Sunday, September 27, 2009

Stay Puff Marshmallow Man

One of my favorite places to ride are deserted farm roads. If you can get past the aromatic smell of the farm animals these roads are a treat because they rarely have any car traffic on them. If you are riding with someone else farm roads are also fair game to ride next to each other because of the lack of traffic. When I ride these roads I usually have a very consistent idea running through my head which reminds me of the movie Ghost Busters. You know the 80’s classic staring Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, and my personal favorite Rick Moranis.

What does Ghost Busters have to do with riding on farm roads? Well, here goes, as I rode along these roads I usually come across fields that have bales of hay laying in them. These aren’t your normal rectangular bales of hay though but rather they are of the gynormous round plastic covered variety. Here’s of shot of what I’m talking about.

As soon as I spot one of these fields I can’t help but to think about the scene in Ghost Busters where the evil Gozer threatens to turn into whatever the stars of the movie think about and then destroy the rest of New York City. All of the stars clear their heads of any thoughts except for Dan Aykroyd who thinks of none other than the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man. So the evil Gozer transforms himself into the lovable Stay Puff Marshmallow Man and start trashing the city.

After running through this scene in my head I can’t help but to wonder if the pile of oversized marshmallows on the farm fields are the remains of the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man after the Ghost Busters took care of him.

Probably not but you never know.

Tandem Review

One of Jenny’s cycling dreams has always been to rent a tandem and go for a ride. So after we rode Mt. Constitution we stopped by a bike shop on Orcas Island and rented a tandem to ride around for awhile.

Having never ridden a tandem before I must say it was quite the interesting experience. The following are my thoughts on tandems. In case you’re curious Jenny also wrote a post on her tandem thoughts. I haven’t read her post yet but I’m guessing she has a completely different slant on our tandem experience.

No spitting or any other bodily functions allowed

About 30 seconds after we took off Jenny leaned up and laid down the law regarding bodily functions. I think it went a little like this “hey buddy, no spitting or rockets while I’m back here.” I’m really not much for these things anyway but having my spitting rights revoked felt a little like having an itch and not being able to scratch it.

No standing and mashing

Orcas Island goes in two directions, up or down. The descents were in a word “awesome”. I always love descents no matter what but when it came to hill climbing the tandem was a challenge. Jenny and I were both huffing and puffing on any hill of substance and being total novices there was no way that we could have successfully orchestrated a stand and pedal mash session. It would have been more like a stand, pedal half a revolution and fall over session. I really missed the standing aspect of hill climbing.

Had to think about someone else when making gear selections

Since I was in the front I was the one making the gear selections. Normally, this is just an automatic thing that I don’t give much thought to when I’m riding alone. When your soul mate is also affected by your gear selection you have to think twice before shifting gears. This wasn’t a bad thing it was just a little weird.

Easy to talk to each other

Jenny and I always talk to each other when we ride but sometimes we end up doing some screaming just so we can hear each other. On a tandem there is no need to scream because you’re really close. That part was really nice. On another note, at one point Jenny needed to give her hands a rest from the bars so she grabbed a hold of my ever growing “love handles”. For those of you taking notes at home, this isn’t a good idea. Just don’t try it. Love handles aren’t a good substitute for handlebars.

Handled like a truck

I had never thought about this before but the wheel base of a tandem is super long. That being the case the handling capabilities of a tandem are very similar to a school bus (no, not a short bus). So, as we descended down some pretty steep winding roads I really had to concentrate as to not weave into the other lane. I think I’d rather keep the epic crashes to myself.

Could cruise on the flats

When we did find some flat sections riding the tandem was a blast. We could really cruise without a ton of effort. I could see how people could really get into tandem riding on flat surfaces.

I was done after an hour

I’ve heard tandems called Divorcycles before and I can see why. All in all our tandem ride was really fun but after an hour I was done. Just the simple act of deciding to coast was a chore. We ended up settling on the voice command of “coasting in 3, 2, 1”. I just can’t imagine how couples can ride tandems for 100 miles while pedaling, coasting, stopping, and starting all in sync. Jenny and I are decent at communicating but this takes communication to a whole new level.

In conclusion, it was fun to ride a tandem together and I think I’d rent one again if the terrain were flatter. I’m not ready to do a tandem century any time soon though.

Because It's There

George Mallory (1886 – 1924) was an English mountaineer who took part in the first three British expeditions to Mount Everest in the early 1920s. On the third expedition, in June 1924, Mallory and his climbing partner Andrew Irvine both disappeared somewhere high on the North-East ridge during their attempt to make the first ascent of the world's highest mountain. The pair's last known sighting was only a few hundred metres from the summit. Mallory's ultimate fate was unknown for 75 years, until his body was finally discovered in 1999. Whether or not they reached the summit before they died remains a subject of speculation and continuing research.

Mallory is famously quoted as having replied to the question "why do you want to climb Mt. Everest?" with the retort: "because it's there", which has been called "the most famous three words in mountaineering".

On our trip to the San Juan Islands last weekend I had the chance to climb Mt. Constitution again on my bike and for some reason I actually wanted to. I really had no other reason than “because it’s there” and I was there. Mt. Constitution isn’t the tallest mountain I’ve ever ridden up but it is by far the steepest beast I’ve ever conquered. From bottom to top it’s 1,800 feet of elevation gain in just over 4 miles and most of that gain is in the first half of the climb.

Jenny wasn’t really interested in the climbfest so she dropped me off at the bottom of the hill then drove to the top and patiently waited for me.

As I battled the first half of the climb a lot of thoughts went through my mind as I struggled with the sometimes 18 percent grade. Here were some of my thoughts:
  • Why did I want to do this again?
  • I really miss the triple on my other bike
  • I wonder if anyone’s head has ever exploded from hill climbing
  • Why on earth do I have an 11-26 cassette
  • If I laid down by the side of the road do you think Jenny would come back down and find me?
  • This speedometer can’t be right
  • Finally, Why did I want to do this again?
As I pulled into the parking lot at the summit and struggled to catch my breath I was finally glad that I had made the climb. Honestly, I don’t think I would have been able to live with myself if I had been on Orcas Island with my bike and not climbed Mt. Constitution. It’s just one of those epic rides you have to do “because it’s there”

Trying to catch my breath at the summit
The views at the top of Mt. Constitution are amazing. You can see all of the San Juan islands including some in Canada.

Jenny's reward for waiting for me at the top was that she got to descend the mountain while I drove our car down. Here's a blur of her flying down the mountain.
If you ever get the chance to visit the San Juan Islands bring your bike and climb Mt. Constitution "because it's there". You won't regret it.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

No More Race Radios

This morning I read on Velo News I read that the UCI has voted to ban race radios in Pro racing. This is pretty interesting in light of the stink that the riders made during the TdF last year on the day race radios weren’t used.

This got me to thinking of the potential conversations that won’t happen if race radios are no longer used. Here are a couple that could have happened this year that we weren’t privy to.

Mark Cavendish: Are we there yet? How many more minutes till I get to sprint?
Director: For the fifth time no we aren’t there yet and if you ask again I’m going to pull this car over.

Lance: Johan, I am no longer talking to Alberto, will you tell him I could beat him in the mountains if I really wanted to, I just don’t want to.
Johan: Alberto, Lance says you’re a great climber and he’ll be right behind you.
Alberto: Thanks Johan, I’m not speaking to Lance either so will you tell him that I’ve got my fake pistol out and I’m ready to use it at the finish line on anyone who dares to challenge me?
Johan: Lance, just try to keep up with Alberto, you’re doing great.

Thor: Mark Cavendish is looking at me.
Director: Just ignore Mark and try to keep your eyes on the rider in front of you.
Thor: But he keeps looking at me.
Director: I swear if I have to come up there you’ll curse the day that you worried about Mark looking at you.
Thor: OK, I’m sorry.

I’m not sure how they will ever survive without race radios but they’ll make it somehow. This should be interesting.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Back on the Juice

For the last couple of decades cycling has been plagued with evidence and allegations of riders using performance enhancing drugs to help them conquer their foes. These allegations are mainly in the pro cycling arenas but it has also filtered down to the amateur levels as well.

“Come on, do it, everyone is doing it!” “If you don’t everyone else will be faster than you!” I’m sure this is the justification for most people’s actions. In the past, we’ve also seen riders get caught and then confess. We’ve also seen riders get caught and not confess (can you say Floyd Landis) but not to worry there are also former TdF winners who will confess for them (can you say Greg LeMond).

Well, before I get caught and Greg has to go public with my confession I thought I’d spill the beans first. I have used performance enhancing drugs for years and it pains me to quit them. OK, really at my age they are performance enabling drugs.

Here’s the scoop, back in 2003 I started taking Glucosamine Chondroitin after a dislocated knee incident. Actually, a doctor advised me to start taking it because I could get it over the counter and it’s great for knee joints. I’ve taken Glucosamine Chondroitin for the last 6 years and for me it works like a champ. I can basically cycle as much as I want and my knees don’t bother me at all. It’s like the fountain of youth for geezers with bad knees.

So, since you can get my performance enabling drug of choice at any drug or grocery store in the country I guess the UCI or Greg LeMond aren’t really going to come after me but here’s the thing. About a month ago I ran out of my supply and I just haven’t gotten around to buying any more. Well, last week I started wondering why my knees and back were killing me so much. Duh!!!! Honestly, it took me a couple of days to put two and two together to figure out that it was my lack of Glucosamine Chondroitin that was affecting my knees and back.

Studies have shown that Glucosamine Chondroitin doesn’t work for everyone but if Steve Martin can get high off of a really cool new drug called “Pla-cee-bo” I’m staying with my performance enabling drug of choice.

As of this afternoon I’m back on the “Juice”.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Gooey Butter Cake

Note: this post isn't really cycling related unless you count it as building up cycling fuel reserves for next year. Anyhow, I still think you'll like it.

Gooey Butter Cake

by Mike J and Dr. J
Today my youngest daughter (Dr. J) and I had a craving for something sweet so we made one of our family’s favorite recipes, Gooey Butter Cake. This cake is simple enough that you could train monkeys to make it which good news for me. It's also so good my son said “It’s the best thing since elastic waist bands”. I’m pretty sure that means that it’s the best cake ever and quite obviously a cake you need to try.

Here’s the recipe

1 box of chocolate cake mix (or yellow but chocolate is way better)
1 stick of butter – Not margarine
1 egg

Combine cake mix, butter and egg. Mix well. Press into a 9X13 inch cake pan

1 8-oz package of cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3 ¾ cup Powdered Sugar

Cream the cream cheese. Add the eggs and vanilla. Slowly add powered sugar. Beat well, scraping sides. Pour over top of crust. Bake at 350 for ~30 minutes or until light brown. Let cool for 15 minutes then scarf down until it is all gone.

Now that you’ve got the official recipe here’s how you really make it

Gather up an egg, a stick of butter and a chocolate cake mix and stack them neatly so they look cool just like this.

Then throw them all into a mixer bowl and start mixing.

Start on a low speed and increase your speed as your ingredients start mixing together. Mix until they are the consistency of playdoh (but tastier).

Next, take the playdoh like crust and moosh it into the bottom of your pan until it coats the bottom. We mooshed it with a large serving spoon but were careful enough not to bend it. A bent spoon would have brought the wrath of Jenny which neither of us wanted.

Now you’re ready to make the gooey part.

Behold, the gooey ingredients

Put the cream cheese in a mixer bowl and mix it up until smooth.

Next add the two eggs and vanilla to the cream cheese.
Word of caution – remember that eggs are round and if they are placed by the edge of the counter they could roll off and make a mess.

Next, add the powdered sugar and mix the whole thing up. Remember to scrape the sides and bottom occasionally to make sure everything gets mixed up. Also, remember to wear safety glasses when using a mixer in case of flying objects.

When it’s all mixed up and creamy pour it on the crust. Make sure it evenly covers the top.

Now put it into the oven and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until the top is light brown.

While it’s in the oven make sure to lick the out the bowl and spatula. Dr J took care of this for me.

Once it’s done make sure to wait for at least 15 minutes before you attempt to eat it because the top layer is hotter than napalm right out of the oven.

After 15 minutes eat it ALL gone. Please remember to be polite and not eat the entire cake from the pan before anyone else gets some.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Scout Motto: Be Prepared!

Last weekend I went on a ride with a group of 12 & 13 year old Boy Scouts. They were working on their cycling merit badge and needed to complete a 25 mile ride. I was very impressed with them. They would have rode circles around the 16 & 17 year scouts that I went on a ride with a couple of months. We didn't take very many breaks and when we did they were only a couple of minutes long. When a scout had a mechanical problem they would stop and fix it themselves and there was absolutely no complaining!

The Scout Motto is "Be Prepared" and this bunch of Scouts lived it. When we were in the parking lot before the ride I saw one of the boys open up his backpack and pull out a huge foot pump to top off his tires. That thing must have weighed at least 5 pounds if not more. When he was done he put it back in his backpack and away we went. He carried that baby the entire 25 miles and never whined about it. I'm not sure what else he had in his backpack but it was completely full. I'd say that was some good training. Imagine how fast they would be on a lighter bike not toting all of that weight.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Group Rides – Tips and Tricks, How to guide

This last spring and summer I went on a lot of group rides which were nerve wracking at first but pretty darn fun once I got the hang of them. Group rides have a lot of written and unwritten rules that I mostly learned on the fly while simultaneously trying not to look like a newbie cycling dork. Because I don’t want you to feel like a newbie cycling dork on your next new group ride here is a list of survival tips that you might find helpful.

Know the hand signals
No matter what group you ride with they will use hand signals and most of them are universal. Here are a few common ones.

  • Pointing at the ground – This means that there is an obstacle in the road that you should watch out for. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be able to avoid the obstacle especially if you’re drafting closely behind someone but at least you’ll know something is coming before you run over or into it.
  • Hand down waving at the road – contrary to what it may look like this doesn’t mean that the person in front of you is happy to see the road and is greeting it, it means there is some loose gravel or debris ahead of you on the road.
  • Hand down palm facing you – this is telling you that the rider in front of you is slowing down or plans to slow down. If you’re drafting, as soon as that hand goes down it’s time for you to slow down as well unless you want to experience a full blown peleton pile up which could be fun but trust me you won’t be invited to the next group ride if this occurs.
  • Left arm stuck out – this one is pretty self explanatory it means that the group is turning left.
  • Right arm stuck out – just like 44 is the new 29 the right arm stuck out is the new sign for turning right. It took me a while to figure this one out but it does makes sense because if someone 3 or 4 positions in front of you sticks their right arm out everyone can see it and knows to turn right. This works a lot better than the left arm at a 90 degree angle unless you’ve got a death grip on your handle bars with your right hand and refuse to let go until the ride is over. If this is the case just use the old signal for a left hand turn and work on that right hand issue that you have on your trainer at home.

Know the verbal signals

If you aren’t familiar with the verbal signals of a group ride you might wonder to yourself if you’re riding with a group of people with a mild case of Tourette syndrome. Rest assured that you aren’t. Each of these verbal signals are vital to your safety so listen up.

  • Car back – This has nothing to do with what your backside looks like so don’t take offense. This means that there’s a car behind you that will be passing shortly. If you’re in the lane a little or a lot now would be a good time to get over and out of the car’s way.
  • Car front – This means that there is a parked car in front of you that the group will be passing shortly. If the car has a driver in it pay close attention any movements toward opening their door. Although this is always funny in the movies it’s probably not as funny in real life and more importantly it could wreck your bike.
  • Slowing – once again this means that the rider in front of you is slowing down. When you hear this slow down at the same pace. Slamming on your brakes usually isn’t healthy in this case.
  • Rockets – this means that the rider in front of you is preparing to launch snot rockets and you should get out of the way at all costs. OK, this isn’t a verbal command that I’ve ever heard but I’ve followed a couple of individuals that I wish had used this command.

If you find yourself toward the front of a paceline pay attention to the speed that you’re maintaining. You’ll need to know this because when you get to the front you’ll want to maintain this speed and not go any faster or slower. You’ll probably want to show off just how fast you can ride when you get a chance at the front but trust me, the rest of the paceline won’t appreciate your awesomeness. Maintain a reasonable average pace for a couple of minutes then pull over to your left (in the US and right in Australia) and let the next person in line take their turn at the front. If you’re riding with a friendly paceline at least one person will congratulate you on taking a good pull. Give them a nod of appreciation and take your place at the back of the pack.

Also, if someone is in your pace line with aero bars and is consistently using them remember that their hands aren't even close to their brakes. I would avoid them like the plague. Just my personal preference.

Questions to Ask
Most group rides start in the parking lot of some establishment with riders milling around gathering up their gear and getting in some last minute tire pumping. If you’re new to the group you’ll have to go talk to someone to get the scoop on the ride. For me this is a necessary but painful step. Here is a list of good questions to ask.

How many groups are going out on this ride? If there are a lot of riders going out usually a number of smaller groups will go out at separate times based upon their speed and abilities. This will allow you to pick the group that works best for you.

What’s the average speed of this group? This will allow you to gauge if you’ll be able to hang with this group or not. I’ve found if someone tells you that the average speed is X MPH they really mean a couple of miles an hour more. I’m not really sure why but people always underestimate what pace their group will maintain. Also, if your group is ever passed by another group of riders expect your group to make an attempt to catch them no matter how fast they are going. Chalk it up to testosterone, competitiveness or some other reason but your group will not tolerate being overtaken by another. If you see someone trying to pass just get ready for some suffering, but in a good way.

Are there any regroups along the way? Usually, most groups will regroup at specified points along their chosen route for the riders who couldn’t keep up the average pace. This is really nice if you aren’t familiar with the route because at least there will be someone along the way to confirm that you are at least on the right road.

Do you do anything after the ride? This is the most important question of all. Most of the time the group will go out somewhere after their ride to get a bite to eat or something. If you’ve got the time and means this is a great way to meet new cycling buddies because really who doesn’t need more cycling buddies.

Well, there’s my survival guide for group rides. I’m sure I’m leaving out some really important points. Feel free to add your two cents worth and hopefully, I’ll see you on a group ride someday.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

I Want To Be Like That

The other day while I was out on a ride I saw one of the most incredible sights I think I’ve ever seen. I was on an out and back route and when I get to the end before turning back I stopped for a minute to drink a little and catch my breath. While I was standing there I noticed an older couple sitting at a park bench just finishing up a snack and heading back over to their bikes.

Of course at this point I started checking out their bikes because that’s just what I do. In fact, Jenny always plays a game with me while we are driving. If we pass a car that is carrying a bike she will quiz me after a couple of minutes about what kind of bike was on the back of the car. About 90% of the time I can tell her the make and color without even thinking much about it. I guess it’s one of those useless gifts that I have. All right, that was a tangent. Now back to the story.

Once I finished checking out their bikes I asked them where they were headed. They told me they were out for a day tour and they had started very early in the morning so they had brought along all of their panniers so they could shed clothes as the weather got warmer. They were out doing some bird watching for the day so the husband was also carrying a huge tripod and a telescope. Honestly, they looked like they were having the time of their lives. They then told me that last year they had ridden the Grand Illinois Trail which is a 535 mile loop ride. When I asked them how long it took them they said “well, it took us 2 weeks but we think that was pretty good for a couple of people in their mid 80s”

MID 80s? No way! I asked them how they managed to ride for so long and they said they starting riding in their late 30s and had been riding ever since. The wife told me that cycling all of those years has done wonders for their health.

I didn’t get their names or where they were from but when I grow up I want to be just like them. An 80 something cyclist going on adventures with Jenny.

By the way, they were both riding custom made Rodriguez bikes that were navy blue. Just in case you were wondering

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

That's a Lot of Calories!

You know how some cycling computers do a rough calculation of how many calories you burn on a ride? Occasionally, I look at this data point after a ride and wonder what they have factored into the equation to get such high numbers. On the last attempt at my personal time trial I noticed that my cycling computer estimated that I burned a little over 1,000 calories and that was in the space of just a hair over an hour. This route climbs almost 1,000 feet but there’s no way you could burn up that many calories unless you were to ride it on a 70 lbs mountain bike through the snow. I’m thinking the calorie calculations may be just a little high.

Anyway this got me curious so I looked up how many calories I’ve burned up in the last year. Here’s what I saw.

Yep you read that right, 166,650! Wow, I guess it was a REALLY good cycling year. If you estimate that a pound is roughly 3,300 calories that means I burned up 50 lbs cycling in the last year.

Here are my theories of what happened to all of that weight.

- My scales are off by 50 lbs.

- I ate 50 lbs worth of ice cream and peanut M&Ms this year.

- We have a super hot clothes dryer which shrunk all of my clothes without me realizing it.

- I replaced 50 lbs of body fat with 50 lbs of mountain conquering leg muscles.

- I’m currently retaining a lot of water

- My cycling computer is a really bad estimator.

I’m not sure which theory is accurate but I think we need new scales.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Cycling Playlist

When I only have an hour or so to ride and I want to get some good training in I have a route that provides some honest to goodness punishment in a short period of time.  Over the years this route has become my own personal time trial course.  Last weekend as I was sitting at the computer looking at some ride data I noticed that no matter how hard I pushed myself on this route I just couldn't seem to break the hour barrier for this ride.  The last two attempts have netted out at 1:03:41 and 1:03:17 finish times.   3 minutes, that's it.  I've got to be honest here, I'm really bugged that I can't finish this ride in under an hour. 


But you know me, I've got a plan…


The other thing about this route is since I ride it alone I always listen to my iPod while I grind away.  I know, I know, it's dangerous and believe me Jenny has done plenty of lecturing on this subject to no avail.  So over the weekend I built myself a Cycling Playlist in iTunes for this route that is exactly 1 hour long which includes music that I deem as fast cycling tunes.  So in theory if I can finish my route before the playlist is over I have destroyed the route in less than an hour.  That's the goal.


Here's a copy of my cycling playlist. 


Pedal Power – Michael and Tennessee Ward (This could be the best cycling song ever)

La Villa Strangiato – Rush

I Want to Ride - Michael and Tennessee Ward

Red Barchetta – Rush

The Main Monkey Business – Rush

Malignant Narcissism – Rush

Treetop Flyer – Stephen Stills

YYZ – Rush

Tamacun – Rodrigo y Gabriela

It's the End of the World As We Know It - REM

Blitzkrieg Bop - Ramones

Evenflow – Pearl Jam

Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana

Rock and Roll – Led Zeppelin

China Grove – The Doobie Bros.


As you can see from my choice of cycling tunes I've got a thing for Rush which probably gives away my age.  This got me to thinking that my cycling playlist is probably a lot different than how others would have constructed it. 


Here is how I envision the play lists of some others:


My Mother In Law – The 4 Lads with some Guy and Ralna (of Lawrence Welk fame) thrown in for good measure.  If I were to listen to this it could take me 8 hours to finish the course because of repeated napping on the side of the road.

My Father – Glen Miller and Les Brown, certainly some toe tapping music but not my era. 

My Mother – Engelbert Humperdink and Tom Jones, this music requires too much hip gyration to ride safely. 

My Brother – Crosby, Still, Nash & Young, I don't have a comment here. 

Lance Armstrong – Not really sure what he would be listening to but I'm thinking it wouldn't include Sheryl Crow

Bob Roll – The Hand Jive, I'm not sure how he ever rode a bike without any hand waving. 


I'm looking forward to future attempts at riding a sub hour of my time trial route.  I'll let you know how it goes.