76 Miles: Ouch, That Hurt

Being self-employed is great — I get to work when I want, and ride when I want. But there’s a dark side, too. When the weather’s not so nice, and I’m deep into an engrossing project, it’s all too easy to spend all day and all evening sitting in front of a computer screen.

That describes this week for me pretty well. Monday through Thursday were 12 to 14 hour days, and I was definitely feeling it by late Thursday: tired eyes, tired hands, kind of grumpy and short-tempered.

So on Friday, a long bike ride was the order of the day.

Online forecasts called for a high of 34 with cloudy skies. A local TV station called for a high of 42 with sunshine all day. They both called for light winds.

I headed out about 9am into lovely sunshine and a 31°F temperature. It was really pretty nice as I rolled south with the gentle breeze at my back. Turning west after about 20 miles, I felt the wind for the first time, but it wasn’t bad. Still nice and sunny.

By the time I’d turned north, the sun was gone, the wind seemed to pick up a bit, and I suddenly felt cold and damp.

I stopped for lunch after about 50 miles, feeling fairly good and strong, but the last leg of the ride would turn out to be a tough one for me. A headwind for the first few miles, then a crosswind (that felt a lot like a headwind) for the next 20. Just a few miles of tailwind.

I made it home for a total of 76 miles, at a 13.25 MPH pace. Better than last week’s 12.75 mile pace over 68 miles, but I didn’t feel nearly as strong at the end. In fact, I was pretty well wore out.

But more than just the fatigue, two things were really starting to bother me:

  1. My neck and shoulders get really sore and tense on long rides. I had this problem last year as well, and the LBS suggested that I was riding for too long with my arms straight, that I needed to keep my arms bent, and let my back support my upper body more. I’ve tried to do this, and it does seem to help, but not enough.

    I’m thinking it’s one of three things:

    • Fitness: My back and abdominals are not strong enough to support me for long rides.
    • Technique: I’m not clear on how I should be riding. Hands on the bars? Hands on the hoods? Hands in the drops? I try to mix it up and use all hand positions, but my “default” position, the one I’m most comfortable in, is in the drops. Unfortunately, in that position my tendency to lock my arms is most pronounced.
    • Mechanical: Should I look at other handlebar designs? I’m just using the stock bar that came with the bike. Would a narrower or wider bar help? A “dirt drop” / “randoneuring” style bar with some flare or sweep? Is the bar too close or too far? Too much drop or too little? Lots of questions, but I’m not sure how to answer any of them, short of buying some different bars and giving them a shot.

    I’m not sure what my next step is. I’m considering getting a high-end professional bike fit. That might solve it, might not. I seem to be well-fit on the bike other than the shoulder issues…

  2. My last two long rides, I’ve suffered from numbness in my right foot. It was worse this ride, and took an hour or so to get back to normal after I was done. Actually, I wasn’t sure if it was numbness or just cold toes, but now I’m sure it’s numbness. Left foot is fine, right is numb.

    I’m wearing Lake sandals (the same ones I’ve worn for years), a wool liner sock, a Serius Stormsock, then a heavier outer sock, then a Trek toe cover. I thought perhaps it was the toe covers I wear, they kind of add a lump underneath the ball of the foot. But why would it only bother me on one side? I don’t blame the sandals. I don’t blame the SPD pedals or cleats. This problem has only really shown up on my last two long rides.

    I’m a bit flummoxed by this. Maybe there’s a subtle cleat positioning difference between the left and right sides. But the cleats haven’t been moved since the middle of last year.


    I think for now I’m going to check the cleat positioning, and perhaps switch over to different shoes for my next long ride.

I need to figure these issues out, because either one is a serious roadblock to finishing longer rides. The shoulder issue is the more serious, I think, since it’s been a problem since almost the very beginning of my riding with this bike.

First stop, I suppose, is to check in with the LBS and see what they suggest.

It wasn’t a big day for photos, what with the dreary weather and my discomfort, but I did come up with one nice shot from early in the ride, before the sun gave out:

This is a shot of a nice fence-lined country lane in Miami County, Kansas.

DirtBum Written by:

I enjoy riding bicycles all over -- city streets, suburbia, rural roads, gravel roads, dirt roads, rail-trails, and singletrack. I love exploring the countryside and finding the interesting and historical treasures hidden in plain sight. You can follow my rides on Strava.