Mostly recaps of two wheeled rambles through the countryside, but sometimes thoughts on other things.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Calm Before the Storm

The weather forecast for next Monday and Tuesday is awful. High winds, frosty temps and maybe even snow. Snow is not common in south central Alabama. A light dusting can really wreck havoc with daily life. It's certainly not good for biking. Today was much nicer though, and tomorrow (Sunday) should also be very nice. There was a good turnout of both Regular club and Lite club riders in Pintlala today to catch the decent weather while we could.

Bilee asked Patty how many Gu packets to pack prior to their Club Regular run. When Patty yelled "Three!" back over her shoulder as she headed to the store across the street, Bilee turned and confided to me that it was not a good sign when Patty asked for three. She thought she might better pack only two and then one of something that Patty wouldn't really like. Then Bilee could suggest they head back and make a store stop. Who knew all the planning that goes into a Club Regular ride? I asked her when we might see Wendell again, and she said he was really swamped at work so it might be a while. I think he's just cold weather averse.

I didn't do a headcount, but Dan and Vanessa, Mike S, and Bill were there to join Patty and Bilee. There too was Slamy Sammy in the flesh! We reintroduced ourselves, and Sammy made his usual witty remarks about my retro looking bike ("You should have been riding in 1953!), the wool outfit, etc. Sammy has a very quick and penetrating wit. I truly have missed him. I told him that I thought of him while hitting one of his Taco Bell drive thrus. He encouraged me to eat a lot there and eat often. Bill asked if my wool jersey was sporting German national colors. Not intentionally, if they are. It's a Nike wool jersey, off Ebay. If I missed anyone else who rode in the quiker group, it's not intentional.

Our little group had Joe, Mike G, John  and me. We did a 30 mile turn over all rollers, all the time.Here's a picture of our typical landscape.

 The ride was nice enough to look at and the dogs stayed pretty much away from us. Some woman came out on her porch and yelled (impressively loudly!) at her dog to stop chasing us. Either that, or she was calling, "Joe! Joe! you get in here!" Joe was the first of us to pass her place, and he does look very fetching in his tights. Who knows if she was calling Joe or if the dog's name was similar sounding?  Joe tried to say she meant someone else, but none of us was buying it.

Mike stayed upright on his bike today at all times. In fact, he mentioned that the past several rides, he has been able to do this. We chatted about compact vs standard cranksets, and doubles vs triples, and generally enjoyed the chit chat. Here are Mike and John doing some of that instead of hustling up a hill.

Not only are they eerily pedaling in synchonized cadence, with hands on the same handlebar position, they are wearing matching eyeglass/helmet mirrors. I find it difficult to get away with any pranks behind them anymore. That won't stop me from trying though. Also, if you look closely, you'll see that John's helmet colors match Mike's cycling outfit. Who were those twins in The Matrix Reloaded?

We finished our ride feeling well exercised. Especially me. After missing rides from sickness and weather, I wasn't sure if I could even turn the pedals anymore. As it was, we did the ride in the middle ground of our advertised pace, and I am looking forward to riding tommow afternoon. Plenty of time before that football game to get in some miles!


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Rain, rain, go away

No, dear readers, you haven't missed any ride reports over the past week or so. There haven't been any. Today is my first healthy day in a week, but the sunshine is liquid and radar indicates that more is in the offing. I'm not sure that I'll be able to get out with a group later, as there are certainly enough rainy day chores indoors to keep my attention all day long. Perhaps a few laps pedaling around the block will do in the early evening. (Our block is a mile loop with a 70' rise in the middle, so doing laps is actually a decent workout)

It seems that everyone in our office has had some variant of "the bug." Coughs, stuffy heads, sneezes. Some have had bronchitis, some a cold, and a few think that they may have had the flu. I started to feel a general malaise last Friday afternoon, but managed a dinner date with our friends Steve and Melanie. Good too, as Mel had a super tip about a quiet clearance sale at J C Penny. Saturday morning, I went in and found a leather bomber jacket marked down from $225 to $29.92. Yeah, 30 bucks. And it's a nice soft Napa leather too. I would not have needed a jacket, had my son not swiped my perfectly good (and considerably more than 30 bucks) one. Truth be told, it fits him better than me anyway, so getting one the right size and the right price was actually a good thing. Coupled with the prior week's big score on merino shirts at Belks, I am on a run of getting good clothes for cheap. I don't like to buy clothes, so the typical shirt hanging in my closet dates to 1997. I started a new job up north that year and had no long sleeve work shirts. I got some from Land's End and some from Penny's, and there in my closet they remain, still in the rotation. 5 year old shoes? Still new as far as I am concerned.

A business trip to Houston on the 12th was an unwelcome interruption to the week, and not very productive. I suppose that more travel there will ensue once matters on that disputed project begin to proceed. That customer has gone to double the original budget for their project and is looking lots of places to try and recover expenses. We are not inclined to want to help. Business in general is slow. Inquires are down, sales are fewer, and where 6 used to compete on any given project, now 20 or more do. Many people that I come into contact with don't see a robust economy before 2010. If then. You know, if 10% of people are unemployed, there are still a lot of people (90%) who are still working, and they still need to conduct day to day living activities. Part of the problem is perception. If there is any momentum for some confidence, then business will pick back up. In the mean while, no new bikes on my horizon, for sure. We've been blessed with finding a few projects to sell this month, and having a small enough operation that we can be nimble when times are difficult. Just last night, our sales manager called me to ask if we could design, draw and manufacture an aircraft hangar in 5 weeks. "Sure," I said. "Ask them if they'll take it any earlier."

You meet all kinds of people in our business. We shipped a hangar last week to a hurricane prone area. The doors we provided are able to stand up to 150 mph winds with no damage. (Recently, a customer in TX who said winds exceeded 150 mph and had no damage to our doors, bought replacements from us for his other hangar doors, which did not fare so well) The customer's architect walked out to look at the building as it was going up, and announced that he wanted phenolic (plastic) wheels, not high strength steel as we provided. Where steel has a tensile strength of around 70,000 psi, the plastic wheels are good for about 550 lbs. We sent pictures of broken plastic wheels used (not by us) at another airport and which failed in hurricane winds (we replaced them with our steel ones, which are still in service) but they folded their arms, and stamped their feet, and said, "We don't care, we want phenolic." (I exaggerate slightly) Well, Okay. We can send anything they want. Like the old Fram commercials about "pay me now or pay me later." I expect to get the contract to redo that hangar after the next hurricane. In steel. The engineers we meet sometimes have ego issues. The architects almost ALWAYS do. And they usually know far less about the details of making a structure work. The devil is, as most people know, in the details. I've learned that it is often the people doing the work who have the most useful input about how to do it, or to improve it. I ask our shop people for ideas all the time. Intellectual arrogance does not generate profit, or better work.

Here's a picture of a recent project. We supplied 4 large hangars here. One is almost complete and the opposite one is just starting. We do lots of types of buildings, but mostly aircraft hangars.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Old Homestead

Did anyone notice the weekend weather forecast this week? Not very encouraging, was it? Thundery rains, 20 mph winds and a day just not fit to ride in. But as Saturday approached, the rain forecast moved to later in the day and the wind speeds dropped a little. So with courage plucked up and prayers for divine assistance offered, I loaded my bike and gear into the car and met 5 other intrepid souls at Pintlala for a Club Lite ride. This was the trial run of a new route posted to "MapMyRide." Same roads we generally go over, but assembled in a new way. Same concept as last week, but about 75% different roadway than we traveled on then.

Mike, Roger (NTCP), John, Therese and Tommy were there for the "normal humans" version of the club ride, while the usual suspects for higher speed adventures gathered for a slightly later start. Roger brought his Trek 520 tourer, fully racked out. Great looking ride, and he says it is his more comfortable bike. John was interested to see one, so that worked out fine. I brought a 700 mm wheel for Therese to try. It has a little larger gearing than hers, and it might suit for hills. I don't OWN a 700 wheel size bike anymore, so the wheel was getting pretty lonely off in the corner. After a little getting used to it, it seemed to roll okay for her. Having hit Nashbar's 50% clearance sale on bike tools (stand back, this man could be dangerous!), I decided to change freewheels myself last night. I replaced a 12 - 23 with a 14 - 28. That doesn't allow for a high top end, but it suits how I ride. Cetainly, with a 26 granny, "Aint No Mountain High Enough" to keep me from climbing it. I didn't throw the other one away, so it can be put back on if needed.

We pulled out of the church south on the shoulder of US 31 and ducked down old Pintlala Rd, or whatever it's called. Just as we crested a ridge, Jack pointed and said he was raised there. So THAT's why he knows the area so well! No family visits today, just a mean old red dog, who has obviously been feeding a litter recently. Maybe that's what made her mean? No real trouble, but she was not eager to get out of our way. Our route was into the wind for the first 10 miles and boy, was that a chore. It was really blowing. Once in a while, it would get calm in the trough between hill crests, and we thought we were in heaven. We learned soon enough that no, we weren't.

The plan worked pretty well though, becuase once we turned north on Butler Mill, and then Hobbie Rd, we had a heckuva spanker breeze. For a while ole Club Lite was lighting up the road at a 20 - 25 avg pace. Heady stuff for us! (and we were tired from the pull into the wind) We store stopped at Snodoun and then had 5 more pain in the butt miles of headwinds before turning to home and only dealing with a crosswind the last 3 miles or so. The course is right at 40 miles, and we were in our advertised range for the pace. We all agreed it was a great work out and nary a drop of rain did fall. Everyone stayed on thir bikes today. The only mechanical issue was Tommy's cyclometer which refused to work. Once Tommy had removed the front wheel, turned it around to get the magnet where it goes and replaced the wheel, it worked just fine. Roger got the coolest gadget honors today. His Pletscher kickstand has 2 legs that fold together on one side when up, but which spread to make a very stable stand when down. Ideal for a loaded touring bike. ( about 1/3 way down)

Mike is hoping to win new Ultegra brifters on Ebay for an upgrade to his bike, and will in turn use his current set to upgrade wife Julie's. He also mentioned a pretty neat idea that he ran across in a Maryland area club. Why not have a family ride? Maybe a neighborhood ramble in a place like Deer Creek with (helmets of course) riders of all ages, maybe street shorts, not lycra, and go slow? Yes Patty, you would would be on a beach cruiser. Think Starbucks in the drink holders. Even if we didn't garner a lot of new riders, we might enhance family sympathy for our own need to pedal. Think about it as a Spring thing. The club Christmas party was such good times, why not socialize on a bike?

Weather looks good for tomrorow, so here's hoping more miles happen.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

50% Chance of Rain

Which also meant 50% chance that it would not rain. That's the 50% that we hoped for and that is what we got. Mike, his wife Julie (welcome to our madness Julie) and John came up to Millbrook for the regular Sunday afternoon relaxer ride. The winds stayed light, the dogs stayed on their porches, and the cars (while plentiful in some places) never got in our way. As we had a first-timer along today, we stuck to the flatter roads but still got in a very nice afternoon cruise. The one downhill on Cobbs Ford was fun. I worked hard to try for 40 mph but only made 38.5. If you have seen the fat semi-knobbies on the Saluki, you'll understand that near 40 is a quick pace for that hound dog.

We took the 8-mile run out to the Elmore Store, and Mike entertained us in the parking lot. For a minute he may have thought he was on a fixie, and tried to do a wheelie spin. As it was, the bike tipped over and he unclipped on the upside. Sadly, the downside was the one which would have helped the situation. The good news is the bike was unscratched, having fallen on top of him. He said he was none the worse for wear. Where I would have DIED of embarrassment, he was a cool cucumber about it. He does this all the time, he says...

The rest of the outing was free of failures of either the mechanical or rider varieties.

Couple today's fun with yesterday's club ride in Pintlala, and the year is off to a nice start, ride wise. John noted that we even have more miles logged than Bilee on BikeJournal! That will not last long, we know. (We ONLY count outdoor miles, however; she writes down every turn of her cranks, trainer stand or roadway!)

In other news, we attended a visitation at a funeral home on Friday night for the mother of a friend at church. She was advanced in years, and at peace with sure faith in where she will spend eternity, so it was not a sad event for those reasons. Of course, it's always sad to lose a loved family member, but there were positives to be noted in this instance. As we made our way along the line of family members we met Susie, a daughter-in-law of our friend, who lives up around Birmingham. She asked, as she shook my hand, if I had filled the pulpit at our church on occasion. Yes, I did in fact -- three years ago during the time between pastors, while the search committee was in operation. There were a number of guest speakers and I was an emergency back-up plan. She said she remembered it because she really got a lot out of what was said. I have to say that was so encouraging to me, as I am chronically sure that I fall short of getting out what needs to be said clearly and interestingly. It was the opposite of what I expected when we went to the visitation. We were there to console and encourage, not to BE encouraged. And a reminder that sometimes it's the message, and not the messenger that matters, anyway.

Here's hoping that everyone has a good week and that next weekend works out for some riding as well.



Saturday, January 3, 2009

1st Club Ride of 2009

A dozen of us showed up at Pintlala today for the '09 edition of MBC Club rides. Patty, Billie, Robert, Mike 1, Dan and Vanessa sped away at regular pace, while Joe, John, Jim, Roger (NTCP), Therese and Mike 2 joined yours truly on the Lite version of a ride. Joe had some mechanical issues and turned off early on, and hopefully has already scoped out the problems and made adjustments. Sounded like something in his outboard crank bearings. Sounds on a bike, as many of us know, can be deceptive.

I posted a couple of ride options at Mapmyride and we went with the middle distance, a 36 mile collection of roads we have been on more or less frequently while doing other rides. This one had plenty of rollers, and we passed over the Glassner Classic Maillot Pois, painted in the intersection of Brady Rd and West Hickory. There are 31 and 41 mile routes posted as well, just variations on what we have been doing for years, but sometimes a little mixing up of the roads freshens the appeal.

It rained here in Prattville early on, and was cloudy most of the day, but the weather held for our trip. If anything, we had too much on. It was hard to believe the mercury might climb to 70F today, but it did. I haven't had to think about sweat management in several months, but the salt was in our eyes today.

The riders ebbed and flowed in the pack, and enjoyed conversation with whoever they happened to be alongside at the moment. I heard about plans for new bikes and new biking trips, and the pros and cons for various lighting and other bike set ups. Roger filled us in on his exclusive Ramer luncheon from a few weeks back. (He chatted up a local when we made our store stop, and wrangled an invite. Better him than me. He says they sized him up and decided they needed to put some more meat on his bones. I need to get meat OFF my bones)

It was painful to watch Therese work up the hills. The poor thing has a classic style 53/42 crankset up front paired to what looks like a Shimano 12 - 21 cassette in the back. I'm going to make her try the rear wheel I built for garage trainer use. It at least has a 24 on it. For those who may not know, the relative effort of pedaling is the # of gear teeth in front divided by the # in back. So, the easiest Therese can get is 42/21, or a factor of 2. The Saluki I rode today has a front gear set of 50/40/26 and rear of 11 - 34. I can get as low as 26/34, or about 3/4. Today, I only needed the middle ring, so I went as low as 40/26. That's still about 25% easier than what she had to work with. I told her to think about going to a 50/34 up front too. 34/24 gets her effort down from 2 to 1.4.

There seemed to be a large number of dogs today, but all obeyed the magic bell. We also came close to a large hawk, and many farm animals. Traffic was generally light and there were no problems with the driving public. I found that a Nashbar Stretch rain cover for your helmet also does great as a rain cover for your saddlebag. I had room to roll up a rain jacket under it as well. You can buy specific saddle bag rain covers for a lot more money, but this works just as well. Of course, if you only have ONE cover, it can't be both on the helmet and the saddlebag. Hmmm..

We all agreed it was a nice ride. 36.2 miles at 14.2 avg, with 680' +/- of climb. After getting home and cleaning up, Alex and I took down the Christmas lights. Good thing we did too, becuase as I write this entry, rain is falling to the sound of thunder. While I was putting stuff away in the garage, I noticed the grease was still out from some fix it job or other. Before putting it away, I managed to service the hubs on a wheel set not in use. Great afternoon!

Still time for some football, and to get tomorrow's lessson ready.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

I'm gonna pedal like it's 2009!

My good buddy Bill posted today's New Year Ride on the bike club email list, and a couple of other guys donned whatever cold weather gear they had and met us at Village Green Park. No worries about me having trouble getting out of bed to do the ride this morning. I was asleep by 10 PM last night. Dick Clark had to ring in the New Year without me. Here are Bill and I at the outset of the ride. Can you see what my 2009 resolution #1 is? Here's a hint: It's located just below the horizontal white band on my jersey.

Bill is sort of getting into the whole wool thing. He has a merino turtleneck baselayer on, and after the ride, he clued me in to a sale at Kohl's where merino long sleeve polos were being closed out at $20 each. The rest of his get up is pretty typical for hi tech wear, but he IS riding a Brooks leather saddle now too. You can't rush a good thing, but I think Bill is coming over to the old fashioned side of the Force. As you might guess, I am not wearing anything in the way of clothing that is not wool. While the others all wore jackets, I went without one today and liked it better than with one. Jackets capture too much sweat and your clothes get soaked. The triple torso layer technique I used today worked great. There are wool shorts underneath the tights and thick wool socks in the sneakers.

This next picture shows the rest of the crowd getting ready. Looking around, I realized that I was the slower going rider of this group, by 5 - 10 mph. Despite that, we all rode pretty much together to the Elmore store, and afterwards, while the two quickest sped on ahead, Joe and Bill never got too far away from me. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, and it was indeed a great day to be on a bike.

Today was the 1st ride on the new wheels that came in while we were away in Florida.
This bike came with a nice enough wheelset, but nothing extraordinary. The original issue has Arraya rims (non machined walls) laced 32s to Shimano 105 hubs. A 9 speed Ultegra 12 - 27 cassette on the rear. The picture shows the new wheels. These are Velocity Aeroheats laced 28s to Phil Wood hubs. The rear is a freewheel, and I had a Dura Ace 7 speed 13 -23 on the shelf so I used it. I had heard about Phil brand parts, but never tried any. These wheels are noticeably smoother than the old set, and the braking surfaces are distinctly better. I'm not sure about the look on the traditional style frame, but my bike fashion advising team tells me that the look is fine. The Aeroheat rims are intended for cylcocross use, and they are plenty sturdy for banging around over railroad track crossings and rough pavement patches. I have Velocity Aeroheads (a light racing rim) and Synergys (a wide strong touring rim) on my other bikes.

Being seperated from the pack was a good thing. I don't mind being slower, as long as I am not delaying someone else, and I do a better job of stress relief and introspection when I solo. The seasonal blues feel like they are gone, and I am excited to begin the new year employed and with a chance at having a good year at work. I think that losing 22.5 lbs is within my reach, and staying true to an exercise plan, as well as remembering to take the medications I am supposed to. I'm happy too that I have friends who share this passion for turning the cranks on a bicycle.

We've ridden this route from the Bamacyclist web site before. It features a couple of good climbs. Two are longish at 9 - 10% while another is shorter but about 12%. Plenty of canines out today, including the one eyed mutt who harassed us as we took our last pause before the homeward leg to the parking lot. None were really bad, and no other aninal activity to report. It's a rural route and scenic. the winds kicked up and the flags were straight out from the poles. Usually, I'd crest a tough hill and get a face on blast of it. Just what I need to build character and take off pounds!
We took Possum Trot Rd at the north end of the trip, which was a first for me. I usually go on up a little further to Coosada River and turn there. I liked Possum Trot better for the views. We ended up around 41 miles, and 1,600' of climb. My speed was where it always is :) We saw Scott as he flashed past us on CR 40. When are you going to ride with us again, buddy?

Happy New Year to the rest of you pedalers and non-pedalers alike.

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