Today’s your lucky day.
You’re on a solo training ride, doing the work on your favorite stretch of B road. Nobody’s been down this way all morning. And chances are good nobody will come along hours after you’re gone. You finish your interval and coast for a stretch. And looky here—your eye catches on a little rectangular something snagged in a pigweed growing along the center of the road.
You unclip for a look-see, and whom do you meet but thick-necked Ulysses S. Grant, sorta grimacing at you from the dusty face of a $50 bill. You glance around, half expecting to find its owner mending fence. But there are only soybeans.
“I’m all yours,” Grant grumbles.
And the retired commander-in-chief gives you a mission of sorts. He tells you to spend these $50 only on small things that will transform your riding for the better. You’re touched. You respond the way any good American should. You say, “Sir, yes, sir!” And you set out.
It would be rude to tell Abraham Lincoln’s commanding general no.
In your lucky shoes, here’s how we’d drop that $50.
Squirt Long Lasting Dry Lube: $15
When it says “long lasting,” it means it.
On gravel rides, if your chain ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. And switching from oil-based chain lubricant to wax changes your bike’s entire relationship with dirt. Wax is nothing short of a gravel godsend. A clean chain lubed with wax stays cleaner and works better far longer on gravel than any oil-based lube I’ve used.
At DK, drivetrains are usually just as hungry for the checkpoints as the riders. And while I needed to re-lube after a muddy first leg at this year’s race, my bike wasn’t giving the death moans I was hearing from other drivetrains.
Just a handful of miles after checkpoint two, I heard other bikes giving off that bone-clack sound of a chain already feeling the hurt. You know it’s going to be a long day when your chain is thirsty before you’ve had a chance to drink a third of a bottle.
One waxy caveat: Squirt works best when you put it on a dry, clean chain. In wet conditions, it can bleed off and fail to stick where you need it. At DK’s checkpoints, I hosed down my cassette, but left my chain as dry as I could. I wiped it down with a towel and then reapplied. I was good to go.
At home, I’ll wash the bike and let the chain dry completely before applying.
Halo Headband: $15
Don’t blame Halo for the dinginess of my now off-white headband. It’s already been through a lot.
It may sound silly to say a headband will transform your riding. But whoever thinks so wasn’t with me on my last training ride before Dirty Kanza.
Your last ride’s supposed to be a confidence booster—just a little systems check to prove you’re go for launch. But this systems check became a series of flashing red warning lights.
Suddenly, I couldn’t descend for shit. I couldn’t read easy lines or navigate loose stuff. It got so bad, I barked at myself, “Hey Turd, you ever ridden gravel before?” (This is a scary thought to think days in front of maybe the hardest gravel race in the country.)
And it was all because I couldn’t see beans with all this sweat and sunscreen gushing into my eyeballs. (We’ve been over how I sweat.)
A simple sweatband was no answer. Sooner or later, any band saturates, the levy breaks, and there you are, back where you started—poison-eyed and pissy-faced. What I needed, cycling fans, was a sweatband with a rain gutter. Something that would take the torrent coming down my forehead and guide it east and west to sideburnsville.
I wasn’t sure such a thing existed. I stopped at one place and described what I was looking for. The young clerk showed me their selection of plain old headbands, sighed and said that if such a thing didn’t exist, it probably should. Because I can’t be the only middle-aged man with a hideous sweating problem.
The second place I tried had the perfect thing in two colors. I bought a snow-white Halo Headband and felt as if I’d been visited by angels. In a race sweaty enough for salt to cake, hideous me had zero problems with stinging eyes. It accomplishes this small miracle with a simple rubbery band that runs from temple to temple. In 15 hours of heavy work, it was never uncomfortable, and never ineffective.
Without the stinging in my eyes, I firmly believe I felt less hot. And, with no mental energy wasted on protecting my vision, I’m equally convinced it improved my endurance. Not bad for $15.
Let’s see. What do we have left? A little under $20 after tax?
What it lacks in good taste, it more than makes up for in effectiveness. Nothing tastes better than an end to the pain.
I’d buy a handful of those 2.5 oz bottles from the Pickle Juice Company. They really do the trick with leg cramps.
Don’t tell the company, but, personally, I reuse those little bottles and just dump in more juice from whatever jar is already in my fridge. Only difference is, my juice isn’t strained. So you get the occasional surprise chunk when you slam it down on the road. Not exactly yummy, but effective.
If you’ve got a couple dollars left, go down to Walgreen’s and buy a couple of those little plastic eggs with the nylon socks inside. If you’re a fella like yours truly, you may get an odd look at checkout. But whatever.
Heaven rains with an ice sock on your back.
Stow a few in your jersey pocket in the summertime. And when you start to melt down, pull over to a gas station and fill one or two up with ice and tie off the end. Now wear it like a medicinal boa and feel yourself recharge. It’s soggy glory all summer long.
Cycling’s an expensive hobby. And if you read enough magazines, it’s easy to believe you can’t get anywhere on a bike for less than three grand. But don’t buy it. There are inexpensive things that can make your experience on the bike–any bike–that much more enjoyable.