Tag Archives: Cycling

Having a Fit! Well, Getting One, That Is

“I’m here to have a fit,” I explained to the guy at the door to the bike shop.

And he let me in.

Because I had an appointment to have this fit, after all. An appointment for a professional bike fitting, through Fitmi in Ann Arbor on the second floor of the Sic Transit bike shop. Fittings are private, and by appointment only, both to minimize distractions and for obvious safety reasons these days.

I’d found Fitmi by accident while trying to find a collection box for wine corks, of which I had a quantity from last year’s races to recycle. Fitmi had one, so I took them over. While there I observed Jessica, the owner, fitting someone to his triathlon bike, and I was intrigued enough to schedule the same service for my cross bike, which I use for long rides.

I hadn’t been fitted to the bike since I bought it in 2011, so a refit was overdue. Turns out Jessica used to work at Two Wheel Tango, where I bought the bike for my 600-mile “turning 50 celebration” ride to our campground and back in 2012. So we actually may have met before.

The fitting is not cheap – close to $300.00 – but as I wanted to get back doing long rides again, including “centuries” (100 mile rides) I believed it was worth it. I duly showed up with bike, helmet, and shoes. She set the bike on the stand and I mounted it.

**** Readers, you may insert your own joke here about her saying, “Yes, you fit. That will be $300, please.” ****

After observing me pedal for a bit, she asked me a few questions. “Your form looks good,” she said, “but I wonder if you feel pressure on your hands.” I agreed that on long rides my hands sometimes go numb. She believed that was because my shoulders were too far forward. And my groin sometimes does, too. She said the saddle looked fine, so the height or angle was likely the problem. Then she got out her calipers, measuring tape, and laser, and began the fitting.

During the two-plus hours I was there, she measured and adjusted a lot of stuff, making incremental improvements until we found the ideal settings. Here are the basics:

  • The saddle height was raised and the angle was adjusted. With this done I was once again properly resting on my “sit bones” and my legs extended more fully, giving me more power in the stroke.
  • The front stem was replaced with one that puts my hands higher on the handlebars, reducing the load on my hands and wrists.
  • My shoe cleats were moved slightly to reduce “knee tracking” and keep them more in alignment over the feet throughout the stroke. We could see the improvement using the laser.

Measuring my body position and leg extension.

Jessica making adjustments.

At the end she said things looked much better, and I said they felt better, too. “You now look like you’re in the bike rather than on it,” she said. The idea of the bike and me being a single unit on the ride.

Since the fitting I have ridden over one hundred miles on the bike, including a 50-miler the weekend after. The difference in ride quality was immediately noticeable. My butt got sore, due to lack of time in the saddle, but it hurt in the right places. And my hands and groin didn’t go numb even once. Pretty awesome! Makes me want to be on the bike even more.

You have probably figured out that I recommend a professional fitting to anyone who rides long distances. And if you’re in the Ann Arbor area, or within shouting distance, I’d say give Fitmi a try.

Only a Thousand

THE FIRST TIME I RAN a thousand miles in a year was in 2011, also the year of my first marathon. I’d had to step up my game that December to get the final miles in, and broke the tape, as it were, on the 29th. On New Year’s Eve I had one more run to get a total of 1,010.10 miles for the year.

My coach was proud of me. My wife was proud. And above all, I was proud. After all, it was nearly double the 567 miles I’d run the year before. I was a four-figure runner; I’d arrived!

From 2011: 1,000 miles! Woohoo!

The first Saturday in January 2012, I went out for the regular weekend club run. I really wanted to share my accomplishment with someone, but wasn’t sure how. Then I caught up with a couple of guys chatting.

“How’d your running go last year, Sam?” one of them asked the other.

“It sucked,” Sam replied. “I only ran a thousand miles.”

That didn’t really deflate me much, just bring me back to earth. And I’ve run at least a thousand miles just about every year since, including this year, where I also hit the mark on December 29. Yay me!

2019 – 1,000 miles! Woohoo!

To be fair, a thousand miles a year is not that exceptional for regular runners. Many of them run 2,000 or more. And at least one runner I know has reached the 100,000 mile lifetime mark. Does this diminish anyone who runs fewer miles? Not at all. If you run, you’re a runner in my book, and in the books of all the other runners I know. Mega-marathon runner? Good work. Only run a couple of miles at a time? Good work.

Now it’s true that my mileage total is unusually low for an ultrarunner. People are surprised to find out that I run 100-mile races averaging only 20-30 miles per week. But I also strength train at the gym, and supplement running with long bike rides. Meanwhile, a couple of people I know whose exercise is mostly distance running get injured or struggle to finish ultras.

What do I take away from all this? That everyone’s body is different, and there is no single “magic formula” for accomplishing your goals. And I like mixing up my training. Running 50 miles per week is not something I enjoy, so I find other ways to build the base I need. This allows me to enjoy the training as much as the events I train for.

All that said. . .it may be time to step up my running, enjoyable or not. I’ve decided to try for one of the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB) races. More about this later, but the nickel summary is: it requires at least two tough qualifying races, plus a lottery. This makes it at least a two-year process, running the qualifiers in 2020 in order to apply for the UTMB race in 2021. And, of course, there are other ultras I want to try out, possibly including a 200-miler, or even the ten-day, 314-mile Last Annual Vol State Race.

To get through all that I’ll need to be in really good shape. Additional strength training will be part of that, but there’s no getting round more running too. So I’ll have to decide if the extra effort is worth it. For now, at least, I’m assuming yes. So you all can look forward to some (hopefully) interesting stories in 2020 as I share my adventures in getting to UTMB, and beyond.

Happy New Year, everyone!

The Night of 10,000 Moons: WNBR Portland

NOTICE: This post includes photos that may be NSFW. But why would you be reading this at work? Shame on you! But be sure to read this the minute you get home.


That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Which is why I was at Cathedral Park at 9:00 p.m. last Saturday, geared up and appropriately dressed for WNBR Portland. Which stands for:

World Naked Bike Ride

Officially, the WNBR is a protest against excessive use of fossil fuels and the far too many car-bicycle accidents. Lately it’s added body positivity as a theme, and indeed I saw all ages and all body types there, naked and not ashamed.

While it contains the word, “Naked,” WNBR is actually a “Bare As You Dare” event. Riders ranged from fully clothed to underwear down to birthday suits. I saw colorful hats and costumes, and lots of decorative patterns and slogans in body paint applied by on-site volunteers.

(Click to see full gallery from KATU.)

So how bare did I dare? Well, let me put it this way. I didn’t fly all the way from Michigan to Oregon to ride in skivvies.

A quick recap of how I got here: back in 2014, I was heading to Portland to visit friends, and mentioned this to a co-worker who lives there. “Oh, are you going to do the naked bike ride?” he asked. The what? Had to go look that up!

The 2014 ride had already taken place, but I told him I was open to the idea. He seemed skeptical – a bit too much. So it was on. For the next three years I would have other commitments that weekend. But this year, all the stars lined up.

Source: Wikimedia Commons.

So what was it like?

NOTICE #2: I did not take a lot of photos of the event. It took all my attention just to keep my bike on the road and stay in the experience. But there are plenty of event photos from this year and previous years on the Internet. So I’ve heard.

In sum, it blew my mind from start to finish. There is no way I can fully describe everything I saw and heard. So here are a few things that stood out to me:

  • Walking past a bike shop near the park, its sign reading, “Open until 10:00 – Naked or Not” with several people inside already naked.
  • Feeling alone and awkward in a park full of 10,000 people. I was envious of everyone who’d come in a group. (I got over it when the ride started.)

Starting line. (And I’m up near the front.)

  • On the bike, surrounded by a visual riot of colors, motion, and bare flesh, which intensified as it got dark. Trying to take in everything around me but not focus too long on any one thing – or two 😉 – and dodging other riders doing the same.

  • Naked dancers on a bridge over the I-5 expressway, a long line of slow-moving cars passing beneath them. Both sexes participated, but frankly I think the men danced better. (One of those photo ops I wished I’d taken now.)
  • A bike towing speakers playing rock music with an odd twist. For example, a Bee Gees vocal track mixed onto AC/DC’s “Back in Black.”
  • Finishing with no idea where we were. No one knew! Finally, someone handing out after-party flyers told me. She asked how I liked the ride, and I quipped it was, ‘good training for Burning Man.” And she’d been there! I was naked, chatting casually with an equally naked woman about another event dedicated to self-expression. Surreal!

And here are a few other questions people have asked me.

  • Weren’t you uncomfortable riding like that?

A: Not at all. If you sit properly then other bits don’t get in the way.

  • What was the route?

A: It changes every year, and they keep it a secret for obvious reasons (except to the police, of course). This year we went through North Portland, mostly through residential neighborhoods, with some bars or retail here and there. We ended up at Woodlawn Park, and from there people hung out (sorry) or dispersed to the after-parties.

Just some of the action at Woodlawn Park post-ride.

  • What about traffic? Were there a lot of cars?

A:  The police covered the route and directed traffic, so most of the time we had the roads to ourselves and right of way at intersections. A few cars did make it onto our route (probably leaving their neighborhoods) but we just went around them. I don’t think they particularly minded.

  • And spectators?

A:  Yep, people turned out for much of the way, but the riders far outnumbered the spectators. I felt completely safe and even a touch superior! I’m out riding in the buff and you’re cowering in clothes on the sidewalk. Most of them just watched, but some waved and cheered (and we waved and cheered back). A couple women even returned the favor by flashing us!

Curiously, I saw entire families at the sides of the road, including kids of all ages. I guess if you want to teach them body positivity, that’s one way. It was Portland, after all.

I’d like to sign off this post with a request to all my readers: When you’re driving, please, please, please, be alert for cyclists, and SLOW DOWN and give them space when passing. I’ve ridden naked just once, but I feel naked (as in vulnerable) any time I’m on a busy road.

So please – be awake, be alert, and be sober. Or these clothes stay off.

NOTICE #3: If you were expecting any “nothing to hide” photos of me, sorry. Not that I had any taken (or would post them if I had), but they’re not yet back from the studio. I understand they’re still repairing their cameras.

Five Feet to Save Lives

It’s December, and it’s snowing, conditions when I normally put away my bikes for the year and dream about long rides next summer. Yet bikes are on my mind right now due to some recent and ongoing developments that could significantly improve cyclist safety and encourage more people to get on a bike.

The one I’ll talk about here is a proposed “five-foot rule” for passing. It requires a driver to provide at least a five-foot cushion while passing a cyclist on the road. While some drivers do this already (and thank you thank you thank you!) there are many who give less, or don’t move over at all. Those drivers are taking a huge risk.

Five feet may seem excessive to you as a driver, but to us cyclists it can make all the difference. Even if it looks like we’re in control, all it takes is a pothole or patch of loose gravel to make a tire slip and suddenly we’re right in front of you. Even a minor distraction can cause a cyclist to drift into the road. Is giving us some more room and slowing down for a few seconds really going to ruin your day? Not doing so has a good chance of ruining the day, and more, for both of us.

Ghost bike indicating a cyclist was killed here. Way too many of these.

“Ghost bike” indicating a cyclist was killed here. Way too many of these.

At the November meeting of the Washtenaw Bicycling and Walking Coalition  they mentioned this rule was under consideration by the Michigan Legislature and asked us to write our congressional representatives in support. I did, and was pleasantly surprised to receive this response from the office of Gretchen Driskell (GretchenDriskell@house.mi.gov):

Thank you for contacting my office to advocate for legislation to better protect vulnerable roadway users. I appreciate hearing from you on this critical issue.  

As a Michigander and a bicyclist myself, I was deeply saddened by the tragedy in Kalamazoo earlier this year. I believe it is incumbent upon my fellow state legislators and me to enact legislation that prioritizes the public safety and helps prevent such awful occurrences in the future, and I agree that Senate Bills 1029 and 1030 and House Bills 5002-5004 are meaningful steps toward this end.  

Senate Bills 1029 and 1030 were introduced on June 9, 2016, and are awaiting a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee. House Bills 5002-5004 were introduced on October 20, 2015, and are awaiting action in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. I encourage you to contact the committee chairs to urge them to bring these bills up for a vote, and I’ve included their contact information below for your convenience.

Even better, my hometown is not waiting for the state to get its act together. The Ann Arbor News reports that the City Council has approved a local ordinance adopting the five-foot passing rule for both pedestrians and cyclists. It takes effect in January. Under the ordinance, drivers can be ticketed and fined $100 for violating the five-foot minimum passing cushion. And the initial “if conditions allow” language was removed, which means if conditions don’t allow for five feet, the driver must wait until they do.

It’s not a perfect rule. It’s hard to enforce unless drivers are caught in the act. And there will be a learning curve just like with the new crosswalks, which I still see drivers ignoring. But it’s a start.

It’s sad to think that it sometimes takes an event like in Kalamazoo, with five cyclists killed and four injured, to get traction on improving bike safety. But I will not complain about the progress being made, and I hope this rule, along with other proposed measures like increased bicycle awareness in driver’s ed classes, are passed and implemented soon.

I’ll be writing about some other bicycle-friendly proposed legislation later. In the meantime, I encourage my Michigan cyclist readers to let the legislature hear your voices as well. Write to Rep. Driskell at her email address. And the committee chairs mentioned in the email are as follows:

Senator Rick Jones, Committee Chair
Senate Judiciary Committee
(517) 373-3447

Representative Peter Pettalia, Committee Chair
House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee
(517) 373-0833