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

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Cold Weather Odds & Ends

I hope everyone had a good Hanukkah or Christmas, as is appropriate. Ours was pretty quiet. Sharon and Alex made it home on Christmas Eve from Tampa, where they disembarked off a Caribbean liner. They went with her folks and some others to Cayman and Cozumel. Having used all my vacation earlier in the year, I went to work instead. To be honest, a week surrounded by spectacular food and isolated from any bike riding did not sound good to one who has worked hard to drop 30 ish lbs since June and who lives for that next outing on 2 wheels. By all accounts, the seafarers enjoyed their trip, and were as glad to be home afterward as I was to have them back safe and sound.

I've been riding a fairly regular schedule. After work, with front and rear lights, I do laps of our block twice a week. Our block is a 1 mile loop with 59' of climb. So 15 laps takes a bit over an hour most days and yields 15 miles and 885' of climb. Boring yes, but way better in my book than the same length of time on rollers in the garage. Colder, but it is REAL. On Saturdays, one or two others will still join me for a "club" ride, even though most club members are off their bikes until Spring. Yesterday, 3 of us did approximately 40 miles in 32F temps. (I will mention here that the absence of pictures from these rides has more to do with trying to stay warm than anything else.) It was cloudy, but the air was calm, and we were generally pretty comfortable. We rode for a little over 2 hours, and after the first hour, my feet started to get cold. I have shoe covers, but always fail to bring them! Some new gloves which were an Xmas gift from Sharon's mom worked really well. They are lined with Thinsulate and have wool outer shells. That let's them stay warm, even when wet with sweat. Not cycling specific, but sold at Penney's. Here's a link:  They are extremely comfortable to wear and have a suede patch on the palm right where you grip the handlebar. Above 40F, I would wear my lighter weight Ibex wool gloves though: For the rest of the get-up: Top base layer was turtle neck long sleeve wool by Joneswares under a vintage Italian short sleeve wool jersey with a Sugoi wind proof jacket. The bottom was wool boxers (with the undershirt pulled down low enough to make a wind screen) under wool Joneswares shorts under Pearl Izumi winter tights. (No pad in the shorts or tights). Feet had Costco wool socks inside Nike Basketball High Top leather sports shoes. Needed shoe covers!

Last weekend I had the chance to try out the new crankset set up on the Rambouillet. It worked well, and will stay on a while longer. I'll try to get out this afternoon and do the loop around town which includes a short section of 20% grade. That will probably require standing to pedal with the new gear ratios. Previously, I could climb it seated while using the inner ring of a triple. I've been practicing climbs out of the saddle, which do not feel natural to me. They tire my quads quickly, so I've worked on foot position, balance, weight distribution and muscle use (using the back of my legs too) to make it more effective and less tiring. We have some surprise company coming through town today, and we'll meet by the interstate for lunch after church. An old friend of Sharon's is passing by with her family on their way home to FL from TN. It will be good to meet them and spend the time together, and there should still be opportunity following lunch to circumnavigate Prattville. It may even be above freezing by then!

My revised riding goals for the year were 3,000 miles and 100,000' of climbing. Both have been exceeded and I am happy about that. For 2010, I'd like to get back to 3,500 miles, 125,000' and ride in at least 3 new venues. One I hope will be the Reunion in Waynesboro, VA around Labor Day. Another will be next month in FL when we travel for a Suncoast Youth Ranch get together. (I'll pack a bike and slip out in the morning with the Suncoast Cycling Club in Palm Harbor or the St. Pete Club down by the Yacht Club.)  The 3rd may be "Biking Bleckley" near Cochran GA in late February. No new bikes in the forecast for 2010. None were added in '09 either. I really like the 4 that I have. Each is a pleasure in it's own way. It's a good bet though that bike parts will be shifted around and tried in different places. Bags in particular. I am always trying for the "best" bag set up. The thing is, it really doesn't matter. All of them hold what I need, and I can always make a change for a specific ride requirement. That doesn't deter me from moving them around though to see what shapes and colors work best together. It keeps me out of trouble, I suppose.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Gray, gray , go away!

Another cold, damp, rainy, gray day today. I suppose I may submit to the jonesing and ride in it this afternoon, but as I enjoy some morning coffee in the early hours, it's a less than exciting prospect. I was able to get out Thursday evening after work and get in 15 miles. I tried the same thing earlier in the week, but just felt too cold and not "into" it, giving up after only 6 miles. Thursday was okay and I was glad to have gone, at least once I was warmed up, which took almost 4 miles. My legs NEED the work, more than anything else. I learned on the MS 150 ride back in October that if you are properly dressed for it, rain is not all that bothersome. It does make a mess of your bike though. I wore a summer weight rain jacket on the MS 150 ride, and since then have received a very good "Showers Pass Touring Jacket." This came at a reasonable price from Beth H up in the PNW, who is a fellow Rivendell list-er and who could not make the jacket fit her comfortably. Beth works at a bike shop and often has great stuff to pass on, as she updates her own stash. Although the jacket looks too big on me, it feels just right. It's the yellow one in the picture. Enough air circulates underneath to prevent sweat build up and there are enough zipper vents for proper temperature control. The picture is from last weekend. It was 37F at the "North Pole" or Heritage Park, as it is also called. Gray and windy too. One foot got very cold. The other one not so much. The laces may have been too tight on the one shoe, restricting air space inside.

Yesterday, I puttered around the house hoping the weather would break. A letter to a pen-pal in Israel was started. (note to self: finish letter to Eric) I cleared out all the ironing which had accumulated. (I don't like un-ironed permanent press items. they still look wrinkled to me) I went out in the garage and removed the Sugino XD triple crankset from the Rivendell Rambouillet. It's been on for 5,000 miles and it was happy to remain there, so some "persuading" was needed to extract the arms from the bottom bracket. (I had to use a hammer on the extractor handle) Some eBay prowling has yielded two nice old cranksets. One was a take off from a '90-ish Bridgestone RB-1 (B'Stone's top line road race bike of that day) a Sugino GX double. The XD has very wide crank arms and a huge Q-Factor. ("Quack" factor. How duck like the thing makes you pedal) This is excellent for a mountain bike, but not so necessary on a road machine. It's the widest Q of any of the bikes in our garage. The GX on the other hand, is race narrow. It's a classic 53/39 in gearing, so I give up a lot of bottom end to the XD which features a 26 inner ring. In effort level, (measured by "gear-inches" which is the length in inches that the bike rolls forward when you spin the cranks through one revolution) this new 39 is about the same as the 34 on the Nashbar's compact double. That's because the Nashbar is running a 650B tire while the Rambouillet has a smaller 26" tire. A "normal" 700C road wheel on the compact crank (50/34 gears) yields a gear inch range of 33" - 110" based on 700x 25 mm tires. On the Ram, the 53/39 will provide 34.7" - 106" both using the Ultegra 12-27 9 speed cassette. Since I don't haul loads with the Ram, this should make both bikes about equal in effort to ride. And I like the comfort of the Rivendell model a lot more. The former crank provided 23" - 96". More low gearing than I really need now, and not enough top end to stay with the peloton on group rides. There is an expense: I'm giving up more bottom end than I gain in top end. On the other hand, the double weighs less than the triple (duh) and is better looking. Clean and elegant and with a narrower (more efficient) pedal placement. I also re-installed the Power Grips to the pedals so that I can use the full circle for pedal stroke. Losing 30 lbs (since June) has made hills easier of course, and now I'd like to work on form and technique for better flat riding as well.

Swapping out crank sets is not just a matter of replacing the parts. The front derailleur had to be relocated higher up on the seat tube, so that meant undoing the shifter cable, moving the part, then aligning it with the new equipment and reconnecting the cable. There was JUST enough cable to make this work, phew! very close. Projects sometimes get more involved than you think they will. I didn't want to have to re cable the bike, at least not before I was able to test this new set up and decide that it was a keeper! The front derailleur is a Shimano 105 triple and it manages the double just fine. If the new crank stays though, a double Ultegra front will take over shifting duties. As it is, if I get forgetful, I can easily dump the chain off to the inside where there is no longer a small ring to catch it. While the XD is off the bike, it will get a good cleaning as well. It may go back on or it make go on eBay or the RBW Owners list in case someone wants it for their new project.

If the darn RAIN will quit, I may be able to try out the new set up!

The other crankset coming in is a way cool looking very early Shimano 600 50/40 double. This is late 70s vintage and an homage sort of to the French TA Specialties and Stronglight styles. For real racers, there is too much flex in the crank owing to the close to center location of the ring bolts, of which there are only 3. But it might be fun anyway. On the Nashbar, which currently has a Campy Veloce compact double, it would yield a gear-inch range of 36" - 106" up from it's current 31" bottom. This is my "Sunday Gentleman's Bicycle" only and I don't use it for steep hills, so looks count for more than utility here. With mustache bars, ample saddle bag and yesteryear appearance, it is a Tweed Rider's machine.

Okay, enough for now. Tailwinds to you folks NOT inside due to weather.

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