Tools of the Trade: Road Cycling + Perseverance = Success

As a former Biathlete, I was fortunate enough to have a full sponsorship from a local ski shop for all my skis, bindings, boots, poles, clothing, and an extensive wax kit. As a Master-aged athlete, that several thousand dollar wax kit served as the basis for the entire Provincial Biathlon Team in many of our races in Western Canada 🙂

As a recreational road cyclist, I do not have the privilege of a sponsorship for my cycling gear needs. Each and every bicycle that I possess today, was paid for by my own hard-earned dollars, and I think I value and/or appreciate my tools of the trade a lot more. Naturally, although the aforementioned tools represent a financial outlay of thousands of dollars, I have always sought to be rather modest in my purchases and try to get the best bang for my buck.

I look at material items like bicycles as simply tools – tools that will allow me to participate in the various disciplines of road cycling. The bicycles pictured represent a lot of memories for me – both good and not-so-good.

And I accept that, as that is the way I roll 😉

Life, as I know it, is full of ups and downs. It is incredibly easy to celebrate the successes – not so easy to be positive in the valleys of disappointment. Sometimes, when I enter the room where I store all my bicycles and gear, I am reminded of those disappointments.

For instance, my failure to achieve a sub 1 hour 40km time trial on my trusty Felt S22 TT bike.  Or the rather dismal road racing season I had this year on my Specialized Tarmac, attending three events and then having to bow out ungracefully because of recurrent asthma. Or suffering a nasty knee injury mid-season (from pushing too big of a gear) on my fixed-gear Kona Paddywagon.

Call me a Dreamer, but I still view life as the glass half-full rather than half empty. I keep trying, despite the setbacks, knowing from experience, that the troubles each of us go through in this life will eventually sort themselves out. Adversity builds character and the knowledge that it is “always too soon to quit”. Sooner or later,  a break will come in our life and we will be grateful for “keeping on keeping on”.

If I have anything to say to a younger generation, many of which are fellow road riders, don’t let your frustrations get to you and simply give up. It takes years of hard work and dedication to be successful in road racing, let alone daily life. Finish that road race you entered, come hell or high water. Even if you are dropped from the peloton and have to ride the better part of the course (as I did) alone.

As my Father used to say:

When the going gets tough, the tough get going!

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Share the Road: A Legal Right?

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When it comes to honouring the legal rights of cyclists on the highways and byways of North America, it is a grey area at best. While cyclists, in my home province of Saskatchewan, have many specific legal rights to the road (i.e. are considered to be legal vehicles or vehicular traffic), the general public does not always perceive it that way. In my opinion, a few motorized vehicle operators, especially in the city of Regina, would just as soon run us over, than yield to a slower moving vehicle.

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Many motorcyclists have the same issues with less-than-courteous or dangerous automobile drivers within the city. The exorbitant increase in insurance premiums (due to automobile-motorcycle accidents) by the provincial insurance monopoly, Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI), has forced many motorcyclists, especially sport bike riders, to sell off their now heavily depreciated motorbikes and quit riding altogether. I was one of those “insurance cost” casualties, bit the bullet, and quit motorcycling indefinitely.

As strange as it might seem, Harley riders and road cyclists have more in common than each group realizes. I often get a “low-five” by a passing guy or girl on a cruiser or sport bike. It is almost like we have a shared love for padded shorts, the open road, and an equal dislike or loathing for SGI. Birds of a different feather flock together?

Leather and spandex is a little kinky 😉

Sounds silly, I know, but over the years I have been the object of a whole lot of flirting by women, clad in leather, straddling their Harleys. I usually just stand there, feeling rather naked in my skin-tight spandex kit.

“Hey…honey…are you a Racer? Love the shorts…and the colours…do you know Lance Armstrong?” 😉

I just smile and try not to turn fifty shades of red.  I am probably old enough to be their father!

But…I digress…

Recently, a fellow cyclist (Randonneur) and friend, in his Seventies, was assaulted on a bike path in the city. The outraged attacker started swearing and yelling that a #%%%* cyclist has no business on the bike path, and proceeded to push him into the bush. The cyclist was laying on his back, somewhat shaken up, when the attacker came at him a second time. A well placed “kick to the nuts” ended the unprovoked assault in a split second. It was the attacker who was now lying on the ground in agony. The cyclist remounted his bike and just rode away.

I was astounded at this story, and equally surprised that the long-distance cyclist did not report the incident to the police. More disturbing was the fact that a pedestrian did not think a cyclist had any right to be on a bike path (now known a the Regina Multi-use Pathway). Bizarre…really bizarre…what kind of person would attack a seventy-year-old man on a bicycle?

You can see where I am going with this…

Cyclists in my neck-of-the-woods are damned if they do and damned if they don’t!

If I had a dime for every motorist who has %$$@@ at me for cycling on the road, I would be a wealthy man. Retaliating by shouting back or giving them the middle-finger-salute only serves to enrage an already out-of-control motorist.

Anger management….

It is a no-win scenario for a cyclist to take on several tons of steel, and the arrogant driver knows it. We have all heard of stories where an angry driver, succumbing to road rage, had turned around and ploughed through a peloton or group of riders intentionally, seriously injuring or killing the cyclists.

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To be continued…

Kindness in Turn

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“Honey, I shrunk your Dad”. Photographed near White Butte, Saskatchewan.                             ©2017 David Macneil. All rights reserved.

This morning I set out on a solo road ride towards the beautiful community of Lumsden in the valley. Before departing, I quickly went over my bike and tires to ensure that everything was mechanically sound. I noticed a small cut on my front tire including a little fraying and protrusion of the internal flat protection belt of the tire.

This concerned me, as it is easy for the internal tube to wiggle itself through the protrusion and, thereby, be vulnerable to puncture – and ultimately a flat tire. The sky was overcast and I was in a bit of a hurry, so I went inside our house and cut an old tire tube into small 3cm sections to use as internal reinforcement of the tire – just in case I did get a flat.

As I was to discover, some 35 km’s from home, this was not a smart idea. Sure enough, the front tire flatted as I was climbing the steep hill out of the valley. The initial small cut was now about a half-centimetre in length and the tire was unrepairable. Although I had an extra tube and patch kit, I did not have a spare tire, nor a cell phone with me. I was stuck in a small town, on a Sunday, with very few options. To add insult to injury, it looked like it was about to rain or, perhaps, even hail.

Mercifully for me, three people stopped their vehicles, in turn, and asked me if I needed any help. The third person to stop offered me a ride all the way back to Regina. I offered him the $20 cash I had in my pocket, but he declined – he simply asked me to pay it forward.

Now, this where my story gets more interesting. The guy who gave me a ride home was “crazier than a nervous hyena on crack“. His almost one-way conversation rattled on non-stop for thirty minutes. He spoke on a multitude of disconnected subject areas, each new story seemingly being more incoherent than the former. I was beginning to wonder whether he was going to take the time to breathe. Each time I tried to interject in the conversation, he would just raise his voice a little louder and talk even faster.

Yes, it did not take me long to realize that this approximately forty-year-old man was suffering from some form of mental illness, and possibly, alcohol and/or drug abuse. Nevertheless, he did have a very kind heart, was rather funny, and was willing to help a complete stranger. I am thankful for his kindness and recognize, once again, God at work in my life, albeit in a humorous way, down to the smallest details.

I intend to honour this man’s uncomplicated request to pay forward the same kindness that he demonstrated towards me 🙂

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Silton Sizzler: A Day to Remember

 

 

A beautiful day for a ride to Silton, Saskatchewan. Clear, sunny skies and the typical prairie winds made for a challenging road ride on Saturday. I love long endurance rides (110+km) over hilly terrain like this, as there is so much to see and experience. One can sense the Fall season moving in very quickly. September will be here soon, and the many Century rides (100km and 160km events) that are so typical for cyclists to participate in at this time of year. The Fall season is always a transition period for road cyclists. Some are looking forward to the cyclocross season, and others (myself included) begin earnest preparation for the winter cross country skiing season.

The good news is that Summer is still here and that there is plenty of time to get outdoors and enjoy the warm weather. I hope to do a little travelling out west over the next few weeks and do what I do best.

Eat, sleep, ride, rinse, and repeat 🙂

A special thank-you to fellow cyclist and Prairie Randonneur, David Macneil for taking these photographs. I added a little of my own special sauce (edits) to make them really shine 😉

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Getting the Boot…

 

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Hasta la vista Baby!

There is nothing more maddening to me in the online world than subscription services, especially those ridiculously expensive services offered to cyclists, runners, and triathletes. The big two services (as far as I am concerned) that compete head to head on features are TrainingPeaks and Today’s Plan (including Stages Link).

Over the years I have been a paid subscriber (and beta tester) to the aforementioned services (and several others) but probably will not be renewing my memberships any time soon. My reasons for discontinuation of my subscription(s) are simple as follows:

  1. Too expensive for the features offered.
  2. Too expensive compared to stand-alone software applications, especially free open source software like GoldenCheetah.
  3. Too expensive given that useful features disappear at whim by the software providers.

I think you can see the picture here. Too expensive are the key words, especially given the questionable value of the services offered today. I have been beta testing Stages online version of Today’s Plan called Stages Link for some time. Today, without notice, I was unceremoniously booted out of the Premium version of Stages Link, including the training plan that I am right in the middle of. Obviously my work as a beta-tester was NOT valued and any expectation of further cooperation as a beta tester is null and void. Either I pony up $270 Canadian annually or “hit the road Jack and don’t you come back no more.” Either I pay through the nose or get hosed – my choice, your prerogative Stages?

Oh, and by-the-way, you SUCK as a company Stages.

If my fellow cyclists only knew the real rate-of-return of failed hardware (i.e. power meters) from your company, they would quickly ride away, heading for the hills pronto!

The good news is that I just happened to have saved the aforementioned training plan in TrainingPeaks (TP) and am able to continue along my merry way within the free version of TP until further notice. Sometime in the near future Golden Cheetah (GC) will offer the same (and better) features than anything currently online or in standalone applications like TP’s WKO4.

In the words of an infamous Hollywood personality, “Hasta la vista Baby!”

Santa enchilada … su afuera caliente!

Journal Entry 07202017

It was a hot one out there today! 32C with a blistering wind. I was content to ride an easy pace as my heart was pumping furiously just to keep cool. Three litres of fluid and I was still parched – need to nail this down right as dehydration really sucks. There is no shade on the bald prairies and 30 SPF does not cut it. Good prep for the 38C temperatures of southwestern Montana 😉

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