The first century (to be followed by the first and second century).

My first century happened about six years ago. It was a MS ride that had me going the full range of feelings and emotions. There were three of us and sometimes four in our group.

At first we were tricked, most unfairly, because we had a 15 mph wind at our back. And, of course, we were all full of whatever we get full of when first starting a ride like this.

We got ours, however, at the turn around point…riding along the beach, with the wind now up to 20 mph in our face. Along one really bad seven mile stretch I quickly discovered the value of pace lining, when the biggest rider pulled to the front. Most unkindly, however, everyone else “forgot?” to pull until we got off the beach.

About mile 75 I decided to bonk. Well, I did really decide to bonk . . . I just did. Got on my bike…got off my bike…sat down…drank two quarts of water over the next half hour…and took a swallow every five minutes after that.

I survived the ride with a sore butt.

That night I decided to give up cycling.

The next morning I was ready for my next century.

Feel free to share your first century experience.

Getting your significant other on the bicycle.

I’ve seen it happen over and over. Serious cyclists think of a 15% uphill grade as a fun challenge. New cyclists think of a 4% grade as hell.

If you want to introduce your significant other (s.o.) to the joys of cycling, consider the following thoughts:

  1. You ride at their pace, not yours. Nor do you ride at what you think their pace should be.
    Fortunately, my wife and started riding about the same time. I still had to follow this rule, but I was not much faster anyway. What a nice way to do this.
  2. You start with a short ride (be it 2 miles or 15 miles) that leaves “s.o.” comfortable and wanting to do this again.
  3. You never push, you only suggest, and not too often.
    What you say/What you mean
    We’ll take as many breaks as you need/but if too frequent we’ll just slow down

    No difficult hills today/There certainly will be hills (the operative word being “difficult”), if you expect to get stronger, but we’ll take them at your pace. If “s.o.” needs to walk, that is okay…just keep coming back to this hill…because one day they won’t need to walk and that will buoy spirits.

    We will stick to low traffic roads/You will stick to low traffic roads

    We will stop for a break as long as you want/After 20 minutes suggest that “s.o.” muscles will tighten up unless you ride, but start slowly.

    You get the idea – but feel free to add to this.

Your significant other will decide whether they cycling or not.

Winter Training

Some us wussy types, like my wife and me (yes, me is grammatically correct), take a break from riding in the colder months.

Needless to add — but I will, since this is my blog — we still need to keep our aging bodies in shape so, come spring we are not starting all over again.

While we do stretching and/or yoga four to six mornings all year, when not riding we add the following regimen:

  • 30 minutes on a precor, twice a week, for cardio, quads, etc. — followed by abs, upper body and more lower body. Each session lasts about one hour.
  • 1 hour yoga class each week
  • 1 hour pilates class each week
  • 1 hour spin class each week – more cardio than precor, but less strengthening than precor and gym machines

By the time spring comes, I am sick of the gym and have a great urge to get back on the bicycle.

Who else takes time off in cold weather? What do you do?

Its Too Hot, I’m Freezing

The thermometer is 88 degrees (no not celsius). I’m freezing. I guess there a just days like this.

The paceline is all weird too. The leader is cruising at 22 mph, but the last guy (# 10) is is only going at 17 mph.

I am pedaling uphill and downhill simultaneously.

I turn to my wife, who also rides, and say “What is going on?”

She smiles sweetly, knowingly and tenderly — hollers out to the whole group — “Mechanical!.”

Everyone stops and looks at her, waiting for an explanation.

“Hubby is low on fluids . . . you guys go ahead and we will meet you at the rest stop, maybe.”

Thirty minutes and two quarts later, I am no longer freezing. I am riding level. Life is right again.
How I hate to bonk.

10 mile climb – fresh muffins – down down down

Okay, okay, I know may of you have climbed hills 10 miles or more in the course of your riding adventures. Feel free to add your comments, if you wish.

Back to Hadley, Ma (see 11 mile paceline). On another ride we did an unusual 10 mile climb. The weather was mild. The climb was not steep. We were surrounded by forest and rural development. If there were six cars on the road, that was a lot.

Better to go down that hill? Not as it turned out. The climb was followed by six miles of downhill on a steeper grade and a busier (but not too busy) road.

At which moment we happened upon a country deli baking homemade muffins. We sat outdoors, at their picnic table enjoying the scenery.

After one more short climb, the remaining 27 miles of the ride was downhill or flat with the with the wind at our back.

What way to ride.


The 11 mile paceline

No, No, the paceline itself was not 11 miles long. Let’s see at 10′ per bicycle, thats 6,292 cyclists!

Rather, this was the first time I rode with about seven other riders…north on route 47 in Hadley, Ma, for 11 miles, no stops, lights or rests.

It was simultaneously exciting (first time), tiring (had to concentrate), beautiful (great scenery) and boring (enough already). Yes, I’d do it again. For our group, maintaining that kind to cohesiveness is a rare treat.

On Long Island, where we normally ride, we are lucky to keep a paceline together for more than two or three miles because: we hit a hill, the leader picks up the pace and have the group goes after him/her or we hit a stop light.

Anyway, back to the 11 miler.

There was a 7-12 mph headwind and a slight uphill pitch (less than 1%) to the road. As defacto leader it was my task to keep the powerful and weaker riders together for about 45 minutes. In our group, some of the people could have done the entire run at 15-20 mph, while the weakest rider was ‘hanging on’ in the back at 13-16 mph.

When in front it was easy to set the pace. From the middle or back a reminder to keep the pace steady, called up by each rider usually worked.

Even at this pace, it was evident that the stronger riders were getting tired as the pulls went from 2 minutes down to 30 seconds.

It was a wonderful start to a really nice ride.



There is something about a small city, with a lot of schools and bike lanes throughout.

Of course there are students on hybrids and mountain bikes along the bike trails and city bike lanes along with the bike messengers you see in any city.

The recreational riders are out in numbers, particularly Lake Shore Drive multi use trail on weekends.

But there are also people going to work, including:

…the man in a suit, topcoat and 1960s style hat — smoking a cigarette as he rides.
…the young woman in tights, short skirt and heals — looking so natural on a bicycle that it was downright eerie.
… an older person of unknown sex with a WWI pilots hat, goggles and a brief case affixed to a rear rack.

While NYC may get the press from their Critical Mass rides, it looks like some smaller cities are just sharing the road real well, already.


The Time Trial

On Labor Day weekend serious cycling was off the table, due circumstances.

I did, however, have time for a short ride or two.

There is a flat S route of about 10 miles that I often do when time is limited. Its three straight runs of 1-2 miles and two cross overs. Five miles out and five back.

On this day I decided to do a time trial. I recommend this to everyone as something to do now and then. The distance is not too important, as long it is a challenge. The idea is to ride as hard as you can for the duration.

My route was windy (15-20 mph) one direction, but I was in need of a work out. I had never done a time trial. To me, this means just push as hard as you can for the whole ride. Practically, however, the cross over streets became short recovery points. I needed to recover for the next straight away.

Riding into head winds of 15 mph for 4.5 miles is okay at a comfortable pace or in a pace line. Alone and pushing for all you can, its a bear.

The end result was a personal best, and a 10% improvement over my best average this year. It felt good.

It felt good because I know I can do that pace for a full ride with group support.
It felt good because a personal best should always feel good.
It felt good because I accomplished something I had never done before.


In The Beginning Part 2

The New Bikes

. . . after two years or so of riding the hybrids, I finally decided I needed a “real bicycle”. The learning curve was a bit better — regarding what to buy — but not yet all that great.

I wound up with a Raleigh 700, at a modest $1,300, from a local bike store . . . fortunately.

Before I bought the bike from the local store, I had gone to the BIG PRO STORE in the area. Unfortunately they have two groups of sales people — those that know what they are doing and those that think they know what they are doing. I got hooked up with one of the latter. Had I bought the bike from them, it would have been too big.

When I went to the local bike store, they asked me if I knew my bike size. I said 52. One of the owners looked at me and said “I don’t think so.” They resized me to 50, which turned out to be the correct move.

Maybe the bike wasn’t the best, but it did work, except . . . Why was I leaning over so much? My back hurt. I raised the handlebars, but for the duration of ownership I could only ride about an hour on the hoods. Then I had to ride the top of the bar. I just worked with it.

Was this fun — sure was. All of a sudden I did not need to ride with the slowest group in club A and I could keep up the the hill climbing crazies in club B. Life was nice.

I rode one day with a bike club and one day with my wife.

THEN — Susan (my wife), decided that she was getting really bored with the limited number of off road bike trails available in the area — and she was going to start riding on the road.

When we got to road riding, however, it became a whole ‘nother event.

At first Susan did not want to give up her hybrid. With the crazy hill climbing club she spent a lot of time walking the longer hills or lagging far far behind. To help her confidence we started to ride more the the crazy avoid the hills riding club. She was thrilled. A group she could keep up with. She was riding with one group, however, and I was riding with a faster group.

I spent along time trying to convince Susan that she should get a road bike. She liked her hybrid. It provided a certain comfort level. Eventually, however, she made the switch. After much investigation, she found a Fuji Team on sale at Colorado Bike.

The first ride convinced her it was the right choice. The only issue was the saddle — but that was solved with some trial and error.

After she started using the new bike, she eventually became too fast for her ride group. She moved up to mine — fought here way from the bottom of the group, where every ride was a struggle — and found a comfort level at the two clubs we ride with.

That’s how it all got started.


Cliques & Vibes

Clubs and associations always tend to form cliques. Bicycle clubs are no different. The question then becomes: are you in “the in group” – hereafter known as TIG?
(TLCs rule)

Are the vibes good, bad, neutral or downright ugly?

Why do we do that to people?

There is nothing wrong with being in TIG. In some rides I am and in some rides I am not.

The point is we should all make TOG (the out group) feel welcome anyway.

You could do this to be nice or civil, but, there are more important reasons .

Self Preservation. Without TOG, TIG would be the only group, and, therefore, no longer TIG. Round and round.

In Group Dignity. TOG may really consider TIG to be TSG (the snooty group).

Practicality. If all the good bike mechanics are in TOG, it only makes sense to be nice.

Some riders are around forever, others come and go. The best rides, however are the ones with good vibes all around.