Road biking, dirt road riding on Frankenbike, tandem riding, group riding, time trialing, randonneuring - I love to ride, and I love to write. As I've traveled along on two wheels, I've learned one thing: Expect Adventure. Join me on the journey!

Betty Jean Jordan

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Bicycle Math

My Reddit Connection (a.k.a. Robert) passed along this cool example of bicycle math:

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Peach Peloton - Kaolin Country

Today was a regular Peach Peloton day.  Unfortunately, Robert couldn't go with me because he is recovering from the flu.  So, I headed to East Macon by myself to join my cyclopeeps.

Peach Peloton starts at 9:00 AM.  When I arrived at the starting location about 8:45, the only others in the parking lot were Stony and Chad Madan.  "Laws, what am I getting myself into?" went through my head.  But I got ready to ride regardless.

Within minutes, Allen, Cal, Doug, and Van also joined us - still quite a formidable group.  I was determined to ride my best, but I always prepare for the possibility of getting dropped.  I had uploaded the route into my Garmin, and in general I'm very comfortable with navigation.

With an odd number of riders, the group stayed in a two-up formation with me drafting on the back right.  I stayed there, letting the fading rider get in front of me as he came off the front.  The guys don't mind me forgoing pulling, which is just as well because it's my only hope of hanging for the whole ride.

Although the total amount of elevation gain was moderate, there were a few punchy climbs.  Often, the guys on the front rode up these hills harder than they should have, at least from a group riding standpoint.  (Remember, if your goal is to maintain a cohesive group, focus on keeping your power consistent, not your speed.)  Several times I found myself riding at about 150% of my threshold power up these fairly long climbs.  I recovered quickly each time, but I was concerned that these efforts would take too much from long-term energy reserves.  However, all I could do was keep riding as consistently as possible, maintaining that blessed draft.  The longer I could hang on, the better training it would be for me.

The route took us through Gordon.  As we left the city limits, a speck of dirt from the road got in my eye.  It was painful, but after I let my eye water for a few minutes, it finally felt better.  Ah, the legacy of riding in kaolin country...

We turned onto the Fall Line Freeway, which is also Georgia Highway 243 in this area.  We were riding along in Wilkinson County when I noticed a county line sign for Baldwin County.  Interesting, I thought; I didn't know we would be riding in Baldwin County today.  Literally about 10 seconds later, there was another county line sign indicating we were back in Wilkinson County.  Huh?  That really intrigued me, and sure enough, the Fall Line Freeway goes through a tiny corner of Baldwin County in that location.  About 450 feet to be exact - I measured it on Google Earth:

The red arrow indicates the 450-foot stretch in Baldwin County.
About half way in, we had a store stop in Irwinton.  We opted for the Red and White mini market instead of the Chevron.  The Chevron is halfway down a big descent, and we would have had to climb back up to get back on our route.  I'm glad we went to the Red and White because I got to see this inviting sign:

As we continued on, Cal started cramping.  He hung toward the back with me.  One time I took a turn in the two-up formation, riding next to Chad.  Chad is always very amiable on Peach Peloton.  I get the impression that he chats with you to try to take your mind off the pain.  It worked for me.  He told me about an interesting sounding book about the local kaolin industry and said he would let me borrow it.  That was all I could handle, however, in the two-up formation.  I resumed my trusty drafting position at the back.

The guys changed to a single paceline.  I stayed toward the back but occasionally moved a space or two up.  As long as I could keep drafting...

We were supposed to have an attack zone toward the end of the ride (not that I would have participated).  I don't think we really had an official one - to me, the entire ride was rather an attack zone - but that designated portion of the route still was challenging.  I was at my limit.  At one point I literally called, "Uncle!" but somehow continued to push.

The guys eased the pace (a little bit!), and we rode the last five miles.  I was exultant that I stayed with them the whole way!

It really is a great group of cycling friends.  I appreciate so much their camaraderie, the way they challenge me, and their encouragement.

After the ride I stopped at a nearby Subway.  I ate my sandwich at the restaurant and went to the restroom before the drive home.  When I looked in the mirror, I saw that I had a big glob of black makeup under my eye from when it had watered to get the dirt speck out.  The woman behind the counter at Subway must have thought I looked pretty pitiful.  I'm glad I didn't tell her I had just ridden my bicycle 90 miles; she would have thought I was crazy, too.

Ride on!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Surreal Twilight Ride

I taught classes in Augusta all day Thursday and half a day Friday, spending the night there.  Therefore, it seemed simpler to make Thursday my off day this past week instead of Friday like usual.  When I got back to my office mid afternoon on Friday, it took me longer than I expected to take care of a few pressing tasks.  Therefore, I had time for only a quick ride late Friday.  It was worth it.

As I headed out into the descending twilight, my surroundings were surreal.  The temperature was in the high 50s, much warmer than the previous week.  It had rained off and on the night before and most of Friday, but it had started to clear a few hours earlier.  The setting sun back-lit  the streaky cumulus clouds, casting the entire outdoors in a bluish grey.  The whole scene had a uniquely beautiful, surreal quality.

Some of the surreal-ness may also have come from my having been awake since 3:00 AM.  Insomnia had struck, and, unlike usual, I never did get back to sleep.  I didn't feel tired as I rode, but my subconscious did seem to be poking through my awareness.

I passed a neighbor's house.  About six crape myrtles stood sentry at the end of the driveway.  Having been pruned over a number of seasons, the trees had longish trunks with numerous bare, spiky branches extending skyward.  They looked like banshees.  I felt a silent scream begin inside.

As I rode the dirt portion of my route, I thought I heard a far-off airplane.  Then, I realized it was my tires making a faint whooshing noise in the semi-peanut buttery mud.  A few upland chorus frogs sang in puddles of standing water, precursors to the symphonies we'll hear in only a few weeks.

Cows chewed their cud contentedly as I rode by, watching me more out of curiosity than fear.  A deer darted across a pasture.  In the gathering dusk, I tried to discern the varied colors in a trio of donkeys.

Back on pavement, I passed a giant oak tree, bedecked with mistletoe, silhouetted against the last western light. I'm pretty sure I spied seven druids dancing in seven time.

A few miles later, I turned into my driveway.  The sky was just getting dark enough to see the stars that welcomed me home.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Cold Weather Riding Tips from the Athens 200K Brevet

We get cold snaps here in Georgia, but the current one is one of the longest ones I can remember.  Usually, lows in the teens or twenties might last for a few days, but we've been in the grip of unseasonably cold winter weather for a week now.  Yesterday's forecast scared off about half of the 15 people who had signed up for the Athens 200K brevet.  Not me, though.  (ain't skeered)

It was 20 degrees (Fahrenheit!) when we rolled out.  Brrr!  The high for the day was about 40 degrees.  I suppose it takes a certain kind of person (what kind, I'm not sure) to willingly spend nine hours in such temperatures.  Really, though, the hardest part was getting started.  Isn't that true for so many things in life?

The ride was, thankfully, uneventful except for the cold, which was eventful enough.  Our favorite sign entertained us at the control in Madison:

As Wayne put it, if you got this at a gas station, it would be like playing ptomaine roulette.

Wayne also had the quote of the day.  As several of us were riding across a bridge over a lake, we saw a small fishing boat out on the water.  Wayne said, "I bet it's cold out there."  It reminded me of something having to do with a pot and a kettle.

It seems appropriate that that evening when I got home, I cooked fish and chips, using a beer batter on the fish.  (This was already on the night's menu.)  Additionally, I cooked while wearing my pink flannel pajamas with the bicycles all over them.

After successfully completing an admittedly challenging long winter ride yesterday, I'd like to encourage other cyclists to ride outside even when it's cold.  (Riding inside gets old, doesn't it?)  Here are some tips I've picked up over several winter riding seasons:


High-quality cold-weather riding apparel is key.  I'd certainly rather ride when it's 85 degrees and sunny, but I've found that with proper clothing, even subfreezing temperatures are manageable.  And note that your cold-weather cycling clothing doesn't have to be bulky.  Some of my rando buddies thought I must be cold because I wasn't wearing parachute pants and a Michelin-Man jacket.  That wasn't the case at all.

Upper body: I wore a long-sleeved thermal base layer, a fleece long-sleeved jersey, and my team cycling jacket.  On top of all that, I wore my fluorescent yellow ranndonneuring vest.  The vest was really for visibility, but the extra lightweight layer certainly didn't hurt.

Lower body:I wore my insulated bib tights.  They are so warm that I didn't need any other layers on the bottom.  Remember that your leg muscles are doing most of the work, which goes a long way toward keeping you warm.

Hands: Fingers and toes are the toughest things to keep warm.  Even with good covering, usually they will be cold for the first few miles until your circulation revs up.  Robert gave me a super-duper pair of winter riding gloves for Christmas.  Although I already have a warm pair of cycling gloves, their design is very poor.  If I have to take them off (a given at rest stops, etc.), the lining gets turned inside out, and it can be very difficult to get them back on.  The new gloves eliminate this problem.  Yesterday I added a pair of disposable, plastic food service gloves under my cycling gloves.  This helped a lot.  I've also heard of other randonneurs using latex or neoprene gloves.

Feet: If you're going to do a significant amount of cold-weather riding, consider getting insulated cycling shoes.  They are even more effective than shoe covers.  Yesterday I wore wool socks and my insulated cycling shoes, and I didn't have more than some short-lived toe-sicles at the start of the ride.

Miscellaneous: A head covering under your helmet is a must.  On regular winter days, I usually wear an ear-warmer headband and a cycling cap.  Yesterday was so cold that I went full-tilt with a balaclava.  It covered my whole head and mouth.  I can't pull it up over my nose, however, or my sunglasses fog up.  Yesterday I also added a neck warmer, a relic from my snow skiing days back in college.  Now it's a nice addition to my cycling gear repertoire.

Food and Liquids

I was fairly comfortable yesterday, but I forget that the cold makes you use so much more energy.  Therefore, it's particularly important to consume enough calories on a long ride in the cold.  I really could have eaten more than I did: two Clif Bars, trail mix, sardines in Louisiana hot sauce, and a bottle of chocolate milk.  I got additional calories from two bottles of Skratch Labs powder mixed with water, and I refilled with Gatorade at the convenience store controls.

It's also nice to have a hot beverage at the end of the ride, like a thermos of coffee or tea for the drive home.  One time I got some samples of Skratch Labs recovery drink mix that you put in hot water; it tasted like hot apple cider.  I ought to order some more of that.


So much of cycling is mental, particularly in endurance riding.  Maybe the same approach works for adding distance as well as acclimating to the cold.  Just as a newbie cyclist would build up to riding a century, try riding in successively colder temperatures.

Don't get me wrong - I can make myself ride in the cold, but I'm glad this next week's forecast calls for highs back in the 60s.  Ride on!