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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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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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The First 1,000 Miles Are Always The Hardest

Eagle Lake, Wisconsin Still Had A Lot Of Ice This Week

Eagle Lake In Wisconsin Still Had A Lot Of Ice This Week

Yesterday I finally passed the 1,000 mile (1,600 km) mark of cycling for this year. The first 1,000 miles of the year are always the hardest—and even though I love winter cycling, I have to tell you that this past winter was simply brutal! Chicago officially experienced the coldest four-month period in recorded history, and I live north of Chicago where the temps were even colder. We also had over 80″ (203 cm) of snow, which makes it either the second or third snowiest winter in Chicago history. And even though I have not been able to verify it, it seems to me that this also was windiest winter I’ve ever experienced.

I normally have around 1,500 miles on my bike by this time of the year, but the brutal weather make winter cycling even more difficult than usual. If you are not familiar with winter cycling you need to understand that your average speed on the bike is going to be a lot slower than normal—not just because you are pushing through fresh snow, but also because the air is thicker and you are carrying a lot more gear than you would in the summer. In addition, you have to stop every time you try to get a drink so you can lower your face mask and unscrew the thermos bottle. The coldest ride I went out on this year was at -11 degrees Fahrenheit (-24 Celsius). We had a few days where the temperature was a bit colder, but on those days the wind was howling at over 40 MPH so I decided to stay home and sit near the fireplace.

Though the amount of time riding this winter was less than normal, I didn’t have a lot of free time either. There were days when I had to shovel my driveway three times in the same day! So, as much as I love winter, I am glad this winter is over. There is still some snow on the ground if you look hard enough, and as of three days ago some of our lakes were still closed due to the ice. The photo above was take this past Saturday at Eagle Lake in Racine County, Wisconsin—the lake was still about 90% covered by ice.

I am not sure how many miles I will ride this year, but I should comfortably be able to get at least 5,000 miles, providing I stay in good health. However, I might have to miss a few days this fall—a few weeks ago our daughter-in-law announced that she is expecting a child in August. Though I am still way too young for the job, I guess this means I am going to be a grandfather! It also means I am going to have to start looking for a suitable bike for my grandson (haven’t decided yet between a fat bike or a cyclocross bike).

 

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Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix For Winter Sports

Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix

Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix

For the past couple of years I’ve used Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix as my primary drink while on the bike. This drink mix was developed by Allen Lim, PhD, a sport scientist and coach for a professional cycling team. He created this product “from scratch” because he thought he could improve on the usual prepackaged hydration products that were already on the market. While I love Skratch mix when served cold, or even at room temperature, it just didn’t appeal to me when served piping hot. In fact, I don’t know of any sports drink that tastes good when served hot. However, this past fall Skratch Labs introduced their new Apples & Cinnamon flavor and this product is intended to be served hot!

Thanks to a snowy and bitterly cold winter I’ve been drinking a lot of the Apples & Cinnamon flavor Skratch mix while cycling this year. I always fill two thermos bottles with this drink mix before I go out on a ride and after several hundred miles through the snow I can say I dearly love this product! It tastes great piping hot and even when it starts to cool down. While the cinnamon flavor is more dominant than the apple, this mix is perfect for all winter athletes and I highly recommend it.

A 16-ounce serving of this drink mix has 90 calories and provides 22 grams of carbohydrates, along with 300mg of sodium and 40mg of potassium. The ingredients list is fairly simple: Cane sugar, dextrose, apples, sodium citrate, citric acid, cinnamon, magnesium lactate, calcium citrate, potassium citrate, and ascorbic acid.

You can buy this Exercise Hydration Mix in either a one-pound package or as single-serving individual packages (sticks). The best buy is the one-pound package which retails for $19.50 and will make twenty 16-ounce servings. When the temperature warms up a bit and you want a cool drink, this product also comes in several other flavors, including Lemon & Limes, Raspberries, Oranges, and Pineapple. While I like all of them, the Raspberry is my favorite—the flavor is not overpowering and it is a very crisp and refreshing drink.

 

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Snow, Snow and More Snow

Welcome to my gym

This Winter Has Been Great For Fat Bike Owners!

Over the past few days I’ve received several notes from fellow bloggers who were wondering about my absence since I’ve not posted a new product review in over three weeks. First, thanks to all of you who asked! Second, I am in great health—my absence has been due to a couple of things, but mainly snow! We’ve had over 64″ (162 cm) of snow so far this winter and, even by Chicago standards, the weather has been brutal.

It seems like the only thing I’ve accomplished in the past few weeks has been keeping my driveway clean and clearing the snow off my wife’s car. I drive a Jeep Grand Cherokee so I don’t worry about how deep the snow is, but my lovely wife drives a tiny import that has about 6″ of ground clearance—so nearly every morning I have to clean the driveway and her car before she goes to work (as an old man told me when I got married, “Treat your wife like a thoroughbred and she won’t turn out to be a nag”).

During January I was only able to ride 140 miles on my Fat Bike—all of it in the snow and the temperature was rarely above 10 degrees Fahrenheit (and most of the time it was well below zero). For those who have never ridden a Fat Bike in the winter, let me put it this way: If you can average anything over 8 MPH on the snow you are doing great! Since we don’t have any groomed trails in my area I usually have to cut a trail through fresh snow (unless I can follow some other Fat Bike). In addition, two hours of riding in the snow wears me out more than a Century ride in the summer.

There is one other thing that has kept me from writing in the past few weeks: I am in the process of taking my office into the “paperless” world. Until last year my personal library had over 5,000 books, but I have been scanning and converting them into searchable PDF files (and then disposing of the books). I bought two high-speed document scanners last year and have already cleaned out three entire file cabinets and emptied six bookcases (only 18 to go). Once I got started with this project I found it hard to stop—but now that the weather is supposed to be improving next week (we might even get above freezing!), I will probably slow down the scanning and increase the mileage on my bikes. I should be back with new product reviews next week!

 
 

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Fatter By The Lake

A Herd Of Fat Bikes In Zion, Illinois

A Herd Of Fat Bikes In Zion, Illinois

Note: In many of my articles on this blog I refer to “the local bike shop” and by that I mean Zion Cyclery in Zion, Illinois. I’ve purchased my last eight bikes from this shop, including my highly customized Fat Bike (a Surly Necromancer Pugsley). Last year Chris Daisy, the owner of the shop, organized a winter event for Fat Bikes called Fatter By The Lake. I couldn’t make it to the ride this year, so I asked Chris to write an article about it so you could get a taste of what winter cycling is all about.

Chris And Cassie Daisy

Chris And Cassie Daisy

I’ll be the first to admit that the first annual Fatter By The Lake was a disaster! It took place in early February, and the weather was a mix of “I hate this” and “I want to die.” Freezing rain, crippling wind gusts and deep wet snow kept everyone except my Trek rep and myself from attending. The only reason we pushed on was because the local press was there, so I at least got a cool photo and write-up for our efforts.

Riding On The Shores Of Lake Michigan

Riding On The Shores Of Lake Michigan

This year was a different story. Thanks to slightly better weather and a nice shout out from Fat-Bike.com, attendance was up 1500%! Riders from all over the Chicago and Milwaukee area assembled at our shop and set out for Illinois Beach State Park, the only undeveloped and natural stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline in the state of Illinois. We headed east from the bike shop and picked up a trail headed toward the beach. We were immediately greeted by a huge sheet of ice, so some of the less experienced riders were falling like dominoes. Eventually everyone started to settle in and we crunched along in the snow towards the beach.

Fat Bike Derby at Illinois Beach State Park

Fat Bike Derby at Illinois Beach State Park

The skies were a heavy overcast, the waves were big enough to surf (except the temperature and undertow would have killed you), and there was an ever-present threat of freezing rain that never quite materialized. We headed south along a waterfront paved path, past the abandoned mid-century modern bathrooms and concrete sun shelters to a plateau of sand near a large parking lot. As we waited for everyone to catch up a Fat Bike derby contest broke out. The object of a derby is to ride in an ever shrinking circle without tapping a foot on the ground, while of course trying to get your opponents knocked off their bike. We watched and cheered until the last man was track standing and pedaled on.

Time For A Break At Dead River

Time For A Break At Dead River

The beach riding south of the Illinois Beach Resort and Conference Center was sweet. The sand was frozen solid without being slippery, and the wind was at our backs as we cruised along bunny hopping driftwood, riding wheelies and just taking it all in. The Dead River is the edge of the Illinois Beach State Park property, so we stopped and let folks catch up again while we socialized, and someone took the nice photo shown above.

Ready To Roll

Ready To Roll

Naturally the ride home was against the wind, so the pace slowed up a bit. We reached the Zion Cyclery parking lot with enough time for folks to catch the Bears vs. Packers game (a sore subject with me). A group of guys wanted to check out Beulah Park, an 80 acre wooded park in Zion that we spent all summer building legal singletrack in with the help of the Chicago Area Mountain Biker Association and the Zion Park District. Since I was hosting the ride I had to gather up some gumption and press on. The riding conditions at Beulah Park were rough. The trails didn’t have enough traffic yet and my legs were no match for the group of bike messengers and die-hards I was leading. We headed back towards Sheridan Road where I gave them directions for a safe passage back to the shop, and I headed north towards home, exhausted, cramping up and grinning from ear to ear.

 

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350,000 Views In 2013

My sincerest thanks to every visitor to this blog! By reading the comments you leave here and by visiting your blogs it seems like I’ve gotten to know some of you fairly well. Most of the visitors to this site are interested in cycling in one form or another, while others just have a general interest in fitness. Regardless of why you read this blog I wish you a healthy and prosperous New Year.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog. Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 350,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 15 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

If you scroll to the bottom of the report you will see one very sad note. The report has the names of the five “most active commenters” on this blog. The most frequent commenter was Irish Katie, a lovely woman who passed away from cancer back in October. The Chatter Blog had two wonderful articles about Katie. In the first article she simply noted how Irish Katie had not been commenting on any of the blogs recently, and in the second article it was revealed that Katie had passed on. I never had the privilege of meeting Katie, but her cheerful comments brightened up every blog she visited. She will truly be missed.

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2014 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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