The last bicycle I bought was in 1997, a Trek 520 touring bike. It seemed pretty high tech at the time - came with 21 speeds, STI shifters (shift control built into the brake levers) and included both a rack and pedals with foot cages. I put many thousands of miles on that bike over 20 years, including several multi-day touring efforts alone or with Carole or with friends, attaching both front and rear panniers.
But, I haven't done an overnight touring kind of ride in over 10 years - my riding these days is mainly long single day rides or pretty quick workout/exercise style rides. I decided it was time for a new bike. The choices today are enormous and the price ranges are eye-popping. I decided to stick with the standard pattern of each new bike costing 3x the previous one, and lasting for 20 years.
So, I went with a Trek Domane SL6 Disc and I've been having a blast riding a much lighter bike with a carbon frame, disc brakes and high end gearing and drive train components. The bike shop I bought it from (Race Pace in Columbia MD) offered a discount on Retul bike fitting, which is a computerized way of analyzing your position on the bicycle and finding the optimum setting for seat position, shoe/cleat placement and other positioning settings, as well as analyzing a bunch of other factors about your pedaling motion and efficiency.
Since the geometry of the Domane was fairly different from the 520, after putting about 200 miles on the new bike I decided to do it. I drove over on a dark and stormy night, with the new bike and the cycling shoes and shorts I typically use. Before getting on the bike on the Retul system, there was over an hour of questions about the type of riding I do, physical measurements and various tests of my natural foot angles, posture, etc. done by the fitting expert, who is actually a sports physical therapist with fitting training - and the same age as me, a good thing.
That immediately resulted in my cleat placement changing pretty radically, essentially moving the cleats back as far as possible on the shoes, which moved my feet further towards the front of the bike. He also made a lot of recommendations for me to try to increase my flexibility, especially hamstrings and hip flexors - but he was pretty realistic about how much of my stiff-like-an-oak-tree body could really change.
Then it was finally time to get wired up and get on the bike on the trainer, in between two Retul cameras that analyzed everything.
That showed that I had pretty good stability and balance in my pedal stroke but suggested that I had the seat set a good deal too low - close to an inch. We raised the seat and repeated the test and various numbers showed improvement in various confusing parameters. He then printed out a data package including pictures with circles and arrows on the back of each one. He also recommended I try out the new positioning on some short rides, as the cleat placement and seat height adjustments were significant changes from what I'd been using for the past 20 years!
Of course, I ignored that advice - two days later I did a 52 mile ride in Talbot Special Riders charity ride. That ride is table-top flat bu there were 20 mph head winds and I was on the bike for about 3 hours. It may have been psychological, but the changes really seemed to make a difference - I could have kept riding, no tuches (butt) or leg pain or soreness at all, where on most 50+ mile rides in the past I would feel it.
I was worried about up-sell as part of the process - I'd heard stories of recommendations for new pedals, cranks, seats, stems, etc. coming out of fitting sessions. The only area where there was some of that was around recommended "foot beds" - essentially replacing the standard sole inserts in my bike shoes with custom molded ones. Other cyclists I know had actually recommended doing this anyway, so I paid extra for some custom inserts. I don't know how much of a difference they make - could easily just be like Dumbo's magic feather.
Total time was 2.5 hours, several other devices/machines were used beyond the Retul set up. All in all, I think it was worth the cost, especially if you amortize it across 20 years. All of the technology may have been of marginal value, since the guy who did the fitting was very experienced - but it had definitely entertainment value to me!
For many years I've been driving over the Bay Bridge in early April to either do charity bike rides around Easton/St. Michaels, or kayak around Wye River. This year it was to ride the metric century fund raiser for Talbot Special Riders, an organization that uses horses to provide physical and emotional therapy to individuals in need.
The ride started in Easton, at the elementary school where years ago Carole and I enjoyed the craft show as part of Easton's annual Waterfowl Festival. It was 43 degrees at the start at 0830, and the winds were howling out of the northwest at 20 mph or more. That was great for the first 12 miles or so, giving us a tailwind as we headed southeast to the first rest stop at mile 18 on the Choptank River.
A beautiful river view at the first rest stop and an amazing selection of food - every rest stop would have the usual Kind bars, bananas, etc, but TSR adds homemade cookies, coffee cake and all kinds of amazing stuff.
What the tailwind gives, on a loop ride it soon takes it back with a vengeance. Leaving that rest stop there was about 8 miles of gusty cross winds until we reached the very scenic Belmont Landing area on Boling Broke Creek, but then the next 12 miles were directly into the wind, which was unrelenting. But that was followed by a turn to the southwest that took us on a 14 mile loop that was largely sheltered by large pine trees on a peninsula between Island Creek and La Trappe Creek, with many huuuge estates.
The final rest stop was at mile 45 where I had a brain fart upon leaving and followed the wrong route markers and missed the segment that went down to Oxford and back. So, I ended up doing a 52 mile ride instead of a 62 mile ride.
Back at the start, some great crab soup (I don't even usually like cream of crab soup but it was tasty and full of big crab chunks) and foil wrapped burgers that had succumbed to the cold winds - and more cookies!
A great. well marked route, very friendly people, great food and a cloudless sky more than made up for the wind - this is my new favorite Eastern Shore Ride.
Spring has sprung and this weekend was full of fair weather outdoor activities. On Saturday, Carole and got the boat ready for the season but the weather (and other afternoon commitments) didn't actual support any actual boating. But if it doesn't start snowing again, the first boat ride should be happening this coming week.
So, while Carole went running with a friend, I did a 25 mile loop from home on my new Trek Domane bike. Very windy out - the new bike is much lighter and the rims are more aerodynamic in the forward direction but have a larger wind profile from crosswinds. Very fun to ride but I'm learning how to avoid having wind gusts (or passing trucks) send the bike flying sideways...
On Sunday, I had another dual sport day. Carl and did a 5.6 mile hike on the Appalachian Trail from the Route 70 bridge up to the Washington Monument (not that one) and continuing on to the South Mountain Inn. From there I drove about 35 miles west to Hancock,MD and did 44 miles total on the paved Western Maryland Rail Trail - 22 miles out to the western terminus at Pearre and back. Lots of fallen shale and tree schmutz on the trail, and this relative new paved trail is starting to reach the age where tree root bumps are getting annoying - but still one of the most scenic (and pancake flat) paved biking trails in the area.
A fine Thanksgiving was had by all - too fine. We only had three days to work off those calories, which conservatively had to be at least 2x the 1330 calories that wimpy pilgrim ate in the above infographic.
Carole and I started the battle on Friday am on a cool and overcast morning by first stopping at Qualia Coffee in the Petworth neighborhood of DC for a caffeine infusion and then parking at the Little Falls Stream Valley trailhead off of Massachusetts Avenue. From there it was about 2.5 miles through the edge of NW DC on the trail system, following by some sidewalk walking through the Brookmont neighborhood to cross the Clara Barton Road and get to the towpath. About 2.5 miles of towpath walking got us to the Fletcher's Boathouse area that has restrooms that meet Carole's stringent standards. We then walked back up the Capital Crescent trail for a very nice urban 7 mile walk, which almost cancelled out the gluten free chocolate coconut bar we shared at Qualia.
On Saturday, I was ground crew for Carole getting in an 8 mile training run around BWI airport. On Sunday, Carl and I did the southern most 6 miles of the Catoctin Trail west of Frederick MD. Since we did it from north to south, the first 3 miles are downhill but then you have to gain back most of that altitude - twice. This is a beautiful section of the Catoctin Trail, though we have had hardly any rain for months and the streams were not as burbly as usual. A few mountain bikers were out, on the southern end many dog walkers.
I always forget about the last climb going in this direction - I always think the parking lot is just around the corner from this nice flat section, but nooooooooooooooo - about a 3/4 mile long climb after this.