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I want to ride my bicycle... and all that.
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27 April 2015

What I've missed in cycling these months

Can't have it all
Actually here it wasn't so bad, this is autumn, with just a few clouds

There is something about cycling that I missed those last 3 months. I'm not prone to complain in this "broken leg" story. Things are going fine and they could have been a lot worse in all this. Since the broken leg is from a fall in cycling, the first few days I was very reluctant to even think about cycling again. Then it slowly came back, and I contemplated cycling again, taking it easy, no stress. I have nothing to win, and nothing to hurry. I started doing indoor trainer rides, which I'm enjoying a lot. I'll be probably out there on the roads again in two more months. I will indeed take it slowly, especially going downhill.

"Para el que quiera condiciones meteorológicas perfectas ya existe el ciclismo en pista"

—Juan Antonio Flecha

As Juan Antonio Flecha puts it, for those who want perfect meterological conditions, there is track cycling. For me, when I think about it now, there is one thing I actually miss from this winter/spring without cycling: I really enjoy being out there in "not so nice" weather. When it's grey and cold and drizzling. When the wind is freezing a bit as it gets dark out there. When there are large clouds over the mountains, and you're heading just that way.

Hubris, I know, since evening fog in the mountains is just the thing that brought me down. Also since I would be the first to complain if I had to cycle all year long in those conditions. But here in Greece, I'll miss those short few months of having had the pleasure to show off what a hard man I can be.

Posted by betabug at 10:46 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
04 June 2015

Fixing the Mio Link Charger with... a rubber band

Not sticking due to the crappy magnetic solution
A simple rubber band fixes the Mio Link Charger

I bought a Mio Link heartrate monitor right when they came out. The chest strap HR monitor caused me discomfort, the Mio Link was new, I was willing to take the risk and try it out. For me it works, even though there are two problems with it:

  1. it sometimes gets stuck and looses my pulse (I just restart it, this is a bit annoying, but no big concern to me, as I'm not any serious athlete), and
  2. the solution to use a magnet to ensure the contact between the device and the charger often results in the device not being charged, because I have to hook it to the laptop, and something bumps against the combo and the Link snaps out of the charger.

I think Mio's solution was to put in a stronger magnet into later builds of the device. They should have just switched on their brain, and redesigned for a click-in-charger that makes certain the charger stays on. Magnets are doing "attraction", for electrical contacts you need "connection". This state had annoyed me for quite some time now, so today I switched on a select few the remaining brain cells of my own, and came up with a solution.

As you can see in the photos, I'm using a rubber band to ensure the Mio Link and the charger stay best friends for a while. The test is using a wall wart with the charger and hanging up the whole set. When not in use, the rubber band can stay there. It's easy to fit in the device (connect as normal, hook the rubber band over the "open end").

Posted by betabug at 16:03 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
25 June 2015

Back on the Bicycle after Five Months

It took some while
Getting back on the physiotherapy track and back to riding

Five months have passed since my accident. I've been through a transport to a hospital in Athens, surgery, a few days in the hospital, recovery in bed at home, almost 35 hours of physiotherapy, a lot of walking with crutches, 5 xray exams, almost 15 hours of indoor cycling on the trainer, almost 10 hours of swimming time and learning to actually swim in the process.

Last Monday I had another talk with the local orthopedist, the one who examined me right after the accident. He said that things are going very well with my leg, and that the little discomfort and occasional pain I have are due to the surgery and muscle rebuild, not due to the bone. He suggested lots of exercise. From talking to various doctors and physiotherapists, I got the impression that with most patients the problem is that they never do the exercises that they're told to do.

As you can see on the calendar, last Tuesday I went out on the bike again for the first time. (The indoor cycling symbol has little dots under the wheels, not very visible.) I just went a bit up the road and back, not even 2km and just 8 minutes. I wobbled around a lot, going slalom on the road. It felt a bit scary.

This morning I decided that it's time to make another go for it. To overcome my insecurity, I'll have to go out and ride. So out I went, this time further up the road, going as far as the next village. I felt much more secure, I was able to enjoy the ride.

I wasn't fast at all. First of all, I wasn't taking any risks. On the downhill parts, I wasn't constantly braking, but I did not let the speed build up either. Then, I'm very much down on my endurance. With the slightest incline of the road, my heartrate was going up and over the roof. Not much of a racing spirit. Instead I appreciated the landscape, and seeing it from a bicycle and not a car window again. So I clocked in 14km, in 39 minutes, climbing 189m.

Posted by betabug at 13:18 | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)
23 July 2015

Back in the Mountains

It's been 6 Months
The road going down from Moni

It's been 6 Months and 1 day yesterday, and for the first time I was back with the bike in the mountains. I've been doing a slightly shorter variant of my usual loop of Halki - Apeirantho - Stavros Keramotis - Moni.

I've been doing shorter rides since one month ago, even some with some uphill parts and I had a lot of headwind. But going up to Apeiranthos yesterday was a hard task. I had to take it easy and measure out what strength I had. Which wasn't much. The result of my downtime is that most of my power and endurance is gone. To be built up again.

On the way down, I was starting to get afraid. So I started to hug the brakes. Not the best thing to do, but I was not going to bomb down the mountain road that particular day. Better take it easy. That way I could see more of the landscape and the wonderful evening anyway.

While going up, I wondered if I enjoyed myself. If I would enjoy cycling again the way I had before the accident. I concluded that, yes, I enjoyed myself. The views, the smell, even the exercise and feeling of exhaustion in my body, I enjoyed all that. It took some time to pass away some negative thoughts, but it was still possible. The enjoyment of being strong in the mountains, of going up at a decent speed with ease... that is obviously not there yet, but there is enough already to enjoy. Now the plan is to continue slowly to build back my form. There is no need and no use to hurry in this. And in the end the strength and ease might come back again.

Posted by betabug at 18:36 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
16 August 2015

Transporting by Bike

Getting a new kitchen stove delivered
Transporting the new kitchen stove by bike

My old kitchen stove gave up its purpose in life lately. It started to short circuit whenever I turned it on. I'm not a huge fan of "throw it away", but this thing was beyond the trouble for me. So I bought a new one. But then... no car, and I needed the thing urgently, as we would be without anything to cook for the weekend. So the shop put the box on the bus (!) and we picked it up at the bus stop.

From the bus stop, it's about 600m to my place. The box isn't so big (it's one of those small stoves), but it's way to heavy to carry all the way. So that led to my trusty cyclocross bike (which currently features a rear rack for shopping runs) to serve as a cart. The setup was way too unstable to ride. Pushing it along was more or less ok, with some short moments of wobbling and threatening to fall. It reminded me a lot of what lots of people in African and Asian countries do: load up a bike full up, and push it along. The stove arrived home in one piece in the end, and cooking warm food resumed.

Posted by betabug at 11:47 | Comments (4) | Trackbacks (0)
28 August 2015

Three Times per Week

It's all up and down

While writing on the weblog has taken a backseat to everything else again, I'm more or less back to regular cycling. Which is very nice, since I really like cycling in the countryside here. Basically I'm trying to do 3 rides per week. The plan is to build back my base fitness. So I'm doing shorter rides, about 2 hours each. Since this is Naxos, there is no way to do that without some climbing, but I'm trying to take it easy.

Slowly, slowly my leg starts to feal more "normal". Whatever that means. Basically that pushing, pulsing sensation where the operation was is getting less, especially while riding. Walking is still a bit more difficult. So I'm moving forward in that respect.

At the same time I have the impression that I'm moving backwards in respect to my endurance. I seem to be able to do less and less. Having to stop and take a long break to recover on a climb I've never ever had to stop before (going up the Potamia valley). Never mind, that's probably how building your endurance back should feel, for all I know of such things. I guess I will need yet a bit more patience. I'm not really complaining though, what I've already reached is wonderful compared to where I was a couple of months ago.

Posted by betabug at 18:59 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
28 November 2015

Getting back in shape: Pane e polvere

Having lots of fun cycling

The last month I started to pick up my cycling pace again. The downtime after the accident had reduced my endurance a lot. Where at first I worked hard to cycle 6km, now things start to improve. There is no mistery about how to get back in shape, basically all it takes is patience and perseverence. Not wanting too much, too soon is also important.

"Pane e polvere"
"400km a settimana. Sempre. Pioggia, vento, grandine non importava."

"Bread and Dust"
"400km per week. Always. Rain, wind, hail, does not matter."
-- Fiorenzo Magni

Fiorenzo Magni was a champion in the generation of Fausto Coppi and Gino Bartali in Italy of the 1950s. He was a tough rider, the kind who braved the elements, and he was famous for finishing the Giro d'Italia with a broken collarbone (finishing on 2nd place, no less). In an interview given in 2012, he was asked "how did you train normally?" He answered "Bread and dust. Which means doing many, many kilometers." And then he mentions training 400km per week, plus the races.

Obviously I'm nowhere near that number. Also I don't count so much the kilometers, as the hours. Because here on Naxos, the kilometers have a different quality, with all the climbing. When I was doing 10 - 12 hours per week back in the spring of 2014, I was doing just fine. I wasn't necessarily so fast, but "doing fine" meant that I could go for a longish ride and not be exhausted with every little climb.

Currently I've moved up to 4 - 8 hours per week, and I start to be more comfortable with 3 hour rides. My "training" doesn't consist of any planned exercises or something, but instead simply of clocking in a lot of time on the bike, going more slow than fast. First building endurance before even attempting to build up speed again.

I've also moved my "better" bike to Naxos, and on that bike I feel much more comfortable. So overall I'm starting to enjoy cycling a lot again.

Posted by betabug at 11:26 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
20 December 2015

Naxos Cycling Panorama Pictures

The wide view on things
On the Potamia road

Lately I got a new digicam. Those little digicams seem to die every few years. On purpose I buy the ruggedized, waterproof little suckers. I presume they last a little bit longer that way. In any case, the latest one I got is one from Fujifilm. I've taken it cycling a few times, where I played around with the panorama function. So here are some pictures from cycling on Naxos.

Near Agia Anna

Naxos is an island, so obviously there is a lot of sea around it. There are only few places where the road is right next to the sea, at least in relationship to the length of coastline. This is a good thing, as a road with cars spoils all the beach. Unfortunately it also means you can't cycle along the coast as much as you would like too.

Near Agia Anna

Right now it's winter, so the beaches are empty. In summer lots of people down there.

Near Kynidaros

Naxos also has a lot of mountains. Basically an island is a mountain sticking out of the sea. There aren't many flat roads on Naxos, which makes cycling sometimes a bit complicated and tiresome. It's either going up or going down.

Near Kynidaros

Sometimes there are some plateau-like areas up there. Here is one near Kynidaros, with some weird, beautiful stone formations. The top foto above has some similar stone formations, on the parallel road on the Potamia road.

Above Apeirantho

I like to go and cycle in the mountains. The landscape is very interesting. Often you can spot a bit of sea in the distance. Here we are above Apeirantho and you can see the road where I came from, as it winds in a long turn along the mountains.

The highest point on the road

The last picture is at some point on the road that goes deep inside the Naxian mountains, leading to the village of Komiaki. There are some telecoms antennas, and usually lots of clouds and cold wind. Near that spiky mountain in the center of the image is Apollona, the northernmost village on the island.

(You can click on all the images to see a slightly bigger version.)

Posted by betabug at 18:40 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
27 December 2015

Eine Weihnachts-Velofahrt

Besinnlich und so
Das bin ich auf dem Velo

Am 24. Dezember war ich mit einem Freund auf einer Velotour. Wir sind auf Naxos durch die Berge nach Apollona gefahren, von dort der Küste entlang wieder zurück. Das ganze kommt dann auf knapp 100km, etwa 1800 Höhenmeter, ich habe noch eine kleine Extra-Strecke angehängt, so dass ich auf 102km kam. Das Wetter war perfekt, sonnig und warm, fast kein Wind. Dem Datum entsprechend waren fast keine Autos unterwegs, wir hatten die Strasse für uns.

Diese Strecke habe ich schon viele Male gemacht, aber dieses Mal war das erste Mal nach meinem Unfall mit Beinbruch im Januar. Ich bin noch nicht so gut unterwegs wie vor dem Unfall, es geht alles noch etwas langsamer, aber dass ich diese Tour machen konnte, ist für mich ein grosser Meilenstein. Ich bin wirklich dankbar, dass ich diese Freiheit wieder habe. Ein grosser Dank geht an die Ârzte und Krankenschwestern in Naxos und Athen, an Freunde und Familie, die mir geholfen haben. Das tönt jetzt vielleicht etwas melodramatisch, aber ich bin einfach froh, wieder hier zu sein.

Posted by betabug at 20:42 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
03 February 2016

So cute

Cute company on the road

One thing to be careful when cycling on Naxos is too look out for flocks of sheep and/or goats on the road. They can be in the middle of the road, blocking your way. Or they can be on the side of the road, and as you pass them, they get scared and try to run away... often straight across your way to the other side of the road. But right now, it's often so funny, because in this season there are a lot of very young animals out there. As seen in the picture, they are torn between being scared, and curious about this strange cyclist guy here. And they are really cute.

Staying with the group

Most of the time they just try to stay with the group, going wherever theyr mommy is going. Yesterday one little goat had to do multiple tries to follow its mother up the side of the road.

Mommy, look how fast I can run

Other times the young ones are even trying to run faster than their mother. Still they are even more planless than the older animals, so watch out!

Posted by betabug at 21:32 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
10 February 2016

How I Clean My Bike

I'm not an expert, but at least I'm swiss!

So, yesterday I cleaned my road bike. Since it has decent mudguards (aka fenders), there isn't that much dirt all over the bike, but the gears and chain had a lot of gunk on them. I'm not much into cleaning my bike, I ususally put it off way too long. Now I certainly wouldn't say I'm an expert at bike cleaning. Also there are tons of descriptions what to do around. But this is the procedure I use:

Note on use of WD-40

Keep in mind that WD-40 is considered the devil's stuff on a bike, it is meant only for cleaning, as a degreaser. It's not a good lubricant and it should not stay on. Some people say citrus cleaner is better anyway.

Religious considerations

How to clean a bike is kind of a religious topic. It seems everybody does it a bit different (which is quite ok with me), but it also seems some people feel very strong about it. I'm open to ideas for improvement, tips, warnings about something I do wrong in the comments, but I'm glad if people keep it calm :-)

Posted by betabug at 12:38 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
14 February 2016

Legs, Sunday Group Rides, and the Mystery of Gorgorr

Left, Right, Left, Right

Early this week I noticed that my legs still have a big inbalance of strength. I've been back on the bike for months now, well, not exactly training, but riding regularly. When you look at my legs, there is no difference in width to be noticed (as the doctors had thought there would). I had assumed the inbalance would even itself out over time. But it didn't...

Turns out, the body's tendency to protect a weaker part is quite ingenious and not easily observed. Once I paid attention, it started to become obvious to me though: The slight lean to one side when standing up, the tendency to do some things with the right leg. Other things I still can't observe, but I'm sure they are there, like for example how one leg takes more load when I'm getting out of a squat with both legs, or how one leg does more work cycling.

The solution was to go to a gym. A real one, with all those machines with weights and all that. I went there for the first time on Thursday. It was indeed the first time, in all my life I was working out in such a place. A little test on the leg press machine showed that there is a huuuuge difference in my leg's strength. Terrible. And this is not going to go away on its own.

On that Thursday I spent one hour to work on my legs, each one in turn. Each exercise was done in sets, 3 on the strong leg, 4 on the weak leg. While the strong leg took it with ease, the weak leg was working really hard. Often I had to stop and gather some strength, to do the exercise really right. The weak leg felt sore for almost 48 hours afterwards.

So now I will make a program to go to the gym twice per week. Which brings me to my next point. Since I still want to be cycling, I have to figure out some things for my week plan:

So I took a virtual piece of paper and started to write down days and activities. After a while, I started to shorten things down. I moved things around a lot, but it seems there is no ideal solution to this. What I came up with for now is GORGORR. This sounds funny (especially pronounced with my lack of a rolling R), and it's also easy to remember.

What does it mean? Starting on Monday, I'll have Gym / Off / Ride / Gym / Off / Ride / Ride. Each Gym day is followed by an Off day - to relax the leg again, and let the recovery grow the muscles stronger. A nice ride on Wednesday, an easy ride on Saturday, and finally the group ride on Sunday. Starting again with the gym on Monday might not be ideal. But today, after this particular Sunday Group Ride, my legs aren't feeling so bad, so maybe the plan could work out fine. The rest I will figure out as I go.

The group ride was very nice btw. Group rides here on Naxos are very small, we were the three of us. We put in about 60km, with what is very little climbing for Naxos, only about 500m of altitude gain. As there is a South wind, we went down to Agiassos, and let the wind help us to get back up to higher ground. We still worked hard, even going down against the headwind, so at the end I was tired nice and good.

Posted by betabug at 17:15 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
16 February 2016

I'll not remove my mudguards till summer is here for good

It's a matter of style
Fausto Coppi on a training ride, mudguards and all.

Both my road bikes currently have fenders / mudguards mounted. I've sometimes received negative feedback about this. It doesn't seem to fit with some modern schools of bike aesthetics. Too which I reply: "Who cares?" I'm not going to remove my mudguards till summer is here for good. Even a bit of wet roads here and there will make my bike (and me) look bad. And I'm not that fond of cleaning my bike. Not gonna happen.

Even the greatest cyclists of all times put mudguards on their bikes for training rides. Do you think il campionissimo Fausto Coppi would want a brown stripe down his stylish clothes on his back? It was something different in a race (where the rules disallow mudguards and every bit counts), but on training rides? You think that sweet Bianchi sweater looks good with road grime on the backside? Not likely.

Posted by betabug at 20:39 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (0)
20 March 2016

Paris-Brest (the sweet version)

Cycling and baking united
Paris-Brest (the sweet version)

Paris-Brest-Paris is one of the toughest cycling events that a mere mortal can attend. It involves cycling 1200km in 90 hours and is a strictly amateur event. Before it was this "randonneuring" event, many years ago, it used to be a professional race. At some point, someone (I forgot who) created a sweet called "Paris-Brest" in its honor. I knew that much.

This Saturday, while shopping with my host here, I was standing outside the bakery... when I noticed the sweet in real. It's something different to read about this, and then to see it in person. I probably should have gone in and tried one, but at the time the bakery was so full that there was a line outside the door - that's why I was waiting outside.

In any case, I should have gotten one for my friend tralala, who on the same Saturday rode a 400km Brevet (congrats, man!). One the one hand, he could use the calories after that monster of a ride, on the other, in a few years he might be riding PBP itself and then it would be a good preparation.

UPDATE: The sweet things in the pics aren't actually "Paris-Brest", but chocolate Eclairs. Seems that the bakery had misplaced the label. I got a real Paris-Brest a few days later, and saw another one in a restaurant, and they didn't look like this at all. OTOH they were true calorie-bombs.

Posted by betabug at 18:35 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)
30 April 2016

Flower Power Sprint

Working and having fun on Naxos again
The official sprint tshirt artwork

The team I'm working with on one of my projects has this tradition of meeting roughly 2x per year and working all together for about a week. We call that a "sprint" (despite that some software process terminologies call something different "a sprint", we're not bothered). The last one was last November in Galicia, Spain. This time we were on Naxos again (for the 3rd time now, April 6-16).

Our program consisted of 3 days of intensive work, then 1 day off, then another 3 days of "sprinting", followed by 2 days for "social stuff". We were quite productive on the work days, which resulted in us enjoying the "social" days together even more. We also had lunch and dinner together mostly, which resultet in way too much food being eaten. In early April, not all naxian restaurants are open, but there is still a good selection.

Borja and me spent much of the "social" time out on a bike. We explored many of the less cycled roads of Naxos together, and the number of climbs was almost dwarfed by the number of sheep and goats we met out on the road. We also met The Pig (which is another story for this weblog, but since The Pig has a no-photo shield around it, maybe better for another time). In the process, Borja managed to pass the magical "100km in one ride" mark, of which he has written a nice ride report. Oscar and Panos went looking for sheep and goats on a couple of motorbikes, but they missed The Pig.

One perfect fit is that we got a new team member from Naxos, joining the team just a few days before the sprint. This fit perfectly, as he could meet all the team members, and also get a working start on the code base.

Oscar has another sprint report online, with tons of picture.

Posted by betabug at 21:31 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
09 May 2016

Two Training Blocks

So happy to have guests for this
Cycling in the early morning sun

The last few weeks my cycling-Fu finally took a few steps forwards. I've been going to the gym to fix my left/right leg imbalance, but I don't think that's so much the cause of the improvement (yet). What got me forward was doing two blocks of tough training, with riding much more than I used to do in the last months.

You see, first we had the sprint, where we had (amongst other friends) Borja here cycling with me for 10 days. With Borja I cycled 311km with 5500m of climbing, in 6 rides. One ride was a nice, round 100km Apollona round, always a good endurance builder. When that was done I relaxed a bit... and went back to the gym.

And not long after that, my friend George showed up. Now George, he's in a different category of endurance riding. He has completed his 2nd 400km brevet, and is now training to do the 600km brevet.

Even though he brought the family over, for some days of vacation around Greek Easter, we managed to put in 4 rides. Those 4 rides made me ride 254km in one week, climbing 4500m. That's about 50-60% more than I used to do in a typcial week in the months before this.

As for the results of those two "training blocks"? Of course I have only anecdotal evidence, but I seem to be as comfortable to ride 60km now as I was doing 40km before. Unless I've been to the gym, in that case I'm just a useless pair of sore, tired legs. Ah well.

Posted by betabug at 12:12 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)
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