2018 Windy 500 wrap-up


509 miles this year makes it 4,083 total Windy 500 miles ridden for me so far. That’s the equivalent of a round-trip ride from Toronto, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico and back. For the rest of you Pop Tarts, your total Windy mileage ranges somewhere between 4,083 (McArdle) & 509 (everyone else). What matters most though is not the mileage, it’s the adventure.

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This year, as with every year, the ride rolled from my house. Day 1 is a mix of veterans and newbies, well-wishers and tag-alongs who roll to the first stop with us and then head home.  It usually takes a few hours after we roll out to find our rhythm. Some are better than others at riding 2 up in big groups. Those who’ve raced are comfortable on someone’s wheel at 30 mph, riding shoulder to shoulder. That type of confidence makes for very smooth, safe, confident riding. Others, not so much. This group is a mixed bag of experience and ability, so for some, it’s a bit of a crash course in technique (without the actual crash part). Eventually, people figure it out, and we do our best to ride as one unit for the next 3 1/2 days.

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Day 1, stop 1, ALMA’S Cafe in Allenton. They’ve treated us way too well over the years, and after 35-40 miles of riding on fumes, their breakfast sandwiches are better than peanut butter dipped in peanut butter.

Our favorite stop is always Kwik Trip, because… it’s Kwik Trip:

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I would not recommend human consumption of ice purchased at Kwik Trip. Just sayin’.

Eventually, the hills find us:

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We ride all day, and nights are dinners and renewing friendships.

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Mornings are van loading and slowly rolling out of whatever parking lot we have taken over.

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It’s riding, chatting, working, recovering and most of all, making memories that will last a lifetime:

Geez Janisch, lighten up and enjoy yourself!

“No one is dumb who is curious. The people who don’t ask questions remain clueless throughout their lives.” ~ Neil deGrasse Tyson

As always, if you weren’t there, you’ll never know.

The Windy 500 is just a bike ride, but it changes you, makes you better. The hardest day for me is always Day 5. The day when I wake up and shower and put on people clothes and drive to work and sit down at my desk. And I don’t pedal. Not once. And I don’t climb. And I don’t descend, screaming into a valley, tucked into my handlebars at 54, 55, 56 mph, with 5 guys right next to me, all doing the same, all smiling, ear to ear. I just sit.

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It has taken me quite a while to sit down and compose my thoughts about this year’s ride. The Windy 500 has become an extremely important part of my life, and I generally start planning the next ride when we roll into my driveway on Day 4. During the ride, we discuss ways to improve the experience, and I arrive home with scraps of hotel paper and bar napkins with random thoughts and ideas scribbled down on them. This year, I rolled into my driveway alone. And it was over. I showered up and sat down to a home-cooked meal with my wife and kids.  The rest of the group rolled on to Wauwatosa to celebrate Bill Finn’s birthday. I had developed some kind of sinus cold on Day 2 and once I cleaned up I was done for the day. And I didn’t think about next year’s ride until a few days later.

For 4 days on the ride, I control what I do. I control my time, my efforts, my thoughts. Well, maybe not my thoughts. But I really don’t think about manipulating Excel spreadsheets much. Or my mortgage. Or yard work. I just think about riding. And talking to my close friends. Mostly about nothing. Locker room talk and juvenile jokes. But sometimes it’s about really important stuff. Really deep stuff. The kind of stuff you can talk about when there’s nothing to do all day but move your legs in hundreds of thousands of circles.

That’s my Windy 500. I work really hard at times, not so hard at other times. I wake up, grab some coffee and wait for the hotel’s breakfast to fire up. Then I get ready and I ride. All day. For 4 days. It’s as pure as it gets.

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But this was Year 8, and I’ve done this before. 7 times before. And it was an adventure. A long time ago. In fact, I heard some of the guys who weren’t there in those early years telling the stories, and they even got some of it right.

Every year, somewhere along the route, people will ask:

“What are you riding for?”

I was recently reminded of this by my friend Dr. Long, and it stuck in my head like glue. The Windy 500 has become an event without a purpose. Without a True North. Why indeed? 

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Do you know what homogenized milk is, Billy? It’s bland Billy. Bland. And the Windy is pretty well homogenized. We eat in fancy restaurants and we have name tags, Billy. Name tags!

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Meh. I think it’s time to shake it up again.

Don’t get me wrong – this ride is still SUPER awesome. The route, the riders, the endless miles in the saddle. But it’s become so big, such an event, that it’s not what it was originally intended to be. For me.

For many of the other guys that did the ride this year, and for those who have done it in past years, maybe it’s exactly what they want it to be. But the ride is at an intersection, and for Year 9, 2019, I need more. Or maybe less.

Here’s the complete list of rules for the original Windy 500, back from 2011:

  1. You must ride a bike 500+ miles in 4 days
  2. You must ride in at least 2 states

Unfortunately, the rules have been amended over the years to include:

  1. Hotels must have pools. And hot tubs.
  2.  Support vehicle must be stocked with refreshments, spare wheels, spare bikes, (maybe spare riders next year?)
  3. Rest stops can take as long as the anyone wants them to.
  4. Anyone can make up rules as we go…

I realize that this is not just my ride anymore. Heck, I’m barely even responsible for it now. And don’t get me wrong, I like the pools. I look forward to cooling down after the ride. But the sense of adventure that launched this journey is long gone. So 2019’s route will have 2 fully supported options:

Group 1: 

Faster guys, stronger climbers, fewer stops. NOT race pace, but it will be challenging.

Group 2:

Casual pace. Riders will re-group at the tops of climbs. More frequent rest stops. This group will most likely leave 1/2 hour prior to Group 1. Both Groups will meet at the lunch stop and at the hotel. No need for the faster guys to feel held back and no need for the more casual guys to turn themselves inside out. And having 2 smaller groups will do wonders for safety.

That’s all. We’ll probably go West again. The route is really beautiful and certainly challenging. And everyone is welcome back.

Oh, and to answer the question “What are you riding for?”  I defer to McArdle’s answer:

“AWESOMENESS.”

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Windy 500 2017 wrap-up


Yeah, that just happened. The Windy 500 just became the most spectacular thing ever. And you weren’t there.

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It was Sofa King awesome, that it may never eclipse itself. Like Leo Sayer singing with Barry Gibb AND Justin Timberlake. Or donut wrapped hot dogs. It was that good. We may as well all put on some Nikes, cover ourselves in purple sheets and drink some Kool-Aid now…

I usually get right to the point, but I honestly don’t even know where to start this year. This was by far, the best and the most challenging time I have ever spent on a bike. We have hundreds of pictures, and it’s hard not to include all of them…

For 7 years we’ve ridden. Iron Mountain, Michigan and 545 miles the first year. 45 extra miles because we were lost. A lot. 105 degrees. Rain. 4 riders. 162 miles on Day 1 at almost 20mph average speed. No sag. Epic. Me, McArdle, Lampe and Gary Johnson. A proper beat-down, the likes of which may never be duplicated. Upon arrival, just after dark, the hotel staff hands us a small box that we UPSed there. A new kit and disposable toothbrushes for everyone. Yay! McArdle and Lampe are the only 2 to have done this every year, and McArdle is the only one who’s matched me mile for mile for the past 3,574 miles. Last year our cumulative mileage surpassed “The Ultralineamentum” – the longest possible route across the US – my initial dream/goal in this stupid plan.

Year 2: 7 guys, we decided to go West. Winona. Hills, hills and more hills. 500-something miles and 17,000+ feet of climbing. Jeremy drove his own truck for sag. Holy crap, we could actually pack a bag this time. Jeremy (aka: TRJ , aka: The Real Jeremy – ask Balden) met up with us every 25 miles or so. He thought we were nuts.

Year 3: This was the Van Halen III year – great compared to sitting at a desk, but shitty compared to the original ride. 9 riders, southern route. “Southern” was Illinois to Indiana and back. Flat, urban, and full of debris. Ridiculous number of flats, a zero score for scenery and fairly forgettable.  Still, we spent 4 days riding 500+ miles, so it wasn’t all bad. Jeremy on sag again, this time rolling right behind us the whole route. Still thinking we were nuts, but now “bike-curious”.

4: Escanaba, MI. Fantastic Mexican food, awesome route and full blown sag support. Jeremy jumps on a bike this year and becomes a legit rider. DuWayne (TRJ Sr.) takes the helm as all-time sag driver. 18mph average on a fairly flat route for 496 miles. Veterans bank their rollover miles from previous years while rookies do laps in every gas station to ensure the 500+ mark. Escanaba is a glorified shithole, but the route is a success. This thing is taking on a life of its own…

5: Back to da U.P. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. 21 riders now up to Escanaba. Beer, Mexican, etc. It has rained every year to this point, we expect it to continue doing so long  after we are all dead.

6: Escanaba again. 3rd year in a row. Bike practically rides itself along the route by now. It’s an awesome route for a big group, but becoming a bit vanilla. Biblical rain (again). Hail. Sun. Fun. Laughs. 27 guys. bc and McArdle have become co-Directeur Sportifs, and apparently from April through July they only work part-time at their real jobs. The “Windy” has reached legendary status. The world is divided into two halves; those who’ve done the Windy, and those who haven’t.

Fall, 2016: Windy 500 2017 Planning session: Lampe’s firepit. Talking about Escanaba v4.0. Longing for the excitement of the early years. Lampe calls bullshit on a 4th year to MI. We all agree. You know what would be awesome? Some soul-crushing climbs and 55mph descents. Really riding. Not another charity ride. It was undeniable. It could not be undone.

Windy 500, 2017, year 7 – Winona, Minnesota and back. 22, 23, 24, 22? riders. Picked up another rider on Saturday on his way home from 7 days of RAGBRAI, lost one the same day to Volmonia, a new communicable disease that is apparently contracted from staying in shithole hotels.  18,500+ feet of climbing this year. But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

I contacted Pabst before the ride, and they hooked us up with some sweet swag and enough PBR to keep Jeremy hydrated for 4 days…

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IMG_3927 IMG_10498 O’something a.m. Go time.  The mayor sends us off as usual. Reaches VO2 max on the first climb out of the subdivision and taps out. Maybe SPD Crocs for 2018?IMG_1713.JPG35 miles from my driveway to Alma’s again for the most spectacular breakfast on Earth. Riders may believe that this kind of stuff just happens, but bc and McArdle have toiled for weeks going over the finer points of logistics, including trial runs to Alma’s. Rookies are clueless.IMG_1706

From there we rolled, fatter and happier, to Reedsburg. 136 miles. 5,000 feet of climbing. World’s worst hotel, The Voyageur. Don’t Google it, you’ll get some kind of disease just from looking at it. I’m not kidding. Most riders have checked in post-ride with some form of malady. All part of the adventure. I guess.

You know it’s a classy hotel when you see wheelchairs and organs for sale in the lobby.IMG_1743So, who wants to ride to Winona, MN? Let’s roll.

123 miles, another 5,000 feet of climbing. Seemed a lot harder than yesterday. Dozens of world-famous Bloedow’s Donuts were waiting for us upon arrival, laughs and even a little rest that night. By the way, the most spectacular weather ever. Mid-80s, sun and (I swear this is true) a tailwind for 500 miles. It has rained at least one day of the ride for the past 6 years straight. Rookies Dino, Janisch, Walls and Lex think this is the best thing since sliced bread. They have no idea that every year prior we’ve had to assume the tornado position at some point during the ride. Pop Tarts.

IMG_4882Rolling into Winona, we were all just happy to be clear of the Mississippi, avoiding eye contact with Leach, fearing that he might kill again.

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Sunday morning church service at 6:30am, courtesy of Dr. Long. This is a secret portion of the Windy that I really look forward to every year. Steve is an ordained Methodist minister and Professor of Theology. He offers it up to anyone who wants to participate. About 8 of us shared a private service, and it left me energized and focused on the task at hand. It also reminded me of how awesome this slice in time with this caliber of men was.

Breakfast and some foreshadowing – the hills await. 6 monster climbs. Inclines as high as 17%. We all rolled out. A bit nervous, a bit excited. Road was flat, but we could see what was coming.

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No way to avoid it. The first “hill” punched us in the throat. And by throat I mean balls. It officially qualifies as a Category 3 climb. Al Krueger now has the 5th fastest ascent (all-time) on Strava with an average speed of 9.1mph. Soul crushingly steep and long. We also climbed 2 Category 4s that same day. While I was praying for a swift death, I was reminded that it would be considered a relatively flat day in the Tour de France. Really glad I took the last year off of cycling… not.

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By the end of the day, I think everyone was smoked. We rolled into Spring Green well-done and STARVING. It was the hardest day EVER on my bike, I would have cheerfully eaten any of the various roadkill we passed in the last 50 miles. 7pm. 8pm. 9pm.  FINALLY the pizza dude showed up. At that point – no one cared. We’d have eaten a dog turd or 10. Crap-ass pizza x 15. Thanks? I know that I ate (probably) an entire pizza in about 5 minutes. I hear that there were wings too, but they were set in front of Janisch and no one ever saw them again…

  I’m excited and exhausted simultaneously. bc takes the lead on getting the fire going, and we’re in the happiest place on Earth. Again.

For the record, Ronnie James Dio once stayed at this hotel. He wants you to pull his finger.

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Day 4: Rested, humbled, ready. Just 112 easy miles, only 3,000 feet uphill to go. No real climbs, just all rollers. I could go on and on, but honestly – you had to be there.

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M.I.A. – Dave Volmmmmonia

Did we have fun? We’ll never tell, but I’m guessing by the smiles that you already know the answer…

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I think Jeremy McKinney’s second cousin Cat Stevens sang it best:

And the cat’s in the river in the afternoon
Jumped off the bridge just past that pontoon
When’s it coming back, Leach?
I don’t know when
But we’ll be in Reedsburg then, yeah
You know we’ll catch pneumonia then
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2018 – 8th annual – Back to Winona!

7 Ways to Become a Crappier Rider


Brothers and sisters, if you want to know how to do everything wrong – you’ve come to the right place!

I’ve done all the legwork for you, no need to break a sweat or crack open a book.  All the answers are right here.  I’ve been training this way for a long time, so I know it works!

  1. Ride hard – all the time!  Recovery is only for people who want to win races.  Riding hard all the time is what you should be doing on every group ride.  Go to the front and push the pace – don’t let up.  I know that some of the guys you’re riding with are on 12-speed Firenze mountain bikes they got free with a sofa and love-seat combo, but who cares?  When you get to the coffee shop afterwards you’ll be able to gloat about how you smoked everyone on that 9 mile ride through the park.  And hey, did I see you drop that Mom with the Burley going uphill?  That was EPIC dude!  KOM points for sure!!
  2. Water’s for fish.  I know it’s hot out, and you spent the whole night eating Saltines, but what’s more kick-ass than finishing a ride with a full water bottle?  Yeah Buddy!  Hydration is for houseplants.  Besides, drinking water makes you weigh more and we all know about the whole Watts to Body Weight thing, right?  I’m pretty sure Contador never drinks any liquids – that’s why he can fly up mountains so fast.
  3. “Diets” are for soccer Moms.  I eat whatever I want, and it doesn’t affect me at all.  Sure, I run a little low on energy sometimes, or feel a bit sluggish after that 7th piece of deep dish pizza, but cyclists need a lot of calories.  I’m sure that by race season I’ll have lost some weight…  If not, I’ll just blame my genes.
  4. Get 5 hours of sleep a night!  Yeah, I’ve heard that you should get 8, but what am I a newborn??  I have stuff to do!  Bonus – watch TV before you go to sleep.  Preferably something violent or disturbing.  Like Golden Girls.
  5. It’s all about the bike.  You cannot go fast without all of the latest, greatest equipment.  You’re still riding 2012 Dura Ace?? What a loser.  Haven’t you heard that the 2013 version is .05 grams lighter??  I mean, if we lived on the moon, that would be like 6 pounds!  If it’s not carbon, it’s crap.  You should really cut down on the actual riding you do in order to spend more time in online chats about the latest gear.  There’s no way you’re going to keep up or hope to go fast if all you do is ride.
  6. Your bikes all fit just fine.  Put the seat wherever it feels good, slap your cleats on and you’re ready to ROCK!  Don’t worry, everyone gets knee and back pain, numb feet and hands – it’s just the price you pay for riding a bike.
  7. Blueprints are for architects – not cyclists.  I just get up and do whatever suits me that day.  Training by feel – it worked in the 1800s, and it still works today.  Although having a PowerTap does make you look cool, don’t ask me what it’s for.

Stay tuned for a follow-up article: “Hipster Etiquette – How to peg your jeans”

2013 Windy 500 Update


Fetish 3.13First off – I am personally guaranteeing that we’ll have much warmer weather than this morning’s ride for the 2013 Windy 500.  If not, I am offering 200% refunds to all participants.

There have been a number of significant flavor enhancements to this year’s event:

  • This is the bike I plan to ride.  I’ll probably add a rack with an insulated bag too (to keep cans of PBR cold).  No need for speed, or style, or front derailleurs for that matter.  I may smoke a pipe and wear a tweed jacket for the whole ride too.
  • We’ll once again have the infamous Jeremy driving sag.  A Suburban and an enclosed trailer.  You can bring as much crap as you need!
  • We’ll take the speeds down to “reasonable”.  I swear.  I really mean it this time.  Years past, the speeds have been known to creep up.  So, we’ll need to find something else to get Lampe pissed off about this year.
  • This year, we’ll actually launch on Thursday evening.  We’ll roll about 35 or so miles to Palmyra and stay overnight there, enjoying delicious beer and wine and beer Thursday evening.  And beer.
  • Friday morning, we’ll have breakfast in Palmyra and roll out for 50 miles with another group. Then back to HQ for a delicious lunch (and beer) before heading back out for another half-century.  Back to HQ for a delicious chef-prepared meal and wine.  And beer.
  • Saturday morning we roll out with the other group, back to HQ for lunch then we part ways and head South to Illinois.
  • Illinois to Indiana on Sunday.
  • Indiana straight back (via the Lakefront) to Brookfield on Monday.
  • We’ll be riding through 3 states this year, and rolling over 500 odometer digits  by Monday evening.

This is an awesome time, something that once people experience gets locked into their calendars for infinity.  And there’s beer.

Anyone is welcome.  (Anyone that can ride 4 successive Centuries.)

And they should probably like beer.

 

 

June 2011 Networking Ride report


Welcome back cycling enthusiasts!

This ride was started a few years ago as an alternative to golf networking, with the goal being getting like-minded business people together for a “chat” ride once a month.  Over the last 2 years, the ride has attracted stronger and stronger riders, and the pace has slowly crept up to the point of excluding many of the potential riders.  This was never the goal, so I have decided to be more proactive in controlling the pace of the ride and make sure we keep it reasonable for everyone.  I’ve talked to a number of people who are on the email list (now 350-ish strong) who’ve said they’d love to ride but “we’re too fast” for them.

Yesterday’s route  averaged 18.9 mph – a very respectable pace for the weekend warrior, and a nice recovery pace for the more experienced cyclist.  Our average pace had been creeping up to 20 mph and sometimes more, and I found that we had really begun to alienate the core of “enthusiast” riders that this ride is for. I’ll do my best, and ask those faster riders, to try to keep the pace closer to 18 – 19 (max) from now on.

Flats suck.  The only thing this picture is missing is Russell Jobs giving the finger.

(We did learn while trying to find a tube to fit these deep dish wheels that Gary Johnson’s stem is the longest among all men – even if it’s only by millimeters…)

  I brought my single speed yesterday, and anytime I found myself spinning out of gear, I went to the front to draw the pace down.  All in all, I think we had a great ride – despite the (now mandatory?) missed turn or 2.   Not sure how many riders we had, but a decent sized group for sure.  Always good to see familiar faces mixed with new ones too.  All of the crappy weather blew over, so anyone who missed the ride for fear of getting wet missed out on a dry ride.

We also gave people the option to climb or circumvent Glacier Hill (.65 mile long hill with a 3.8 % average grade) at the end of the ride .  Nice to have this option, depending on how you’re feeling.

As advertised, Denny Yunk and the TOTAL Mechanical crew bought beers at Seester’s afterward.  The idea of a post-ride beer sponsorship is a big hit with everyone.  If you are interested in sponsoring, let me know.  I have a stand-alone website in the works for our group as well that will help with the networking piece.

TOTAL Mechanical is southeast Wisconsin’s largest locally-owned, single-source mechanical contractor, offering services in heating, air conditioning, electrical, plumbing, fire protection, and building automation systems. TOTAL Mechanical specializes in the design, engineering, manufacturing, installation, maintenance and repair of commercial, industrial and residential environmental systems. We’re online at www.total-mechanical.com. You can also follow us attwitter.com/totalmechanical and facebook.com/totalmechanical. For more information, contact Denny Yunk, TOTAL Mechanical’s Marketing Manager, at dyunk@total-mechanical.com

See you all July 13th – and tell your friends to come back, we’ll keep the pace fun!


3 foot rule, my butt!


The 3 foot rule is a law in Florida, but someone forgot to tell all of the motorists here.

Man, I thought the rednecks in pickups were bad in Wisconsin.  The fact is, 99.999% of motorists I encounter in WI are cyclist friendly, sometimes too much so.  Like when you’re attempting a track stand at a 4-way stop, and the car decides that you now have the right of way –

(“Go” “No, you go”  “No I insist, you go” – then you both take off at the same time)

Here, not only are there some scary non-shoulders, but the 3 foot rule is merely a suggestion given to every 10th vehicle.  At least no one leaned out of their pick-up and yelled crap I couldn’t understand once they were past me, but I definitely feared for my life on a few of the main roads today until I hit a little patch of shoulder I could swing onto.

Brought a knife to the gunfight


Monday morning road ride with the Spokesmen – I brought the 69er.  The new 36:15 gearing for the WORS race Sunday feels ridiculous compared to the biggest previous gears – 32:16.  We were rolling along at 20mph this morning, a speed previously reserved for downhills only on this rig.  Spinning up the paved roads felt like butta, I only hope Suamico is as flat and fast as they say it is.

I had no problem holding my own today, but there were only 3 of us and it was a fairly mild roll; bc was on the MASI commuter/’cross rig. Tomorrow’s ultra-hilly TMTOT will be another story.  Probably closer to 12 guys, all on road bikes, with tons of short, quick climbs.  That will be a much better test of my legs or lack thereof.

At least I was able to sweat out all of the leftover fried goop I ate off my kids’ plates at State Fair yesterday.