This is what I mean about STRAVA … 🤣

Yesterday I mentioned how the social aspect of STRAVA has opened doors for me.

I outlined how I strategically follow men and woman of all ages that live in my neighbourhood (loosely speaking), and cycle regularly (3,500+ km year-to-date) – road cyclists like me that love to train, and race (sometimes).

Yesterday I had an interesting experience. I headed out in the morning to ride a familiar route with a few climbs, and a long gradual descent. 35-40 km in total. I was stopped at a traffic light. When it turned green, a young woman passed me in the intersection. She was keeping a good pace, and I could see she was experienced. She had a smooths, efficient pedalling stroke, and used hand signals regularly. I could tell she was an experienced road cyclist accustomed to riding in groups. I got on her wheel 😃

We kept a good pace for the first 10 km, averaging 25-30 kph to the base of the first long climb. I’m a good climber and thought I would pull alongside her to chat a little. Well, she put me in my place. She dropped me almost immediately. She was strong. She powered up the hill, and I never saw her again ☹️

Later, while going through my STRAVA feed, I realized we followed one another. I messaged her and we had an interesting exchange. We may never share a ride – I fear she is much stronger than me – but I hope to have more cycling discussions with her. I have a lot to learn from her.

This is the strength of STRAVA.

Thoughts on STRAVA … 🚴🏻

Unexpectedly, STRAVA has opened new doors for me.

I never appreciated the social features of STRAVA as much as I have since the start of the COVID lockdowns.

I have a new set of cycling mates 😂 I actively follow local cyclists that get out regularly to learn new routes, and share “kudos” and messages of encouragement. Since all of the cycling events have been cancelled, and group rides discouraged, I look forward to sharing rides with my new friends.

I follow men and women of all ages that live in the area, that have cycled 3,000+ km to-date this year. I’m surprised how many serious cyclists live nearby. And, I’m surprised how strong, and fast some of them are. Stronger, and faster than me ☹️ Some are a real inspiration. One woman gets out EVERY morning at dawn for a walk and coffee posting beautiful pictures of the sun rise. Another young woman, who just returned from Europe after completing her PhD, completes all of the local routes in record times. One fellow, a local cycling coach, climbs all of the local mountain regularly.

My new mates are an inspiration. They get out regularly, and encourage me to do the same. I actually feel I’m letting them down if I don’t ride 🤷‍♂️ And, they don’t just post rides. They also record swims, walks, SWIFT sessions, and Peleton workouts.

I walk a lot these days, taking every opportunity to get outside, and have begun to record these as well. A walk is a workout, right?

If you aren’t already using STRAVA’s social aspect, I encourage you to check it out.

New Strava PRs & #1 rankings 👏

At the end of each month, I rest for 2-3 days, and then re-test myself. When the gyms were open, I’d complete an FTP test on a spinning bike. These days, I time myself up the steepest, most challenging, local hills. I’m fortunate to have 4 right out my back door. They are not long (1.5 km), but have grades ranging from 5-13%. These are my new monthly test.

Yesterday I climbed them all in succession. My objective was to set a PR on each, and claim the #1 ranking for my age group if possible. Surprisingly, I did both 😃

I have been climbing more this past month, and have been feeling stronger, but I didn’t really expect to claim all of the top rankings.

I’m ready for the local mountain climbs next 😂

“The Worst Retirement Ever” … 😂

I’m spending too much time on YouTube, but it has its benefits 😂

Phil Gaimon was a professional cyclist. He retired in 2016 to find a real job (he wasn’t that good apparently), and developed a YouTube channel called The Worst Retirement Ever, where he travels the world trying to earn KOMs on the worlds toughest climbs. A formidable task, and the worst ever retirement.

Or is it?

I learned of Phil when he visited my hometown to attempt the Triple Crown. We have 3 local mountains, and each year there is a race up each of them in succession. Phil attempted to KOM each of them. I don’t know if he was successful or not. I haven’t found the video yet but it got me thinking.

I identify with Phil.

I’m retired, and all I really want to do is train, and cycle. I’m nowhere as fit, or fast, but then again, I’m also a lot older. By a long shot. And, I never raced professionally. No, I’m a recreational cyclist with an obsession. Instead of chasing KOMs around the world, I chase local PRs. It’s encouraging to see that even at my age, I can improve.

So maybe my blog needs to be renamed from PedalWORKS to The Worst Retirement. Certainly most people my age are not interested in pushing themselves physically the way I do. But I look at it differently.

What is more important than your health? My health?

Nothing.

Cycling gets me out the door, challenging myself, and engaged. What more could I ask for?

There is something.

Warm weather all year round. When we are done with COVID-19, I hope to spend the summer months at Camp PedalWORKS, and the winters in Arizona 😃

The Burrard Bridge …

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I cycle under the Burrard Bridge most days, but seldom stop to look. It is one of 3 bridges connecting the downtown core with the residential areas to the south.

This heritage, Art Deco, steel truss bridge was first opened in 1932, and services 65,000 automobiles each and every day. As the city has grown, so too have cyclists needs. Amidst considerable controversy and resistance, one of the 6 lanes was converted to a dedicated cycling lane in 2009. Ever since, bike traffic on the bridge has steadily increased.

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Between 2013-2015, the monthly cycling trips over the bridge has almost doubled lending support to the municipal government’s initiative to improve and expand the cycling infrastructure within the city (last evening the proposal was approved by council).

It demonstrates that if you build it, people will use it. Kudos to the local planners with the insight and political conviction to make cycling a priority, and a viable alternative for thousands. It takes vision, determination, and political will to connect these memorable destinations in Vancouver with safe, low traffic bikeways.

I have never thought of it before, but Vancouver is a premier cycling destination for all types of cyclists. For road cyclists, there are numerous scenic, fast, challenging routes, and mountains to climb. For mountain bikers, there is the Pacific Spirit Regional Park, not to mention the legendary North Shore mountain biking trails. And, for casual, recreational cyclists there is an extensive network of dedicated bike lanes and traffic-calmed bikeways.

I’m sounding like a billboard. Never mind. If you are planning a trip to Vancouver, get in touch. I’d be pleased to share my favourite rides with you.

 

 

He’s lean. He’s fast. He’s fun! | 5 Day Story Challenge

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He’s lean. He’s fast. And, he’s fun.

Why would I want a full-carbon road bike? My racing days are long past. That’s what I kept telling myself. After all, I have several very nice road and mountain bikes. Why would I want a light weight racing bike?

Six years ago, my son got serious about road cycling. At the time, he had a client, a Cat 1 racer, who at the end of each season, sells his bikes at a considerable discount. My son thought this would be a relatively inexpensive way to get started. So, that is how he acquired his first of several full carbon bikes.

He had the bike fitted and made several upgrades. A shorter stem, narrower carbon bars, and a new chain. One day, he asked if I would like to try it. Reluctantly, I took it for a spin around the neighbourhood. After all, why would I want a carbon bike? Well, I’m told I had a smile on my face the whole time. I could not get over how quickly the bike accelerated, how easily it climbed, how fast it went, and how confident I felt. I hadn’t had so much fun on a bike since I was a kid.

I wanted one 😉

That’s how it began. The next season, I asked my son if his client had another bike he wanted to sell. He did. I knew he would. A 2011 full-carbon R2 model with a Dura-Ace group, and an older set of training wheels that had seen several seasons.

I bought it 😀

IMG_3830Since then, I have made several upgrades – a shorter stem, new saddle, carbon bars, compact cranks, carbon Dura-Ace pedals, carbon cages, 23 mm tires, and Dura-Ace C24 wheels. Some of these components were gifts. Everyone knew what to get me for birthdays and Christmas. And, they were all purchased on-line. I was surprised how easily and inexpensively you can purchase components on-line but that’s a topic for another post.

Lou: “I’m lighter and faster than ever.”

IMG_3832Right from the start, the bike had a name.

Lou O_o

Lou means famous warrior. And, 18 kings of France had this name. How appropriate. A battler. A fighter. A leader. He was going to help me battle long steep climbs, keep pace with fast paced groups, and lead the way for years to come.

Lou: “I’m the head guy, right?”

I’ve learned a lot from Lou. I’ve learned I’m not done. There is a lot of cycling left in me. I’ve learned you’re never too old to have fun on a bike. I’ve learned I’m faster, and fitter than I realized. I’ve learned there is always room for improvement. And, I’ve learned fast is fun.

Lou: “I told you so.”

It’s good to hang out with a younger crowd. Chas and Thatch are great rides but they are different. Slower. Heavier. Lou is young. More up to date. Lighter. And, faster. He makes me feel half my age 😀

Chas: “You’re ungrateful. If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t be cycling today, wouldn’t even be able to ride a bike like Lou. You seem to have forgotten that cyclists have won the TDF on bikes just like me. Give me some credit.”

Lou and I have shared some great times. We ride several organized centuries each year, and many “recreational” long rides. We never do less than 50 km together, and frequently enjoy 100-150 km scenic rides with like minded friends and family.

Today, Lou and I did a solo ride along the river road – my usual early Sunday morning 50 km ride. It was wet. Rain was not forecast until later in the day, and I didn’t wear my rain gear. Grrrrrr ….

No matter. We had a great ride 😎

Lou: “I look good wet!”

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Becky of Restart Urgently Needed nominated me for this challenge. She wanted to hear more about my bikes she said. Thank you Becky 🙂 I have to write 5 posts about my bikes and, with each post, nominate another blogger to accept the challenge.

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With the first post, I nominate Ellie (A Writer’s Caravan) for the 5 day story challenge because I would love to read how music has shaped her life. And, I want to hear more of her music.

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With the second post, I nominate Bri (Bike Like Crazy) for the 5 day story challenge because I would love to read more about cycling in cold, and snow. Bri is an inspiration to all cyclists.

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An unexpected climb …

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I didn’t set out to climb Mount Seymour yesterday. On the contrary, I had already completed a 45 km workout on the hilly terrain at UBC. But, after running an errand on the North Shore, I found myself at the foot of the mountain with the bike on the rack.

I couldn’t resist.

Mount Seymour is a 12.5 km climb up the the popular ski and hiking destination. It is the most difficult of the 2 local mountains road cyclist train on with an average grade of 6.7%  and, sections as steep as 18%.

I have completed this climb before. For the past several years, I do it at least once a season. This time, I was not properly prepared. I wasn’t prepared mentally (I wasn’t planning to do it that day), I was tired from my earlier ride, I didn’t have any food, and my water bottles were empty. I decided to try the climb anyway. I could always turn around if it got too tough. Right?

This was a tough climb. Hot. Long. And steep. I needed water. And food.

I learned a lot with this climb. I learned climbing is largely mental. It is digging deep, and not letting up. It is continually fighting against not only gravity, but a multitude of negative thoughts.

It was difficult right from the start. I said to myself, “I’ll do 3 km and then turn around”. But when I got to the 3 km marker, I said “I’ll go to the 5 km marker and turn back down”. When I got to the 5 km marker it got a little easier, and I said “I’ll go to the 8 km marker and turn around there”. But when I got to the 8 km marker i said “I’m almost there. There is no point turning back now”.

I had one thought in mind. I wanted a picture of myself at the top that I could share with friends and family. I wanted proof I had done this alone on the hottest day of the year after completing a 45 km ride earlier. Without the picture, no one would believe me.

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I didn’t set any records. It took me an hour. People climb it in 30-45 minutes regularly. But I did it, and was exhilarated at the top. I know I can do better. If I was properly prepared, had gels in my jersey pocket, and water in my bottles, I am sure I could climb faster. But, in a way, it was more rewarding completing the climb without fuel. It taught me the mind is the real fuel. By climbing 1 km at a time, fighting off negative thoughts, and focusing on the end goal, I completed the climb confident there are longer, stepper climbs to come.

So you want to climb …

 

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So you want to climb.

I live atop a mountain. Every day, whether I want to or not, I have to climb 3-5 km, depending on the approach, to get home. I used to complain but came to realize this “Little Mountain” has made me a better cyclist, and a more efficient climber.

Yesterday, I cycled the Sunshine Coast. We took the ferry to the Langdale Terminal, and cycled to Earl’s Cove and back – 170 km round trip, For those who know the area, you know it is beautiful, scenic, and extremely hilly. We were constantly climbing or descending with grades ranging from a modest 5%,  several gruelling, long climbs at 20%, and everything in between. There is no flat on the Sunshine Coast. Needless to say, I had hours to think about climbing techniques.

Here are a few things I thought about.

  1. Gear down. Outfit your bike with a compact group and a cassette with a lower gear. I ride with a 50-34 crankset and a 11-28 cassette. Even that isn’t enough sometimes.
  2. There is no shame in spinning in a “granny” gear. It is easier on your knees, and with a higher cadence, you can actually maintain a relatively face pace except on the longest, steepest climbs.
  3. Sit to climb. You actually deliver more power to the pedals when seated. Stand every now again again to stretch your legs, or to pick up the pace, but for the most part stay seated.
  4. Pedal in circles. It took me years to really understand this. I thought I did but until I started climbing a lot, I didn’t realize how important it is. Pedalling in circles means engaging all of your leg muscles throughout the pedal stroke. The key to engaging the ankle, calves and hamstring muscles on the way back up is to lower the heel at the bottom of the stroke. Think of scraping mud off the bottom of your shoe. This is why saddle height is so critical. If it is too high, you can’t lower your heel.
  5. Ride on the tops of your handlebars. This opens the chest enabling you to breath more deeply and rhythmically.
  6. Relax your upper body. Holding tension in your arms, shoulders and chest only wastes energy. You want all of your effort to be centred on your legs, buttocks and lower back.
  7. Look 10 feet ahead. Don’t think about how long the climb is. It will only discourage you. Break the climb into smaller, more manageable chunks.
  8. Drink and eat lots. Every 30 minutes. This type of cycling burns a lot of calories. So, if you don’t want to “bonk” (and I felt like I was close to it yesterday) drink a bottle of water every hour and eat. I had Gels, Cliff Bars and a banana in my back pockets but I needed more. After 120 km we stopped for a wholesome sandwich. Natural foods are best.

I am not a fast climber. I’m faster than I was, and faster than many on the road, but I don’t fool myself into thinking I am a fast climber. Unless you are 135 pounds and been training in the mountains for years, you are not fast. In my mind, the goal is to reach the top with energy to spare for the next inevitable climb.

How is it I get younger each year?

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How is it each year I get younger? That’s me in the middle with Blackie.

Each winter, I train for the upcoming cycling season. I am not a racer. I don’t tour the world. No, I just cycle. I hit the gym to spin, strengthen and stretch. I continue to commute on my bike to the office logging as many kilometres as I can despite the cold, and wet weather. Come spring, I am back out on the road bikes, testing myself on familiar training routes. Each spring, I seem stronger than the season before. This spring is no different.

I am stronger on the bike than I was last fall following months of cycling. I can tell by the little things. I climb familiar hills in higher gears. I crest grades faster than ever before. I descend faster, drop lower on the bars, tuck tighter, and pick straighter lines. I take more difficult, steeper routes home. I maintain a faster pace over longer distances. These are little things, but they demonstrate I am a little stronger, faster, and more confident than last year.

Anyway, what does getting older mean? Sure, I have a few more wrinkles, a little more grey, and carry some extra weight, but with a little effort, I continue to improve. I am sure a day will come when I begin to climb more slowly, descend more cautiously, and take a less aggressive line. A day may even come when I am unable to straddle a saddle. But for now, cycling has suspended time, and kept me feeling young.

And, isn’t that what cycling is? A trip back to childhood when cycling was play.