Like Pulling Cranks

So I haven’t written here in a while. I was involved in an auto accident on my bicycle. I was hit by a car. I have so much to say about the incident but unfortunately I am not going to do that until all of the legal issues are resolved. I can say that I am alive, and that my resolve to get back on the bike has never been higher than right now.

There’s something therapeutic about bicycles. I love riding them, and I love maintaining them. For the past week and a half my living room has been empty. The workstand that I put my bicycle on each night has nothing to hold up, and each time I pass it, I wish my bicycle were there.

Finally today I couldn’t take it anymore. I dug my old bike out of storage and put it on the stand, and started monkeying around on it. I can’t ride yet, but at least I can perform some maintenance. Yesterday I ordered 2 parts for my road bike; a 22 tooth chainring and a 12-30 cassette. Today I practiced removing the crank from my old bike so I’d know what to do when my road bike comes home.

I’ve never removed a crank before so this was a new experience for me. First I had to remove the crank arm cap, which seemed like it was sealed into the crank arm. No matter how hard I twisted my allen wrench it would not budge. I looked through my bike tools and realised I had a tool specifically for this purpose, with a longer handle which would allow more torque, so I tried that. Still nothing. Now, I don’t own a hammer. This is kind of a running gag for me now, because I’ve needed a hammer for many things in the past but always forget to buy one whenever I’m at the hardware store. So like always, I had to improvise. I dug out my Kryptonite U-Lock and used that as a hammer. A few good whacks later, the crank arm cap was loose. Task 1 complete.

Then I got out my crank puller tool and put that into the crank arm, and attempted to operate it. Unfortunately it didn’t seem to do anything so I took it out and looked online for help. I was using the wrong crank puller cap; the one for “square taper” cranks. I have an “octalink” crank, so I had to switch the cap on the puller. I then re-inserted the puller, then started twisting the inner screw, and after a few good turns… the puller tore itself out of the crank. At first I was horrified, I had certainly stripped the threads on the crank arm. I put everything down and took a break so I could collect myself, stop freaking out, and figure out what to do next.

After a while I went back to the bike to examine the aftermath. Luckily it wasn’t that bad; the only reason the threads had stripped is because I hadn’t inserted the puller nearly far enough to work. In fact it looks like I only stripped the topmost thread and everything else was ok. Learning from that lesson, I inserted the puller much further in this time, making sure the inner screw was fully extracted before doing so. Tightened everything up then started turning the inner screw inward again.

This time the crank popped right off, after a few really strong turns of the puller. Success! I removed the crank and washed it off in my bathtub. There was an incredible amount of dirt and grime on the crank, a lot of which ended up staining my hands. Had to wash them 3 times for everything to fully come off afterwards. I removed the chainring to see how I would go about installing a new one, and presta, I think I’ve figured everything out. I still have to reassemble everything and put it back on the bike, but not bad for a practice run.

So why the new gearing? Well, several reasons. I like tighter cassettes because you have closer gears. This is easier on the knees and easier to find a more optimal gear when you’re cruising along, since the jumps between gears is much smaller. I’m going from 11-34 to 12-30. With an 11-34 gear you get an average of 13.3% difference between each cog, which is fairly large. With a 12-30 you get 10.7% difference between each cog. While that’s still a relatively large difference in the grand scheme of things, it’s much smaller than before and I anticipate that I will like it.

There’s one downside however, in that I’m losing the 34t cog in the rear, the gear I use for really steep hills. The solution there, of course, is to try to use a 22t inner chainring. Right now I’m running 26t so a 26/34 gear works out to 21.1 Gear Inches. That’s pretty low and I’d like to stay around that range. My crank has replacement rings in 22, 26, 32, 36, 44, and 48 teeth, so I figure I can replace the 26 with a 22, to end up with 22/30 for my low gear, or 20.3 Gear Inches. That’s actually slightly lower than my previous low gear, so I will actually have lower gearing if this combination works.

Of course there’s a possibility that this combination won’t work. A drop from 36 to 22 is pretty large and it’s possible I could end up with problems with this combination. The shifting could suck for some reason, perhaps it’ll be impossible to shift back up into 36. Or maybe it’ll be much more likely to drop the chain onto the bottom bracket with that large of a drop. I’m not really sure. But I’m going to try it out.

I’ve got two alternate plans. The first alternate is to try out a 24t chainring. There’s none that is built specifically for my crank, but I think I should be able to put in any Shimano 24t 64mm ring and it’ll be fine. I know my front mech supports a drop of 12t, since it already handles 48->36 fine, so in theory 36->24 should also pose no¬† issues.

The second alternate plan is to just suck it up and continue using the 26t chainring. Essentially this means that hills will be harder since I’m losing one gear; but that’s all. Just one gear. There’s only one hill that I know of right now that requires my absolute lowest gear, so maybe I just HTFU and try it out in the 2nd lowest gear once I’m riding again.

Who knows, this is all hypothetical at this point.
I also went ahead and ordered some studded winter tires. I didn’t buy any last year because by the time I realised I wanted them, they were all sold out, so this time I got them on sale in July when no one is even thinking about them yet. Those should arrive sometime this week, and then sit around for months as I wait for snow and ice.

Can’t wait to get back on the bike. Can’t wait to be healed up again.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fore

http://app.strava.com/rides/13786326
http://connect.garmin.com/activity/200718033

Last night I had my fourth club ride, which was my first one as an official member, as my membership card had just arrived earlier that day. I decided to do the short flat ride in Clarence, since that’s the most popular weeknight ride in the club, so there’d be a lot of people there.

Earlier in the day I decided to install my new brake pads on the front. Only, when I went to install them I noticed that my front brakes had actually been installed backwards. You would not believe how freaked out this made me. The front brakes on a bicycle are the most important, and I’ve been relying on them on some tricky descents; given enough wear and tear or perhaps some metal fatigue, my front brake pads could have been ripped out of their holder since the exit slot was in the same direction as the wheel rotation. I fixed the pads so they are facing the right direction now, but I’m wondering if I should go tell the bike shop that they put the pads on backwards. They’ve worked fine so far, but that definitely freaked me out.

Surprisingly my legs were not hurting from the night before, even though I had just done my highest and longest hill ride to date. Usually my legs are destroyed for a few days after those kinds of rides, but I guess my body is getting used to it. Since there were so many people there, it was hard to hear the ride leader, so when people started going, I just went, not realising that only the long ride group was leaving. It wasn’t a big deal though, I went ahead as fast as I could at my warmup pace, but got rapidly left behind by the long riders. I could see the short riders slowly catching up to me in the distance behind though.

Eventually they caught me after 2 miles and I was relieved because I felt like now I could drop back and draft; only, the group did not pass me. Instead they went ahead and latched right onto my back. As it turns out, they were catching up to me because they wanted to draft me! Since I’m so big, I’m a very effective wind block, and create a massive vacuum behind me, and people were actually commenting on how nice it was to draft behind me. That was funny, so I decided to keep powering onward as fast as I could. We were averaging about 15mph at that point, but I was starting to get tired. After another few miles a few people finally decided to pass me, since my pace had slowed up a bit. I wasn’t really prepared for it so they got really ahead of me and I had to struggle to get back onto them.

After another few miles, the group of 10 started breaking up. Six riders fell off the back but I really pushed myself to keep up with the lead 3 (myself being 4). For a while at least, it looked like the rear 6 would rejoin us, but then they eventually fell further and further back until they were no longer visible.

So the four of us just pushed onwards at what I considered a breakknee pace. It hurt, but then again this is the reason why I joined the club. I wanted to find riders who were slightly better than me so I could challenge myself and push myself harder than I might when cycling alone. Sure enough, the results paid off, we pulled into the parking lot after 20 miles with an average speed of 16mph.

Most road cyclists won’t consider that pace to be all that great, but 16.0mph is my fastest loop speed ever. There was one day last year where I biked to work at 16.0mph, but that was in one direction, I had a tailwind, and it was slightly downhill. This was a loop, both into the wind and out of the wind, though the course was mostly flat. I was extremely satisfied with how well I did; my shirt was soaked with sweat, after just a 20 mile ride.

Now that I’ve hit 16, I have to keep working and hope to hit 17 before the year is out. That’s the speed at which I feel you’re finally starting to become “fast”. I still have a massive disadvantage on hills, or any slight incline for that matter. During last nights ride, the road was almost entirely flat with only a few very slight inclines. But each time we hit one, sure enough I would immediately begin to slide back, only to rapidly catch up each time the road began to decline. On more hilly rides this is going to pose a serious problem for keeping up, which only underscores how important it is going to be for me to lose a lot more weight.

One negative thing to report, however. After the ride, one of the people in the group I was riding with “yelled” at me. I apparently passed him on the right at one point, nearly knocking him over. I honestly do not remember doing this, but at the same time I don’t doubt that I did it. I was pedaling so hard for the last half of the ride that I was finding it hard to really concentrate. I apologized due to my relative newness to cycling and he said there was no need to apologize, just be more careful in the future, and so I will.

I’ll be out riding again tonight, heading to the Lancaster ride. Will be slower today since my legs are feeling a bit put off after two really hard days in the saddle, but it should be fun nonetheless. My company’s fitness contest ends tomorrow, so I am trying to make one last push to see if there’s any chance of increasing my teams standing past 3rd place. Should be doing 40+ miles tonight.

And finally, one bit of amazing news. Weighed myself and I am finally starting to lose weight for once. I’m down 9 pounds this week (making 14 pounds for the whole year), which is the first significant weight loss of the year. I’m not sure what it is, maybe it’s the crazy hills, or the intense club rides, but my body has finally decided to start shedding some pounds. There’s been some small 1-2 pound losses since March, but nothing that would stick long term, and this has made me so happy that I’m going to go out tomorrow and buy some bread. Yes, bread. I’ve been saving a loaf of bread for my 10 pound milestone and it’s been killing me that I haven’t been able to buy any this year so far. Yeah I’m a horrible carboholic. What is carbohol anyway? I have no idea.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Chain Reaction

Image

http://app.strava.com/rides/13706575
http://connect.garmin.com/activity/200442472

We’re in the midst of yet another scorching heat wave. The day was nearly unbearable, but I’d been eying Route 238 for the past week and was really eager to try it out. I Decided to try to hit a 13.0mph average speed, which would take me 3.5 hours; so if I left at 6:30 I’d be back by 10 which is when it finally gets pitch black around here. Additionally the weather report said “isolated” thunderstorms would be moving in around 11pm, so I figured that would give me enough leeway for a nice safe ride. Unfortunately it was still so hot at 6:30 that I just couldn’t work up the energy to get prepared and leave, so I delayed until 7:00pm.

I got my new brake pads today, but since I was doing a lot of descending I decided that I would only replace my rear pads for now, as sort of a test. The front brakes are far more useful on a bike so I figured I’d try the pads out on the rear, and if they didn’t work well I’d still have my regular reliable front pads.

The ride started off well. It was rolling hills for the first part and then when I hit Attica the real hill began. For some reason I had the idea that the peak of the hill was 1,400 feet. I was really tired by 1,300 so I was relieved that I only had 100 more feet to go… only I was incorrect. The hill kept going and going and finally peaked at 1760 feet, 360 more than I thought! It was exhausting, I was in my granny gear the entire time.

I found it difficult to gauge the slope of the road. I’m not sure why but there were times when it looked like I was on a flat section, yet I was near my bottom gear and struggling; the computer said I was gaining altitude on a 6% grade but it looked flat. Then even higher up it looked like the road actually started dropping for a bit, when in actuality it was merely flat or a 1% grade.

Eventually it started getting dark. I was taking much more time than I thought I would have and ended up being 25 minutes behind schedule. I briefly considered turning back but I really wanted to do the entirety of route 238, so I went on. Finally I reached Orangeville, which was a few miles from my destination, and turning back was no longer an option, since I was so close to the end of the route.

The roads are beautiful out there. From the top of the hill you can see all types of things in the distance, it’s really quite amazing. I wish I had more time and more daylight; I would have hung around and shot a few pictures, but the sun was beginning to set as I hit the end of 238. Finally, time to turn around and descend that awesome hill I just climbed.

And then I saw it. When I turned around I noticed a large stormfront had moved in behind me, and the clouds were electric. Lightning was flashing everywhere, every 1-2 seconds I saw flashes. The entire sky lit up when they did. The sky was still completely clear above me, which is why I hadn’t noticed the storm, but this was scary. I couldn’t tell how far off the storm was, and the hill went directly downward towards the storm for 10 miles or more. I had no other choice of destination though.

Warsaw was 3 miles away but 10-20% downhill grade the entire way, and the wrong direction. If I went down there, I wasn’t getting back up the hill, and the only other way around the hill took me 20 miles out of my way towards home. Varysburg was 6 miles away, but up 10% grades the entire way.

So I started flying down the hill. It was fun, I took a good 20 minutes to get down the hill, which I had just taken an hour and a half to climb. Absolutely ridiculous, but fun. The road was excellently paved and my headlight was bright, so I had no qualms about going 30+mph down a hill in the dark.

The problem was that I was inching ever so slightly towards the storm. Eventually I looked up and it loomed closer to me than I was comfortable with, but luckily the wind seemed to be blowing the storm to the northeast; away from where I was heading. I kept following 238 and eventually hit 20 where I turned straight west, and was home free. I had a truly excellent show the entire ride home; pitch black with lightning bolts streaking across the sky, unknown miles away.

Perhaps I cut things a bit too close for comfort. My pulse dramatically raised during the last hour of the ride- I was definitely scared. But once I got within 5 miles of home, it was obvious the storm wasn’t going to reach me before I made it home, so I calmed down and was able to enjoy the spectacular light show.

The brakes worked really well so I will replace the front pads tomorrow and go on a short, flat club ride in Clarence to see how well they do there. I won’t have to worry about going down any big hills with all-new brake pads, at least.

That was by far the best ride of the year. Most climbing, biggest hill, highest elevation, longest descent, and a free electric light show to boot. I love this sport.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Spinning in Infinity

I’m going to be busy tonight so I thought I’d go spinning for 30 minutes in the morning before work. I’m trying to be more vigilant about my exercise lately. Before when I would miss a day of cycling I would usually excuse it and say “you can afford a day off, you biked over 100 miles this week anyway”. Unfortunately that attitude has gotten me nowhere in terms of weight loss lately, and occasionally I would end up with 4 days off in a week. Well, no more of that.

I set up an interval workout for myself, since intervals once a week are supposed to facilitate rapid weight loss as well as great increases in fitness. The routine starts off with 45 seconds on difficulty 4, then 45 at 5, then 45 at 4 again, then 45 at 6, and so on until difficulty 14. Then I reset it and start alternating 45 seconds and 90 seconds of increasing intensity. It’s very strenuous and I feel like it’s a lot more work than cycling but I suppose that’s the point of it all. Last week the last two intervals were 400 watts, but this week I didn’t feel I had the energy required to maintain that wattage so I slowed my pace a bit for 350 watts.

I sweat like crazy on the spin bike. I have to keep a towel near me to constantly wipe myself down, it’s kind of gross. I don’t believe I sweat this much on the bike, but it’s hard to tell because the air evaporates my sweat so quickly I usually feel dry- that is of course unless I’m climbing a hill where there’s much less airflow and then I begin to see the sweat pour off of me.

Regardless it was a great workout, and I decided to use my heart monitor this time to see how it compares to cycling:

Unfortunately, because of my hypertension, the medication I’m on makes my heartrate really low. The strange part is that I can never get it to be consistent, so sometimes a tough workout will take my HR up to 150, but most of the time it’ll stay up to 130, and may not even go over 120 sometimes. Today was one of those days; I was exercising quite a bit, but the HR just wouldn’t go very high. I’m not complaining, it’s just tough to get a baseline of how much effort I’m putting out looking only hat HR data. The spinner is nice because it at least measures watts, and todays average of 160 watts was pretty good compared to previous spinning sessions (I only started in June), but when I’m actually on a real bike I have nothing to go by but my heart rate, which can be frustrating if I’m trying to pace myself for a longer ride.

I really want a power meter for my bike so I can get a better idea of how much actual work I’m performing, as well as a better idea of calories burned, but for the moment that’s not a realistic option. Crank-based power meters won’t work for me because they only come in road gearing; I need triple mountain gearing at my present weight or I’m going to get stuck on some hills. Wheel-based power meters won’t work because they only come in 32-spoke hubs at most; for my weight I need 36-spoke hubs. There’s a Polar pedal power meter out there but it uses Polar’s “WIND” transmission standard, which my computer doesn’t support, so I have no real interest in using those. The Garmin “Vector” power pedal should be coming out within the year, but they’re apparently made of carbon in order to offset the weight gain from the power detection hardware, so I have no idea if those will hold my weight properly.

It’s a tough predicament, so I suppose I’ll have to hold off on my aspirations of owning a bicycle power meter until I lose a lot of weight.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Braking Up is Hard to Do

Lately I’ve been tackling some big hills. I know some people don’t think they’re that big, but they’re big for me. I recently hit a top speed of 40mph on a steep downhill, and it was fun. The bike seemed really stable and I could barely tell that I was going that fast. That being said, yesterdays hills kind of rattled me. The downhills I’m used to are usually straight and not too technical, but yesterday there were lots of twists and turns that had me keeping my speed really low because I had no idea what was behind every corner.

I didn’t really feel like my brakes were up to the task of stopping me on a dime, if I needed to. I’ve been using the default pads on my brakes since I bought the bike, but I had always intended to try out the Kool Stop Salmon pads, as they seem to be the most often-recommended pads on the internet. So today I purchased 2 pair, and I’ll install them sometime this week.

I’ve also wondered about buying some Cross Levers for the bar tops. Back in March when I was biking in DC on the Mount Vernon trail, I crashed out twice trying to avoid pedestrians on the winding path. I had thrown out my back earlier that day so I probably shouldn’t have been riding, but that made it so that I could only brake from the hoods, which doesn’t have as much grip as when I’m in the drops, likely contributing to my accidents. Cross levers would allow me to brake from the tops with a much higher reaction rate than I do currently, and perhaps offer some additional leverage that I just don’t get on the hoods. I did not order cross levers however, I decided to hold off a bit and see if the new pads improve my braking power first.

Last night I decided to go to a club ride today, despite the hills yesterday. Unfortunately when I woke up it was thundering and raining pretty heavily out and I decided that it was not to be. I was kind of bummed because it was an easier 30 miler and was looking forward to it. The schedule for the rest of the week will be spinning tomorrow (400 watt intervals), hills on Tuesday, and club rides on Wednesday and Thursday, with a rest day on Friday. Granted this may all change depending on how I feel and if it continues to rain.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Hill on Wheels

http://app.strava.com/activities/13368376
http://connect.garmin.com/activity/199134491#

Today was my third club ride. Since I did well at the last two I decided to up the difficulty and try a really hilly ride to see how well I did. When I arrived, instead of the ragtag group of steel and aluminum bikes I’m used to seeing, I was greeted with a gleaming bunch of sleek carbon fibre bikes that are more common at the bike shop rides. Uh oh. I kept waiting for anyone I rode with at the last few rides to show up, but alas it wasn’t to be.

As with all rides there are two choices; the longer ride and the shorter ride. Since I was doing tough hills, I wisely opted for the shorter ride. The group leader introduced me as a newbie and everyone was giving me that “I know he’s going to be meeting a firing squad” look. I was half expecting someone to offer me a cigarette and a blindfold. I knew not what I was in for. The leader then asked how many people were doing the short ride. I was the only one who raised my hand. Great; the ride hasn’t even started and I was already dropped!

So we go off, a few people stay behind with me for a mile or so and keep hinting that there are lots of hills on this ride and to make sure I’ve got a map and there’s no shame in turning around if it gets too hard, etc. Honestly. Then they started telling me that they all started off really slow when they first started cycling and don’t get discouraged, etc. Pleasantries over, we hit the start of the hill and everyone took off and left me in the dust.

So now here I am, on the biggest hills I’ve ever ridden (I was doing 1,800 feet over 28 miles, versus 1,700 feet over 33 miles as my previous best), in an area I’m not at all familiar with and have never even driven around, alone. Well at least I had more than enough water. The hills were killer. I mean gigantic, making sweat pour off of me like a murmuring brook. Finally got to the top of one and… the entire descent is gravel. FUCK! Even in a club ride nothing works! So I can’t even descend the hill at a nice pace, I have to ride my brakes, keeping my speed below 10mph the entire time so I don’t wipe out and kill myself, hoping I don’t overheat my rims and cause a blowout, which will in turn make me wipe out and kill myself. Another few miles of gravel and I’m wondering how the hell the 23mmers even made it through this area without getting flats, but clearly they did because there’s noone stopped along the road fixing their tubes.

Finally I get to pavement again, but it’s all uphill again, up an even bigger hill than before. I’m out of energy by now, so I start doing S-curves along the road to lower the effective gradient. Finally get to the top and I get to begin a nice descent, only it’s winding so I have to ride the brakes again so I can’t even really enjoy it, and luckily I did that because it ended on a blind turn with a surprise stopsign. GAH.

At this point I’m cursing myself, wondering why I do this. There was a nice flat 50 mile ride in Lockport today I could have gone to instead, would have been much more fun, ya know? But reason takes hold and convinces me that hey, I fucking showed up, and I’m already more than half done with the ascent. That puts me ahead of everyone else who didn’t even bother doing the hills, so there, I win.

The entire ride, I didn’t even bother looking at the mileage; my computer was on the “ascent information” page, showing me how many feet I’ve ascended; so when I hit 900 feet I knew the ride was half over, even though in terms of distance it was only 30% over. I suppose that’s one of the benefits of climbing upwards on a ride, the last half is basically free.

After that I sort of entered some sort of zen state. It could have just been the heat. I can’t be sure. But lo and behold, another hill appears. Just want the pain to end. Halfway up I hear someone yell out “GOD BLESS YOU MAN! I TRIED THAT ONCE AND SAID ‘NEVER AGAIN!’”, giving me a thumbs-up for climbing the hill he lived on. Made me feel a bit better, so I kept going.

Dropped my chain on the next hill. Nearly fell over but luckily I was able to clip-out and put my foot down just as my bike completely lost momentum. I fixed the chain, but unfortunately the hill was too steep to start going again so I walked up the last 20 feet (vertical!) and went on my way. That was my only “break” for the entire ride.

Finally, the route turns back north and I’m headed home. Except the course takes me on a gigantic descent, over 600 feet, on another winding twisty road, so yet again I have to ride the brakes the entire way down since I have no idea what’s around each hidden bend. These technical descents really killed my average speed. On last weeks hill ride I was able to push my average speed from 10 to 13 on the last descent, but this ride only took me from 9 to 10.

Eventually I make it, limping, back into Hamburg. A bunch of riders from the 42 mile ride begin passing me on my way in, each one congratulating me on doing something they probably didn’t think I was capable of. That lifted my spirits a bunch and I managed to finish the ride happy.

Within a few minutes everyone was back at the meeting place and everyone kept saying how great it was that I made it. Ok look it wasn’t that bad, I wouldn’t have attempted this route if I thought there was even the slightest chance of me failing. Sure I bitched a lot in my head (and this entry!) but that’s what hills do to me. They are pain, personified. In retrospect the rides are always much more fun than they felt at the time. The scenery is always magnificent at the hilltops as well.

A bunch of people kept asking me when can they expect to see me again, so I suppose that was an implicit hint that I am welcome. I didn’t know at the time, but after thinking about it all night long, I’ve decided to do tomorrows “Lake Ontario Short” ride, 30 miles from Lockport up through Newfane and Burt to Olcott and back. Should be flat, and I should meet a bunch of people in my own skill range again.

Anyway, that was by far the toughest hill ride I’ve ever done, with a total of 66 feet per mile of climbing (132, really, since it was a loop). I just wish there were more people of my skill level present, that would have made it much more fun. I also wish I could have descended without braking.

I think for the time being I will continue doing hill rides of this calibre on my own, but keep the club rides flatter so there is a chance I’ll be able to keep up with the riders. I mean I’m not really a morning person so in my opinion it was kind of silly for me to wake up at 6am and drive 30 miles to ride alone when I could have just ridden a similar amount of hills at a more comfortable time for me, in an area I’m more familiar with, without having to drive anywhere. I have a VERY long way to go before I can even dream of keeping up with the type of people who were on today’s ride. I don’t know how long of a break they took in Springville, but I didn’t take any breaks and they had all arrived back at the start within 5 minutes of me. At a minimum, if they didn’t break, they averaged 16mph on those hills. I can’t even do that on flats!

Onward to tomorrow.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

velocipedia

Velocipedia was the name of a bicycle race that took place in the 1870′s in Buffalo, NY. I’m not sure why but the term has endeared itself to me, and I felt it would provide the appropriate theme for this blog. I’m not a bicycle racer, nor do I currently have any aspirations of becoming one. I simply love to ride my bicycle, and I love learning about cycling. In this blog I will detail the things I learn about cycling, the world, and myself in this journey.

Where am I going? Nowhere in particular. It started off to lose weight, but eventually I’ll reach that goal, and it would be a shame to end there. Think of it as open-ended, where every day brings me somewhere new.

How did it start? I’ll give the short version, as the long one is quite a tale. Two years ago this week my apartment building nearly burned down. The entire apartment below me was completely gutted and it was only by the quick response of the fire department that mine was not consumed as well. The paramedics on the scene insisted in checking everyone out after the fire, and found that my blood pressure had spiked above 200. They insisted in hospitalizing me and the entire incident ended up being a wakeup call for me. I needed to lose weight.

I exercised nearly daily for the next several months on an indoor recumbent bicycle. This, combined with a cut in my diet and much healthier food choices helped me lose 100 pounds over the next year. Over that time I grew bored of the indoor exercise and yearned to get outside and do something. I still had my old mountain bike from high school and tried riding that, but I quickly gave up as I felt embarrassed by my size. Even though I had lost a lot of weight I still had another 150-200 pounds to go, and I felt silly going outside on a bike; I felt as if people would make fun of me (and as I eventually learned, they would indeed).

The first winter was the last straw however, and I impulsively bought a pair of nordic skis, and went skiing (and falling) around a park near me in near isolation. This helped me gradually get over my fear of being seen in public exercising, so that by the time Spring rolled around, I was really ready for the bicycle. I had it fixed up and I hit the road, bicycling 10 miles on my first attempt, and felt that was the best workout I’ve done in years.

Velomania overtook me, and I went crazy with enthusiasm for the sport. I spent all spring, summer, autumn, and winter cycling. I started biking 40 miles each day to work, 3-4 days a week. I made a goal to ride one 50-mile ride before the end of the year. Did that in July. I made a goal to ride one 100-km ride. Did that in July as well. Changed goals again, bike more than 1000 miles. July. 2000 miles. September. Bike a 100-mile century around the city of Buffalo. September. Bike a 100-mile century from Buffalo to Rochester and back. October. Bike 3000 miles. November. Bike in the snow. December. I was hooked. I ended the year with 3,500 miles and rewarded myself with a new road bike, a Long Haul Trucker, intending to go even further than ever before with it.

And so here I am, in my 2nd year of cycling. My weight loss has subsided for the time being as I work out newfound diet issues (mostly due to uncontrollable craving after biking 150 miles a week!), but that’s just one of the things I’m exploring on the cycling journey. I started doing real hills this year. I also joined a bike club. The year is only half over and I have so much more planned I don’t know how I’m going to fit it all into the short 6 months that are left.

Bicycling isn’t about going from point A to point B. It’s about the journey. From here to nowhere in particular.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment