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

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Tired legs

Our office closes at 4:00 on Fridays and the weather was cooperating, so I roared into the driveway, changed clothes and hopped on Mark, a '79 Nashbar Mark III with a Bridgestone XO-1 inspired look.

[ Mark had a 650B conversion by Ed Braley, and I further relaxed the ride by replacing the period 52/42 Suntour racing crank with a modern Campy Veloce compact 50/34, replaced the racing rock of a saddle with a well broken in Brooks B17, and then added a Rivendell "hupe" and a capacious Acorn brand saddle bag. I found a couple of old Nashbar bottle cages which of course go on this bike!
Ed used some neat Velocity Aerohead rims, which are hard to find in 650B size, and laced them to NOS Japanese hubs. 28s in front and 32s in back. The shifters are all Shimano 105. I put a wide range freewheel back there and the bike is quite versatile. The tires are Grand Bois Cypres 32mm. ]

Anyway, it was a solo ride and I did the Prattville circumnav, including the climb all the way up Deer Trace, which has that short 20% grade section. I can sit on a bike with a triple, but had to stand on Mark's pedals to get him up that section. It's funny how a 6% grade feels like a relief after you crest a 20%! The ride was good and a good workout, despite a calf cramp (and I NEVER get those. Always a bottom of the foot cramp or sartorius cramp for me) which I stretched out while pedaling. With some local miles tacked on, it was 30+ miles.

Yesterday, Frank and I headed out for the 44 mile Millbrook Meander.

This ride has the same amount of climb in 44 miles and the Prattville Loop has in 21. I was expecting a pleasant ride and maybe a quicker pace. Riding to and from the start would add another 12 miles as well. Turning out of my subdivision, I first go up a 3% grade for 1/4 mile then down a short hill, then up a longer 8% number that I always resent having to do on cold legs. Yesterday was no change. It was not easy, not fun, and I did not climb very fast. I was on Elrond though. He's a '95 Rivendell Road and he has a triple! I made the mostly downhill rest of the way to meet Frank at the park and we set off in cold (43F) but calm air) I kept thinking, "my legs will warm up in a few miles and this will be easier." Nope. didn't happen. We rode North to Elmore and then to Slapout, and I did notice a tailwind picking up. Before Slapout, we came to the dirt road which I had originally mapped out but which we dropped from club riding, since the MPCBs with 23mm tires could not handle it. Frank looked over and said, "How about the dirt road today? We have the tires." He was right. He had Bontrager 35s and I Rivendell Maxy Fasty 33.4s ("or so"). It was slow but fun. We went a couple of miles on a mix of red clay, old asphalt and large gravel. We also saw some new scenery along the shore of Lake Jordan.

After our store stop, we had a definite brisk cross wind heading west to Deatsville. It was enough to slow us down (well, me anyway. Frank just kept pace with me, fine fellow that he is) but not awful. Once we turned back south at Deatsville, we had it full force in the face and man was it tough. For about 22 miles. On my never-got-going legs! Plus, 2/3 of the hills including a pair of 13% grades were in the 2d half of the ride. When we finally made it back to Millbrook, Frank pointed out a back way past a nasty traffic section. It included more dirt road AND another 13% climb. Did I mention tired legs yet?

I was sweating a storm up by now and pulled off to remove and stow my Showers Pass jacket. We parted company in Millbrook, but I still had to slog uphill, into a quartering headwind back to Prattville. The final turn had me go the final 2 miles dead into the wind.

I was back in time though to clean up and work in the planter as promised on "family yard day." Alex & I dug up some ugly bush and we placed a large amphora on a tile in its place with a fern on top. We ran to Southern Gardens and Home Depot and got other growing things which will be placed here and there to adorn the place, and we painted all the concrete lawn stuff we got last year and which has been in the garage with sealer so it could all go where it's supposed to: the yard.

I decided to take today OFF. No bike, no yard. A good move as I am already looking forward to working out in the morning.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Finally, Spring

Well, the calendar says it really IS Spring. Saturday looked and felt like it too.

The usual Club Lite ride leaders were out of town for the weekend, so I stepped in to fill the void and posted the ride for Saturday morning. Our club lite is a ride of 13 - 15 mph avg and flat to moderate climbing. Distance is usually 30 - 40 miles although a couple of metrics (100KM or 62 miles) find their way on to the calendar each year, often with food involved. Like the "Red's Schoolhouse Ride." Red's is a very old fashioned country cooking place in a former 1 room schoolhouse out in the stix. Makes a great post ride venue. Seems like we ought to go there again pretty soon, now that I think of it. Anyway, I posted a 39 mile route which I had not actually pedaled myself in maybe a year and a half. Map my ride said 560' of climb so that worked. I was sick all week with gastroenteritis (left work early Tuesday with a fever) and Saturday was the 1st day I had enough energy to even consider a ride.

During the week, a box of bike parts showed up in the mail. I subscribe to both the 650B and Rivendell owner lists, and someone is frequently looking to buy/sell/trade something. I love barter and have been known to jump in on these deals. Recently I sent a tweed saddle bag and a butternut pair of riding shorts out to different places, and received a pair of new MKS Touring Lite pedals and some crank set parts, again from different places. Thursday at lunch I took the crank set parts in to Mark at Chain Reaction Cycles. I didn't have any ring bolts, or the little wrench for the nut, so I decided to ask him to do the work. I opted for alloy bolts, despite the sticker shock. The plated steel bolts on my Rambouillet's Sugino XD-2 are showing unsightly rust after 6,000 miles of use. They're tough to clean as well. I brought that crank in and Mark replaced the outer 48 tooth ring with a 50, to get a little more top end when using that set up, and replaced  the rusty bolts with new alloy ones. Then he assembled the near new Shimano 6500 crankset to the the 53 and 39 tooth rings which all came this week in the box. Back at home, I pulled the Un-53 BB out of the Rambouillet and put in the Ultegra Octalink. Now the entire drive train on that bike is Ultegra 6500. The front Der was changed from a 105 triple to a 6500 double about a month ago.

I figured that the first road test of a new set up should be in less than daunting conditions so yesterday's ride opportunity was just right. Only 3 other riders came out, but none were my usual riding pals. Angela, who I have ridden a couple of times with over the years (she actually borrowed the Ram for an early intro ride with the club)

These days, she rides her own Trek Pilot. The other riders were Steve, who I rode with only once before, and Jeff who I haven't ridden with since last year. Jeff called me at 7:30 to ask about coming on the ride. "Bruce, this is Jeff. Am I still in your phone?"  "No Jeff, but come out anyway." I didn't want to tell him that I hardly ever put anyone in my phone and he was no exception.  Jeff rides an older Cannondale MTB. I suggested he try 37 mm Panaracer Paselsa tires on it for road use instead of the knobbies and he showed up with them on his bike. They seemed to work very well. Steve was on a very new looking Orbea Onix MPCB. I managed NOT to say anything about how I feel on the subject of carbon in bikes, or frames from China sent to Spain for label application and sold as Spanish bikes, etc.

The air was cool at the start, around 50F. I wore a light merino Swobo tee under a Spot (Canadian brand, very good) L/S Merino jersey. Below were Suarez leg warmers under Swobo wool shorts. My wool leg warmers are now too large and slide down on me. :( I wore my usual un-padded MTB full finger gloves and wool socks with Addidas Sambas. I was never too warm the whole ride through. We set off at a little past 9 AM. Angela was a late arrival, and although she moved along smartly, let's face it, women take longer than men do at many things, including getting ready to ride a bike. The day was beautiful. Squirrels were everywhere, though none ran through our spokes! The undulations of the road were like interval exercises, and they felt good. The new crank set was very comfortable and quick shifting. Turkeys were displaying their tail feathers, bulls were roaring, and deeply colored cardinal males chased after suitable mates to impress. The air was calm to start but a breeze picked up out of the east and we rode into it starting at about 15 miles out. When we turned north, it was a tailwind for about 8 miles by shifting to the south. Coming south, we had to pull into it 8 miles and then another 4 as it finally moved to blow from the west. Ugh. My legs were a little more hill ready than the others and they began to tire, so I tried to do most of the work into the headwinds, although I did get a break once or twice. EVeryone seemed to like the route and agreed it was a good workout. There were mutterings about the climbing however, and sincere doubts about my "560' " claim. Ahh, yes. According to the Garmin, we actually did 1,586' so the grumblers were justified. I was feeling pretty good though. Certainly glad to be back out and riding. Foot cramps like always. I only get them AFTER I get off the bike. I think I am going to pick up salt tablets and take them enroute. The electrolytes in my water mix are just not getting it done. It's always something, isn't it?

If all goes well, I'll get a March metric in next Saturday.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Still NOT Spring...

When will NICE riding weather get here? This week has been rainy, and both weekend days have been damp and overcast and blustery with wind. Although the temps have risen to 50s and 60s, it feels much colder, especially when you are wet with sweat from a hard pedal.

Despite the drizzle yesterday, Roxy and I waited until 10:00 AM to let most of the precipitation slide on past us, and then we set out wearing our rain jackets. The original intent was to do the 53 mile Autauga Loop, which is hilly, but very rural and scenic. As it happened, we truncated the ride due to mechanical issues on Roxy's ride and after finding that our mid ride store stop, The Statesville Store, was closed, with a "going out of business sign" in the window. Another sign pathetically read, "if you owe us any money, please come in and pay up."

We enjoyed the riding anyway, despite very steep climbs and very breezy headwinds. As forecast, the wind direction swung as the rain front passed by, so we had had head winds for truly 3/4 of the way. Fortunately, on the long straight run home along the freshly paved shoulder strip of AL 14, we had a strong tail wind which helped pick up our average pace. Plenty of hawks were out, and you can sure see signs of life in the trees. Crabapples, redbuds, pears, all blooming out. The roadway shoulders and medians are all green once more. Bulls are bellowing their spring fever and a profusion of bluebirds and cardinals are about, sporting intensely pigmented mating plumage.

We ended up with 34ish miles and I logged only 13 mph, but felt great and enjoyed the ride. Roxy's front derailler would not shift to the little ring, making the hills that much tougher. He had seat issues and a hop in his low spoke count rear wheel. I noticed that his brake pads had severely worn the rim walls as well. I compared our set ups and think that mine is miles more comfortable, if much less racy than his is. I really felt like I could ride all day.

Today was the usual 2 PM Sunday afternoon casual ride from Village Green Park. Same weather as yesterday, maybe windier. I wore a Windstopper jacket over a wool jersey and windproof gloves. Instead of tights, Ibex wool knee warmers. Sadly, with my weight loss, they are too big and tend to slide off during the ride. They did the job today though. I have a smaller pair of synthetic ones to use if needed. Therese came out for the first time since November (although she has been in the gym training) and new guy Matt B came along. Interesting guy, Matt. A man of many interests and very fit. His riding was all over the place as well. Impossible to follow when he offered to lead, He could be 100 yds to the front or to the rear. Steady cadence? Ride in a straight line? Nope, nope. I was happier pulling myself and did so for most of the way up and back. A couple of times I got behind Therese to grab a quick respite before pulling again. She is strong, and generally mashes a big gear instead of spinning a small one. No matter how hard I try to convince her to do otherwise. For my part, I noticed my avg cadence was 75 which is getting back to where I want it to be (85) and my cardio reacted just fine to the spinning. This time, the mid ride store stop was open and we had a proper break. Totals for the outing were about 38 miles, a little climbing and a bit over 14 as an avg pace. It was advertised as 14 avg, so it hit right on.

If the weather is good, next weekend is my 1st out of town ride, Relay For Life, down in  Greenville, AL. Well, even if the weather is still like this. After all, it still won't QUITE be Spring yet on 3/20.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Almost Spring!

Although it was still below freezing yesterday morning, the sun was out and sky was blue. The cold weather wusses had posted a Club Lite ride for 10:00 AM, by which time above freezing air was forecast. I took advantage of the later start to enjoy a leisurely morning. Up early, my usual small pot of strong coffee, an exercise workout (nothing fancy, just 4 from high school days: sit, push, pull, and chin ups) and then breakfast. Still plenty of time to get bike clothes on and ride across town to the start location. The air was near 50F when I pulled out of the driveway and just above it when I parked the Yukon at the John Hall store in Cecil.

I assumed we'd have a big turnout, since this was really the first "nice" riding day in a long while. As it happened, only 6 of us were there. Michelle was getting a flying lesson in a friend's YAK. Here's sample picture, but not exact one she flew.

John C was out of town, Wendell was swamped with work, etc, etc. The faster folks had a ride posted at the same time in another location and I'm sure that some of the "switch hitters" chose to book it at 17 avg rather than our 14. We did have one new face on our ride yesterday. His name is Anthony and he is new to the area. I asked if he needed directions to the fast group's ride. Any guesses why?

Anthony mentioned that yes, he did in fact compete on a Cycling team back home in OK, and yes he is a licensed bike mechanic who worked out on the tour for a while, just to see what it was like, and so forth. With a cadence of around 100, He seemed to glide effortlessly in front of us, while his feet were a blur. Anthony works at the Shakespeare Festival building sets and so forth. (A great venue btw, excellent quality productions season after season if you've not visited it). Personally, I think he LOOKS a lot like Shakespeare myself...

The weather warmed through the afternoon as we rode, and I never needed the jacket that came along, rolled up in a L'il Loafer bag on the fork rack. John and Cathy R were our ride leaders and mapped out the 32 mile approximate box that includes a store store about 1/2 way on US 231. They have been doing a lot of camping and riding and both just enjoy their time on their bikes.  They are going back to Fontainebleau State Park in LA, ( ) to ride, camp, and volunteer at a BEER FEST. Now that sounds like a tough job, but someone has to do it.  They made a trip over there upon hearing how much I enjoyed my ride through there with Vince & Becky back last Memorial Day. Wish I could get away to go with them again.

Here they are with Jim R visible a little behind them. Jim asked about going to Mooresville in August to ride the Bike MS with me. I'm stoked at that idea! Jim is just about my ideal riding buddy (I've said this before) as we generally like the same pace, rest intervals, etc. And he's good company too. In case you want more info on THAT:

We were passed while resting out on the route by David O, Richard J and Bob C. Haven't seen them in a while and David looked really good. Stay upright on that bike, will ya David? We also saw hawks, quail and a befuddled looked possum sitting by the side of the road. Also the usual assortment of cattle and buzzards. I smelled the dead (recent roadkill) skunk a ways before I saw it. And a ways after I saw it too.

The breeze picked up a tad and we spent most of the return trip getting some added calorie burn by pulling into it. Roxy W, who had originally planned to ride with us but was a no show, happened to be at the cars upon our return. He had arrived late, after a wrong turn sent him back towards town, and had rambled on his own for close to 30 miles, hoping to catch us on a crisscross. He and I had thought about a 50 miler in lieu of the club 32 anyway, so the two of us set out on an extra loop, and that brought my total to 48 for the day with only 1607' of climbing. The terrain out that way is all gentle rollers with maybe 6% being the steepest climbing and only 1 or 2 of that grade to boot. I rode the Saluki and averaged 14.5 on it, which is what I average on anything I'm riding, to be honest. I seem to be climbing much better than I used to, but if anything, I am a mph or two slower than I was back in '06 or '07. No real reason I can put my finger on. It matters not a whit to me, as my enjoyment is certainly higher. I rode the 3+ hours at 85% of my supposed max cardio level, but didn't feel particularly tired afterward. I think the formula for max cardio (220- age) may not work for me. I'm still collecting data and I need to ride SLOWER on at least one ride and compare what working at 65% does for me to 85%. This with an eye to longer duration riding.

Also back in the parking lot, old riding acquaintance John Z was there. He was rehabbing a knee and had to be careful with how much information he divulged to his wife, who would probably rat him out to the Dr. He is not supposed to be riding at all..

So, John R, Roxy, and John Z all have new hardware. Inside. I KNEW we were getting to be an older crowd when out old debate, "Steel, Carbon or Titanium?" was about replacement body parts, not bike frames!

First beginner ride for the year is today after church at 2 PM. Three people have confirmed they are coming. 10 miles of slow flattish riding with emphases on bike safety, rules of the road, group ride etiquette. I'll ride to and from to get 12 extra miles.


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