Touring Training

Been a good last few days for miles.  I rode 71 miles Sunday alone on a hilly and windy course.  Longest ride of the year so far for me and I could really feel my deficits at the end. Those being sore shoulders, sore hands, sore neck, sore rear, and sore legs.   I’ve been getting good mileage but its been frequent shorter rides, lately a long ride for me has been 30 miles.  These kind of rides are great to hammer and get top end power, but I’m a firm believer that a person must really put in long rides to be fit for long rides.  You can ride one hour hard every morning and be in great shape but you’re going to hurt when you get into 3+ hours if you haven’t trained for it.


Partially the impetus for this longer ride was my upcoming short tour on the TransAM to Mammoth Cave.  I’ve got to get some longer days in or that tour is going to be a sufferfest.  Too continue the training program on Monday I got a 20 mile ride in even though I was sore.  I took my cross bike which I’m planning to take on the tour, and I found it had some problems.  You may remember a post awhile back where the crank fell off. Well I got it back on and got it to stay but there is a persistent clunk with every pedal revolution.  I couldn’t figure it out, but I was wary of the crank anyway since the spines were about half gone.  Besides the clunk this bike has always had lots of annoying tick sounds.

I even got new “touring glasses”

I took out the Shimano 2 piece crank and found that the drive side bottom bracket cup was loose, really loose.  I decided to play it safe and replace the crank with an older 3 piece that I’m certain won’t fall off.  Besides the crank I couldn’t get the bike to shift.  I traced the problem down to a bad kink in the cable right where it passes through the slide under the bottom bracket.  How that happened I have no idea but it was an easy fix with a new cable.  Now the bike is quiet, clunk free, and shifts good.

That little kink ruined the shifting.

To further my goal of tour training I purchased a handlebar bag, a really cheap handlebar bag, and stuck it on.  When I went bike camping a few years ago I really needed somewhere to stash stuff that was easier to get to then my paniers which like big waterproof sacks and really annoying to open and close.


Continuing my tour training this morning I got 30 miles in at a very lesiurely pace, just spinning and trying to enjoy the scenery.  I gather that touring is a state of mind.  Instead of focusing on heart rate, performance goals, average speed, and stuff like that a touring rider needs to be able to “chill” and “enjoy the ride”  I definitely need to train these two skills.


I test fitted my rack and a pannier after the ride and I don’t think the dreaded “heelstrike” is going to be a problem.  Touring bikes have really long chainstays so you don’t strike your heel on your paniers.  Cross bikes have longish chainstays but about an inch shorter then a touring frame.  It was close but I think it’s going to work.


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12 Dollar Bike Shorts and 2 Dollar Bottle Cages from China

Super cheap bib shorts

Super cheap bib shorts

Hey, there’s no hiding it, I’m cheap.  I’m always looking for good deals on bike stuff.  This Christmas I purchased some 12 dollar bib shorts from China.  I needed some new shorts and couldn’t believe the price.  The pictures looked decent and I thought, even if they suck they were only 12 bucks.  When they arrived and I tried them on I knew I had made a mistake.  They were sized correctly, maybe a bit bigger then most cycling clothing and they fit well.  I was impressed with the thickish chamois, it looked similar to what would come on bike shorts costing 5 times as much.  I realized the problem with the shorts once I wore them around a bit.

The material on these is very light and has very little stretch.  The idea behind bike shorts is that they don’t move, they stick to you like a second skin.  It’s not really that we want to go around with skin tight clothing, that’s just an added bonus.  The real reason for the tight fit is so loose material doesn’t rub holes in our rears.  The material on these cheap shorts is so thin that they can’t hold the chamois against your skin, and that 3D shaped Chamois that looks comfortable is about the most uncomfortable one I’ve ever sit on.  I used these shorts on the trainer this winter and they were tolerable for a 45 minute session, barely.  I used them on 2 hour road bike ride this Wednesday and haven’t been able to ride since then.

Chinese bottle cages

Chinese bottle cages

Another waste of money was the 2 dollar bottle cages I found on ebay direct from China.  They are light, look good, and they hold a bottle, so what could be wrong?  Well after about 6 months one fell off my bike.  The plastic around the bolts snapped off.  Riding this week, the same ride with the horrible shorts, the remaining cage rattle like crazy.  The plastic on these things is really weak and brittle and they can’t seem to hold a bottle still.

Chinese bottle cage vs. Bontrager

Chinese bottle cage vs. Bontrager

I recently purchased a couple of Bontrager cages that looked familiar.  Replacing the Chinese cage I realized they are nearly identical.  The Bontrager cage is a different plastic that is heavier but also much stiffer.  Needless to say the Bontrager cage holds bottles complete still.  There is no rattling and I don’t expect them to snap off in a few months.

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The Path, The Fish, The Mud,

A combo post for this evening with a little cycling content at the end.  Lets start with the new Hulu series “The Path.” I heard of “The Path” as it was advertised on NPR.  I listen to alot of NPR.  Generally I hear alot of interesting stuff on NPR about music, movies, books, news, whatever.  Well Hulu donated so that we could hear about their upcoming series “The Path” which was about a mysterious cult.  I found that interesting, and since they were advertising on NPR I assumed it would be good.  I was wrong.

I only watched the first episode, but I’m not planning on watching more.  It was a confusing jumbled of disjointed ideas that made little sense to me.  So the show opens with this post apocalyptic scene where a woman is is crawling around trying to drink windshield washer fluid, there is a school bus overturned, another women is screaming about her baby.  Then these heroic young people all show up in gleaming white vans with matching T-shirts handing out water and emergency supplies, and generally helping everyone out.  So I’m thinking, this is interesting, civilization has broken down and these guys are helping clean up the mess.  Nope, it was just a tornado in New Hampshire that seemed to affect like 5 people and not a single first responder showed up for, just a bunch of cultists.

So for the next hour the show bounces around from the cult compound to a normal house in a city street, to a drug fueled spiritual retreat in Peru.  There’s a cult, they are always talking about a ladder, they seem to have a handful of people, but they also have a world wide presence, they have their own brand of bathroom supplies, they have a shaman and go on drug trips.  The dimensions and design of the cult are so vague and confusing that I was just scratching my head trying to figure out what the show was about and I thought this was going to be about a cult.    I’m fascinated by cults and how people can seem to turn off their reason and join in with a group no matter how bizarre it seems from the outside, but this show didn’t really catch my interest.

Next up is the mystery of THE FISH.  For years we’ve had goldfish in our little fish pond.  They are gone.  Well 6 of the 7 are gone, one remains.  A few of these fish were big.  Did something or someone scoop them out?  One time an animal had scooped out a couple and devoured them leaving scales and mutilated fish parts in the area.  This time there are no clues as to what happened to 6 of our fish.  The one time when an animal was able to get in the pond was only because i’d allowed it to get very low.  Right now it’s completely full.  It’s so sad because we’ve had these fish for so long and a couple were even born in the pond.  I think one was maybe 10 years old.    If you hear anything about my missing fish let me know.

The scene of the crime.

Last item is THE MUD.  We rode High Knob yesterday, home of the big High Knob horse camp.  These are trails we very rarely ride because they are saturated with equestrians.  I’m not going to start complaining about how tore up the trails are.  I’ll just say that the best way, really the only way, to get around the High Knob trail system is on a horse.

Eli is having trouble with my seatbelts

Sweet mud hole every 100 yards on otherwise perfect trail.

Good times

Mud bogging



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TT.2 Crab Orchard

Little Egypt Time Trial Series second race was scheduled to be at DeSoto on some State owned land with old mine roads.  The 8 mile loop is like a mini gravel grinder adventure ride; mostly gravel roads with some dirt and a water crossing thrown in.  Rains on Sunday and Monday made the course very soft and prone to being ripped up with ruts so we made a decision to swap in the Crab Orchard course.

We filled up the parking lot.

Since I had picked the Crab course out I was responsible for marking it, luckily I had the day off and was able to pre-ride the course with a rattle can.  In the days leading up to the DeSoto course I had worried over what bike to take, mountain bike or cross.  Now that decision was out and a new decision had to be made, which road bike.  I’ve got two road bikes that are pretty similar, both Cannondales, one a CAAD9 size 58 and a the other a Six13 Size 56.  Besides the size difference the only other difference is that I recently mounted a set of Airstryke aerobars to to the CAAD9.  These are those bars that used to be very popular where the pads are on spring loaded bars that pop up when you’re not on them.


I’ve had these bars for about 10 years and used them a couple of rides after deciding that the aerodynamic boost wasn’t worth the noise they generated when not in use.  I loaned them to my friend Luke when he did Tour Divide and he found them nice for hand relief on his 150 mile days as well as great to zip tie more stuff to his bike.  I decided that the aerobars would be the way to go and I’m sure it was the right decision.  During the pre-ride I adjusted my saddle position 4 times, taking it up and forward which seemed to let my legs work better in aero mode.  Saddle tilt was also a concern, nose down and I kept slipping forward, totally level meant I was getting squished while on the aerobars.


I got back from a my pre-ride at 5PM and there were already several cars in the parking lot, by 5:30 we had a crowd. 18 riders attacked the course Tuesday night, only 7 of those had done the previous race.  We had a guy who had just finished a half iron man and a girl who had only ridden 3 times.  It was an awesome turnout.  The tri-guy had a Shiv that looks like the fastest bike I’ve ever seen, like a cross between a bike and a katana.  He had a very respectable time but whats mind blowing is that he finished a half iron man only 2 days before.  There were scattered clip on aerobars like mine and lots of standard road bikes.


I started closer to the front his time at number 7, my pal Donny started in front of me instead 0f behind me like last time.  We started with one minute intervals butconsidering the the size of the group it was suggested we move to 30 second intervals so Donny was only 30 seconds ahead of me.  I’m 100% sure that the pre-ride made me way faster this time, the course starts with some rolling hills and then a long gradual downhill turning to flat.  On the hills my heart rate maxed out but I wasn’t hurting.  I was staying with Donny and feeling great.  On the downhill I was on the aerobars and spun out at 36 mph.  At this point I really regretted not changing out the crank from the compact to standard.  Still my big weight and aero advantage had me gaining on him.

At about 4.5 miles in I knew I had gone too hard.  It was starting to hurt, I had to back off a bit but I tried to keep it hurting as much as I could.  The turn around spot on the course required everyone to slow down but it didn’t look to me like any major bunching up was happening.  At around 11 miles we started back into the hills and that great downhill which had given me the speed to pass Donny was now my enemy.  I had been gaining on a rider ahead but now I was struggling up the hill.  There are about 5 hills in a row here and by the next one I was having side splits and gasping for air.  It was hurting bad.  I didn’t feel a cramp so I just pushed as hard as I could.  The last few hundred meters had me gasping, I don’t think I could have gone any harder.

I’m sure the aerobars were a good choice, I was only out of them for a few of the hills, but the spring loaded arm rests and lack of shifters made the aerobars annoying to get in and out of.  A real time trial bar setup with bar end shifters would be the way to go.  I think the the tri-athelete had a aero helmet.  It’s fairly accepted knowledge that an aero helmet is the cheapest and fastest way to speed up your time trial.  An aero helmet provides about 3 times more drag reduction then aero wheels.  Of course the only cost is the fact that they look pretty weird. Still I wish I’d had one Tuesday night.

Despite all this high tech aerodynamic action the fastest time was set by Lee Messersmith by a MINUTE with a standard STEEL road bike with standard wheels, no AEROBARS.  Considering the next 7 places were all within 30 seconds of each other Lee’s time is stunning.  Of course it shouldn’t be too surprising, he does teach spin classes in his own cycling studio and he trains for some pretty extreme off road endurance races.  Aaron Moore came in second to take the overall series lead from Brian Davis.

On the women’s side a newcomer, Monika hammered the course in 40.20 for a commanding lead but Kalyn Waller took second to hold on to women’s points category.

In the master’s age group Tom Harbert had the fastest time and took 3rd overall, he’s second overall in the points and has a commanding lead in the Masters group.

On April 26th LETTS will return for the gravel course at DeSoto.  I’m expecting this to shake things up as the gravel and dirt roads should be unpredictable.  Hope you can make it.

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Roubaix! Adventure Cycling! Time Trial!

Had the day off and watched 6 hours of Paris-Roubaix.  OK, I didn’t watch the whole 6 hours, I downloaded the entire 6 hours but fast forwarded through much of the middle.  This was the first time Eurosport has broadcast the entire race from start to finish and one of the very few times we get to see the start of a bike race.  Starts are crazy with attack after attack going until finally a group gets clear and things settle down, very fun to see.  Early in the race I heard the commentator say that Matt Haymond had been declared a 800-1 underdog.  I’ve heard of him, but vaguely, really didn’t know who he was.  Well now he’s the guy who kept Tom Boonen from winning a 5th record breaking Paris-Roubaix.  The 800-1 underdog beat the worlds best cobbles riders in the final sprint.

It’s been kind of funny, the race was yesterday in Paris so I’ve been trying to avoid finding out who won until I got a chance to watch it, I’ve been trying to avert my eyes.  I already knew that favorite to win, Fabian Cancellera crashed because of all the videos of Peter Sagan Bunny Hopping his flailing body and bike.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a rider do that in all the racing I’ve watched.  I always think, JUMP! when a rider goes down in front of someone and Sagan was like Tigger, he even posted on facebook how his mountain bike skills paid off.

Example of an adventure cycling map

Example of an adventure cycling map

I received the Adventure Cycling map I ordered.  I’m impressed by how fast they sent it out and how quickly the excellent men and women of the US Postal service got it to my door!  The map is nice, I had no idea how they would lay out these things, but it’s really simple.  Each folded panel is about 30 mile section of the route with a detailed map and directions.   The back of the map has a guide to the services along the route, an elevation profile, and a history section of the area, and weather information.

back of adventure cycling map

back of adventure cycling map

The 15 dollar price of the map seems a bit high, until you consider you’re paying for not only the printed map on high quality waterproof paper, but the work of maintaining up to date information on a 4000 mile bike route.

Finally a couple days of persistent rain has thrown a monkey wrench into the scheduled Little Egypt Time Trial tomorrow night. The course is gravel and dirt road with a couple of water crossings on some State land that is closed to cars near DeSoto.  The course is very muddy and we don’t want to rut it up, so we’re swapping to the Crab Orchard road course.

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Harrisburg to Cave City – Planning Stages

IMG_3987After carefully examining my options for a week long bike tour this summer I got bored and fell asleep.  In all honesty I would really like to go do one but its not looking likely.  First off is time.  To do a week long ride I’d need a week or more off work and I’d be separated from my darling wife.  I could probably do this but it wouldn’t be easy.  The next problem is money.  After paying for the ride which will cost around 300-400 dollars I’ll need to cough up another 300 dollars for expenses. Its likely that week long organized tour will cost about 600-700 dollars. My wife points out that one could go on an all expense paid cruise for less then that.  I can’t figure out why anybody would want to do that though.

The other day it just hit me, I don’t need to pay someone to go on a bike tour, and it doesn’t have to be a week.  Here’s the thing though, I want to actually go somewhere, doing a loop where I get a day away from home doesn’t sound all that exciting.  I went to the adventure cycling website and looked at their routes.  They have routes all over the America and 5 of them pass though my area.  Every summer fully loaded touring cyclists pass though Southern Illinois and I often consider running away and joining the circus with them.

When I began riding it was with mainly touring style riders.  Many folks had handlebar bags on their bikes at all time.  These riders were more concerned about covering miles at a nice even touring pace then they were with any ideas of speed.  My long rides back then were touring style rides, very early starts with mixed groups of riders, regular breaks every 10-15 miles, and a light pace.  Averaging 10 miles per hour over the course of a 70-80 mile was about normal when you added in all the breaks and regrouping.  It’s been awhile since I’ve been on a road ride like that.

mammoth cave routeThe TransAmerica route crosses the Ohio river by ferry boat near me at Cave in Rock IL.  It continues on across Kentucky where there is a little side loop down to Mammoth Cave State Park.  It occurred to me this will make a perfect short tour and my wife can come pick me up and we can check out Mammoth Cave together.  If I pick up the TransAmerica trail at Eddyville and follow it to Mammoth Cave the distance is 262 miles.  Break that up into 3 days and I’m looking at 87 miles a day.  A long day even on an unloaded bike.

I’ve been thinking about it for a few days and trying to decide what I need to take.  At first I was thinking my road bike, an extra pair of shorts and credit card. I’d stay in motels for a few nights and eat whatever was available along the route.  After thinking and reading about it some more I thought, “where’s the adventure in that?”  Not to mention it’s going to cost a lot more.  I’ve got camping stuff, I’ve got panniers and a rack I can mount on Jake the Snake turning him into a touring bike.  I’ve got a little MSR stove I can cook with and I’ve even got a water filter so I can suck water out of ponds I see along the road.  This can be a true adventure!

I’m planning on taking the trip in May sometime.  I’m really hoping I run across some folks on the road touring, or maybe recruit someone to come with me, though I don’t see that happening.  I just ordered the TransAmerica route map I’ll need so at this point I’m committed.

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Dirty South 100K East Side 2016

Dirty Souths are epic by design.  60 miles of riding with big hills and nasty gravel is going to challenge just about anyone, but I wanted more.  I wanted it to be an epic epic.  This years East Side Dirty South ride had monster gravel climbs, the biggest climb in Southern Illinois, the dirt roads, trails, creek crossings, really what more could you ask for?  Was this epic epic too epic?  I don’t know.

I cleaned my bike for this ride?

Typically we’ll have 15-20 people on the East Side ride, this year we had 7, but only 6 riders on the road at the same time.  Don’t get me wrong, it was an awesome 6 riders but still the weather was so good, the course was so awesome, I only wish we’d had more people to share the hurt with.  I know some folks had good excuses and at least one just slept in LOL

Top of Eagle

And there was hurt.  One dude crashed on Eagle Mountain, at the one part where I have been worried some one would crash.  It was a wicked and scary crash as he was right next to me and I saw him flying through the air beside me.  Luckily he wasn’t hurt, to bad, and carried on after the ace mechanics on the ride fixed up his bike.  Later the trail section was putting a hurt on those of us with ‘cross bikes.  Tom Dick Hill put a hurting on me, it was the first place in the ride where I started to feel cramps.  I had to really back off and try to spin up as easy as possible and since much of the hill is over 10% that wasn’t easy.


The wheels came off for me, well not actually the wheels, the crank, shortly after the Palestine segment.  My crank arm got loose.  I tightened it up, but a mile down the road it just fell off.  I couldn’t keep it on and had to ride the last 5 miles with one leg.  At first I tried to be a smooth one legged pedaler, but I figured out that a bigger gear slower cadence style worked best with a big power stroke.  I got some really weird looks, but it was better then walking or waiting for a ride.  In fact this is really cool, I averaged 11.6 for the overall ride, and 10.6 for the one legged part.




I expected my overused right leg to be very sore the next day, but it was fine.  My wrist and hands were super sore.  I woke up in the middle of the night with my wrist throbbing.  Luckily stretching it out and work seemed to make it better.

bottle cages were coming loose

That’s not suppose to happen

Thanks to those that made it out, and if you couldn’t make it that’s alright, tray again next year.


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