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6,444 Miles Of Cycling In 2012

In 2011 my goal was to cycle 5,000 miles during the year, but I ended up with 6,836 miles. Twelve months ago I decided my cycling goal for 2012 was “to have fun” and ended up riding 6,444 miles. Back in 2011 I was trying to rack up as many miles as possible and that meant I got most of my miles while cycling on the road. This past year I spent more time on off-road trails and, thanks to the 4″ wide tires of my Surly Necromancer, I also spent a lot of time riding in snow, mud and on the sandy beaches around Lake Michigan (OK, sometimes I was actually riding in Lake Michigan).

Surly Necromancer Pugsley in the snow

Fun In The Snow With My Surly Necromancer Pugsley

On September 7 of this year I hit the 5,000 mark and thought I would probably pass 7,000 miles before the end of the year. However, that evening I came down with a virus that knocked me off my feet for twelve days! On the thirteenth day I still had a fever, but my legs were hurting so bad I just had to get back on the bike—so I rode 72 miles. While it felt good to get back on the bike, my average speed dropped by over 15% (it might have been because I still had a mild fever). It took me another two weeks to fully recover.

Once I knew I wasn’t going to set a new record I decided to spend more time weightlifting. Though I’ve used resistance training in one form or another for ten years, I’ve never taken it as seriously as I should have—I lift weights to develop core strength, not because I enjoy it. However, a few months ago I bought a set of Bowflex SelectTech 552 dumbbells and they work far better than I expected and I would highly recommend them to anyone.

I am 53 years old and work full-time. However, I have somewhat flexible hours so if I ride 50 or 60 miles in the morning it means I will be at the office rather late that night. All three of our sons are grown, so Cub Scout meetings and high school football games do not interfere with my cycling—and my wife is a very patient woman.

I often think about some of my friends who are in their 40′s but already taking medication for diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. All I can say is, “There but for the grace of God, go I.” All of those diseases could either be cured or minimized by spending a few hours a week on a bike. How many chronic health problems in America could be cured by just diet and exercise? I’ve had friends die in their 50′s and I know the death certificate listed their cause of death as heart disease, but I have to wonder if it shouldn’t have read “suicide by inactivity.”

We all cycle for different reasons. Some ride for their physical health, others for mental health. Some people ride because they enjoy group rides, while others enjoy a quiet ride on the back-roads so they can work out their problems in solitude. Whatever your motivation for cycling is, I hope you can enjoy this new year on a good bike.

As the new year begins I want to thank God for my good health, Trek for making awesome bikes, and my wife for not looking at the American Express statements. On a related note, I have promised the love of my life that the next time my cycling results in me entering an ambulance I will tell her the same day instead of waiting a week (apparently wives like to know about stuff like that).

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2013 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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5,000 Miles Of Cycling And Four Months To Go

Yesterday I passed the 5,000 mile mark on my bike for this year and that is two weeks earlier than last year. In 2011 my goal was to cycle 5,000 miles, but I was able to hit 6,836. As some of you know, my goal for this year is “to have fun.” By that I mean that the number of miles at the end of the year is not as important as enjoying the time I have riding. As a result, I have spent more time riding off-road trails this year than I ever have before.

Cycling is better than therapy

Before you ask, the man in the photo above is not me—I bought the photo from PhotoXpress.com. I ripped off the text from a blog that had a photo of a young woman running and the caption read, “Because running is cheaper than therapy.” However, I couldn’t use that language because distance cycling is actually more expensive than therapy. Though I never though of myself as a politician, there was a time I held public office and our unit of government had to employ psychologists. No offense to anyone in that profession, but I have always considered psychologists to be one step away witch doctors, shamans and voodoo priests. I am not a therapist, but in my occupation I do spend time counseling individuals and my advice is often more like the therapist portrayed by R. Lee Ermey in the GEICO commercial. Instead of asking, “How does that make you feel?” I am more likely to tell someone to “butch up” and stop their whining. If you have a medical problem go see a medical doctor—most other problems can be cured by a few hours on a bike.

Earlier this year I was able to spend a lot of time riding with friends, but now I am usually back to riding by myself. In the spring I rode several hundred miles with my friend Eric, a Navy commander, but he has since been transferred to the East Coast. During June and July I rode 800 miles with my friend Anna as she was preparing for RAGBRAI, but now she is back teaching high school. I’ve also gone for a few rides with Randy, a man about my age who lives a few blocks from me—he just started cycling this June but already has 2,000 miles on his bike. I also went for one short ride with James, a kid who lives across the street from me (a slow ride but with very entertaining conversation).

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2012 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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The First 3,000 Miles For 2012

A few days ago I passed 3,000 miles of cycling for the year and that puts me about two weeks ahead of where I was last year at this time. Last year my goal was to cycle 5,000 miles in 2011, but ended up with 6,836 miles. This past January several people asked me what my goal for 2012 was going to be and my usual answer was, “To have fun.” Last year I was trying to rack up as many miles as possible and that meant I got most of my miles while cycling on the road.

The first 3,000 miles on the bike for this year

The first 3,000 miles is the easy part!

When I bought my Surly Pugsley Necromancer Fat Bike last December I intended to use it mainly for rides on the snow, mud and beach (and in my area of the country sometimes all those conditions are present on the same ride). Even though riding on off-road trails is slower, it does have several advantages, i.e, no cars to avoid, no broken glass to dodge, and no teenagers throwing garbage out the window. Off-road trails also allow me more time to think, enjoy nature and meet new people.

I’ve found the people who use the off-road trails are generally more friendly than Roadies. Too often on the road you find some dude with a new set of aerobars who is just certain that if Fabian Cancellara crashes again he is going to get a call from Johan Bruyneel begging him to come save Radioshack Nissan Trek at the Tour de France (that’s probably why they are concentrating so hard they can’t even acknowledge the existence of other cyclists). The funny thing is that I cycled all winter on those same roads and didn’t see any of these dedicated cyclists on the road—I think most of them spent the winter in their basement riding on their training wheels, excuse me, I mean riding on their bicycle trainer stand.

One other change from last year is my training routes. Last year I got into a rut and rode the same handful of routes over and over. My loving wife has spent many hours in the car with me as I drove through the back roads of Illinois and Wisconsin looking for new training routes. I could have searched for these routes while on my bike, but I hate getting caught out in the middle of nowhere without water (yeah, it’s happened).

We all cycle for different reasons. Some ride for their physical health, others for mental health. Some people ride because they enjoy group rides, while others enjoy a quiet ride on the back-roads so they can work out their problems in solitude. Whatever your motivation for cycling is, I hope you can enjoy the rest of this year on a good bike.

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2012 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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The First 1,000 Miles Of 2012

Five months ago the long-range weather forecast for Chicago predicted that we would have the worst winter in a generation. However, things didn’t turn out as predicted (they seldom do). In fact, this has been the mildest winter we’ve had in over 30 years. While I didn’t get to ride in the snow on my new Surly Necromancer Pugs as much as I had planned, I was able to use it to play in the mud and rack up some (slow) miles at the same time.

The first 1,000 miles on the bike in 2012

The earliest I've ever gotten to the first 1,000 miles!

This morning I went cycling with a friend of mine and about 30 minutes into the ride today I passed the 1,000 mile mark for the year, which is two weeks earlier than I did last year. In 2011 I set of goal of cycling 5,000 miles, but ended up with 6,836 miles.

I’ve had a few people ask me what my goal for 2012 was going to be. It took me a while to figure it out, but I finally decided that my goal for 2012 was to have fun on my bikes. Last year I was so determined to rack up miles that I seldom went on the off-road trails because I could accumulate miles faster on the open roads than on the trails. This year I set my mileage goal at only 5,000 miles (again), but I really don’t plan on worrying about—I want to get re-acquainted with my mountain bikes. Last month I had the local bike shop completely rebuild my Gary Fisher Bug Sur mountain bike, and I am currently in the process of rebuilding one of the other mountain bikes myself.

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2012 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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6,836 Miles Of Cycling In 2011

Yesterday I took my last bike ride for 2011 and ended the year having cycled 6,836 miles. Twelve months ago I set of goal of 5,000 miles for the year and I passed the target by such a wide margin that I am now qualified to run the Congressional Budget Office.

The All Seasons Cyclist (near Lake Michigan)

The All Seasons Cyclist (near Lake Michigan)

When I set my cycling goal for 2011 I had no idea that the worst blizzard in over 30 years would hit Chicago in February, followed by the one of the wettest springs in recorded history. I also didn’t plan on being knocked off of my bike for twelve days in June due to food poisoning. This past July was one of the five hottest months in Chicago history, but I was still able to cycle over 850 miles that month anyway.

When the temperature is hovering around zero or the wind is gusting at over 30 MPH it is very easy to tell yourself, “I’ll skip riding today and make it up later.” However, big goals are only reached by passing a lot of smaller goals along the way.

I am 52 years old and work full-time (about 50 hours a week). However, I have somewhat flexible hours so when I ride 50 or 60 miles in the morning it means I will be at the office rather late that night. All three of our sons are grown, so Cub Scout meetings and high school football games do not interfere with my cycling.

While there are many reasons to cycle I suppose most of us do it to improve our “quality of life.” That is, we want to live longer and healthier lives. Obesity is a national crisis in America and our health care system is overburdened as a result of people overeating and failing to exercise. I ought to know—I used to be one of those people who was committing suicide one meal at a time.

Since I am in a contemplative mood I want to add one more thing. Some cyclists pretty much ignore their families just to rack up the miles. If you are one of those people let me kindly inform you that you are an idiot. Your children are only young once so spend as much time with them as you can. It doesn’t take any extra time to eat healthy food, nor does it take all that many miles on a bike to keep your circulatory system in great shape. When your children are big enough you can have them join you for a ride. If you still need more miles, wait till they are asleep and ride at night (but don’t neglect your spouse either).

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2012 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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Performance Polar Long Sleeve Cycling Jersey

Living near the shores of Lake Michigan between Chicago and Milwaukee means I have to ride in a cycling jacket about seven or eight months a year. For the past two years I feel like I have been “cheating the system” thanks to the Performance Polar Long Sleeve Cycling Jersey.

Performance Polar Long Sleeve Cycling Jersey

Performance Polar Long Sleeve Cycling Jersey

The Performance Polar Long Sleeve Cycling Jersey is one of the best products I’ve ever purchased from Performance Bicycle. It is a heavyweight jersey made of a polyester and spandex blend that manages moisture and provides decent heat retention. The full-length zipper is of higher quality than you will find on most other cycling jerseys. The brushed interior is very comfortable and the high collar helps keep your neck warm. There are also two deep pockets on the back of the jersey. I have found this jersey to be true to size.

When the temperature is in the 50’s this jersey is perfect and as the temperature falls I add a cycling vest. The next step is to put on a thin polypropylene base layer underneath the jersey. By the time the temperature is in the 30’s I ride in this jersey with both a base layer and a windproof cycling jacket (I prefer the Gore Bike Wear Phantom Bike Jacket).

This winter jersey is available in sizes up to XXL and retails for $70. However, Performance Bicycle often puts this jersey on sale for around $30, but it is sometimes out of stock. It is usually available in three colors: White, Black/White, and Red/White.

 

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Low-Fat Chocolate Milk As A Sports Recovery Drink For Cyclists

Oberweis Low Fat Chocolate Milk

Oberweis Low Fat Chocolate Milk

This past summer it seemed like every sports magazine or nutrition blog carried an article about using low-fat chocolate milk as a sports recovery drink. The articles were based upon several recent studies, including one from the University of Connecticut’s Department of Nutritional Sciences and two from the University of Texas at Austin. The University of Texas study was the most interesting since it dealt specifically with cyclists. The bottom line for cyclists is that if you drink a 16-ounce glass of low-fat chocolate milk within 30 minutes after a strenuous ride your muscles will recover faster, you will build more muscle and shave off more fat during training.

For distance cyclists finding something that will speed up recovery time is like finding the Holy Grail. I am 52-years old and the last time I drank chocolate milk was in high school, however, after reading the aforementioned studies I decided to give chocolate milk another try. The only part of the studies that made me hesitate a bit was the emphasis on low-fat chocolate milk. When I hear the phrase “low-fat milk” I immediately think of something like “milk-flavored water.”

My first three attempts at finding a good brand of low-fat chocolate milk were not successful since all I could find were bottles of 2% or 1% low-fat. Even a bottle of 1% low-fat milk has far too many calories from fat for me to even consider drinking. I was finally able to find a fantastic product at a local dairy store that suited my needs perfectly: Oberweis Low Fat Chocolate Milk. I believe this product is only available in Oberweis retail stores, but it is certainly worth the effort it might take to find one (sorry, but they seem to only have stores in the upper Midwest).

In addition to great tasting chocolate milk, here is what you get in a 16-ounce glass: 180 calories, 450mg of sodium, 16g of protein, 26g of carbohydrates, and a boatload of vitamin D and calcium. This product has no added sugar. To avoid selling milk that reminds you of water, Oberweis adds carrageenan to this product (carrageenan is a vegetarian alternative to gelatin). I don’t know if you will ever find a low-fat chocolate milk as good as Oberweis at your local dairy, but you owe it to yourself to try to find out! I also realize that my personal experience with using low-fat chocolate milk as a recovery drink is highly subjective, but it really does seem that I am able to recover after a long ride faster since I switched from protein bars to chocolate milk (though I still use the protein bars when I forget to stop at the dairy).

 

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Gatorade G Series Pro 01 Prime Pre-Game Fuel Energy Drink

Gatorade G Series Pro 01 Prime Pre-Game Fuel Energy Drink

Gatorade G Series Pro 01 Prime Pre-Game Fuel Energy Drink

Endurance athletes, like distance cyclists, need to start their exercise routine with a full fuel tank, i.e., a good shot of carbohydrates. Gatorade G Series Pro 01 Prime Pre-Game Fuel is a mixture of both simple and complex carbohydrates, along with a shot of three B vitamins, that can help you get off on the right foot. The folks at Gatorade suggest you drink this product 15 minutes before you begin exercising.

The Gatorade G Series Pro 01 Prime Pre-Game Fuel comes in a 4-ounce flexible package and is only available in two flavors—lime and berry. Each package has 120 calories, 110mg of sodium, and 30g of carbohydrates. It also has 20% of the amount of three B vitamins you need each day (niacin, vitamin B6, and pantothenic acid). This product does not contain either caffeine or protein.

I have tried both flavors of this energy drink and prefer the lime flavor. It tastes a lot like regular Gatorade (what a shock), but it is both thicker and sweeter. Each 4-ounce serving of this drink will cost you around $2.29 at your local store, which is the same price that you will find on Amazon.com.

While I have nothing against Gatorade G Series Pro 01 Prime Pre-Game Fuel, I do believe there are better alternatives that are just as effective and certainly a lot cheaper. I would suggest you try an 8-ounce glass of Welch’s Grape Juice instead of the Gatorade. Eight ounces of Welch’s Grape Juice provides 140 calories, 38g of carbohydrates, 15mg of sodium, 120mg of potassium, and 1g of protein. It also gives you 120% of the DV of Vitamin C and a boatload of antioxidants. Given the choice between a small dose of B vitamins or a major serving of antioxidants, I’ll choose the antioxidants every time.

In my area a 64-ounce bottle of Welch’s Grape Juice retails for around $4 a bottle, which comes out to just .50¢ a serving. Not only is a glass of Welch’s Grape Juice a much more economical choice, but I think it tastes better too!

 

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Pearl Izumi Men’s Elite Cycling Shorts

When I started cycling I bought several horrible pairs of cycling shorts merely because they were only ones available at the stores in my area. Eventually I started buying my cycling clothes at a Performance Bicycle store and was content with the Performance brand of cycling shorts. Last year Performance stopped selling the shorts I was used to and I couldn’t find a suitable replacement in their store. Fortunately, after several futile efforts, I was able to find a fantastic replacement, the Pearl Izumi Men’s Elite Cycling Shorts.

Pearl iZUMi Men's Elite Cycling Shorts

Pearl Izumi Men's Elite Cycling Shorts

The Pearl Izumi Men’s Elite Cycling Shorts are the most comfortable pair of shorts I ever owned. These shorts have a four-way stretch fabric that moves moisture to the outer surface for fast evaporation. Even when the heat index is over 110 degrees these shorts remain dry and comfortable. The 3D Elite chamois on these shorts is made with a variable density microfiber that wicks moisture away and has active carbon yarns to help reduce odors. These shorts are a bit longer than the other brands I’ve used in the past and have silicone dots on the hems to help hold the shorts in place. The shorts are mode of 69% nylon, 16% polyester, and 15% spandex.

I now own four pair of these shorts and have ridden over 4,500 miles in them over the past year. While the 3D Elite chamois is very comfortable, I would always suggest that you use a chamois cream regardless of what brand of cycling shorts you wear (I prefer the Blue Steel Sports Anti-Chafe Chamois Creme). I routinely use these shorts on 50 to 70 mile rides without any discomfort whatsoever. My quads are rather large (my best friend says they look like tree trunks) and I’ve never had the hem creep up my leg, even though the hem is not as tight as I would like. The waist on these shorts has a drawstring, but I’ve never found a reason to use it.

One added benefit of these shorts is that it uses the same 3D Elite chamois as the Pearl Izumi Men’s Elite Thermal Cycling Tights and the Pearl Izumi Men’s AmFIB Tights. Once you get used to the 3D Elite chamois you can ride in it all year round (I ride in the AmFIB tights in temperatures all the way down to zero).

The Pearl Izumi Men’s Cycling Shorts are not cheap, but it is hard to put a price on a comfortable ride. These shorts have a retail price of $100, but you can find them on Amazon.com for around $75.

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2011 in Bicycle Clothing, Product Reviews

 

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Gatorade G Series Fit 01 Prime Pre-Workout Fuel Energy Bites

If you began cycling more than just a few weeks ago you have already figured out that you need to “top off the tank” or “fuel up” before you ride. If you go out for a long ride on an empty stomach you are going to use up all of your energy reserves before you hit the 20th mile. One of the many commercially prepared products to help you get a good start is the Gatorade G Series Fit 01 Prime Pre-Workout Fuel Energy Bites. These energy bites are available in three flavors: Banana Nut Chocolate, Cranberry-Pistachio, and Raisin-Cinnamon Flax.

Gatorade G Series Fit 01 Prime Pre-Workout Fuel Energy Bites

Gatorade G Series Fit 01 Prime Pre-Workout Fuel Energy Bites

I recently bought a package of the Banana Nut Chocolate flavored energy bites and this review is based upon this flavor alone. Inside the package are four small bites, each wrapped in a separate sealed tub. The recommended serving size is four bites (the entire package) and one serving has 230 calories. The ingredient list is not too bad: almonds, peanuts, invert syrup, freeze dried bananas, oat flour, whey protein isolate, glycerin, semisweet chocolate chips, water potato starch, soy lecithin, maltodextrin, natural flavor, citric acid, sodium chloride, sodium citrate, monopotassium phosphate, natural mixed tocopherols, and palm oil.

The good news is that these energy bites contain 31 grams of carbohydrates, 7 grams of protein, 65mg of sodium and 220mg of potassium per serving. The bad news is they taste like sawdust. Our family used to go camping and I always took a package of fire starter blocks to start a camp fire. The Gatorade Energy Bites look a lot like those fire starter blocks, but the Gatorade bites are drier and have less flavor. These energy bites are horrible! If you eat these bites before a race you might not win the Ironman competition, but you will get the “Iron Stomach” award. The Gatorade Energy Bites have an expiration date and the package I tried still had two months to go before expiration. After I took the first bite I checked the expiration date again just to make sure I had the correct year.

The Gatorade Energy Bites sell for around $3 a package, which about $2.80 more than they are worth.

 

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