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

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Blog material!

Sometimes I forget to mention when we have new riders in the group that if we ride together, there is a small chance that their names may show up in a blog entry. The probability increases if anything interesting happens on the ride of course. Like today. We had two new riders at the Sunday afternoon Social ride. Leslie, a fit young woman in town for an Air Force school of short duration had no trouble blending in with that portion of our group which always says, "I'm taking it slow today. This is a recovery ride" and promptly jumps off in an 18 mph breakaway  I did not see her again during the ride. Karen, a retired college professor who rode with us once last year and somehow found her way back again, and who may not have pedaled in between, was more of a true beginner rider.

 Karen found a new looking older rail trail bike at Re Ride Cycles and they put new rubber on and cleaned it up for her. What they apparently did not do was put the rim tape back on over all the spokes. Her tire went flat shortly after we started, and Karen remembered that Re Ride commented on having a tube go flat just after they replaced the original. We (Karen, me and Ron who chose to stay with us today) pulled off into a side street and took a look at it. The front wheel featured a nice quick release, the back one featured nicely chromed nuts. Hmm. Enter Ron, who just may be the only cyclist in 3 counties who (when riding the Blackhawk Bike) has an Oxy-acetylene torch, a ball pein hammer and oh yeah, an adjustable crescent wrench. That last item did the trick. Then we realized that Karen is rocking 700 x 35 touring tires while Ron and I are cruising on 26" MTB wheels. Hmm. Ron saves the day again! (The "S" is almost visible under his neon yellow vest!) He has a 700 x 23 tube. Now, Re Ride had Karen set up with Schrader tubes, but Ron's tube is a Presta.  To try to pump her the first time, I flipped the innards of my frame pump around from my Presta to her Schrader and re inflated her. It didn't last so we did a tube change (which Karen found very instructional) and I switched the pump back. Since the tube was so much smaller than the tire, and since we had only 5 miles to go back, I pumped it up to very low pressure, and we reassembled everything.

It was about this time the Karen noticed the absence of her car keys. This was also about the time I mentioned the concept of "blog material." The keys had departed her company somewhere along the way but she hadn't a clue where. Since she lives in the Eclectic area, driving home was her preference. Okaaayyyy. She thought she might just walk back and look for the keys but I could see the road just fine from a bike seat and asked her to consider pedaling. We had a better shot to get home by dark that way too.  Ron suggested that he ride on ahead and work his way back with the vehicle. I had a hunch though that the keys fell out during one of Karen's dismounts, perhaps when she walked up our hill. So Ron went on ahead and Karen and I pedaled along while scanning the road edge. It was about this time that Karen lost track of where HER road edge was and found herself cycling down a ditch. I encouraged her to stay calm and keep steering and she actually did just fine. Reinforcement though that things can get away from you quickly if you lose focus.

Karen is a wonderful raconteuse and her stories about everything from college football ("hook 'em Horns!") to her days at AUM (she knows 3 of my teaching AUM pals) to dealing with grandkids were highly entertaining. I made me want to pedal slower than we were just to prolong the telling of the tales. Well, that was not to be as Ron came pedaling back, to announce finding the missing keys, where they were surmised to have been dropped. What a relief for this bit of providence!  We made the parking lot successfully and just a few minutes prior to the return of the High Rollers. The always pleasant post ride banter ensued and we logged it as a nice way to spend an Alabama afternoon.

Karen asked that I make sure to point out that the only time she was off her bike, it was by her choice. :)

Saturday saw a little longer ride for me. I borrowed the phrase "designated last place finisher" from swift of foot friend Heather, and it removed all sense of pressure to stay up with anyone. This was a Ride for Sight, hosted by the MMS team ( a local tri athlete training group) and benefited the Lions Club.  I rode the "40" mile route with Connie who is rapidly extending her range. She's quicker than I am (who isn't?) on the flats but I ride more hills so I had a chance to stay even with her there. It was a delightful day, with great company, a pretty route and tasty BBQ at the end. Even as the sweeper, my moving avg was not far off 15 and that's as quick as I go generally speaking.

All  in all a great weekend to ride.  Hope to see you all on the roads soon!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Too much Work on the Workers Ride

The rainy front passed by yesterday, leaving this morning cool and crisp. And windy. Winds are forecast to get up around 30 mph in gusts as the day goes on, so I opted for the 30 mile route today instead of the original 100 KM plan. Afterwards, I knew that was the better choice for me today. despite being shorter, the ride was not lacking in new people to meet and pedal with, beautiful scenes to go by and generally quiet roads. Today was the annual workers ride for next weekend's club century (I will volunteer at the P.A.C.E. rest stop) and we opened it up to anyone in the area who wanted to test ride the routes of 16, 30, 55, 62 and 100 miles. A nice crowd came out and we had folks on each of the routes at various paces. It was nice for the few miles that we experienced a tail wind, but the last 15, coming back with winds and rollers was WORK!

Within 3 miles of start, I saw a bike on the side of the road and  Karen Stankard was lying on her back with bloodied face. I stopped to see what was up, and helped her to her feet after checking for reasons not to. Other riders stopped too and made phone calls for help. A Pintlala water dept truck stopped to help as well. Phil and Anita Jones stayed waiting for "Medevac", as did Mary Ashley, while the rest of us went on. Karen said she was handling some items on the bike and lost sight of where her front wheel was. It seems to have slipped off the pavement into the sloped grass shoulder and control of the bike disappeared. Hopefully, she'll clean up okay and be none the worse for wear. I rechained her bike and got the rear wheel on straight before we departed.

This is the second rider to go down in the past two weeks due to an unexpected front wheel mishap. Last week, Kathy Thornton had a run in with a railroad track (it was a shabby crossing in need of repair) and now the grass got Karen.  The take away here is that just like driving a car or motorcycle, trouble can happen in a split second and we have to always be aware of the road in front of us, the location of other drivers, etc.

There are a number of newer cyclists in the club and it will be a few months before our club cycling guru, Mike Munk has the next basic cycling class. In the meanwhile, here are a few things to consider:

1.) You are a driver and your bike is a vehicle. Act that way at all times on the roadways. Same rules, same responsibilities. Same safe driving practices. Just slower than your car. For most of us. Louis Schwartzman goes as fast on his bike as the rest of us go in the car.

2.) It is worth the time to practice bike handling skills. Stops, turns, shifting, drinking.  Find somewhere easy to ride in, like a parking lot for this.If your bike doesn't shift easily (Kaitlin!) take it in to the shop. Get used to how the different gear combinations feel so you can pick what you want as you ride. Corner with the outside pedal down. Always have a bail out in mind in case you need to ditch. Green (Grass) is better than black (asphalt) and out of traffic is better than in traffic for starters. If you find yourself off the pavement, don't panic. shift to an easy gear (your small front ring for example) so you can control your pedaling and remember when you were a kid and rode your bike on grass without thinking about it. Maintain your handlebar grip and stay calm and in the moment. if you like it, consider Cyclocross!

3.) It is VERY worth the time and cost to have a comfortable set up on the bike. Get the right position and the right saddle. Bell Road Cycles does bike fits and Darren there is excellent at listening to find out what a rider needs. I don't know if MMS does bike fits also.  I have some ideas too, from an "Unracer's" perspective. No one saddle or set up will work for all riders although I have a few favorites. Feel free to ask me anytime. On rough roads, a fatter tire at lower air pressure is much more comfortable. Even if you can't change the tires, you can let some air out. If your tires show 100 psi, try 80 in front and 85 in back. Etc. Email me if you want the Excel spreadsheet and article reprint by Berto and Heine on tire pressure.  There is a Berto Tire Pressure Android app avail too.

4.) As colder air comes into play, your clothing will change. Air is your best insulator. A tight wind jacket that doesn't breathe will make you sweat. Wet clothes get cold fast. The key is layering. Wicking materials, and winter weight. Wool or microfiber are your best bets. Wool hiking socks in loose fitting shoes will keep your feet very comfy on a cold day. Rule of thumb is, if you are comfortable standing around in the parking lot before the ride, you are wearing too much. You need to be able to evaporate the sweat the work produces. Don't forget your head and hands as well. Wind vests are good to keep your core protected while letting excess heat escape. Gloves that don't breathe will make your hands soak in sweat. Don't laugh, but the wool gloves you wore as a kid work great on a cold biking day. Cheap too.

5.) You still need to drink when it is cold. And eat. I'm guilty of this too. I drank less than a bottle today in over 30 miles with hills and wind. I then I wondered why I feel lethargic.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Laboring on Labor Day Weekend

All week I've been thinking about what to post for rides this weekend. This years' crew of new riders has been making super progress. Some of the faster ones now ride with the A/B groups instead of with our Cs, and that's fine. It's satisfying to see people come into cycling, develop as riders and sort out into the right group for their interest and ability levels, as well as time available. We've been quietly adding more and more elevation to the Saturday rides over the past 6 weeks, and some of the riders are commenting how much better they feel about climbing. All good. After looking over our start points since Spring, it was evident that we weren't doing much in the Wetumpka area, so I posted the Emerald Mountain Toll Bridge ride. I've done this a few times before, but not since June of last year. This year's version is a little different with a little more climbing than last year.  Then we have scheduled our usual Sunday afternoon relaxer ride and a short 32 miles in Prattville early Monday, to let the BBQ s all get fired up on time.

I drove over to the Toll Bridge start with Max (it was the last I'd see of him for a while. He rides a couple of mph quicker than I do and all his hill drills have helped tremendously this year) and was surprised to see a big turnout in the parking lot! Including Mark who called in to say he was inbound, and who we waited for, we had 14 riders. Jim, Steve T and Mark E took off at "above the advertised pace" and the rest of us trailed behind, with me bringing up the rear. Steve warned me about rough chip-seal on Rifle Range road, but when we got to it, I thought it was fine. The chip-seal near the end on the lower portion of Dozier road was rough! Steel frame with long chainstays, leather saddle, and tires running a little less air in them made the buzz barely noticeable. (The Berto chart is a useful tool for getting optimal air pressure in your tires). Avoiding it would be like playing lift and place golf, on a nice dry sunny day!

The ride was dog free as well as vehicle near miss free. It was however, hillier than I remembered. A lot hillier. I referred to it as "medium" hilly in the posting, compared to say, Cheaha. Well, I saw grades on my Garmin screen over 20% and a lot of 15% to 17%.  Just like Cheaha. Total climb is less, but those steep ones took the starch out of my legs. Took them too fast I guess. That had a lot to do with my moving average ending up just BELOW the advertised range. Everyone else did just fine. Go figure. My heart rate got up way high, which results in profuse sweating, and lack of power in my legs. I knew it was happening and topping a hill, pulled into the shade for a few minutes of cool down and drinking fluids. The downhills were pretty nice. Got over 40 on a couple of them.  The Rivendell Rambouillet handles very securely at speed. Low center of gravity and stable geometry.

Although the ride start was 7:00 AM, we had to leave Prattville shortly after 6:00 in time to get there. Some folks left even earlier, perhaps before they were fully awake. Candace mentioned about 15 miles into the ride that she accidentally put her shorts on backwards today. What she actually said was, "Look at my butt, but don't LOOK at my butt." "Oh, no padding, " I said. I suggest ditching the padding to anyone riding a Selle Anatomica leather saddle. You don't need it. It was good to know she trusted me enough to try it out.  "No, the padding is in the front because my shorts are on backwards." She did say her seat was quite okay with no cushioning, but the wad of foam in the wrong place was very unpleasant. This was corrected at the next store stop opportunity! Maybe she'll try my idea out though and then it won't matter which way the shorts go on :)

We also looked at her new cleated shoes after the ride to adjust the pedal clip tension (she did not clip in on the ride).  We wear close to the same size, so I put on her shoes and gave them a tryout. As I slipped them on, I told Frank and Max, "Not a word about this to anyone!" Candace asked if I was embarrassed to be on a woman's bike wearing women's shoes. No, I didn't want it to get out that I was actually clipping in on a bicycle. Frank adjusted her clip tension and I showed her that the shoes clipped in and out satisfactorily. Her LG shoes were pretty comfy btw, if anyone is looking for shoes. Candace also has Keen cycling sandals which accept cleats. I ride in Keens and love them.

Why am I not a fan? Another rider fell over today climbing a hill when he wobbled a little, and could not unclip in time to put his foot down. I climb with my glutes and leg biceps mostly, and some calf muscle. None of which benefit from clipping in. No foot or leg cramps either.

In other cycling news, I came home Friday after work to a UPS delivery from Velocity USA, rim and wheel maker. Their products carry a lifetime warranty and a rear rim that came with a Rivendell Saluki developed a crack. They replaced the rim and re built the wheel. New spokes, nipples, rim.  Nice job.  I moved the wheel set over to the Rivendell Road now and will ride it tomorrow and Monday. It took then just a week to get it back to me, and while it was away I cleaned the cog set that goes on it. I'm pretty happy about the service.

Hope you're all enjoying whatever roads you pedal down.


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Just a Slice of a Cyclist's Life

Group ride attendance has been good all year so far, for all the faster rides, the Time Trials, the Sunday Social and the mid week hill drill routes. I'm glad to see it. Today's scheduled spin from Prattville down to Montgomery Airport and back was no exception. A C ride (13 -15 posted avg pace) with limited climbing, it drew a nice crowd. We left just past 8:00 A.M. from Academy Sports and headed South. One of our company was a new rider. She got her carbon Specialized at a local tri-athlete's store just 2 weeks ago, and was starting to train for a hoped for race in August (or maybe it was September?). Stephanie is a very pleasant woman, and we talked a little about cycling rules of the road, etc. I did notice that she was oiling her Speedplay sole mounted cleat retainers. "They've been a little stiff," she said. Hmmm. I mentioned that since I don't clip in, that is never an issue. Also that dirt/grit is the #1 issue with Speedplays. She knew to keep them clean. Good!

Scott came up and was dropped off. He lives in Montgomery and planned to just ride back that far. His back has been painful and he didn't want to overdo. I understand. Looking at his rig, I mentioned that having his seat 10' high off the ground, and then bending low to get on his aero bars might not be the best way to ride for him. Raising his handlebars would shift weight to his saddle and relieve his back. For $20, I suggested he try this:
Ray uses one and is more comfortable with it. He is faster because he is more comfortable. About $20. Bonnie and Robert were on individual bikes today because some rude fool clipped their tandem while their car with the racked bike was parked at Burger King after a ride. Bonnie did great for her first solo attempt in ages too.

Anyway, we headed out and had no issues the first 15 miles or so. About that time, Stephanie started to tire so she slowed down a fair bit. We all regrouped at a stop sign and made sure fluids were being taken and everyone caught their breath. It was a lovely morning,  except for the humidity. Calm air and temps in the manageable zone. Mostly rural roads, and a little more traffic than I prefer, but no issues, no dogs.

Once we turned east on US 80 by the Airport, Scott flatted. No problem, except he had no tire levers and he has 25mm wire bead Gatorskins on. I lent him mine and he changes the tube.  His pump wasn't putting any air in it though so I pulled out mine and tried it. Same result.  Bad spare tube.  Enter my patch kit! Pumped up tube #1, Scott found the pinhole right away and we patched it. Put it in his tire and he was good to go. So 2 tube changes to get 1 fix.

A few miles later, as we neared US31, our exit point, there was an abandoned car on the shoulder blocking us. Traffic on US 80 was fast and heavy and a lull would be needed to ride in the traffic lane around the clunker. Stepahnie was tired (and she confided, "Sometimes I puke when I'm tired."  Hmm, I saw a race strategy there! Buzzards use that for a defense too, or so I've read) and I waited for her on the overpass before the car to make sure she saw it. Tired people sometimes look down at the road instead of ahead at the route. You can really get banged up by unintentionally running into a parked vehicle on a road shoulder.  Anyway, she pulled up, saw me and got ready to stop. As it happens, she unclipped left, but the slope was to the right. If you have ever had a clip out failure, you know what she said as she went down.

I reached back to try and hold her, but no dice. She did a fairly slow fall, landing on the rear wheel of my bike which knocked me side-wise. I wasn't clipped in (I don't use them) so I didn't get stuck, and I went around and helped her up. We did a damage inventory, and her bike was okay except for the saddle. My rear rim was bent, but I opened the brake quick release and there was room for the wobble to work. I think a spoke wrench will be enough to re true it. These are rando wheels with 2.0 straight spokes. Racy light double butts would have snapped. Likewise a carbon wheel.  Stephanie did NOT have a tool kit so I got mine out again and we put her seat back to right. No body damage worth noting so we got back on our bikes and pedaled. Happily, we found the group at the bottom of the off ramp and re united!  Thanks guys for waiting for us!

Climbing the rail overpass on West Blvd, MY rear tire suddenly went F L A T. Aww!!  Okay, stopped and looked at it, and the tire was slashed! Sliced like a golf ball with a smiley just like I used to get back in the days when I wasted greens fees on Saturdays instead of enjoying a pedal through the green countryside. Several others waited for me and Tim kindly helped hold the bike while I pulled off the wheel and worked on it.  I booted the tire using a patch on the inside, then the new tube inside. Pumped it up with the frame pump. At the very end, I angled the pump and BENT the valve stem! It worked though and I was able to get back on it. A little extra hard at first, as the quick release was not tight enough and the wheel shifted so the tire rubbed the chainstay. I couldn't believe how hard it was do to 11 mph! Aha! fixed that and all of sudden, 16 is easy. Having spent over an hour on 3 repairs, I opted to cut 6 miles off the ride and head directly to Prattville, Tim coming with me.  Sorry to miss the rest of it, but I was not sure how well that patched tire would hold up.

Stephanie had decided she was really done for the day, about 1/2 mile behind where I flatted, and called her husband for a bailout. They passed Tim and I on McQueen Smith Rd and stopped to make sure we were okay. How nice to do that! Bonnie decided she was done for the day and headed to her house which was fairly close by. They were going to drive over and get their other car. Everyone else did just fine.

So after all that, it was just shy of 40 miles and my avg pace was IN the advertised range :) Was it a good ride?  Yeah. Good to practice skills and awareness and staying calm and all that stuff. It was a nice pedal with nice folks. Beats my best day in the office by far (nod to Mike M for that one).

get a complete tool kit if you don't have one. (tire levers, spare tube - that you KNOW is good, bike tool kit, patch kit. I also carry a master chain link, and a latex glove)  If you opt for CO2 to fill flats, practice changing both front and rear tubes in your driveway, including how to use your CO2 unit. If you use a pump, same things but with your pump. Practice using ALL your gears in a parking lot somewhere. Know them by feel so you can shift to the one you want without thinking about it. Practice unclipping so you can do either side in an instant, and when you are tired.  Also, riding with a group is great. The help and encouragement, and jokes are what keep me coming back.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

It's a New Day

And a new year. Two years into a plant strong diet and Sharon & I are both very pleased with it. You know, I wonder if people have trouble cubby holing me. I eat plants, wear wool, ride a bike, but I'm not a liberal. I'm not far right of center either, but I am to the right. I believe in God, exercising my mind, rather than my texting thumbs, and think yes, I AM my brother's keeper.

So far, not so bad on the resolution front. I have been starting the days with prayer, need to remember to end them that way too. Reading the McChyne (or M'Chyne) plan and on track. Reading a lot more than I have been generally, and enjoying it. reading BOOKS that is, not FOX, CNN, or USA Today headlines. Not riding with eyes glued to the Garmin! It's much nicer to look around and just ride how I feel. Two rides in 4 days to start the year too! Today's was a cold and hilly affair, but it was sooo good to get out and pedal.

Every time I ride the Rivendell Road, I am struck anew at how great it feels underneath me as I go along. It is certainly more capable than I am as a rider, but it never seems disappointed to be taken out for some miles. It has a frame made of tubing no one uses anymore, with an interesting combination of relaxed seat tube angle and long chain stays for comfort and steep head tube angle and shallow fork rake for very quick handling. Despite the highly responsive steering, it pedals no hands easily. A low bottom bracket gives very secure leans in high speed turns and the thing will take racks and fenders too, should I ever be so inclined.

Shortly after this bike was made (1995), Rivendell morphed it to the "Road Standard" which is a little different bike, with a sloping top tube and extended head tube to get the handle bars up high. The standard Mine has a level top tube and regular head tube, and is an in-between size not made anymore, 54.5 cm. With 650B wheels, it fits me just right. For the past 4 years, it has been the bike I ride the most.

Today's ride was a typical Winter prep, base miles, get some hills kind of outing. Ray (always fit and fast), Max (looking better than he claimed he was doing - but then cyclists are famous for understating their condition), and Therese (poor gal, on a great old lugged steel Specialized, but one lacking a small ring or a large cog. She has a 53/39 and a 12 - 25 or so) joined me. Therese did not find joy on our climbs, but she did like the ride. Ray found her rear tire and then found the ground, but he and his bike seemed none the worse for wear, and Max was Max, plugging effortlessly along, usually out in front.

It was Sunny for most of the ride, although it clouded later on. We all did okay on the layering and no one complained too much about being cold. Ever since I saw Miele of the DC Randonneurs (?) do a cold Novemeber 300K in wool socks and open sandals, I have been wearing the same thing. Feet were fine today too. My legs reminded me that they need work, and would appreciate if my waistline would also get some attention. yeah, yeah, I know.

Well, 2014 is here and so far, so good. 2013 was my 2d lowest ride mile total since I started keeping records in 2003. Probably more miles than the 1st and 2d year of riding, '01 & '02 though. 2014 could be a rebound year!


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