Thinking . . .

I saw things yesterday during a recovery ride that I hadn’t before. Amazing how that happens when you’re thinking about something entirely new and feeding the brain more oxygen.

Yes, riding provides fitness benefits. Benefits we can track and analyze. The data reveals our progress, or lack thereof.

Perhaps more than anything else, though, what I enjoy about riding is the mental side. Riding is meditative and restorative. Riding removes clutter. Riding purifies thought. Going through a chilly headwind or up a hill is akin to going through the day. We start fresh with goals. We move forward. If we need help, we ask (or draft).

When we finish the ride (or day), we start the work of preparing for tomorrow and what may come. We learn from the past and focus on the possibilities ahead.

I’m thinking. I like the possibilities that thoughts produce.

Advertisements

BikeDesire or BikeCrave . . .

I have a dream. It gets better when I’m awake.

With your help, I hope to build a community Web site/blog that blends the best of all things cycling–and the people who love the lifestyle. Newbies. Club riders. Cruisers. Ultras. Racers. Tourers. Roleurs. I’ve met you on the road (and dirt) and Internet. I think we all share something.

I have narrowed the site down to two names: BikeDesire or BikeCrave 

There’s equal parts black art and metrics-driven rationale to starting a brand. Focus groups tell you a lot, but ultimately people shape community sites and why others decide to visit. Good ideas spread. 

A brand is just one piece. It’s goes beyond logo, typeface or color palette. It’s what you feel. It’s why you pick Specialized over Trek, or Moots over Seven, or Colnago over Pinarello. It’s why you’re a Campy fan or a DA disciple. And vice versa. It’s why you made the leap to SRAM. 

I’m working to turn on the BikeDesire or BikeCrave site in late June before the Tour de France. I hope it’s a compendium of what I like best about the Web: Ulility, Sharing, Helping, Experiencing, Going deep on a topic about which you’re passionate.

Cyclists desire or crave many things in the pursuit of cycling. Enjoyment. Fitness. Comraderie. Peace. Competition. Status. Belonging (group rides). Not belonging (going against the automobile grain). Exploration. Conquest. Of course, Bikes. There’s something that happens when we throw our leg over the top tube and start turning the pedals on these bikes. We can’t always articulate it. But we have the common bond. We desire/crave it, and it becomes part of our the fabric of our lives, mirroring seasons and establishing milestones. Our families and loved ones understand. They support cycling and the great things it can do–and does.

I’ll initially organize the Web site in 3 main categories:

  1. Need (topics, basics, things that cyclists need)
  2. Want (products, experiences, access to other things that cyclists want)
  3. Have (photos, tips, stories, races, routes, fundraisers that cyclists have)

 

As I go down this path, I hope you’ll join me. I plan to share the process so you can see and help shape the outcome. Visuals always help, so here are a few of some 20 logo comps (pre-color) that are on the wall for consideration. Thanks for the early feedback on naming through your tweets, and please be safe out there when riding.

 

bike desire logo with one forward slash grotzec
bikecrave flama semicondense basic
bikedesire radio fm comp
bikecrave flama semicondensed medium

bikecrave radio fm 100 px comp

Breathing and Agonizing…

Let me start with just two words: Great ride.

If that’s all you need to know, you can stop reading now. If you want texture, a bit of flavor, and some weird commentary, then plow onward.

Breathless Agony, which sells out very fast in advance, is a fabulous ride. It’s got some beautiful roads, plenty of climbing (12,000 feet officially), and a personable host in Chuck Bramwell (love the guy).  

Onyx Summit — the ride’s highest point — is at 8,443, according to the sign on the side of the road. You’ll smile when you reach it. Take a photo with the grim reaper, who seems even more grim because he’s at least 6-feet-8-inches, no kidding. Party with friends made along the way after you plop your bike down on special mats.

The timer turns off the second you get there.

My total pedal time per Garmin was right on 6:05 (it was beyond 7:00 counting for rest stations, but more on that later).

So, Onyx Summit is above the snow line? A grim reaper nearly the height of SHAQ? Breathless and Agony together?

What the h#&%!

It’s not as bad as you think.

I swear to you on my white Fizik Arione saddle and a stack of freshly laundered and folded DeFeet Levitator socks.

Here’s the deal: Yes, there is 12,000 total feet of climbing, and nearly 98% of it you’ll tackle in fewer than 80 miles. But the majority of the climbing is on managable grades. You will not encounter sustained 10%+ stretches that turn your legs to dead stone and your back to shattered glass. You will be in the saddle for long stretches as you make your way upward, but you won’t be blowing chunks on the side of the road (a la Mullholland Challenge in 2008 and 100-degree heat, according to hardcore locals).

Just climb.

Oh, and be sure to stay topped off with fluids and your food of choice. Very important.

Warning: There was no Hammer Nutrition at feed stations for this ride.

I focused so much on preparations for rain (that never materialized), I didn’t take a few Ziplock bags of my own stash of Perpetuem (prefer not to eat on hefty climbs; it disagrees with my stomach).

Combine that blunder with a meager dinner of a low-cal veggie burrito the night before, and less than 3 hours of sleep (worrying about the no-show rain), and you get less ride enjoyment, more work and a few leg cramps to boot.

Huh?

What a damn minute here. I had more than 2,700 miles and 225,000 feet of climbing in my legs for calendar year 2009 before Breathless Agony. I was out of breath and in agony on Palomar Mountain many times already to ensure the ride would be a smooth, uneventful cruise.

Such is the cruel and unusual nature of cycling and the beauty of learning.

This time, I got a lesson in humility. Maybe this blog post was a precursor.

A sharp cramp in my left inside quad greeted me at mile 50. That put a giant kabosh on plans to rip the ride in the saddle the entire way up. I alternated saddle time with odd standing intervals to the top. On less than severe grades, standing just doesn’t feel right unless you’re putting it down in the big ring and trying to drill it.

Instead, I was the one being drilled — by the moutain. 

Regardless, an experienced cyclist should know better than to:

(a) Show up without his own Perpetuem

(b) Try to expect something special on less than 3 hours sleep

(c) Eat a low-calorie veggie burrito the night before as “fuel” a serious effort

Despite my goofs, the ride remains a great one. I harbor no ill will toward it, the veggie burrito that I ate or the friendly people at the feed stations. I powered a few PB&J sandwiches before the top and turned on my low-RPM diesel engine. A fellow rider gave me his stash of Perpetuem, and two others handed me Endurolyte tablets from elaborate plastic cases pulled from their jersey pockets. These nice folks saved me from my own stupidity. And to them, I am indebted.

Here are my ratings for the 2009 Breathless Agony ride:

Overall: 9/10 

Scenery: 8/10 (don’t miss the snowcaps in front of you between miles 80 and 90)

People: 9/10 (very nice long-distance riding type crowd; no attitudes)

Pros: Climb from Angeles Oaks to Onyx Summit is quality; Jack Rabbit Trail just rough enough to give you fantasies of Paris-Roubaix (without the Belgian flags and frites).

Cons: A 2-mile piece on Highway 60 with semi-trucks; the last 10 miles backdoor Redlands after a glorious descent.

Pics below at mile 45, mile 74 and mile 82 (approx).

Note: elevation profile is missing 4 miles where I failed to turn on Garmin after stuffing face with said PB&J sandwiches.

Mile 45

Mile 45

At the top

At the top

Mile 82 (approx) on descent

Mile 82 (approx) on descent

Profile minus 4 miles after Angeles Oaks Feed Station

Profile minus 4 miles after Angeles Oaks Feed Station

Fresh air and friends…

It’s been awhile since I ventured up above 6,000+ feet on two wheels. On Saturday, I go where the air is thinner. Onyx Summit is a bit over 8,000 feet in Southern California, and part of a century ride called Breathless Agony.

Climbing is as pure as it gets. 

You, your bike, and the mountains.

It’s where you go deep inside yourself and learn about commitment. It’s where you see if your training measures up. Drafting is pointless. Explosive attacks are only for the 10% who can pull them off. “Dancing on the pedals”? Sure, if you weigh 140 pounds or less and race professionally.

Real mountains and elevation help you make real friends. Suffering equalizes everything from socio-economics to education. No one cares if you have a custom-built bike when they can barely remember their own beneath them as they trundle upward. Lack of oxygen and 190 beats per minute forces all but the fundamental instincts out of the brain.

Cadence, power, and measured effort. We try to get comfortable. We we try to dose the wattage. We try not to bonk.

When we are digging deep, dangling off the back, and secretly begging for help, we are humbled.

No words need to be said. The sounds alone of breathing tell us everything: We are alive, we are outside and we are among friends.

I am Specialized…

The braintrust at Specialized Bikes is on a tear.

After cracking into the pro peloton a few years ago, the U.S. company’s strategy to play in Europe alongside the well-known brands such as Pinarello, Colnago and Time is paying dividends. 

This year already in the win column (a sampling; not full list):

  • Tour of California Prologue (Fabian Cancellara of Saxo Bank on a Transition)
  • Tour of California Stage 8 (Frank Schleck of Saxo Bank on a Tarmac SL2)
  • Tour of Flanders (Sven Devolder of Quick Step on a Tarmac SL2)
  • Paris-Roubaix (Tom Boonen of Quick Step on a Roubaix SL2)
  • Liege-Bastone-Liege (Andy Schleck of Saxo Bank on a Tarmac SL2)

 

The Specialized brand has become synonomous with winnning big (even if Boonen’s rig has a shorter head tube and is beefier than the standard 11r carbon found on factory stock Tarmac SL2’s in your local bike shop).

Kudos to the folks in Morgan Hill, CA who dared to compete with the Italian and French brands that have long dominated Europe. Not only are they doing it with bikes, they are making inroads there in helmets, shoes, and other accessories. It’s amazing, really, when you consider cycling is among the top three spectator sports in Europe. In the U.S., it barely gets on the radar.

It won’t be long before  Trek, the other big American bike brand, turns up the heat. The Grand Tours are when Trek comes out to play. Levi Leipheimer already won the overall at the Tour of California on a Trek Madone, and a famous guy named Lance will be aboard a Madone during the Giro d’ Italia in May.

Cycling, much like golf, is an aspirational activity for non-pros and neo-enthusiasts. We can ride the same roads. We can imagine what it’s like to be in the break. We can (sometimes) hit it 300 yards via equipment that helps power the pros to victory. 

Aspiration is why every weekend in Southern California, you can find riders on $8,000 rides and duffers with $2,000 worth of clubs in their bags.

They are living the dream without the big-name endorsements, podium girls, or adoring galleries.

Achoo..!

Flatting right at twilight before damp offshore clouds roll in is never good for you. One minute, you’re warm, working and mobile, the next you’re wet, chilly and stuck.

Rather than change the tube and pedal home among headlights and high risks, I called home for a ride. Just 15 minutes of waiting can do you in.

Four hearty sneezes this morning are a clear message: be careful and stay healthy.

And for goodness sakes, try to flat under a warm midday sun.

Damn construction staples. Impossible to see. Always trouble.

Shorts or Saddle…

To be a strong rider, you need saddle time.

To get saddle time, you need to be comfortable.

To get comfortable, you need the right shorts (bibs).

To find the right saddle and shorts (bibs), you need to experiment.

Or be lucky. 

When I resumed my riding in 2003 after a long layoff, I chose a Fizik Arione saddle. It was the right choice.

I paired Fizik with Pearl Izumi bibs in the Microsensor flavor. Again, luck trumped science.

Only in the last year, I began to mix in a few other bibs varieties, like Nike, Voler, and now a high-end Assos.

But just a handful. As the trusty Pearl Izumis go threadbare, I tell myself I’m not being unfaitful to the brand. 

Truth be told? I think my secret to comfort is chamois creme. No kidding. Anti-bacterial. Cooling. A damn jar, for crying out loud. How important could it be?

Very important. 

After 100 miles, saddles never feel the same as they did at mile 10. Bibs, meanwhile, have done all they can. At this point, your choice of chamois creme may be the most important decision you’ve made.

I’m serious.

Malibu Barbie…

If you’ve never ridden in the Santa Monica Mountains above Malibu, California, consider doing it before you die.

Why? 

The views are to die for

The climbing isn’t too bad, either.

The “Mulholland Challenge” (organized by the nice folks with Planet Ultra) has something for everyone:

 

  • Mileage (this year it was 101 miles, due to closure of Stunt Road)
  • Elevation gain (my Garmin clocked at 11,400’+ total for day after I downloaded device to laptop)
  • Steep climbing (upwards of 16% at the 80-mile mark)
  • Beauty (See images below I took with my iPhone)
  • Even a bit of attitude (welcome to L.A., now go 100 mph in the fast lane with your hair on fire)

 

 

I used this century ride as part of my training build-up for Climb to Kaiser (155 miles and 14,500′ of climb) in two months. While the weather at Mulholland did not come close to matching the furnace-like conditions of C2K’s last 20 miles, it didn’t disappoint. Ocean crosswind and temps in the 40s greet you on the initial descent. You might want to don warm gloves (I didn’t). What the ride lacked in heat this year (100 last year with reports of people barfing on Decker Canyon Road), it gained in fantastic views and technical pieces of pavenment. 

I rode my trusty Moots Vamoots outfitted with Mavic Ksyrium SLs and Vittoria Corsa CX tires (a bit lighter for climbing than the Open Pros). Given the very choppy condition of asphalt beyond the summit of Little Sycamore Creek Road at the 50-mile mark, I was wishing for my Open Pros. You may want to leave your Zipp 404s at home. 

The ragged pavement in sections was a minor disappointment. I heard a few similar grumbles. C2K descents are far smoother, superior–and, in turn, more rewarding in the bike-handling department. You’ve climbed the hill. You deserve something nice; not a beating.

OK, so about those views. Best of the day was descent of Deer Creek Road. The only way to really take it in is to dismount your bike, which I did. Second best view was Encinal Canyon Road. Absolutely stunning on a clear day.

And did I utter something earlier about attitude?

Yes, unfortunately a few Lance wannabes showed up in full pro race kits (except they weren’t pros), barking at anyone who didn’t immediately yield as they “raced” by to their pro peloton times in this officially titled “ride.” To these aggressively delightful souls (sarcasm), a piece of advice: Get your USCF license, go race against real bike racers who want to rip your legs off, and please leave the machismo schtick at home if you’re going to do a century ride. Seriously, please. Or at a minimum, ride alone at the front from the get-go. That way, no one can be impressed with your social skills–except you.

Yes, I once raced. It was a blast. I still get down to Fiesta Island now and then to compete in time trials. There’s a time and place (rhymes with “race”) for real competition, and it ain’t in a century ride. 

I’d rate the Mulholland Challenge a solid 8/10. 

Pros: Easy to reach for SoCal century riders, glorious views, inland and coastal variety, LA-chic vibe, ride support, nice Subway sandwiches and ice cold Pepsi at the conclusion.

Cons: Easy to reach for wannabe Lances who’d belong in USCF races, ragged pavement between 50-60 mile marks.

For more info, click here for a ride profile from previous years.

For more on Planet Ultra and its offerings, try this link.

Here’s the elevation profile and map off my Garmin from the 2009 version of the event. You cover some of the same roads twice (both ways). Images I took below that.

mulholland-challenge

 

Mile 50 up on Little Sycamore Canyon

Mile 50 up on Little Sycamore Canyon

 

Mile 60 Deer Creek Road descent

Mile 60 Deer Creek Road descent

Malibu views from mile 77 on Encinal Canyon Road

Malibu views from mile 77 on Encinal Canyon Road

Numbers, numbers, numbers…

I’ve been checking the Garmin data. The numbers are starting to make sense.

Forget watts, cadence, and bpm. Just give me mileage, elevation gain and average speed.

It’s been said that Floyd Landis doesn’t like to ride with a bike computer. Or if he does, he likes to dress it up (see 8th paragraph down in the epic profile from Outside 2006). He goes more by feel (and hours in saddle). He’ll time himself on certain climbs, but numbers don’t necessarily turn him on. I’m with Floyd.

Your body tells you when it’s reached a new plateau (if you’re pushing it). Need data? Keep it simple. Especially if you’re not a pro.

No one will ever confuse me for a pro.

George Hincapie is said to use the phrase “no chain.” When he’s riding really well, he says it feels like there’s no chain. In other words, effortless. 

Last year, I had a very large chain. I had a few more kilograms along for the ride, too.

In the planned “build-up” to the 2008 Climb to Kaiser, I had little time to get on form after a March hit-and-run. I logged 953 miles and 71,600′ feet of elevation climb from late April to end of June right before Kaiser. The ride by itself is 14,500′ in a single day.  The pitch of Big Creek Road at 5,000′ and the triple-digit heat on the rollers below Auberry cuts zero slack. Another month of prep would have been perfect.

For the 2009 Kaiser, my climb planning started earlier (December). Here’s my data since I started keeping track:

  • December – 460 – 30,60′
  • January – 537 – 43,100′
  • February – 553 – 38,100′
  • March – 950 – 50,600′

Footnotes:

(1) With daylight savings time, there’s now more time to ride during the week. I haven’t ridden a trainer in several years;  I don’t think I could at this point. (Ryan Pettit, you’ve got my deepest respect.)

(2) I am using Palomar Mountain more strategically, and I’ve added repeats on Torrey Pines to get in climbing mojo when time is short. I still do Highland Valley Road, Scripps Poway Parkway, and Old Julian Highway. I plan to add Honey Springs Road and Sunrise Highway. Variety helps.

Goal for this month: Mulholland Century this Saturday. It promises 12,500′ of climb and should be a good barometer on how things are coming along.  

Goal for May: Breathlesss Agony, another century-length climb-fest in SoCal. 

June? Climb to Kaiser and the Sierras, barring any changes.

For sport, here’s a screen grab of Torrey Pines 10x repeats (6x on the main road with large ring; and 4x on the inner road in small ring). Got me just over 5,000′ of climbing, door-to-door. By comparison, Solvang Double Century had just over 7,000′ of climbing. Are you overloaded with data? Is there something numerical that you can’t live without? If so, please share.

Hope your training is on schedule and the roads are friendly. 

torrey-repeats1