cycling essentials

I’m sure there has there been a list made of cycling essentials, but I figured I would go over some of the things that I have recently been putting together due to some of my recent 6-7 mt bike, hiking, exploring adventures.

This is a list that I think is more first-aid, emergency oriented rather than the usual ‘how to make a repair and get home’ list of repair items.

Some of these things I wouldn’t necessarily carry for a quick trip around the local trails where you may see 5-10 other riders. This is more of what I pack when I go on adventures looking for trails that most other cyclists do not know about.

On some of my rides I only see military Rangers in training. Most of the time I see no one else except for maybe a couple people near where I park. Usually I see more wild-life than anything else.

1. Water tablets/water filter – Hydration is 1 of the most important things.

currently water filters are about $70+ and weigh almost a pound. So, I am carrying some tablets instead. I have had to use them before.

2. Benedryl – For the 3rd time just this weekend I had to pull out some benedryl for someone who just got stung by a bee, on the lip. A sting from the neck up can be a serious problem for someone that has an allergic reaction. Being able to quickly take a benedryl can minimize the risk. Usually the second thing to happen is a restricted air passage. I would rather someone take 1 of my benedryl, then have something serious happen.

3. compression bandage – this is the stuff for a serious cut/gash. Many of us get scrapes and bruises, but this stuff is for a more serious cut that could occur after a fall. These are pretty easy to find at a pharmacy.

4. para-cord or similar string – I know that many people are wearing the para-chord bracelets, but if you are really in the outback wilderness, there can be many uses for such an item. Tying a splint to hold a broken bone in place or a twisted ankle, tie a sling in case someone breaks a collarbone, tie down broken shoe straps, tie down things onto your pack.

Originally designed for paratroopers, paracord is a kernmantle rope: a braided sheath over a bundle of seven inner cords. This mantle makes paracord very resistant to abrasion. 550 paracord is rated for 550 pounds: 300 pounds for the sheath and 35 pounds for each strand. The cords can be removed from the sheath and divided into two strands if finer string is needed.

Read more: Uses for 550 Paracord | eHow.com

5. chem-light – this is something I watched the rangers use. They store for a long period, but you just pop the middle and they light up. This is a great tool if you get lost and people are attempting to find you. I wouldn’t say that it doubles as a flashlight by any means, although if tied to a walking stick (as I’ve seen the Rangers do) it may aid you if you are walking.

6. multi-tool – I know most Mt bikers carry a cyclist specific multi, but I also carry a regular leather-man multi-tool. They have pliers, knife, screw drivers, file, etc.

7. compass or compass app. Although I have a good sense of direction and figuring out which way I need to be going – I usually do so based on the sun positioning. I have a back-up plan though – a Free compass App on my phone.

8. Another ‘smart’ phone app is MyTracks When exploring I currently use MyTracks – and I try to remember to keep my phone is ‘airport’ mode to save battery.

US Forestry Chainsaw Certification

This past weekend I attended the US Forestry Service (USFS) chainsaw certification class/workshop in Blairsville, GA. This class was recommended to me by David so that we would have more trail volunteers capable (certified) to do more maintenance. This class was Free from the USFS and a volunteer, FOR volunteers.

In attendance was 1 new USFS employee, 6 Appalachian Trail volunteers, and 9 local Mt bike volunteers – in attendance was Mike Palmeri, Joe Palmeri, Todd Lyons, Seth Owens, Jason Brousche, Tony Stevens, Gary Monk, Jim Townsend and myself.

Forestry Morning Meeting

On the Forestry side, it became obvious that (as you can expect) these guys are overwhelmed with the amount of land that they have to maintain, manage. They are thankful for the volunteers. The USFS in their efforts to gain assistance, while volunteering, a certified sawyer is considered an employee of the USFS and falls under their insurance. They said to date, that no one has needed to take them up on the offer of the insurance, and hope no one would need too.
Oak slice

Side Note: For those of you that don’t know, each Spring/Summer I cut & Split 3-4 cords of firewood for my Mom to heat her house all Winter. So, going into this class I felt quite confident, but was also hoping to fill in some areas of my knowledge. Well, it was pretty shocking that having someone that is basically grading you and hanging over your shoulder as you work made me more nervous than I would have expected. Suddenly, I’m not out there doing things my way & just my dog watching. But still I was able to attain ‘B’ cert. or the 2nd level of certification.

Getting Instructions

One of the greatest things that I learned from the class was Safety! Of course, working with chainsaws is Dangerous – period! The moment you relax and/or get ahead of yourself is when you will get hurt.

They are insistent that you use the brake on the chainsaw. This was something I wasn’t used to – heck, only 1 of my 3 chainsaws even has a brake on it.

Speaking of Safety, 1 of the things they were insistent on was a pair of chaps – and this is why:

Since most of what trail volunteers deal with is blow-downs (trees that the wind knocked over) they showed us how to best cut that tree with out getting your saw stuck, which is very easy to do & also dangerous.

How to properly cut a tree to better control which way the log goes once it has been cut.

How to maintain more control over a tree that has been blown down on the trail.

Dawg demonstrating a leaner cut

Another great technique was how to deal with Spring trees – these are trees that the tops got pulled over by another tree and the trunk is still rooted, but the top of the tree is pulled over & down. They are a dangerous situation, because the force of the tree wants to ‘spring’ it back up.

How you approach a situation where multiple trees are down and you need to clear the trail. Access the situation from all angles – and do some limbing if you need to get a better understanding of where to start.

How to determine the amount of lean a standing Tree has. This will determine which direction a tree naturally wants to fall, and what it would take to make it drop in a different direction if needed.

Since I do cut firewood & have to cut down dead trees I learned a ‘felling’ technique that I am anxious to try out.

Here is an example of a compound tree that I cut up for firewood. Notice it has a ‘Spring tree’ on the right, and that it is a compound situation where the downed tree is interlocked with the standing tree. It was a tricky situation to say the least.
Compound Fell Tree

Again, remember taking your time for safety and accessing the situation are the 2 greatest points – we are volunteers out there and in some situations even the Pro’s have to walk away.

Also, if you ride Mt bike trails – you should volunteer, if you are good with chainsaws, this class was Free from the USFS and volunteers, FOR volunteers.

Winter Bike League Maysville 2011

You know that Winter is about to cast her steely grip across the US when anybody whose is a cyclist rushes to Athens, GA to join into the Winter Bike League. They go in hopes of Fame and fortune that but a few have been able to attain, the stories of which have never been told – unless several adult beverages have been consumed.

Mineral Man and StrongerCyclist

I got a call from the Mighty Mineral Man himself, telling me that he was returning to grand form & was making preparations to rip the legs off any non battled hardened cyclists that dare forget his story. It had been a mere seven years since Mineral Man and your’s truly left their own mark in the Archives of the WBL.

As I do every year, I re-read last years WBL report . This year I was determined that my lack of mileage (from recovering from a recent Mt bike crash) wasn’t going to be the source of my suffering.
Greenville WBLer Derek.

Luckily, I talked my friend Derek into coming from Greenville to the original WBL & luckily he gave me 2 NUUN tablets at the start. I also filled up 2 flasks full of Hammer Gel, a clif bar, and a secret weapon, a pack of pop-tarts – yeah, I’m going old skool! I wasn’t going to let a lack of nutrition keep me from holding onto the front group.

WBL start Dec3, 2011

As the ride gently rolled out of town, everyone was all chatter and festive, seeing old friends, meeting new friends. Little did I realize the depth of the days field, but why would that surprise me? this is the WBL! I saw some great riders, a @Team Type1 rider, 2 Team Mountain Kakis riders, a Real Cyclist.com, Jered Gruber, Clay Parks, Hammerin’ HillBilly, FarmerG, the PACK SHOUTER, old motorcycle racers, and a score of cyclists that race! It was a stacked, packed, jacked field of 2 wheeled craziness about to embark on a slugfest. As we rolled outta town, you could tell everyone was giddy with anticipation!

Then, came the rolling hills. At the mid-field riders were being made into diamonds via the intense pressure of the leaders. All you can hear is the weazing wind of those putting in monumental efforts to keep themselves with the herd. As I looked up I realized that we were only half way up this roller and you have to pay attention as riders start to fall off the pace.

Pack is spread out on 2nd lap

I see a couple riders swerve around and then suddenly see why, 1 gal was lost in her personal hurt locker, I checked traffic, played frogger and eased over and became a pusher. I geared down, and asked if she wanted a push, when she looked over her shoulder I realized it was her weazing I heard. She was nearly hyper-ventilating. I got the two of us up to the same speed, but we still had a ways to get over this hill, and now I’m nearly weazing also. PUSH! Finally, I got her onto the flats, let her catch her breathe, and the ride continued along.

Once at the store stop, I filled the bottles, popped in the extra Nuun tablet, ate on a smore pop-tart and checked in with the Mineral Man & Gainesville fella’s. So far, so good! But as the group was knocking out the 2nd half of the ride, the rollers were back. Funny how you can’t remember much about a route, but once you are hurting you can realize this is where the hurt was put to you last time. We were on a skyward ascent, under I-85 when I had deja-vue. I dug down and my quads were talking to me, but I was able to throttle enough to keep my placing in the pack.

By now, I’m going through my second flask of gel. The quads and hamstrings are mumbling, but no mutiny yet. Onward, we march. I take every chance to throttle my pace. After each surge ahead of me, I catch up slowly – no big efforts. And no one is in any hurry to get around me either. Everyone is suffering.

Finally we round a corner and I realize we are just outside Athens, and have 2 climbs left. But the first climb I loathe. It is somewhat short, but man is it steep. Suddenly the pack starts to move all over the road nearly everyone is out of the saddle, rocking their bikes. Again, I make it with the group, and my mood improves, Athens is on a hill, and now that is the only hill left. Post ride Food and Beer awaits!

Interesting to hear the stories when your done and finally relaxing. Man, was I suffering when we were going past that white picket fence. “yeah, I remember that fence, that section SUCKED!”

You are suffering? Remember everyone is hurting, you just have to hurt just a little more to stay with them!
Most races come down to 3-5 minutes of who can suffer the most and that often determines the winner.

Bike crash injury

I crashed. I was going too fast and there were acorns and lots of leaves on the ground. I hit hard.

I went Mt biking with some buddies today. I slowed down at an intersection to make sure everyone was together and 2 of the guys passed me – suddenly I was playing catch-up. I went into a berm with more speed than usual, ended up high on the berm, I overshot the exit and the front wheel landed on leaves. The front wheel immediately folded out from under me and next thing I knew, I was rolling off the trail so that I wouldn’t get run over by the guy behind me. It happened that fast.

If you have not crashed, your not going fast enough…. or something like that.

I went down on my left side and had pain in my left knee. The guys stopped and waited as I figured out whether or not it was serious. I finally got up gingerly and slowly got back on the bike, and continued the ride. The knee was sore, but I pushed on…. I was riding the Jamis SS so I had to mash and stand often. My knee wasn’t very Happy, but I was enjoying the ride. After we finished an easier loop we moved onto another trail.

After transferring over to this other section my knee felt like it had hot-spots. I pulled down my knee warmer, which revealed a purple knee cap and being October, I don’t exactly have a tan. I could see where the skin had taken some abrasion. I was now figuring that I needed to take it easier than I was and attempt to spin my way out of the woods if possible.

I solo hiked & biked my way back to the parking lot and threw down some advil. Once home, I elevated and put a bag of frozen broccoli on the knee cap. Hours later and there was serious swelling and I could barely bend my knee past a 90 degree angle. This was probably my fault.

Things I did wrong
I should have realized how hard the impact was that my knee was going to swell and be sore. More riding was not going to ‘loosen it up’. In fact, all it probably did was aggravate it even more. Being on a Single Speed wasn’t helping either.

Things I did correctly
Once I realized that it was worse that I initially thought, I attempted to get back quickly and not make things any worse, and then took take advil in hopes of suppressing any swelling.
Elevate the leg and start 15 minute periods of icing the knee.

UPDATE:
After a couple days of the knee starting to feel better, I checked to see what was restricting my range of motion. Well, where I was feeling the pressure was not in the joint itself, but coming from the muscle.
I started massaging the muscles around the knee and found some tight spots that were fairly tender. SO, I pulled out my good old foam roller and started to roll out my inside knee. I did some searching for those main spots that were so tender, and put some slight pressure on them until they slowly released.

Almost immediately, I noticed improvement in range of motion and less pain.

After a week of doing this, the knee joint itself feels good – no pain through full range of motion.
The inside and just above the knee muscle seems to be quite swollen – I’m continuing to take Advil, apply ice and elevate.

why motorists hate cyclists on the road

Dear cyclists,
If you think about it, it’s not really you, (well, most of you anyway – ride 3 abreast with a car-back & it IS you!) motorists are mostly just angry with anyone else (traffic) on the road. And if you are on the road also, well that just makes you an easier target of their annoyance. They can honk, yell, scream, intimidate & just press the gas pedal for a quick get-a-way.

Odd thing is that most cyclists hate cars driving behind them as much as anyone else!

Here is a timeless eye opening video:

Did you notice the names given?! Mr. ‘Walker’ – Mr. ‘Wheeler’ I would have said Mr. ‘Motorist’.

I think the trick to this is, don’t escalate things & don’t allow them to bother you emotionally. And remember, it’s not just cyclists that motorists are angry with – it’s anyone that is ‘in their way‘ or ‘slows them down‘, so try not to take it personally.

Mountain biking Tsali

This past weekend I loaded up the Jamis Exile Single Speed and made the drive North to Almond, NC to one of my favorite Mt biking locations in the South east – Tsali. Tsali is a magical trail system located on one of the most amazing backdrop of The Great Smokey Mountains.

I got there late Friday afternoon, just in time to set up camp before dark. And that’s when the fun started. Hanging out by the campfire catching with friends that I haven’t seen for most of the Hot, Muggy summer we have had in the southeast.

Campfire and Niner single speed at Tsali.

One of the great things about Tsali is the ability to ride straight out of camp and onto the trails!! It is awesome to come back from a ride with perma-grin and pop open an adult beverage, heat up some food, and just hangout and chat about the ride. And fortunately it is cool enough to need a campfire in the evenings. And oddly enough, I just happened to see this picture opportunity pop-up one evening of Tad’s Niner hanging on a hook behind the campfire. We took several photos of this with various amounts of lighting on the bike.

Mouse loop overlook

The next morning we get up, eat, and get prepped to ride Mouse, followed by Thompson.
I honestly can’t remember much about riding mouse – but for some reason I seem to remember everything about riding Thompson, especially the finishing stretch down to the camping area. This is a longer downhill section with just enough twists, berms and turns to keep you on your toes.

Of course, since I brought a good friend who had never been here, I made sure that we got to each overlook. And Lady Luck was on our side as it was a peak leaf viewing weekend at altitudes above 4,000 feet.

The next day we headed out to ride Left loop. This such a great section of easy paced trail that followed along the edge of Fontana Lake. It gets challenging in a couple sections due to the narrow trail along the slate rock.

Lake Fontana, Left loop at Tsali.

From the overlook on the left loop, we headed over to the Right loop. This Right loop takes you from the overlook level back down to the lake level & then back to the Tsali parking lot.

All the trails are quite groomed at Tsali, but what makes them so much fun is the speed and maintaining your momentum on the berms in the corners. Running the Jamis Single Speed at Tsali was Great! I ran a 32×20 gear, and although it seemed a bit on the easy side a couple of places, for several of the climbs I was glad I wasn’t running a smaller cog. Any place that was flat or downhill & straight enough that I wanted more gearing didn’t last long enough to really warrant a bigger gear. And I was surprised to find on the couple of climbs that I had to get off the bike (don’t say walk) was where a rider in front of me caused me to loose momentum or the rear wheel spun out on me.

This wasn’t my first weekend at Tsali, but I think I got much better pictures this time!

Jamis Exile 29 single speed review

I got a Jamis Exile29 Single Speed for review earlier this year. The Jamis Exile is a steel (Reynolds 631) hard-tail frame. Although ‘Steel is real’ I think we can add heavy to the end of that saying. However, with that added weight comes a great ride and feel of the bike.
Carbon bars
For this test, the bike has a Rock Shox, Reba fork up front. The reba is coupled with an aerus 110mm stem, and aerus carbon riser handle-bars. I like a wider handlbar on a single-speed bike. I have found that on a single-speed you end up pushing and pulling much more than on a geared bike, and the Aerus hasn’t let me down.

The front tire is a Kenda Nevegal 2.2.
The rear tire is the Specialized Fast Track – 2.0.
Truvative bottom bracket and cranks, with a 32 front chain ring & a 20 tooth rear cog.

adjustable position, 20t gear

Jamis set-up their single-speed horizontal drop-outs by placing wheel position bolts in the rear dropouts. Anytime you change a cog, you would have to change the position of these bolts. I ride with several people that have SS’s, and I have had to wait several times for them to re-adjust their bottom bracket (BB) positioners (which is some bike manufactors way of keeping the single speed chain ). Once you adjust your positioners with the Jamis, the rear skewer will keep them in place. With the other BB there is a lot of torque and movement going on there, and riders seem to have to re-tighten often, or make double sure they are tight enough to begin with.

Chain keeper

It has a chain keeper in the rear. Which seems over-kill until you go about changing out the gear, then it is a nice added feature. When are about to take your rear wheel out, you simply take the chain off the rear cog, and ‘hang’ on the chain hanger on the rear of the frame. This keeps the chain from dropping down. It’s a small detail, but one that I appreciate.

Braking is done with the Avid Juicy Threes. This Jamis is set-up with 180mm rotors up front and 160mm rotor in the rear. This is done so that you have enough stopping power up front where your weight will shift slightly, but not so much stopping power in the rear that you back tire locks up every time you feather the rear brake.
Although with the Fast Track on the rear, locking it up while braking is my only complaint.

CONS:
Even being a single speed, this bike is a heavy weight – 27lbs. This is part due to the heavy wheels, but lets face it, the 631 steel frame is heavy material, however, it is a great riding frame.

Single Speeding at Chicopee with Apollo

This is not a bike that I would want to start out the season riding. Single speeding can be brutal on the wrong course if you are not in shape. I did a long ride w/ a friend and his kids, and at a slower pace, you mash the gear & my legs got worked!

I think every Single Speed needs a handle-bar mounted Front fork lockout! Loosing momentum from a bobbing fork on the trail sucks! And with a Single Speed, when you hit the uphill section where you notice your fork isn’t locked out, it is even tough to sit & adjust with out loosing momentum.

The Ride
This bike is FUN!!!
This is the first single-speed bike I have ridden, and although it seems like it will be too tough to ride much on a single-speed, I have found that most terrain is actually very rideable. Granted, I didn’t dare take it too the foothills of the Appalachian Mts when I went, but I have surprised myself with the climbs that I have gotten over with the single speed. As most Single-Speeders will tell you, usually, if they have to dismount and push, most geared Mt bikers have to dismount and push also.

Exile SS

This bike handles very well, and with the single-speed, I have noticed that I can whip the rear end around much more than with a geared bike.
The single speed causes me to look ahead to what is upcoming, so that I have a better chance to prepare for the terrain. If it is uphill, I will look for a place to gain some extra momentum before the climb.

The wider Aerus handle-bars allow me to push, pull hard on the climbs, or anytime I’m accelerating, and they also allow me to lean it hard into corners – which I think is necessary for a 2Niner.

Overall, I have been impressed with how smooth of a ride this bike has (smoother than my other aluminum 2niner frame) and what I thought would be a bigger challenge of only a single-speed has actually been a gift of simplicity.

What bike should a new triathlete buy

I have this question asked quite often by beginner triathletes: “What kind of bike should I get?” People that are just getting into triathlons are often confused with all the bikes out there. Although they are looking for which brand of bike to purchase – we usually answer with ‘A Road Bike‘. After the odd look, I start to explain my reasoning.

Tri-athletes may think I am crazy when I tell them that they should get a road bike and not a triathlon bike. But there are many important reasons why your first bike should be a road bike, and not a triathlon (TT) bike like this:

Leader 735TT bike

Some of my reasons are:
1) Your hands will never be far from your shifters.

2) Your hands will never be far from your brakes.

3) Your weight is not shifted as far forward (on a road bike) due to less vertical seat tube angle.

4) On a Triathlon bike, your arms & steering points are not as far forward past the steering tube – stem length + aero-bar length.

5) On a triathlon bike, your points of contact are now very narrow, rather than tri-angle shaped (road) points of contact – seat, Left & Right hand. This makes it harder to maintain a straight line while riding.

AND the most Important reason is you can focus on your bike handling skills FIRST!

Unfortunately people often go into bike shops and say, I’m going to do a triathlon, I need a tri-bike. Truthfully, they do NOT. They need a road bike, so that they learn how to ride on the road, before riding a bike in a triathlon or time trial position.

Riding on the road is dangerous. Learning the fundamentals of steering, braking, shifting, dealing with traffic, riding near other cyclists, food and drink, all should be learned before purchasing a triathlon bike. Although it may sound expensive to purchase a road bike to ride for 2 years before getting a triathlon bike, it is actually a much smarter decision to work on the fundamentals of cycling. Also, a Triathlon bike is not the ideal bike for every triathlon, a road bike can be a faster bike on some hillier courses.

Team RoundHere Racing new Parlee bikes

A great tip that I give to people attempting to fuel while on the bike is to use the hand that controls the front brake to get food, drink. This way your rear brake hand remains near the rear brake. It maybe awkward at first, but it can save you a lot of trouble in case anything happens.

Climbing Winding Stairs

This weekend was another busy weekend in my life – sometimes that is great & sometimes I’m not busy enough to keep my A.D.D at bay…. We had the annual holiday party at the training studio Friday evening – much joyous celebration of being at the ‘pain cave’ when the pain was replaced with a mini-keg of Triple Ale (9%). Great friends & Good times.

On Sunday, I finally got away from working on my car to run up to Dahlonega’s finest area of trail & Fire service roads – Bull Mt. I met up with Greg of Greg Rides Trails and a few other motley crew members for a 24 mile ride that wound it’s way up and over Winding Stairs. (several people that have ridden it before just shuddered as I write this). That’s because in those 24 miles we climbed over 3,100 feet – BUT we also descended 3K feet!

We suffered up to the top of Windy Stair & once getting there, started to Shiver! The top of the mountain was not only windy, but also significantly colder. Suddenly 1 of the guys says, ‘it’s 4pm, we gotta get around the Mountain before sunset!’ We took off, shivering & me with a re-newed nervous energy that comes from not knowing exactly where you are, nor how far you have to go until you are done.

On the other side of the mountain we found snow and ice still in Georgia. In the Atlanta area, we had a day or 2 of 60 degree weather, but here on the North side of the mountain there is less light, the sun seems to set earlier and it doesn’t get to warm-up as much due to both lack of direct sunlight and altitude. Onward we marched, I was savoring the cold wind of a eye-ball blurring, nearly out of control, descent that I haven’t felt lately, yet the whole time I was hoping that maybe I could zip up the collar on my wind breaker just a little more with out choking myself. The cold winter wind has a sneaky way of exposing every little crevice of open material in your clothing much more so than during the summer months. Don’t Figure.

I said to Greg, I think I forgot how much Fun fire-roads can be! To which he replies matter of factly: ‘then we should have ridden this route the other way’. Sweet, I got a good excuse to Bomb down Winding Stair… but I have to work my way up to the top first. Luckily Greg & I had more gears than the Motley CX bike riders did (not that they seemed to need them), however, on the descents Greg & I passed them quickly due to the suspension & Fat tires!

We hit the final descent down Cooper Gap road, which is a good pitch and some switch backs toward the end. I was having so much fun taking the turns at full speed, nearly overshooting a couple turns, and kicking a foot out to make sure I didn’t slide out completely. I realized it was the perma-grin & cold wind that was making my teeth cold. And just like that the descent finishes nearly as fast as you fly down – something about distance/pace continuum thingy…. I amped to think clearly.

We rolled back to the car, both thrilled and a little disappointed, the ride was over, yet we made it before dark. We chatted some and I warmed up the vehicle to head back into 1 of the most amazing sunsets I have seen in a long time….. maybe it was because I had just ridden over a mountain, but having the sunset in one area of the sky and the full moon showing in another area was very awe inspiring, and the icing on a stellar day in the saddle.

Riding fire roads in the winter is a great way to get in the necessary training that road cyclists need while not getting up to the speeds that you may want on the descents. Now, I really enjoy descending, but that doesn’t mean that everyone has to ride them as fast as possible. Stay steady and safe on the descents. The climbing is usually less windy due to the trees, and a good average race pace on a Mountain bike is about half the speed of road training, thus half the wind-chill factor, yet you can work on the climbs as much as you would have to on most any road climb – after all it is all up to the gearing/grade.

Another point about riding the fire roads (that also effected us this weekend) is when it rains – your local trails will usually be closed. The fire roads are rarely closed, and usually drain quite quickly.
Thanks Greg for being flexible and meeting up with me! Thanks to John at Dahlonega Wheelworks for waiting on us & Thanks Hill Billy…. just for being yourself – Good Times!

Athens to Homer WBL 2010

This year the first rendition of the infamous Winter Bike League (WBL) happened on December 4th. I was anxious to do this edition of the WBL in particular because the ride was going to Homer, Georgia. The year that I did every WBL ride, we never made it to Homer…. it was the first ride of the season that we took the ‘scenic route’ aka. got LOST. and it was about 135 miles of a expected 120 mile ride before we made it back. It was just one of those days.

I was fortunate to have a place to crash in Athens the night before. I pulled up a ride report from last year’s New Year’s day ride to refresh my memory of what would make this feat possible with less training this year. Sometimes Life and career tend to get in the way of being able to hop onto the bike and get the necessary miles in the saddle.

I awoke excited and nervous about the upcoming event. Just starting an event like the WBL can be an experience. We park, hop out and friends are milling about, chatting and saying Hi to each other, some folks that I haven’t seen lately.
I slowly make it past people attempting to sign-in – 2 points for this year’s WBL already. On the table I spy a much coveted Book – Winter Bike League 2010

The (mostly) true account of what went wrong by the (mostly) dependable man in the field, The Humbler Chronicler.

I had heard that the Mineral Man had written a section for the book & I was especially anxious to read that section from our fabled days of being Mineral Men.

I began to realize that this was a big gathering. It seemed about 150 people were in attendance for the first outing of this year’s WBL. No sprints today and ‘only’ 75 miles, so that usually brings out more people than usual for the kick-off to ‘the other season’.


Photo by Eddie Murray

As we headed out of town, a whole flock of vultures stirred up and were squawking while seemingly circling the road to see who was going to be the first to be left behind like a weaker Wilda beast that can no longer keep up with the herd. Luckily for me, it wasn’t long before I was able to catch a wheel that was heading up ahead of where we were, and being the foxxy, devious, wheel-sucking sprinter that I have been, I felt less than guilty about motoring right up along with them to the front section – but not so close that I would have to pull.

I have put myself on the front of the WBL ride several times. Trust me, at first the pace is not too bad – steady 18-22 mph. But this is the WINTER bike league, and the weather around Athens in the winter is typically not far above freezing and mostly Windy. Add to that the rolling hills that made the Pro riders in the Tour De Georgia more than just mumble curse words to anyone that would listen. It all makes for a tough day in the saddle – all the while you are leading a pack of hungry, battle hardened men that do their utmost to belittle you if they notice a chink in your armor. All you have to do is slide to much to one side and there will always be someone eager to take a turn at the front and this year, I am more than happy to just sit-in and enjoy the comedy of friends old and new in the group.

The legs seem to remember this kind of beating that they have taken so many times before. A group this size can be extra aggressive on the muscles when the ‘piano’ effect occur, slow down for an intersection or hill, only to jam back on the pedals for a 30 second all out effort, then slow back to the standard 20 mph that the front group is doing.


Photo by Eddie Murray

Soon, I was starting to start my nutrition – taking bites from a clifbar and chasing it down with water. Every 30 minutes or so, I kept eating a little bit to keep my body energy to keep me with the group. Every time a hill hurt a little more than I thought it should, I would take a little bit from the gel flask.

At the store stop, I re-filled with water and was happy to be doing well so far on the ride. I tried to eat extra food while being stopped, but still only managed half a clifbar and part of a candy bar I nabbed from Eddie.

Luckily, yet unluckily it seemed that everyone on this ride today has read my post about last year’s ride and is gathering at the very front of the group. We have jammed up both the entrance and the exit of the store stop. We turned onto the road and the typical 2 abreast group was now about 6 abreast, everyone seemingly vying for a position ‘near’ the front, but not ON the front.

As the field settles in, and sorts themselves out, I get good placing in the group, I’m more than half way to the front and the paino effect isn’t too bad. I was on the gutter side of the road, so moving up anymore would be tough anyway.

We come up to a stop sign and suddenly many people that had been at the back came surging to the front, taking up nearly 3 lanes. As the pack shot away from the intersection, I was once again behind mid-pack.
As we took the hilly route back to Athens the rollers and the lack of LSD started to take their on me and I was coming unglued at the filament level. The muscles didn’t get enough nutrients in the last 2 hours and were now on empty. Micro-cramping ensued. I called this micro-cramping because I felt the cramps, but they were not near the leg stopping cramps that I have gotten before, these were more effective of slowing me down than stopping me. I guess those electrolytes that I took before the ride were effective for 3.5 hours….of a 4 hour ride. As we were going up a larger roller, I had to pull to the left onto the yellow line and allow others to pass and stay out of the way & not cause an accident. I always try not to impeded others flow and momentum.

Once I made it over the top, I could raise my speed back up and slowly reel in the group. I wasn’t the only 1 at the back end of the field. Some guys were suffering and then as usual the guys who could be pulling the field were hanging out chatting. You see the really strong riders tend to stay at the very front or the very back of a field. It’s the safest areas & they stay Out of Danger. I find my friend Artur along the back and trade bottles for a Gatorade filled bottle. My body was craving sugar, and although it wasn’t enough to snap me back immediately it would be enough to give me some energy to hopefully keep me with the group.

Well, it did until the next big roller. Then suddenly I was struggling off the back again. Then as I hear a rider passing, I get the rush from behind, just steer straight and keep pedaling. And just like that I am over-running other cyclists that are hanging on. I keep pace and keep downing fluids. I’m feeling better, but the miles and hills are taking their toll on me & my glue on the group is less and less tacky. Then another push & I’ve been forcefully re-glued. Someone likes me & wants me to finish this together. I say Thanks as I check to see who it is – U.S. National Pursuit champ Daniel Holt is grinning at me, “I give good pushes, huh.”

As we get back to the red lights of Athens a chick looks over her shoulder and says “thanks for the pushes”. For the first time I have to say “it wasn’t me” It seems I wasn’t the only 1 getting pushes today & thus another reason that there is so much comradere in the WBL field. The cyclists that go through the frozen tundra together have something in common that no one expects or demands, being a WBL zealot.

Somethings that I learned on this outing:
I should have used some electrolytes in my bottle & refilled that bottle at the store stop with an extra tablet. I usually use NUUN, however I am currently trying out CamelBack’s version – the ingredients appear the same, but they give you 2 extra in the pack & a stronger flavor. Either 1 would probably kept my cramps at bay while I kept eating on the clifbar, however, it would not have been enough.

The second lesson was that I should have taken the extra few minutes to fill my 2nd flask and bring it along with me. That extra gel would have given a lot more energy to get me through the ride. I usually try to err with having too much food/water with me, but this is 1 of those times where I under estimated – by quite a bit and suffered because of it.

I’ve made it through big rides that I haven’t done enough miles for, and the 1 main factor is nutrition! You have to eat for what is upcoming, not for how you feel.