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

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Finally getting my legs

As May winds to a close, I feel like I can finally rely on my legs to be there when needed. Rides that used to exhaust me now only make me tired, and I know what pace to keep to stay in rhythm. Each month this year, my average speed has inched up a 1/10 of a mph. I know that sounds meaningless, but if you ride a bike, you know it's not. You can't ride WITH someone who has an average of 1/2 mph more than you. In an hour, you're watching their Dinotte hi-intensity tail light fade away a half mile ahead of you.

Anyway, Tuesday was a rain out, but I was able to ride on both Thursday after work and then again this morning. I plan on the usual Sunday afternoon casual ride tomorrow as well.  Thursday night, Therese and Frank met me up in Prattville for a hilly ride. It was her first time for that route and her husband Chris had told her to make sure we kept her off busy streets and out of harm's way. She whined about the hill climbs, but did just fine. It was a perky ride, and at the end Frank put the hammer down. Now, Frank is riding a trekking bike. Monster handlebars like these, except he also had aerobars on them. (a seat for his grand daughter actually)
Trekking Handlebar
He has a leather saddle with springs, fenders, a frame bag with 5 lbs of lead acid car batteries for his hi-volt lighting system, and all this is powered by a 104 mm bolt circle mountain crank.
I say all this because when he got up to 30 mph on the flat for our last leg of the ride, I simply could not hold his wheel. Frank is also no sylph. He does however have legs. He has had his for a while, while I am just thinking that mine are making an appearance.

We made it back to the parking lot, and Therese was saying, "Yep, I told Chris you'd take care of me." This was followed by    :

Therese demonstrated the effects of not unclipping before you come to a stop. She looks dazed and stunned here, but she is just taking a break after the hard chase of Frank moments before. It was a great ride and we had a nice moving average. Around 15 I think.

This morning, Club Regular and Club Lite both left from Pintlala on their rides.  The regular folks wanted to get 50 - 70 miles at 18 mph avg, which was way above my level. The Lite-ers wanted 30 - 35 at 14 - 16. We started 30 mins after they did and rode a nice 33 mile route through Montgomery County. We had a baker's dozen in our group today, including new rider Ron (a pal of Frank's but not as fast as he is, YET) and the return of the John and Kathy R who enjoyed some excellent cycling up in the Xenia OH area recently. We made the happy discovery that the store on US 331 by the Metric loop is open again. It's a country crafts and antiques place, but they sell bottled water and have indoor plumbing. Good to make a note of that. Here we are pulling up for a breather:

We took Old Sellers back north, and on the way, Mike had a flat. How many rocket scientists DOES it take to change a flat tire? Look here and judge for your self.

I count at least 5. Now Mike had some CO2 carts to refill the tube. From the "whoosh" sounds we heard, I don't think any of the CO2 got in the tube. Frank then pulled out his hand pump and tried to get air in the tube. Joe says that Frank nearly passed out from the effort. In the time they took, Mike Munk could have changed every tube on every bike on this ride. Kathy K got in a little nap as well. It did give me an opportunity to talk about a Reds Schoolhouse ride with Alice, which John C also wanted to know about. And swap info on rail trails with John R. We finally got going again and made it back.

When we retruned to the cars, we heard the bad news that there was a wreck in the fast group. Our good riding friend Vanessa crashed hard, and has a broken collarbone and maybe some ribs we have been told. Her helmet possibly saved her life, since WITH it, she had a concussion.  Details of how it happened are sketchy right now, and our prayers for her prompt return to fully healthy status are going out. Always wear your helmet. Kapiche?

I did wrap up the day with an after ride Starbucks Frappuccino from the C-store by the church. We use their facilities all the time, so I try to patronize the store too. Why a coffee product today?  Look at the lapel pin in the picture :)

Tailwinds everybody!  get well soon Vanessa.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Good Times in St. Tammany Parish

We're just back from visiting family in Covington, LA. Becky is Sharon's 1st cousin, although they have spent little time together, having been raised in Louisiana and Florida, respectively. Becky's dad, Sharon's uncle, was one of my favorite people. He's the one who told me that if I ever hoped to become a Southerner, I'd have  to learn  to   talk    real     s l o w .

Anyway, Becky recently got a hard bite from the bicycling bug and got herself a carbon Trek hot rod at a good deal from a lady who wasn't riding it much any more. This bike has the Rolf Vector wheels and mostly Ultegra gruppo. The rear derailer had been changed to an XT, so it could handle the pancake platter sized 32 the prior owner fit back there. It works fine and the bike is solid and smooth. She also sports 25 mm Specialized Armadillos, which are as big a tire as will fit in the fork clearance. The only downsides are that the frame is too large by a hair, and the saddle is a torture device. It's one of those "tush cush" all padding things that sell rail trail bikes in the showroom, but are true agony after 20 or 30 minutes on the highway. The bike is a man's frame, not a WSD, so she's a little stretched out, but we can fix that with a stem change. Her overall posture is good and her rhythym is fluid. If the Beck-ster stays at it, I think she will be fine on a ride of any distance she chooses.

She told me that we "ought to ride some day on the Tammany Trace." I replied "pick a day!" and that's basically how this weekend came to be. It's about 315 mi from our place to theirs, and we drove over on Friday afternoon. I met Jim, her "Ragin Cajun" husband. (He's a riot, and I love that accent) and all their dogs. Becky breeds Labradoodles and they are quite something. I held some puppies but liked the grown dogs better.  Friday evening, they took us to a place on the shore of Lake Ponchartrain and we had a super dinner with a lovely view. Wonderful old houses and buildings everywhere. They talked about Katrina and the aftermath, and other storms which have passed through.

Saturday morning, we got up and got ready. I sampled Coffee with Chickory for the 1st time. They cold brew it and then filter it. Very concentrated like an espresso, they heat it, add milk and sugar to taste, and it froths like the Cuban coffee I remember from Ybor City days. Just what a member the Associated Caffeinated Wheelmen needs to start the day! Here is Becky about to get ready, and our bikes, giving you some sense of the nice back yard.

Bruce, Becky, Vince 002   Bruce, Becky, Vince 001

 The relationships get labyrinthine, but another relation, Vincent, came out to join us.  Here are the riders, not yet having sweat a drop:

Bruce, Becky, Vince 003

Vincent is on his FULLY LUGGED Trek Pro 560. Yeah Baby!  We pedalled from Becky's house through a very quaint downtown to the Tammany Trace trailhead. It's a very nice trail that runs 30 odd miles. Given our plans for later, we decided to go 16 miles to Fontainebleau State Park and then turn around for homeMap of surrounding area

Bruce, Becky, Vince 011       Bruce, Becky, Vince 009  Along the way, we stopped at a crafts fair and open market in Mandeville. The muscians were doing a lovely set of James Taylor's work and the food vendors were being much too tempting.  We pushed on to the park and took some shots at an overlook by the lake:

Bruce, Becky, Vince 008    Bruce, Becky, Vince 006   On the way back we stopped in Abita. They make a very nice strawberry beer in Abita. It tastes much better than it sounds. I really liked it. I think the springs supply the water for it. Much like Coors and the Colorado Rockies melting snow theme.
Bruce, Becky, Vince 013   check it out.

Here are the bikes, posing while we take 5...
Bruce, Becky, Vince 012
 All of these pictures are along the trail which is really well done in the way of interesting things to see and rest stops when you need them.  On the way back, Becky's bottom had all it could stand from the sagging sofa of a seat, so we swapped bikes for the last leg from Abita back home. Here she is on "Louise."

Bruce, Becky, Vince 016

Looks pretty good on it, right?  This is a better size for her, and she even thought the Selle An atomica saddle was an improvement. Or she was so numb she could no longer tell :)  And here too is Vincent:

Bruce, Becky, Vince 017

He is the original owner of his bike and it is the right size, but he's looking at some updates to suit the riding that he would like to do. As someone who never misses a chance to tweak a bicycle, I totally understand.  At the end of our ride, we received this snappy salute from the signer of the Rails to Trails bill.
Bruce, Becky, Vince 018

After we got back, it was shower and EAT!  Jim had been busy all morning while we 3 played on 2 wheelers. He had a crawfish boil going on.  Man was that good. All sorts of other relations came over and there was a back yard full of food festivity.
Bruce, Becky, Vince 020 Here are some getting ready to dig in. Those blue dishes were filled with crawfish and you had a pile of one to eat and a pile of the discards. Garlic mushrooms, sausages, red potatoes, artichokes, corn, yum yum yum.

What a great way to spend a Saturday! I loved meeting and getting to know everyone. It will be nice if we can stay in touch. I've invited Vincent and Becky to come up here for the Glassner ride in September. Hope they make it.

Today held an unexpected surprise. I had planned on getting up and getting going back home, but Vincent was up for another ride, so we went out again today and did a shorter but quicker ride. It was just as good. Becky opted out of this one. Then after cleaning up, it was lunch at a riverbank place that served good food in a great atmosphere. A driving tour to "Redneck Beach" and finally it WAS time to pack up and get going. We made good time coming back and if the weather holds tomorrow...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

2009 Ride of Silence

Montgomery participated in the Ride of Silence on Weds night. ( Turnout was nice. We had several urban hipsters, just plain "regular" family people, well muscled racing cyclists, Saturday only club riders, riders of various sizes and complexions, smooth and knobby tires, and  handlebars flat, drop, trekking, and mustache.

The mayor's office sent a representative who rode with us, and we had a pair of motorcycle cops, one fore and aft of our group, doing intersection control. They used sirens to alert motorists, which disturbed the solemnity, but enhanced the safety.  We did a 3.25 mile circuit of the downtown capitol area. Average pace was 7.5 mph. I rode it single speed, and the climb to start out gave me a little bit of a work out.

I reflected on those who have been hurt or killed while riding, and wondered about the perspective of others. For me, this is about remembering fallen  friends, but also about making the motoring public "see" us. As we become an accepted part of the landscape, certainly our voices will be more persuasive for the items on a cycling advocate's agenda. Beyond that though, if drivers realize, "Hey, I should look around when I drive here, people may be riding," the roads will be safer to be on for pedalers and motorists alike.

Here, the mayor's rep is addressing the crowd prior to our starting off. Many club members wore their jerseys.

Here we are, taking off on the ride. The rider with the fat Q-factor is yours truly. It looks un cool, but it is so comfy! More pictures will be at the Advetiser website for a little while.

After the ride we congregated for chit chat near Cool Beans Coffee shop. Just like last year, "No Bagels for You!" the bagel Nazi exclaimed. Where's Seinfeld when you need him? I even emailed ahead to place my order, but the word never made it to the right quarters. Hey, it was great of them to open up after hours for rest room use and beverage sales. I did in fact re-carb there by purchasing a fresh baked choclate chip cookie.

Thanks for everyone who came out. Ride safe, ride a lot.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Is it in You?

You know the ad.   Gatorade. Black and white pictures of sweaty athletes and their sweat is colored Gatorade color.

I normally go with Propel, which is the low sugar version of Gatorade. On yesterday's ride, once the Sun came out, I started to sweat unbelievably from the top of my head and I had to drink both bottles that started out the ride with me just to keep a semblance of hydration.

4 of us began the ride benignly enough. Jody brought her pal Autumn along for Autumn's 1st club outing. Joe and Tim were there and we ambled along for about 10 miles at not too fast a pace. The clouds kept the temperature down, and I really wasn't drinking much at all. Autumn was tiring though. She is very slim and fit (a runner) but not used to cycling. She was climbing hills in her big ring and not sure of shifting yet.  She and Jody opted to turn back towards the cars and make a 20 ish mile day, while we 3 guys pushed on to Ramer. Faster. No Jim today, so Tim took the lead, after asking for a "glacial" pace, he perked along at 18 - 20. Joe of course is happy at about any speed and he kept up easily. I lagged back but we touched base now and again. I was still moving along smartly, but the sun was hot and I was laboring.

By the time we got to the store, I needed a refill, and Gatorade full strength or Zero were my choices. I went full strength, and it was too sweet. Made me sick to my stomach to drink that stuff when I was all hot. I did anyway, since I needed the water to prevent cramps.

Tim suggested a route change, and it was nice. No shade there, like he promised, but it was indeed pretty and a break from routine. It added 2 miles by my tally. So we ended with 43 instead of 41. Same difference. We were glad we did the ride, but we were HOT!.

Later, I came across this and decided I had to join this club:

  Now THAT is what I need to have in me! Forget Gatorade. How about some iced coffee? Where's John Roeder when you need him? He used to always have that after rides. I think I'm going to give it a whirl!!  Or at least plan a ride TO a coffee shop!  I'll have a Columbian Supremo please..

   It's wet today, so looks like Tuesday after work will be the next ride oppty. Ride of Silence coming on Weds.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Beginner Ride Cut Short

Mike and Claire came up to ride the Beginner ride today. Mike was whipped from a tough week and brought Claire along to help him get up the hills on the tandem set up they had.  Here's Claire:

I tell you, she is the cutest thing going on her pink bike, with helmet and jersey to boot. She even had a kid size pair of Pearl Izumi cycling shorts on!  "It has GEARS," she told me proudly. "Yes it does Claire, and nice fat black tires like my roadster here," I replied.

Mark III Pocket Rocket by you.

Gee Mike, make the girl do ALL the work, huh?  Mike had a gizmo that connected her bike to his and lifted her front wheel off the ground, allowing her to pedal and apply forward force through her rear wheel.

Tim came up for the relaxer as well. Like me, he thought our "Lite" ride yesterday was a bit on the robust side. We saddled up and headed out, but as we neared the Elmore Store, a blue wall of water loomed in the distance. Claire's bike was weaving on the road, due to a looseness of the bike to bike connection, so Mike got off (well, he FELL off. Claire just stepped off her bike, like the seasoned pro she is) and broke the bikes into 2 separate units. I had intended to get some pics of them all at the store, but the impending rain had me making sure all my electronic gear was covered up.

Just like Bob Dylan sang, "the wind began to howl" and we all headed back to our cars. The rains caught us a few miles out and we got pretty wet. We just kept on pedaling. Tim and I tuned on our lights and all the cars gave us a wide berth. We actually ran back out into clear weather for a few blocks before the rain started up again at the parking lot. So, we got in just 11 1/2 miles, but it was an interesting 11 1/2 miles. Kudos to Claire for being brave and doing exactly as her dad told her. She is welcome back with us any time. Yeah, Mike, you're welcome too :) 

Have a good week everyone..


Saturday, May 9, 2009

Up with your head!

Does anyone else read BikesnobNYC? If you ride bikes and can laugh at yourself, or other cyclists, or both, the column is worth a read. He is very smart, funny, and probably a hoot to ride with. Unless you're a hipster (a certain "fashionably" attired member of the fixed gear riding urban crowd) or a headster (someone with a stickball bat of a headtube). Snob's current target are the folks who have abandoned traditional frame geometry for Jack-in-the-beanstalk tall headtubes. It's the new "expanded" design, which is supposedly totally different from last year's "compact design.

Here's a guy on the former:

You can see that the headtube is about 2 feet long and his seatpost is sticking way up in the air.

Next, here's a Giant "Compact" bike, With about 1/2 the headtube but still an awful lot of seatpost up in the air. The difference is just that the guy above has higher handlebars. You could get the same effect with the bike below using a stem extender. Not very different at all.

But you can get a nice comfortable and "normal" bike with a traditional geometry as well. Why these two "new" inventions? Regular bikes come in many sizes, like pants. You check the fit and get the one that meets your needs. These new bikes come in just a couple of sizes. Even ole Grant Peterson at Rivendell is trumpeting his new Sam Hillborne model with it's "expanded" design and just 4 sizes. You push and pull on the periperals to make it work. From the Rivendell Bicycle Works (RBW) web site:

"Four sizes: 48 and 52 fit 650B wheels; 56 and 60 fit 700C. The frame design is "expanded," which is not at all like "compact." The top tube slopes up 6 degrees, and so the head tube grows in height to intercept it. As a result, it is easy, really easy, to get your handlebar high up where  it's comfortable."

Well, yes I suppose, and it's also easier to get a good price from the Taiwanese factory that makes these bikes if you only get one color (a nice green) and 4 sizes, right? Rivendells have been comfortable for years, ever since 1994, in fact.  Will they be hawking welded frames next? (They have been strictly a fully lugged frame maker heretofore)

In my case, the ride is about the same speed no matter what bikeI'm on. I haven't tried Calfee's bamboo bikes yet

 but it would be a safe bet that I'd average  the same 13 - 15 mph over any distance you care to do with me on it. So why do tall headtubes bug me? or compact frames?  I think that classic bikes are beautiful machines, that's why. I don't like the newer stuff coming out and there seems no real reason to change for the rider's sake, at any rate. Maybe to make the manufacturing easier and higher margin.

Speaking of rides, today's was the first one of any length in a few weeks. A business golf outing occupied me last Saturday. The 1st golf round in 2 years, but to my utter shock, I only lost 2 balls. Since it was a best ball tournament, there was no pressure, and we even used one of my shots; a birdie putt.

Frank, Ron and I tried to do a lap around town on Tuesday after work, but we aborted the mission 10 miles out when skies looked increasingly dark and menacing. Thursday was rainy as well. In fact this are got up to 10" of rain and flooding occurred in numerous places.  Hwy 82 was washed out and needs to be repaired before it can be re opened.

This morning, most club members were probably at The Waters for the KidOne ride, but after a couple of charity paid outings recently, I opted for a non paying ride. Michelle and Jim came out as well to Pintlala, as did 2 new faces (new to me anyway) Jamie and Mike. They belong to the club, they said, but don't ride with us. I've seen them on our Ramer runs, as they live there and ride by themselves in that area. Jamie is will-o-the-wisp thin and floats up hills. Mike is plenty speedy too. They said they wanted a slower pace than the Patty-Bilee warp drive rides, so they came to club lite. They really needed Club regular. I am afraid they must have been in agony with us!

It was hot, muggy and breezy, but the recent deluge has greened everything up, and the scent of jasmine and magnolia was almost everywhere. On the whole it was a nice morning to be out, but we went out too quickly for me, and then had head winds. Tim and I both wondered where the "lite" of Club Lite had gone off to.

Here's Tim, I think I looked about the same, tiredness wise

Tim btw, has had another book published, "The Mexican Wars For Independence" which he handed me a copy of to read. I enjoy history, and he teaches it. I'm looking forward to the read. The jacket reviews are all positive, but are they going to print any other kind? :) I've been bored/disappointed with Lemond's classic "Complete Book of Bicycling". Greg was surely a champion bike racer, but he is not an interesting author to read. He does however agree with me on headtubes. He thinks smaller is better. He's kind of medium on seatpost stickout. Anyway, I'm ditching Greg and reading Tim!

Here are Jim and Michelle cruising up a hill, as easy as you please. No worries!

Jim told me they decided to take a break before climbing the hill. Michelle used the opportunity to remove and replace her chain. After the chain was off, she rememebered that her feet were still clipped in to the pedals. Sorry I missed the show as she windmilled the unchained cranks while trying to unclip, and do her best trackstand. Jim said it was really good stuff. Jim, after being one of the "we're going too fast" complainers, took the lead and pulled away at 20 mph. I figure that if I look down and see 17 on my cyclometer and they are pulling away from me, I am under no obligation to keep up.

Tim did some animal rescue along the way. Turtles are looking for mates now and one was in the road, all drawn into the shell. Tim stopped and put the little guy in the grass along the road side. Probably the same side the turtle left from, so he had to start all over again after we left!  Plenty of dogs out today, but none were serious issues.  Cedric looked the same as always when we made it to Ramer. Jamie went to school with him, as they both grew up there. Neat stuff. We took a long break at the store, and I needed it. I was just drenched in sweat. It was cascading off my head like nobody's business.  No Jim, it has NOTHING to do with wearing a wool jersey, hat, socks or briefs and everything to do with hot sun, head winds and hills and going too fast. I cooled down, had a blueberry breakfast bar and some Powerade and felt better for the ride home. I knew that with that much water loss, I'd cramp for sure if I didn't rehydrate. As it turned out, no cramps!

So that was about it. I feel like I'm back in regular riding shape, and that feels good. Hope to get in another ride tomrrow, but we'll see. It's Mother's Day, and that comes first. Final tally today was a hair over 40 miles at 14.7 for me and I was the LAST rider back to the cars. C-L-U-B L-I-T-E  People!!! Go slower!!!



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