Posts Tagged bike

Picking up the Tempo

To my faithful readers, I ain’t dead.

For some reason, this winter has been a rough one.  Particularly January with double the normal snowfall and decidedly below average temps.  Add to that December’s hit parade of high intensity trainer workouts, and you have a recipe for trainer burnout.  For a 3 week stretch I begrudgingly rode once or twice a week, skipped weights often and found reasons to avoid riding.

The trend is reversing as of late – at least I have enough motivation to write another post.  This past week saw a long-overdo thaw before returning to the freezer.  Being that it is now late February, there is at least some hope on the horizon.  The distance to Spring can be counted in weeks, not months.

Along with this refreshing of spirit, I have shelved the mind-bending anaerobic pain cave workouts for something entirely mundane; the zen of the Tempo ride.  For the longest time, I treated them as a necessary chore to throw in once in a while; a mental test of holding a moderate pace for an hour.  Out of my recent doldrums I decided to give them a revisit.

Now after my warm up and stretch, I begin a 45-60 minute ride at a moderate pace (a 5 or 6 out of 10).  That pace is good for 12-15 minutes.  In that time, my engine gets fully up to temperature and I get comfortable.  Then I step up the effort level to a 7-7.5/10.  This is a high aerobic effort, but I can hold it for a long time without drifting anaerobic.  Holding this effort level for a solid 15-20 minutes really does the trick.

I know that this time of year is for base building and I think I get it now.  I was upside down; instead of rides with high intensity spins and killer anaerobic intervals dominating my schedule, I am now committed to the opposite.  No fewer than 2 (preferably 3) Tempo rides for every interval workout.  I need to keep the intervals in there to keep some power level around for Spring, but being able to go for a long ride out of the gate once it warms up is more important to me.

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So Much For That Experiment

Note: Sorry about the dearth of posts.  I’ve got a lengthier one in the works.

So yesterday was an island of great cycling weather in between two crappy days.  I left work early in order to get in a good 2 hour-plus ride in lovely Vischer Ferry.  I get home and notice I have a flat on my rear tire.  Ugh.  I’m no wrench but I can repair a flat.

Now, I’ve seen competitions (on You Tube anyway) of people changing out a tube in under a minute.  You will notice I don’t appear in these videos.  I take my time to remove the old tube and try to locate the failure.  After wrestling with it for what felt like 20 minutes I find that the failure was a puncture through the sidewall.  Of my Continental Gatorskins.

Aren’t these supposed to be the tires with awesome sidewall protection?  I haven’t had a puncture flat in 5 years.  Add this to the lame road feel of these tires and I will never buy them again.  In fact, the tire that replaced it on my bike is an old GP4000 front tire that was destined for the trainer as a rear wheel beater.  Well, it’s getting pressed into service about a month early.

If you’re interested, the GP4000s have a much livelier road feel and I run them at about 10psi lower than the Gatorskins.  I guess there’s a reason that the GP4000s are a go-to model for so many riders.  They WILL be on my bike come next spring.

P.S. – the latex gloves I keep in the garage for this type of bike work – especially anything that involves fiddling with the chain – are a great idea.  That black grime that can get on your skin does not wash away easily.

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It’s Been A While

So, I haven’t posted in a few weeks and that’s OK.  We’ve had some odd weather here lately and it affected the rides I was able to take.

We had a stretch of well-above average temps toward the end of March, so I got off of the trainer and got back outside to try and get some endurance back.  I scheduled a Spring tune up at the LBS and it all looked good.

I get our bikes back and the temps drop and the rains arrive.  Fantastic.  I get new tires mounted and I have to ride the trainer again.  Ugh.  Fortunately I only did 3 rides on the trainer before the weather turned and now I’m back on the road for the season.  In fact, I just completed a three day stretch of good rides.

Some observations:

My new tires for this year are Continental Gatorskins.  The initial verdict is a B+.  They give a comfortable ride, but they could be livelier.  Definitely a training tire.  I have them at 110 psi, but I think I actually want a harsher ride out of them so the next rides will have them up to 115.  People rave about the puncture resistance and the sidewall reinforcement is immediately obvious.  It’s too early to tell if that’s true, but I have been able to avoid flats on any tire I’ve used for the last 4 years or so.  I’m sure by May I will know how much I miss the old 4000s.

The spring tune up also included a drive train cleaning.  That thing looks brand freaking new.  I couldn’t believe how good it looked.  wow.  I actually wondered if they replaced the cassette and chain.

Mrs. Stallion’s bike also got a tune up.  Now, it’s an old Huffy but all bikes Great and Small deserve to be in good riding shape.  To her great credit she has been riding the trainer more and more in addition to other exercises.  In fact, she went for a ride around a route we checked out over the winter.  It’s about a 7-8 mile route she can loop around.

When she got back from the ride we were discussing how it went.  She told me that the gears shifted much better since the tune up.  In fact, she noticed early on in the ride that the LBS returned the bike shifted on to the small front chainring.  To which she replied, “I ride in the big ring, bitches!”.

It’s going to be a good year.

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Which Way Do I Turn?

Barney and BarneyWhen I’m out on the road, I have a good sense of where I want to ride.  There are times when I get to an intersection and, depending on how I’m feeling and the weather conditions, I’ll take a different direction than what I had planned.

It’s that time of year now when that change of direction becomes a metaphor for whether or not I go anywhere when I turn the pedals.  It’s a colder than usual October here, and I’m desperately checking the long range forecasts for anything above 52°F and a wind less than 15mph.  I’m not having much luck.

I was all psyched to gain a calendar advantage with a riding vest.  I was able to use it only once so far.  It has not only been cold, but very windy and rainy.  The one ride was successful, but it was almost two weeks ago.

I have stated before that I ride for fitness and for fun.  To me, riding in a cold rain while pushing the red line so I can go 12mph into a stiff headwind is not fun.  The other side of the coin here is that I can turn this all around by calling it a season and moving indoors to ride on the trainer.

Is this that much of a decision?  I can eliminate weather as a factor and get in three solid workouts every week.  No more numb fingers and toes, no more chasing ever-waning daylight, no more feeling guilty that – while my appetite has not lessened – my caloric expenditure has.

I think I know what I should be doing, but I’m fighting it – for now.  I should just pay attention to the signs; there’s only one way to go.

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It’s Go Time

When I saw the forecast for this week, I knew it would be a good one.  I planned on riding four days this week, and that’s saying something this year.

This season has been pretty bad in terms of riding volume.  I counted 7 rides for all of August.  That’s it.  In a normal year that total would be around 12.  They would also be longer rides.  I was averaging about 2½ hours per ride last year and this year it’s dropped to about 2 hours flat.

It’s been the same old gremlins that get me: weather and schedule conflicts.  July was the rainiest on record, and August had a host of non-cycling commitments.  Ergo July and August combine for 15 rides.  Pathetic.

Then there’s this week.  The weather is awesome – 70s, low humidity, light wind.  I’ve already been out twice and have two more on the calendar.  It’s such a small thing, but it’s huge in my riding confidence.  My average speed on rides is down a good half a mile per hour.  If I can push it as I have done so far this week, I can have good form going into the cool weather season of late September and October.  If the vest I’m purchasing works out, I could conceivably ride at least a week into November.  Anything to delay the trainer season.

They say Spring is the season of renewal.  If things go as planned this week, Spring will move to September.

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Why The Hell Am I Doing Hill Repeats?

So I did a hill repeat ride this week.  It consisted of 5 trips up a grade on Schauber Road.  Each climb only took a few minutes, but the recovery between each was about the same time.  After the third repeat, I had that “why am I doing this?” feeling.  The fourth one really hurt. 

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By the time I started the last one I knew that was it, so I eased up mentally – once I separated my mind from the sting in my legs I was really gliding up the hill.  That probably impressed me more than anything else.  I finished up with about 10 miles of flat to rolling terrain.  I sure felt it the next day, but it wasn’t that bad – a good hurt.

It was about 150 feet gained each time and I definitely went into the red zone in the final 200 feet or so.  According to Map My Ride there was a section at 13%!  But it begs the question – why do it at all?

There’s something to be said about the purity of the effort but I think it goes a little past that.  I’m not training for a race or anything that has a lot of climbing – I just want to impress myself.  Prior to my time as a “serious” cyclist (about 5 years now) I was never an athletic person.  In high school, I got a JV letter for bowling – an activity that can be aided by beer.

In some small way, suffering up a climb gives me a sense of worth.  I know that I could never have dreamed of being able to do what I did on this ride back in my 20s.  I guess the old saying “because it is there” applies here.

I hope I can wax so philosophical when I assault Lake Desolation Road later this year.

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The Training Effect

The axiom among physiologists is that fitness is not gained during the activity, but as a result of the activity.  During the trainer season, I put a conscious effort into avoiding workouts on consecutive days.  During the outdoor season, I try to stick to this as much as the weather and yard work obligations allow.  Good recovery is just as important as a hard effort.

And I’m feeling it.

After some fits and starts getting acclimated to the changing spring weather – windy and 58° to sunny and 90° – I’m harvesting the results of all that work.  I got in a two hour ride covering 39 miles and 18.5 mph average, and I felt great at the end.  I was flying up hills and motoring on the flats.  It was a perfect-feeling ride.

Today, a day off the bike, I have an energetic feeling in my legs that is all too rare after a good effort the day before.  These are the days I sit back and realize just how much I get from riding – the leaner frame, the better sleep, the attention paid to my diet, and (quoting Fred Matheny) the post-ride calm of a Zen Master.

Perhaps greatest of all is the mental lift.  Kim West said on his show last week that he starts feeling better as he rolls down his driveway.  Everything else just doesn’t matter any more.  All the crap at work, annoying drivers, aches and pains, stupid doping stories, A-Rod, all of it.  Just give me some decent pavement and it all goes away.  It’s astounding what this simple machine lets me do.

Yeah, it’s like that.

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