I’m a Bike Rider Again

BY KENNETH LUNDGREN

Well, it’s certainly nice to be back. Not the most eloquent or original of phrases, but it is what it is. Oh to be a bike rider again… 🙂

This is a ME diary entry 🙂 but before I dive too deep, I wanted to mention a few Elite Endurance results: two riders I coach from NYC are REALLY hauling arse this summer!!! Ben Lesnak has been winning countless TTs. In late-May, when he told me he wanted to race Unionvale, I started laying out a solid plan for him, and to be honest I was skeptical with how he’d do… Well, the plan went to perfection and he entered the final climb with the group and just powered away at the bottom, time trialing to the top! Congrats to Lesnak for winning one of New England’s monuments…

Nick Salerno of Death Row Velo took 3rd in the Beginner race at the NJ MTB State Championships. Laura Winberry of Team Campmor took 3rd in the Pro Category… 🙂 Details coming in the newsletter…

And David Carr of CRCA/Setanta pulled off an incredible win at the Giro del Cielo… On Saturday, I was at the mall, loafing around, and get THE MAGICAL e-mail from David: Elite Endurance took 1st and 2nd at the uphill TT, Ben 1st and David 2nd.

This, my friends, is why I coach. Days like this make all the work worth it. I was happy and then some! I’m waltzin’ around the mall with this goofy grin on my face… Then they had the crit immediately after, and on Day Two David WON the road race sprint, taking the OVERALL!!! Congratulations, David Carr… A HUGE win…

And a quick shout-out to Mike Cox, a policeman in Youngstown, Ohio. He finished his first triathlon, the Youngstown Tri, with flying colors, and this week is the big test, the Cleveland Triathlon… We’ve been working together since March, and he’s as ready as he’s ever gonna be!!! Be strong, Mike!!! http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/pages/Team-Benjamin/58292777158?ref=search He’s racing for a beautiful cause…

So after my knee injury and run-in with the motorcycle, I got back on the PowerCranks in mid-June… I could ride, just not hard or long! Once I got better on the PowerCranks, riding for 60+ minutes at 90 rpms, I started riding the TT bike… Now, anyone who has a TT bike knows what it’s like: it’s like a drug, you just want to go faster and faster, this bike so fast… So I started doing Tempo work, and this started to accelerate, and before you know it I’m holding 330w and the knee is starting to flare up… I had wanted to do the Team Time Trial, but as an athlete you have to a realist and swallow some pills. If you can do this, your life becomes much easier.

So I backed off the TT bike completely, not wanting to let my condition get out of control, and started doing light body weight exercises… I’m a HUGE advocate of doing cycling-specific body weight workouts. People do not realize how much you can get accomplished with a simple, creative “barnyard” workout… So I started doing high-rep workouts, twice a week, and my atrophied left leg began to come back to normal…

Over the winter, I started teaching the Speed & Agility classes at Quest Tennis, and I read a ton of books on sports conditioning, plyometrics. As a coach, I’m always the student, always a sponge trying to soak up information, trying how to find out how things work and make them work 100%;.

So when I started rehabbing the knee, after some base workouts, I began to incorporate some of these movements into my workouts and they REALLY helped. I also made sure to hit the hamstrings and do tons of core movements… Again, I can’t stress how much you can accomplish with just your body and some creativity, no gym required… (and I was doing these at New York Sports Club! 🙂 )

Then, I get the golden check from the insurance company — time to go out and splurge on a new road bike!!! The decision was simple: go to Westwood Cycle, the very best road shop in the NYC area… Mark Albert has always been very good to me, dealing with me as an overly energetic young pup back in the day, always helping me get anything I ever needed, answering all of my questions, really just taking care of me… So I went in there, torn between getting a Cervelo or building up a new Litespeed Ghisallo (my PowerCranks are on my Ghisallo now, just LOVE that bike!).

And then I saw the Felt F1 SL on the wall.

I can be rather manic when it comes to buying things. And I wouldn’t say it was love at first sight. I could just see that the bike would WORK. Mark and I headed to the counter computer, looked up the specs, saw that the 56 was the exact match I wanted (I especially liked the lower head tube measurements), and within 90 seconds I said, “Mark, let’s do it.”

Bang. I’m out of there. A week later Allen calls, the bike is good to go. I swing over, pick up the rig, and bring it home — time to play!!!

PowerCranking is great, but too much of it, especially when you’re relatively overweight and DEFINITELY way out of shape, it can get old. So it was an immense joy to actually get on an actual road bike… I took it out the other day, with a longer stem in my jersey pocket, the allens, everything… I think I might possibly be the most manic cyclist out there regarding fit, even moreso than Goldman. I do lots of bike fits for clients, probably over 30 a year, and when I tell guys that the session may take more than 3 hours, they don’t believe me… But I am obsessed with finding the absolute perfect position for not only myself but for every cyclist who requests a fit… So many riders have no clue about how to get the bike set up for their body types and also the type of riding they’re going to be doing… This is a diary entry on its own!!!

So I’m out there, twiddling around, swapping stems, moving the saddle forwards and backwards, tilting it back, moving the bars in, turning them up, moving the hoods up a smidge, adjusting the stack height… Everytime I make a change, it’s VERY small — ALWAYS make gradual adjustments… I’ve been riding long enough where I’m confident I can take two bikes from two different manufacturers, and spend one hour on each and get the measurements exactly the same just by riding them and knowing where the bars/saddle/drops/hoods should be… If you were to measure bike to bike, I know I can get the measurements almost identical…

So I spent a solid two days during 3-hour rides getting the Felt dialed in. I had a Madone, which was a 57 effective top tube, and the bottom bracket was shifted further back in the frame, making for some unusual adjustments (actually have to move the saddle further back, then). To be honest: I never got 100% comfy on the Madone, with their unusual geometry… I had come off the Ghisallo, Northeastern Hardware wanted me on the Trek, so I switched. I had dialed the Ghisallo in 100%, was absolutely comfy and fast on it, and although the Trek ended up with very similar measurements, it just didn’t FEEL 100%. It was a bit longer, and I had to use a shorter stem, and perhaps that was part of it, along with the strange BB placement… But sometimes you feel the bike fits you, and sometimes it feels a touch off.

With the Felt, I went with the 56. I wanted a slightly more compact position, like the Ghisallo, and it feels solid underneath me. I am able to set the seat where I want it, and am still using a 110 stem. In my opinion, if you have a properly sized road frame, you’re using a 110-120 stem. If not, the frame probably is not the right size for you… I’m far enough back where I can feel the power on the climbs and with the shorter stem and FSA short-reach bars I ordered, the front end feels very compact and comfy. And with that lower headtube, I feel comfortably aggressive, something I could never achieve with the Trek.

When I told Allen to cut the fork before I even rode the bike, he goes, “Are you sure?” “I’m sure.” “Are you sure now?” “I’m sure.” “Now, you’re sure?” “Allen, cut the (*censored*)(*censored*)(*censored*)(*censored*)in g fork.” 🙂

So it feels very, um, SWEET to be a bike rider again, to be an endurance athlete… I can remember in college, before I raced but still rode my bike hard and long, when my roomies were starting to throw down in beer pong, I would go get my bike and go out and ride into the deep darkness. One time I rode all the way to Cranberry Lake, rode HARD, and then rode back, chugging into the early-morning mist. I started to get bonky, stopped at 7-Eleven for a Slurpee 🙂 Then I charged up the climb to the dorms, the dim orange sum starting to feebly poke around the jagged mountaintop horizon. I had ridden for over 5 hours and felt ecstatic.

That simple memory is one of my best. Call me pathetic, but it is what it is. There is nothing like quite riding your bike and finding out what’s inside there, seeing what you got, always pushing those borders, seeing how you respond. Getting back, the feeling is priceless…

The other night, I had two tennis lessons from 6-8. I rode to the club, the bike pretty much where I’m going to keep it (I know this because after 5 minutes of cruising, I’m still content!), gave the two lessons, then rode home, 18 miles. On the way home, I started to loosen up, the bike feeling more natural underneath me — when the bike fits like a glove, it’s almost like an extension of yourself, not just a contraption you’re mounted atop…

I had 36 miles in the legs, just light Tempo. But… I just had that feeling. I put my backpack on my stoop, took a banana and a bar, filled by bottle, and out I went. Just riding. Time to go, gotta go. It’s a feeling you can’t try to recreate or force yourself to feel. And when it’s there, it’s like electricity. You. Have. To. Ride. Your. Bike.

I went out, nothing harsh, just a light-medium Tempo pace, cruising the flats, taking all the rollers and hills out of the saddle at an aerobic pace. I made it up Jacksonville and Brook Valley about 10 minutes slower than when I tested before High Point a few years ago 🙂 but it felt great just to get over there again, up teh climb… I descended and headed home, beginning to push the Tempo a bit, cutting at 27 mph down the Boulevard, beating the traffic lights, feeling the engine coming alive and the sluggishness starting to flake off. That, my friends, is a wonderful feeling.

As you can see, I’m one happy camper. The Felt is WAY more bike than I deserve or have ever had. Stiff, fast, light, comfy. Just a ridiculous piece of craftmanship. Every millimeter of that bike is designed for speed but it doesn’t ride harshly at all… One. Happy. Camper. If any local guys ever need any help with their road gear, don’t be shy to call Westwood Cycle and ask for Mark Albert. Westwood’s by far the top shop around and Mark’s on top of everything and will get you what you need instantly. He’s the man and I owe him, his brother, and the staff over there a huge thank-you… 🙂

One thing I should note is Dura-Ace 7900 is unbelievable: light, comfy, responsive, accurate. I have ridden Dura-Ace 9-speed all my life, so I’m a little out of the loop, lol… But my 9-speed stuff worked flawlessly forever. I always thought, if Lance could stomp on Ulrich with his 9-speed DA when Ulrich had 10-speed Campy, then I can use my 9-speed until it’s rusted. Well, when a motorcycle hits you and you’re 9-speed stuff is wrecked, you need to instantly upgrade. So with the Felt, I’m upgrading my TT bike to 10-speed (I train with a PowerTap) and will eventually upgrade the PowerCrank bike, too…

I’m used to the 9-speed DA. It was stiffer, more positive-feeling… The new stuff is so smooth, almost too smooth. I test rode Campy Super Record and HATED it. Bleck. Mechanical and sloppy-feeling. This new DA is just much more natural-feeling, a touch too soft and responsive, but again this can be because I’m used to 10-year-old shifters… The hoods are much longer and offer a much better grip, and now I can attain the perfect hood angle and still have reach in the drops because of the longer brake levers (you can also bring the levers closer, useful for people with smaller hands). And this stuff is LIGHT and looks incredible on the bike… The cranks are superbly stiff, the brakes are unmatchably strong, the front derailleur so effortless… Shimano, as always, is the gold standard on the road. Everything else out there is measured up against Dura-Ace. It’s that simple. That’s my two cents…

I’m back to the cycling diet, whole-grain cereals and OJ for breakfast, low-fat yogurt, bananas, and only water during the day, bean wraps or tuna or lean chicken or pasta for dinner. Getting back into the swing fo things just adds a comfortable feeling to your days, something I intensely missed… I know it’s going to take a long time to get my body back to 152 pounds and FT upwards of 335w, but I’m in no rush. Maybe I’m getting old, but I just want to enjoy myself out there, take my time and enjoy the journey.

That’s not to say I won’t be doing some MTB racing 🙂 I coach several Team Campmor athletes (they all won their respective divisions last year!) and am getting a 29er hardtail so I can race and do some serious off-road training this fall/winter… And cyclo-cross is something I always wanted to do competitively. It’s a short fast, uberly-hard time trial in the cold, all things I love! So we shall see… We Swedes love the cold! 🙂

I will be at the Long Meadow Time Trial, helping the gang out at registration and keeping the parking lots clear… I hope to see y’all there and catch up a bit… See y’all soon…

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Kenneth Lundgren's Diary | Friday, July 31st, 2009 | | |