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

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

It's Christmas Eve!

It's Christmas Eve!  Ho Ho Ho!

Sitting in a hotel room in Tupelo, MS, I look forward to getting home tonight for Christmas Eve. I came through Columbus yesterday, calling on current and potential customers and finished here. I'll leave this morning and pass through Tuscaloosa, seeing several more and get home sometime after lunch.  There's plenty to reflect on this Christmas.

Our son Alex has received a good job offer. It's in another state, so we will miss him, his wife, and their son, but we are pleased for and proud of him. They are young and can more easily pick up and change venues now than they will be able to later in life. Sharon and I both have been praying for this and appreciate the positive response we received.

I'm not a New Year's resolution maker, but this year I've started a little list of them.

Begin and end each day with prayer.  (Yes, this is actually a Biblical command, but one I rarely remember to do. Liberty and all that not withstanding, a strong prayer life helps in many areas)

No More Junk Food.  - self explanatory. Continue plant strong eating for meals.

Try running again.  I was a 5K & 10K runner back in the '80s. I'll be an old shuffle stepper now for sure. I dream of sprinting (ran track in H.S.).  Can I do it again? My legs seriously don't work like that anymore. Or at least they haven't lately.

Put the Garmin in my pocket when I ride a bike.  Look around at the ride instead of down at the speedometer. My legs will tell me how steep the climb is and what gear I need to be in. Ride at whatever pace feels good at the moment and suits the conditions.

Read every day.  Not Face Book statuses either. I have a Kindle with umpteen books on it!

Exercise 5-6 days a week of some type (run, ride, or calisthenics). I stop when I'm stressed, but exercise relieves the stress!

Sell off the fountain pens I have "accumulated" and keep only the ones I want to collect. Less clutter and less stress. The biggest challenge is photographing and writing the ad descriptions.  There are a lot of them to do. I started with pens in 1992 or so. Just the scrap value of the 14K nibs is worth something! (I do not plan to scrap nibs)

Clean out the garage.  Either park TWO cars in it, or have one side as a fitness area.

I'll report back in a year on this.

Merry Christmas everyone!!

christmas tree
christmas tree (Photo credit: fsse8info)

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Sunday, November 3, 2013

Retrieving riders and thoughts about the end of the ride.

Got an email this week from saddle maker Selle Anatomica. They are my seat of choice and I have suggested their products to other riders who complain of unhappy bottoms following a bike ride. This ad offered a very good price (pre Christmas sale) and my reflex action was to reach for the enter key. Then I said to myself, as I so often do these days, "You don't need that." You see, there are 4 road bikes and 1 mountain bike of mine in our garage, all with leather saddles, none of which are close to being worn out. Then there are back up saddles on the shelf for at least 3 of them, as well as a couple of "experiments." These are some very stiff bits of leather that I have slathered conditioning goop on and set to "age soften." So I'm well set, saddle wise. And I'll be 60 this month, so how many more rides are there, anyway? There comes a time when the vistas of potential that you see as a youth and then young adult begin the clarify in middle age, and then narrow down as you get further along the journey through this world. I realize I need no more jerseys, shorts, wind vests, tires, (maybe tubes though) brake shoes, and all the other bike tchochkes  ( that fill several shelves in our garage. I have what I need to make it to the end.

It's been interesting to observe how I feel about all that. Pretty good really. I absolutely know that my citizenship is in Heaven, and when that time comes, I'll welcome it. I also have been blessed to be able, at 50, to start cycling (and wished I started years earlier!) and get almost 40,000 logged miles in the succeeding decade, and pick up some great friendships and experiences along the way. I have more than enough bike stuff to make it to the end of my ride. There will be some stuff left to pass on when I'm done.

This year has been my 2d lowest total in the past 10 years in terms of miles ridden, but certainly not in enjoyment received. So many rides this year have been delightful, bringing synchronicity with the bike, new discoveries about the roads, and new insights into my travelling companions. I always hope for more rides next year, but as someone else famously wrote, I've learned to be content in want and in plenty. As least as far as pedaling miles go.

I only got out 4 times in October, and getting in two rides just this first November weekend already has half equaled that total! Yesterday, new rider John B joined me and Max for a 45 mile jaunt around the airport. We fit in a stop at Riverside Park, high on a bluff overlooking the Alabama River. Recently renovated and returned to more public use (it was a hangout of druggies and derelicts) it now features a full size replica of the Wright Brothers Flyer made of metal and mounted as if it were coming in low over the cliff. Very cool. The Wrights had a flight school in Montgomery and actually made the 1st ever night flight there around 1910.
We enjoyed the sights and sounds of a Fall morning. Hawks, a blue heron, cattle and donkeys, songbirds, vultures of course. An F-16 was warming up the engines at the airport, but we didn't stay to watch it take flight. I heard it overhead later though. we kept a nice pace. It was work for me, no sweat for John, and maybe just a little effort for Max. Like me, he's missed some rides lately.

Today was the usual Sunday social ride and a nice turn out set off for the run down past the baseball stadium. Robert B rolled up on his neighborhood cruiser (the one he pulls the baby around in her trailer) with knicker like sweats, and a relaxed get up. Orange and white stripe shirt, blue pants.  Has the TN volunteer gone over to Auburn? Ahh, probably not. I asked, "you have a tool set, spare, pump for that thing?"  "No, I don;t but it's just a relaxer ride," came the reply. You can start to fill in the rest of the story now folks. :)  So we get about 7 miles out, and guess who flats? So I pedal back to where he has stopped with Ron, and offer my tube and pump. Oh, guess what? This bike doesn't have quick release hubs!  Anyone got a pair of 15mm wrenches or a Vise Grip? That would be a negative. How about calling your wife on your cell phone? He didn;t have his phone today either. OKAYYYY.  I asked Ron to pedal ahead and take over the ride duties while I pedaled back to the cars to bring a bike rack. It was a nice pedal if I must admit, and no trouble at all. I made the 7 miles in 28 mins (headwind at the end and all) and stowed my gear. I was back on the road in my car in just 4 minutes. I retraced the route and imagine my surprise when I saw Robert on THIS side of the Alabama River Bridge! He had walked his flat tired bike 2 miles to make sure I would not have to pay the bridge toll! He actually RAN with the bike for at least part of the way to be sure. very impressive. While I WAS grumbling (please forgive me Robert) about having to pay the toll, and plotting to drive around the long way coming back to avoid it, I was HAPPY to go back and get him. Mozart violin concerto blasting on the radio, windows down, it was a grand afternoon. It was just so impressive to find that he was already back 2 miles though. Very cool. Awesome afternoon despite a few miles lopped off the ride. One of those nice afternoons in life.

So, where are we riding next week? I'll keep asking that question. Until I reach the end of my ride.:)


Monday, September 2, 2013

Closing out the summer of '13

It's Labor Day weekend. Yes, there are 3 weeks of calendar we still label "summer," but for most people, this is the segue from summer to fall. I was looking forward to the 3 days off and so far, it has not been a disappointment. The weather has dried out some and so I've been able to ride all three days. Rains held off until Saturday afternoon and after the ride today too. Although I got a little more Sun on Sunday than I wanted (as in, I failed to apply sunscreen) my legs feel energized from 4 rides in the past 5 days.

Work is still a "work in progress" adjustment-wise. I find I do enjoy driving around and meeting customers. I saw 40 the week before last in fact. Being in hotels though makes it hard for me to mentally set myself to exercise and ride with regularity. Funny thing is, it always feels good when I DO it. I'm not sure what's at play there between my ears. The 1st and 2d buildings that I sold for the new company will deliver this week, which is kind of cool. I'll be at both delivery sites to check them in. Other buildings are in progress and a couple more are promised from customers, all of which is encouraging. I enjoy my coworkers. They all have unique and interesting personalities. Our office manager is a riot with stories of her constant fighting with her older sister. They do a lot of things together and always squawk about it. It's just how they roll. Her stories about their adventures are so very entertaining.

The rest of my life stays busy too. I chair our Outreach team at church and we launched a local homework help / tutoring service to the community this week. A few sign up packs have been picked up by moms and we hope word of mouth helps get this going. Aimed at needy families, it's open to anyone in 1st - 6th grades.
When in GA working, I help out on Wednesday evenings at a local church's Pioneer Club. Last Sunday was a prison visit to a young man who I see about monthly. Last Saturday was also visitation for the family of a fine man and riding friend who passed away unexpectedly earlier in the week. I still work on fountain pens, write letters with them, prepare lessons and teach Sunday school.  You'd think with all that, as well as family time, that no rides could be worked in. The truth is that there are evenings that I just haven't been motivated to get out and pedal.

Last Thursday, I FORCED myself to get out of the hotel room and pull the bike out of the car. It was then I realized that no frame pump had made this week's trip. Murphy's Law determined that if there was a flat, it would be when the bike was furthest away from "home." I almost went back inside. NO, I told myself, "you can ride close by and if you flat, only have to walk a few miles." So I went all around the roads in an industrial park nearby and then climbed Booze Mtn. My plan was to climb, rest and then coast back. With a car behind me (not too close, and behaving with courtesy) I saw no where to pull off at the top and let it pass. So I went down the OTHER side and then paused at the bottom before turning around and climbing it AGAIN. Okay, Great hill work out in under 10 miles :) Back at the hotel, the manager asked me how far I rode and what a bike like mine would cost. We talked about Wal-Mart bikes vs. reliable bikes and I know he's thinking about it. He needs to get some exercise. He's already switched to almond milk based on my earlier suggestion about healthy diet. Mike also said if I ever had a flat and no fix, to call him and he'd retrieve me, which is nice to know.

Saturday, I posted a half century with a few hills in it and said I'd pass by the usual rally point if anyone else wanted to ride. Robert was waiting there for me, having pedaled over from Millbrook. We waited a few minutes and Frank (also from Millbrook) and Max came on their bikes as well. departing at quarter past the hour, we went back through Millbrook, and found John and his son Colin waiting for us at a 5 way stop sign. It turned out to be a nice little group. Drawbacks were the drenching humidity and the abundance of dogs. The dogs all retreated at the ringing of a bike bell, or when Frank roared in his best Sgt's command voice. The humidity however did not comply with our desire to go away.

Sunday, we had 9 riders for the "relaxer" outing. Michael and daughter Claire pedaled the basic 16 mile route, and the rest of us added another 8 miles of flattish back roads at a little up tempo pace. It was still baggy shorts and no pressure and the 24 miles we ended up with felt really good. "Look up in the sky! It's a bird. It's a plane!"  No, it was a glider being towed aloft from nearby Wetumpka Airport. It was neat to see, and the picture I snapped did not come out. Here however, is Walter looking back to see it.

That's Spiderman, AKA Scott in the lead, and Kelli between Scott and Walter. Scott rocks Spidey's kit and now also rocks a Scott bike too.  You can also see that it was a beautiful day to be out riding. Brian and B-I-L Perry came back out with us in their mountain bikes too. Brian was doing great until he ran out of steam. He also had some serious saddle problems. Turns out a bolt was loose and we fixed it when we rallied up at a stop sign.

Today was a hilly 30 miles in town that also featured some great flat riding too. The route is one that is usually heavily trafficked. Today being a holiday, roads were clear. Here is the usually life endangering McQueen Smith Rd:
We were only on it for a few miles anyway. Then down US 31 (also sparsely used early on a holiday morning) and then the big climb up CR 4. We worked our way to Indian Hills where Pam saw deer, and I saw two riders we knew heading the other way: John and Colin. No Indians spotted, but definitely hills.

Here's Ron climbing on the "Bluejay." It wouldn't be Ron without some special modifications and if you look closely, you'll see that Ron has mounted a straight MTB type bar on top of the original drops and then mounted aero bars on top of that. When will he add the folding chair and the desk?  Ron looks pretty relaxed climbing a steady 6% grade.

Cars gave us plenty of space. This was typical:

I tried to get 40 mph on the down side of this climb, but managed only 39.4. I can't tell you what happened, I wasn't watching the cyclometer, I was watching the road. It was almost there though.

All in all a fine weekend of rides. Now to hit a sale hopefully on shoes, and then grill some eats with the Cargill St branch of the family.

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Saturday, August 10, 2013

Pintlala By Request

A relatively recent addition to our regular rider line up asked for a ride of 100K today down south of here in the little town of Pintlala. "Famous" as the home of the founder of the BassMaster fishing tournaments (Ray Scott), but not much else, Pintlala is a farming community which means generally quiet roads. The terrain is rolling and roads range from freshly repaved to rather coarse pave.

I showed Walter a link of my Pintlala metric course file, and he said it looked okay, but could we ride it backwards. The riders all agreed and so we headed out at 7:00 AM. It really was a nice change up to run the course in reverse. The early hours were extraordinarily humd. So much so that my glasses fogged to the point of being useless. I remembered this from past August outings and now, as then, I pulled off the glasses and tucked them in a pocket. I could see plenty well enough without them.

Generally speaking, we rode in 2 groups today. To my great surprise, I was in the lead group most of the day.  Here we are still all close together.
English: Wood Stork at Everglades National Par...
English: Wood Stork at Everglades National Park in Florida (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
You can see that it's a lovely day.  At times different ones were in front or behind and that's pretty typical. we regrouped at stops and turns.

The cows were grazing or laying down, and we passed a wading wood stork in a small roadside pond. Looking up, I saw a flock of them circling
high above and their black wing tips were instantly noticeable.

Max pointed ahead and  to the road shoulder and there was a coyote who saw us, paused and turned back around. Fox Squirrels were plentiful and easy to pick out due to their size.

Our first store stop was in Ramer and they had SVR (Pride & Joy  on the store stereo. I asked the middle aged cashier who the fan was and she said, "We all are." Cedric the proprietor was out hauling trash but he returned before we departed. He looks much trimmer to me. Has he been biking with the Canadians? (

From Ramer we went to the store in Sellers on the new US 331. By now it was hot and we were taking in fluids faster. 28 miles +/- to the 1st store, less than half that to the second. Our 3rd stop was Mt Carmel UMC church. A location for a rest stop on the Glassner Century ( the church has a hose spigot behind a hedge that we know about. Pam decided it would be great to run the hose over her head! Others washed salt off and refilled bottles before we headed in the last leg. I foolishly forgot to whip out my camera for the head soak.

It was a really nice outing and a good ride. No mechanicals, no accidents. The kind of ride that makes you want to go back for more.

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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Late to the Half-way Point

My cycling miles finally inched over 1,500 for the year this week. A good month to month and a half behind the curve, I'd say. This year's wetter Summer has a lot to do with it, but other factors play in as well. I can't say I'm enjoying riding any less though, despite getting fewer chances to do it. Today's weather shortened outing is a good example. Many of the usual locals are away today at the Hot 100 in Tuscaloosa. Max, new guy Jeff and I headed out on a route that we hoped would get us back before any real rains hit. We trimmed 64 original miles to 38 and only got rained on a little. Still managed to get some hills in. Overcast and very humid, it was not a pretty day to be riding, but it was still good to be out on 2 wheels.

Over the past few months, my cadence has been creeping up and today I focused on maintaining cadence during climbs. A couple of friends are very good about that and I try to emulate them. It worked well today. I was not fatigued even after a long 9 - 12% triple decker climb. Not fast uphill mind you, but not fatigued and spun the entire way. I'm faster when I mash a bigger gear, but then when I hit a wall, I'm done. No wall this way. Average for this ride was 81, just shy of my goal of 84.

A Port Clinton OH cyclist that I made the acquaintance of on Dailymile was struck from behind on his bike and killed this week. Dale Tusen was a friendly and dynamic 37 year old who started road riding in 2011. I'll definitely miss his posts and comments. The elderly driver said the usual, "I didn't see him." Why should that be an acceptable excuse? I managed NOT to hit 3 dogs that ran out in front of my car at various times this week. Paying attention to the roads helps a lot.

I joined Twitter this week. After seeing what people post, I've decided to only post when I have something to say. I am not witty enough for the stream of consciousness tweets that some can keep flinging into cyber-space. I tweeted one work out, but no more. No one really needs an update in 140 characters. I already have it on Facebook anyway.

Sold my 4th building this week (in 6 weeks of trying). Things are picking up steam it seems. Visited with that customer yesterday. He is replacing a structure that burned after a lightning strike. The building was insured, but the 2 fully restored Pontiac GTOs inside were not. Euuuw. He decided to take a break from restoring for a while and showed me a "project" he hopes someone else will want to take on. It looks to me about 50% ROUGHER than this one I snagged from the interwebs:

I suppose to a restorer, this is normal. The 330ci V8 car has only 80,000 actual miles on it and yes, it runs fine. The body and interior needs a lot of work however.

The rest of the sales swing this week went fine. Auburn/Opelika is still generally depressed, but Huntsville/Decatur is doing better. Had a good stop in Winfield (near Jasper). Later that night I was helping a local church do Pioneer Club, and 2 boys visiting grandparents in GA for the week said they were from Winfield. They were floored that I not only knew where it was but had just been there.

I'm getting close to needing to do some bike restoring. Two bikes could use new paint. Nothing fancy like the last one I had done at Airglow, but to stop further rusting. Maybe a powder coat will do.

I rode in Ga on Thursday and it was a great ride. I did NOT feel like it after work, but went anyway and was so glad i did. Beautiful quiet roads and a couple of big hills to go up. Followed it with a veggie pocket at Milano's Pizza. Good stuff.

I have no confidence that I'll make it to 3,000 miles this year, but there are years where 1,500 is all I got for the whole 12 months, so I am glad to have what I do.


Monday, July 15, 2013

C C Rider Weekend

No, not really a blues fest, just a couple of "c' rides slung back to back. Of the two main riding groups in town, Montgomery Multisport (MMS) features priamrily serious, go-fast, event training types.This picture is from their FaceBook Page:


The other, the Montgomery Bike Club (MBC)has a few racers (and good ones) but also caters to a wide spectrum of riding types. On Saturday, I did a guest shot at leading the MMS "C" ride from their retail store. It was 31 miles, and about 1/2 flat and 1/2 rollers. We had a nice showing and some from each local body came out to pedal, so there were new faces to meet and greet as we went.

My pace ended at 15, which is a tad high for a C ride, but it seemed to fit in okay. The group was very happy to paceline behind me the entire 16 miles out bound INTO the wind. Strangely, they flew by me on the return trip. No one offered to pull for ME. Max later told me that as the lead group got within a mile or so of the end, Michelle got down on her aero bars and said, "Okay boys, let's take it to the barn," and promptly dropped him like he was hauling cargo on his bike. I'm seen that routine before :)

Everyone, including Max, seems to have had a good time. Recent road bike recruit Heather is lighting it up on a bike that fits, Pam is back in action, and newer rider Barbara makes consistent gains in pace and distance. So does Brian who is starting to consider a road bike. It's always great to see beginners develop and move on to find the place they are comfortable riding at, regardless of what it is. Gary is back out on a bike after a long (non cycling) accident induced lay off. We hope that Phil (cycling accident) fully heals up fast and gets back in with us.

Sunday, we did our normal relaxer ride and again had a nice turn out, include 4 new riders. Rain looked likely, so we held it to just a 16 mile out and back on quiet roads. It was still fine. Walter provided the blog material for the day. As have so many others before him, he tried unsuccessfully with two CO2 bottles to get a flat re inflated. I offered my Zefal frame pump and although it was sweaty to use it, the tire aired up just fine. Walter did a creditable job getting the bad tube out and changed, but Mike Munk's all time tube change record (30 seconds) was never in jeopardy  Here's Walter leading the pack out on Sandtown Road.

Again, a good time was had by all.  My legs are itching for some hills though, and I packed a bike for this week up in Northwest GA. No excuse to complain when they kick my butt, right?  Next Saturday looks to be another rollers ride, but longer than the C excursion, although in the same part of the world.

So, Two C rides in a row.  Still felt like a good weekend and with all the recent rain, it was a pleasure to get OUTSIDE.

Hope you're enjoying whatever miles you are riding!


Sunday, June 30, 2013

That was the June that was.

My riding mileage is waaay down this year. A number of factors have cooperated to make this so. Weather, job situation, and conflicting needs for my time elsewhere. I've also had ride-able days that I just did not want to get out and ride on.There have still been some nice outings though and yesterday's was no exception in this regard. I finally posted a metric route with a stop for brunch time bagels and hoped that it would see some response. It has been a while since we rode somewhere for the express purpose of eating.

My two most regular riding buddies were not able to make it, but two others (Glenn and Robert) showed up at the start point. Ron also came by to say hello before heading to the store to pick up groceries. He said that he was not up to the distance quite yet, as he rehabs following last year's injury accident. Nice to see him though. Truth be told, I think he could have ridden with us okay, but he knows how he feels best.

Robert zoomed into the parking lot, as he was running close on time and jumped out to start putting all his gear together. Then he looked up and said, "I can't go. I forgot my shoes." He has the delta style cleats and did not want to do a metric on those pedals in his sneakers. ("why not?" I thought to myself. "I've done that.") Ron offered to swap pedals with him, but had no pedal wrench next to the kitchen sink that he has mounted on his bike. (If you saw Ron's bike, you'd understand. he has shown up for a ride with a folding chair mounted, and usually rocks 3 handle bars simultaneously). No one had the wrench. Then Glenn suggested we ride the route in reverse and pick up Robert in MIllbrook, where he lives. That's why Glenn is a project manager! He and I pulled out to ride the 6 miles over while Robert packed up and got back in the car.

We were only a block up the road when I saw blue flashing lights in my mirror. Turning around, I saw that Prattville's finest had pulled Robert over! Wonder what he did? Anyway, Glenn & I decided to keep on. We figured he might be 30 minutes sharing information with the officer. You know, license, registration, wants and warrants. That sort of stuff. We got to the park in Millbrook and pulled up to wait. I took out my phone and started a text to let Robert know we were waiting. Before I finished, he came roaring up on his bike. It turns out he made a U turn in the middle of a main road and the officer explained that it was illegal and came with a hefty fine. Could he refrain from doing that?  Robert decided that this was a good time not to rant about government control and the police state, and simply said, "Sure thing Officer!" and was allowed to continue on his merry way.

We decided to do an out and back instead of the loop, as we had lost some time, but we were still looking at 52 miles. The ride over was fine, with overcast clouds and reasonable temps. It was very humid so there was still sweat, particularly when we were not moving. I have not gone this direction for a while and got disoriented in two neighborhoods that we went through, taking the back way across Montgomery. So yes, I had to do U turns too.  No police for those however.

When we got to Panera Bread, we ordered our food and relaxed with it out on the side walk.

You cannot get a bagel in Prattville, so this was a delicious treat for me. We did not get lost on the way back (the direction usually taken) and although there was a pretty decent headwind, we still made good time. Glenn was relaxing the whole time but I was working pretty hard. He just rides faster than I do. So does Robert, but his miles are also way down this year. Having a new baby can do that :). In fact, I'm looking forward to meeting her soon.

I was pleased that I ended with a decent average pace for me, that the bike (Rivendell) rode smoothly over some rough road, handled fabulously in general and that I just enjoyed the ride. It burns off the adrenalin and I felt so relieved and relaxed afterward.

June has seen other good rides too. At our Sunday relaxer last week, we had 2 new attendees. Brian (music director at church) is really new, having learned to pedal a bike in his 30s just a few weeks ago. He brought his brother in law Perry along and they were both fine companions. I hope to see them again. We did a very hilly ride in Wetumpka last Saturday and we rode in Pintlala the week prior to that, so we are getting a good taste of roads from all over.

After the ride yesterday, Sharon & I drove to Southern Homes & Gardens just to look for ideas, and we bumped into Michael S who was doing the same thing. Michael rode up Mt Cheaha with me a few years back. He works at the bike shop in Montgomery now and is a very good runner and rider. Then when Sharon & I went to the Ghengis Grill (very tasty and plenty of vegan options) for dinner, we saw Darren B in the parking lot. It was his birthday and he was meeting family there. Darren rode (and won!) for the local cycling team before it ended, and talked about a new one starting up. Both Michael and Darren are way faster than me and neither would ever be seen on a bike like I ride, but cycling is an activity where it's okay to come from different perspectives and we get along fine and appreciate what each other does.

Tailwinds everybody!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day Weekend

It's been a nice weekend. First, It's nice to live in a country where our freedom has been secure for so long. That freedom comes at a price though, and the price is the service of the members of our armed forces. Sometimes, the price is paid with their lives, and that is really the remembrance of Memorial Day. On both bike rides this weekend, I enjoyed the company of either present or past members of branches of the US military.

On Saturday, Frank and I were the only show ups for a new route, the South Autauga County Loop. All the roads have been pedaled before at one time or another, but this is the first time we put them together quite this way. I really liked the layout and this will be a keeper. Mostly quiet roads, and even an uphill mile or so of dirt road! Unfortunately, our buddy Steve H was not on hand to fully appreciate the rural ramble. He so loves to take his carbon Orbea with 18 mm tires on dirt. NOT!  We smiled though as we imagined what he would say as he rapidly scooted by to get done with that section as soon as possible. It really was better than some "paved" roads we've been on. No washboard or ruts.  Frank handled it on his race bike (28 tires?) just fine.  I had 38mm Pari Motos on and just floated along.
Plenty of climb and a couple of store stops. The blooms along the roadside were fragrant and we spent more time enjoying the scenery and less time staring at cyclometers. The old coach (Autaugaville HS BBall) at the Kingston store was in good spirits when we arrived and we chatted a few minutes. He asked me where we've been lately, as our rides have not brought us by his way. We ended up with 43 miles.

Today, 5 of us met at the high school and did the Memorial Day ride I do almost every year. Ray B took off on his own, and ended up with 103 miles at 16.7 avg (if I interpret his posting aright). Neil rode with us for about 50 miles, but got a call from his sick missus who needed him back at the ranch so he peeled off. Russ, Ray G and I pressed on. The winds were calm at the start but boy did they pick up. Stiff headwinds for most of the second half of the ride. That, and steep climbs in strong sun made for quite the work out. Russ did not look like he was working hard however. ("My average HR was 140" he told us afterward) but he had to climb all the same hills we did! Maybe the tri-athlete thing helps? :)  Anyway, he was great and hung around with us slower guys looking like he was just enjoying the workout, regardless of pace. Ray was battling a balky front shifter that wanted to dump his chain on the inside when he went to he small ring. I suggested "trimming" the lever instead of pushing it and that helped. After the ride I pointed out the travel limit screws for him to adjust. Just shy of 61 miles today and LOTS of hills and LOTS of wind. It took as long as the ride afterwards for my legs to come 100% back. They were okay for a trip with Sharon to Fresh Market grocery though. I scored some Sumatran coffee beans AND Sharon got me a bag of Good N Plenty. :)

In between the rides, I did our yard, and hobnobbed with our son while he got under his car and our daughter-in-law's to change the oil and otherwise poke around. My job was to sit and sip a cold beverage and occasionally hand him a rag or something. It was a nice visit with the kids actually.

Oh, Saturday after the ride, Sharon and I went car shopping. Our friend Mel suggested a certain Montgomery dealer from positive past experience, and we went there. We found a car I liked, we agreed on the price and we drove it home. I've had a take-home company car for the past 16 years, but my current employer does not work that way. I will use a company car this coming week for example to travel on company business, but the car stays in a car pool when not on business, so I need wheels of my own. I'm a little excited as this is my first personal vehicle since a '96 S-10 we bought in Plant City, FL. Our car buys since then have been for Sharon (Saturn, Hyundai) or Alex (Scion). I told Sharon she could have the "new" car (it's a very clean 2010 model Toyota) but she is happy with and wants back her Sonata. No problem.
I also worked on Gary's antique, err classic, Raleigh. Early 90s with aluminum top and down tubes and chrome moly everything else. It was all original and all the original running gear was orange in color. Not for style, but from rust. I gave him a list of parts to collect and he got most of them, and I went to work. New brake pads front and rear, new chain, new shifter cables, new rim tape, new tubes and new tires. I sprayed some stuff on the freewheel and WD 40 on the nuts and bolts. The bike will be fine, re-purposed for his son.

Sunday morning, I filled the pulpit at our church. I got a little disconnected in my thinking, but enough people got the message I was trying to bring that I think it was okay. What I lacked in organization, I made up for in brevity. Brevity is always generally popular in sermons. The concept was, when reading MT 25:40 (.. 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.') do we know what God means by "the least of these?"  That is, we tend to classify based on our per-existing mental filing systems, which may not jive with how God's economy works. My point was that while immediate physical charity (expressed in a number of ways) is laudable, it is sharing the eternal truths to those who are lost and lack them that is the better gift. (John 4:10 Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." )  Living water being a better gift than regular water, and etc..

So it's been a GREAT weekend. I head out tomorrow on my 1st sales swing for the new place, which is exciting and I have some bids that go in this week too.  Of course, what would be really great would be if something SELLS.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Mid May 2013

I'm back from a really nice pedal this morning. Despite lots of green and yellow on the radar, Russ, Max & I chanced it and were rewarded with some pleasant miles. It's the first Saturday outing for me in a several weeks. Starting the new job threw a wrench into cycling schedules, but one must eat and pay for the roof overhead. The first few weeks have been good by the way. I like my co workers and they seem to tolerate me. I'm in sales now instead of operations and I like that. Fortunately, a number of opportunities to bid on have come up and statistics say that if we are bidding on work, we'll get our share. I'm based in NW GA, but will be making sales swings from here in AL at times too. I've worked out a new routine to include some time for my usual morning calisthenics, and two after work rides each week.

Chad, in our office, is a runner (so he's fit) and a former mountain biker. He brought his Gary Fisher Tuesday and we pedaled a mostly off road, mostly very difficult short ride up Lavender Mountain to the House O'Dreams at Berry College in Rome. The dirt roads are steep and freshly bathed in thick streams of small blue stone gravel, making traction a rare commodity. That and about 1,000' of climb in a 2 mile stretch. Pretty at the top though. This view is back towards town.

The paved trail from the campus has a 3' diameter +/- Sun painted at the start. The planets are painted to scale in size and distance as you move out away from it. The planets are dots, and some are MILES away. The idea that gravity holds them all together is mind boggling.  It's called the Viking Trail,  perhaps named for the Mars exploration spacecraft of the same name?

Once we got to the top, we rested while Chad showed me the garden and explained that students at the school built it all in the 1920s, using materials from the site area.
 Here I am at the entrance drive. You can see I had my old Bridgestone MB-2 Mountain bike this time. I usually take a road bike.

EVERY road around this place is hilly, unless you are riding along the riverside. Which we plan to do one of these days. The hills are bigger and steeper than I am used to, but I guess if I ride them, my legs will adjust.

Here is the garden on opposite side of the house from the picture above. With wind chimes sounding gently in the background, this is a restful and delightful place. Sadly, we needed to leave in time to find our way back during daylight. On the way, Chad suggested a "shortcut" he sort of remembered. It was less difficult to ride on, but when I heard shots fired not too far away, I  began to pray in earnest for a safe trip back to the car! There is a controlled hunt in progress and the gate WAS closed on this road...

On Thursday, I took the same bike and rode up the toughest climb I've seen in many a day, if not ever. After topping Booze Mountain and descending to the traffic light on the other side, I found a bigger hill awaiting!  I had to stop twice on the ascent and catch my breath, re starting each time by traversing the road when it was clear to do so. The Garmin said 36% but I doubt that. 24% maybe at max and 12 - 15% otherwise. For a full 1/2 mile. Followed by 6 miles of steady gradual up in a valley.Pretty though, and fragrant with jasmine, honeysuckle and  maybe some other stuff.  The very quick mountain bike steering that works wonders at avoiding roots and rocks on a woodsy path is NOT what I want when descending at 37 mph. Which is a record for that bike, no doubt.

Today's ride was my 1st regular Saturday road ride of any length or effort since the middle of April. As I noted, Russ and Max met me up by the usual rally point and we did 35 miles of hills. About 2,000' of climbing in all. We were rained on (I packed a rain jacket and helmet cover, but truthfully, the rain felt good and I never took them out), paused to meet up with the mayor and join his annual bike ride for kids down to a park where some hands on exhibits were set up, and then completed our loop. Russ provided the blog material today. A super fit triathlete, I suppose he just can't go slow and the mayor's kids were only doing about 7 mph. He slid his front wheel on a rain slicked exposed section of old train rail and did a spectacular crash. It looked for all the world like he was aiming for this:

But it was more like this:

Russ did execute the "tuck and roll" as shown here by our stunt double, perfectly and broke no bones nor bike parts. He was skinned up a little, but seemed like he would recover. We prescribed aspirin, or similar.

And watch kids, this is why we say, "Always wear a helmet!"  Russ, you need to buy a new one if yours hit the pavement.

So, some good riding this week, and feeling 1/2 way normal in that regard.

I also went car shopping today. I need something economical just to get to/from work, and have a cycling friend in the business. I was surprised to find that no one takes you out and shows you CARS anymore. They show you cars on a laptop screen and say,  "we can get that for you." Well, no, there is a car being readied that is of interest and will be available to look at soon. I came home and hunted online and found numerous others. Anyway, I hope to have a pleasant car buying experience and end up with a serviceable used car. If things go well, down the road we'll upgrade that as we can.

I'm filling the pulpit again next Sunday (locals are always welcome to come and listen!). I always approach that duty with deep respect and nervous apprehension. Once I get going though, it seems to all work out. When the pastor first asked if I could fill in should the need arise, I began to jot ideas down and outline my ideas. In the past, I have written out my sermons and had them to read, but my recent experience preaching at the local homeless mission with outline notes instead has emboldened me to try this same approach. The source material is impeccable after all, and the Spirit is ever present to illumine. :)

I'm back in GA next week but then take off on my first road sales swing. Figuring out how to work in exercise and cycling there will be a challenge. And one that has to take a back seat to the primary mission focus, SALES.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Don't Fence Me In

While I prefer not to be fenced in, we decided it would be a good idea to fence in our back yard so that our dog can run around out there, unfettered by the cable and stake arrangement we've been using. She gets tangled up easily with that and we really have to sit out there with her to keep an eye out. Neighbors have erected privacy fences along the back and one side of our lot, so we needed the other side and the short pieces extending from each side of our house. We got homeowner association approval and then I went down to the City Hall Annex and got a fence permit. One nice thing about a small town is that these things usually can be done quickly.  I went to Home Depot and bought the supplies and arranged for them to deliver. The materials came early yesterday morning and I went to work on it while the morning was still cool. I hoped that the recent rains would leave the red clay soil we live on soft enough to come out without problems. Even after a careful study of the sprinkler system plan, I was hesitant to use a power auger for fear of cutting through a PVC water line unwittingly.

The digging went as hoped. Each of the 10 post holes required 10 - 12 minutes of actual digging to get the required depth. It was a great shoulder and arm workout! The regular morning exercises that I do really helped here. Our son Alex  came by around mid-morning and he helped on a hole or two, but mostly he assisted with placing the fence panels, which was very much appreciated. We got everything in place yesterday and gave the dog a test run in the yard. She loved it. The fence we chose is a low height spaced Gothic picket. It provides closure for the yard, but does not spoil the sense of open view that we like on the unfenced side. Today, I will re adjust one panel to make it level, and install the gate hardware.

Alex brought the wife and kidlet along and we all enjoyed the visit. Our grandson grows while we watch, it seems. He worked the dog out in the back too. Or she worked him out. I'm not really sure.

Brown came and delivered a new carburetor for the lawn mower. After visiting 2 repair shops in town, I discovered that these Chinese imports are essentially "disposable" units. It costs more to have someone rebuild a dirty one than buy a new one. I may take the old one apart and tinker with it though.The mower started up immediately once the new unit was on and I mowed the yard as long as it was running.

Max decided to dip his toe in the water of the high speed race riders on the other side of town last night, so I was his designated replacement for the club ride locally. Only the club treasurer showed up to ride. Two other riders came by to say hello, but Robert and I were the only ones to go out and do the route. Weird, because it was a PERFECT evening to ride. We almost finished before sunset as well. I felt a little zip in my legs but decided to work at about 75% and not get too worn out. I'd already had a busy day. Robert did time trials the night before and a century last Saturday. A slower paced ride was ideal for him. So wwe averaged about 14.5, which is fine considering the couple of long 7% and 9% climbs we had to make along the way.

It's been a thoughtful week. Someone I knew from church died on Saturday. I had just gone to see her with some other people about a week prior. We had communion together, because she was unable to come to church any more. Serving the supper does create a closer sense of kindred, I suppose. In any event, her passing (which is great as far as the being in Heaven and not suffering goes)  affected me more than I would have expected. Sharon dispatched me with food to two other houses this week. One, a recent widow and the other a recent pace maker recipient. In each case, I paused briefly to chat a little. You get better connected to and care more deeply for others when you become part (even a little part) of their lives. It's so easy to get wrapped up in my own plans and goings on. These reminders have been good.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Nice Day to Ride

When local riding buddy Rick & I were talking the other day (after he graciously came by and helped out with my lawn. Our mower is a non starter at present. I thought he was going to help me fix it, or loan me a mower for 30 mins - that's all my yard takes me, but no. He mowed my yard with his commercial rig, in about 10 mins, then we ran string trimmers to tidy it all up.) and he mentioned that a 50ish mile ride this weekend would be good. Since current circumstances preclude my presence in Atlanta for a pen show, I thought his idea had plenty of merit.

6 riders showed up for a reprise of the route from last June, which ended with a farewell BBQ to a friend finishing up at the local air force base class and heading "down East" as they say up there in Maine. A good mix of terrain with convenient stores along the way if needed. It was in the upper 40s at the start, and I added a thin wool tee under a s/s merino jersey, wool arm warmers and  wool knee warmers under my shorts. It really was just right. The arm warmers came off about 30 miles out, the knee warmers stayed on as it was really only upper 60s or so when we came back. We did 52 miles, and climbed 2,500' +/-, all rollers, no big hills.

Here are Rick, Mario, and I pedaling up a slight grade near Prattville.  I was looking down at the Garmin to see exactly how slight, it appears.

Plenty of wind (headwind outbound, and at the very end. Tailwind in between) and climbs in the 9% - 11% range. Nothing terribly tough, in other words.  The lead riders took off at a crisp pace, then there were 2 middle speed riders who re connected with us at the stops, then Rick and I, thoroughly enjoying the view from the back. We climbed steadily and slogged into the wind steadily. We enjoyed decent pace on the flats. To say that the azaleas are lovely does them a great disservice. They are spectacular. Plenty of other leafing and flowering things were beautiful to look at. Great reason NOT to stare at a cyclocomputer or down at the road.There were a few dogs today; none of any imminent threat. I saw a brilliant Indigo Bunting over a field and the distinct yellow belly of the Eastern Meadowlark soon after. All the usual animals were out as well.

I put the original wheels back on my Rambouillet and was surprised (again) at how well it rides. It's had other crank sets and wheels on to try but it's back to stock status and rides best that way. Apparently, its designer was onto something with the build he selected.  One of the other riders was on a very nice looking bike that was a size or two too small for him. He's made it work with lots of after market stuff, but he agrees that a larger frame would suit him better. It's so nice to finish a ride and my back, neck, hands and shoulders do not hurt. My legs are a little sore from work, which is okay and my bottom can tell it did something today, like sit on a saddle for several hours. But that's okay, and improves as the season goes on. The reason nothing hurts after 50+ miles is because the bike is properly fit. When the bike fit is right, the ride is so much more fun. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Cool Spring

Yes, I see that my ride posts have dwindled down to once monthly recaps. I need to fix that.

It's been an eventful month since the last entry though, both on and off the bike. I lost my job last Monday,  I am thankful for having had it and look forward to whatever is next career-wise.
I'm staying in my same routine as far as wake up, exercise, etc, so that when work does fire up again for me, I won't have to shift gears.

Bike wise, I was elected to the club board of directors and am the rides chair. We have a great group of people as new officers and directors and the enthusiasm and energy at our exec meeting last week was palpable. We are already moving ahead on a number of good fronts and will be a positive influence in the tri-county region for most aspects of cycling.

I entered a contest put on by Road Holland cyclewear.( ) for the cyclist most needing better looking clothes. I made the finalist selection and that came with a hefty discount coupon, used for a nice Hilversum full zip. Then I actually WON the contest and received a very nice Den Haag jersey free!

I wore it yesterday on the club relaxer ride and can tell you the cut, fabric and feel were all great. Both jerseys are technical fiber and wool blends. A "best of both" concept. I wondered where all the garment names came from. After a Google check, d'oh. They're places in HOLLAND.

Since losing the job, we've gone on the austerity plan of course. I've pedaled to the bank, Wal-Mart, the ride meet up point and will pedal to City Hall today to meet the mayor at 2 PM (he wants to talk bikey stuff with me) and then to a church meeting tonight at 7:00. I might even build up my legs!

This is the official start week for the Prattville Rides as well. Good stuff!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Ft. Toulouse

With the promise of warmer air today than in recent weekends, I posted a 7:15 meet up for a cruise to Wetumpka and Ft. Toulouse state park. The fort was built in 1714 by the French to protect traders from attacks by local natives who may have felt short changed by the whole European invasion thing. Fighting persisted for 100 years until a decisive battle between the Creeks and General Andrew Jackson at Horseshoe Bend. They renamed the fort for the General and also the treaty that ended the Creek War, which also by the way, added a big chunk of AL and GA to the United States.

We intend to start bicycle camping this year and this park was suggested as a good local starting point. About 25 miles each way, we could test our bike set ups, see if we packed the right stuff, etc. If we omitted something essential, it's close enough to home to call for a special delivery. After a campout shakedown, we can then look at longer rides to other more out of the way places. Today was just a route recon to see if there would be any issues for laden bikes. There were a couple of less than perfect sections, but it was all generally okay. I planned for an out and back, but Max suggested a loop and that is what we did.

I was originally just going to head out from home, but Frank wanted in and so we set a meet up at the Wal-Mart parking lot about 1/2 way between us. Then Frank came up sick, and Max and Glen wanted to go, so WE met at 7:15 in Prattville. Then Chris wanted in, so we waited for him too. As a surprise, Jerry came pedaling up. He lives in Wetumpka and came over. He rode with us back to the park, then peeled off to go home.

Nice sunny day to start with, but breezy. It was 46F, and I wore a L/S Smartwool base layer under the Rivendell Wooly Warm jersey that came this week. It's my size, blue, nearly new in condition and 1/3 of new retail off Etsy. Worked great and no jacket needed. Was still fine when the temps climbed during the day to the low 60s, and kept the wind at bay. Since the ride was not too hilly, I took the Riv Road which has a closer gearing range than the others.  Like many of rides, when you have some over 50 types along, figure on some bathroom stops. Today was not different in that regard.  Chris likes this I think. He can RACE ahead, find a store and pit stop, and then be casually leaning on the outside wall waiting for us to catch up.

We stopped at a Shell on US 231 and Jerry provided a lesson in bunny hopping the curb. Well, he was almost successful. He was laughing pretty good about it too. When we got to the intersection of 74 and 231, Chris asked, "are we gonna have to climb that hill?" I didn't know which hill he meant. "The one with a restaurant at the top."   I had no idea.  So we pedaled along and sure enough rounding a curve, there was a large hill. "Yes. The answer is yes. We are climbing a hill." It wasn't bad really. He was having issues with chain skip or failure to line up properly on the rear gears, which is a shame on his near new carbon frame Cervelo. He and Glenn were pulled over looking it over. I first thought that he must have flatted (another fishhook in the sidewall?) but his tires were fine.  Later, his bottom bracket (or the shell!) started to creak very loudly!. Thankfully he finished the ride, but I suspect that the bike shop will need to scope this one out. The original frame he says had to be replaced from a factory defect. Hope that is not the case this time.

We started out quicker than I would have if riding alone, but I was enjoying it. The price to be paid came at the end when I ran low on gas in my legs. Still, the overall average was decent by my standards and that includes some very slow ambling inside the park while we checked things out. Max and I authorized each other so we went around the sign that says "Authorized Vehicles Only" and checked out the historical markers and the reconstructed old fort.

The camping accommodations will do, but more remote campsites would be way better.

It was a good ride and good to be home for lunch. After eating, Sharon went and got Kael and I took Stella. We all converged at the dog park. Stella discovered mud. AFTER Sharon bathed her, she was suitable to be loose in the house again. Kael and I followed up with a toss of a baseball. He's 6 and it's about time he learns to put a mitt on his hand.

Nice day.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Continuing On..

"So what  kind of gearing do you want? Are you clipping in or pedaling free, or something in between?  More on all that next time."

Most of the people who come out to a beginner ride will reply, when asked about their bike, "It's whatever they recommended at the bike shop."  That usually means whatever the bike shop had in stock and was trying to sell on that particular day. Like just about anything you buy, almost every part of a bike has size and quality options. There are a lot of numbers on a bike, and the number of teeth on the gear in front by the pedals and the number of teeth in back by the rear wheel governs how hard you have to pedal to make the bike move, and what the resulting speed of that pedal stroke will be. So, if your big gear in front has 50 teeth and the big one on back has 25 (a fairly common set up these days), your wheel goes around twice for every turn of the pedals. If your smallest gear in back has 11 teeth, then you spin 50/11 or almost 5 times in back for each pedal turn. Over twice as hard and twice as fast. The usual smaller gear up front (and most of the bikes I see lately have this) is 34 teeth. So the absolute EASIEST gear you have is 34/25 or a ratio of 1.36. You can count gear teeth yourself, or look at them in good light and find the numbers stamped on them at the factory. 

Here's a simplified picture of a bike's drive train. The front gears on the crankset are called chain rings. The rest of the crankset is the crank arms which the pedals attach to and the bearing that connects them, called a bottom bracket. The front derailler moves the chain from one chain ring to another. The rear gears used to be called a freewheel. (I still use these. They are threaded and spin on and off the wheel hub) These days the wheel has a spinning freehub instead and a cassette of gears (also called a cluster) slides on and off it. The rear derailler moves the chain from one to another back gear (or cog). You can shift either or both at the same time. If your deraillers are not set up right, you can shift too far and the chain goes over the inside or outside and comes off. Cables attached to your shifters move the deraillers. (The French spelling is derailleur. More and more you see the English derailler instead these days. They were invented by an Italian. He started a small parts company that is still in business.)

If you climb hills, or have a fair amount of weight to lug up any sort of slope (your own weight or cargo you're carrying), then lower gears are very helpful. I have a couple of bikes and one of them has that 50 & 34 double gearing up front (called a "compact double") and the gears in the back go from 13 teeth to 27 teeth. My lowest gear there is 1.26. My other bikes all have 3 gears in front. The 3rd is a smaller one, called a "granny" by many. So easy to use, your granny could pedal it. The small gear for me is 26 teeth. Those bikes have either 26 or 32 teeth in back. Now my effort level is even less than 1:1. A 26 to 32 gives a ratio of 0.81. That's 40% less work to go up a hill than the 34 to 25 ratio on a bike shop floor model. This really matters when you are well into a ride and getting tired, believe me. A wider range rear set of gears (called a cassette) works with a double gear set up front too, just not over as wide a range. Is having a 3rd front gear heavy? It adds a few ounces to your bike weight. Less than your cell phone probably. Or your Garmin. Or a filled water bottle. Well, you get the idea. You have make sure that the number of gears and the number of teeth of the gears you buy (if you are replacing what came stock with the bike) suits the shifting mechanism you have (unless you are changing that too). You can order your new bike with wider range gearing and the shop will set it up for you. One local rider did that when she bought her first road bike, following a period of coming out to club rides on her mountain bike. I'll be glad to help with any questions.  Yes, you travel uphill slowly in a very low gear, but you do travel and you won't feel like death at the top of the climb. As long as you keep moving, you will not keel over, either.

So the pedals go in a circle every time you push on them and each turn of the circle makes your rear wheel spin which propels your bike. If you average about 72 RPM or more, that's called "spinning." Less is called "pumping." Spinning is easier on your joints and more efficient than pumping is. So you select the gears front and rear that let you keep a desired effort level at the rate of spin (called "cadence") desired. For me, it's 84 RPM average, and I usually run 14 - 16 mph on a flat smooth road in no wind, so I want a gear ratio of about 2.36.  Yesterday, on the relaxer ride, I was coming up Jackson Ferry Rd at 80 RPM. My front chain ring was 42 teeth and my rear cog was
a 16 tooth so that was 2.63 ratio. My speed was about 16 mph. That bike has three chain rings and 42 is the middle one. I have a spreadsheet gear calculator but really, I go by what feels best at any point in any given ride. I ride "free" in that I don't connect to the pedals as a rule. You can connect your feet to the pedals by means of snap in cleats on shoes, or a metal or plastic cage that your shoe slides into or by a fabric strap that you slide your foot under. I've tried all of those methods and for me, riding is more enjoyable when I can move my feet around to relieve any hot spots or joint twinges. Also, I push in different ways when climbing than when going flat. If my feet are locked in place, none of that can happen. If you stop your bike and forget or are unable to release the foot on the down leaning side of the bike, you fall over on the ground. This is embarrassing usually and can cause injury. I know of no one who clips in to the pedals who has NOT fallen over. Including me. The attachment mechanism of any sort adds a few ounces of weight as well.

so why do so many people clip in or otherwise connect to pedals? There are two reasons. The first is that your feet won't slide off the pedals. The second is that with practice, you can pedal more efficiently by pulling UP on the pedals as well as pushing down, and even pedaling in a full circle. If your goal is to race, or even just to go faster, this is an advantage for you. In the end, I decided to adopt a more relaxed bike lifestyle and stay comfortable and free of foot, ankle and knee pain. I also can put my feet down fast when unexpected road conditions pop up. I still pedal in a smooth circle and actually apply force through about 2/3 of the pedal circle. Push forward, then down, then draw back. I can't pull up of course, but by lifting the idle leg, it makes the pushing work of the opposite leg easier.

We had 12 riders including 4 brand new faces yesterday for the relaxer outing! Once again I heard how painful a tush-cush saddle is. Yes, it is. Please see the prior entry for comments on saddles. I rode in un-padded pants on an un-padded leather saddle and was pretty happy about it. That's because the leather saddle has shaped to fit me and my weight is evenly distributed on it. There are any number of saddles out there to try of course and comfort is a very personal decision. Since it's really the most important part of bike comfort, take your time, try lots of saddles and saddle positions (nose up, flat, down, etc) until you find the combination that yields an enjoyable ride every time. You'll ride more that way.

Century season is coming up. I'm thinking of doing 4 in the Alabama "Backroads" series this year. Plus the MS 150 (for the 11 year running). We'll see how it all pans out.


Sunday, February 10, 2013

It's All About The Numbers

I started as an adult to ride a bike around 2000 or 2001. I had fallen waaaaay out of the track and wrestling team shape of my schoolboy days and I was looking to bribe myself to get outside and move around more. I thought that something that I'd always wanted as a kid but rarely had, a shiny new bicycle, might do the trick.  Indeed it did, as I found myself bitten by the biking bug in a serious way. It was more than just the joy of turning the pedals and listening to the sounds of the chain over the gear teeth, the rubber responding to minor irregularities of road surface, or the jingle jangle of something that should have been more securely fastened, but was now banging out of sight, but not out of hearing. I found myself attracted to the NUMBERS of a bike.

Many riders I know deal with numbers on some scale or other. They know how much their bike weighs. At least as it is presented by the bike advertisers, and lacking things like pedals, water bottles, a tool kit, pump, spare tube, Garmin, a comfortable saddle, what have you. The may know the tire size and pressure, how many gears they have and the size frame they ride. They know how many miles they've ridden this year and at what average speed. How many feet of elevation they've climbed and  what % grade as well.

Considerably fewer pay attention to the numbers OF cycling. Bike geometry; which governs fit and affects comfort, and handling (Rake). Drive-train gear ratios, chain length, shift range of various deraillers. How changing the tire size and air pressure affects comfort, speed  and handling (Trail). Many don't know their own body measurements, as relates to the bike, to get the best size frame, proper width handlebars, correct length of crank arms, comfortable space between the pedals (Q-factor). Few pay much attention to the comfort details like proper saddle selection and set up, correct stem height, length, and how much padding do or don;t you need on handlebars?

All of this comes to mind from an on the ride conversation with a new rider on the club Saturday outing. A fit woman who focuses on triathlons, Jan was working on her bike fitness this particular day. I noticed that she was turning about 55 rpm in a huge gear, maybe a 53:14 or so. When I asked her about it, she said she had read that a slow cadence in a tall gear was the most efficient way to go. Now, toss out any idea on cycling and surely you will find someone to argue more than one point of view. This one though is pretty well settled in the racing and touring communities, 72RPM is the Rubicon between pumping or mashing and spinning. Spinning is generally held to be more efficient, easier on the joints and better when encountering headwinds or hills. Road racers generally spin around 95 RPM and up to 105 for a pursuit or attack. Yes, there may be times that you just feel like slowly tromping up a hill, but on a long ride, you do much better in an easier gear at higher rpm. It's how 4 cylinder imports first challenged domestic V8s on the road. I've worked to get my spin up to 84 avg and as I race no one, that works for me.

Comfort on a bike is again a very personal situation. We are all made differently, and our sense of comfort varies as well. There are just three contact areas between you and your bike. Your hands, your bottom, and your feet. I am happiest when most of the weight is on my bottom, evenly distributed over a form fitting (for me, leather) saddle. I need no chamois pad in the shorts and therefore no chamois lube either. By the way, if you wear padded shorts, you do not wear underpants. You put chamois lube on you or the shorts to prevent chafing. If you do NOT wear padded shorts (like me) you DO wear underwear. This allows the layers of fabric to slide on each other. Cotton is a bad choice in any of these cases, as once it gets wet from perspiration, it drags on your skin. Thin wool base layers are my choice, but wicking synthetics (Technical fabrics) work well too. Cotton is fine for a 2 mile casual pedal for a Starbucks however, where sweat is not likely to be a problem.

When I am sitting on the saddle, I can pull my arms away from the handlebars without falling forward, and my arms are relaxed when on the bars. This keeps my hands and shoulders from getting tired and puts little load on my back. That also means there is no padding needed on the handlebars or in the gloves. Padding is often an answer to a problem that could also be solved by changing the bike set up.

More limber riders can set up so their backs are parallel to the ground, which is speedy and aerodynamic. This means a higher seat and lower handle bars. My 45 deg incline set up gives me a better look around, at the expense of speed. Also, my limber days are behind me. My handlebars run about 2" above my saddle.

To get the right frame size, start with your pubic bone height. Here's a link on how to measure it.

Once you have this you can start with a proper size frame and dial in as little or as much of the rest as desired. I'm not going to attempt a bike fit compendium here, but I'll happily answer any questions I can, and help anyone find what works for them.

So what  kind of gearing do you want? Are you clipping in or pedaling free, or something in between?  More on all that next time.

And since Jan turns out to have an eye for a picture, here is one she took on our ride yesterday.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

January Riding

Where does the time go? It's almost February already.  I'm 10 miles shy of hitting my average for January mileage and a tenth or two off my usual January pace. And I've deliberately tried to slow down! My friend Max is on the mend from some cardiac stents and has to keep his pulse fairly low. To do this we went on a very relaxing 32 miler together yesterday. We left the fast folks at home. You know what? I can't remember enjoying a ride more recently. As we finished up, I felt hardly exercised. We were plenty fast enough for a rando ride, as long as we didn't dally off the saddle much. I really need to remember this the next time I go for a brevet. Plan the ride out ahead at the pace I want to ride, and let the horses run on ahead. Ride my ride, and enjoy the ride, right. Here we are on an overcast and cool day, coming up to an intersection. A friend passing by in his car stopped to snap the picture.

I had two layers of merino on under that jacket and never felt over dressed. Today was much nicer since the Sun came out.  It was the relaxer ride to the Gump and a couple of really good street corner musicians were playing kind of bluesy folk rock.  I put a dollar in the guitar case and snapped this picture.

It was just our usual Sunday ride but made special by having local friend Ron back with us. Ron has been off the bike since a traffic mishap about a year ago. Good to have him back and he did just fine.  Both the Saluki yesterday and Rambouillet today felt very comfortable. Rivendell just makes some good riding bikes.  Looking at January, I've gotten 9 rides in, 3 on each of those and 3 on the Rivendell Road. And that wasn't even planned!

Sharon has been on two beginner rides with us this month, and needs to come more often. Her new knees seem good to go for that.

Work has been a bear this month. Our sales manager describes market conditions as "brutal" and I don't think he exaggerates much. It takes FOREVER to close a deal, and contractors keep picking and picking to try and pry even more from you. We sold a job this week that was originally quoted last April. We have to update a price for a project pending since last July when I get back in tomorrow. And so on.  There were 3 work related funerals this past week too, Two were relatives of co workers and one WAS a co worker. We're a small company so even the people I am not close to, I know well enough. I turned in my December estimates this weekend, and will find out how we think we did for the year. I know it was a hard year. Not enough demand, No room for errors. Hopefully things will improve.

This month we added a dog to our family. Sharon named her Stella, because she wanted a good "shouting" name. She seems to be "our" dog as she spends time with both of us. Shy and fearful at first, she has relaxed an opened up nicely. She likes walks and time at the city dog park. Fetch never gets old for her either. She's about 11 months old, and seems a mix of chocolate lab and britany spaniel. Very pretty dog and quite smart. She came from neighbors Mike & Melissa who treated her well, but who could just not fit her into the scheme of their other pets. I thanked Mike today and told him that we liked her very well and it seems a win - win situation for both our families. Here we are, bonding.

Stella and I have become walking buddies. Usually at least 2 miles a day. Over 3 today.

I guess that's it for now. Hope everyone has had a good start to their year.

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