Thursday, January 29, 2009

What a gorgeous day we enjoyed here in the mountains of Western North Carolina today. A cold front pushed through late yesterday and created some absolutely gorgeous sunset images. Unfortunately, I did not have a camera with me to share the images so this one will just have to be burned in my memory. Today, we had some beautiful blue skies with temperatures reaching near 50. A great day to get out and RIDE! Too bad something called WORK got in the way... By the time of my last appointment, the sun had set and the temperatures were headed south again. I'm sure I could have dressed properly enough to stay warm but the danger factor of riding these two lane, no shoulder roads sans sufficient light is just too much for me at my advanced age. I just can't accelerate enough to get out of the way of 60 mph+ vehicles rounding curves.

So, I did an almost next best thing. I finished up trying out my DVD set of training rides purchased from Global Ride and Cycling Fusion. I've already reviewed the first two DVD's so I might as well go for the trifecta. In my random selection of the DVD's, I definitely saved the best for last. Tonight's virtual ride in Hawaii was on Tantalus, Lahaina, and the Maui Cliffs. Again, I chose to be accompanied by the sound track. This time I selected the American coach, who turned out to be Sally Edwards. The mix of music and voice was very good on this DVD and I was able to get right in with her directions. The focus of this ride was on endurance. The images of the scenery along the islands of Maui and Oahu were again top notch and invigorating. I liked the coaching direction provided by Sally Edwards and would rate this as an excellent workout.

Now that I've trained to each of the videos in the series, I get to go back and do them again using different coaches. There is a lot of variety built into this set. For the cost of the boxed set($74.99), I think I made a smart purchase!

Just a short note of thanks to those folks linking to this site and to those folks taking the time to stop and read!

Until later,

-- Zeke

Monday, January 26, 2009

Thanks to a restless night of sleep, I was fortunate enough to be up and about with my first cup of coffee when the sun made its appearance over Mt. Pisgah on Sunday morning. With a heavy frost on the ground and clear skies, I had big hopes for the day that included some time outside riding. After 3 weeks of a nagging back injury, I was hoping my latest round of chiropractic and massage treatments had kicked in and was going to let me throw leg over saddle for the first time in way too long.

As it turns out, the morning was beautiful and the temperatures did make some very nice gains while I was doing some of those non-riding things that just needed to be done on a beautiful Sunday. By late afternoon, when riding had moved to the top of the priority scale, the skies had clouded over and it appeared that rain was imminent. I decided that pulling the bike off the trainer, dressing appropriately for some cooler weather riding, loading everything and driving off the mountain to get in some road time was likely to end poorly. So, I did the next best thing... I rode Hawaii virtually again!

Because of my back injury, I've not had the chance to try out the second video in my boxed set of Training DVDs from Cycling Fusion. Today, I chose Oceanside Ride for my inspiration. I selected the Australian coach with music from the DVD setup. You can have your choice of music or no music and select among 3 or 4 coaches each of which have their own training goals on the same video. This ride was taped along the coast and appeared to be pretty flat with only some small climbs interspersed. The focus of the Australian coach was to experience interval training keeping your heart rate between 60 % & 70% of max and cadence between 80 - 85 rpm or 95-100 rpm depending upon your skill and fitness level.

After a pleasant interlude of getting warmed up, "coach" started us on the course and for the next 40 minutes, I enjoyed yet another good workout. I was pleasantly surprised that after 3 weeks off, I was still able to maintain pace as directed by the "coach". On this video, as with the first one, the images are excellent to ride with and it is interesting to see traffic coming at you and around you. Keep in mind that my setup is on a projection screen so I'm looking at some pretty large images! My only criticism of this video was that the mix between music and the coach's narration was off to the point that, in the early stages of the video, it was difficult to comprehend what the coach was saying. The music over shadowed her voice. I was able to improve this by increasing the volume on my stereo. The workout was strenuous and I felt both exhausted and exhilarated when I finished.

The end of this video contains a pilates workout for cyclists. I didn't have the energy left to participate in the pilates. Instead, I tried to recall some of the yoga moves from the first DVD to make sure that I stretched my back and hammies fully post-ride. I continue to be pleased with the purchase of the DVD training set. It will be interesting to eventually go back and try these videos with the different coaches and different training perspectives. Given that we have at least 2 days of predicted rain coming up and I have late into the evening appointments scheduled, I'll probably get the chance to try out that third video sooner rather than later.

I must admit that I felt like a real (select the word of your choice here indicating lack of manhood) after reading of some of the exploits of cyclists further north this weekend. Kent was out and about riding around in the snow on his tringle speed bike, the "fit chick" was out and about in sub-freezing weather on a group ride, and that guy up in Minnesota that was riding below zero with his front wheel frozen up really puts the meaning of being a dedicated cyclist in a whole new perspective for me.

Until later,

-- Zeke

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Time Out in the Deep Freeze

Due to the excessively cold temperatures we've recently "enjoyed" and a nagging back injury, I've found myself "frozen out" of being able to ride outdoors or even indoors on my trainer. With daytime temps not exceeding the freezing point until today and snow, ice, and salt brine mix covering the roads, I probably wouldn't have been outside anyway but I could have gotten in some cardio training and maybe have virtually ridden some more of Hawaii. Unfortunately, my now 3 week old lingering back injury has kept me off of the trainer as well. I keep hoping that my visits to the chiropractor and masseuse will soon pay off with reduced stiffness in my lower back and hip. Until that time arrives, I'm enjoying my "cycling adventures" by reading various favorite blogs and keeping up with the Tour Down Under.

I seem to have hit upon a trend of safety issues today. My first article is courtesy of my brother. He forwarded to me an interesting concept of how to "carry your own bike lane" with you. You can check out the story and images here:

The idea is interesting and there are some valid questions about the potential problems such a device might bring to the roadways. I can just see some drunk driver following the bike lane lines as they try to travel down the road. (Read the story - this will make more sense!)

Secondly, I ran across information on some new legislative changes in Oregon that affect cyclists and the requirement to stop at intersections and stop lights. This article may be accessed at:

While the article itself is interesting, it brings to mind similar controversies that I've experienced through the years as an avid motorcyclist. Specifically, I'm talking about the loud pipes arguments that are such a sore point of contention between automobile drivers and motorcyclists and even within the motorcycling community itself. As I find myself increasingly drawn to the bicycling side of the cyclist mentality, I must admit that I've been somewhat surprised by the ferocity of the feelings between some cyclists and some automobile road warriors. I was used to it as a motorcyclist but simply did not expect it to be so strong toward bicyclists. My hope is that cultural change is not too far off where the majority of individuals begin to appreciate folks commuting on non-gas/diesel powered vehicles rather than seeing them merely as something in their way on the roadsides. With gas and diesel prices now falling and at decade old levels, I'm concerned that much impetus for alternative transportation will be lost.

As with all things, the more the general public begins to incorporate and see cycling in the daily routines, the quicker cultural change will occur.

Until later...

-- Zeke

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Mid-Winter Weather Leaves Time For Increasing Knowledge

As January continues its inexorable move to February and the ongoing winter weather prevents me from getting outdoor riding time, I find myself enjoying opportunities to read about this varied topic of cycling. I've been quite impressed with the many different aspects of two wheeled self-powered interests. Whether you are into cycling for fitness, or as a lifestyle choice, for fun, or as a committment to your community, there is an abundance of information available if we merely put fingers to keyboard. I've particularly been interested in reading up on the activities of the N.C. Bicycle Committee and seeing the extensive time and planning that go into projects. As with so much of our governmental functions, I had no idea that there was a significant dedication of time and effort to bicycling in N.C. You can find a link to this committee's work under my favorite links section. Our local representative, Claudia Nix of Liberty Bikes, is quite busy advocating for our needs.

On the local level here in Western North Carolina, I would like to see US 276 from Waynesville south to at least the intersection with NC 110 in Bethel widened sufficiently to provide riding lanes for cyclists. Based upon my riding last year, the width of NC 110 north from Bethel to Canton is wide enough for both powered vehicles and cyclists to safely share the road. I can't recall a single incident where I was crowded out last year on NC 110 or screamed at by some passing motorist, who had been inconvenienced by my being on the road. On the other hand, US 276 has minimal shoulder width and has a high traffic count with a 55 mph speed limit. I tend to ride it as little as possible because of the increased danger levels. A wider and safer shoulder from Waynesville to Bethel would tie the two communities together for biking and could create some excellent routes for riding. It would certainly add an opportunity for some significant climbs as you would have to traverse the mountain separating Waynesville and Bethel through Pigeon Gap. It would open up opportunities for communting that are pretty tenuous now. Of course, should wider shoulders be constructed at some point, it would require that the local DOT maintain them and keep them clear of roadside debris and gravel thrown up at connecting driveways. The one issue of riding the wider shoulders of NC 110 is having to dodge the ever present tires, discarded trash, etc. that accumulates on the shoulder.

January 20th is almost upon us and that will bring the big day in Washington to the forefront of our collective consciousness. I hope that Obama is able to maintain his committments to the environment and to alternative transportation, which will hopefully increase the infrastructre for cycling. While President-elect Obama is becoming President Obama, Lance Armstrong will be making his first big return to competitive cycling. I've enjoyed monitoring his comeback via several on-line sources. Armstrong made a promise to keep his training and efforts to climb back to the elite level open and available. From my perspective, he has certainly stuck to his word! It will be interesting to see how he does at the Tour Down Under from both how he performs individually and how his presence affects the Astana team. I'll have to keep an eye on VERSUS TV at 4:00 p.m. EST each day as I understand they will be doing a 30 minute recap of the Tour's daily events. You can catch up on the Tour Down Under news, as well as, lots of other competitive cycling news at Velo News.

I'm eager to see what today's weather brings. As we went to bed last night, it was 29 degrees and snowing. We appear to have warmed up slightly overnight to 34 degrees as I write this posting at 7:30 a.m. I'm really ready for a break from the 1 to 2 degree above zero weather we've had the last several days. I have a feeling that even with warmer temps today, I'll still find plenty of time for reading... I think it is time for that second up of coffee!

Until later,


Monday, January 12, 2009

Riding Hawaii - Sort of...

As mentioned in my previous and only post to date, I've been mostly relegated to riding the trainer since the end of daylight savings time. Not wanting to get too terribly out of shape and lose my cardio gains from the summer, I researched trainers and rollers for some indoor riding. I've done spinning classes in the past and just didn't find them particularly engaging. Still, it is certainly a good way in which to maintain conditioning.

After several weeks of comparing trainers vs. rollers, fluid drives vs. mag drives, etc. I finally settled on a Minoura VFS150-3-R Fluid and Mag Hybrid Bicycle Trainer with Remote and Fork Mount. I ordered from Amazon and the trainer arrived quickly and in good shape. It was relatively easy to put together using common sense, which was a good thing because the manual is one of the worst I've ever tried to use. The trainer itself has proven to be a very good and stable piece of equipment. I've learned, as I'm sure many of you already knew, riding a trainer IS BORING! I tried spinning to various TV programs and found that riding to sporting events was somewhat better than say, "How I Met My Mother."

By now, you're probably saying what does this have to do with Hawaii? No, I did not get fed up and fly to the island for a quick tour. Rather, while surfing Facebook on Christmas Eve, I found a web site called Cycling Fusion sponsored by Global Ride Video Productions. They were advertising a new DVD product of training videos shot in Hawaii. In a moment of great clarity or at least lack of self-control, I ordered the boxed set of 3 rides and eagerly awaited delivery.

I did not realize from the website materials that the product wasn't shipping yet so the wait ended up being longer than I anticipated. Not to fear though because the product arrived Friday last. Our weather took a nasty turn toward the cold, rainy side on Saturday and continued into Sunday. This seemed to offer the ideal setting for trying the new DVD out. I couldn't (or didn't) get out in the nasty weather but did set up in front of my screen and proceeded to do the workout.

Before I go further about the DVD, a little about my setup might be in order to give you, the reader, a better appreciation of what I was looking at while "riding." I have a High Definition projector showing the image on a 64" diagonal screen with the sound running through my somewhat older yet very capable stereo system. So, when I say I'm almost immersed in the scenery, I'm not exaggering too badly.

So, how did it work out? I'm glad you asked! It was a very good experience. When I finished the first DVD, I had ridden some rollers, climbed a mountain, and ridden "in the rain." The scenery was quite nice as was the accompanying music. I had chosen the American coach and found that to be very helpful in managing my heart rate and cadence. You can select from among different coaches when you start the DVD. I understand that each coach has a little different type of workout on the same circuit or video. The experience of riding in front of the big screen was at times actually disorienting because I was trying to lean and avoid oncoming vehicles! The coaching was timely and not intrusive at all. It really did help keep the focus on the workout. At the end of this particular DVD, there is an extra segment of Yoga. I've never practiced Yoga so this was also interesting although it will clearly take some practice to do the various moves. The instructor was able to move through saying "hello to the sun, becoming a plank, moving into a modified dolphin while I was trying to master the always entertaining "Dead Dog on it's back" pose. The video quality was slightly grainy, which could be a combination of using the projector to show a larger image when combined with my being used to high definition output. If the company can shoot future "rides" in HD, it would add considerably to the experience.

Was the overall experience of "riding" better than being outside. Of course not but, on a cold day highlighted by drizzling rain, it was a darned fine substitute. I honestly got a very good workout. Two additional benefits occurred. 1) My wife, who is not a cyclist, walked on our treadmill at the same time and adjusted her speed based upon the coach calling for more resistance for the bikes. We were able to enjoy a good workout together. 2) I didn't have to dodge a single flying beer bottle thrown by the local populace of highly sensitive drivers!

To check out the DVD product and the Cycling Fusion website, click here!

Until later...


Saturday, January 10, 2009

A New Year, A Renewed Set of Goals

Another new year is upon us and along with that comes looking back at personal goals achieved and setting new goals for the coming year of 2009. After many years of absence from self-powered 2 wheeled adventures, I found myself in a position of finally being "sick and tired" of being "sick and tired" due to being out of condition. This revelation came to me at "The Magic Circle's" annual beach trip when after two days of "bowling" on a Wii video game, I couldn't lift my right arm and had pulled a muscle in my right gluteus maximus. Disgust with myself finally reached the tipping point and I told my wife that I was getting back into shape.

Immediately upon returning home, I started shopping for a cycle as I had enjoyed cycling prior to getting married some 26 years ago. I knew that my ankles couldn't take the pounding of running anymore so cycling seemed the ideal choice for me. I finally settled on a Fuji hybrid at my local shop, Rolls Rite Bicycles. John Mudge, the owner, was great in walking me through what I was trying to attempt in getting back into shape and what kind of circumstances I envisioned riding. I left the shop with the hybrid convinced that I would be riding both road and gravel/packed dirt.

It didn't take long to discover that I was really going to be spending my time on paved roads so John took my new(old) bike back and I left the shop with a Fuji CCR3 road bike. My cardio condition had already vastly improved by this point and I looked forward to increasing both my frequency of riding and miles ridden. I set a goal of being able to ride from my office to my home by the end of July 2008. Depending upon the route chosen, this is a 18 to 22 mile trip. I pleasantly surprised myself by reaching my goal by the end of June 2008. My cardio conditioning had really continued to improve and I was averaging around 150 bpm for each ride. Anyone familiar with the area of the Great Smoky Mountains knows that ample opportunties arise for hill and climbing work so I was getting a very nice mix of decent climbs with long river grade runouts. I was also very pleasantly surprised to find that I was now wearing pants a full 2" smaller in the waist.

As fall 2008 came and went, my rides continued to become an important part of my daily existence. If I wasn't actually riding, I seemed to be reading about riding and all things related. I became aware of committees that addressed cycling needs at the State level and of legislation impacting cyclists at the Federal level. I also experienced a close friend have a terrible bike accident when he crossed over the rumble strips along the sides of the road while he was trying to avoid being hit by a 18 wheeler. I managed to cut my carbon footprint and my monthly gas costs significantly by car pooling to town with my wife and then riding home at night on the bike. Unfortunately, with the end of day light savings came the end of lots of week day riding.

With the sunsetting by 5:15 p.m. and my work not typically ending until 7:00 p.m., riding at night just became too dangerous on the small rural roads of our community. My riding became relegated to the new trainer I purchased, which is a post for another time. Still, the desire hasn't waned and I've been able to enjoy a couple of short rides on some of the more temperate days of late December and early January 2009. I'm looking forward to the new riding season and hoping to achieve some new personal goals.

I'm looking for more rides, long rides (gee, a century by the end of the summer would be great!), more weight control, less carbon footprint, and just generally being lucky enough to continue enjoying the great outdoors of the Great Smoky Mountains.

-- Zeke

BTW, the image in my profile is my ancestor Harry Yount, who was the first gamekeeper of Yellowstone National Park and is considered to be the Father of the National Park Service Rangers. If you are interested in that sort of history, check out this link: and, just another postscript, Zeke is my nickname given to me by my physician for some reason known only to him!