Wednesday, August 27, 2014

New Training Page

The Modesto Roadmen, training, ca 1967.

This week, I put my effort into a static page on training rather than a weekly post. I hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Influences and Sources

Pre-zombie, looking ahead to when, after years in the wilderness, he will rejoin cycling, start a blog, and search for influences and sources for that blog.


Last week in my 100th post, I looked back at this blog. Originally I had a section on what other blogs had influenced this one, but last week's post was already too long and the section on influences was growing alarmingly so I decided to describe my influences and sources in this separate post.

Influences are blogs and other websites that inspire me to do something similar. When other people describe their cycling experiences online, I want to do the same. Sources provide information. I have no interest in developing my own version of Wikipedia, for example, but I frequently use information from Wikipedia in this blog. A blog is a particular kind of website with a particular structure. Since you are here, I assume you know what that is. There are other kinds of websites with an essentially endless variety of structures, and although blogs are characteristic, there are no hard lines separating blogs from any other websites; websites can have an almost any degree of "blogishness."


There are many websites about cycling that I have found useful and/or entertaining at one time or another. Listed here are ones that I think were the biggest influences on this blog.

Bike Snob: One of the most popular of the bike bloggers. The main purpose of his blog is to be funny, but there is a remarkable amount of information and wisdom among the humor. He has also written three books and I have purchased all three. Besides showing me what a bike blog can be and providing me with hours of amusement, Bike Snob helped orient me within today's bike culture.

Lovely Bicycle: I enjoy her blog very much, I think mostly because of the quality of the writing and her personal perspective. Her main contribution to my blog was another example of what a bike blog could be.

Crazy Guy on a Bike: A vast, sprawling, iconoclastic website, certainly not a blog, though it sort of provides a blog for non-bloggers. It has many sections but in my opinion its heart is its journals, a place where long distance bicycle tourists post daily updates on their tours, with pictures. As I say, these are sort of like a blog, except there is one blog per tour and just like the tour, the blog comes to an end. There was a time when Crazy Guy on a Bike was a major addiction of mine as I followed the adventures of various cyclo-tourists, vicariously riding with them on their tours. It has been a while since I have been there, I think I am over it.

Tim and Cindie Travis: Now it is just Tim Travis, he and Cindie split after years of bicycling the world together. To me, things have not been the same since. When I discovered this couple, how they married, lived on 25% of their income until they saved enough money for a multi-year, around the world bike tour, I was entranced. The link above is to their/his old school website. Over time, they embraced Twitter and Facebook, but the site is still there. When they started riding in 2002, they found they could make enough from their website to more or less cover their expenses allowing them the option to cycle forever. Forever? Marriages end. Family members die. Tours pause...and then end. But still, what a dream!

Randonneur Ride Reports: (too many to link to). When the Randonneuring community puts on a major event, riders are encouraged to post personal descriptions of how their ride went. Just one example of many is this report page from the Cascade 1200 Grand Randonnée. Some reports, like these, end up on the website for the event. Others end up scattered hither and yon, on a rider's personal blog, for example. In addition, a rider will sometimes write a report for an event that does not have its own web presence. When I first discovered randonneuring and thought that it was something I might like to do, I devoured as many of these as I could find.


Bike Forums: Over the years, when I have asked Google questions about cycling, as often as not Google would take me to Bike Forums. It is a classic forum, a type of platform that significantly predates blogs, and is a place for cyclists to talk to each other, to ask questions, to give and receive advice. Recently, I wanted to ask my own question rather than just learn from the questions others had asked over the years, and to be able to do so, I joined. I am glad that I did.

The old school website of Pamela Blalock and John Bayley, husband and wife, randonneurs extraordinaire, was a major source of information about randonneuring. When I started reading them, that was their only web presence. They have since added a blog, which has become their new focus, but their original site is still there and referenced from the blog for its informational articles. When I was totally disoriented by the new, new world of cycling and was desperately trying to wrap my head around this thing called randonneuring, Pamela, with her clear and direct style and her willingness to meet beginners where they are, made it all clear.

Sheldon Brown: Old school, down to earth, brilliant and wise about all things cycling. When Sheldon created his website, the web was brand new and his site was revolutionary.  Sheldon created his site both to share his wisdom and to service the needs of the bike shop where he worked, Harris Cyclery. Sadly, Sheldon is no longer with us. Harris Cyclery has a slick, commercial website. And yet, his website even in its current, frozen form remains as unmatched and irreplaceable a resource as ever. And do you know what? At the top of Harris Cyclery's slick, new website is a link to Sheldon Brown's original site for those who prefer it. I am a regular mail order customer of Harris Cyclery, and Sheldon's original site is where I shop. Besides just answering question after question after question, Sheldon's main influence on me was as a familiar face to allow me to maintain my equilibrium as I got used to what cycling had become.

Wikipedia: As usual, the comic strip XKCD says it best.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

100th Post

Zombie, photographing himself, photographing himself.

This is my 100th post since starting this blog back in May of 2012. I thought I would use it to look back at what I have done, to revisit the goals that I had when I started, and to briefly consider what my goals might be going forward.

What's This Blog About?

One might reasonably say, "to know what this blog is about, read it" but I will try to briefly address the question from a different perspective. Although I restarted recreational cycling in 2008, it was almost four years later before I started blogging about it. My re-entry into the cycling world elicited within me a powerful feeling of jamais vu; that of the familiar seeming strange. To say that cycling is the most important thing in my life would be untrue and inappropriate, but cycling has been important to me. My entire social life in high school revolved around cycling. I toured endlessly. I raced badly. I worked in a bike shop to earn the money to fund a summer-long bike ride around Europe. As I moved through college and post-graduate training and work, my day to day connection to cycling faded, but its influence remained. So, when I walked into a bike shop in 2008, I expected to greet an old friend but instead found a bizarre stranger whose distant resemblance to that friend made the strangeness even greater. It was only after almost four years that the new friendship I had built with cycling, the old one being lost forever, was solid enough to write about.

And then there is randonneuring. My first blog post came two weeks after my first brevet. The tagline to that post was "As I learned about contemporary cycling, I purchased a new bicycle, a Surly Crosscheck, discovered the sport of randonneering, and in 2012, less than four years later, I completed a 200 kilometer brevet ride." This blog was supposed to be about, not that 200 kilometer ride, no, that was just a first step, but about a 1200 kilometer Grand Randonnée, the Gold Rush Randonnée, in California, in 2013. Instead, it turned out to be about my failure to reach that goal, and what that failure has taught me about myself, about exercise and training, and about genetics and aging.

Why Blog?

I do not blog to make money. Many bloggers do make money from their blogs, my most important influences1 in the cycling blogosphere make enough from their blogs to live comfortably. I am not opposed to making money, but I never considered it likely that I would do so by blogging. My primary reason for blogging is to keep a record of what I have been doing, thinking, and feeling with regards to cycling, and perhaps to clarify my thinking via the discipline of writing. Thus, this blog is primarily a journal. That said, I have made it public and even promoted it in a small way (as I will be discussing later.) I have to admit that a secondary yet significant reason I blog is in the hope that others will read what I have written and find it useful or interesting or entertaining.

The Stats

When I started my blog, the commitment I made to myself was to post once per week. By my manual count, there have been 116 weeks during which I could have posted since that first post, so I am 16 posts behind on my goal. That is an 86% success rate, a solid B. At first, I would try to "make up" missed posts by posting twice the following week, but I have given up on that. I will continue to make a serious effort to post each week, but if circumstances prevent that, I will try to do better in the future but will not look back.

As of August 9, 2014, my previous 99 blog posts have received between 2 and 989 views. This is a small readership indeed, so it is well that I am not doing this to earn money. The post with 2 views is last week's, so the low number of views may be because people haven't had time to find and read it yet. Even correcting for how long a post has been up, some posts are a lot more popular than others. My most popular post was my review of Joe Friel's book "Total Heart Rate Training", so I think Joe should get credit for that one. That said, 41 of my 99 blog posts have more than 100 views, and 6 have more than 500 views. The readership statistics survey I linked to above discusses things bloggers can do in increase readership, and I do very few of them. I occasionally look at my statistics to see what is popular and what is not, and I feel like there are fascinating hints there, but precisely what they are escape me. I would enjoy more readers, and so I am starting to think about what I might do to attract them.

On a popular blog, the comments section takes on a life of its own. Readers compete to see who can be the first to post a comment, inside jokes flourish, and commenters create "mini-blogs" within the comment section. The majority (78/99) of my posts receive no comments. The most comments a post ever received was 13, the next most was 6, and then 4. Of the 21 posts that received comments, 14 received 1 or 2, with the second comment often being my reply to the first. In the case of the comments on my blog, what attracts them is obvious: posts about my training. My fellow randonneurs hate the way I train and are eager to set me right. If you are still reading this post, then thank you, and let me ask you for one more favor. If you have never posted a comment to this blog, could you please do so? I am not trying to drive up my statistics, I am just trying to get a sense of who you are. Don't share anything about yourself you are not comfortable sharing, but if you could put something in the comment about what attracted you to this blog, how often you read it, and what you like about it, like less about it, or would like to see me write about, I would be most grateful.

Blog Topics

If I divide my posts into the following 6 the topics, this is how often I have posted about each one:

TopicPosts on That Topic
Training (Including reviews of books on training)33
History (Cycling in the 60s, etc.)17
Local Bike Culture (Bike Paths, etc.)15
Equipment (Bikes, cyclocomputers, etc.)14
Ride Reports13
Miscellaneous (Everything else)  7

Promoting The Blog

When I first started my blog, I made it public but did nothing to promote it. I was ambivalent about having strangers read what I wrote so took this ambivalent approach. I did mention the blog to a few friends and family, some of whom have become regular readers. A while back (I neither recorded nor remember when) I listed my blog with RUSA Blogs. RUSA Blogs is not affiliated with RUSA, the US randonneuring organization, but is put up as a service by a RUSA member and lists blogs published by RUSA members about randonneuring. Most of my readers find me via Google, but the second most common way people come to my blog is from RUSA Blogs. Similarly, when I joined Bike Forums, I mentioned my blog there, and have gotten a few visitors that way as well.

The Future of This Blog

Every week I stare at Blogger's blank white rectangle with despair. What can I possibly write about? Have I not said everything I have to say? It was a wonderful moment when I had the idea of mining my teenage years for posts (the series beginning with Cycling in the 60's: Mountain Loop) but I can't do that again; I have used up my legacy of cycling history. On top of that, I have lost the dream that inspired this blog in the first place, the riding of the 2013 Goldrush Randonnée. And yet, most weeks I manage to write about something. And in most cases, I feel like what I come up with is not just empty words. Reading over my past posts in preparation for this one made me realize that I like my blog. Finally, having experienced the tragedy of being away from cycling once in my life, I cannot imagine ever letting it happen again. Where there is cycling, there is life, and perhaps even a blog post.


1) I will discuss bloggers and other sources that have influenced this blog in a future post.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Sew-Ups and Sprints

Because this post is about two topics, I thought a picture of a tandem would be appropriate. Yeah, I know, there are three of us, but only two of us are pedaling. Left to right, a middle-aged Zombie displaying one of the few episodes of cycling during his 30 year dry spell, his beautiful wife, and his older son, his younger son having not yet arrived.

I am going to use this week's post to update a couple of the running questions I introduced in previous posts; changing sew-up tires on the road, and the effect of brisk rides on my fitness.

Changing Sew-Up Tires On the Road

My Bianchi Specialissima is currently sporting sew-up tires, and I have worried about changing those on the road. Thus, I have been only riding it at the Rice Track, because if I have a flat there, it is only a couple of miles home and I can walk that if necessary. I have been carrying a spare, pre-glued sew-up, but had no idea how a change on the road would work. As I previously described, the problem is that glue is supposed to dry for 24 hours before use. When I first started using my Bianchi in 2008 and 2009, it had sew-up tires. When I had my first puncture, I had a spare but it was not pre-glued and on the six or seven mile ride home, it rolled on the rim, ruining the brand new tire. Although I was now carrying a pre-glued tire, I had no idea how it would work. I just found out. About half way home from my latest (record breaking) 30 minute time trial, my front tire went flat. This was a bit of extra worry as it was my back wheel I had recently worked on and carefully glued, so I wasn't sure about the state of the front. As I tore off the punctured front tire, I could see that the glue was still sticky. To keep the spare tire from sticking to itself, I had covered the glued area with wax paper. The wax paper came off with difficulty, and again showed signs of residual stickiness. Mounting of the spare went easily as did inflation. I was very cautious riding the two miles to home so didn't really challenge the tire, but at the same time, the tire did not challenge me; it stayed nicely in place. This is certainly not evidence that I have solved the "changing of the sew-up on the road" issue, but it is comforting. I think I will take my Specialissima off the road for a bit now that the front tire is off and take the opportunity to replace the front spokes with stainless steel to match the back.

The Effect of Brisk Rides on Fitness

I have reported over and over that I have never seen any evidence of benefit gained from fast riding. Last week, for the first time, I have seen such evidence. As I described on this blog last week, I have been trying a new training regimen to beat the Houston heat that involves only short rides first thing in the morning (and thus no long rides). Because I had a willing training partner and in order to fight boredom, I ended up riding two brisk rides, one 30 minute time trial and one set of intervals, each week during the month of July. Last week, I set a new personal best for my 30 minute time trial and scored 16 mph on a MAF test, the first time I have done that during a period with no long rides. On top of that, subjectively, I have felt good. This suggests to me that brisk rides do provide me benefit. This will surprise nobody but me, conventional wisdom lauds the value of brisk rides, but this is the first time my experience has matched that wisdom. I don't exactly know how this will impact my future training, but it is one more bit of information that will help me decide.

Update on Houston Bike Paths

OK, OK, three people, three topics it is. Construction has started on the promised connection between the White Oak Bayou multi-use trail and the MLK trail. The current White Oak Bayou trail is 7.5 miles long. This connection will create a continuous trail of about double that, 15 miles, allowing for a 30 mile long round trip ride, all on trails. This photograph shows work starting at the current southern end of the White Oak Bayou trail, circling under the 11th Street bridge over the Bayou, extending the existing trail south to meet the MLK trail.