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

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Graduation Ride

Two of our recent beginnners were ready to spread their wings and fly, even if they didn't know it yet. Toward that end, I posted a relaxer/beginner ride using a well known club Lite route over at the John Hall store. Deb and Susan came, as did Tim and Ron. Jeff showed up briefly to say he was landscaping manager in his yard for the day, but all is forgiven as he handed me a bag of handlebar tape he had tried and disliked. It will not go to waste. He also pedaled a few turns on my bike and pronounced the mustache bars "good." Tim was just getting back on the bike after a Winter layoff, but has been running so his cardio is in good order. A half-marathon awaits next weekend, so he has been really RUNNING. Ron pedaled over from Prattville, so his total miles for the day tallied up around 150. Quite a feat considering he rocks a 100 lb behemoth of a toally gadgetized and tricked out bike. He says it's all in the gears, but I think it's something else.

Ron and Tim





















We were slightly delayed as Susan had a flat tire caused when she tore off the valve insert of the front tube. No tools, no pump, but she did have a spare tube. Wasn't sure she knew how to change it, so I did a "demo." At least it was the front. The ride was very good. A stiff headwind going out, and of course a dandy of a spanker breeze coming back. Deb's take on the return was "This is SWEET."  Yes ma'am, I agree.  Here she is in fact.

Deb on her Specialized Vita






















Both Susan (who had to peel off and get to another place) and Deb did great and are fully fledged from beginner rides, unless they just want to come and ride. Tim and Ron just enjoyed the ride. Not a single dog! Great.  I rode the '79 Nashbar (by Maruishi) with a new Selle Anatomica saddle on. The former owner tried to make it wife-friendly by drilling lace holes and drawing the sides close together to make a narrower seat. That had the unintended effect of turning the center slot up which cuts into you very badly. No wonder she hated it!  I tossed the laces and let the saddle go back to natural shape. It was great.

In other news, I've been exercising pretty much on schedule (which you DM people are bored to death with reading about, I know) and am at goal for chin ups (50 total), sit ups (300 total), push ups (300 total), and pull ups (50 total.) I still lack on planks where I have hit 9:30, but am now back at 8:15. Goal is 10:00. And I could still use to lose a bit of winter waist. The mountain bike picture confirms that for me.

While I was whining about lack of miles so far in 2011, a tally of Jan + Feb shows more miles this year than EVER before for the beginning of a year. Maybe it will be a good riding year after all.

Have a great week one and all.



Saturday, February 26, 2011

Biking Both Ways

Before today, I had only been a road riding cyclist. From my very first days on a '99 Trek Navigator 100,Trek Navigator 100 which as you can see is a comfort or rail trail style ride, through all the bikes I've gotten and gotten rid of, trying to figure out just what sort of bike is really "me," (Trek Pro 560, Fuji Touring, Univega Activa, Waterford 1100, KHS 800) they have all shared the common denominator of being made to ride on pavement. That changed this week, when UPS delivered a nearly new old stock 1988 Bridgestone MB-2 MOUNTAIN BIKE. I put it together and fit a Brooks saddle to it which,already broken in and comfortable, was on my spares shelf.  Triple butted chrome-moly steel with fully lugged frame construction. Today was the maiden voyage for both of us. Bill R was kind enough to lead me through the paces at Swayback Bridge Trail after lunch. Other than the fact that you pedal the bike to make it go for both road and mountainbikes, not much is the same bewteen them. I had to get used to the upper body workout, shifting my weight around on the bike, learn when and when NOT to shift gears, and let 1/2  the air out of my tires. I had them in a good range for a road ride. That made themn very tough to do singletrack on.  Here I am at a rest pause in the woods, and then at the end with Bill and his Ellsworth.

MB-2 at SwaybackBruce & Bill at Swayback after the ride.

The ride followed an excellent BBQ lunch at Champs in Wetumpka. Frank and Joe joined us for the good eats, as we had all just ridden 35 road miles together as well. Only Bill and I came prepared to bike both ways though. Also at the ride, but missing at lunch were Pete and Tom. Here we are as we coordinated last minute details at Thelma Bapist Church on Weoka Rd.

getting the route instructions straight

 You can see more cars than we count up as riders. That's becuase the Com-Velo folks were also meeting there before going off on a training ride. Great to meet up with and preride chat with Keith and Darren again, as well as shake hands with Scott. They invited us to join them but we travel at a different pace, and just wished them well.


















The early signs of Spring are out. Pear trees are showing snowy white and the redbuds are in bloom. Buds of all kinds are showing and there are now green swaths of grass along much of the roadway.


The route offered almost all rolling hills and very little if any flat stretches. The lead dogs on the sled (Frank, Pete and Joe) passed the trn on Antioch Rd by 4 miles before I caught them at a stop sign, and Pete had a relative's birthday party to get to, so we altered teh route soem and ended up a few miles less than advertised, but enjoyed it just as much. Here are shots of the leaders from behind, Bill alongside, and Tom coming up from the rear of the pack.

Frank, Pete and JoeTom

All in all, a great day. Just lovely with temps starting in the low 40s and rising to the 70s, plenty of sunshine and a light wind that never gave much trouble. Plenty of dogs, especially on Bradley Rd, but none caused problems.




Sunday, February 20, 2011

Spring Preview

(Came home this evening and found some pictures in my email that Tom took on the ride yesterday.Added below.)

What a difference a week can make in the weather. Two weeks ago, I gave up midway on a ride because my feet were getting dangerously cold. Last week, it was 24F degrees when we set out (but not as bone chilling due to drier and less windy conditions). Yesterday, we pulled out in 50F temperature, and it warmed to 75F while we were out. It would surprise me if Winter is over, but this weekend is a nice foretaste of better weather to come.

It seemed good to avail ourselves of the nice forecast to get in a February metric. I hadn't done the John Hall Metric for a year (exactly a year, as I found later when I compared notes from this ride) so I posted it to the list after no one in the regular crown expressed a strong preference for anything else. John Hall is on the east side of Montgomery county, about 10 miles outside of town. It features gently rolling terrain; mostly farms and large wooded tracts. The central section of the route has 4 climbs that aren't too tough for people who climb regularly, like we do here in Autauga and Elmore counties. Pete and I carpooled the 35 minutes over there. Tom, Joe and Steve met us at the parking lot. It was almost 10 deg cooler there than here at home, and fog was still stubbornly clinging to the trees as we approached the gathering point.
When we arrived, there was enough time for a group of aging athletes to visit the rest room one more time before shoving off, always helpful. When you sail past the shores of 50 years of age, there are just a few more things you have to factor into your plans :) I noticed that the smoker outside the store had fired up, and mentioned my hope that some BBQ ham would be available upon our return. They don't cook up a whole lot and sometimes it sells out. Frank & I enjoyed it as an after ride meal once before and I recalled it being very tasty. I shared the hope of post ride repast with the proprietor and the early morning regulars. They engaged me in conversation while I was there - expressing concern that we cyclists don't always insure that we are visible to drivers, and noting that the flashing red tail lights some of us use go a long way, even in daylight towards making us easier to see. Point taken. I wore my super-flash on my helmet. Steve has one on his seatpost and Joe uses the brightest Dinotte set up. Tom and Pete still need some lighting gear.
When 8:00 came, I asked if everyone was ready to go, and we were. There was some banter about how they'd better be ready or I would ride off and leave them, or some such nonsense. Actually, I think I took some poking about everything at different points and from different people on this ride. Wearing wool, not wearing cleats, riding on fat (38mm) tires, not riding on carbon. You name it. It really warmed my heart to be honest. It's what friends do. Some riding groups are all about the exercise and/or competition. Ours is not that way. We love what we do, and the exercise is a side bennie. The competition? It's subdued so much as to almost be subliminal. Any time there is a space between 2 riders though, instinct compels you to try to reel them in. Right?
Tom's wool jersey finally made it past Homeland Security from ProBike in the U.K. A black merino jersey with world champion stripes and a Bianchi logo. Very nice looking and he said it kept him comfortable throughout the temperature range of the day.

I wore a Joneswares Eddy short sleeve jersey, with Ibex arm warmers. The arm warmers came off at the first store stop around mile 18. The Smartwool Rambition shorts have become my new favorite for long hours of comfort in the saddle. No knee warmers today, none were needed. There was just the slightest chill as we set off into a 2 - 3 mph headwind breeze, but we warmed immediately as we crested the first gradual rise along the way.
Joe was bundled up like a tourist going to see polar bears in the Arctic, while Pete was dressed for a summer's day. Steve was somewhere in the middle. Joe did have about 1/2 his gear off by the 2d store stop. Tom snapped some pictures. If he sends them my way, I'll append them to this entry so you can see what I mean :) - done see below-
The ride itself was wonderful. The breeze picked up in the early afternoon, and shifted so it was a headwind in more than one leg of the trip. What else is new, right? Other than close up views of red tailed hawks and black headed vultures, wildlife was scarce. Traffic was generally light and there were no mechanicals all day. The rougher sections of paving were no worse than usual, and the fat tires/leather saddle/steel frame combo soaked up most of that buzz. Well for Joe (lugged steel Rivendell Hillborne) and me that is. The skinny tire/carbon crowd was a little more eager to be done with those sections. I seemed to have legs this day, always a nice surprise. When Steve or Pete pulled and sneaked up past 20 mph, I was diligent to fall off in time and stay at what I can sustain rather than exhaust my reserves and struggle the rest of the day. When I led (and I did that a lot, or rode solo on this ride) I stayed generally around 16 mph. No one complained. Here we are trying to decide if we turn left or right early on:
Which way do we go?
We ended up with 64.93 miles and 1,978' of climb. I averaged 15.5, which is 1.4 mph quicker than that same ride a year ago. (About 10% quicker). Hope THAT holds true the rest of the season! It's 2 mph faster on average than the metric I rode in January. That ride had lots more climbing so it's not a fair comparison. My cadence was around 84, which is where I'd like it to be. I've been working up from 75 for a while, trying to spin more and pump less. Here we are at the last store stop, 12 miles from the finish looking somewhat more exercised than before:
Porch Sitters
And here I am feeling pretty fit and rested, in contrast to the prior month's worth of rides.
Hello Kemosabe
After the ride, Joe and Pete joined me for BBQ at the John Hall Store. They had enough left and it was mighty tasty. We ran into a few other cyclists in the parking lot. Dan and Vanessa were just heading out, and another couple were just coming in. We had met Bilee and Frank B along the way earlier.
I didn't recognize Frank with his new-to-me Andrew Weil facial hair.
Pete came by my house after the ride to look at some parts he could use: a saddle, a stem, a tool kit pouch. When we were about to leave, we saw a rider doing laps around my block in full kit. I stopped the car and jumped out to flag him down. Turns out his name is Terry, he lives a few houses from me, and IS interested in doing some rides with us. Pete invited him to join the Sunday relaxer ride as a start. Hope it works out.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Crossing the Rubicon

Or "the mercury rose past 60F today!" Which means I rode the Sunday Beginner-Relaxer ride in shorts. How nice and how different from Saturday morning, when Pete and Tom joind me in 24F chill for a 50 mile-ish hill climbing extravaganza. But first a word or two on today's outing. It was perfect weather, dry and pleasant, and the MUSA brand seersucker bike shirt over a wool tee was just the ticket. MUSA shorts over some merino boxers and I was good to go. I deliberately add no carbs today and kept my pace in the fat-burn range all afternoon. It felt fine. In fact early AM blood sugar this morning was under 100 for the first time in maybe 3 years! Yay me. I rode the Saluki which has stopped mystery shifting now that the bar ends are good and secure once more. The Rambouillet came along too for another rider to try out, Donna. She liked it and looked good on it. I took a picture but chopped her head off and so you'll just have to take my word for it. There were 10 of us today, including Pete on his NOS Trek 520. Beautiful blue factory paint still fresh. He added a Brooks B17 and it looks sharp and rides right. Steve joined us and was good company, likewise Curtis. Ron put in an appearance and then flew a different flight plan, as is his wont, but we saw him a few times along the way, before he, like Mike, peeled off to find more miles elsewhere.

Here is Jacob, looking like a racer already.

Young Racer in the Making


















Jacob likes to be near the front. Everyone else was pretty content to just idle along and chat. Here are Deb and Susan, with Steve pulling rear guard duty.


Easy Riders


















I could have snapped another picture of Deb, had I been on top of my game. She reached down with her right hand to replace her water bottle while pedaling and squeezed her front brake lever accidentally with her left. Oops! Endo-rama folks. Fortunately, she and the bike were both okay. We paused anyway to catch a breather before moving on. Her helmet and gloves did what they were supposed to do, and she was none the worse for wear.

20 miles +/- and this crowd averaged 12.9, which is almost Club LIte territory! and we came back into a headwind even..

Yesterday, I wore wool socks inside sealskinz and wool gloves along with double layer wool everywhere else, and had no cold problems. I made sure to eat and drink sensibly along the way and stay at a sustainable pace. We got just shy of 50 miles and almost 2,800' inlcuding a couple of short steep ups. Much nicer than last week. Sunny and less wind. Never felt "in extremis" either. very much hoping next weekend's weather supports a two wheeled outing again!





Sunday, February 6, 2011

Ride - Fail

Some days are just great to be out on the bike and some days are not. A biking friend has as his motto, "Your worst day on a bike is better than your best day in an office." His full-time job is leading bike tours across America ( ) though and he may be somewhat prejudiced. Yesterday might have been a day to stay in the office. I planned to ride 50 hilly miles with a few friends hardy enough to get out in the cold and wet. Putting the cleaned up fenders back on my Saluki was excellent foresight, eh? The mercury was barely above freezing and roads wet from several days of rain. The humidity was close to 100% and a brisk west wind whistled through the double layer wool I put on. Fortunately, this was during the pre ride trial run. I went back in the house and added an ear warmer band and a rain jacket. My hands were a little cold but I stayed with the Giro gloves and my feet were comfy in double layer wool socks, in Keen sandals. This was sort of a sandal homage to Sheldon Brown, famously photographed in just such a get up against a snowy backdrop. Sheldon passed away 3 years ago this past week. I was reminded of the sandals when leafing through a Bicycle Quarterly and decided to give it a try. So far this winter, it's been wool socks inside Sealskinz, which has been problem free.
Pete came by at 8:00 and we pedaled off together to pick up Joe about a mile and a half away. When we got there, Joe got his bike down and we took off. After making the turn onto ridge road, I realized that they did not follow me, so I pulled off and waited. A few minutes later Pete came and said Joe was a no-go due to a seat problem. We went uphill and into the wind to meet Tom and Frank at the high school. Tom drove there but Frank had pedaled from the next town over. It worked out well, as they stayed warm while waiting for us in Tom's car. By now my hands were warming up and feeling good, but my feet were cooling down and feeling less good. I just figured that once we reached the 1/2 way mark and turned out of the wind, they would warm back up. More of an issue was my chain jumping off the larger cogs and down shifting to smaller gears, while under load as I climbed. It certainly made it more of a pain to haul up the hills!
At the high school, I got out the tool kit and attempted to tighten the bar end shifter, which was not gripping tight enough to maintain the cable tension in the rear derailleur. My blade screwdriver was too fat and wouldn't work. Pete loaned me his smaller one, which made some improvement, but didn't prevent more skips between the school and the 1st store stop. There, I tried Frank's multi-tool which allowed some torque and got it properly secured. No further chain skips! I was pretty cold by the time we got there, especially my feet. The off bike rest allowed for walking around in the store where it was warmer, so I did some of that.

Here are Pete and I as I was working on the shifter. Don't let the smile fool you. I'm cold.

By this time we had done most of the climbing we would face on the outbound portion and it was just about 7 miles until we made the turn out of the wind. Uhh, not exactly. I had to GET there 1st and my forward speed was steadily declining. Generally, my theoretical max HR is around 165
and I looked down to see that I was running 154 at just 7.5 mph into the wind! (About 12 mph with gusts to 19. Windy but not as bad as I have ridden in many times before) I couldn't figure it out. Yes, the wind was really icing down my feet by now and I was starting to think that I was getting too cold in the core as well. My hands were still good however! Thank God for small favors, as my dad used to say. I did notice that the new Giro gloves from my son last November (birthday) were separating at the seams already. They will go back for a replacement! Pete was kind enough to slow down to fat-burn range and keep me company. And we do not stay at 7.5 all the time of course. While Tom and Frank were ahead, they paused at strategic points along the way to regroup, and were uniformly good natured about my issues today, much appreciated.

At White City we turned south which I had assumed would be out of the wind, but it wasn't really. We were pushed sideways by a crisp cross wind except when it swirled and came from the front some as well. About 4 miles into the southward leg, I realized that the winds blowing hard over the open fields were chilling my right foot down to seriously cold levels, and I told Pete that I was going to call Alex to come and get me when we made the second store stop in Old Kingston. He said he also was not having any fun in this weather and asked if there was room in the car for two. Catching up to Tom and Frank at the store, we filled them in and wished them well on the final leg of their ride. I called home and fortunately Alex was both awake and available to come and get us. Then I sent Sharon a text so she wouldn't worry if she happened to find out Alex was coming. The last time I needed any help at all was in 2006, after I crashed following a run in with a pit bull. Then, I needed help getting out of the car when I arrived home. While we waited at the Old Kingston store, we chit chatted with the shop owner, who we learned was a retired school teacher and coach. Newspaper clippings mounted on the wall attested to his excellent career with hundreds of victories at two area schools. There were pictures of his students who had gone on to successful activities after high school. Locals who came in while we waited all addressed him as "Coach" and he wore a high school team ball cap. He and I shared blood sugar strategies as well. We appreciated the store's warmth, but to be honest, my feet were still not in good shape.
Alex arrived and we loaded up the bikes and headed home. Pete took his leave of us, and I gingerly undressed and took a warm, but not hot shower. That right foot had 3 toes which were white for the outer 1/2 length and a big toe that was purple. The soles of both feet were white with purple borders. Gee, I was hoping they would warm up okay. The thing I dreaded most was having to tell Sharon (who is in FL mid way through a 2 week teaching stint) that Alex was running me over to the ER "just to check on things." The shower followed by warm dry socks and roomy shoes did the trick. After taking him to lunch as a picking me up thank you, I commented to Alex that my feet felt normal again. phew!

So, 31 miles, 11.5 avg moving pace, 1,763' climb, very cold feet, split seams in gloves and sluggish all afternoon from being too tired. Back up and try again next week, eh?


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