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

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Yes, it's Still Winter in Alabama

Just a short note, and no pictures. Yesterday (Saturday) was overcast and damp, and 37F. The breeze stiffened so that flags were streaming straight out from their poles. Frank emailed to ask about a metric, and Bill emailed to ask about Club lite. Joe emailed o say, "Just tell me where and when to be." Frank spent last Saturday down in FL doing a 300K for his RUSA series, so he no longer even breaks a sweat on our short outings. I weighed the options, opened MapMyRide, and laid in a course that began at Village Green Park in Millbrook, and wound through mostly back roads to Slapout, Sweetin, and Deatsville, crossing Lake Jordan north of Holtville. It was 44 miles. By riding the 6 miles from my house to the park, I got in 12 more. Frank also rode from home, but he lives closer.

I pulled us out of the parking lot, and after about 1 mile, we turned into the wind. I figured Frank would want the work out of being in front, but I think he was secretly testing me to see if I was randonneur material. I spent much of the windward portion in the front, though not all of course. Frank did take the front on the way back, when we had a tailwind, but he was booking so quickly, I could not stay with him. Well, he also pulled into the wind for a section of our westbound leg too, Credit given where credit is due. Bill did some pulling time to on the way out, but his weeks of off-the-bike caught up with him after our stiff climb (up to 14% if you believe his Garmin) on Coosada Rd and I think he was satisfied to relax and enjoy the ride back on the smooth, mostly downhill of Hwy 143. Joe was dealing with allergies and stayed in the back 90% of he time. This was so he could clear his sinuses frequently without hitting the rest of us, not because he was all that tired.

The route itself is a keeper I think. In nicer weather, when green returns to the trees, it will be pretty, and while there are some climbs, the total ascent is not bad. I rode the Rivendell Road with Maxy Fasty tires on. They were great on the coarse back country surfaces we went over, and still smooth and fast on the new asphalt. Learning from last week, I had a capacious OYB saddle bag to hold garments which might prove unneeded as the air warmed up. Not a stitch came off however! The dampness kept the "feels like" temp way low. In fact, my right foot, which most often was the windward side, suffered two numb toes despite double socking and a shoe cover.

When we got back to the park, I lingered a few minutes while Bill & Joe loaded up, and then headed back home. As I was laboring uphill and into the wind, I wondered about the wisdom of adding the miles, but as soon as I crested the big hill coming back, I was happy to have them.  A good outing all in all.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Wide Ranging Ride

We got a break in the 20F below normal temps common for nearly all this winter, and it seemed like a good chance to jump out and ride, before more forecast bad weather comes calling next week.  Joe and Robert met me at the John Hall Store for an 8 AM shove off on a fairly easy metric century (a ride of 100KM or more, or roughly 62 miles +).  Bill emailed me this week to say he would be wherever I posted the ride at, but Sharon wagered big money that he would be a no show with starting temps at 30F +/- despite the promise of 60s after noon. Sharon was the big winner! 8 AM came and the 3 of us present rolled out.

Robert said his last ride was at Thanksgiving, and Joe is recovering from a torn-at-tennis calf muscle ("Joe, you should consider doubles at your age." "Bruce, I WAS playing doubles when it tore!") They both wanted an "easy" pace. I'm not injured and have ridden hundreds of miles this winter. I had no excuse other than I just am a slower rider. We all put on plenty of layers and started at a pretty easy lope. It was a beautiful sunny morning, and I know spring is on the way from the variety of bird songs we heard. Our 1st store stop was 18 miles out and I elected to take off the jacket and the shoe covers. It was then that it dawned on me that taking a saddle bag instead of a tool wrap would have been a good idea. I rolled the jacket up and stashed it in a jersey (Joneswares "Robinson") pocket, and put the shoe covers in my shorts pocket. A last minute addition, I decided to wear Zoic MTB shorts over the merino skins tights. I wanted a less "dorky biker" look. Opinion seems divided on my level of success, but the added pockets in the shorts were a lifesaver today. And the nylon material of the shorts shielded certain areas from the early cold winds, if you get my drift.  Joe and Robert refused to remove a stitch of their stuff. Here there are looking like an arctic rescue squad.

We took off from here and headed for back country roads. The route had about 2,100 ft of climb, with 1/3 in the first 1/3 of miles, but 2/3 in the 2d third of miles. The final leg was pretty nearly flat. By the time we stopped again, the hills had warmed Joe up at least. Here he is getting tropical, while I already am. Robert is afraid to be seen in any stage of undress.

We saw a little bit of wildlife today: turtles lined up to sun on a log, quail on the wing, various songbirds (vireos in particular), but mostly we saw cattle and buzzards. The hills worked our legs pretty well, as did the rising breeze which shifted as the sun passed its zenith, so it blew against us from several directions during the day.

I liked how the Rambouillet worked with the vintage Sugino GX road double on. Light and nimble, and I had enough gears for what I needed. Took the power grips off so the shoes would not be compressed by them and lead to frozen feet. There's a Metric next weekend in Bleckley GA, and if the weather holds, I may make the trip. I always try to get some new venues in a few times a year. This ride, like the Populaire in January averaged between 14 and 15 mph. That is my comfort zone and I'll go with it.

Hope everyone else enjoyed their day as much as I did !

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day Already?

The Latins had a phrase, "Tempus Fugit," so I must not be the first person to feel surprised at how soon a month and a half of the new year have slipped on by. The Alabama "blizzard" of 2010 pushed Sharon's arrival back a day, and so she rolled in at dinner time yesterday from 2 weeks of work in Clearwater, Fl. She'll barely get her laundry done before heading out again tomorrow for a week's work at The Palmer Home For Children in Columbus MS. ( It's a great place for kids needing a stable family environment to grow up in. Both of us spent a February week there last year. Visiting teams from supporting churches provide materials and labor to conduct new construction and facilities maintenance activities. Last year, we constructed a small barn for animals used at the facility in various programs for the children. I believe this year, roof repair is on the menu. At least we'll get to say "Hi" today on Valentine's Day.

Our weather has been colder than normal by about 20F and quite a bit wetter than normal. The "good" days to ride have coincided all too often with other commitments and so my miles are a bit low. I hope that riding will pick up as Spring supplants Winter next month, and I am definitely happy for the chances so far to get out and ride.Yesterday was one such chance. By 10 AM it was a toasty 29F and calm air so I pulled Louise down off the rack and layered up in wool. Leaving from home, I wanted to get at least 30 miles and some hills. I was able to do both. This was maybe the 2d time on the new (to me anyway) crankset which was installed some weeks back. The factory model XD triple (48/36/26) was replaced with a narrow Q model GX racing double (53/39). Both units are by Sugino, who makes good quality components are very reasonable prices. I wanted to see how climbing stiff grades on a 39 would work for me.

The sun was out when I left and depsite the cold temperature, it was pretty nice out. I stopped after an hour for a granola bar a this convenient venue:

Obviously, my prayers for good riding weather, were answered in the affirmative.  This little church is on Wadsworth Loop, close to a bend in the Alabama River. The area is mostly woods and farms. The Rambouillet is shod in this picture with 28mm Conti Ultra Gatorskins. They look so skinny to me! They are comfortable and fast though. The other wheelset for this bike makes it an all rounder style, and uses 37mm tires. Not long after this rest stop, clouds moved in and the wind picked up. Made riding quite a bit chillier and a lot more work. Climbing really got to be hard. Finally, a light went off in my brain. I had on large shoes to permit double socking. These were wedged firmly in the power grip straps, preventing my feet from moving around! I pulled them out and stood ON the straps. That allowed my feet to slide and use the center portion on teh hills, bringing the climber muscles into play! Phew! SO, I need to adjust the straps for more play, or remove them, if I am going to use the larger shoes.

You'll notice a total absence of any SNOW in the picture above. Ths is one day after the blizzard which shut all area schools, closed banks early, etc. Here is some that I found later on in the ride:

  And remember that it's only 29F out. The "blizzard" was not melted by a heat wave.  The rest of the ride was work, but good work. My sartorious muscles are still making their presence known this morning, but the rest of that leg crowd seems fine. Once again, I managed to under hydrate. Only after taking off my jacket, did I realize how wet I was from sweat. There are a couple of steep climbs on the route, and my HR was up around 170 as I worked up them, which is high for a geezer like me. Avg HR for the trip was 143, which seems pretty typical these days. I rode for 2 1/2 hrs so it was a healthy cardio outing. But a sweaty cardio outing.

Depending on how things go today, I may even get a little loop of Prattville in after church. We'll see. That's something nice to look forward to. Temps this afternoon are forecast to get up to 54F! Do I remember how to dress that lightly?


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