Evolution of a Cyclist

I got an email from Brightroom photography letting me know that pictures of me from Tour Dallas in 2006 are about to expire. This got me thinking. Tour Dallas was :

  • the first organized ride I ever did
  • the first time I rode 30 miles
  • the only event I ever did on my mountain bike

So that got me thinking about my evolution as a cyclist and I thought I would chronicle my journey here to let budding cyclists know what lies ahead (warning: this is the longest post I have ever done).

Tour Dallas, April 2006

Tour Dallas - April 2006 (First 30 mile ride)

April 2006

I put cyclocross tires on my Gary Fisher Paragon mountain bike and ride the 30 mile route of Tour Dallas. I stop at both rest stops to fill-up on Gatorade and finish in just under 2 hours. Prior to this I was only mountain biking (about once per week). Most or my mountain bike rides were at Arbor Hills in Plano, TX or LB Houston in Dallas.

Later that month I get my first road bike. Jim Hoyt at Richardson Bikemart gave me a great trade on my Paragon that allowed me to get a Specialized Roubaix Expert (yes, it was a triple). At the time I thought I would really get into century rides and some touring. We also moved to Fort Worth at this time, so I start riding 2-3 times per week on the Trinity Trails. Grant is just over 1 year old so it is pretty easy for Jess and I to juggle our schedules to accommodate my riding and her exercise plans.

Avg. miles per week: 50-60

Typical riding attire: Sleeveless jersey and cycling shorts

May 2006

I do my first 45 mile ride at the Collin Classic. Not only is it my longest ride ever, but I do the ride without stopping. Average about 16 mph. Later that month I do my first shop ride when I show up for the “James Gang” ride at FW Cycling. The website said “fast” but, as a “Fred“,  I had no idea what a “fast” group ride was. I get my ass handed-to-me and I’m dropped in the first 5 miles. I also get lost on the way back and I’m late into the office (and totally beat). I vow to one day come back and not just “hang-on” but be one of the riders out front driving the pace.

Avg. miles per week: 50-75

Typical riding attire: Sleeveless jersey and cycling shorts

June 2006

I try another shop ride. This time it’s the Sunday morning ride at Panther City Bicycles. Bernie takes us out around Benbrook Lake and we basically do the McDaniel-Kelly Loop. This is my first ride “off” the Trinity Trails and I love it. Bernie and group keep the pace nice and easy and I learn about bike etiquette and how to ride in a group. This is also where I first meet, now long-time-ridding-buddy, Anthony.

Later that month I also start doing the Saturday morning Colonel’s ride. This ride is a faster pace (faster riders) and I learn even more about riding in a group from Doug and Rick. I’m now riding 3-4 times per week with at least one of those rides being a long ride on the weekend.

Avg. miles per week: 60-100

Typical riding attire: LSU or Discovery jersey and bib shorts

Peach Pedal - July 2006

Peach Pedal - July 2006

July 2006

I decide to do the Lance Armstrong Foundation “LiveStrong” 100 mile ride in Austin in October in memory of my cousin Phillip (Phillip had leukemia and went to heaven when he was 5 and I was 11). In order to prepare for the LiveStrong ride I decide to do more area rallys – including Hotter ‘N Hell. I do the Peach Pedal in Weatherford. This is my first 100K ride and I finish with Anthony in just under 4 hours (avg. moving speed is around 16.5 mph).

Avg. miles per week: 100-125

Typical riding attire: LSU or Panther City jersey and bib shorts

August 2006

I have my first bike crash. Riding on the Trinity Trails a woman literally steps in front of me (she was walking at me and saw me, she just had a brain fart), I swerve off the pavement, hit a hole in the grass and fall back on the pavement. No damage to the bike, but I’m a little bruised and battered. This is only a couple weeks before Hotter ‘N Hell (HHH), so I’m a little worried if it will impact my training.

I also go to FW Cyling this month and get properly fitted on my bike by James and also upgrade my wheels to some Mavic Ksyrium SLs.

Jess comes with me to Wichita Falls for HHH. It’s my first century ride ever and it is a memorable one. Record high temps (105+) and someone decides it is funny to change the markings on the course. So my first 100-mile ride really becomes my first 120-mile ride and I finish in a about 7.5 hours.

Avg. miles per week: 125-150

Typical riding attire: LSU or Panther City jersey and bib shorts

 

 

Livestrong Ride 2006

Livestrong Ride 2006 - Austin

Fall 2006

I complete the Livestrong ride in Austin and through the generosity of friends and family raise over $12,000 for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. I finish the hilly, 100-mile course in 5:30. The ride gives me lots of time to think of Phillip and the rest of my family – I’m pretty lucky to have amazing friends and family.

Kevin also starts riding regularly and becomes my partner-in-crime. We do the Crazy Kicker in Mineral Wells and I experience Cherry Pie Hill for the first time. I also become friends with future teammate Brian around this time and he introduces me to the world of racing (through his stories and experiences).

I decide that I need a challenge for 2007, so I decide to sign up for the Leadville 100 (a 100 mile mountain bike race in Colorado with over 12,000 ft. of climbing). Leadville has a lottery system to get in, so I won’t find out until Jan./Feb. if I get in for the race in Aug. 2007.

 I also purchase a Garmin Edge 305, which really takes my training to the next level by mapping our new rides and tracking heart rate, elevation, etc.

Avg. miles per week: 125-150

Typical riding attire: LSU or Panther City jersey and bib shorts

Facial Hair: Short-lived-phase

Winter 2006/2007

I purchase an indoor trainer to do some riding over the winter. If it’s 40 degrees or above on the weekends I’ll ride, otherwise I skip the ride and go to spin class. Also do a lot of research on mountain bikes (since I have none and would need to buy a new one if I get in to Leadville).

In Feb. I find out that I didn’t get in to Leadville. I’m pretty bummed. As an alternative, I decide to try road racing. Initially my only goal is to do 10 races in order to upgrade to Cat. 4 – with no real aspirations past that.

Avg. miles per week: 100

Typical riding attire: LSU or Panther City jersey and bib shorts

Team ThinkCash

Team ThinkCash @ the MS-150

Spring 2007

Team ThinkCash is born! Kevin has a great idea – put together a team from work to ride in the Frisco-to-Fort Worth MS-150. I design the kits and we recruit several co-workers to join us. 

I also compete in my first race ever –  the Jesuit Ranger Round-Up. I get dropped after a couple laps - quickly learning that racing is a whole different kind of cycling.

Grant at the Tour of California - Solvang TT

Grant at the Tour of California - Solvang TT

Jess, Grant and I also attend the Tour of California. Seeing a professional bike race up close really gives me the motivation to start racing. Grant has a blast and we get the opportunity to meet lots of racers (including most of Slipstream-Chipotle).

 

Avg. miles per week: 175-200

Typical riding attire: Panther City jersey and bib shorts or ThinkCash kit

State Crit 2007 - Cat 5

State Crit 2007

Early Summer 2007

I take a major step towards getting serious about racing by competing in all 3 Cat 5 crits in DFW on Memorial Weekend(Glickman, GS Tenzing and State Crit in FW). I’m not competitive in any of the races, but I’m happy to make it out unscathed since 2 of the races featured heavy rain/wet roads.

I start racing the TBi Wed. Night Crits regularly in an effort to get my 10 races and upgrade to Cat. 4. I also “step-up” my training by regularly attending the FW Cycing Tue. & Thur. morning rides. The “James Gang” is the fastest group ride in Fort Worth.

Avg. miles per week: 175-200

Typical riding attire: ThinkCash Kit

Hotter n Hell Cat 5 finish

Hotter 'n Hell Cat 5 finish

 

 

Late Summer 2007

My 10th and final race as a Cat 5 is Hotter ‘n Hell. Cat 5s only do 100K (instead of 100 miles). But I manage to finish with the front group. We average just over 23 mph and I still had enough matches at the end to try and make a move with about 5K to go (although it doesn’t stick).

Kuota Kredo

Kuota Kredo

Around this time I also get a new bike. I sold my Roubaix and get a Kuota Kredo from James at Fort Worth Cycling. It’s a great bike that does everything well. Kuota also has a great crash replacement policy – very important if you plan to race (more on that later).

Avg. miles per week: 200

Typical riding attire: ThinkCash Kit

Moritz Chevrolet Cycling

Moritz Chevrolet Cycling

Fall 2007

I’m asked to join Moritz Chevrolet Cycling. MCC is a very competitive team in Texas racing and more importantly – a great group of guys.

My training through the Fall is pretty steady.

Me and Levi

Me and Levi

I also get the opportunity to ride with pros Levi Leipheimer and Jason McCartney. Both turn out to be really nice guys and make me realize just how freaky-strong professional cyclists are on a bike! 

Avg. miles per week: 150

Typical riding attire: Moritz Kit

Copperas Cove Race 2008

Copperas Cove Race 2008

Winter 2008

For the first time I spend a lot of time working on intensity. With the lack of daylight in the Winter months, I focus on doing interval work indoors (on a stationary trainer). I also lay out my plan of attack for the 2008 season:

  • Do some early races like Copperas Cove, Walburg and Pace Bend to get more experience
  • Use Lago Vista has “B” races
  • Try to peak for the “hilly” Texas races – Mineral Wells weekend, Fort Davis
  • If I get enough points (where I’m close to upgrading to Cat 3) and I have good form, do the Joe Martin stage race in Arkansas and maybe the Tour of Arkansas
  • Oh yeah, have our second child in March!

I decide to focus on races with lots of climbing (or where hills become strategic) because I tend to climb well and I have no sprint (which makes racing in Texas difficult).

Power profile

Power profile

I also add a PowerTap powermeter to my arsenal. The PowerTap makes a huge difference for my indoor training and really allows me to monitor my progress during the season.

Avg. miles per week: 150-200

Typical riding attire: Mortiz Kit, plus gloves, leg warmers, arm warmers, shoe covers, etc. etc.

Jesuit Ranger Round-Up 2008

Jesuit Ranger Round-Up 2008

Early Spring 2008

The Spring starts off great. I race Walburg and Pace Bend, As the season progresses I get stronger and feel more comfortable in races (knowing where to be at the right time, what to look for in the race, how to gauge competition, etc.). I also have a blast traveling with my teammates and learning how to race as a team. Our teamwork actually helps us get some pretty good W’s early in the season.

Avg. miles per week: 200-250

Typical riding attire: Mortiz Kit

My tacod front wheel

My taco'd front wheel

March/April 2008

Lauren is born. She’s a healthy, beautiful baby. I also have an article published in The Racing Post. The following weekend is Mineral Wells (one of my A races in which I expect to place top 5). Well, not everything goes according to plan. I have a pretty horrible accident in the Mineral Wells race. Besides needing 20+ stitches in my face (and not being able to eat solid foods for several weeks) I crack my bike in half. As mentioned earlier, luckily Kuota has a good crash replacement policy.

Avg. miles per week: very little

Typical riding attire: stitches and gauze

May – June 2008

I get my new frame and start riding again. I end up doing the 100-mile ride at the Cross Timbers Classic. I have a great ride and finish the century, solo, in 4:30.  With a new baby in the house and my spirit someone broken by my crash, I do lots of riding, but very little “training” (no intensity, intervals, etc.). I do a few races here and there, but decide that I will once again focus on the early, hilly races in 2009.

Avg. miles per week: 200 – 250

Typical riding attire: Moritz kit and sunscreen (it’s hot in Texas)

My single speed

My single speed

 July 2008

I add another bike to my arsenal – this time a single speed (SS). I like it so much that I’m debating riding SS for the 112-mile TxTough ride.

Avg. miles per week: 200 – 250

Typical riding attire: Moritz kit and sunscreen (it’s hot in Texas)

Evolution

So how am I different as a cyclist compared to when I started 2 years ago?

  • I can now ride 100 miles on any given day – versus needing to train for months for a century event
  • I can perform a host of mechanical adjustments/installations on a bike – versus not being able to even change a flat tire
  • I can ride at 25 mph for sustained periods of time – versus having to “sprint” to get up to 25
  • I can now spend way more money on bikes than logic would dictate – versus being sensible
  • I can now regualrly ride 40 miles before work in the morning - versus a 40 mile ride being a “big event
  • I have no problem walking around in lycra tights – versus trying to wear basketball shorts over bike shorts so I don’t look “wierd”
  • I can now name most professional cyclist and Tivo every race that’s televised. I can enjoy the subtle nuances of watching 3 hours of bike racing - versus never having watched a minute of cycling outside of 15 seconds of converage on Lance during SportsCenter

Future

I’m not a fortune teller, but I’m guessing my future will hold:

  • Some cyclocross
  • Moving up to Cat 3
  • Some really long distance events
  • More crashes (they are inevitable, but hopefully minor)
  • and hopefully, lots of riding with Grant and Lauren (my kids) around our neighborhood ;)

Thanks

I want to take this opportunity to thank my wife Jess (since I know she reads my blog). Cycling is an amazing passion, but it can also consume lots of time and energy. The only way I’ve been able to make it thus far in the journey is through support and flexibility of my wonderful wife. Who knows, once the kids grow up maybe we’ll become a “tandem bike” couple.

16 responses to “Evolution of a Cyclist

  1. Great post! Helps us “newbies” get an idea of how you did it and not to beat ourselves up too much for not being able to keep up with you…..at least not yet.

  2. oh wow! a great story to share with everyone. cheers!

  3. This is awesome, it is nice to see where my journey can take me.

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  8. Completely awesome post. Thanks for sharing your journey.

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  12. good story stumbled on it looking for info on sram gear cheers from melbourne australia

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  14. I founded your website on Google and let me tell you, i always wanted to start riding and your journey has inspired me, am from New jersey and will be riding until January then will have to stick with in-door for the winter but am looking forward for this summer!!

  15. Hey Ben,

    Just found your blog after coming home from my first ride on my first real road bike and searching around for tips on shifting. I was lucky enough to get a hand-me-down Litespeed Vortex from a friend of mine (I’m hoping it’s old enough that I won’t be That Guy). If you don’t mind me asking, how much did you weigh in that first picture when you started cycling? I don’t have the body type to get down much below 150, I don’t think, but I definitely need to be lighter than I am if I hope to follow your path. Feel free to email me personally if you don’t want to respond on this ancient post.

    • I was probably 155-160 pounds when I started cycling. Now I’m consistently between 145 and 150. A Litespeed is a fantastic first bike. Stick with it. After about 6 months of regular riding something happens and it all starts to come together – then you’ll be hooked

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