Wheel sucking…

Torture Chamber AKA Sufferlandia

There truly are few things as dreadful as sitting on your bicycle in a cold, damp basement riding spinners or rollers in the heart of winter.  The monotony and lack of visual stimulation is stifling, even with all the tools available both affordable (Sufferfest videos) and not (wahoo trainer). It is at such times that one must pull from an inner reserve, one must conjure up memories of epic climbing conquests, blazing fast group rides or races, perhaps even failures to stay motivated. 


My de facto motivational scene was my spring 3 day “riding camp” last April. A three day organized ride in the coastal flat lands around Oriental North Caroline. On the third day after turning cranks for 160miles (since there is no coasting in the flat lands), with tired legs, I got on a four man train comprising primarily of locals. Unaccustomed to such long straight roads, whenever I took my pull, I always planned to pull till we made a turn then get off ( back home a road is never straight for more than  400yards). It did not take me long to realize that the roads there went on into the horizon, straight as an arrow. 

Needless to say, all I could see for the last 15 miles was the wheel in front of me, as I struggled despairingly to hang on to it. The group did all they could to drop me as I became dead weight but I hung on with as much pinash as the parasite I had become could muster… I would not make the rest of that ride on my own, I knew it. 

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There were many times my body begged me to ease off, let them go, it’s not worth it. I was so close to the end of the ride but yet so far. In my life I have been struggling with the same sentiments, sometimes we hold on so long waiting for a breakthrough that never seems to be coming. Like a tempo ride, your heart seems to redline right before you hit a slight downhill or your turn on the front is over and you get some reprieve. We get similar compulsions, an inclination to go it ourselves, abandon the struggle. The fact is we need that wheel to hang on to, we need that stronger rider to pull us to the finish line. 

In my times of turmoil and dejection the wheel is so love to hang on to is Isiah 40:30-31: even the youth grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who trust in the lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint. 

I love that….

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Sweeping with a Shovel.

I contend that there are few things more satisfying than using the right tool for the right job. The perfect fit of the torque bit as it mates with the perfect bolt head, no wiggle, no loss of energy. The “Quiver-killer” is the accolade most trail bikes aim for, a jack-of-all-trades and master of most. A bike that eliminates the need for another, many a cyclist have attempted to shoehorn the cyclocross bike into this role.

We welcomed 2015 with the traditional mountain bike ride around the Gap. All the regulars were there, including Brian on his Cyclocross bike which sees dirt only on this ride and a couple cross races in the fall.

Cross bikes are lighter than most mountain bikes, capable of accommodating significantly larger tires and made all the more attractive by their availability in disc brake option, improving power and modulation. As great as the hype is around the versatility of a cross bike, there is some inflation of reality going on. If you ride on embed or loose rock single track like most on the East coast, I dare say the lack of compliance and potential flats would make your jaunt less than pleasurable. Riding behind Bryan, he did not look like he was having the time of his life. Grip was at a premium even with the 34” tires he was running. He muscled the bike around turns and obstacles, leverage of a flat bar and forgiveness of suspension could have made obscure. He risked sitting too long and have his sit bones knocked out of alignment.

Using a shovel to sweep the floor generates a similar sensation. The job will get done, albeit slowly, painstakingly and inefficiently. God created us for a purpose, but very often, we compromise our gifts and callings to be a cyclocross bike. We attempt to be amphibious in our philosophy of life, appease society’s expectation of us, and follow our dreams…at some point. Cruising behind Brian, he was going to get around the 5-mile loop that was for sure, he just was not having fun doing it.

The Threshold

That day remains pretty green in my memory, after what I then considered a monstrous ride – 40 miles and maybe 4K in elevation gain The group sat outside a local Pizzeria refreshing and swapping tales, talking to one of the better riders in the group I asked how he does it… how he climbed so well, it amazed me how effortlessly he floats upwards, seemingly escaping the death grip of gravity that perpetually held/holds me captive. Like most cyclist I was ready with numerous excuses and rationales why I probably could and would never be a good climber (I had ACL reconstruction 2 years ago, my bike is too heavy, I need a compact crank, I hate going downhill so I avoid going uphill)  he simply said you have to keep resetting your threshold… to climb welI you have to work at it. I implored pray tell more, He said you just started out so you will only get better if you keep riding however, in about a year or two your performance will plateau and it will take a constant dose of venturing into the ream of the uncomfortable to reset that threshold and the cycle begins again.

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I have been able to reset my threshold a couple times but I must say venturing into the zone of discomfort is a trip I do not look forward to, it is still something I fight. In my walk with God there have been a few times when I am aware a threshold reset is in order, those times when I do not feel his presence when I pray, when he feels so far away it is to me a 50 mile solo pancake flat ride: no company, no scenery to keep you interested to awe you with the works of God’s hand, no occasional deer or dog chase just hands in the drops, head down, mind blank and wheels eating up miles of tarmac. I absolutely hate that spiritual desert period not only because of the loneliness I feel being away from his presence but also the effort required to reset that threshold. Like cyclist we come up with excuses and reasons to never press in, some like many cyclist we know get bored and drop out (we call those one season wonders).

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Today, on our weekly group ride I am sitting on the wheel of the same rider who 3 years ago gave me that wonderful advice and I thought back to all the solo training rides, the intervals, the heaving and puking at the top of climbs, I recall the rescue calls I have had to make to my wife, the cost of a physical reset and I am saddened that I am not motivated to put an equivalent effort into my walk with God. It definitely does not feel good when the work is being done but the result albeit not perfect feels good.

I know I need to press in to be able to get into the holies of holies that place where I can feel God’s presence and hear him speak… I need to reset my spiritual threshold.

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Got Any Gears Left?

Killer Miller is  a climb about half a mile long and has about three levels, it kicks up then gives you a little break, kicks up again, gives you another break for about 15 yards (just long enough to prevent your heart from exploding) then it serves the final segment which is a solid 17% grade where most resort to slaloming just to not have to walk. At the top you are not sure what to attend to first: your heart feeling like you are about to have the big one, your lungs convulting like an accordion playing a Sicilian tune or your leg muscles which feel about twice its original size. On the last lip I honestly would have been thankful for a triple crankset or a 11-36 cassette.

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I have always wondered what to do about gear selection on big climbs, like every other rider I have tapped that shifter a couple times in the middle of a climb begging for an extra gear though I am fully aware I am in the tallest gear I have but we all believe in miracles… we all pray and hope somehow we forgot to or didn’t needto go to our easiest gear till now. .. alas there’s never any extra. This is one of those things I have always wondered about…. When starting a climb do you immediately go to the easiest gear you can push or do you save it for when you start hitting the Redzone? Some think you always save that for when the pain comes other claim maybe if you ride in the easiest gear, the pain will never come.

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In life it is pretty much the same dilemma we get to contend with…Isn’t it?  Do we do it our way till things are as bad as they are going to get then go to plan B or do we just go to that granny gear (God) and ask what his will and plan is. We ride life like we do our bikes we do not usually think about the distance of the ride or the consequences of starting out too hard. I happen to be one of those guys who would make a great domestic, I would rather ride hard and go fast and then bonk in the last 10miles than sit on someone’s wheel the whole ride and have someone else dictate the pace all in the name of energy conservation. I might finish last but I know I had 90 miles of fun (I know! I stink at racing). Someone told me you want to start every climb in a gear you can complete it in, easier said than done especially when you are in a group ride or running strava.

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The thing though is life is not quite a group ride, its more of a marathon you don’t gage your performance by the HR monitor, power output, cadence or speed of the peleton, you go at your own pace with focus on finishing strong and not have a coronary…

share: Do you ride save the easiest gear for when you need it or do you start a climb in the easiest gear so you do not have to need it?

Form and/or Function?

There seems to be many things we have grown accustomed to, obliged to concurred to, all with little thought or contemplation. Subconsciously however, in the closets of our minds,that dark processing rooms where access is gained by submersion into the recess of our true self via meditation locks questions and challanges to the status quo. Biking as led me to champion the cause of the un/under-represented, it has generated in me an acrylic taster for most things main stream…well more specifically most mainstream recreational activities.

Growing up a bomboi (young boy) in Nigeria, soccer was my religion as it was for many, a  boy with a soccer ball or an iteration thereof  (clothes stuffed into a tailored tire tube, a platic jerrycan heat-molded into a circle/more like a sphere) was akin to the basketball/baseball/football given to every budding boy in the west. Every father wanted his son to be the next Amokachi, Kanu, Pele, Marodona. By the time I discovered Cycling, Soccer and Track had already gifted me with quads the size of a moose.

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As a result I have always had mixed feeling about myself physically. Dressed in a tailored shirt and jeans for a night out with the wife I exude self confidence, clad in spandex however is a different story …..Enroute to a bike ride, the constituents of my being are fully alive because here in lies my true passion/my calling but alas a little part of me is not so comfident, my head is not held high, shoulders not square, eyed not holding others afraid to betray. I am 6.2″, 220lbs built more like a rugby player than a cyclist, decent on the flats and on par on the climbs yet as trivial as this should be somedays it weighs heavy (pun intended) on a Clydesdale.

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Very few things appeal to me more than “modest abundance” this is my nomenclature for those people who have anabundance of something (skill, possession) but give off no indication whatsoever that they do. Like the millionaire who still drives the1985 Beetle his outfits always consisting of something cammo, or the ultra runner who weighs 195lbs is 5′.7″ shows up to the group run with 3 year old tennis shoes and easily pulls a 6min pace, of this all none gets my juices flowing as much as the cyclist who looks nothing like a strong rider, with his camelback, baggy pants and aviator glasses but drops you right before you leave the parking lot.

As in the natural so in the spirit: What gains more respect than when the most quite person in the group finally speaks up and with a barely audible softspoken voice delivers the most thought-out and profound words spoken through the whole conversation? Oh that person who in very few words gives you advice that shows he has invested more time in his personal relationship with God than you have.

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It is always good to remember all that glitters is not gold, we have all been blessed with our individual gifts and talents, skinny dudes for the climbs and hamburgermen like me for the flats and downhills. Someone told me that a good way to return to the anchor “Jesus” is to remember that he has a plan and unless we are stronger than him or able to do something to surprise him there is nothing we can do within our power to upset the plan of God.

Be yourself and let your form perform its function…