They Call the Wind Mariah…

But cyclists call it something else. And we use words not appropriate for this G Rated blog.

Riding in windy conditions is really irritating. I would much rather climb cols in calm conditions than ride on flat roads into a stiff breeze. And since we go slower into the wind that we do when it is at our back, we spend more time with it working against us than with us.

But it gets even worse. There are 360 degrees of direction that the wind can blow from relative to the direction you are riding. But only about 40% of those directions actually help a cyclist. Even if the wind is slightly behind you the crosswind component outweighs the pushing component. Once upon a time I took a math course where I learned about ‘resultant vectors’ which is how you determine the ‘apparent wind’. All I know now is that when there is more than about 5 mph of wind, the breeze becomes the enemy, and my irritation grows exponentially with the wind speed.

You can’t see the wind, but it is there. A mini-Mistral

Crosswinds are even worse riding the tandem. The wind gets between Stoker and me and creates turbulence, aka ‘dirty air’. And steering the tandem in crosswinds is no picnic either. Once in the Canadian Rockies the wind blew so hard from the side that it literally blew us off the road. I think there were 40-50 mph gusts that day. Rather that fight those conditions for another 30 miles we decided to abandon and ride in the tour company’s van. One of our few DNF’s. I felt bad until I learned that one of the guides, who used to be a pro track rider in Europe and had tremendous bike handling skills, also got blown off the pavement. Twice!

Our tour leader tests the wind velocity! Too much for the Tandem

Last week we finally had some dry weather, but it was accompanied with some pretty significant winds. Stoker and I are getting our legs ready for a month in France, so we have to ride even if conditions aren’t ideal. On Friday we took our bike to Ione to ride up to Plymouth and back. It was pretty windy in Ione and the forecast was for stronger winds later in the day. I was not real enthusiastic about the prospect.

We rode up Irish Hill Road. This road is a pretty good test for the tandem with some short, steep rollers. Then the rest of the way to Plymouth is slightly uphill until the last 3/4 mile, which is a little steeper. We had pretty good legs and when we got to Plymouth I noted that it only took us 1 hour 24 minutes to do the 20 miles with 1400 feet of climbing. That won’t get us on any Strava Leaderboards, but it is pretty good time for the CoMotion Team.

As we passed the fire station in Plymouth on our way to the coffee stop, I noted that the flag was blowing straight out and the wind was coming from the west. That meant mostly headwind or crosswind conditions on the way back. We were going to take Carbondale Road on our return trip, and there was going to be plenty of pedaling into or across this west wind.

But then something happened that is so rare I had to write this post about it. The wind shifted from W to almost due N, and maybe even a bit NNE. That meant that the feared headwind was going to turn into a helping hand for much of the ride back to Ione. On the flat stretch of Carbondale Road and then on Michigan Bar Road we were heading south with a big wind at our back, instead of the crosswind I had expected.

Favorable wind shifts almost never happen, so we finished our ride with big smiles and a pretty good total time of 2:35 for 40 miles and almost 2000 feet climbed. We rode pretty well, and for once the cycling deities saw fit to give us a break.

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11 Across: Ridged Grid…

SBC Rides 4 Art: Hogan Dam Start

When the most irritating thing that happens to me is a creased crossword puzzle, it had to be a pretty good day.

Sunday was the first time the high temperature rose above 70 degrees since November 12, 2018.  That is 125 days, and I learned from Mark Finan on KCRA that a streak this long hasn’t happened since 1974. It has been a cold and wet winter here, as both my rain gauge and PGE bills can attest.

What better way to spend the first beautiful day in 5 months than on a tandem bike ride with Stoker? We were signed up to do Ride4Art, a fundraiser put on by the Calaveras County Arts Council to raise money for art programs in the public schools. The ride started at the Hogan Reservoir observation area and meandered down to Lake Comanche before returning to a wonderful post ride meal featuring delicious chicken in a barrel and corned beef for St. Patrick’s Day. There was beer and wine and Irish music too!

Stoker stayed off the bike for most of January and February, but over the last couple of weeks we have begun riding in the hills to prepare for our trip to France in May. We are getting a little better and yesterday’s ride went pretty well. 30 miles, 2150 feet of climbing, and some very steep short pitches on Bergsma and Hartkvickson roads (12%+).  The weather was perfect: morning temperatures were in the 60’s and there was very little wind. The hills are incredibly green and both Comanche and Hogan lakes are nearly full and beautifully blue.

First Grilling in 5 Months: Stoker Praised the Result!

After the ride we spent a couple of hours socializing with our fellow Stockton Bicycle Club members during the post ride festivities. Our  Club turnout was pretty large; someone said that between riders and event volunteers there were about 25 of the SBC Faithful, many wearing club jerseys.

There was a raffle for some paintings, and Stoker saw one she really liked, so I purchased a string of tickets and put them all in the bag. And we won! People who have been to our house know there is very little space on the walls for new artwork, but Stoker took one down (donated to the library used book store that she co-manages) and our new piece has a home.

Continuing the nice weather theme I cranked up my bbq for the first time in a LONG time. I grilled steak and asparagus and Stoker pronounced both “Delicious!” She was correct.

The only hitch in an otherwise perfect day was the aforementioned crease in the crossword. I recently started doing crossword puzzles and I am not very adept at them, but the Sunday Record puzzle is usually not terribly hard and I can breeze through some of it. However my rhythm (now there is a word for 12 down!) kept getting interrupted by my pen (erasable of course) catching on the crease. This is not the first time the crossword has possessed ridges and furrows: it seems to happen with some frequency, while the rest of the paper is perfectly smooth. Why can’t the creases inhabit the Opinion section and leave the crossword alone?

If every day could be a bit like yesterday, I’ll take the creases every time.

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It’s Elementary…

I bought my Honda Element back in 2006, and on Friday the odometer turned over 100,000 miles. Appropriately, when we reached  six figures Stoker and the CoMotion and I were on our way to Ione in search of some hills to climb. For most of those 100,000 miles there has been a bike, or two, or a bicycle for two stowed inside.

Tandem, Single Bike and Bags for Two: Brumby Road to Kalispell Montana

Tandem, Single Bike and Bags for Two: Brumby Road to Kalispell Montana

I chose the Element specifically to haul bikes around, stowed safely inside out of the weather and at least somewhat protected from thieves. With a little creativity it is remarkable how much stuff I could get inside. I could fit our tandem and my single bike, luggage for two and an ice chest with lunch, plus a six pack tote of wine for post ride recovery. Stoker and I did multiple week long tours when we were both younger and more energetic, and the Element got us to the tour starting points, if not in style, at least reliably and economically.

I have driven my Element to Eugene Oregon (twice), Portland, Tuscon, Kalispell Montana, Death Valley and Grand Junction Colorado for bike tours. I have also used it to haul my bike (or sometimes our bike) to Southern California to ride in the Santa Monica Mountains and to Solvang. And two or three times a week I use it to get to the Club ride start in Ione or Wallace or Valley Springs. Occasionally I drive over the Altamont in search of  hills to climb: Mount Diablo, Sierra Road, Mines Road and other favorites.

As is typical for a Honda, over all these miles and 13 years I haven’t had a single problem with the Element. It has a 5 speed manual transmission with a 4 cylinder engine, and it doesn’t have a huge amount of power but it did make it over the Sierras and the Rockies without any problem. The ride is a bit rough, and the body is a bit upright and boxy so it catches some  wind, which adds to the noise level and decreases the mileage, although it regularly gets 25+mpg.  I remember I paid $18,600 plus tax and license, and I certainly think I have gotten my money’s worth.

Craters of the Moon in Idaho on the Way to Montana: All That Stuff is Inside!

We  don’t do week long tandem tours any more. I look back and I am really quite amazed at what we did do. Oregon Coast (6 days, 360 miles, not flat!). Death Valley (4 days 220 tandem miles, not flat and unseasonably hot for March). Logan Pass (elevation 6,700) in Glacier and Highwood Pass (elevation 7,250) in Alberta on a tour of the Canadian Rockies. 270 miles in 6 days around southern Arizona.  Our legs aren’t up to these efforts any more. Or perhaps our legs could do it but our minds are not quite willing to make that kind of multi -day commitment. We still can ride though: for the last two years we have spent a month in France and Stoker has done over 400 miles both times. But we keep the rides shorter and take days off.

Since the Element can’t get us to France, it has spent the last few years close to home instead of ferrying us through the Western United States in search of cycling adventures. I sometimes think about getting a more up to date replacement vehicle, but I probably won’t. For the designated purpose of being a bike box with an engine and wheels, the Element is hard to beat.

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A Metric and a Headache…

Yesterday was the 11th edition of Pedaling Paths to Independence, a charity bike ride to benefit the Community Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired. The ride is a delightful romp from Linden to Woodward Reservoir and back through Milton on the return. The February weather can be cold, foggy, rainy or brutally windy, but yesterday it was just cold, and wind and wet weren’t an issue.

Joni Bauer is the major domo (doma?) behind this event, and she makes sure that a good time is had by all. The rest stops are well spaced and well stocked, the course markings are clear and easy to follow, and the post ride meal from DeVinci’s in Linden can’t be beat: pesto pasta, roast chicken, salad, focaccia, and desserts. Even though I rode 65 miles I probably gained a pound or two.

Half of the SBC Riders Who 'Pedaled a Path'

Although it seemed the number of riders was down from previous years, the Stockton Bicycle Club rider total was a healthy 24 or so. Most of us started together at 9 am, and most of us opted for the ‘Metric Century’ (100 KM). We more or less stayed together, and when we did get split up we mostly regrouped. One of those regroups caused a bit of confusion: a rider who had been only slightly slower and another rider who chose to hang with him took a shortcut on a gravel road. Since the main peloton, which included me, did not see the detour, we waited for a good long while at the intersection of Jenny Lind Road and Hwy 26. Finally we started again and finished the ride without seeing our two compatriots.

When I saw both of them at the finish already having lunch when our group arrived, I assumed they had sagged in, but no, they had merely cut the course a bit short. And our regrouping delay gave them a big head start, which they used to their advantage and got to the post ride meal before we did. No good deed goes unpunished, especially where regroups are concerned.

I actually had a pretty good day on the bike. Captain Hawk said I pulled the group (i.e. rode in front taking the brunt of the wind and sheltering trailing riders) 80% of the time. That is too high, but I do think I had my nose in the wind for 2/3 of the ride. My average speed was pretty impressive (for me anyway) 17.5 mph for 65 miles with a few rollers. And that includes a very easy roll out for about 4 miles at 14 mph with a tail wind.  We could have been doing 19 to 20 but we rolled easy chatting and warming up. That will bring an overall average speed down a lot.

At the lunch stop at mile 40, I pulled out my smart phone to shoot some video of the large SBC contingent. Alas, my smart phone had decided to be stupid and do a completely unprompted factory reset. That meant that all I could do was make an emergency call unless I could enter my passwords and do a complete new phone set up. That was impossible mid-ride, so I didn’t get any video.

After the ride I got home and contacted Verizon Tech Support. I was able to get my contacts back quickly, but most of my apps had to be downloaded and signed into. I also had to reconfigure all my screens and preferences and options.  I’m still working on this today. I didn’t yell at the tech person on the phone but I did express my frustration. Why should a phone suddenly do a ‘factory reset’ on its own, unprompted? She couldn’t tell me, although she did say I was not the first person with this problem that day.

I was especially frustrated since this phone is a replacement for another phone with issues, and I went through all this reset, reload, reconfigure business just 7 weeks ago. Twice in 2019! And there is no certainty that the bug is a one time thing: it could be that the phone might decide to reset again. Now every time I swipe my finger to unlock it I am relieved when I see my home screen instead of a ‘sign in to Google’ message.

So it was a great day on the bike and a lousy day with the tech. My bicycle doesn’t depend on anything electronic or software dependent to work, just my legs. And yesterday they worked pretty well.

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Big Ed says Goodbye

Ed Kohler, aka ‘Big Ed’ is moving to Idaho. The Stockton Bicycle Club is really going to miss him. And those of us who found shelter from the wind riding on his wheel will especially miss him.

Big Ed Says Goodbye

Big Ed is a big guy. He is very fit and can churn away with lots of power for a long time, especially on flat terrain.  So he always had some devoted followers, especially when the ride pointed into the wind.

Ed is a retired Stockton Police Officer, and he is a friendly, outgoing and no nonsense kind of guy. Just a really dependable and strong character. He has been a good friend and riding companion of mine and I was always glad to see him at the start of a ride. I wasn’t alone; Big Ed had a lot of friends.

Lyle Liden hosted a good bye ride, and all the Tuesday/Thursday riders who could attend were there. Ed made a very nice speech, mentioning how much he had enjoyed riding with SBC and all the good times and good friends he had enjoyed interacting with over the years.

He did tell the story of his first club ride, and I recount it because it is typical experience: it certainly was for me my first time. Big Ed had been a bicycle patrol officer, and he came to his SBC club ride thinking he was pretty fit and a  pretty good rider. He was surprised by the difficulty of the hills and the pace of some of the riders, and he was really dragging off the back towards the ride’s end. He says that I stayed behind to escort him home. I don’t remember this, but I know I have done something similar more than once when new riders get dropped. Big Ed quickly became much stronger and better in the hills. These days when the ride is on flat ground I’m the one struggling to hold his wheel. And now that wheel is off to Idaho.

The Club is really going to miss you Big Ed. We wish you all the best in your new home. If/When you come back to visit your kids come join us for a ride. We’ll be happy to see you again!


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Rain or ‘serious’ threat of rain cancels…

That phrase is at the very top of our club’s monthly ride schedule. Today’s planned club ride is from Livermore up Mines Road to the Junction, and then possibly up to Mount Hamilton. Looking at the forecast and considering that this ride goes up into some major hills where the odds are it will be colder and wetter than on the valley floor, I’m going to stay home. I certainly think the subject line above describes today’s weather.

Mount Hamilton Last Monday: Not much Better Today

We are enjoying a wonderfully wet and snowy winter in California, with a snow pack well above historical averages. For one year at least we can forget about drought stories in the news. Reservoirs are nearly full and the foothills are green. But several of our club rides have been washed out and our cycling season is off to a slow start. Stoker really does not like cold or wet conditions, so she is in hibernation. My miles are down too. And if I can believe my power meter and heart rate monitor, so is my fitness.

All this wet weather has me reminiscing about the times I have been forced to ride in the rain. I usually try to follow the advice in the subject line, but even so I have been drenched on a number of occasions. There have been some memorable ones: descending the Col des Arivis in 2007 (it was wet in 2018 too, but not as bad). The ‘Waterfall Ride’ though Salt Springs Valley on Hunt Road way back in 2004: It rained so hard that cascading water rolled small stones across the pavement. And last year Stoker and I got soaked riding from Malaucene to Brantes. We even lost our brakes going down a steep and very wet road and I had to drag my foot on the pavement and run the bike onto a soft shoulder to slow us down. No crash and all was well: I’m going to keep lighting those candles and offer a brief prayer for safe cycling every day in France this year.

2007 Drenching in France: Descent to Follow

But I think the most memorable, and potentially dangerous ‘rain event’ was the ‘Ebbets Pass Epic’ back in  late June 2008. The weather forecast for that day was “Chance of a few scattered late afternoon thundershowers NORTH OF I 80. Since Ebbets Pass is well south of that we decided to ride, and the morning weather in Bear Valley was quite warm as we started off. I put a very light wind jacket in my jersey pocket, but I didn’t expect to use it.

Brake Adjustment in Brantes: The Deluge Follows

We rode to Markleville without any trouble, but as we started back up the east side of the pass the wind picked up and the clouds closed in and we got hit by a few drops, but there was nothing major until past Silver Creek Campground (elevation 7,000). Beyond this the rain started, and at about 7700 feet, it started to rain for real. There was thunder and lightning and very gusty winds to contend with. And I still had almost 30 minutes of pedaling to get to the summit!

At the 8000 ft sign, the rain started to sting on my bare arms. It wasn’t hail, since there were no stones on the pavement, but I am pretty sure it was freezing rain or sleet. I had my wind jacket in my jersey pocket, and I wasn’t a bit cold as long as I was climbing, so I left the jacket off, hoping the rain would stop and I could put in on at the top to keep me warm on the descent.

There is a lake at about the 8400 ft level, and here I really started to get scared. It was pouring, it was windy, I was soaked and I could barely see. It was so dark that the cars that passed had their headlights on, and I still had to climb these 6-11% gradients for another 10 minutes or so. Gary Colburn  told me that when he went through here it was so bad he had to stop.

I finally got to the summit at 8700 ft. It was still raining, the wind was whipping around, and it was getting colder. My bike computer said it was 51 degrees and I was soaking wet. BRR! I heard thunder and saw lightning. In front of me were 5 miles of  downhill road averaging 6.6% with steep pitches of over 12%. The pavement was wet and very slick with a glaze of fine sand and grit that I had noticed earlier on the dry climb up Ebbets. I remember thinking that I would have to be careful of that dry sand on the road during the descent, but the wet version was much worse. I was as frightened as I have ever been on a bike.

I could have waited at the top for the weather to clear, but there was no sign of that happening, so I decided to start down before I got hypothermia. It was still raining hard, and windy, and I had to  brake nearly continuously just to  try to keep upright. I made it down to Hermit Valley (eventually) without crashing.  The air was slightly warmer down at 7000 ft.  But when  I stopped at the bench to retrieve the bottle of water I left there earlier, thinking I might need it in the afternoon heat (hah!), I was shivering hard.

The climb up Pacific Grade cured my shivering, and the rain stopped, so I started to think I was going to survive. I was soaking wet and covered in road grit when I finally reached the Bear Valley Store. But safe and grateful for that. This is before I started going to France and lighting prayer candles for safe cycling, but I’m going to give them credit anyway.

So today I stayed home, did a short ride to Linden before any potential afternoon showers, and eliminated any possible rainy ride survival stories. I don’t know if any club members went to Livermore, but I suspect not. The weather really did look like a ‘serious threat’.



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Tilting at Windmills…

Patterson Pass Summit.

and Strava segments.

Yesterday’s club ride started in Tracy and journeyed through the Altamont hills to the Livermore Valley.  Our club rides here a couple of times each year, but in 20 years of club riding this was only the second time I had joined in. After yesterday I am wondering why I have stayed away.

15 riders showed up at the start, which kind of surprised me. I expected a smaller group. I was completely unsure of the route, but Eric Typpo knew his way through the streets of Tracy and guided us.

There are three roads from Tracy to the Livermore Valley (besides I  580, which is not bicycle friendly. Or bicycle legal either). Corral Hollow, Patterson Pass, and Old Altamont (with or without Flynn Road). After some discussion we opted for Patterson Pass over to Livermore, and Old Altamont on the return. I really did not want to do Corral Hollow; there is a lot of traffic on weekends heading to Carnegie RV Park.

We rolled out through the streets of Tracy, mostly on wide and safe bike lanes, then out into the countryside. We could see the hills on our left, and before long we were on the climb. Patterson Pass is 3.9 miles long and climbs over 1,100 feet. Strava says the average gradient is 5% and that it is a Category 2 Climb. What Strava doesn’t tell you is that the climb is very uneven and the gradient bounces between 2% and 10%, with a few short dips to keep the average down. Strava also doesn’t tell you that the steepest part is at the top.  The last 1/3rd mile averages 11%.. And as I neared the summit my Garmin  displayed 17% for almost a minute. It might not be that steep but it sure felt like it.

Patterson Pass is a Strava segment, a stretch of road where these amazing GPS devices record your time and power and heart rate and you can compare your effort to other riders and your past efforts. I decided to ride the climb pretty hard, and I did. 24:59, averaging 233 watts and 143 bpm heart rate. On the steep part I hit 476 watts and a gasping 159 bpm. According to Strava I had the fastest time of our group yesterday, but I was trying hard and I’m sure Eric and Ilia and Jeff could have gone faster if they wanted to. But I am comparing my effort to my physiology and I’m pretty happy with the result.

Of course the climb did not end the ride. We descended to Downtown Livermore, which was hopping on a beautiful Saturday noontime. We had coffee and munchies, and discussed the return route. 10 of us opted for Flynn Road, which added about 2 miles and an extra 600 feet of climbing. Although most of the ride was calm, the Altamont is notoriously windy, and there was enough breeze that some of the wind turbines were spinning. And what wind there was blew in our faces on most of the Flynn Road climb. I had never done this road, so I did not know what to expect. Liem and Ilia set a hard tempo and I stayed with them, usually behind in the draft of the headwind, although I did get out front a bit to help. They finished ahead of me on this one by about 10 seconds and I was pretty gassed at the top.

Flynn Road Strava data: 2.2 miles, 520 feet up, 4% and Category 4. I averaged 217 watts and 136 bpm for 15:21. Not bad, 40 miles into the ride with 3,000 feet of climbing in my legs.

The rest of the ride was almost all downhill and then flat on the run back into Tracy. But some ‘troublemakers’ decided to push the pace, so I was forced to pedal hard with weary legs or get dropped and get lost on unfamiliar streets. I hung on and arrived back at the start without wandering around or pulling out my phone for directions.

Final stats: 54 miles, 3,100 feet of climbing and 3:34 riding time.

The Altamont can be brutally hot in the summer, foggy and cold in the winter, and horribly windy all year. Why do you think the windmills are there? But yesterday it was none of those, and I’m really glad I decided to go. Good roads, good company and reasonably good legs made for a great day.

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The Logo is a No-Go…

The Stockton Bicycle Club has a new club jersey. A BIG THANK YOU to Greg Lozaga, who shepherded the project through the design, ordering and distribution phases. He did a tremendous amount of work and thanks to him we have a fresh and stylish club kit.

And what I discovered was that sometimes good intentions can be misunderstood.

My Favorite Touring Company

When the jersey was being designed the club was looking for sponsors who would pay a nominal sum to have their logo displayed. I had what I thought was the brilliant idea to put the logo of my favorite bicycle touring company, 44 | 5 Cycling Tours, on the jersey. I thought that the 44 | 5 logo was really simple and classy and a little bit exotic and would be a good addition to ‘sponsors row’ on the back of the new jersey. 44 | 5 gets its name from the latitude and longitude of Mont Ventoux, and if you ever want to do guided rides or tours in Southern France you should check them out. Isn’t that a clever logo and wouldn’t it look good on any club’s jersey? I had no idea this would cause a controversy.

When it was proposed and later discussed at the annual club meeting reaction was, well to put it, umm strong.

Some club members reacted as if I was proposing to put a Confederate Flag with the caption ” Make America Great Again!” on the jersey. There were loud objections and threatened boycotts. As soon as I realized that this was going to be an issue I hastily withdrew my proposal and made meek nice noises to all concerned.

In retrospect I find the whole incident entertaining and somewhat perplexing.

First Rider with the New Jersey. Moi!

All of this took place during walnut season when I spend my days counting nuts and not attending club rides or functions. I did not attend the club meeting where this was discussed and perhaps my idea would have been better served if I had pitched it and answered any questions myself.

Some of the comments and objections were made publicly on Facebook, so I feel comfortable sharing them here.

Objection #1: 44 | 5 is located in France.

This is true. I was unaware that jersey sponsors must have a local connection.

Objection #2: Members may not purchase space on the jersey

I did not know this was the case. In fact, members have purchased space on the jersey to promote their own businesses. But apparently there were objections to a member (me) purchasing space to promote someone else’s business.

Objection #3: Few club members have interest in traveling to France

This one is not really accurate. There are 14 current and former club members who have been clients of 44 | 5, most of us more than once. Since our  paid club membership only adds up to 60 or so, 14 clients might be considered more than ‘few’.

And by far my favorite: Objection #4: 44 | 5 is a ‘bourgeoisie’ touring company.   ‘Bourgeoisie’ can mean ‘middle class’ but in the Marxist context it means the capitalist class who own most of society’s wealth and means of production.

Now it is true that bicycle touring in Europe is not cheap, especially if the touring company uses 3 and 4 star accommodations and feeds you in nice restaurants. 44 | 5 certainly does that, even though they are not the most expensive touring company by any means.

Overall, I think my suggestion didn’t come across as I had hoped and the club lost an opportunity to include the logo of a great touring company on our new kit.

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Testing, Testing…Part 2

On January 2, I went to AthletiCamps ( in Folsom for  VO2 Max and Lactate Threshold testing. Bruce Hendler is the owner of AthletiCamps, and I was looking forward to seeing him again after following his business on Facebook for years.

The Curves Shifted Left: Lower Power in 2019

Back in 2004, I signed up for a 3 day training camp with Bruce. He had just started AthletiCamps and this was one of his first events. There were about 7 of us staying at a hotel in Rocklin. Back then Bruce didn’t have his own testing equipment, so we spent the first day doing testing at the UCD Sports Medicine Clinic in Sacramento. After a year of training since my 2003 VO2 test,  my weight was down and my power was up and I felt really happy about the 2004 result. For the next two days we did rides on the road with some intervals and SFR’s (big gear weight training on the bike) and discussed a training program tailored for each of us to improve.

Fast forward to 2019: Bruce has his own testing equipment and a really nice space in Folsom. Plenty of room, nice lighting, and a shower to clean up after sweating through a test. It is great to see him still in business and he provides a really good service for athletes (and me). He offers coaching, sophisticated bike fitting, and performance testing.

With that background, it is time to compare Rich age 62 in January 2019 with Rich age 48 in July 2004:

I’m Fatter: 

My weight was 169.6 lbs. compared to 164 lbs. back in 2004.  And my body fat% has ballooned to 20% from 15%. Looking at myself in the mirror I have a hard time believing these percentages are right. But I do have the ‘Avansino thighs’ from my Italian nonna’s family. They are pretty large and it isn’t all muscle either.

I can probably get down to 168 lbs. with a little effort. More riding in the spring and into summer should do the trick. But I think 164 lbs. is an impossible target, and an unnecessary one. From a health standpoint my weight is fine, but from a performance cycling standpoint I’m above optimal. Bruce put my ‘ideal’ cycling weight at 159 lbs., which is out of the question unless society collapses and there are food (and wine) shortages.

My Maximum Heart Rate has declined:

In 2004 my heart rate got to 173 beats per minute (bpm) at the end of my VO2 test. Last week I only reached 163 bpm. There is an old approximation of Maximum Heart Rate as ‘220 minus your age’. This is a terribly inaccurate estimate, which is part of the reason I wanted to do the testing. But there is no question that for most of us, our maximum heart rate declines as we age. I’m 14 years older and I’ve ‘lost’ about 10 beats.

My Power at key thresholds has declined:

Power at VO2 Max: 2004 was 325 watts, 2019 was 300 watts (-7.7%). Power at Ventilatory Threshold: 2004 was 270 watts, 2019 was 237 watts (-12.2%). My Lactate Threshold in 2005 was 240 watts, and now it is 215 watts (-10.4%).

I realize I’ve risked losing most of my readers by writing about all this technical jargon and doing numerical comparisons.  But for those who are still here…


The major conclusion I draw is that I need to evaluate my riding a little differently. The training zones I established back in 2004/05 are a little too high and no longer appropriate. My engine is not quite as big. So instead of thinking I should be able to do 260 watts for an hour if I ride all out, I need to dial my expectation back to 235 watts or so. My 20 minute FTP test (sorry, more jargon) is probably going to be 270 watts or lower, compared to 290.

Testing can’t turn back the clock or make you younger, but it can tell you where you are and help you set reasonable targets. As Bruce told me at the during the consultation he provides after the testing, “There is room for improvement”. Whether I make the effort or not is up to me.






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Testing, Testing…Part 1

2019 is here, and it marks a 20 year anniversary of sorts for me. In March of 1999 I had my annual physical, and I hit the scale at 190 lbs. That was a high for me and a kind of wake up call. Soon after that I started riding with the Stockton Bicycle club. On my first ride in the hills, I got dropped and was hopelessly far behind. I remember going home and telling Stoker (who was 7 years away from getting that nickname) that the 5 other riders on the ride were very nice, but they were much stronger than me. I told her there was no chance I could ever ride with them. I simply was not strong enough.

Me in 2001: Before Dr. Testa

But on my second club ride the route was much flatter, and there was a bigger group with a few riders that I could at least see in front of me. I got dropped by everyone, including Shig, who was in his early 80’s at the time. Gary Johnson was very nice to me and encouraged me to come back for more rides. So I did, on and off over the next 4 years. I got better and lost some weight, down to 177 March 2003. Then I took a step that changed my cycling life forever. I went to see Dr. Max Testa for a VO2 test.

I was already riding with a heart rate monitor and was constantly surprised that other riders had much higher heart rates than I did. They would say they got into the 180 bpm range, and I never saw anything much over 150. Since most of them were also much stronger than me, I was wondered what I was doing wrong and why I couldn’t get higher heart rates.

The UCD Sports Medicine Clinic in Sacramento offered VO2 Max testing to anyone who wanted to pay for it. So I made an appointment and was delighted to find that Max Testa himself did the test and post test consultation.

I was pretty happy with my 177 lb. weight, but I was in for a shock. After doing a caliper test to measure body fat, Dr. Testa said I should lose another 10 lbs. I hadn’t weighed less than 170 lbs. since high school!

Jan.2, 2019: VO2 Max Testing Fun

After that we did the test. A VO2 test is a test to exhaustion. They put a breathing tube in your mouth and pinch your nose so they can measure how much oxygen your lungs can deliver to your muscles. The test typically starts at 100 watts (higher for elite athletes, which I’m not) and goes up 25 watts every minute until you can’t do any more. It isn’t much fun if you do it right and really push through the last couple of levels. You finish gasping and with your heart pounding hard and fast in your chest.

What I learned from the test was that my maximum heart rate was only 170, and that my anaerobic threshold was only 156 bpm. Dr. Testa gave me a set of workouts to do based on this test. When he suggested I do 5 minute intervals over 156 bpm I thought to myself that was impossible: from riding with a monitor I felt anything over 150 for more that a few seconds was all out.

But guess what; it turned out I could do those workouts. It took time and they were hard and not much fun, but I started to get much better on the bike. I was keeping up with people who used to drop me. And with all the added cycling intensity and a few eating modifications I dropped those 10 lbs. down to 167 by July 2004. I’ve stayed in the 165-170 lb. range ever since.

So to kick off my 20th year of serious cycling I decided to repeat the VO2 test and do a lactate test as well.  I had the tests on January 2. I thought the comparison with my 48 year old self might be interesting and enlightening. And it was. I’ll share the results in my next post.




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