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

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Go Dog, Go!

P.D. Eastman had it right when he showed how much of life there is to get out and enjoy, if you'll just get out and do it. I hadn't ridden a metric century distance in 7 months. Not since the MS 150 (74 and 79 miles on successive days) in September last year. I wasn't sure if I was up to it. Miles this year are way behind last year. For one thing, we finally have been getting rain. Good for grass and flowers, bad for riders. We rode the Old Howard 100 (I did the 45 mile option) in rain last Saturday, and I was reminded why I opt out of rainy day rides when I can. Some buddies were doing the Metric today and then John posted it on his FaceBook, so I figured, oh, what the heck? I can always cell phone for a bail out if needed, or catch a SAG wagon.

Unlike last year, when only 50 turned out for the Tour Autauga, there were over 80 today. Bill and Sharon Duke put the whole thing on themselves, with some help from their church friends, but mostly by themselves. The proceeds support the Livestrong Cancer care/research effort. This is the 4th year, and they have stuck with it despite the relatively small numbers of riders. It's a fine, challenging route and a shame that more do not come to do it.

It was so nice to see many familiar faces in the pre ride parking lot and catch up on the news. I did not know that Darren had crashed not long ago and broken his shoulder. He still rides like the wind, but he says he is just taking it "easy." Frank was resplendent on "Col. Mustard," a custom Bilenky randonneur bike in guess what color? Tim cruised up from Montgomery on his Windsor steel tourer, rode the 100 mile route all en route to a double metric. WHERE do these guys get the energy? My riding buddy Bill sported Arglye on the jersey, counterpoint to the argyle on my socks. Paul told me he's seen prettier legs than mine on a coffee table. I hardly recognized him without his twin brother, Jim. ("Twins" like Devito and Schwarzenegger, I mean)

Joe and Mike were hemming and hawing over 100 miles or 100 Km, going in the end for miles. They will do fine. Mike put on his compact crank and was surprised at how great it is for climbing. D'oh! He noted that he likes ISIS splined axles over the square tapered on the compact. "Mike, Greg Lemond won 3 TdFs on steel bikes with sqaure tapered axles. I bet he could beat any of us today no matter what we might be riding."  I'll have to get Mike's after action report to se how he liked it. I'm guessing he did.

Just as we were about to leave, Bill and Joe asked me to hold their bikes. Natch. I told them to go lean them up against a handy car, and pointed one out, close to the men's room, in fact.

John and I rode together all day today. I really enjoy his company and we ride at similar speeds. The route has about 4 hard climbs on each 1/2 although the steepest climb only occurs once. Some of the other hills, we see coming and going. The 1st 1/3 of the ride was in cool air, calm breezes and lovely light. Birds were singing, yada, yada, yada. After the monster up at the "Alpe de Autauga" (so noted in paint in the road) we had a bunch of flat to gently rolling miles. The 1st rest stop, in Independence, AL  was 21 miles out and we refueled there. The Click-stand (  Scan the customer bike pictures  closely and see if any look familiar to you.) on my bike was a big hit. We also met up with Karen and Debra, who I see at almost every organized ride I do in AL. Usually from far back behind them. We ended up riding together for a while and that was nice. They hail from points south of here and invited us to some of their rides. I asked for an email reminder. Debra was pretty on pink. Pink Orbea that is. Way cool looking bike. If John was more secure in his manhood and wasn't put off by a pink bike, he might have tried to abscond with it, it was so pretty.

After the 1st rest stop, we had 20 miles of HILLS. Nice ride through Evergreen and back to Independence, except for the miserable big and steep hills in the 5 miles before the stop. We caught up with James from Muscle Shoals in his Shoals Cycling jersey as he was having a quick snack in some shade after scaling a mountain. James rode the rest of the way with us and was pleasant company. He's down here often with in-laws in Billingsly, so maybe we'll see him on a club ride.

At the mid way point of the ride, when it was starting to get warm, and my legs were getting tried from hills, John, who was leading me by 25 yards or so around a turn let out a laugh. "Be sure you look at the road as we go by," he said.

Race organizer Bill knows I would probably be the LAST rider on the metric course, and offered this very much appreciated bit of encouragement. This is not the 1st time he's done this either. What a nice thing to do too. Yes Bill, like the dog in the book, I got going! Btw, my lagging the field has nothing to do with wool clothes or a steel framed bike. The engine is just slow, no matter what vehicle type it's pushing. But I enjoyed almost every pedal crank, wafting scent of jasmine, or unseen critter crashing around in the woods. It was all out there to enjoy.

We decided to make our own Rest Stop #3 at the C-Store in Autaugaville. Karen and Debra were liking the idea of indoor plumbing, and John asked me, "Hey Bruce, will you hold my bike for me?" Yeah, right. The COLD bottle of Power Options was just the thing and after everyone bought or used what they needed, we headed on out. There was one more BIG hill and we caught up with some riders from Cahaba who started to run out of gas in the blazing heat and high hills. Hey, a rest in the shade is ALWAYS a good idea. Pride has no place when safety is concerned. As the mercury neared 90, heat exhaustion could be an issue for people and a rest to get cooled down and hydrated is the way to be safe.

I cramped up from knee to knee (up and across sort of thing) about 10 miles out, but just drank all I could, and took the last hills in very low gears so I wouldn't have to strain against the pedals too hard. I wobbled a little off the road on to the grass at one point and figured, "At least this is soft if I need it" but then I saw the ant hills. In the words of Sammy, I decided to "Man up Dude!" and pedal UP the hill and then things were okay the rest of the ride. No trouble at all on the flats. The headwinds coming back in were irritating but not awful. John was in front often, but even when I was leading, it was manageable. Once the fluids kicked in, all was well. I wasn't thirsty at all, but I was low on liquid never the less.

Pizza and Tee shirts were there for us at the end. My cyclometer was on the fritz, and John says he logged 66 miles. The ride sheet says 62+. I trust John, you know what I mean?  BLUE tees this year, look sharp. They still have the self portrait of Bill Duke on the front though. His wife would look nicer there. Hey Bill, can you get that fixed for next year?  14 mph avg. my USUAL. And I survived. Now that I know I can do the distance okay, it's time to Go Dog, Go!


Saturday, April 18, 2009

"You got to know when to hold 'em..."

There's a little bit of The Gambler in all of us, isn't there? Our van full of prospective riders gambled that the weather service would be correct when only a 20% chance of rain was forecast for today in Marion, AL. I gambled on having a ride there in the 1st place, in fact. My travel plans have been up and down of late because of on again, off again business issues, and were complicated on Thursday night when my son broke his arm bone at jiu jitsu practice. With Sharon in FL for work, I had to be available should the need arise to deal with any broken arm fallout. It looked like I could make a Saturday getaway though, and good buddy Bill gave me his last space in his van. Good thing too, because others wanted a rideshare too.

We ignored Bill's Garmin but made it to Marion anyway. Sammy, Joe and I were along to try our hand (or feet, more accurately) at "The Old Howard 100." This was Sammy's 1st trip over, but the rest of us did the ride last year. I think we all did the 65 mile ride last year (which was actually closer to 70). This year that ride was upped to 75 and I didn't think my legs were ready for it yet. The other 3 rode the 75 as a pack and I cruised by my lonesome on the 45 mile route (new this year, I think) It was more like 46+ if I got the miles right. The rain played havoc with the cyclometer. OOPS! Spilled the beans. We lost our weather bet.

In fact, while standing in the parking lot, we noticed bulging blue clouds rolling in from the west. "You know why those clouds are blue?" I asked. Yeah, we knew.

There were a couple of Montgomery area riders to be seen, but fewer than last year by far. We were in the starting area and ready for the signal, when another rider asked Bill, "Will you hold my bike?" Apparently, this guy needed to take care of some ultra last minute business. "Uh, no. How about you lay your bike in the grass or lean it on the building?" The ride was about to start! Truly, not everyone is on the same wavelength. Anyway, it gave us much ammunition for the day. Bill was regularly being asked to hold anything and everything you can imagine. 

The 1st droplets began to fall while we were leaving the staging area at 9 AM. It rained on and off until about 1 in the afternoon. In 10 minutes the roads were wet, and slippery. You also didn't want to get too close to the rider in front of you, for safety's sake in braking, and to avoid the rooster tails of water being kicked up. Why did I NOT bring the fendered bike today?  I rode the Rivendell Road for the first time on an organized outing and with its 32 mm tires, it was very comfy. Bill took his Surly Pacer with Rivendellish 28 mm tires and Brooks saddle. Sammy rode his Colnago go fast bike and Joe was on his regular ride, a custom Seven Axiom.

About 13 miles out, I passed the scene of a bad fall. A woman caught a pothole with her front wheel and lost control, falling hard. I heard later that she suffered a compound fracture of a hand, abrasions, a concussion, and she appeared to be in shock. A subsequent report from a ride organizer said that the rider was at a local hospital with her husband and being attended to. Another rider also spilled and had a lesser injury. We saw her later in the parking lot with her arm in a sling.

Several people had flat tires. A loud explosion in the parking lot signified the 1st one of the day, and I passed several others along the way. There was SAG support, but it was pretty minimal. The folks I saw were all going at fixing the flats and needed no help.

The rest stops were pretty well spaced and staffed by friendly folks. The crew at the 45 mile mark was a riot. They were some retired folks cracking a steady stream of jokes while they grilled hot dogs for us. I had TWO. The other stops were staffed by students who were uniformly nice and had the usual variety of ride stop food. I had 1/2s of PB&J each time.

I rode for a little while with an interesting guy who claimed to know me. He is in the USAF, and as a communications trained officer, now teaches Poly Sci at Maxwell. Hmmm. Must be a secret need-to-know-only basis for how that connection works. His bike was very stealthy though. Black frame, fenders and racks, and black panniers all around. He was wearing a complete dark blue rain suit and had a primo CKR Automotive car stereo system in the panniers. I think he said the amp was a 200 watt unit. He could either use all the circuitry to tune in on global military airwave action, or, as was the case today, rock out to Pat Benatar."Hit me with your best shot!"  Sub woofers behind and tweeters up front. If his rig had a windshield, it would be vibrating to the rythym.

Not everyone was on something fleet of foot, although some the kids at the college were able to average 15 mph on their rail trail bikes. No substitute for young legs, that's for sure. Many did only 30 miles though.

Here's a bike I really liked. She could call it "Rockwell."

She did the 30 mile route and then got to the really important stuff.  Notice the guy behind her. He was a go fast guy who maybe went too fast?  I like to finish a ride and not be dead tired, but I have been there and done that.

There may be a group on Flickr for Valve stem caps, but for now:

"I always feel like, some body's watchin' me, and I have no privacy.."

After the ride, we availed ourselves of the showers. Or tried to. As we entered the shower area in the gym, peeling off yucky wet smelly bike stuff as we went, a GAL pops out of the 1st shower stall and says, "Don't get naked yet guys." WHAT!?!  She thought she was in the GIRLS lcoker room. Since Judson College is an ALL-GIRL school, that is understandable. She adroitly grabbed her stuff and tiptoed down the hall to the female shower venue, and we went in.

So we're in the shower and Sammy calls out, "Hey Bill will hold my bike?" and then when Bill says, "Oh please cut me a break," "Hey Bill, will you hold my...?"

Then, "Does anyone know where Joe is?"  "Maybe he went with that gal to find the other showers?" "Hey Bill, hold our stuff while we go look for Joe in the girl's shower."

Actually, the question "Does anyone know where Joe is?" was heard a lot today. But he was usually AHEAD of everyone else and made the return trip home with us.

After the shower, which featured only cold water, and tiny cramped stalls, and the promise of some excitment, but not the reality of any excitement we headed over to have some lasagne in the dining hall. It was okay, but the ice cream for dessert was really good.

It was a long day. They picked me up at 6:15 and I got back home at 5:30. Fun times. No ride pics as the camera couldn't come out in the rain. The ride home was peppered with a rehash of the day, opinions on love, politics, bikes, cyclists, the business climate, learning French, and the sayings on church signs as we went by and read them. We learned that Bill will be dreaming that some blonde co-ed will be asking him, "Bill, will you hold my ponytail?" She was with the hundred mile riders and we saw her still cycling some miles out as we headed home.

Fun stuff all in all.  For me, 46.9 miles at 14.11 avg. About right and while I was exhausted when I got home, the bike is cleaned up, bike clothes washed and hung up and this report is now done.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

1st Prattville Ride of the Season

For the 4th year running, we've kicked off the "Prattville Rides." These are weekday after work club rides featuring all hills all the time. Wheels roll at 6 PM and we need at least an hour and a quarter for the shortest route to be completed while the sun is still above the horizon. Sunset today was 7:15!  I posted the ride early this morning, which is when I decided to commit to it. By tonight I was wondering about my wisdom.

The skies were grayish blue, the air chill and raw and a brisk wind from the WNW was holding flags straight out from their poles. I wore my light tights, a wool tee shirt and a long sleeve hi-vis yellow jersey. I hoped it wouldn't be too warm, with a temp of 56F. I was too cold by far. The damp air with wind surely takes heat away from you. My feet and knees in particular were cold.

I parked at the Pasta Mill downtown, and finding no other hardy souls there, set off on an 7.5 mile upwards climb into the wind. I was surprised at how good it felt to push the pedals! With no one to get way ahead of me and make me labor to catch up, I found a sustainable pace and pulled at it the whole way. Once I reached the high point, it was 4 basically downhill miles (albeit still mostly windward) until the next turn was reached, where the wind finally swung around and tailed me all the rest of the way. That final 6 miles features ups and downs, and the final tally was 17.8 miles in 1:14. I took no break, so the math whizzes will soon calculate that I returned to the car with a minute to spare! That equates to 14.4 mph avg speed, right in the advertised 13 - 15 range. The mapping program gives 1260' of climbing total and I believe it.

There were some dogs at a couple of junctures, but none were any trouble. Cars were sparse and gave me plenty of room. I wore a red flasher on my back to help them see me.

It was crummy weather, no one showed up, but it felt so darn good when the ride was done! perhaps as the weeks roll on, others will pop on down and pedal along.

The Prattville rides are Tuesdays and Thursdays, although this Thursday I will be engaged trying to persuade an ex rider to get back on a bike while we surf MapMyRide at McCaillister's for dinner. Next week, I intend to ride both days and will publish the routes as well.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

It's a Beautiful Morning

Ahh, hahh. Think I'll go outside for a while, and just smile....

Yep, The Young Rascals had the weather today pegged just right. We had a cast of 1,000s at John Hall this morning for Club Lite. Well, possibly a cast of a dozen-ish. True to our word last week, we did Michelle's Fitzpatrick - Highlog ride. One contingent went to the Fitzpatrick store and back for 24 miles total, another did the ride for 31 miles and a few added 12 miles +/- by taking Hayneville Rd to Old Pike and then back on Matthews or Lawson to Flowers. Jim and I were in a groove riding and talking and found ourselves back at the parking lot at the 31 mile mark. We passed on the added miles option today. Us old guys can be choosy like that.

Wendell was back out today, as was Charles after his long layoff. Good to see him out and about once more. I hardly recognized Angie in her club jersey, since we last cycled together about 6 months ago. Michael and Carol came, as did Tim. Tim tells me his new book has just been published. He said it is about the Mexican War, and as a history buff, I asked him to let me know when autographed copies would be available.

Frank and his friend, another Tim, came out. Frank was on "Col. Mustard" his made-to-measure steel, S&S coupled, Bilenky set up for long distance randoneuring. Very nicely fitted out with fenders, racks and "Baggins" bags. Generator front hub, every braze on you might imagine, and still quite sprightly. Tim has a new Windsor Touring bike. It's basically a re badged Fuji, and he says he loves it. Also a steel bike with wide range gearing, and plenty of carrying capacity.

Joe booked on over from home as before and when I passed him on Vaughn on the way to the ride, I needed to kick the Yukon into passing gear! Joe is getting seriously quick. Likewise Michelle, who went the 40 miles at tout de suite speed. And did we not see her name on the time trials sheet this week?

Speaking of time trials, Michael also did them, and has built a TT bike for the purpose. Their family will soon be relocating to a new duty assignment near Washington DC, but he says that when he friction shifts the TT, he'll remember his pleasant outings with MBC. That's how Lance shifts chainrings too, btw. And, as it happens, how I shift everything on every bike.

When I got back to the cars, several other, non club folks were just getting out of cars and preparing to ride. I invited them to join the club rides of course and get on the email list.

I'd post some pictures, but I forgot the camera!  Frank wore suspenders and knickers too. He would have been a fine sight to see here. And we nearly had a parking lot spill due to failed clip out. All good blog material! I'll bring it tomorrow and snap a few of the beginners/relaxers. Maybe something interesting will come up.

My ride was enjoyable. I tried toe clips for the 1st time ever on a ride and sort of liked them. The pedals are MKS Ultra Lite Sylvans and with the clips and straps are  65g lighter per pedal than the Shimano M325s (double sided) I was using. I need to play with strap tension. About 1/4 mile out, I dumped the chain on teh outboard side, going to the big ring, so adjustment is needed there. Otehrwise, it all worked as planned, and despite a bit of headwind coming back, averaged 15.6. Club Lite is really 13 - 15, and the Joe Michelle group probably ran around 16.5 mph. Carol was quicker as well.

Well, Sunday school lesson (John 19) is done, and there's still some afternoon left, so I may as well cruise around the neighborhood some.  Happy Easter and hope to see you soon!


Sunday, April 5, 2009

April Showers

Unlike last year, rain has made its appearance this Spring. Frequently. Another 1"+ today. Even though the rain has moved on, a drizzly mist remains, accompanied by fog. Not the safest of riding conditions to be sure. When riding is out of the picture, wrenching usually is still available, so I spent some time in the garage this afternoon. Here are some pictures of what came from that.

First up is Mark, the Nashbar Mk III. He donated his wheels to the Rivendell Road project, (I need a name for that bike. Any suggestions?) and I have yet to find another set of those CTA special run 650B Aeroheads. Who knew they were so rare? In the meantime, we've captured the look and feel of those wheels wth this Arraya set, now shod with Panaracer Pasela TGs in 26 x 1.25 size. The bike looks good and rides really well.

650 Wanna B

Faithful readers will remember my whine about the mis sized Sun CR-18 rims. They are labelled 584 mm (for 650B tires) but are really 587mm. Kathryn from the RBW e-list sold me a pair of tires knocking around her store room; out of production Continental Top Touring 2000s. Size is 590 x 37 ( 26" x 1 3/8") and they fit easily, and HOLD on the rims when pumped up. These in the photo are at 65 psi (of 70 max) in fact.They look interesting and ride nicely. We'll leave this set up for a while and try the urban rider approach for a few rides. The other wheels/tires are ready at a moment's notice for any kind of fire road / grassy outing which may present itself. The crabon seatpost is excused here because it does color coordinate with the new rubber.

Baby's got new shoes by you.
Baby's Got New Shoes

  What I also like about these pics is the 1st sign of RED in my pet rose bush. Of all the things in our yard, this is the one I dote on.

Yesterday, the weather was MUCH better, and 8 of us went on a Club Lite ride in east Montgomery Country. It was great to see faces missing since last fall. Michelle, Trevor, Joe, Jim and two Johns came out and we did 34 miles at 13 - 15 mph. A store stop was included of course, and chit chat at the stop signs along the way. I did a hair over 15 mph avg, and felt really good afterwards. I wouldn't mind getting my avg pace back up to 15 - 16, but am taking it slow. Plenty of greenery to look at and light traffic along our route. Joe was a true mensch. He rode 15 miles from his house TO the ride and then pedaled back home. We rolled the start time back to 8 Am and decided to leave it there for the season. It's warm enough (48 yesterday) and it warms quickly. This way we have time after the ride to do other things as well.

Have a great week! 


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