Saturday, November 11, 2017

2017: DALMAC Day 3 - Touring with Tech

The fourth installment of my sixth DALMAC (Dick Allen Lansing Mackinac) ride this summer. 

Pure Michigan Hospitality! Boardman, MI.
Day 3 starts out as the coldest day so far. My weather app shows 37℉ at 6 AM as I am packing up for the day. This does mean the cold weather gear is coming out; tights, two jerseys, one a long sleeve, a winter cycling cap and fingered gloves. There is very heavy morning dew, so my tent will be packed wet and I will have to dry it this afternoon at the next overnight. (And my wet tent, along with 150 other wet tents in the baggage trucks, is why you double bag everything, even in your baggage.)

We are going to be riding downhill for most of the day, dropping from our current 1200 ft. to 600 ft. by late in the day. But we are still riding up and over enough of northern Michigan’s glacial moraines and inland dunes that despite the overall loss of elevation, the day will still have 1,900 feet of climbing in the 67 miles ahead.

Breakfast is a quieter affair with our downsized group. The breakfast fare is similar, and I enjoy a mix of eggs, sausage, oatmeal, a couple small pancakes and some fruit. After breakfast, it is back out to the bikes.  I change into my cycling shoes and zip my Keene’s into my bag, and then walk them to truck, carefully climbing the damp metal ramp.  It always seems harder to walk down the ramp then up, so I use the door’s handrail and step down off the bumper.

I am surprised at how many riders are already on the road as we mount up.  I felt no need to rush out on a cold morning and a relatively short day of riding.   In any case, we will still have plenty of company on the road.  We start off at a pace that soon takes care of the chill, heading north and quickly leaving the town behind.  We are now riding in mostly forest, with only a few scattered fields as evidence of past farming.

Smooth roads and clear skies!
We are on M66, a state highway with a little more vehicle traffic, but wide lanes and shoulders.  The cars and occasional trucks are very accommodating; it also helps that with the long, straight grades, there are dozens of cyclists, in bright clothing and some with daytime running lights, visible for a mile or two up the road.

About 8 miles down from the start, we turn off M66 to follow the “old M66”.  We lose the traffic, and but immediately start a mile-long grade to gain 200 feet, and by the top, being cold is not a concern.  We continue along the top of a ridge for a couple more miles, and then start a 3-mile descent, dropping twice the elevation we had just climbed.  I have ridden this twice before, and I remember the 30 mph roll-out on the tandem the last time.  I settle into the drops, fingers floating on over the brake levers, until the road brings us back to M66.

Steve finishes up the old M66 roll-out.
While writing these blogs, I realized how much I have ingrained today's tech into my riding, and to compare it to my early experience.  Weather is always available, where in the past, unless you had a portable radio, and could find a a local station, and caught the forecast, you were completely dependent on the ride organizers to post something on a bulletin board at a sag or during the overnights.  Likewise, the daily search for a working pay phone was part my first DALMAC adventure; now texts, emails and Facebook posts flow readily back and forth between family and friends as I work my way north.

PIE!  The Boardman Church bake sale!
You lived by your map book and painted Dan Henry’s on those rides; now my GPS is loaded with the routes, and gives me turn by turn directions.   Speed was a rarely known data point, and mileage was recorded by a mechanical cyclometer, clicking away on my front hub.  My electronic minion on the handlebars collects speed, cadence, route, heart rate, elevation and temperature, minute by minute, all logged away and sent through my phone to a website later in the day.  This replaces the daily note books where I tried to track each day’s mileage, when I remembered to write it down.  And even that journal is replaced with an iPad, or the synced notes on my iPhone, where I also travel with a library of a half dozen books, and a dozen favorite albums.

The elevation data is also another interesting aspect of the GPS.  In the past, you remembered the big hills, but you never really thought about the constant changes of the terrain as you crossed the state.  Inland Michigan almost 500 feet above the surrounding great Lakes, and crossed by many streams and small rivers.  The GPS elevation data really brings that to life.  It was also interesting to talk so some riders who were not using a GPS, one was a TCBA volunteer, who didn’t realize you could download the route and elevation to your phone.

An abandoned farm on Valley Road - near Kalkaska.
Lights are another big change; I have come a long way from the simple 6-watt generator and battery arm & leg light that came along on my early DALMAC rides. I have both front and rear daytime running lights which I have been using for the 2 full riding seasons. Both are visible for over half a mile, and strongly recommend them for all road riders.  I am happy to see at least a 1/3 of the riders using them, and hope more will be using them next year.

After another stretch on M66, turn west to go up to the church at Boardman, where the congregation has hosted a DALMAC bake sale for many years.  I enjoy some pie and a sandwich and a GatorAde, and pick-up some  some cookie bars to go.  It is still cool, but the sun is bright and day is slowly warming up as we head out again.   We are soon rolling north on M131 through Kalkaska, and then turn west on M72.

A few miles west of Kalkaska we turn of the main road on to Valley Road.  It is a relatively recent route change and new to me.  We are following a winding road through a mix of small hillside farms and forest; it reminds me of both riding in New England, and the roads in Traverse Bay area, another day’s ride north.  It is great improvement over the long run on a state highway that I recalled.

A "two-day" cookie!
Another dozen miles and we arrive in Rapid City for an official sag stop featuring 6” cookies, and a few miles later our lunch stop at a cafe in Alden.  We are on Torch Lake, and this is a summer resort area, so for many of the businesses, Labor Day is the end of summer. Yes, we will be followed in a few weeks by the Leafers, then the hunters after that and probably some snowmobilers in the months that follow.  But I grew up in a family that ran a small Michigan lakeside hotel for two generations; Labor Day in Michigan is always the end of The Season, of summer sun and play, the signal to return to school, work and life’s other obligations.

Our riding day finishes with a long stretch along the eastern shore of Torch Lake, though the lake is only occasionally glimpsed through the trees and between homes and cottages.  The road is freshly paved, and the traffic is light, and the day has warmed enough that I am down to a jersey and arm warmers.  We finally begin the last climb over the ridge before we drop into Central Lake, and another high school.

Now that's cooking!
At the school grounds, I find my bag and a spot for my tent, and soon have everything out and my tent drying.  The sun is bright, and the everyone is in a festive mood.  The weather is perfect for the outdoor barbecue the school is preparing, complete with an open grill and roasted sweet corn.  It’s a perfect end to the third day and over 220 miles so far.

After dinner, I take a short walk into town for some socializing with Steve and a few of his Lansing friends. It’s a very comfortable evening, though with the clear sky, it will probably cool off quickly, and it does.  We return to the school just before dark, and I settle into my tent for the night, looking forward to a good night’s sleep and another day of riding ahead.  Life is good.

Day 3 by the numbers:
Start: Lake City
Finish: Central Lake
Mileage:  67.1 (227.9)
Riding Time: 4 hours, 22 Minutes
Lunch:  Alden
Elevation: +1914 / -2498 ft

227 miles in, Life is Good

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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

2017: DALMAC Day 2 - Sleep, Eat, Ride, Repeat

The third installment of my sixth DALMAC (Dick Allen Lansing Mackinac) ride this summer. 

Ready to roll out under a hazy sunrise.
I wake at 5:30 after a good night’s sleep. It has been a couple of years since I last slept in a tent and it feels so comfortable and familiar, and I wish I could do it more often. My family never camped when I was growing up, and DALMAC was my first camping trip.  From that first tour, it became a regular habit, with sometimes 2 or 3 weeks of trips and overnights a year, even as our family grew.  I wonder how many nights that now totals; 80? 90, 100? I still look forward to more.

I was up only once during the night, and even with the floodlights around the school, I was rewarded by a sky full of stars.  It’s nice to be heading north, away from the city lights, to be under a sky that is so alive with starlight.  (I will end up wishing I enjoyed that first my night more, as overcast would dominate the remaining evenings.)

If in doubt, try everything, it's 85 miles to dinner.
I pull on today’s kit; each day is bagged separately in its own ziplock, and as I dress, the same camping habits kick-in. I reverse the prior night’s un-packing process, working methodically to break camp before breakfast.  I soon have everything back in its assigned place, and step outside into the early morning twilight to break down my tent.

I have my tent down and bags packed by 6:30, and Steve and I head into breakfast. It’s a cooler morning than yesterday, and will stay that way; yesterday we rode in the 60’s and low 70’s. Today are starting at near 50, and will have light winds out of the north, with a mid 60's high.  Based on the forecast, there is no need to break out the really cold weather gear, and I start out with arm warmers, leg warmers and a vest.

The breakfast line moves quickly, with offerings of scrambled eggs, bacon, oatmeal, pancakes, muffins, and juice.  The routes will split later today, so this is the last meal with the larger group.  The combined stop seemed to work well, and it was fun to have the extra time to socialize with some long time friends now heading out on the different route.  I make a point to say thanks to the students, parents and staff serving breakfast before leaving the cafeteria.

Was Team Roadkill on DALMAC?
It’s a sunny morning, and we are soon on the road at a steady, mile eating pace. Today’s route is unique in that we spend almost 25 miles without a turn, just the road name changing as we cross a county line.   After 18 miles we enter Beal, Michigan, a rural four-corner town. Like many towns in the days ahead, DALMAC traffic has been an annual tradition for decades or longer.  It’s a stop for a snack, but it has not warmed up enough to strip down yet, and we are soon back on the road.

The riding falls into a regular pattern, the small towns and sags coming up every dozen miles or so.  After Beal, Farwell, Lake George, Temple, and Falmouth are between us and our destination, Lake City.  The roads are wide, smooth and quiet, and for the most part, our bicycle’s are the predominate traffic.  While it is mostly farmland, woodlots are becoming more common with each mile we travel north.  Many of the farm houses we pass are now closed or abandoned, the result of small family farms giving way to larger consolidated operations.

The Marion High School ice cream stop - 10 years, at least!
While a popular lunch stop is an outdoor barbecue hosted by a local resort, with the cooler temps, we opt to ride further down the road for an indoor meal at a tavern in Lake George.  Another half dozen riders join us, and it’s fun reunion.  One of the riders is Pat Baughn, who had purchased his first tandem from me 30 years before, and rode it thousands of miles with his wife Becky.  Another couple is riding their tandem for their 20th something DALMAC, and they are both in the mid 70’s.  (It’s encouraging to know I have so many years of riding to look forward too!)  After lunch, they will be short cutting to their overnight on the 5 West route, so we won’t see them again until Sunday.

We frequently intersect SBR-20.
We have been climbing gradually all morning, gaining almost 400 feet, with most of that in the 10 miles before lunch.  We have forested rollers for the next few miles, and will spend the night at one of the highest points on the ride.  It is nice that is warming up, since at 60 miles, we have a traditional ice cream stop, a fund raiser for a small local high school.  This year it is the cross-country team making sundaes in the large grassy median of a rural intersection.  Dozens of riders are enjoying the stop, and I chat with a group of Indianapolis riders who I met at registration.  They are new to distance riding and struggling a bit, but still having fun.

Back on the road, it is still 25 miles to the overnight.  This is the second longest day of the at 85 miles.   The riding continues to be a mix of rolling forested hills and farmland, though now it is patches of farmland amidst the trees.  At 10 miles out there is the option for another food stop, and though tempting, we actually pass on the chance for pie.

Settled in for another night.
The last stretch of farmland gives quickly away to a town, and then the road T’s at Lake Missaukee and we are in Lake City.  Another mile takes us to the high school and the next ad-hoc campground.  The ritual of setting camp begins again as my bike is leaned against a fence, my bags are retrieved from the truck, and my tent goes up for another night. It has been another good day on the road, and time to start planning for tomorrow’s ride.

Day 2 by the numbers:
Start: Vestaberg
Finish: Lake City
Mileage:  86.5 (160.8)
Riding Time: 5 hours, 56 Minutes
Lunch:  Lake George
Elevation: + 2755 / - 2405 ft

Sleep, Eat, Ride, Smile, Repeat!

Continued in Day 3 - Touring with Tech

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Monday, November 6, 2017

2017: DALMAC Day 1 It's Great To Be Back

The second installment of my sixth DALMAC (Dick Allen Lansing Mackinac) ride this summer. 

My alarm goes off at 5:30 after a good night's sleep. Steve and I are working registration again, so I decide to wear street clothes to start, and pack a go bag with my riding kit for today.  After a quick breakfast, we load Steve's bike and all our bags for the drive over to MSU.  It's a very foggy morning, with a local fog advisory until10:00am; I am okay that we will be starting a little later.

This morning I am working packet pickup, and have some fun welcoming rookie riders with a shout-out, or mentioning a connection to their home town.  There is a steady flow of riders to each table and route starting today, though my box seems slow to empty. With the mid-week start, many riders will wait until the last minute, or have bags dropped off and then pick up their packets at the first overnight.

Me and Steve, ready to roll again.
We end up working a couple of hours, and by 8:30, with the initial rush over, we hand off our work,  and Steve checks in with the ride director on a few last minute details (something he will be doing the entire ride by phone). We both grab our bags and finish changing into our riding gear.

The fog is clearing as we walk to my van to for our bikes and bags. Steve has two large roller duffle compared to my jumbo roller duffle. There are pros and cons to either approach. In my bag, all my gear dived between multiple 5-gallon Ziplock bags, to keep things dry and isolated from my camping gear,  that is sure to damp in the days ahead. My bag is close to 50 lbs., and can be a challenge to lift. But after 10 years and 2-3 trips a year, it is holding up well, so I am in no hurry to replace it.

Lunch time!
In the end, when I am done loading my bike and shifting my gear between bike and baggage, I end up putting a luggage tag on my overnight duffle for a few last-minute packing decisions, and tossing it on the baggage truck. With all up our gear finally on the truck, and after a final double check that I locked my car, I take a launch picture, and we are ready to roll

I am riding my Trek Domane 2.3. Rather than a touring bike, it’s a sport endurance bike. I am riding with an Arkel Tailrider rack trunk on their Randoneur seat post rack.  It is the first time I have ever done a multi-day tour without a handlebar bag for a camera. Now that I am using my iPhone for about half my photos, the need for a camera in the bag is not as imperative.  I am still carrying my pocket sized Nikon CoolPix for a "real" camera, and have along a a GoPro for some video later in the ride. I think I will have enough pictures.

Riding the Fred Meijer Heartland Trail
I am also touring on a bike without fenders, a decision was that was actually harder to make, especially considering my history on my second DALMAC.  All during August I went back and forth about riding the Domane or my Trek 920 adventure bike (new this year), with plush tires, full fenders and a full rear rack.  With the outlook for the week looking dry, I opted for the lighter, faster ride on the Domane. (My Trek 920 will get the nod the next DALMAC, when I plan to ride to the start.)

We first head north toward the Michigan State campus.  The very first thing we pass is the commuter parking that used to be called Y-Lot.  In the 70's, Y-Lot was the south edge of campus, it it was the starting point for many TCBA weekly evening and weekend rides, and for DALMAC.  It was at one of those Y-Lot weeknight rides that I met my wife.  As we continue across campus, crossing the Red Cedar, the new buildings are obvious, but some of the old landmarks where I visited and partied with friends are still visible.

Leaving campus, we ride through a half dozen miles of neighborhoods on the north east side of Lansing,  before heading out of the city on a quiet highway.  We soon enter the suburb of Dewitt, and come to our first sag stop for bagels and fruit.  We have only been on the road an hour, the sunny day has burned off the fog, and vest and arm-are put away for the day has we continue on.

Crossing the Pine River
Just a few miles beyond the sag I notice the first “Rural Internet Service” sign; a sure indication you are riding out in the country.   The miles are easy, under the bright sun with little wind.   Despite our late start, we still have plenty of company on the road. We are riding through fields of corn, beans hay, along with some large dairy operations.  Summer green is just starting to give way to harvest-time gold and browns, a reminder that this is almost September.  The terrain is easy and rolling, occasionally crossing small creeks and streams.  Bikes make up the majority of the traffic unless we are close to a town.

The next couple of hours of riding go by quickly, and we arrive Maple Rapids, a small 4 corner town, ready for lunch.  A little community park in the center of town has tables and chairs under a large open tent, put there for the riders passing through today and tomorrow.  The town is filled with riders, and we have to hunt to for a vacant wall near the tent to lean our bikes.  Steve then leads me across the street to an Amish run general store.  They are serving up deli sandwiches on fresh baked rolls and incredible baked goods, and I opt for a beef brisket sandwich, some chips, a raspberry cream cheese roll, along with some Gatorade.  It's a nice break, and good start to the routine for the days ahead. The bikes have thinned out as we leave town for the afternoon miles.

Another hour and half down the road Alma is the last town out for the day.  Alma is Dick Allen's home town, and DALMAC has had a sag stop here at a community park for many for years.  At the park, I come across a piece of playground equipment that my son Justin had climbed into on our DALMAC together in 2009.  He was 14 at the time, and almost 6 foot tall, but still climbed into a toddlers monkey bars.  I snap a picture on my phone and text it to him.  He soon replies back that he remembers the place, and we both share a smile across the years.

A picture perfect central Michigan farm vista.
From Alma, the route takes to the Fred Meijer Heartland rail trail for last 10 miles of the day.  After a short stretch leaving town, we are soon riding through rolling farmland in a tree shaded corridor overlooking acres of crops, with only an occasional glimpse of distant farms and homes.  We finally cross a slow moving river on an old railroad bridge, and then come back to the main road into Vestaberg.  A ¼ mile down the main road we roll into the school grounds for our first overnight.

We are arriving late in the afternoon, and it is already a colorful tent city for almost 500 riders, the combined totals of the 5-West and 5-UP (mine) routes. After parking our bikes along a fence on the school grounds, Steve and I find our bags, and look for a spot for our tents.  I now look carefully to be sure I am not under a floodlight, and even with no rain the forecast, that I am not in telltale low-spot.

My tent goes up quickly, and my camping habits come back like old friends; straps in stuff sacks, staff sacks combined, gear and bags settling in the customary locations in the corner of the tent to be found easily during the night, or the next morning.  It may appear to be OCD, but it just works.  I am finally ready to grab a shower, and that is when my first packing error becomes apparent; my after ride T-shirt is now back in my in van in East Lansing.  So I go through my outfits and find a t-shirt base layer, which will have to work for the rest of the week.

Dinner at Vestaberg High School
After my shower, Steve and I head to the cafeteria for dinner.  On the way we drop-off our tech gear for recharging.   To keep my phone handy, I charge it off a back-up battery, and then charge the battery later.  And I now have a single charger, with 5 USB outlets to charge everything in one shot.  With a headlight, 2 taillights, a GPS and the back up-battery, it saves a lot of time  (A lesson I learned, the hard way, a few years before on a multi-state tour.)

The dinner is Mexican food, served cafeteria style and it’s filling.  During dinner I get to chat with some other riders,  connecting by their rider jersey's or T-shirts.  Besides Michigan, there are lot jerseys from Ohio and Indiana, and some from even father common.   I even connect with some riders from of Jackson (near my smaller home town of Brooklyn), who Linda and I had ridden with on an LMB tour in June.

After dinner I head back to my tent, to finish some sorting and prepping for the next day.  I call home and send a few emails, and then catch the weather.  Tomorrow will be dry, but with a cooling trend in the forecast.  There is chance to rain over the weekend, but nothing like an all day rain.  I make a final tour of the campground to pick up the last of my gear from the charging station, confirm our starting plans with Steve, and then bed down for night.  It’s great to be back.

DALMAC 2017 Day 1 by the numbers:
Start: East Lansing
Finish: Vestaberg
Mileage:  74.3
Riding Time: 5 hours, 8 Minutes
Lunch:  Maple Rapids
Elevation: 1896 / - 1827 ft

It's great to be back!

Continued in Day 2 - Sleep, Eat, Ride, Repeat

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

2017 - DALMAC Day 0 - Reminders and Memories

Eight years. I never expected it to take that long to be back ride another DALMAC (Dick Allen Lansing to Mackinaw).  My rides in '08 & '09 seem like yesterday. Funny how I kept ending up in all these life situations where Labor Day travel was not possible or practical.   Maybe if I had made those missed years each one would not seem as special. I am just happy to be here again, and to see so many familiar faces and places. 

I meet my friend Steve at the MSU Pavillion, the DALMAC registration check-in, after driving straight through from home.  Steve and I go back to the late 70’s, having met on rides around Lansing.  Steve was a DALMAC chair for my third time to ride in 1979, the same year I was the Tri-County Bicycle Association (TCBA) club treasurer.  We worked together as I chaired another event before leaving in 1980 to follow Linda home to Missouri. It worked out that we kept in touch and kept meeting for bike events, even as I moved first to Indiana and then the west coast, and we both raised families.  For the past 10 years we have met for at least 1 ride somewhere in the Midwest, sometime just Steve and I, and sometime the with our wives and families.

I work registration with Steve for 2 hours Tuesday night. The work is so familiar, the same routine of rider packets, map books, clothing orders, luggage tags and wrist bands.   The packets are alphabetized in dozens of boxes; the only variation for DALMAC is the different tables for each route.  

While no longer required, riders have the option to pickup a DALMAC flag on a 6 foot pole, ready to mount on the rear hub or rack.  The are still popular with many riders, and many arrive with years or bridge crossing ribbons on the flag pole.  I skipped riding with mine this year, though I have one in my bag to place outside my tent each night.  (I tried to find my DALMAC 74, flag, but it is stashed in a box somewhere, so I had to settle for my "newer"  flag from 1979.  The new flags are no longer dated.)

2017 DALMAC Check-in
My work assignment for Tuesday night is the information table.  Each rider has questions and situations, some you hear every time, and some new. Where do I park? Is it too late to get a jersey?  Where are the maps?  And the new: the woman without her driver license, left behind in her old wallet (Costco picture ID is fine). The family expecting an exchange student the next day, who will start riding from the airport (no problem, her packet can be picked up in Vestaberg). All are taken care of, everyone goes away happy and excited. 

The entire event is run by volunteers.  The volunteers are for the most part older, as they usually are. Part of that is spare time available, but there should, has to be, more younger ones coming along.  What factors produced a wave of people that made these events possible, and yet did not, or could not produce a wave to follow? No easy answer to either question.  There is one thing they all seem to common; everyone of them has ridden 5-10-15 even 20 or more DALMACs themselves.  They all have the same smiles and memories.
With Dick Allen, the man responsible for DALMAC.
The riders checking in all seemed touched with grey, and all look familiar. Not that I know them, but that they have that same look from every other ride I have attended for the last 10 years; TOSRV, Hilly, River Ride, etc.  The younger riders and families will check in the next morning.  But there is still a lot of grey riding.

About halfway through the evening Dick Allen comes through.   He is in his mid-80’s now and still has that same sparkle in his eyes and smile, but his overall appearance reminds me it has been 8 years.  I shake his hand, and say hello, and get a picture with him.  I don’t know if I am really recognized, but wonder if he can appreciate how much his event shaped the life of that 17-year-old kid followed him out of Y-lot that first time so many years ago.

After registration closes for the night, I follow Steve to his home, driving what he calls the back way. As we head south from campus, we are on the same roads that every TCBA weeknight “Y-Lot” ride followed.  Fittingly, a groups of riders are coming up the road as the sunset approaches, the first in  a fast pace line, and then stragglers in 2-3s.   We cross under the highway, past the cross streets and roads from so many weeknight rides. Each intersection we pass in the twilight brings brings back a memory of summer evening rides from years past.

Back at the house Steve, his wife Maria and I socialize for a bit and have a snack.  We catch up on family and kids and Maria’s recent retirement.  Even Maria admits it's hard to believe it has been 8 years between DALMACs.  But all the other riders that we have made together have kept the ties close.  We say our good nights, and since Maria is skipping this DALMAC, it is so long until Monday morning, almost a week away.

Before bedding down, I shuffle a few items of gear between bags, trying to wean down the load, but it isn't easy to leave something behind. Choices are easier when you are carrying the load on your bike yourself rather tossing it on a truck. I don't think I have anything overly extraneous; I could potentially use all of it. There is still the nagging question of what did I forget?  I guess I will find out tomorrow night (And I did).

Continued in Day 1: It's Great to Be Back!

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

#10weeksto100 - Week 10 - Ten Tips from Experience

So I have covered the #10weeksto100!  Your final week should be focused and relaxed riding and getting some extra rest.  Here are my final 10 tips for the big event, and

1) Pack the Night Before
You are going to be a little nervous, so lay everything out, and be sure it all makes it to the car.

2) Ride Your Plan, but be ready for the unexpected
You can’t control the weather, and other things that can happen.  Each ride is unique, and chance to learn what to do, or what to be ready for,  the next time.

3) It’s Okay to Bail f You Are Not Ready 
Don’t turn two weeks of recovery into a lost summer by riding through a nagging joint pain.  Learn from the mistakes, and try again later in the season or next year. Each event you ride is more training and more experience for the next time.
It all comes together!  2016 Rollfast Gran Fondo start.

4) Your Ride Will be No Better Than Your Preparation
If you haven’t trained while riding at 18 miles per hour, you will not finish the ride at 18 miles per hour.

5) It Is Better to Ride Smart, Than To Just Ride More  
If your preparation consists of lots of long slow rides - you will get very good at long slow riding!

6) Learning to Ride Faster Will Help Relieve Seat Pain!
Fast Riding techniques (standing, changing hand and back position, weight on arms), can all reduce saddle pain.

7) Riding with a Group Is More Fun
Casual group riding can be a good incentive, but should not be confused with the skills required to ride pace lines and drafting.  For those skills, find a mentor or experienced friend who can coach you.  Riding in a fast group is much more than just being fast.

8) Clean Your Bike Before Your Event
Maybe it is just one of my athletic habits or superstitions, but I always clean my bike the day or night before a big event.  It is also a very good way to find and eliminate any surprise maintenance issues.

9) Always Clean the Kitchen Before Leaving for a Training Ride
Yes, I started doing this about 5 years ago, and my wife REALLY appreciates this gesture.  But the real message is keep a balance in your life, and make sure you have the support of your family.

10) Always Have Fun
Along with balance, remember that while the goal may be challenging, and conditions on the day of the ride may tougher than you expected,  you should always be enjoying the ride.

Week 10 of the #10weeksto100. 

 The series is intended as mentoring, rather than athlete specific coaching. The being the case, these are broad, general guidelines of a riding style and philosophy. You can find the series intro here - Preparing for Your First Long Ride or Century

#10weeksto100- Week 9 - Be Visible, Be Predictable, Be Aware

I will admit that safety was not a topic in my original outline for #10weeksto100.  Rather than an oversight, my safety habits are so in grained that I do, to some extent, take them for granted.  As I reviewed this series, I realized that the novice riders this series is intended for is going to have many concerns and questions about safety as they begin to ride more and expand their riding territory.

Let me start by saying, this is not intended to be a comprehensive, all-you-need-to-know safety article.  What I have tried to put words is what I believe to be is a bicycle safety framework.  Just like your training miles, use these practices to build your foundation of safe riding practices.

With friends on the Wabash River Ride - Lafayette, IN
There will always be safety risks in cycling. On a bicycle, you are relying on the combined interactions of your balance, the road and other environmental factors; as a result, the vast majority of cycling accidents and injuries are from falls, with no other vehicles involved.  At the same time, social media tends to magnify the horrific incidents, while overlooking the year-over-year trend of fewer accidents per miles ridden (with participation also increasing) over the last 10 years.   Any fatality is one too many, yet cycling remains an inherently safe activity, with many health benefits, for over 100 million Americans every year. For cycling, as in life, your best outcomes result from knowing the risks, and doing what you can to mitigate them.

Searching web, you can find hundreds of articles and with dozens of rules for safe riding.  But how do you distill them down to what is important? As with successful training, safety works best when it becomes a habit, something done as second nature.  After years of riding, training as a safety instructor and talking about bicycle safety in hundreds of different settings, I believe Be Predictable, Be Visible, Be Aware are three best habits for riding safety.

These should be a framework for every interaction you have on the road.  Each relates to the many rules and best practices you will read about for safe cycling, and distills them down to basics you can remember and make second nature

There is no better illustration of these habits in practice than riding through an intersection, where your predictability, visibility and awareness are all brought into play.
Predictable: Am I positioned where a driver would expect to see me?
Visible: Am I going to be visible to a driver?
Aware: Have I looked everywhere a vehicle might be?

Here are some more insights on how you can put them into practice.

Be Predictable.  Following the rules of the road is a critical safety practice for a cyclist; not only because of the implied protection, but because it will place you where another motorist is expecting to see you.  The illusion of safety by “cheating” in traffic is that when you are behaving unexpectedly, other drivers may not see you, or be able to anticipate what your next move is going to be so they can react accordingly.

Another aspect of being predictable is to signal your intentions.  This starts with the use of hand signals to indicate you are turning or changing lanes.  You are also predictable by where you position yourself in the road, for example, using the indicated turn lane at an intersection.  Again, being where other vehicles expect a vehicle to be is half the visibility challenge.  Finally, obeying traffic signal and signage is another way to being predictable, in that motorists will see you has a vehicle behaving correctly in traffic.

Be Visible. Research indicates that cyclists are safest when motorist are aware of them at 400 yards (roughly a ¼ mile) or more. At typical driving and riding speeds, that would give the motorist at least 25 seconds to notice a cyclist and react appropriately.  The risks to all road users from Distracted Driving makes the steps you take to insure your visibility that much more important.  For road cyclists, being visible has both active and passive components.

Riding with a few friends - RAIN 2016 
For active visibility, bicyclists have always been required to use a headlight and taillight when riding between dusk and dawn.  Now, through recent developments in batteries and electronics, reliable and inexpensive Daylight Running Lights are available for cycling.  Used on the front (white) and rear (red or red/while strobe), these lights are typically visible up to a ½ mile or more in daylight.  Safety studies have already shown that daylight running lights reduce accidents for motorcycles and automobiles.  My personal observation, since I began to use daytime lights in 2016 (and the anecdotal evidence of dozens of cyclists I have spoken with) indicates these lights make a difference driver behavior.  Daylight running lights start about $50 for the taillight, and twice that or less for a complete set.  I have covered them in more detail in this blog, Time to Light Up.

The passive components of visibility are clothing and road position.  Bright, contrasting colors, especially on your legs and arms, helps motorists to recognize a bicyclist.   Most cycling clothing today, especially if intended for cool or foul weather, includes reflective panels or piping.  Just remember that you cannot rely on reflective materials (and reflectors) alone for riding at dusk, dawn and in between.

Road position goes together with predictability and is also a part of insuring your visibility. Riding too close to the edge of the road moves you out of a driver’s line of sight, and has a result, you can be lost in the road side clutter of signs and mail boxes.  If you are new to cycling, or have not had any safety training, moving into and with the flow of traffic can feel quite intimidating.  These are riding skills acquired through time and experience, and you can find some very good resources on road position from the League of American Bicyclists, including their informative Ride Smart videos.

Be Aware.  When on your bike, your awareness of what is going on around you is just as important as your visibility and predictability.  This starts with the surface beneath your wheels, because defects and debris in the road can result in an embarrassing spill or even serious injury.  Next, you need to be aware of the other road users, not just motor vehicles, but other riders and pedestrians.  It is also important to be alert for the unexpected, be it a loose dog coming out a yard, or low hanging branch over a trail. Awareness also includes how you interact with drivers, and what else you bring along for the ride; music,  “ride” technology and that "other stuff" that might be on your mind.

Riding in traffic, it is important to trust, but verify that you have been seen. While I ride with a helmet mirror, I rely on glancing back to make eye contact with a driver before making any move in traffic. This is especially important for a left turn or other lane change.  Making eye contact is also important at 4-way intersections and in roundabouts.  If I am not certain I have made eye contact, I will wait before committing to my next move.  Making eye contact with a motorist is one of the best ways to be sure you have been seen.

Awareness also requires you avoid too many distractions.  While working out to your favorite music is great in the confines of a gym, riding with headphones can isolate you from sounds and warnings from vehicles, and more importantly, other riders when riding in groups.  You also want to avoid information overload on your handlebars. Speed, distance and elapsed time are the basics most people ride with, yet the latest bicycle computers and phone apps can provide up to a dozen bits of information.  While riding, avoid studying the tech on your handlebars to the point you are not paying attention to the road and traffic.  Configure the displays for a few basics, and use download tools to study results after the ride.  It is also important to use common sense when dealing with calls and texts.   Distracted cycling can be just as dangerous for you (and other riders) as a distracted driver.

Your safety in riding on the road also requires that you be mentally fully engaged in riding.  You must be careful about zoning out and concentrating on your workout (or a life/work problem) to the point that you ignore what is going around you.   Stay focused on the complete riding experience, and give your mind a break from that other stuff in your life.

One last bit of awareness is to know where you plan to ride.  While you have a right to bike every road, not every road is right for riding.  Reach out to your local cycling community for good training routes, and the “outlet” routes to bypass higher traffic roads.  These exist in almost every community.  If you are new to cycling, you will soon be amazed about all the alternative routes you never considered during your routine driving for work and errands.

My hope is that you find Be Visible, Be Predictable and Be Aware as helpful tools for your cycling safety.  I believe incorporating these as habits into your riding every day can tie together the skills and knowledge you gain through you own experience and research.  The most important thing for you to remember is you are responsible for your safety, and you should never rely solely on the actions and intentions of others.

Please be safe out there, and please feel free to contact me if you have questions on this topic.

Week 9 of the #10weeksto100. 

 The series is intended as mentoring, rather than athlete specific coaching. The being the case, these are broad, general guidelines of a riding style and philosophy. You can find the series intro here - Preparing for Your First Long Ride or Century

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

#10Weeksto100 - Week 8 - Drink, Eat, Repeat

Aside from bikes and gear, there probably isn’t any topic brought up more in bicycling than food and drink. From the best recovery drink, the highest energy snack, or the best post-ride burger, brew or ice cream, bicyclists are almost as obsessive about food as they are their gear. Endurance cycling events are also unique in that some can require a full meal to complete; food you almost have to consume during the event.

"Eat before you are hungry.

Drink before you are thirsty,"

That is one of the earliest bits of commonly shared cycling advice, written over 120 years ago. While the choices and options have changed, it remains true today. During a long ride or event, if you dig too deep into your body’s energy stores without replenishing, it will diminish your enjoyment as you work through the “bonk” to finish. And if you fall behind in hydration, you put yourself at a serious health risk, especially in warmer weather.

Prepping my on-bike and sag bottles for RAIN 2016 
This is also why most important add-on equipment for your endurance training and riding are two water bottle mounts on your bike. Two bottles provide you with 40 ounces or more of fluids, enough for riding 2-3 hours. You may also want insulated bottle, like the CamelBak chill, since cool water is easier for most riders to drink. If you are not comfortable drinking from while maintaining your pace, you may want to consider a hydration pack. With a pack, single action brings the drinking tube to your mouth, and you are back to both hands on the handlebars in just a second or two.

For the novice, the duration of the ride is your best guide to eat and drink. As your workout time increases, you will need to plan accordingly. Workout intensity, on the other hand, impacts what you can choose to eat or drink; the harder you are attempting to ride, the simpler your foods should be, and you rely on smaller, more frequent snacks. Here are the three time frames you should consider for your training and event ride.

Rides up to an hour – Fluid Replenishment is Your Primary Concern
These are your weeknight and recovery rides. Yes, even on these shorter rides, drinking is important, especially in warmer weather. It’s also good practice if learning to drink while rolling is a new skill for you. Your goal is bottle per hour, and for these shorter rides plain water is fine. Most people start with enough stored energy for a 60-minute workout, but carry one energy gel, which has about 25g of carbs, just in case, for example, if you are riding after work and before dinner. A tip from experience: eating a full meal within an hour of finishing an intense workout will help your recovery.

Rides up to 2 or 3 hours: Time to think about Carbohydrate Replenishment
You need be ready with a bottle each of water and sports drink, as your rides go over an hour. You may start the ride hydrated, but make sure to start into your first bottle during that first hour. While you can get some carbs from an energy drink don’t depend too much on sugary drink, your first solic snack should come after an hour. Fresh fruit or an energy bar a good choices her. Rather than calories, learn to think in terms of carbs, and your goal is to take 30-60g of carb per hour. Bars have more carbs, about 45g, but take more effort to eat on the go. Sport Gels are an easy alternative to bars, but be sure to try them during training; don’t add something new to your diet the day of the event.

Rides of three hours and longer: Keeping the Body’s Pantry Stocked
As your rides get longer, you have to keep drinking and keep snacking. It’s important to be adding both water and sport drink with both carbs and electrolytes, and be drinking at least a bottle an hour. You also need to 30-60g of carb per hour, from fruits, energy bars, and real foods. Digestion can get harder as rides get longer, so eat more solids at the beginning of the ride, and rely on gels for quick energy in the last third of the ride.

On these longer training rides and your events, your challenge is keeping up with the demand for energy. If you wait to long to “re-fuel”, it can take 30 to 45 minutes for your body’s metabolism to catch up. This is what experienced riders call the “bonk” or “hitting the wall”. In most cases, you just start to feel lethargic and your legs feel empty, at it’s worst, you may even feel light headed. With experience, you can learn to ride through the bonk, but if you find yourself feeling “out of gas” you may need to take a short break off the bike to let your body catch up. As little as 10 minutes off the bike will put back on an even keel and feeling ready to move along.

There are also a couple of good reasons to make eating and drinking a habit while working out. First, your event will be a change in routine with event day excitement, in surroundings and more riders, and this can leave your forgetting to eat or drink . And later in the event, you may just get bored with the warm drink in your bottle, or taking one more bite of energy bar. Freshen your bottle at the next stop, or hit a convenience store or sag for a different snack; but just know the consequence of not eating and drinking are much worse than boredom.

On a final note, as novice rider, don’t be too concerned with special energy drinks and food items. A banana is still one the best foods for cyclists while riding, as are most fresh fruits, and a quick shop bottle of Gatorade is still reliable drink for a thirsty, tired rider. Your goal for these first rides is to learn the basic eating and drinking habits that allow you to enjoy and finish your ride. Over time, as you may find the need for more sophisticated drinks and snacks, as you challenge yourself more or ride with more challenging goals.

Week 8 of the #10weeksto100. 

 The series is intended as mentoring, rather than athlete specific coaching. The being the case, these are broad, general guidelines of a riding style and philosophy. You can find the series intro here - Preparing for Your First Long Ride or Century