decals. I finally decided to just replace the decals on the front fork of the bike (and Kurt did an excellent job of aligning them perfectly). The total cost at the bike shop was a little over $300 (more than half of that was for new parts).

The bottom line is that for under $450 I once again have a beautiful Fat Bike with a lot of shiny new parts! The bike has now been in my garage for over 24 hours, so I guess it is time to look for some muddy trails so I can start the process all over again!

 

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