Cycling kits … 🤔

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Years ago, I never imagined wearing lycra. Never imagined wearing tight, aero clothing. Never imagined there was any benefit.

I sometimes wore baggy, mountain bike style shorts, even on a road bike. And, I had a pair of cycling liners I might have worn under pants. Oh. I did have a pair of wool tights. With suspenders. Remember those. But bibs? Why would I want to wear them? And tight jerseys? Never. I like baggy clothing. Clothing that doesn’t restrict. Clothing that hides imperfections. Tight clothing is for the young with chiselled abs, quads, and butts.

I remember the first pair of bibs I purchased. A black pair with a matching jersey. Size large. I made certain they weren’t tight. Especially the jersey. I needed room to move. To stretch. Everyone teased me. Who do you think you are? A racer? Are you joining the tour next year? I was ridiculed at home, and everywhere else.

That was a decade, or more, ago. How things have changed. Now, I wear little else. Even when I’m not cycling. I don’t have that chiselled look. No, I have that older, rounder look. But who cares. Bibs are comfortable. They stay up. Don’t cut into my waist when bent over the bars. And, they stretch when I move. The jerseys may be tight, but they too move with me, and feel like I have nothing on. More importantly, they don’t catch the wind like a spinnaker, the way my clothes used to.

Now when I travel, I pack more cycle clothing than I do casual wear. I cycle when I travel, and I need the right clothing. And, I need a lot of it. I cycle a lot. Maybe twice a day. And, I don’t always have a washing machine on hand. I need a lot. Bibs. Jerseys. Socks. Caps. Arm warmers. Leg warmers. Wind jacket. Rain jacket. Long fingered gloves. Short fingered gloves. Booties. I need clothing for all weather conditions. And, the kits have to match. They have to be colour co-ordinated. Socks, bibs, and jerseys have to compliment one another. And, the bike.

I know. You’re laughing. I’m nothing more than a fashionista. A slave to clothing. No. Not at all. Cycling kits are practical. First of all, they are comfortable. That is the most important consideration. If you are going to spend hours on a bike, you need to be comfortable. Second, they are aerodynamic. They don’t catch the wind like a proverbial spinnaker. They make the cyclist more efficient, enabling the him (or her) to travel faster, more easily in all conditions. And, most importantly, they look good. If you look like a cyclist, you are more likely to ride like one as well.

These days, I would never consider riding without a proper kit. I’m a road cyclist, and I want to look like one, even if I can’t ride with the tour 😂

I’ve been at the cottage a month today. 

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I’ve been at the cottage a month today.

Alone without TV, or the internet.

Time has passed quickly. I’m never bored or lonely. There is always something to do. Cycle. Shop. Cook. Eat. Read. Cut the grass. Vacuum the floors. Write. Text the kids.

I have accomplished a lot. I found necessary services easily. A gym nearby that I never knew existed. A hair cutter that does a better job than the one at home. A group of like minded cyclists who do a weekly group ride. A contractor to install double-paned windows. A local shop where I could purchase a light touring kayak I have wanted for years. An arborist to trim back a 50 foot blue spruce. A contractor to install a gas fireplace. And, a seamstress to make curtains for the bedroom windows.

I’ve read 5 books. eBooks that I could find, and pay for easily. Books from a summer reading list provided by a gym colleague I respect. Books that have given me insight into South African apartheid, the Haiti earthquake, cycling around the world on a “safety”, West Coast indigenous culture, and a “who-done-it” set in northern Ontario cottage country. And, I listen to CBC Radio One throughout the day. It’s commercial-free, informative, and an entertaining glimpse into Canadian culture.

I cycle everyday. Well, everyday it doesn’t rain. There is always wind. A north westerly wind ranging from 10-30 kph. A hurting wind that tests my metal. No matter which direction I head out, I always find the wind. If not on the way out, on the way back. I ride on-the-drops most of the time. There may not be hills, but there is wind.

I eat well. Homemade energy gels for cycling made with dates, raisins, lemon and lime juice, peanut butter, and a pinch of salt. Homemade post-ride smoothies made with berries, banana, more peanut butter, and almond milk. Frittata. Quinoa salads. Cold pasta and vegetable salads. Imaginative stir fry with rice. Wraps with tofu, rice, vegetables, and baby spinach. And, veggie burgers when I want a quick, easy meal.

This is the first year I have been here in the spring to witness the area awaken. The leaves form and blossom on the trees. The Canada Geese parading by with their young in tow. Mosquitos. Lots of them. This has been an unusually wet spring, perfect breeding ground for the little pests. Higher than usual water levels, the result of unusual rainfall. Farmers ploughing and sowing their fields. Weekenders arriving to open up their cottages, and launch their boats for the season. And birds. Geese, Osprey. Herons. Loons. Owls. Robins, And, a plethora of wetland birds I’m unable to name. All harmonizing to the tune that is spring.

I’ve frequently seen the hot, humid summer days. And, the cooler, more colourful fall ones. But I have seldom witness spring here.

It’s the change of seasons that I miss on the West Coast.

Do you ride on the drops … 🤔

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I ride on the drops a lot when I’m at the cottage.

At first, I thought it was because I am battling headwinds all the time, and it is certainly a more aerodynamic position. But on todays ride, I was on the drops mostly, even when there was no hurting wind.

I began thinking about this.

It’s true. Riding on the drops is more aerodynamic. It is also the most powerful position you can be in on a bike. It is an athletic position. Think of a baseball shortstop getting ready for a ball hit his way. He is leaning forward, knees bent, and arms at his side. He is ready to move quickly, and powerfully to his left, right, forward, or up. Think of an NHL hockey player racing to for a pass along the boards. He too is bent forward, his knees are bent as he pushes hard with one leg, then the other, with his arms at his side. And, think of a sprinter in the blocks ready to start his race. Again, he is bent at the waist, knees bent, and arms at his side ready to propel himself quickly, and powerfully forward.

This is the athletic position.

And, this is the position the cyclist is in when riding on the drops. Imagine if you can, freezing a cyclist on his bike while positioned on the drops, and you could put him at shortstop ready for the next ball, a professional hockey player racing for a breakaway pass, or a track star ready in the blocks.

So, why am I positioned on the drops most of the time while cycling here and not at home?

I think there are several reasons. First, at home on the west coast, I am climbing a lot more. There are no flat rides where I live. Instead on being on the drops, I’m frequently on the bar flats climbing a 6-8% grade. So when it flattens out a little, I’m happy to relax on the hoods for awhile before approaching the next hill. Second, when I’m at the cottage, I have more wind to contend with. Sure it gets windy on the west coast but there is an incessant north westerly in these parts, and the bast way to combat them is to get into the most aerodynamic position you can. Lastly, and I had overlooked this initially, I’m in training mode here at Camp PedalWORKS. The weather is favourable here, the roads are quiet, nicely surfaced, and scenic. I’m here by myself mostly, and I’m usually preparing for a cycling event in the fall, at the end of the cycling season.

I notice too that I travel faster when on the drops. At first, I thought is was because it is a more aerodynamic position. And it is. But I also realized that I can maintain a faster cadence more easily when on the drops. I have more power. It is the power position.

When I first arrived at the cottage, I wasn’t comfortable on the drops for long periods of time, even though I have cycled for years. I simply wasn’t used to it. I could only hold the position for 10-15 minutes at a time. Not now. I was out for 2 1/2 hours this morning, and most of that time I was on the drops. So, don’t despair if you are not comfortable at first. You’ll like it. It’s safer too. You have a lower centre of gravity, and thus better control of the bike with your weight more evenly distributed over the wheels. That’s a good thing for fast descents. And, you have greater leverage when applying the brakes which means you can stop more quickly if need be.

Do you ride on the drops?

That’s progress … 🤔

I have been making a lot of noise about cycling numbers these days, and admit I am a slave to them, despite my best intentions.

Nothing measured, nothing managed. Right?

If you have been following this blog, you know I installed a cadence sensor on my road bike. I had been training indoors on a Keiser spinning bike during the winter months, and became accustomed to both the power and cadence displays. There is a direct correlation. It takes more power to turn a larger gear, but you tire more quickly. On the other hand, if you spin a lower gear at a higher cadence, you generate similar power, but with less effort, and can last longer. Why? Because you are using your cardiovascular system, not your leg muscles, to do the work. If you watch the pros, they spin fast, AND in a high gear. That’s why they are pros.

My goal this season is to ride at a higher cadence. This will help with the endurance events I have planned. The ideal, apparently, is to spin at a rate of 90-100 RPM. That is my goal. Easy enough inside on a trainer. Something else again on a road bike over varied terrain, and weather conditions.

Well, today is a landmark day.

I rode ~ 35 km, averaging over 25 KPM with an average cadence of 91 RPM. Before you boohoo this, let me say it was not the easiest of routes. It was partly into a strong wind, and there was 6 km of climbing, some hills with a 6% grade. And, I did repeats on one of them. So, it wasn’t a flat ride. It isn’t the hardest, but it’s not the easiest either. I have never seen these numbers before. Anywhere. And keep in mind. There are averages. I saw 45 KPH and 106 RPM displayed more than once. I must be improving. I can average a 90-100 cadence more easily, even while climbing, and it seems, in a larger gear.

If I can do this on the harder of the 2 weekday rides I do, maybe I can average 30 kph on the easier route where the hills only average a 2-3% grade.

That’s progress … 🤔

The beauty of this place is that there is no TV … 🤔

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When I’m alone at the cottage, I shop, cook, eat, clean, renovate, decorate, cycle, paddle, and read eBooks. I have finished 4 full-length novels already, and began a memoir about the 2010 earthquake in Haiti last night.

When I have TV and the internet readily available, I read much less. I mean to read more, and may finish a book a month, but I spend too much time in front of the TV. Here there is no TV. No internet. I thought of getting it installed. It is available. I even got quotes. The first week I was here, I was in serious withdrawal. I thought I needed it. What was I to do with the long, dark evenings. The days are not so bad. I’m busy. But the evenings just dragged on.

The beauty of this place is that there is no TV. No internet. There never has been. You are outside more. Working. Or, playing. You become more attuned to nature. The wildlife that abounds. The birds. The blue heron that lands on the dock every evening in search of food. The Canada Geese that parade by on the water with their young. The beaver that paddle buy. The bear that lurks in the bush out back. And, if you listen, there is a continuous philharmonic performance from sunrise to sunset. A performance drowned out by TV.

Once again, I digress. I’m here to talk about eBooks. Who would have thought, me of all people, would enjoy reading novels on my laptop. I like my books. I like holding them. Feeling them. Referring to them. Displaying them on my bookshelves with my other trophies. Why would I even consider an eBook?

Money. And space. Those are the reasons. Hardcover books are expensive. eBooks are a fraction of the cost. And, when I travel, particularly to the cottage for extended stays, hardcovers weigh a lot and take up a lot of space in my luggage. You ask, “Why don’t you get books when you are there?”. Well, I have tried that. There is a small local library 15 km down the road but it is small. Very small. With a very limited selection. And, there are no bookstores in this rural community. Can you imagine that? The grocery stores carry a selection of paperbacks, and sometimes I can find reading I enjoy. But not often.

This year, I adopted a different strategy. First, I enlisted the help of another gym regular. A young woman that is an english Professor at the local university. I asked here to recommend some summer reading, and she provided a thoughtful list of 7 diverse works that she herself has enjoyed, or teaches in her classes. And second, rather than purchase each of these books (they cost $25-35 each), I considered electronic versions. I had never done this before but it seemed a practical solution. I’d save money. I wouldn’t have to lug them on the plane. And, I could purchase them on-line, even at the cottage.

I didn’t think I would enjoy the reading experience. I was wrong. I actually prefer it. The type is larger. My eyesight is not the best. I can soften the background colour so it is more relaxing on the the eyes. I can tap with one finger to find the meaning of a word. I love that. And tap with two to highlight a section. It remembers the page I’m on. I don’t need a bookmark or fold a page corner down.

The only thing I can’t do is mount the books in my trophy case.

What do you do … 🤔

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What do you do … 🤔

When I was asked what I did, I would respond with “I’m a software developer delivering mission critical applications to BC’s major forest product companies.”. And invariably this would lead to more questions about the work itself.

Now that I’m retired when I’m asked the same question, I say “I’m a road cyclist.”. People look at me with a questioning look, and then say, “No. You have too many wrinkles and grey hairs to be a pro cyclist. What do you really do?”

It seems employment is the only worthy thing to do.

What do you do, is the wrong question. It answers how we may pay the bills but it doesn’t begin to answer who we are. What interests us the most. What our personal goals are. We are what activities we enjoy, the foods we prefer to eat and drink, the places we have visited and want to visit, the books we read (or not), the movies we watch (or not), the sports we enjoy (or not), what we dream, and the things we Google.

Yes.

If you were able to see what I have Googled during the past week you would see a list of light weight touring kayak sites, books authored by Eden Robinson, David Herlighy, and Danny Laferriere, polarized training specifics, various recipes for muffins, salads, and stir fry techniques. That’s who I am this week.

Google searches leave an interesting, and revealing trail. Businesses know this, and are cashing in. They are a glimpse into momentary interests. A cursory, fleeting look that may, no will, change over time, as we continue to navigate through this life experience.

The next time you meet someone for the first time, don’t ask them “What do you do?”. Instead, consider asking them what movie they have enjoyed recently, what book they would recommend, or what they Googled last night?

You will surprised with the response, and where the conversation leads.

You may not learn how the bills are paid, or paid at all, but do you care?