You’re going to eat all that??!!

Yes Fearless, I am.

Next Sunday (May 1) is the Stockton Bicycle Club’s Delta Century. 25-, 60- and 100-mile routes through the vineyards and levee roads north and west of Lodi. It is the Club’s major fundraising event, and we donate about 90% of the net proceeds to a variety of local charities.

Stoker on the J Mack Ferry: Working up an appetite for tacos!

Many club members, including me, spend anywhere from 4 hours to several days performing volunteer functions. Course marking, shopping, moving club equipment, rest stops, sag driving, registration, and the dreaded clean up detail, which always stretches into the cocktail hour because some under-prepared riders vastly overestimate how fast they can ride. So the week before the event our club ride does a ‘pre ride’ of the course. Yesterday the 65 mile option drew a nice group of 12 or so, including Stoker and me riding the tandem.

Riding in the Delta the first week in May can be windy, broiling hot, or cold and rainy, but Saturday was almost perfect. Temperature around 50 at the start warming to the low 70′s, and a gentle (for the Delta anyway) breeze from the northwest that made the first half of the ride much harder than the second half. The skies were blue with white puffy clouds, the fields and orchards and vineyards were green, and the previous day’s rains left the air clean and clear.

Sandwiches and Mexican fare for hungry cyclists!

We started in Woodbridge, rode to Walnut Grove, crossed the river, and headed for the J Mack Ferry. This short ferry boat ride across Steamboat Slough on Hwy 220 is a highlight of our Delta Century, and our group was all smiles on the brief but entertaining crossing.  Then it was on to our break at the Courtland Market, 2 1/2 hours of pedaling and 40 miles into the ride. I hadn’t fueled up there for a long while, so I was pleasantly surprised to see they now have an excellent deli with sandwiches and Mexican food.

Stoker opted for two chicken tacos, and even though she is a light eater and the tacos were larger than expected, she ate them both and pronounced them delicious. I ordered a chicken burrito. I tend to be an enthusiastic eater not fazed by large portions, but this 2.5 lb. behemoth looked intimidating even for me. It turned out to be quite delicious, a little spicy but far from excessively so, and I was pretty hungry, so I devoured the whole thing.

Delicious Lunch from Courtland Market

My friend Fearless took a look at my lunch and asked me if I was really going to eat all of it. I told him I certainly was, and he acted a bit incredulous that someone would consume that many calories all at once in the middle of a ride. But it didn’t have any negative digestive repercussions. If anything, I rode better and harder over the last 25 miles back to Woodbridge.

Many serious endurance cyclists consume special bars, gels, powders and energy drinks, in carefully regulated portions, during their rides. They ‘eat to ride’, but I am certainly more of a ‘ride to eat’ type of cyclist. Stoker too!

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The Best Laid Plans…

My Spouse Diane (aka my tandem cycling partner ‘Stoker’) and I have been planning a return trip to France since last Fall. We began 2016 riding twice each week together for a total of over 600 miles by March 1. We were well on the way to getting in shape to be at our cycling best when we made the trip. But then real life intervened.

A Large 2nd Incision Means No Cycling

A routine Doctor visit showed that a blemish on Stoker’s left forearm, which had been observed for years and been determined to be no problem, showed some changes in color and shape. A biopsy revealed a melanoma, and so a surgery to remove it was performed. Then the pathology revealed that not all the cancer was removed, and the margins were not ‘clear’. So before the stitches were even removed Stoker had a second surgery, with a larger incision. This second wound was slow to heal and caused Stoker much more discomfort than the first one.

So whatever training plans we had together were thrown away. Stoker did not ride at all for 4 weeks, and she grew more concerned as the days went by. We weren’t even sure that all the cancer was removed. The second pathology report showed clean margins, but one was very close with less clear space than is optimal. So we weren’t sure our trip was even going to happen, and if it did we weren’t at all sure whether we would be able to ride.

Stoker had two appointments to look at the wound and hopefully remove the stitches, and both times the surgeon said it would be better to wait. Finally on April 13, the stitches came out. On April 14, we did our first ride together in almost a month; 30 breezy miles between Casa Brumby and Clements. Stoker did fine and our pace was decent.

First Ride in a Month Brings a Smile!

The next day, Friday, was very windy. I was surprised that Stoker wanted to try to ride again so soon, and in 30+ mph winds too. We slogged our way north and west toward Lodi and into the teeth of the wind, then enjoyed a much quicker ride back home with the gale pushing us along; 20 miles in all.

Saturday Stoker said she would like to try doing the Stockton Bicycle Club ride; a somewhat hilly route between Valley Springs and Ione. We hadn’t ridden in the hills for over a month, and it was our third consecutive day of riding, but we did better than fine. I was actually shocked that we were able to do the ride and even keep up with some of my friends some of the time. 41 miles and 2,100 feet, including up Chile Camp Road through Campo Seco. This last stretch was especially satisfying. There was a large group from ‘Team in Training’ doing that road, and the tandem rode away from a group of their riders and left them behind, something that rarely happens riding with SBC. We arrived back in Valley Springs smiling and a little shocked at our very respectable average speed of 14.6 mph.

It gets better. After taking a couple of days off,  yesterday we headed for Wallace for the regular Tuesday SBC ride, a loop to Hogan and Common Grounds (great coffee and treats!). 41 miles and 3,000 feet, a slightly harder ride than Saturday. The tandem team does this ride a lot, and it usually takes us a little over 3 hours, and we never go faster that 2:55. Until today; we finished in 2 hours 46 minutes, averaging 14.8 mph. I could hardly believe how well Diane rode, especially on the last 5 miles when we made a terrific effort to keep that average speed up.

Incredible as it sounds, I think we will be fit and ready to do some very good riding in France. And we have the medical ok to go. The dermatologist at UCSF said that it is possible more surgery will be necessary, but that the cancer they found was extremely unlikely (probability approaching zero) to have spread, so there is no rush even if it proves necessary. In fact, they want to let the skin heal for some time before removing any more tissue.

I would not normally advise having a couple of surgeries on your arm and taking a month off the bike as a way to prepare for a cycling adventure, but it seemed to work for Stoker!


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The Devil Makes Three…

I picked the worst possible day to forget my Garmin device. No Garmin means no data to upload to Strava, where all my cycling acquaintances can see my epic ride. My riding partner NLE says “If it isn’t on Strava, it didn’t happen”. But I have witnesses!

One Finger on the Third Visit

I have done plenty of long rides with lots of climbing since I started cycling seriously back in 2001. But I have never climbed over 10,000 feet in a single day of riding. Until yesterday.

I’m getting ready to go to France in May, and I have an ambitious ride planned there. A harder and longer (in time, not distance) ride than anything I have ever attempted. So Saturday I decided to extend the Mount Diablo club ride. While the SBC riders would hit the road at 9 am to ascend via South Gate Road, Kris, Gary F, Walt and I started at 7 am with the intention of doing three summits.

I say ‘intention’ because this is uncharted territory for me. Most of my rides are 2 1/2 to 3 hours long. This one was 78 miles with 10,700 feet of climbing and would take me over 7 hours if I decided to do the whole thing.

When we started at 7 am, it was cool and foggy. I knew I would be plenty warm on the climb, but to avoid freezing on the way down I put arm warmers, a vest, light jacket, skull cap and long fingered gloves in my jersey pockets. Along with fig bars and steak and cheese burritos, my cell phone and cycling wallet, lip balm and drops for itchy eyes from the spring-time pollen. The bulging pockets made me look like a hunchback.

Around 1,500 feet up we rode through the fog and into the sun, and it was glorious. Blue sky, green grass, golden poppies everywhere, and far below a white blanket of fog covering any traces of suburbia. By the time  we started down the fog had burned off and most of my ‘warmies’ were unnecessary. The air was warmer at the top than it was further down the mountain, the opposite of usual conditions.

Golden Glory: Poppies Everywhere on the Mountain!

After reaching the summit I turned around and descended back the way I came. Walt did the same, but Kris and Gary headed to Walnut Creek. I intersected the club group just above the South Gate, and I turned around to join them. Another trip to the summit, then down to Walnut Creek for lunch.

The North Gate Road is harder than the South Gate Road, and when we started the climb I wasn’t sure I would ride past the Junction. But I felt pretty good all the way up. The weather was simply perfect; cool enough to climb without overheating but warm enough to avoid freezing on the descent. I reached the Junction and listened to Walt debating with himself about whether he wanted to do a third trip up. “I’ll never have a better chance, it’s on my bucket list, but I’m pretty tired..etc.” I felt the same way; it is ‘only’ another 4.5 miles and 1,700 feet to the top. If I don’t try it now, when will I?

Some of our group headed down from the Junction, content with doing 50 miles and 6,000 feet. Sean and Steve and Alex headed up for their second summit, and Walt and I joined them for our third trip. And we all made it.  Climbing ‘The Wall” for the third time was a challenge but I had equipped my bike with a 32-tooth rear cog (instead of my usual 28) so I had a lower gear available, and I did not hesitate to use it. 0.1 mile at 15% with a pitch at 20%, at the end of a 10 mile climb. No problem! I didn’t even get out of the saddle.

SBC Riders at the Junction

Even though I didn’t have my Garmin, I was able to use Ride with GPS (my favorite ride mapping website) to discover that I had ridden 78 miles and climbed 10,700 feet in around 7 hours. If I do the mystery ride in France that I keep referring too (and the odds are about 50/50) I will need to do another 3,300 feet and 3 more hours.  I don’t know if it is going to happen, but yesterday was a positive development. The third time really was a charm!

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Breaking and entering…

Yesterday did not get off to a great start. As I opened my garage to drive to the club ride start in Wallace, our dog Luke took off for parts unknown.

Luke is a great dog, with lots of personality. But he cannot be trusted off the leash. Uncontrolled or unconfined, he runs off and will not come when called. We keep him in a large fenced back yard or in the garage, in the few moments he stays outside. Most of the time he is in the house on one of his multiple favorite pieces of furniture. When we want to drive out we have to make sure that he isn’t in the garage.

I Hate It When This Happens!

I thought Diane was walking him, but she was actually playing with him (off the leash)  in the back yard. So when he heard the garage door go up, he came in to investigate and  saw that the fence that normally keeps him in when the door is up was not in place. Off he went!

I had to skip the club ride to look for him. And hope that he had enough sense to stay away from the high speed traffic on Highway 88, which is about 1/4 mile from our house. He gets out about once a year, and when he does his people spend a very nervous couple of hours until he shows up again.

When Luke finally decided he wanted to return, it was 10 am, far too late for me to join my club friends. So I started off on a long solo ride from my house, 65 miles with minimal climbing. I rode briskly without extending myself with any red zone efforts, and averaged 18 mph on a fairly windy day. 590 kilo joules/hour for the power meter set. Pretty good for me; most club rides I run around 500 kj/hour.

As I turned onto Brumby Road at the end of the ride, I shifted into a lower gear. There was a loud noise between a ‘crack’ and a ‘clang’, and suddenly my crank was jammed and my wheels stopped turning. Somehow I managed to unclip and get a foot down without falling; I’m still not sure how. Then I looked at my bike to see what happened.

I didn’t have to look long. The rear derailleur hanger had snapped off. This is the ‘Breaking’ part of this blog’s subject line. The ‘Entering’ part is what the rear derailleur did, it ‘entered’ the rear wheel’s spokes. The spokes tore the derailleur apart. The chain was torqued so badly it bent a couple of links 90 degrees.  It was so jammed I couldn’t remove it until I took the chain apart.

In the photo, you can see what is left of the broken hanger, the destroyed rear derailleur, and the replacement hanger that I am fortunate to have on hand. Rear derailleur hangers are deliberately designed to be weaker than the frame. That way if something happens to cause the derailleur  to twist (like a crash or a dropped bike) the hanger will bend and not the frame. The derailleur hangers are actually designed to be easily replaced. They usually just bend; I’ve never heard of one snapping off unless there was a crash.

Between the dog and the damage to the bike, it was a pretty distressing day. But it certainly could have been worse. A mechanical failure like that could have happened descending at 35 mph, which probably would have caused the kind of crash I don’t want to think about. Thanks to Luke’s get away, I stayed away from the club ride, where such a breakdown would have been inconvenient at best and disastrous at worst. As it was, not only did I not fall, but I only had to walk a couple of hundred yards with my broken bike. Karma, Kismet, Divine Intervention, or Dumb Luck? These are weighty matters too heavy for a ‘weight weenie’ like me.


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King for a Day…

Enjoying These While I Can...

Or at least until some stronger riders take notice.

Back in January I wrote about Strava Segments and how much fun I was having trying to put up some good times and get onto segment leader boards. Since then I have been ‘Strava-ing’ my fanny off, and I have made some progress.  I am 9th/ 691 riders on the Party Pardee Climb,  3rd/742 climbing the face of Hogan Dam, 13th/213 up Coal Mine Road, 14th /848 climbing Pardee Dam Road,  and 3rd/742 on the steep part of Hartkvickson Road.

As a reality check to prevent me from developing a big cycling ego, I will also note that I am 3,697th/11,704 climbing Mount Diablo from the Junction to the Summit. And 1,329th/2,185 on the back side of Mount Hamilton. So there is no danger of me getting too full of myself.

My most improbable result is on the very short Wallace Lake Sprint. Since many of our club rides start and end in Wallace, this sprint is often hotly contested at the end of rides, and I very seldom (actually never) win it. The prevailing wind is usually into your face on this sprint, but one day in January before a storm the breeze shifted into a big tail wind, and riding alone  I was able to set a time of 22 seconds, good for 6th/944. My friends suspect I did it in my car (GPS devices can’t tell if you are pedaling or driving) but I have the power data and high heart rate to prove it was my legs, not my foot on a throttle.

They Won't Last Long!

I even have managed to bag two KoM’s (King of the Mountain). The Strava Segment leader is referred to as the KoM.  My two KoM’s are on relatively obscure segments. They are both short, fairly steep climbs that can be done under a minute. Not as many riders have crossed these segments, so there is less competition, and I managed to come out on top. I am 1st/87 on the Olive Orchard Road climb (Time 50 seconds) and 1st/80 on the ‘Mini Climb’ on Southworth Road (Time 48 seconds). I averaged 542 watts and 484 watts on the two climbs, which means I was really gasping at the end of each one.

I am certain neither of these KoM’s will last long. Stronger riders who are motivated will beat these marks easily. But for some of my friends it will not be so easy to pass me. On Saturday’s ride my buddy Fearless Frank did the ‘Mini Climb’ in a Personal Record (PR) of 57 seconds, and he was thrilled to be #8 on the leader board. I confess I really enjoyed telling him I had beaten his time by 9 seconds. Fearless and I are great cycling buddies and have been trying to drop each other for years. He kills me on sprints and downhill (why do you think his nickname is Fearless?) but I can drop him on any climb over 2 minutes long. I’m pretty sure Fearless can improve those short climb times and get closer to me, or maybe even pass me. Especially if there is a tail wind.

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Today is a delightful rainy Sunday, continuing the wet weather we have been enjoying this March. I am perfectly aware that this blessed, much needed rain is not doing the local cherry crop a bit of good. I empathize with the growers and everyone who makes a living picking and packing and selling what the growers produce. I used to grow cherries and lost a couple of crops myself, so I know what it feels like.

O2 Rain Jacket: Every Cyclist Needs One

Usually on Sunday I am out of the house and off to ride my bike with the Stockton Bike Club before our dog Luke gets up. But not today. So I have time to give him his morning walk.

If you have been reading since I started this blog, you will recall that Luke is a ‘rescue dog’ in the sense that he is a stray that we met riding our tandem to the Fruit Bowl. And if you haven’t been reading since I started, go back and get caught up! You’ve missed some great stories.

We adopted Luke and he runs our house. He simply loves soft, warm places; the couches in our living room or my study, the bed in the guest room, and the comforter on top our our king sized bed. He can lie motionless for hours, barely moving, occasionally snoring. Once in a while he will get up and stretch, and we can hear his tags rattle a bit before he plops down again.

Luke does have a few moments of activity, sometimes at absurd hours. When the moon is full, something disturbs his sleep around 2 am and he wakes us by barking furiously, demanding to be let out to defend his turf. 10 minutes later he taps on the sliding glass door, asking to be let back in. We do it; as I said he runs the house. “Luke doth murder sleep”.

He also loves his morning walk, rain or shine. When I take him we stay out 45 minutes to an hour. Today I wore my new O2 Rain Jacket, and this was the first time I have put it to the test in wet conditions.

My friend Bennie said I should get one of these jackets, and now that I’ve tried it out I think every cyclist should have one. It is very light and easy to stuff in a jersey pocket. It kept my upper body completely dry on our walk even as my pants and shoes were soaked. And it is amazingly affordable: I found one on line for $32. Most cycling rain wear is much more expensive, and while the pricey stuff might be more durable and last longer I doubt it works much better.

Bargain Bifocals for Cycling

I have a pair of brand name cycling eye wear with a bifocal lens so I can answer my phone or read cyclocomputer  display. I paid a couple of hundred dollars for them, and they are very nice and have lasted a long time. But my friend Roger told me about CrossFire Protective Eyewear. For $9.50, you can get a pair with a bifocal insert. I can hardly believe it, but they are perfectly fine cycling sunglasses. I interchange them with my expensive ones from ride to ride and don’t notice any difference on the bike.

Most of my cycling stuff is ‘top of the line’ or nearly so. I like good equipment and am willing to pay for quality. But these two items are inexpensive and they work very well.

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The Worst Thing About Cycling

I didn’t see the crash, but I heard it. The sound was ‘chain suck’. The rear derailleur spring loses tension because the bike has slammed into the ground, and the still moving chain comes off of the chain rings and jams into the space between the inner chain ring and the frame. The next thing I heard were semi panicked voices and then a cry of pain.

Our group of 5 was riding west on Baker Road and had just crossed Beecher. We were riding in an orderly pace line. Rich (that’s me) was in front, followed by Riders A,B,C and D, in that order. I’m not going to name names; I’ll just say that they are all very good friends of mine.

We weren’t going especially fast. No one was struggling ‘on the rivet’ to keep up. There was a cross tail wind blowing from the Southeast, but it was far from a gale. As Rider B (3rd wheel) told me afterward, there was nothing ‘squirrely’ going on at the front. I was relieved to hear that; I fear causing someone else to crash at least as much as I fear crashing myself.

Apparently what happened is that Rider D lost focus, and touched the front wheel to the rear wheel of Rider C. Afterwards Rider C said he/she (remember I’m not naming names, or genders either) felt the touch and wondered what happened. Soon we all knew, and it was not pretty.

The day had been going so well too. After a Saturday when some blessed rain (unless you have cherries blooming) fell and kept all sane riders indoors, we were enjoying a dry Sunday morning, squeezing in a ride before the predicted rains came again Sunday afternoon. We were riding briskly but not extremely hard, and I was doing most of the pulling on the leg out to Linden when the wind was always in our faces. I used my mirror and power meter to keep the pace sane and steady and make sure everyone stayed together, which we did. After coffee at Rinaldi’s we headed back towards our starting point in Morada, with 12 miles of tailwind to enjoy, and the  rain was still holding off. A perfect day on the bike…

Until it wasn’t. After coming to a controlled stop well up the road, Rider A and I started walking  briskly back to where Rider D lay in the westbound lane. Rides B and C were already there. Rider C said call an ambulance, but I had already decided that was a good idea and I had my cell phone out. I called 911, then moved up the road to warn oncoming traffic to slow down and go around carefully in the eastbound lane when it was clear. Most of the drivers were concerned and asked if we needed help, and I reassured them help was on the way.

My Least Favorite Sag Wagon

The 911 operator stayed on the line with me, asking questions like ” Is Rider D conscious?  (Yes) Did Rider D lose consciousness? (No). Don’t move Rider D or give him/her anything to drink (OK)”. The operator assured me help was coming, and within 5 to 8 minutes the Fire Department and an ambulance arrived. Once the pro’s took over there was a little relief that Rider D was in good hands. We don’t know the extent of the injuries, but there was a laceration on Rider D’s face and some head trauma, though the helmet kept that to a minimum. But I am afraid that something is broken, and if the damage is limited to the collarbone Rider D will be lucky. A broken shoulder would probably be much worse, and I am afraid that might be what happened.

This is not the first time I’ve been present at the scene of a downed and injured cyclist; there are 4 other times that come immediately to mind. A friend is lying on the ground and damaged, sometimes badly. His/her friends try to attend to any severe bleeding (if any) but otherwise all we can do is call 911 and keep the injured person immobile while trying to direct cars to slow down and go around.

After the ambulance left and a relative of Rider D, summoned by phone, drove off with Rider D’s bike and then to join him/her at the hospital, the rest of us got back on our bikes to return to the ride start. A very subdued group, far from the jovial bunch enjoying coffee at Rinaldi’s.

I love cycling. But today I love it a lot less. I wonder if the risks are worth the moments of joy. If I don’t take the risks, I would never know the joy of topping the Stelvio Pass, or climbing ‘Going to the Sun Road’ over Logan Pass with Stoker. For now I’ll take the risks so I (and Stoker too) can know the joys. Even if today joy is in short supply.



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G Man gets ‘Stoned’

Fingertip Sized Rock: Missed by ER Doc

G-Man (Paul Glickman) was very excited at the start of today’s ride in Wallace. “It’s show and tell time!” he said, and presented me with a baggie containing a sharp edged piece of gravel about 1/2 inch across. “Look what came out of my knee!” he exclaimed.

Here is the story as I understand it. About a year ago G-Man dropped his chain off of the front chain rings while climbing the steep section of Paloma Road in Campo Seco. He had to stop to put the chain back on, and instead of walking about 50 feet to the top of the hill, he decided to try to get going again on a very steep piece of tarmac. It is not so easy to mount a bike and start pedaling on a steep grade while trying to get your cleats to clip back in to the pedals, and G-Man did not pull it off. He fell, at a very slow speed, but heavily, and his knee was very banged up.

So banged up, that he had to make a trip to the ER, where they cleaned the wound and put in 6 stitches. But apparently they did not do a great job of cleaning, because they missed the piece of gravel in the photo.

For the last year G-Man has had a golf ball sized bump on his knee, and it would keep scabbing over and then got raw again and simply would not heal. The bump was really big and really unattractive. G-Man is allergic to cold weather and wears what I consider too much cycling apparel on every ride, so his legs are usually covered up from October until May. But in the summer months his bump was quite pronounced. He claimed it didn’t really hurt but its continued scabbing was cause for concern.

He saw an orthopedist and had X rays that showed some kind of mass, but it was presumed to be a kind of piece of bone interspersed with a tendon common in this type of trauma. G-Man was actually scheduled for a procedure to remove the lump, when something remarkable happened. He was picking at his scab and felt something hard and pointed, and with a little prodding he suddenly  found himself holding the stone in his hand and the lump on his knee had shrunk considerably. So considerably, that the planned surgery is no longer necessary.

G's Knee After the Stoned Was Rolled Away: Much Improved!

There were plenty of jokes and kidding: after all some of us cyclists obsess about the weight of our bikes and equipment (and ourselves too), and here G-Man has been lugging around at least 40 grams of excess poundage for the last year! We might notice an improvement in his climbing. And of course there were suggestions to contact an attorney (on a contingency basis) to sue the ER for negligent cleaning. Pain and suffering anyone?

Despite the knee and the downtime, G Man racked up over 8,000 miles in 2015, a first for him. And now he will be able to work on his 2016 cycling with a little less material to carry around.





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Seeking Strava Segments

I am not a bicycle racer. There several reasons for this. I’m afraid of crashing or causing someone else to crash. I don’t think I’m strong enough to compete even in the lowest categories of races. Perhaps I’m not aggressive enough or determined enough.

But even though I don’t race, that does not mean that I never compete on my bike. I time myself on climbs and compare my efforts to my previous marks. I try to beat some of my cycling friends up climbs or to mythical sprint lines (I always lose those; I’m a poor sprinter). I even compete with myself by measuring how many watts I average on a climb and comparing that to my best efforts on my personal power curve. For the record, my best 20-minute power test is 289 watts, which isn’t great but isn’t terrible either.

My new Garmin computer and a membership on the Strava website have added a whole new dimension to my cycling. Strava users create ‘segments’, which are specific stretches of road used for competing. Some are short (the Wallace Sprint is 0.1 mile) and some are long (the Comanche Loop is 31 miles). Many involve climbs or flat, time-trialing terrain. The Strava App on a phone or  a Garmin-type device records the rider’s time on a segment.

My Garmin Edge lets me put the GPS coordinates of my favorite segments on my device. As I ride along the Edge warns me when a segment is coming up, then beeps ‘GO!’ when the segment starts. The display tells me how far I have to go and how much time I am ahead (or behind) my personal record (‘PR’).  When I  finish the segment the Garmin beeps, and records my time, and when I get home I upload the data to Strava, which updates the segment’s leader board. The leader board is a list of the best times of every rider who has crossed the segment (whether they are riding hard or not).

I'm #2, at least for now.

It is very motivating to try to set a PR and move up the leader board. I am in the top ten of several segments, with my best being 2nd out of 77 on the very short Olive Orchard Road climb.  The segments are like interval training but a lot more fun. I admit I get a kick out of seeing a new PR pop up at the end of the segment. I got 3 of those yesterday!

Success on a Strava segment can be deceiving. There is a segment near my house on Alpine Road, heading north. It starts at Eight Mile Road and ends 1.5 miles later at Live Oak Road. My best time is 3:49 which is 7th out of 229 riders. I averaged 290 watts. The wind was from the south, so I enjoyed a tailwind of at least 10 mph. My previous time on the same segment was 4:05, but I averaged 305 watts, so I actually rode stronger on that ride. But on that day the wind was blowing from the northwest, a cross headwind, so my segment was slower. So some of these best times should probably have an asterisk next to them. Were you drafting a stronger rider, or with a group sharing the pulls in front? Strava doesn’t know.

If you are on a ride with me, and I suddenly take off as if I’m being chased by a bill collector, don’t worry. I’m probably just chasing a Strava segment PR, and I’ll be out of gas and riding slow when my Garmin beeps and I cross the mythical finish line. Competing without racing!

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To Measure is to Know…

The quote is attributed to Lord Kelvin, who also said  ”If you can not measure it, you can not improve it”. Cyclists now have all the measuring tools they need to improve, which was not always the case.

Measuring the Miles One Click at a Time

When I started cycling casually back in 1986, there was no good way to measure how fast you rode, or how far. I timed my rides with a wristwatch (remember those?!) and used a map and a piece of sting to lay out my route. I measured that length of string and used the map’s scale to get an idea of the length of my ride, and then divided that estimate by the time I rode to estimate how fast.

There were some mechanical devices that could function as an odometer or speedometer. One is pictured on the left. You attached  a small tab to a spoke and each time the wheel went around that tab would click against the device and advance the counter, so many revolutions per mile. Better than my map method, but still heavy and noisy and adding a bit to rolling resistance.

Starting in the late 1980′s electronic devices to measure speed came on the market, and they were instantly popular. Now you could see your speed as you rode along, and by pressing a button find out how far you had ridden and how long and what your average speed was. Like all technology devices these ‘cyclo-computers’ got lighter and cheaper and sported more features every year.

These devices work by using a small magnet attached to a spoke of the front wheel, and a sensor attached to the fork. The sensor counts the revolutions, which are sent to the computer mounted on the handlebar. You program this device with your wheel diameter, and it calculates speed and distance based on the number of wheel rotations. Simple and elegant.

Eventually some of these devices came equipped with sensitive barometers that could measure changes in air pressure and determine how much climbing you did. This was a delightful development for those of us who like data: now we could know exactly how long and steep a climb was instead of resorting to topographical maps or  elevation signs along the road. And heart rate monitors were incorporated into the devices as well, so you could see your heart rate while you were cycling and know how close you were to having a heart attack.

The latest advance in cyclo-computers is to use GPS technology. These amazing devices made by Garmin (and others) actually use satellite signals to determine your position on earth and your moving speed and changes in elevation. I have no idea how it works and I am quite amazed that it does. No more wheel magnets or fork sensors: just mount the device to your bike and go.

I stayed away from GPS devices for years, satisfied with my simple and elegant Blackburn cyclo-computer. But last month I finally decided to join this revolution with the latest and greatest Garmin: the Edge 1000.

More Data than the Census Bureau

The Edge 1000 cannot pedal for you, but it can display any piece of information about your ride that you want on 7 user customized data screens. There is a map screen that shows roads and turns ahead, and you can upload courses to the device to navigate for you. The device alerts you “Left turn ahead” just like your phone’s car navigation system. There is even a vertical profile screen to see a graphic display of your climbing.

GPS devices record your ride data and allow you to upload it to a web site, where you can analyse the nuances of speed and gradient and power and heart rate. And you can compete with yourself and others by riding designated ‘Segments’ of road. The device records your time on the Segment and ranks it compared to other riders, setting up a leader board. It is very seductive to see a segment coming up and try to ride it hard enough to set a personal record (‘PR’) and move up in the standings.

Segments are so entertaining that they merit their own blog post; so I’ll save the details for later. For now I’ll just say I have found two great new places to waste time on the internet:  Garmin Connect and Strava! Check out how mediocre a rider I am there: I’ve kept all my cycling information public. I like to make people laugh!



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    Rich Freggiaro

    Richard Freggiaro is a Stockton area native who grew up on his family’s farm. After an nine year detour to Davis for College, Washington DC for work, and Iowa for graduate school, he returned to San Joaquin County and spent the next quarter century farming with his father. He has been married to Diane for 31 years. He is (mostly) retired which leaves him plenty of time to ride each of his 4 bikes, and he is an enthusiastic and passionate cyclist. Read Full
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