Monday, September 17, 2012

Lessons from the Long Ride

Some lessons in life, just as in training, are learned the hard way. You can read about them in books, magazines, or semi-entertaining yet mostly brainless blogs. But until you experience them in person the lesson doesn't really sink in. I had several of those moments on my most recent, and possibly last, long training ride of the season. Not that it'll do you any good, but I'll share anyway in hopes that you can learn from my experience. These lessons are in no particular order.

Rocks are Evil
So you're clippling down the road at a better than average pace. It's early in the long ride and your feeling well. Up ahead in the distance you saw a shimmering light that caused your head to grow heavy and your sights to dim there is some debris on the road. Now this road is sparsely traveled but there are occasional cars. In most cases, you will get passed by 2 cars, traveling in opposite directions, at the same time. And, coincidentally, this passing will take place at the exact same time as the debris would be under your tires.

It's at this stage when you have limited options...
Option 1- Veer out into traffic to avoid the debris. Pro- smooth riding. Con- chances of beating an automobile in a sumo match are low.

Option 2- Veer right of the debris. Pro- Avoid cars and gunk. Con- off shoulder drainage ditches are not that smooth for riding in the aero position.

Option 3- Steady as she goes. Pro- Miss both car and ditch. Con- not that steady

As you can probably guess, I went with option 3. The result- flat tire due to a pinch flat caused by my lard butt centering a rock dead smack in the middle of my front tire. Not only did the impact cause the air to escape from my inner tube, but the subsequent jarring was none too pleasant on my crotch. Next time, I might choose a different option, especially when you consider my next lesson...

Practice CO2-ing
I, like many riders/ racers/ triathletes/ morons do not carry a pump. There is a faster, more efficient technology out there called a CO2 cartridge. Allow me to explain.

Pumps take up space and add weight. What's the use of having a pure carbon fiber ride if you're going to doctor it up with a bunch of mix-ins? Geeks want their bikes to remain light. Enter the CO2 cartridge. It is compact. Light weight. And can fill your tire in less than 3 seconds. In theory.

In practice, should you be lucky enough to have practice, it's a little more time consuming. Let's assume for a moment that you have successfully removed your bad tube, replaced it with fresh rubber, and re-sealed the clincher onto the rim. You are ready for a blow job inflation.

You take out this metal, torpedo looking object that is stuffed with exhalent. It doesn't quite fit into your tube stem. You need a delivery chuck. Now, you insert the end of the canister into the chuck and screw it until you cannot screw no more (I really wanted to insert a pun there, but nothing really popped up). Guess what happens? Nothing. That's because the greenhouse gas is blocked on purpose. Next, you insert the opposite side of the chuck onto the inner tube stem. Hold. Unscrew the canister and viola, CO2.

What they don't tell you on the package is the consequence of Gay-Lussac's Law. (Nope, I didn't make that up. There is indeed a gas law after some French guy whose name starts with Gay. I laughed sophomorically all the way through college at that one.) It simply states that when the pressure goes up, so does the temperature and vice versa. Well, in the case of the CO2, the pressure went from super compact to free as a bird. According to Gay, that causes an extreme drop in degrees. In real life, it's darn cold. Like double-dog dare you to stick your tongue to the pole cold.

If you're lucky enough, you won't stick your tongue to the cartridge and your fingers will survive the Ice Age. There is a chance that you'll need to wait a minute or two before you can effectively pull your frozen CO2 chuck away from the inner tube. So much for time savings.

Ride Like the Wind
This lesson is short and sweet. When you are planning a long ride, when given the option, go out against the wind and return with a tail wind. Your legs with thank you for it. Mine did.

Potty Stops
An efficient route planner will take into account several other factors, including other types wind producing options. My route contained 2 opportunities to refill my water bottles for free. This is always a bonus.

Accompanying the free juice is a bathroom. I am lucky enough that both of my water stops contain full flush bathrooms and not porta potties. I don't actually plan on using the bathroom during a workout. I know how to pee on the bike and I hate stopping for trivial purposes. However, should the caffeine hit me just right, I will absolutely stop to take care of more solid, or semi-solid, business.

This fact leads me to my last lesson learned on the long ride. Hopefully you'll never have to learn this one on your own. Take it from me. Read these words and internalize the wisdom in which I am about to impart. Should you find yourself in a position that warrants getting off of your bicycle, walking across a slippery tiled floor in your cycling shoes, bracing against the unstableness of your cleats on a smooth surface, just to relieve some E. coli laden pressure...

Always remove your cycling gloves before wiping.

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