Remembering the happier times

Cycling season is over – at least my cycling season is over. It’s dark out before I even leave work and the daytime highs are struggling to hit the mid-50’s. While I did spend hundreds of dollars on cold weather gear last year, I simply do not have the desire to ride in uncomfortable temperatures. Cycling should be painful and uncomfortable due to the tremendous physical effort involved, not because my hands and feet have gone numb, my nose is gushing snots, my lungs and sinuses die a little more with each icy breath, and my eyes feel like sandpaper because I’m straining blink-less to see in the dark. I’m now welcoming the oncoming seasonal depression with open arms. At first I was a bit irked by the disappearance of rideable weather and how seemingly short the riding season was, but then I began to think back to the beginning of the year (which then suddenly seemed like such a long time ago) and it occurred to me just how much I’ve experienced on the bike this season.

Having only started riding in the spring of last year, I didn’t start this year with a ton of miles under my belt. I rode a hybrid primarily on bike paths and multi-use trails for the first half of 2013. The nagging desire for further and faster eventually lead to the cashing out of my unused forex account and the hasty, not-at-all-researched purchase of a road bike. Thankfully the bike shop sales guy didn’t totally suck, so it worked out. Turns out money does buy quality. Unfortunately the bulk of the season was over by the time the bike was properly equipped and ready to go. So for all intents and purposes, this was my first road season.

My Beautiful bike on the first ride this year

Going into this riding season I had a few goals in mind:

  • Do a century ride
  • Do at least one race
  • Ride some real mountains
  • Get faster

With the exception of the last one (which is debatable, but I’d lean towards accomplished for at least a portion of the season) I managed to tick all the boxes on my list. Here’s some Strava proof of effort:

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One thing I didn’t do, which now has me highly disappointed, is take lots of good pictures to really capture the events that occurred. Thus, here are some year-in-review shots (in very rough chronological order) from my undersized collection of poor-quality photos…

Started spending money before the tires even hit the virgin spring tarmac – new wheels for maximum placebo speed effect

Tour de Lyme

Tour de Lyme – First major group ride on the year. Far too many brutal hills (not pictured) for so early in the season. I learned I’d be spending my gran fondo style rides in no man’s land because I was too fast for the slow people (must be the wheels) and too slow for the fast people

 

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It was quite a beautiful route though

 

One of my favorite parts of being out riding is seeing interesting things and enjoying the beautiful scenery. This is why I’m not a fan of riding with roadies too hardcore to stop and smell the roses. Half the fun of road rides is the adventure. People too busy burying their heads in their powermeters or killing themselves to drop the guy next to them are missing out on all this great stuff…

like mailboxes

like mailboxes on hills steep enough to make your heart explode and your legs fall off

and cows

and baby cows

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and whatever these are

crossing signs that only exist in the middle of nowhere

animal crossing signs that only exist in the middle of nowhere

old blast furnaces that also only exist in the middle of nowhere

old blast furnaces that also only exist in the middle of nowhere

oh dear

oh dear

 

and these kind of post card farm pictures

and these kind of post card farm pictures

plus waterfalls!

plus waterfalls!

Imagine if I had been foresightful enough to take out the phone and actually take some pictures on more than 5% of my rides! I could have written a proper post that told a nice story of my bike season instead of just throwing out random captioned pictures. Anywho… per my second goal, not all rides were sight-seeing. However, I was no less absent-minded when it came to taking pictures at races. I did manage to take pictures before my first race though. Giving a massive middle finger to the Velominati, I fitted my road bike with some sweet clip-on aero bars and entered a time trial.

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dirty bar tapes mean I actually ride, don’t be a hater

My idealized finish for that race was one in which I survived, so judging on the basis of that standard my performance was a resounding success. Later in the year while browsing W4M casual connections on Craigslist I found a ridiculously good deal on a CX bike. The little beater that could (which was actually in mint condition) took me to my first (and many more) CX races.

said beater relaxing in the middle of a "training" ride

said beater relaxing in the middle of a “training” ride

Finding a bike that all but forced my hand into cyclocross racing was both a blessing and a curse. BikeSnobNYC described cyclocross as the opposite of sex: if you’re doing it right it hurts and it’s only enjoyable before and after. This is highly accurate. The “during” part is spent cursing yourself for signing up and hoping for a major mechanical failure that will end your race (and thus your misery) early. Nevertheless, it is addictive, the atmosphere is fun, and unlike races involving road bikes, people are friendly and even seem to be enjoying themselves.

now you can see why I curse cyclocross so much, I have such short legs!

now you can see why I curse cyclocross so much, I have such short legs!

Enough of that hillbilly stuff, back to road riding. Farm animals, scenery, and images of me trying to race are great, but we must not forget what is important.

It is, absolutely, without question, unequivocally, about the bike. Anyone who says otherwise is obviously a twatwaffle.

evening pose

evening pose

sunset rock lean

sunset rock lean

 

action shot

action shot

Alas, we’ve gone grossly out of chronological order, but I don’t care anymore. This is an evolving post that’ll come out however it comes out. That brings us to… whatever I feel like posting next since this is not (and unfortunately never was) in order, which is another first on a long list of cycling firsts this year: my first cycling vacation (that’s a vacation for cycling, not a vacation from cycling) – in this case to Colorado. I secured a few more firsts while on vacation, one of which was that “ride some real mountains” goal on my list.

 

not a real mountain

not a real mountain

higher up the not a real mountain

higher up the not a real mountain

this is a real mountain

this is a real mountain

the realness of this mountain is undeniable due to the presence of snow in June

the realness of this mountain is undeniable due to the presence of snow in June

Mr. Garmin's altimeter confirming the realness of the mountain

Mr. Garmin’s altimeter confirming the realness of the mountain

Unfortunately the mountain was a little too real for me and the 40mph winds combined with the cold, the precipitous drop only feet away from me, and the uselessly thin air prevented an actual summit, but it did allow me to buy this awesome shirt.

at least I know that failure is common enough to make this shirt design financially viable

at least I know that failure is common enough to make this shirt design financially viable

When I wasn’t failing to make it to mountain summits, I was riding the nicest roads and bike trails I’ve ever ridden.

never have I seen a more flawless road

never have I seen a more flawless road

the only better than a freshly laid bike trail is a freshly laid bike trail devoid of people

the only thing better than a freshly laid bike trail is a freshly laid bike trail devoid of people

CAAD10 rental bike was outstanding - wood purchase

CAAD10 Ultegra rental bike was outstanding

notice all the cars that aren't there

notice all the cars that aren’t there

The trip also reinforced my disdain for FSA products. My (brand new) rental’s SL-K crank developed a horrendous tick/click/creak/snapping noise that sounded like one of the arms was ready to snap off every time I put some power down. I guess you can’t expect much from a $600 crank. In retrospect, it may have actually the been the BB30 bottom bracket, which are known, noise making junk. Standard BBs were never actually an issue, yet the bike industry has a newer, bigger, and shitter BB standard almost weekly. Bigger is obviously always better, except when it’s not, which in the case of bottom brackets is all the time. I will never buy a BB30 bike or an FSA crank. The junk crank and BB did not do the outstanding CAAD10 frame justice.

polished turd

polished carbon turd

On other hand, Ultegra 6800 is nothing short of perfection.

rental ballin'

rental ballin’

Then I came back from Colorado, because just like Seinfeld and having hosts that don’t suck on the Price Is Right, all good things must come to an end. After I got back I did more bike related stuff.

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I stood next to a Penny-farthing

 

rode a gran fondo

rode a gran fondo

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made an angry looking face while wearing an aero helmet

went on group rides

went on group rides

and took artsy looking sunset pictures from the handlebars

and took artsy looking sunset pictures from the handlebars

Then the days started getting shorter and the nights colder. My evolutionary instincts kicked in. I started eating more and conserving energy (by not riding) so I could fatten up for winter like a very large, mostly hairless squirrel. While I hibernate, I’ll be thinking about what I’d like to accomplish next season. So far, my lists look something like this…

  • More Rule 5
  • Quality over quantity on training rides
  • Try at least one crit race (and don’t wreck)
  • Make it to the summit of the real mountain
  • Do a 150 mile ride

I’m sure I’ll come up with more, but that’s the list for now. More important than any of those things is the need to keep my competitive side at bay and let riding remain fun. The day that race training and power output becomes more important than enjoying the ride is when cycling has gone from fun to work and it’s time for me to find a new hobby. I’d rather get faster slowly and be able to stop to take pictures of mailboxes and cows when I feel like it. At the end of next season, I’ll feel far more satisfied if I can look back and reflect on the adventures I’ve had rather than only be able to talk about how many FTP watts I’ve added.

 

 

 

 

 

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