Friday, April 29, 2011

Ten percent...BAH! - April 29, 2011

There is a guideline while training that indicates any increases should be kept to ten percent.  For instance if you wanted to increase the amount of power that you were putting out and you were currently at an average of 180 watts, you would aim to get to 198.  That makes sense within a certain range.  Obviously is you are putting out 400 watts getting to 440 could be a problem.
I’ve discovered that I’m not good with this “rule”.  In a previous post I had discussed increasing my cadence.  I was spinning around 80-95 and with my work this week I am spinning around 95-110 comfortably.  That is nearly a twenty percent increase.  From this point increase an additional ten percent would be nearly impossible as it passes the point of diminishing returns for practical purposes and my body’s kinetics.
Another place where I tend to deviate from this rule is in distance.  This month I am a little of 800 miles so next month I should be around 900, instead I will be closer to 1200 as a minimum up to 1400.  That is about a sixty percent increase.  And my longest ride to date has been about 50 miles, I have a 200 mile ride planned in May for a FOUR HUNDRED percent increase which will still leave a fifty percent increase in distance to my planned ride in June. 
Confused yet?
The ten percent rule seems to be a huge generality like BMI or max heart rate calculations.  Basically it gives a guideline for someone that has no idea of “what now”, but is for the most part non-applicable.  And the ten percent rule will definitely not be in use this month as over 10,000 cyclists, many of them brand new, hit the streets for bike to work month.
My goal: to be in the top 5 individuals for distance, with 100% participation.  It means no shortcuts for me and riding part way, even if my legs are achy.  There are a couple of people that have commutes as long or longer than mine and I will lose a couple of days to other events, but on a whole I should be in the top five and maybe even the top position as a solo rider; we will see.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mr. Miyagi kicked my ass! - April 27, 2011

He really did.  Of course I didn’t know it was Mr. Miyagi when I was NOT trying to catch him and it really may not have been him, but if he ever needed a doppelganger this guy was it.
So there I was riding across 405 in Canyon Park, cursing the 10mph head wind when I spot a cyclist in the distance.  From what I could see they were moving along very well up the little hill there.  Successful at convincing myself I wasn’t going to try and catch them, I did happen to notice that I closed the distance once I got going down the other side of the hill.
They made the light in Bothell and I didn’t, so I figured it was a lost cause because there are so many options and directions to go in Bothell.  Imagine my surprise when they appeared just ahead of me awhile later.  We had taken different routes to the same point.  I noticed as I slowly gained on him that there appeared to be large wood pannier boxes on the back of the bike and even though I am still riding my own ride and speed, they seemed to be making great time into the wind with them.
I figured with the extra weight and wind drag that as we started up the next hill I would quickly overtake the rider.  As I rounded the first corner at looked to see how much time I had made up I was shocked to see I had lost ground.  WHAT?  I wasn’t moving that fast, seems as I was being good and pacing myself, but surely I wasn’t that slow?  I picked up my pace a little (because I wanted to) and found that at about an 80% effort I stopped losing ground.
Going down the next hill I finally made a lot of headway in catching this rider and yes I was trying at this point.  He stopped at the next red light and as I rolled up beside him I noted that before the panniers he was probably on about 50lbs worth of a steel bike with big wide tires and a mustache handle bar.  Then I noticed him in his comfortable cotton pants and casual top and oh it’s Mr. Miyagi! 
“I cheat, electric bike” he says.
It had to be that or this guy could have given Fabian a run for power output.  We chatted for a second waiting for the light and once it changed I took off.  There was another hill coming up and I didn’t want to get in the way of the very comfortable looking cyclist behind me.  Right at the bottom of the hill I caught another rider who was making good time and paced me up the hill for a bit.  We had the normal discussion of where are you going/coming from.
A glance back showed me Mr. Miyagi was catching up.  I knew that there was a long downhill followed by a flat and didn’t want to play leapfrog with him.  Cautioning the other rider my parting words were:
“Oh and you are about to be passed by an older guy on a really heavy steel bike”
I stomped on my pedals and dropped them both.  I can only imagine his surprise when HE is passed by Mr. Miyagi pedaling up the hill without apparent effort.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Wooden legs and what I remembered - April 22, 2011

I’ll blame the single speed.
I spent all winter powering up hills and into the wind with one gear.  I think overall it gave me a lot more power to work with, but without gears I lost something: cadence.
The good thing is this is easy to get back.  I will grit my teeth and move a little slower next week and work to get my natural cadence up.  Right now I am hovering around 80rpms and I finished last year around 95rpms.  There is a whole lesson on the biology of how my body burns through energy and different advantages to each type of riding as well as the different muscle fibers, in simple terms, I need to spin at a higher rate in order to augment my low power.
This morning with my wooden legs I figured that I would be slow and hurting until I remembered this.  My power and speed were down (my big “pushing” muscles are still down) but I keep a high cadence, made good time and didn’t have any additional soreness.  Once I get my muscle memory back my additional power will pick up and I should become less fatigued over longer rides.
The other good thing I learned is that if I have burned out one type of muscle strands, I can switch to the other and nearly literally take all the stress off the first set.  Twice this morning I tried to power up a hill and both times my legs yelled at me, but as soon as I began to spin they were perfectly fine.  Spinning causes a higher aerobic effect and that seems to work well with my body genetics.
I should have a couple of days to recover all my muscles over the weekend (other things are taking place of riding) and hopefully with rested legs and remembering to spin I should be good to get a couple hundred miles in next week.  I really need it.  June is approaching!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Really? Snow? Really? - April 21, 2011

Notice the date!  It was snowing when I left my house this morning.  Ah well, it had cleared up by the time I was in Bothell.  I’ve rolled through some miles in the last little bit and should hit my target of 800-900 for this month.  I’ve recalculated total possible miles for the year and with everything going on this summer, plus my late start I’m adjusting my new target to 9000 for the year.
It isn’t my preference, but is realistic and necessary.  My initial goal of 10,000 was an ideal before figuring out the time it took and the time I don’t have available.  Based on my average speed, that is about 600 hours of riding a year or 25 days.  This isn’t nearly as horrendous as it sounds if you consider that I would normally spend 480 hours or 20 days commuting in a car.  So really I ride in a training/recreational manner for 5 days a year.
9000 miles is a very decent number and is even better considering my personal life.  Of course the extra five days of training per year are entirely due to Trisha’s support of me.  If I haven’t said it recently “Thank-you”.
On the riding side, not a lot new.  Still chasing down human-rabbits, enjoying the extra daylight, getting in the miles.  I hope to have a couple of long rides in starting in May and will get more information on those when I get closer.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

May is Bike Month - April 13, 2011

I love bike to work month.  Even though they don’t always do smart things it is great to see lots of new riders out and about (and not just because I have more people to chase down).  Last year I think I was third in the solo division for my age group for number of miles ridden (600ish?) and that was balancing against carpooling with another person and craptastic weather for a number of days.  This year, even with a couple of vacation days, I hope to be in the top three in any age group with 100% participation and about 900 miles.
I think with rising gas prices, better facilities, a successful last year and more tolerance for bicycles that this may be a record breaking year for this event.  I know that I have already seen a number of teams tracking rides and recruiting new members plus the great prizes that are available for participation.  I would be on/lead a team, but that would require a minimum of three other people at work on this side of the mountains that are willing to commit and I don’t see that happening.  It will just be me and that’s ok!
Otherwise I have had some solid rides and solid miles.  I have been riding the Ibis for the most part and have good numbers for the beginning of the year.  I am pushing between 225 and 250 watts at less than 80% of my max heart rate, a pace I can keep pretty much all day long.  This puts me around 20mph on flat ground, so even with hills and stops my average speed has been around 17mph on longer rides.  That means that I will be on the bike for about 19 hours later this year on my long ride to Idaho.  If I leave at 3, I should be there around 10.
I’ve pretty much given up trying to keep the Ibis dry.  It has wind catchers (fenders) mounted and is now rain ridden.  Little things in the last bit: skipped out on an 80 mile ride to do a really hard 20 mile the next day.  I passed a fairly well known local team while into the wind and they couldn’t stay on my wheel.  Scared the daylights out of a couple of young adults coming home last night; I passed them on Bothell/Everett at a good speed (25mph) and wanted to make sure they heard me over the 5 lanes of cars.  Apparently they didn’t expect me to be there as one of them was still shrieking for probably 20 seconds after I passed them.
I think I will end up being very wet going home tonight L

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Ducks, trucks, weather, goal - April 7, 2011

I saw a sad sight not long after I started my ride this morning.  Huddled on the cold, wet pavement was a mallard duck.  He was scared and sort of flinched every time a car went by.  Initially I thought that maybe he had broken a wing and couldn’t figure out how to get off the road, but as I got closer I could hear him making gentle “quacking” sounds and nudging another duck laying beside him.  It must have been his mate and it looked like she may have been struck by a passing car.
Just below this section of road there is a wetland and water vault so she may have been crossing looking for food or something when she was hit.  I tried scaring the remaining duck away (he was in danger or being run over himself), but he puffed up and made like he was going to attack.  There was no way he was going to leave her.  Poor ducks.  I’m not sure it I hope he gives up or if his end comes quickly and he can not have to live without her.
On a completely different note (amazing how much can change in a ride), I hadn’t seen my Jeep with the fleur-de-lis  for a bit, but I was seeing a mid 90s green corvette about the same time and figured that maybe they had traded off road for on road.  This morning I saw not only the Jeep go past me, but also the ‘vette was right behind it.  Maybe they work in the same place.
Stepping back a day – coming home last night I left in 48 degree sunshine and over the next 12 miles suffered through wind that brought me to a standstill, rain hard enough to drench me in seconds, hail, snow, thunder and lightning.  It was sort of eventful.  I understand that at this time of the year weather is a little hard to predict, but this morning on the promise of finally having dry roads and sunshine, I took the Ibis and forewent fenders (I didn’t want the additional hassle).  The roads weren’t even close to dry, but it wasn’t raining so the positive is that my head and hands stayed dry.  (Everything else is in the process of drying as I write this).  It will be sunny this afternoon, or maybe I need to say “It had better by sunny this afternoon”.
Along the randomness of this entire post:  I’m about 150 miles in so far this month, there aren’t a lot of days that I won’t be able to get some sort of ride in due to appointments or weather, I have enough light to get some miles done on the weekends and not interrupt Trisha’s school schedule too much so I am aiming to have 850 to 900 miles in this month.  With any luck I am hoping for good weather the last weekend of month and have a chance to pound out a 150 mile ride…we will see.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The way I roll - April 6, 2011

There has been a whole lot of discussion as of late around bicycles and their riders.  This is from not only the cycling communities but the motorist and transportation communities as well.  I don’t often form strong opinions on these types of issues, but in this case I have some.  In no particular order:
“All the bikes on the road slow me down/road diets slow me down”: this one amuses me to a large degree.  It seems that part of the backlash against cyclists is that they don’t move as quickly as a vehicle so they are causing traffic to slow.  Would you rather that the cyclists that you had to either maneuver around or wait for were in cars in your way.  A lot of drivers complain about this, but don’t stop to consider the fact that if they weren’t riding they would be driving.  In some areas that could be as much of a 5% increase in traffic.  I would think that they would want more bikes to lessen traffic further.
“Bikes don’t pay for the roads/should be on the sidewalk”: again with the amusement.  The gas tax is less than 4% of the total taxes in road maintenance.  And really, the $100 to $200 once a year for vehicle tabs is paying for the millions of dollars in basic lane re-stripping that happens because motorists can’t stay between the lines?  No, most of the taxes are paid by property tax and sales tax, that unless they live in a box, everyone pays.  I also own and maintain vehicles, so I don’t escape that anyhow.  As well to this point think of the additional demand/cost if the 5% of people who ride a bike instead of drive would place on the price of fuel.
“All cyclists blow stops signs and red lights/don’t follow traffic laws”: and with very few exceptions I would happily slap those riders.  They do a disservice to the entire cycling community every time they blow a stop sign, roll through and intersection and change from vehicle to pedestrian and back.  HOWEVER, there are instances when “bending” a law (splitting traffic) in the instance of safety, not convenience, are acceptable.  The other issue is that often motorists don’t know what the laws are that govern bicycles and really shouldn’t point fingers.  Like cyclists, for the most part vehicles follow the law but they roll through intersections and lights, speed and drive aggressively; the difference here is, they cease being a danger to jus t themselves and become a danger to others.
I’m sure there are more, but I can’t think of them right now.  Basically the blame for the escalating tension between cyclists and motorists should be split evenly 3 ways: the cyclists, the motorists and the various DOTs.  Cyclists need to remember that most drivers aren’t bad but when you swerved to avoid that pothole at the last second, the driver behind you had no idea what you were doing or why.  The roads for the most part were designed for cars, they are bigger and there are more of them so ride appropriately and predictably. 
Motorists need to be educated on why cyclists do certain things.  You can driver right over that pothole with four tires and now worry about bent rims or blown tires.  Most of the time that bike will do what you expect it to do, but be patient and give them an extra five seconds; they just took another car off of the same road you are on.
DOT – fixed the damn hole!  I know you have budget crunches and all the rest, but the complete inability for this department to paint a line that makes sense is mind boggling.  Bike lanes against parked cars are dumb, put in a sharrow.  Bike lanes that just end in the middle of a block without warning to cyclist or motorist are dumber.  Instead of counting the numbers of cyclists on any given route once a year use the technology available and get apps that track them every day.  Then you could target facilities where they make sense.  Finally spend the money to educate drivers about what cyclists do and why and educate new cyclists how to do it and why.
Back to the point, how I roll.  In order of most important to slightly less important I ride: safely, predictably, visibly and legally.  Yes I know legally is at the bottom of the list.  I don’t blow intersections or speed limits, but I bend rules if they will keep me safe or allow me to ride predictably and visibly.  I have seen a lot of recent discussions on vehicular cycling vs whatever the other option is called.  Basically it is “ride like a car” vs “use the existing facilities”.  My answer is: yes.
I ride using both and other forms.  I ride in the manner that I would want to see my children ride in traffic.  There is a certain amount of assertiveness but also courteousness to the drivers around me. 
Specific examples from my commute and other rides – note these are the most often scenario types, I adapt keeping SPVL depending on the time of day, amount of traffic and weather conditions.
First, my bike(s) – they are always lit up front and back, from simple flashers on my road bike during the day, to retina searing flashing and steady lights on my commuter in the dark.  I have a jacket that is reflective and lights up and always wear clothing that is more visible than drab.  I am looking at adding some additional lighting to the side for additional visibility, but my front and rear lights are strong enough to light me up 360 degrees.
Home to Canyon Park/YMCA – in both instances there are decent facilities.  The left turns are accomplished in traffic as one is low speed and the other handles two lanes (to the Y).  I would go so far as to say one of the facilities is well laid out.  Crossing I5 has an overpass and on the east side of the bridge, DOT couldn’t have two bike lanes, so they drop the one going downhill with two lanes of traffic to keep the one going uphill with one lane of traffic…very smart.  I always give a wave to any cars on my right that make the effort to stop and wait for me.  Actually I do this consistently unless I need both hands for steering.  I figure maybe they will more attentive when they pass me or the next cyclist.
Canyon Park to Bothell – this area forward and backwards is sort of a mess.  Going south, the bike lane ends on the far right leaving me to either try and cross a lane of traffic that is speeding up to try and get on the freeway and still not have a facility of any kind to cross over I5 on where one lane is single occupant traffic and the other is HOV, to then get to the other side and have traffic merging from the right and a bike lane that picks up in the middle of nowhere.  What I generally do is move over to the right of the left hand lane that goes over I5 early, allowing traffic to pass me on both sides.  As I move up over the bridge I continue to move left, holding the lane which allows through traffic to pass in the left hand lane and SOV traffic in the right, holding up HOV traffic until they can turn behind me.  As tricky as it is, I rarely have an issue with vehicles here.  The rest of the way into Bothell has a nice shoulder and is the safest place to ride as I am still visible.  Coming north, there is a downhill run to the overpass and the traffic and lights don’t often agree with each other, so even though there are lanes entering and exiting and appearing and disappearing bike lanes, I take the right hand lane and move with the traffic.
Bothell to Kirkland – Right now this is all kinds of fun.  Bothell is doing major renovations, the roads are dug up and there are new cone configurations every day.  I avoid it and jump on a nearby MUT to go south.  Going north traffic backs up for nearly a mile some days and I simply ride past them in the bike lane/shoulder instead of waiting for some impatient motorist to run me over because I am preventing them from moving forward ten feet.  After that, south bound, there is a nice bike lane that eventually gives out dropping down a hill with two lanes of traffic.  As it is downhill and there are two lanes, I take the right lane, staying out far enough to discourage a vehicle from sharing it with me and where I can be seen by vehicles on the right side drives and streets.  The reverse route is not so good as the bike lane just ends in the middle of the street, traffic is heavy through poorly set up lights and I again ride in the right hand lane far enough out to be seen.  If I get a honker or buzzer, this is normally where I see it, but I have never come close to being hit because someone didn’t see me.  Bike lanes pop up here and there, but for the most part are beside parked cars so I either don’t ride in them at all or don’t ride in them deeply.  Going north through Kirkland is one of the few places I split the lane of cars and move up.  The lights are so poorly set up that it is safer for me to make my way to the front of the line of vehicles and then move into the bike lane on the other side of the intersection, then trust them to see me.
Kirkland to Bellevue – The south end of Kirkland has a good bike land in both directions that is safe and keeps me out of the single lane of traffic.  Approaching Northrup there is a left turn in heavy traffic.  If I can cross safely while in motion I will, otherwise I pull into a nearby parking lot and wait for traffic to clear before making my way to the left turn lane.  Going up Northrup there isn’t a shoulder or lane or sharrow and it’s uphill, so can be a bit challenging, but I hold a line as far right as I can be, occasionally pulling into a parking lot if I can hear a bus or big truck laboring up the hill behind me.  This is more of a courteous thing.  Going past the hospital there are again two lanes, so I take up the right hand one and make my way to work.
I have the same route every day, but really there are only so many versions of similar scenarios.  I look at it from a SPVL model.  Where is the safest place for me to be, what do the vehicles expect me to do, where can I be seen, is it legal.  I will ride assertively (holding up several cars to safely pass through a construction zone or other area), but courteously as well (pulling over when it’s safe to do so and let those cars by).  I ride by the Golden Rule.  If I was a driver and saw myself on a bike, would I be happy about where and how I was riding?
The people in vehicles that scare me are the ones that aren’t driving; they are talking on their phone, playing with their stereo, watching the birds, whatever.  The people on bicycles that scare me are the ones riding in the gutters and on sidewalks or trying to behave like a car in every instance.  Gutter riding is rarely needed but neither are you a car.  Ride safely, ride predictably, be visible, follow the rules of the road and we will all get there safely.