Monday, January 23, 2012

The Incredible Lightness of Being A Clydesdale

You Think That Other Guy Is the Fat Cyclist?
Look, there is something I want to make clear: my Buffalo Status is getting worse. To call myself a Clydesdale is an insult to the equines of the world. But then again, a Clydesdale may be bigger than a Buffalo. How am I supposed to know all this stuff? I know when I was a little kid the Budweiser Clydesdales came to town for some event or another and Mom took us to see them. Man. Those things were big. Ummm, Budweiser...

Weighty Matters
Where was I? Having finally sobered up long enough to sit down and bang out a Blog post, I found myself thinking about weight. Well, I suppose that we all think about our weight pretty much all the time. We are the Fattest Nation on Earth and the Most Obsessed With Thinness. Crazy, huh? While I have always ridden a bicycle for relaxation and exercise, it wasn't until this past year that I became obsessed with all things cycling and weight related. And a funny thing happened. I found out I could increase the length and speed of my rides only slightly and the weight would start to drop off one drip at a time.

Wow! That means I can eat all I want as long as I add a few miles here and there and bear down a little on the stretches that I used to ride slowly!

Yeah, right.

And Another Thing
The other thing that happens is that the Cycling Obsession results in a lot of time looking at other cyclists on the internet. It is easy to identify with these people. I mean, we all ride bicycles, don't we? The thing is, photographers and editors of cycling magazines tend to not photograph fat cyclists. Yeah. So I spend many hours imagining myself thin and strong and fast but then the Reality of the Saddle sets in once astride my steed and I'm huffing and puffing and arguing with the speedometer and blaming my Mom for taking me to see that Budweiser Parade when I was only five years old, imprinting me for life and giving me The Thirst That Is Never Quenched.

So I Ride
So I got my holiday-enlarged self out on the bike a couple days this week, riding my old familiar 24 mile course.  I have seen the scenery on that ride so many times that looking around and goofing off is easy not to do. Instead I ride, I push and sometimes instead of downshifting to maintain my cadence I just pedal harder. I pedal a little harder until those big thigh muscles start complaining and then I back off and catch my breath and congratulate myself on my stupendous effort and then I do it again.

But Man Those Ribs Are Good!
I don't know if it will work or not but something's gotta give. In my twisted world-view I figured starting a Barbecue Sauce Empire and Rib Shack would meld gracefully with my efforts at Cycling Superiority. Since Uncle Bill and I have started having Sunday cook-outs every Sunday, guess what happened to my Sunday Centuries? Unless eating a hundred ribs and drinking a hundred beers counts as a Double Century, I'm not doing so hot.

Those cookouts are a lot of fun. They have a slight chance of translating into a late-life career change that may Save the Day. Those Century Rides were endurance events. They didn't start out as Centuries. Originally I was very unemployed and very poor and very depressed and I would ride my bicycle A Long Way and then realize I had to ride back, also a long way. Then I started measuring the miles and realized that if I did it on purpose I could brag about it online and then one day I realized that sooner or later some Young Gun would drop by to make me Prove It.

Whatever Happened To Billy the Kid?
I'm not too concerned about a shoot-out, however. I am Old and Tricky. Any Bonzai Buckaroo comes around here lookin' to Ride Long with the Old Man will first be stuffed so full of ribs and beer that his carbon fiber bike-cycle will collapse beneath him before the first mile. Besides, I am accustomed to being a Clyde and I'm good at it.

So How About This?
Today I rode 24 miles in an hour and twenty-five minutes. The wind was gentle and out of the east on a more-or less North-South ride. No hills. A really nice day. Is that a good time? I have no idea. I mean, yeah, I had a good time. But how fast is that in the real world? I know a group can generally go faster than a solo rider, due to drafting and humiliation and those slots in the helmets. But that is my fastest time on this familiar course and since I have some catching up to do, I thought it might be a personal challenge to see how many minutes I can whittle off that target time of 1:25. It might cause me to whittle a few pounds off my Buffalo Butt and get me back to that coveted Clydesdale Status.

What's In the Stand
Meanwhile, what about Bike Repair? Funny you should ask. I haven't been doing any. We all know what that means: something is due to break. Oh, I had a roadside flat last week. I fixed it in twelve minutes. I seem to be timing things these days. But I had it fixed and up and running in twelve minutes so now I guess I have another target time to try and reduce. Not that I want to work on that particular time.

Old Steel Rules
But, no, my Old Schwinn has only been mounted in the stand for purposes of worship. I haven't even squirted any lube on her for a while now. Man, I love that bike! What a machine! Thirty-plus years old and still Kickin' It. That Mavic wheel and Tiagra hub are still as sweet and smooth as they were when they were new. The chain is shiny and the SRAM cassette silent and crisp.

But now that I have jinxed myself by writing about over a thousand and a half maintenance free miles, I think I will wander over to the bench and grab some clean rags and some Armor-All and a spoke wrench and some chain oil, open a can of Clyde and do a little worshipful work.

Have You Hugged Your Bike Today?

Whispering Pines Trailer Park and Buffalo Preserve


  1. I got home and washed my bike today, because it has been rainy and the bike paths are gritty and covered in crushed leaves. I always enjoy admiring the sheer beauty of that machine. I love the stealth mode of a clean, oiled chain. And I do 36 kms in about 1 hour 25 minutes, so you rock.

    1. Thanks, Dee. I think you rock, too.

  2. TJ,

    Yeah, I don't compare well with other cyclists. Being of Greek heritage I look way more like a wrestler than a cyclist - but you get what you got.

    Glad to hear that you're out on the bike, making the legs go in circles. Gotta love getting that bike zen going.

    Riding the pavement does seem to bring out the self timing instinct. For me, riding the mtb with big ol' knobby tires on the rail trail, I get 15 miles in the first hour (less the second for sure). Out on the rocks at Moraine State Park I've been known to get in a 3 mile hour many a time.

    It's all relative.

    Steve Z

    1. I agree Steve. On our local single track I can get a heck of a workout in three miles. I haven't been out there for a long time but reading your blog is giving me inspiration. My old Mongoose Single Speed needs some work and I would have to figure out a double rear cog unless I drive to the trail, which I hate to do...but we'll see. TJ

  3. I started riding regularly again after a really long time once I got a folding bike. I wanted to be able to ride to work, but there was no way I'd be able to just jump back in and ride 20 miles. So I started by driving 19(!) miles to work, and then riding the last one. And then riding back to the car at the end of the day. I've gradually been able to increase my riding distance, so now I'm up to about 7. It's been good for my weight and fitness too.

    1. Good for you, Chris. Soon enough the car will stay in the driveway. I have always been impressed by commuters. That is true cycling. And 19 miles is a pretty good commute. I think your technique will work.
      Let us know!


  4. I'm with ya TJ. I just made the mistake of weighing myself, after a few weeks of brownie and beer fueled nights, and I'm officially a Clyde at 200+ish. (I retain some vanity however and refuse to give an exact #) I could blame some of it on my penchant for lifting heavy things during the winter but alas, it's mostly attributed to my penchant for beer, bourbon and Cheez-its while watching TV. I have to get back out on the bike and give it a hug. I have a 30-35 mile route I used to ride during the summer. I guess it's time to bundle up and break out the stopwatch. Thanks for the reminder.

  5. It just doesn't seem fair, does it, Keith? I refuse to get on a scales. The notches in my belt tell a sad enough story.

  6. Is there a Super Clydesdale class? like a Super Le Tour, Super Mirage or Super Course? If so that's me. One silver lining in all the weight guilt and scale avlodance is my fat ass has been on the bike more in the last month than the previous three...combined.

    I would warn you against the slippery slope of timing your rides but I hate being a Hypocrite ;-). Although I have eschewed "formal" training I try to recall some advice from a long ago article in Bicycling (Selene Yeager?) "Once per week ride so hard your eyeballs hurt and once per week ride so slow that snails yawn". Your topic today reminds of a great book by Mike Magnuson "Heft on Wheels".

    Keeping Rolling.

    Roadie Ryan SC

  7. Hey Ryan! What are you riding as your main bike these days?

  8. Thanks for the Post, TJ. I am intrigued with the concept of Buffalo vs. Clydesdale. Personally I think I'm more in the pachyderm class being in excess of 400. Or is it the doble Clydesdale class? My current excuse is ligament damage to my knee, but I'm so itching to get back out there and ride...

    1. Every Ride Counts, Dan! Heal up and get back in the saddle!


  9. Tim Joe, Until the great Snows came it had been fairly dry so I have done about 2/3's of the rides on the Miyata go "fast" (ha!) bike and the remainder on the fendered, fat tired (700x35c),triple cranked and racked Handsome Devil All rounder bike. Trying to get into an every other day groove.


  10. My scale screamed for mercy last time I ventured to step on it. Winter sucks...every winter.

    I did pack my workout gear and spent an hour in the gym at our away-from-home-terminal treadmilling and pedaling a stationary. There's hope I guess but it still ain't miles in the wind.

    If only the salt would wash off the roads...

    1. That would be pretty funny. A talking scale with various screams from the horror movies for every time the weight goes up a pound. For less than a pound of weight gain, you get Don Rickles making sarcastic fat jokes.

  11. Unless eating a hundred ribs and drinking a hundred beers counts as a Double Century, I'm not doing so hot. = Pure Poetry

    I am inspired to go for the rare Triple Century = 100 miles + 100 beers + 100 ribs. Do you have any idea how to set the pace on that effort?

    Yer Pal

    1. Thanks, KAZ. My favorite line was "due to drafting and humiliation and those slots in the helmet..." (but if ya gotta explain a joke it ain't funny.) If you want to organize an event based on that 100+100+100 it would need a Catchy Name. I would like to suggest the Triple Centavious Drunkorio Gluttonomous. Three days of thirty-three and a third miles each. Beer stands and rib cookers and turntables with appropriate cacophony turning at that ancient RPM that gave birth to Rock and Roll. Just a Thought.

      Let me know. yr bddy tj

  12. I would so sign up for that event!

    I was a Clydesdale last summer when I took up riding again after a 35 year hiatus. I immediately realized what was meant all this time by power to weight ratio! Now that I'm down to around 180, I find I'm faster and feel better.

    I never timed my rides until I got a bike computer. Now I can't help myself. Your speed is good for Clyde/Buffalo (Clydalo?) in my opinion. I've been turning about the same speed here in VA over a pretty hilly course and I don't know that it's any tougher than the constant breezes of FLA.

    I enjoy your blog. Mine is midlifeinfastlane if you get time to read it.

    Keep 'em spinning.
    Brian in VA

  13. Hey Brian! That does sound like a fun event, doesn't it? The T-Shirt art would be awesome. I wonder if I could get Ralph Steadman...