Just over a week ago I hit my first 1000KM on my away to 5000KM by the end of October this year. Come to think of it, this might very well be my first thousand kilometers I have rode on my bike ever, at least intentionally. It could very well be that when I hit 1K mark a few summers when I was much younger. But for this sake of this post and to avoid a crazy amount of time on Google Maps, we’ll just have to say this is the first time in over ten years.
So how did it go?
Not too bad actually. I had a slower start than I would have wanted, some bad weather and a trip to L.A. slowed things down a bit in May. But June was spectacular and I managed to rack up 670 KM without too many incidents. The RidgeBack MTB I have been riding is over 17 years old and still has most of it’s original parts. For example the wheels are original and even though I have changed the tires, the aluminum had started to oxidize and even the spokes were getting a little corroded. On one ride home in May, I hit a pothole, heard a pop and wondered why the back-end started to wobble quite a bit. Turns out, 2 of the spokes had popped and another 6 where soon to go too. By the time I made it Fraser’s in Valois, the wheel looked like something out of a cartoon and when Harry the Techie grabbed the wheel, only the hub was still attached to the bike. Once the wheel was replaced, I magically found an extra 4KM/h do to the fact that brake was no longer rubbing the rim every quarter revolution. So apart from the braking effect and my inability to ever be in the right gear, the biggest drag to my improvement has literally been drag. Sitting up right on a mountain bike and riding against the prevailing wind for 25KM does very little improve your time.
Generally speaking the riding has been good, I have started commuting with John again and he’s proven to be a pretty good motivator. There is nothing worse than getting your ass kicked by a guy riding a 30-year-old bike he picked up for $10 and then proceeded to equip it with parts salvaged from the dead bikes found in the trash. He’s been riding this fixed gear home-built special for a few years and it gave me the idea to try to rebuild an old Peugeot Cadre Allegé road bike that had been hanging from the rafters in my buddy Al’s shed for the last few years. It needed far too much work to get it working in its current state or to rebuild with current parts. So a “Fixie Conversion” was the only logical thing to do. But I will leave the details for the next post.
This year I will be turning 40 and have been reviewing my list of accomplishments that I had set for myself when I was 11. And to tell you the truth, short of actually becoming Batman, I’ve done pretty well, don’t worry I’ll be posting more than enough on this throughout the year. However the one objective that was very important to me back then was to make sure that I was not going to be an overweight Fat Dad sitting behind a desk all day. You’d think that working in IT and running a site called 2FatDads, this would have been a forgone conclusion and that I should be a big slob eating Cheetos and drinking Mountain Dew all day. I will admit that if I was still doing web development, that seriously scary mental image could have been a reality. But last year, I made a career change and decided to push my IT expertise elsewhere and try something new. This new job has really been a good challenge and has allowed me to really push my skill set and has opened a lot of options for me.
On a personal health level, the daily walking and train commuting helped me shed almost 30 pounds and get my acid reflux in check. Last fall, I took my cycling to a new level and commuted into work racking up 700KM in a few months. This not only helped me feel great but also improved my fitness level for skiing and the winter soccer season. This is what gave me an idea for this crazy 2012 project.
The short line is that my 2012 goal is to cycle 5000KM before October 31. After speaking to a few friends and colleagues who also cycle into work, we al agreed that if were to cycle 3 days a week between March and November, I would easily attain the 5K mark.
The actual execution plan is pretty simple and for one good reason: this is a goal that I MUST achieve. There really is no option here, so in order to make the goal attainable it has to be realistic. So for the next 6 months, I need to cycle in 3 days a week and average 150KM a week, my daily commute is 25KM one way or 50KM per day. Plus at least 5 weekend Tour de Waste Island Rides. With this average, even the rainy weeks would be covered by the dry ones, or those where a train commute is required.
I have a few colleagues at work who ride on pretty intense road bike and then I have a friend, John who does the same commute as mine on a fixie he picked up for $10 in Griffontown.
The bike I’m riding is a hard tail RidgeBack mountain bike that I picked in the UK about 15 years ago. I replaced the MTB treads with 100PSi road slicks, STB half pedals, end bars for the handle bars with better grips and a new saddle with a center channel. The seat post was custom ordered to make up for my height and I added a rear rack for some panniers.
So it’s not exactly a stock hybrid or a touring bike, but it’s a pretty comfortable ride with tires that are wide enough for my size and weight (6’4″ and 215lbs) but hard enough that I maintain a pretty good speed on the flats. I’m currently averaging 2:35 per KM, but hope to get it down to 2:15 per KM. Which brings me to the tools I like to call motivators
The gear I have added to the bike it what has really makes it easier the to ride upright while the tendency for many commuters it ride a bike with drop bars.
On the bike itself, I added the panniers rack because I don’t really like to cycle with a back pack, especially in the summer as I tend to get a little sweaty. And because it could end up becoming a 25KM walk home, I also carry and flat kit, replacement inner tube, a pump and a small tool kit. They live in the bottom of my panniers bag. The panniers themselves are all from MEC, one Serratus bag which is about 5 years old and 100% water proof, it’s just one big compartment and really easy to stuff a laptop, clothes, lunch and tool kit it and it’s great in the rain, MEC have their own version now. The other panniers I alternate are an MEC 19L brand tough nylon bag with a small top pocket for glasses, wallet, keys and the like. This would have to be my everyday bag, it’s large enough for my iPad, keyboard, dress shirt, undies, socks and lunch. I also have a Big Pod Bag, and Brenta courier bag (replaced with the Vélocio) that I could use if I really needed the extra room or where to travel sans-pannier, but since I am trying to keep stuff off of my back the Pod bag is usually stuffed inside one of the panniers and the Brenta is used for rainy day train commute.
I have long been a strong believer in the thinking that there is no bad weather just bad clothing. Now being a cross-country skier, this has made my Spring and late Fall riding easier since I my ski gear has doubled up as excellent cold weather riding gear. Merino wool tops have been awesome to me this spring and I will just cover that up with a standard MEC SuperMicroft cycling jacket. For long pants, I picked up a pair of specialised cycling pants with a woven wind shield layer, they breathe pretty well and I have yet to ever get cold legs. I also took some advice from few cyclist and got some Exustar SPD clippy shoes. Mine were $65 from MEC and the reviews all pointed to these being excellent commute shoes despite being designated MTB shoes. No matter what anyone else says, proper cycling shoes make a huge difference in the overall ride comfort and power displacement which is actually pretty important on a 25KM, hour-long commute.
For the warmer months, I have a pair of Louis Garneau cycle shorts that I’ve been wearing for almost 20 years now, they are in great shape but have the older style chamois. I just recently picked up a pair of new style chamois undershorts that I can where with pants or soccer style shorts and not freak out my work colleagues. I have also picked up a really standard MEC cycle shirt with three pockets. Being a mountain biker, this is the first real cycle shirt I have ever bought and I must admit, that is very well designed, hitting the wind every day I also understand the need for tighter fitting clothing. Not sure if I am a true convert, but I do like the fit and feel on those blustery days.
My cycle gloves are the cheapest pair of MEC Metro gloves I could find, apart from the last pair that got ripped apart because my grips were disintegrating, they have lasted me pretty well and the terry cloth on the back of the thumb has been excellent on windy and running nose days. On the really cold mornings, I will usually wear a basic pair of MEC cross-country ski gloves.
I also have Gyro helmet with a sun peak, easterly morning and westerly evening rides make glasses and sun peaks a must. I have a pair of older MEC Espresso sun glasses with various lens combos that I wear when I ski and for dedicated weekend rides, but since I can’t wear contact lenses for long-term computer use, I just cycle in with my prescription Ray-Bans.
Overall this is pretty standard gear for fair weather and light rain riding. As I stated before, if the weather gets that bad, I can take the train and even leave the bike at work. The objective it to get some exercise, not end up hating cycling come september.
The only way to keep a geek interested in a task or a goal like is peer pressure and the gadgets to monitor progress. Since peer pressure only gets you so far, the biggest motivators have been the new toys. For Christmas, my wife got me a Polar heart rate monitor/watch which has been really cool at helping figure out if I’m pushing my self too hard or not hard enough. The model I got is the FT4, which is pretty basic, it doesn’t even come with a way to download your stats, you have to do it all manual. This is fine with me, since I’m pretty tough on watches and wasn’t sure how serious I would get with this project this model was fine for me.
I also picked up an $18 Filzer bike computer from MEC to track speed, distance, time, and a whole bunch of other cool stats. The best part about the computer is that it will pause when the bike is stationary at stop signs for really accurate readings which is a much better way than my next gadget.
Of course, my iPhone is a huge part of my commute, I use it to listen to podcasts, take pics of the interesting things you see along the Lachine Canal and then of course for the RunKeeper app, which is half way between a stats apps and a social network where you can track your progress and keep up to date with your street team, who are basically buddies you can share stats and routes and who will check in you to make sure you reach that goal. The other cool thing about RunKeeper is the way it sends you supportive email and gives you badges and stars whenever you hit certain milestones for distance, speed, and overall progress. It’s was designed for runners, but it’s actually very good with cycling, cross-country skiing, hiking, rowing and even swimming. It’s free and it’s available for the iPhone, Android and even the BlackBerry (3rd party app), so you should just download it and try it out for yourself.
The Pay Off
So what do I get for doing all of this? Apart from a healthy ticker, super quads and calves, it’s basically all down to bragging rights and one more box to check of that list I made all those years ago. After cycling 700KM last fall, I had one of the best winters ever for indoor soccer and skiing. I managed to keep up on our annual ski trips and running around for 60 minutes wasn’t ever painful the next day. The other pay off is that the more I continue to do now while my kids are young, the easier it will be to keep up with them when they are teenagers. And with twin boys, you can just imagine how fiercely they are going to want to kick their dad’s fat butt.
After writing all this and seeing how often MEC showed up, I kind of wish they had affiliate links or would sponsor my Road to 5K.