Tuning up

I have turned in my notice at work. I’ve told you in these pages that I’m doing it again. That requires tuning up – both me and the bike. Four years ago I wrote about training. I won’t do it again. Write about it, that is. Doing it – training – is even more imperative when 70 is right around the corner.

In one of those “If You Give a Pig a Pancake” moments, I decided to replace my cables for the coast-to-coast trip. I figured I’d do those before the season, since there could be some stretching and adjustment needed. I’d replace the chain closer to the ride date, and mount fresh tires for the trip. So it was in March that the bike first went up on the stand…

When I put the bike up on the stand, I realized it was dirty. No sense putting clean parts on a dirty bike, so cleaning comes first. If you’re going to clean anyway, you might as well take off some parts to get at the dirt…

Calvin and Hobbes, copyright Bill Watterston 1993

Cable fishing

One of the more fun aspects of owning a bike with internally-routed cables is actually routing those cables. If you’ve ever tried it, you know I’m being facetious. Park Tools makes a kit for the job. Unfortunately, their expensive tool does not work on some bikes. One of their options is a plastic sleeve that goes over the cable end and attaches to a guide. Another is a thin cable with a magnet on the end to thread through the tube and attract your cable end. The problem there is that the opening at the end of my chain stay is smaller than Park’s guide and magnet. A third option is a magnet to run along the outside of your tubing to attract and guide the cable. The problem there is that high quality cables are stainless steel and therefore not magnetic. What to do?

I fabricated a series of tools from old spokes that accomplish these and other tasks.

Here are the tools. How they work will follow.

Trying to route cables using your old housing but you don’t want to redo your bar tape and the cable won’t go? The tool at the top will do the trick.

You are looking down at the brake/shift lever from the front. Hood is peeled back at lower right. Cable is coming from lower left and going under bar tape and into (unseen) housing at the thumb. The tool holds the cable down and guides it into the next opening. (It wants to go straight up, not make that bend.)

Trying to route through the tiny hole at the back of the chain stay? Superglue and thread.

Leave the old cable in place and cut it at the bottom bracket. Remove the top half. Thread the new cable to the bottom bracket. You might need the tool above to get it under the bar tape. Go to the bottom bracket where you now have both cables. Put a drop of Superglue on the end of the old cable. Spread the glue a bit. Wrap thread tightly around the end of the cable. Let it dry. Place cables end-to-end, put a drop of Superglue on the end of the new cable, wrap thread tightly, let it dry. Now go to the exit hole at the back end of the chainstay. You will use the old cable to guide the new one through the chainstay. Gently pull the old cable through, guiding the new cable into the chainstay at the bottom bracket. Keep pulling (and gently feeding the new cable) until both come through. You should have enough cable that you can cut above the Superglue before threading into your derailleur.

Rear brake cable travels along the top tube with no problem, but now you can’t get the end out? Try the hooks.

There’s the cable sitting in the top tube. (Looking down from above) Now what?
The middle cable hook sits on the bottom of the tube. The cable will slide onto it and you can lift it part way. The bottom hook will lift it out of the tube.

No patents on these tools. No cost beyond some old spokes and time with a file and pliers. Feel free to make some and try it yourself! The tools you need may vary with your bike. If you have a few old spokes, play around until you make the tool you need.


Four years ago I wrote about training to ride across the country, but how do you train to retire?

I firmly believe that retirement takes training. I have said many times that retirement, like voting, should be done early and often. I also think beliefs are like freckles. If you look closely, most of us have a few and having a bunch doesn’t make you better. (And are liver spots [or age spots] just big freckles?) Or maybe I believe that beliefs are like diapers and should be changed often. I definitely believe that beliefs are like selves and shouldn’t be taken too seriously.

I’ve been working (with a few breaks, or practice retirements) since 1965. On June 4, I will walk out of the hospital at around 1500 (that’s 3 pm to normal people) for the last time after 23 years. I won’t be going back to that job, or maybe any job.

How to train for what’s next? For 9 weeks, I will ride my bike 6 days a week. That oughta help me get used to not going to work. You train by doing what you plan to do. I don’t want to sit on my ass and watch TV while drinking beer, so that’s not what I’ll train.

Without a structure after that, I’ll have to create one. I want to ride at least 4 days a week year ’round so I will plan that. Exercise just happens now – it’s how I get to and from work. It won’t just happen after this trip.

Sunday morning was a hard freeze. We hit the road with the temperature near the freezing point and rode a leisurely 37 miles. By the time we got home it was a summery 45 degrees (7 C). If we didn’t have days like this, I couldn’t justify the tights, fleece jersey, and shoe covers I bought. The only thing green was the winter wheat.

I have tasks that have been on a to-do list for years (like replacing 106 year old putty that is falling out of windows, replacing sash cords – I was amazed that all sash cords were intact when we bought this house 26 years ago [that is no longer the case], and repairing/replacing the plaster wall that my daughter kicked a hole in years ago), and will need to make a schedule so I actually do some of those while I still can.

I bought a kayak in preparation for retirement. It needs to spend much more time in the water than it has. It needs to see water farther from home.

I bought an espresso machine because I figured that was cheaper, in the long run, than hanging out in coffee shops with the other retirees. It may not be cheaper than just brewing coffee at home, but it sure tastes better.

I bought a new lens for my camera, hoping to get out in the donzerly light when I don’t have to get to work. Maybe I can capture some of that early morning magic to have more than memories and mental images to share here. And I won’t be limited to the route from here to work.

I figured that whatever I thought I would need/want in retirement, I would buy while still working; so the training has been going on for a few years.

BK (Before Kids) I served on the boards of a few organizations and volunteered for others. Most of that was not part of any Grand Plan – it arose and I did it. Maybe I’ll do that again. [And it wasn’t all BK – I spent 8 years on the board of their daycare center.]

The university here allows old folks to audit courses without charge. It’s part of the Wisconsin Idea. (Also here.) Maybe I’ll go back to school when it is safe.

It’s a funny thing about work. Over time, you come to define yourself by what you do, not by who you are. I have the advantage of having done many things, so that definition has some flexibility. I am an Occupational Therapist, but I was a plumber before that and a co-op manager before that. Something has been constant through those career changes. Am I still in touch with what that is? Vamos a ver.

It is time to train to be a retiree. (7)

No, really…

I decided to ride across the US many years ago. I actually made it real the day I got the approval for a leave from work. I decided to “rest”, so to speak, until January 1 and then start training. The plan was to have my employer give me a free membership to their health club to train. I chose not to ask that.

I thought I’d join a health club in my neighborhood, with the idea that I’d work on a leg press machine to build leg strength and spend hours on a spinning bike. The club at my community center didn’t have the equipment I wanted and I didn’t feel like giving my money to a for-profit health club.

So, about the same time as I started writing this blog I started to train. The first month was mostly core stretching and strengthening. I used a timer and plankgradually increased the amount of time I could spend in a plank, to the front and to each side. I did crunches. I did a lot of spine stretching. If I’m going to sit in one position for hours, my back and neck should be strong and loose. I added hamstring and quad stretches. I held those stretches for a minute each. Then I moved to the stairs and did toe raises (both as Achilles’ tendon stretches and as strengthening.)

About the time the Olympics came on TV I brought out my trainer. Years ago I bought a bike trainer while recuperating from an injury (work-related, not bike-related) that kept me off my bike (or at least off the road) for months. I rode in my living room because I could only use one arm. The trainer then sat in the basement for years, as I’d rather get somewhere when I ride. I’m riding the trainer on my Davidson, (or see here) as it was neglected all last year while I rode the new bike.

During the Olympics I would warm up spinning nice and easy, then start ramping up. I would do intervals during commercials. I’d rest, spinning easy during the next event, 20crosscountry-blog-blogSpanthen another hard interval during the next commercial. I’d mix it up, some days going hard for the duration of a downhill racer’s run, then resting. The cross-country ski marathons meant going hard and steady for a long time. Some days I would gradually ramp up – no hard intervals, just gradually harder gears and higher cadences. Then a long cool down.

When the Olympics ended, I used other long things – I watched an 8 part Grateful Dead movie on the bike. I’d watch or listen to an entire concert on the bike.

I tried a spinning class (because it was free). It was worth the price I paid, but I did work hard enough to be sore the next day.

When bike clubs started up in the spring I rode with them. My usual Wednesday Night Bike Rides and Sunday rides with the Bombay Bike Club. (I work on Saturdays.) My first WNBR was April 11 and first Bombay ride wasn’t until Sunday, April 29. April 29 and 30 I rode back-to-back days for the first time (~85 miles total). Then I remembered that the year I rode the Death Ride I had done my first century by the end of April.

On days I didn’t feel like riding (or it was raining or snowing) I went back to floor exercises to maintain core strength and flexibility. Will it be enough? (For my body? for my mind?) Stay tuned! If I go down in flames, you’ll all know!

How does one train to ride across the US?

I’ve been asked to write a post about my training. I had thought about that before and thought it would be boring. I was urged to write it anyway and make it not boring.

Obviously, you don’t train for this by doing it. No one completes an Ironman as training for an Ironman. You don’t ride across the US to train to ride across the US. Still, you have to do something to put yourself in a position to succeed.

You don’t focus on a result. I once went through a long and intensive workshop focused on getting through it. I treated it as an ordeal. The best I can say is I survived it. I had to do it again to actually do the workshop. I don’t want to arrive at the Atlantic Ocean only to say I made it. Turning the cranks for 80 miles per day for 55 days of riding requires enjoying that process. If I never coasted, I’d turn the cranks about 1.5 million times.

Most of us go to work every day. Do we enjoy what we do? My dad used to say, “It’s not supposed to be fun. That’s why they call it work.” After he retired, he said, “Don’t waste your time spending 8 hours a day doing something you don’t enjoy.” I think he finally learned something.

Training the mind is harder than training the body. Emotional weakness is probably a bigger impediment than physical weakness. Being vulnerable seems to be a key. I can’t fake it for 2 months. The possibility of not making it is there. I know I have never learned anything I already knew. That sounds obvious, but not knowing, being open to possibility, is the only route to growth I have found.

How to have fun? (Duh…remember, I’m doing this for fun.)


That’s one answer. R. Crumb’s Mr Natural approaches doing the dishes as a chore. He then enters a state where he is just doing the dishes. He later gets into it, scrubbing that pot to be sure it’s clean. Pretty soon he is whistling, and he ends up taking pleasure in looking at the sparkling glass and acknowledges a job well done.

If you’re going to work 8 hours a day, you might as well want to be there. It makes it a lot more enjoyable than not wanting to be there. Wanting what you have, in my experience, brings a lot less pain and suffering than wanting what you don’t have.

My son used to grumble about his homework. Once, in about 5th grade, I asked him how long it took to do an assignment. He gave an accurate assessment. Then I asked him how long he spent agonizing over it before he started. He gave another pretty accurate assessment. I didn’t need to say anything else.

Next time – really, how do you train to ride across the US?