Sunday, December 26, 2010

That time of the year - December 26, 2010

I managed to get a most of my commuting in, but with amount of things to do both at work and home, it has been a challenge to get time to post.  The only one day that I didn't was Christmas Eve, both for plans later and because there seemed to be no reason to tempt fate and become THAT headline; "father hit and killed by driver on Christmas Eve".  Ugh!

I got great gifts from Santa.  A book entitled "Mud, Sweat and Gears"  It's the story of a family on their first trip together across Canada, on bicycles.  "The Metal Cowboy" as the author is known as has done a lot of tours, but this is the first including his kids and wife.  It was an entertaining read, I will be curious to see what Trisha thinks of it.

I also got a Road ID (wrist band with my emergency information on it) so I no longer need to worry about not having my license on me at all times.  I also got a cycling calendar of old advertisements from around the world and a great new backpack.  The only scary thing with the backpack is it's size; it probably has twice the capacity of the last one, so I can now put twice the weight in it...great!

I think the great thing with a hobby is that it makes everyone's life easier in figuring out what to get and I always have a fresh supply of new cycling trinkets.  I had great thoughts, but all the fattening foods must have wiped them from my mind.  I'm back to dieting and all that after the holiday food.  I miss be young and not having to worry, I think that come summer I will be having an easier time of it with the extra riding and calories burned.

I will be curious to see how much I am improved over last year with consistent riding all through the winter.  That plus the lack of gears that I have bemoaned about, the large loads and the heavy rotational weight.  I figure that in terms of equipment by the time summer hits I will be putting out less the half the effort for the same results.  Hopefully this results in better stamina and speed (I won't hold out for climbing ability) for the upcoming year.

I will need to get a few things to get my road bike, road worthy, but nothing major.  My headset is shot, I need new cables and I have to get the bearings in my front wheel looked at.  All minor things and very little money is needed.  I am good for tires and most of the other fast wearing items for probably the entire season with the possible exception of a chain about mid season.

Rambling thoughts tonight...hmm I wonder if I have a bicycle tour in my future.  Trisha and I touring the continent.  Have to see if the book inspires horror or inspiration.

Monday, December 13, 2010

These are the people in your neighborhood - December 14, 2010

And if you have the song from Sesame Street in your head....waahaa!

I woke up late this morning, really late.  I normally wake up before my alarm and not only did it go off, but I apparently turned it off and went back to sleep; for an hour.

Moving as quickly and quietly as I could to get out of the house and reorganize myself from a planned ride, I choose to drive on the simple fact that it was still really early in the morning by commute standards and while I might be a few minutes late by driving, I would have been close to half an hour late by bike.  On my normal shifts, in the summer, on my fast bike it is as fast to bike as drive, but not without all that.

So as I cursed as the other drivers and traffic in general, watched a couple of near accidents and came to a complete stop in the middle of a four lane freeway for no apparent reason in light traffic, I realized that I would miss the "walking guy".

He is a guy that no matter the season is walking with his bright orange vest as 6:15 every morning somewhere along the lake.  He waves at every pedestrian, runner and cyclist that goes by.  Initially I thought he was either creepy or crazy, but now I look for him and make sure I wave back.  He is a part of my Monday ride, as is the reticulating bus followed by the short city bus that pass me going up Market.

I am a creature of habit and unless I have had a mechanical or something, tend to be in the same place within a five minute time period.  It seems that a lot of other people are like this as well (besides scheduled buses).  For instance: Tuesday through Friday I have a Jeep with a fleur-de-lis that passes me (or I pass depending on traffic) both in the morning and in the afternoon somewhere in the Kirkland area.  The Jeep has had a lot of work done to it, with extra light bars, lifts and tires and yet always passes very safely.  The Porche Boxster that I catch at the last light before work almost every morning.  The little old lady with a small white dog that I pass going down the hill into Bothell on my way home.

There have been others that have come and gone, perhaps moving on to different jobs or houses.  Maybe a victim of the down economy, or a different schedule or route.  Some of the cyclists and pedestrians will be back when the weather is nicer.  The older gentleman with two big panniers that I always catch on the flats past the lake, the kid on the single speed with flat pedals and a huge gear ratio (46-12?) that doesn't look like they will make the next pedal stroke on their way up Market street and the British guy that is fast going down and slow going up; I'm never quite sure where I will run into him (generally going up), but he always shows up somewhere.

These are the people in my neighborhood, the people that I meet each day.

Musings - December 13, 2010

I've heard other riders having close calls with vehicles in the last little bit.  Like them I concur that "bad drivers" are the exception not the rule.  I recently had a motorist instruct me where I needed to ride my F-ing bike, and that was on the F-ing sidewalk.  This was after they made a careful pass to go around me, before roaring up the road and cutting off another car.

I agree not all cyclists ride in a safe manner and not all motorists understand where bicycles fit on the road, but we make it work most of the time.  In this case, the driver got a hearty "thank-you" and a wave; I never moved from the line I choose.  Again not necessarily the prescribed method but one that I have had diffuse the situation every time except once and I'm not sure anything would have worked in that case.

Maybe it's the holiday season.  Even driving I have noticed more and more aggressive drivers since the holiday season has hit.  I will be happy once it's all over, although it is kind of fun riding past the lines of cars that are dealing with the additional shopping traffic.  I have considered adding spoke lights to give me a little better visibility from the side, but haven't made the leap yet.

I have also noticed that there seems to fewer bikes out.  That might have to do with the weather as well, which has been rainy and blustery, but I haven't even seen as many on the front of buses and backs of cars.  I did have an interesting ride as the rabbit again the other day (I managed to "escape" or not get caught), but haven't seen that rider since.  And very few others, which is sort of frustrating because there truly is safety in numbers.  The more bicycles on the road the more aware drivers are of them.

Oh and other thoughts, I will have cover just about 8000 miles by the end of the year (maybe closer to 9,000 hard to get it accurate with the computer problems I've had this year and the lack of computer on my other bikes).  I am going to try for 12,000 next year, an average of 1000 per month.  Considering I cover a minimum of 500 miles a month just commuting (closer to 800 in the summer) this shouldn't be a challenge.  I will add a counter to my blog at the beginning of next year.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

All the wind - December 12, 2010

I know - bitching and moaning about the wind again.  Headwinds suck, tailwinds blow.  Given the choice (not that I ever have been) of riding into the wind both ways, riding into a wind one way and having a tailwind back or not having a wind, I would choose not having a wind...ever.

If you consider the four elements of cycling; air, earth, fire and water (hey those sound familiar, I must have borrowed them from somewhere), then I can consistently pit myself against any of them successfully with the exception of air/wind.  I can ride in the heat and up or down hills, in the rain or snow and even up and down hills in the heat, rain or snow and often fair better than most.  Wind just drags me down.

It actually takes the fun out of riding if it's strong enough.  I find that I lose my will to do battle with it.  There is a sense of accomplishment at the top of hill or having braved the elements, but there is just a never ending pointless struggle when riding into the wind.  I often find myself sitting up and powering back with a "why fight it" attitude.

A couple mornings ago, I checked the weather and noticed a lovely 15 mph wind expected for my rides.  15 mph was the constant speed of the wind but it often gusted up to 25 or so making my ride miserable.  Uphill was agonizing as it seemed to add a two or three percent grade to my efforts, flats all felt like uphill and I was barely maintaining any kind of speed at all except down the steepest of hills.  Partly due to my lack of will to push hard and my severely depleted speed, it added nearly fifteen minutes to my ride.  Another reason to hate it!

The only positive side was the same wind at my back on the way home.  The downside on my single geared bike is the lack of ability to take full advantage of it.  Once I hit a little of twenty, I can't catch my pedals.  Take away the wind and give me rain!!! (together they are worse, so not that).  I keep eyeballing the aero-bars, thinking they are unnecessary.  After nearly a week riding into stiff winds, I may change my mind.  Maybe they actually are the answer, much like a compact crank is for hills.  It's something to think about.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

I draw the line at socks - December 1, 2010

I am ready for nearly any weather, which is a good thing around here as it can go from clear and cold at 28 degrees in the morning to raining and 48 degrees by the afternoon.  Depending on the forecast (and my guess at its reliability that day) I will layer my shirts to accommodate the dry cold to the warm rain, add packable pants over my shorts, bring my light and heavy gloves, pack some combination of the three available hats and even add arm warmers to my pack.  This way I can adjust my clothing based on the funky weather.

One of the items I wear often does double duty.  My shoe covers.  They are water proof and warm, so I can add them if it’s cold or wet (or cold and wet) and pack them up if it dries out or warms up.  Because of this versatility I generally only have to decide if I’m wearing light or heavy socks.

The other morning, with the arrival of a cold front, the morning temperature was expected to be in the mid to upper twenties.  That is the shoe cover and the heavy wool socks, especially considering it was supposed to stay dry and warm up.  I figured I could dump the extra warmth of the shoe covers at the anticipated high of 38 degrees and be layered just right.

It would have worked, except the temperature climbed to nearly 46 degrees that day.  I still hadn’t worried about it too much, planned on just socks going home.  Wool is warm. 

Less than a mile into my ride, my feet were uncomfortably hot.  It was at this point that I had considered packing an additional pair of socks for the weather, and about a second later that I dismissed the idea.  There isn’t any logic to it; I just don’t want.  I draw the line at adding an additional pair of socks to my additional gloves, hats, shirts and pants.

Lesson learned for the future: light socks unless it will be sub 30 BOTH directions.

I hate being the rabbit - November 30, 2010

I have on occasion traded leads with another rider on my morning commute.  As far as I can tell he comes out of Bothell somewhere and rides to the far south end of Kirkland.  In the past I have chased him down as the rabbit and he has caught me.  From experience this only happens if a small difference in distance exists in the first place as we seem to be fairly evenly matched.

In other words, he is fast.  He pulls hard on flats and climbs well.  I have had to work to catch him and when he has caught me I can't shake him, but I hadn't seen him for a number of months and figured that maybe he hung up his bike for the season.  I was wrong.

Leaving Bothell I spied a rider about a mile away at the top of the hill separating Bothell from Kirkland.  Ah-ha!  A rabbit; and if they didn't turn, one that would take me awhile to catch, so I increased my effort and pushed hard across the short flat before charging up the hill.  As I crested the hill, I looked down the road for the telltale flashing tail light of the rider ahead.  Nothing.

I figured they must have turned or something, so I kept on moving.  A couple of blocks later, I found my rabbit fixing a flat tire.  I checked quickly to see if they were good on my way by (still not recognizing the person at this point) and after a thumbs up continued to battle the wind and rain.

With my rabbit supposedly far behind, I dropped my effort, stopped for a few lights, climbed over Market Street and dropped into Kirkland.  I glanced back and saw a headlamp heading my direction, so once I pulled on to the flat by the lake, jumped up my effort.  The problem with my single speed is a lack of gears.  Even into a slight wind, I managed to max out my spin, which I know puts me at about 20 mph.  At this time of year with almost any other rider, I would have managed to not only stay ahead, but pull away. 

Just over halfway there I got a glimpse of the chasing bike on my wheel and moved over to let them by.  It was then that I recognized my friendly foe by his peculiar pedal stroke, on his multi-geared winter bike.  Damn!  I steadily lost ground to him before his turn as our top speeds differed so greatly.  So this morning I was the rabbit, confirmed when the fuzzy sort jumped out in front of me as I headed down the path right before work.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Snow and all that - November 28, 2010

Well I didn’t mean for there to be such a long time between posts, but I’ve had a lot going on and haven’t had the time.

There have been four things I was going to touch on lately and I hope to summarize three of them here.  So without further ado: cycling in snow, cycling while sick, and other fixed gears.  Two of these sort of fit together, cycling while sick and other fixed gears.  I had the joy of riding to work with a sore throat, stuffed up nose and slight congestion.  It is possible, just not fast; especially on a fixed gear. 

Actually I cheated and flipped my wheel around to my single speed.  That gives me a 46/18 ratio.  Makes hills easier, flats slower and breathing easier…kind of.  I had lots of power at that ratio to slowly trek my way up hills, but found air at a premium.  I would estimate that I was often around 6 mph or lower on hills when I don’t often drop below 9mph, so all in all very frustrating.  With the added head wind (gusting up to 30 mph), and slow everything else I added about ten minutes to my commute.

With the miserable conditions that were present, it seemed most other cyclists weren’t.  In three days I didn’t see anyone, but on day four as I crossed Northrup I saw another soul fighting the same headwinds and heading my direction.  He was on a fairly new single speed (no fixed on the other side).  Had I been moving at normal speed that day, I would have made more lights and probably never seen him again, but I wasn’t and didn’t so he caught me at the last light before the hill.

Knowing I wouldn’t be climbing fast I offered to let him go ahead of me, figuring even if he moved slowly it wouldn’t hurt me to hang out behind.  Pulling off the light neither of us were moving quickly into the wind and rain and less than a hundred feet up the hill I stood up to keep my effort and cadence low.  The person ahead of me was climbing slowly as well but remained seated.  My cadence was around 30 rpm and I was admiring that the guy ahead of me was still seated; that was until I noticed that he was probably closer to 50 rpms.

Huh?  I figured that I was taking the super easy route at 46/18 but this guy was running the equivalent of a 46/25 or so.  On the flats with my gearing I can barely hold 21 mph, but at that ratio the max speed would be around 15.  I do have to say though that he seemed to have an easier time with the hill then I did.  There is something to be said about multiple gears; but after seeing the mess the same weather made of my single-speed drive train I am very glad that I didn’t have to deal with derailleurs and the other equipment.
Eventually the horrid weather cleared up along with my cold.  Of course with the dryer roads and sunshine, the temperature plummeted: and it snowed. 

That morning was pretty cool, down around 24 degrees.  I have great cold weather gear that I can use down to about zero so I was plenty warm enough.  As the day passed it warmed up and by about noon it was snowing and sticking outside.  I was able to leave a few minutes early.  It was a very long ride!

The wind was blowing over 30 mph, it was snowing and in order to increase my traction I dropped my tire pressure as low as I could.  I probably didn’t top 15 mph at any point, but I was still moving faster than all the traffic.  It took me just under an hour to get halfway on my bike and just under two hours to drive the rest of the way home.  Later listening to the road reports it had taken a lot of people over six hours to make it home.  OUCH!

More due to the fear of having someone slide into me then sliding myself I ended up driving the next two days.  There is more snow expected this year, and I expect that once everyone has had a chance to get the right tires or get off the road, that I will be able to bike regularly in it.  Unfortunately they don’t make 27” snow tires for my bike.  I had considered converting my bike to 700 wheels and going to winter tires, maybe next year.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A possible trip - November 13, 2010

10,000 feet above the sea?  No, not some inverse Jules Verne reference.  10,000 feet, 40 miles, 3 climate zones equals a good morning ride.  Start near the Hana highway, ride through Paia and up to the top of Haleakala mountain.  Yes Maui!
It’s not set in stone, but is probably likely early next year.  I’ve been dreaming of doing this climb.  The climb is tough, especially the top, but it’s something that just begs to be done.  Now all the fun challenges: rent or ship my bike?  Stop at this ride or ride around West Maui as well?  If all goes according to plan, we will be there for 9 or 10 days.  I think that going to the top of Haleakala would be a fun family trip; it’s just that I would bike there and back.
Normally I would say a 40 mile ride would be a two to three hour trip, but considering the amount of climbing and the considerable altitude (altitude sickness is a very real issue above 8500 feet) and the fact that it is all climbing that a four or five hour limit is more likely.  Considering that sunrise is around seven in the morning during the time of year that we would be going and that I would likely be riding from Makena (an additional 20 miles) I would probably leave around six and get to the top around noon.
Then I can meet everyone up there; explore life at 10,000 feet before heading back down…on my bike.  With the hairpin corners and the 40 miles of downhill, I will probably beat everyone back to Paia.  The other ride would be dependent on Trisha and the boys finding something to do around Kahului for half the day.  That ride is 50ish miles, with a little climbing, but a very challenging road having a lot of very steep corners and roads only wide enough to allow a single vehicle.  I expect it would take me in the four to five hour range again.
So in the end it would be two day that would be nearly filled with biking.  I don’t know, it seems fairly selfish and if I’m keep to one ride then it will definitely be up Haleakala.  Now, to rent or pack…

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Preview to qualifier - November 11, 2010

STP - times two?  It might be one of my rides for 2011.  My past history indicates that I ride organized rides a couple of times and then move on.    It’s not that they aren’t good, but after twice through you have had a chance to experience the ride, determine that you did better and find something new.  Honestly with the large number of rides in this area, finding a new and interesting ride isn’t challenging.  The exception to this may end up being the Cannonball (which I haven’t yet done) and the S2S (which I have not successfully completed yet).  Like all good Seattlites I did the STP as my inaugural ride and went on to complete it twice.
So why look at it again?  Simply put, I think with a little tweaking, it could prove to be an excellent training ride preparing me for one of the 24 hour qualifiers later on.  It would be a little over 400 miles if completed as a there-and-back and would have the further benefit of being fully supported for about three quarters of the ride.  It is also relatively flat and on relatively well lit roads.
If I can make the first two hundred miles in about twelve hours (which in entirely possible), I would be in Portland around 4 in the afternoon.  Considering that much of the time I will be able to pick up pacelines by the time I arrive I should be fairly well rested.  Then heading back I should be able to pick up a lot of the support stations to Centralia and hopefully get in there by about ten that night.
Centralia to home will be the long stretch.  First it will be dark and I will have been on the bike for over sixteen hours at that point.  That and I will more than likely need to employ my wonderful wife to drive support for me.  I imagine that leap-frogging a cyclist who is moving under 20mph cannot be fun, especially if it’s the middle of the night.  The other hard part will simply be not stopping and getting in the van to go home.
There won’t be any reason for me to continue expect because I want to and that it a tough mind game to play when you are tired and exhausted.  Might be one of the first times that I consider running music of some sort, either as external speakers somehow or a single ear piece; or not.  I just can’t wrap my head around that being ok at any point for any reason and more when I will already need my wits about me.  I will figure something out here.
I am also considering just riding from my house.  The additional mileage from the house plus the additional four or five miles over the prescribed two hundred to Portland means that I may only have to back track to Puyallup or Auburn before I cross over 400 miles.  I obviously would like to get there before four in the morning, but even if I’m not I will continue until I get over 400 miles.  If I miss the time, I need to see how much faster I need to be before aiming for one of the qualifiers.
The other part of this idea that is great is the chance to ride with my FIL, who initially got me back to bicycling.  It is his influence that is to thank/blame (depending on how you look at it!) that got me back to riding three years ago and started down this path.  Because of our schedules we rarely have the change to ride together any more so it would be fantastic to be able ride this with him again.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Rabbits and rabbits - November 8, 2010

So one is warm and fuzzy the other makes me feel warm and fuzzy (overheating and anaerobic) and they seem to be related somehow.  I tend to notice weird patterns and this seems to be one that has come about lately.  As daylight savings time wound down and my morning commute was more and more often in the dark or near dark it is often easier to see the human type of rabbits by their flashing lights.

While I tend to cruise on Mr. Fixie, if I see the tell-tale flashing red light I pretty much have to give chase; especially at this time of year when I may not even see another bike on my entire commute.  As there are less and less racers training and/or everyone has moved to their heavier winter bikes it is very rare that I can't chase someone down even without all the gears.  Of course weather plays a part of it, on a day when it is nice and has been fore-casted to be nice there tends to be more people out and on colder, wetter days a lot less.

This leads me to the other kind of rabbits.  While have seen deer, opossums, raccoons, rats and mice occasionally, I often see rabbits.  They tend to hang out in Kirkland and on one of the paths that is away from the main part of traffic in Bellevue.  (They are also lousy on the SRT and on Whidbey Island which is where we are going if the world ever ends, there will be lots of food.)

They are sort of a pain in the ass.  They tend to stay on the edge of the path, camouflaged, eating and just before I get to them explode onto the path in front of me, weaving back and forth before diving to the side under a bramble or bush.  With the number of close calls that I have had with them, if I ever get into an accident it will because of a rabbit.

Here's the connection.  I know how many rabbits (the soft, fuzzy kind) that I am likely to see based on the number of human rabbits.  I don't know why.  And no I'm not making it up.

On mornings when I have overtaken one or two human rabbits I will see one or two real rabbits.  If I have overtaken three or four then I will see, and if I don't see another person, I won't see a rabbit.  It isn't the exact number (always), so maybe I missed someone or counted someone twice (ok, now I'm reaching!) but it sure seems to follow.

This isn't something over the last week or even the last month, but the last few months, since sometime in August.  At first I didn't notice and then I didn't give it much thought but after awhile it started sinking in.  Case in point: last Friday I overtook two riders, and saw two rabbits, today I didn't overtake anyone and didn't see any.  It only seems to hold for the morning.  I know it is a giant coincidence, but it is kind of fun and works as a great warning device.  I know to pay attention dropping down that little path if I have overtaken a bunch of people that morning.

The weird things I see.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Downhill fun - November 5, 2010

Take a big steel bike, add in wet leaves and wet roads, throw in an oil leak and just for fun add in a strong cross-wind; you get a ass clenching slide.  This was earlier this week when it was still monsoon season and I was dropping down a hill.  I had my tire flipped around to the single speed to keep my stability up as high as possible on the wet roads, so relied on coasting to get up to speed going down the hill.  It is not horribly steep (7%) or long so I was maybe doing 24-25 mph. 
Just as I went into the slight curve at the bottom of the hill my front wheel slide a little on a couple of leaves, which isn’t a big deal normally, but then it continued to slide across the painted lines marking the bike lane.  My natural reaction was to bring my back tire in line with my front to keep the bike upright by basically forcing it to slide over and I think that would have ended the problem except for the wind and the oil.
There was a pretty rainbow of color on the cement below my tires indicating a slick of oil of gas which obviously reduced my tire contact with the cement.  There was also a strong wind that had kicked up and as I rounded the corner became a cross wind pushing at the already sliding wheels.  I think if it had been one or the other I would have managed to keep the new line around the corner that I had slid into, but the combination of the wind and oil continued to force my bike to slide or in retrospect the road turned and my bike didn’t.
At that moment I was less concerned with what had caused me to find myself sliding on both tires across the road and more with keeping the bike upright and hopefully out of the second lane of traffic.  Really I had lucked out that no one was in the first lane of traffic because before I was able to get traction again I had slid from the center of the bike lane to the far left hand side of the car lane.  With the less aggressive structure of the bike, the bigger wheels and wider tires in most situations would have led to an easier to control bike on wet surfaces, once it broke loose though it was like trying to fines an elephant.
I did get the slide stopped and remained upright and got the bike back into the proper lane and I even had dry shorts when it was all finished.  Just the perfect combination of hazards to make sure that I was paying attention.  In the end I wasn’t too worried about hitting the pavement, I was more worried about hitting the pavement and having no control over my slide (and with a nylon outer pant in the fore-mentioned conditions I would have slide a long ways) and moving into oncoming traffic at tire level.
Well maybe a little worried about falling off my bike and how it would affect my ego.  I have only dumped once and that was through sheer stupidity.  I overcooked a corner on an eight foot wide path at the bottom of a hill that was sloped the wrong direction when I came into it at over 35mph.  It didn’t really matter how good your bike skills are, there simply wasn’t enough room to make the corner at that speed.  At least the blackberry bushes broke my fall!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Weather, traffic and gear - October 28, 2010

Weather, traffic and gear.  Just about covers everything, but I figured if I’m lazy and don’t post for a few days I might as well cover it all.  Of course I may not touch on them in that order.
In this instance I’m going to cover gear first.  I am now running pursuit style bars on Mr.Fixie.  I make the change to accommodate better power and hand position while climbing out of the saddle (something I end up doing a lot), that and it looks better on the bike.  The bar change is great!  I can grab the bar in a natural position and use my upper-body strength to rock the bike more easily than before.  That plus the flat bar brake lever gives me better stopping power compared to the previous lever.
Also upgraded this year are the fenders.  Clip-ons are great if you need a temporary fix and protect you from the worst of the road water, but don’t protect the bike  and only provide about half of the needed coverage.  I have bolt on, full fenders with long buddy flaps on both the front and back.  Running the wider tires (more on that in a second) plus the 27” diameter means my fit is tight but also means that very little stray water is getting on me.
The tires are upgraded to Specialized Armadillo’s with Mr. Tuffy liners.  The combination should prevent flats this winter, which with a bolt on/off rear wheel is a relief.  The other change to the tires is diameter.  I put the widest tires that I could fit 1.25”.  This gives me a lot more tire on the pavement and better traction in the wet.  Of course the downside to having heavy duty tires, with heavy duty liners and a lot of tire contact means that getting them going is a tough job and hills have become a bit more of a challenge.  Not the worst thing in the world as my riding time will drop in half to a third over the winter.
Other changes include a new jacket (my old one finally died).  I went to a Cyclight jacket.  It waterproof, breathable, reflective, blah, blah; but it also has LED’s built into the jacket that give me added visibility.  The jacket is great!  It breaths moderately well and completely cuts the wind.  Even in heavy rain it stays dry and with a couple of little interior pockets I am hoping to have it five years from now.  Also added to my wardrobe is a ball cap style, cycling cap.  It looks utterly ridiculous on me, but it keeps the rain of my glasses, even when it’s blowing over 20 mph.
The rest of my outerwear is the same and has had lots of field testing.  In torrential downpours I can stay completely dry for about an hour, after that it depends.  I can also ride at temperatures down to about twenty degrees with no problem and probably colder, but haven’t had that opportunity yet.
It is definitely heading towards winter in the PNW.  I’m ok with the rain, but two mornings this week I’ve had to ride into 20 +mph winds.  At one point I was having issues getting the bike to go down a six degree slope; the wind was strong enough it felt like I was going up that road instead and was lucky if I was able to hold 10 mph.  In a fair world those winds would be at my back going home.  While there was wind, it was probably half that speed, which I suppose is better than being into the wind both ways.

The other lovely thing with the wind are all the branches on the ground and the threat of them falling on your head.  Helmets have another use!  The best thing about fixed gear is no derailleur to get banged up or ripped off by a tree limb that can’t be avoided.  The carpet of leaves are also pretty but deadly, they impede most traction and cause the roads to be very slippery.  The upside to all of this is that traffic moves slower and while the drivers may wonder at the maniac zipping down the street past them in the blowing rain, I’m moving and they’re not.

All in all traffic has been pretty good.  It generally is on the route I take.  Between my riding style  and the fact that I travel on main through-fairs for bicycle traffic it is rare that I get an unsafe or aggressive driver.  I have watched people carefully pass me to then drive on and four or five blocks later get into a horn blowing competition with another car.  This morning was special though.

At the top of one of the hills there is a “T” junction that I go through.  I travel straight and the traffic goes straight or right.  Pulling up behind a car stopped at the light I move to the right of the lane as on the other side of intersection there is another hill and a fog lane that I like to ride in and get out of the traffics way.  I heard a semi (turned out to be a dump truck), coming up behind me set to turn right, so I scooted myself and my bike over a foot so he had lots of room to pass.  As he got up beside me he slowed and I heard his window being rolled down.  Great!  Some yahoo about to tell me that I was doing something wrong or they didn’t like.

Nope!  He hollered down a good morning, asked how my ride was, commented that the weather should be getting better, etc.  The light turned green and he wished me a good ride before we parted ways.  Weird, not just because it was a truck driver, but just in general.  So I carried on and even with a lot of traffic I had lots of careful passing going down one of the busiest sections of my ride.  The hit another major hill in my commute.

This time it was a metro-bus that surprised me.  This particular road is not structured to accommodate buses well.  They basically pull off the single lane of traffic into the parking area/bike lane for their stops and then back into traffic.  Normally I am either far enough ahead or behind them that there isn’t an issue or on the occasional time I catch one, I pull up behind it and wait, knowing that I can zip around it on the downhill portion if it stops again.

This morning though, the bus had just passed me and I could see someone waiting at the next stop, so I slowed down assuming that the bus would pull in front of me.  I was wrong; instead he stopped in the car lane and waived the pedestrian to cross over to board the bus thus allowing me to continue without being impeded.  WOW!  Of all the drivers that have made me jump, busses normally are at the top of that list so this was a long way from the norm.

I did have an uneventful ride home as well, although maybe there had been an announcement for “extra nice driver day”, because I saw five or six times the number of cyclists then I normally would.  All in all it was a good day to be a bicycle commuter.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The horrible 15 - October 22, 2010

I hate 15.  My favorite number is 12, but even though it’s only 3 away, 15 is an evil number; and more so lately.  15 is the current body fat percentage that I am at.  15 is the current percentage of muscle I need to gain.  15 is the number of pounds I need to lose (well that might be overkill but you get the point).
On the positive side I am making gains towards that end.  I am down about a pound after 4 days of food monitoring and my experience tells me that it will accelerate a bit over the next couple of weeks before slowing again, so getting to about 160 by the new year shouldn’t be that big of a problem.  I had a moment of weakness last night and brought my calories flush to my BMR for the day (about 1800), with a bowl of cereal.
I found a place that may be a good resource for me later down the road in terms of biometrics and training.  It is a relatively new place in Seattle called Herriott Sports.  They seem to handle everything from VO2 max testing to a bike fit.  They currently support a number of professional teams and will be hosting the RAAM seminar in November.  Based on the web information they don’t have the “bike-snob” feel that so many other shops and trainers have, yet they obviously know what they are doing.  Hmm…future sponser?
Oh I managed to finally get my hands on a used copy of Bicycle Dreams, and hope to watch that soon.  I am basically in sponge mode, trying to get as much information as possible right now so that I can churn it around and get a more detailed plan in motion.  This movie should be great for showing the emotional drain that comes with this type of racing.
Another 15 I hate.  I will develop a whole body training schedule within the next 15 days.  12 is such a great number (just because I said so).

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Water, water everywhere - Ocotober 19, 2010

The supposed source of life: water.  I really need to take after Trisha and drink more of it, but I don’t, except when I am really watching my food intake.  All the normal things, it helps make you feel full, good for you, blah blah.  The issue I have with water isn’t the water itself but all the things it does and isn’t.
It isn’t coffee.  MMM, coffee.  If I was smart I would drink less so that it had a larger effect when riding, basically a legal stimulant; but I’m not.  I love coffee, strong and black.  I actually drink about 4 cups a day now which is way down from my high at one point of probably 4 pots a day.  Water interferes with my ability to drink coffee because I can only pour so much fluid down my throat in a given period.
Water also often makes me feel bloated when I manage to drink the required amount per day (based on my weight, activity level and protein intake about a gallon), which is messed up because at the same time I need to visit a toilet every hour.  Probably due to the fact that I wander around in a perpetual state of dehydration, except when riding, it makes me feel “slooshy” (the technical term!), and sluggish, which is the opposite of what it’s supposed to do.
So while I like the concept of drinking more water I find the practice of it challenging.  Coffee should be water, than it wouldn’t be an issue.  I would say more on the topic, but I have to run and find a toilet.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Much hate about food tracking - October 18, 2010

I hate tacking my food.  HATE IT!
It is boring and monotonous.  I have a great program that I work with – Training Peaks – and when I am tracking food I do get  the results that I want, but ugh!  I just hate it.
I actually don’t do it all that often.  Generally about twice a year for two or three months (my record is four and half) to get to my weight goals or when I’m in the process of changing my weight goals or just eating poorly (which is still probably better than 80% of the country just based on my overall health).  Eating poorly for me, means eating lots late in the day to the point of overeating.   I don’t get that “full” feeling easily and if I’m not paying attention can happily eat an entire pizza or its equivalent.
So I fight a bit with portions even though I eat healthy foods and I couple that with cravings for carbs in the evening.  All through the day I can keep a pretty good balance of 50/30/20 (carb/protein/fat) or even 45/40/15 on a great day; in the evening when I should basically be eating fruits, vegetables and meat, I want breads, potatoes and rice.  This is where tracking comes in.  I can see how I have been doing through the day and know exactly what my consumption can be at night before I bump up against my food limits.
I just hate doing it.
Right now I just crossed over the 170 pound threshold (actually I screaming past it to 171) and need to see if I can step my maintenance weight down.  A couple of years ago I was at about 190 pounds and after monitoring and adjusting my foods several times I realized that if I dropped weight for a bit, I would plateau.  Then if I maintained that plateau until it started to climb, basically when my body had recovered, and went back to eating carefully I would drop even lower, until another plateau and…
So I hit my last plateau late this spring and settled around 168 pounds.  Each step down seems to be 6 to 8 pounds from the last plateau.  This time I should be able to reach a weight of 160 to 162 which should be my final big drop, with little ones just to help me not creep up too high again.  So with Christmas and Thanksgiving in the way I should be close to 160 by the New Year, at which point I can stop tracking food for awhile.  I could probably get lower but considering that I am looking at endurance riding having an additional five or six pounds, or 20,000 calories, of energy is probably a lot healthier.
It’s actually a good time to do it, my activity level is consistent, so I don’t need to make huge daily adjustments for calorie burn and with a couple of exceptions there are unlikely a lot of instances where my food plan will get derailed.  It will be nice to maybe lose some of my gut and get back to having even my tightest pants fit comfortably.  But I hate tracking food!  There is something to be said about liposuction.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fund raising - October 17, 2010

Which good cause to do fund raising for?  At this point I have three I’m considering: Livestrong, Bikes for Africa and the Major Taylor project.  I have about another three or four years before I really start needing to worry about which one to pick and maybe by that point there will be something else.  Of course a lot of the fund-raising effort and personal sponsorship will fall into Trisha’s hands to do, not because I’m incapable but because she would be so much better at it.

Each of them has pros and cons.  For instance, Livestrong already has a lot of exposure and funding that it receives which means that one of the others may benefit more from funds.  One of the obvious upsides of course is the fact that everyone is aware of what Livestrong is and that might appeal to a wider range of sponsors and individuals who may donate.  One of the other positives is the additional marketing help that the organization would add as well as the possibility of a training ride with a group of pro-cyclists if certain donation levels are reached. 

The other one I like is Bikes for Africa.  This organization buys and fixes bikes for donation to southern Africa to benefit the poorest people there.  They often travel long distances everyday for basics like water, firewood and work or school.  The bikes provide them a way to accomplish this transportation cheaply and quickly.  One of the downsides to this cause is the funds are not benefiting people in our own country.  It is pretty well known and something tangible that people who may sponsor or donate can understand easily.  Another positive is that they again are a big enough organization that they would probably be able to assist in fund-raising.

Finally there is the Major Taylor Project.  Within the immediate area and within the cycling community this program is pretty well known.  It provides bikes and training to a diverse population of low income kids in the PNW; teaching them about cycling safety and bicycle maintenance.  The obvious downside is that it isn’t as noble of a cause compared to the other two and not well known outside of the region.  However it would directly benefit an organization here and at a local level would be well received by sponsors and individuals.

I still have awhile to figure it out.  I will have to find sponsors for equipment needs, but more importantly need fund-raising for whichever organization I commit to.  If I am willing to make the commitment to cycle across the country there should be a benefit for other organizations that do so many good things for a whole range of people.

Riding and training - October 17, 2010

There are lots of reasons for riding and lots of different kinds of bikes to do it on.  Even within major groups of bikes that include: road, mountain, bmx and casual/commuting there are infinite sub-groups of bicycles depending on use and requirements.  Then there are all the different types of equipment within the subgroups to further specialize a bicycles use.  And all of this because everyone is enjoys riding a specific way for specific reasons.

Some like hard-short efforts, some are technical riders, some like long touring rides, high jumps, racing and leisurely riding.  Even within a fairly specific type of riding there are people that will focus on different aspects, generally those they enjoy or excel at.  In a road race some people will focus/excel at climbing while others look to sprinting down the flats and still others look forward to technical down-hills.   

Very competitive cyclists will train measuring various metrics, looking for improvements in their specialties and improving their weaknesses.  Here again there are as many theories and training programs as there are cyclists.  Lately I have seen a lot of numbers coming in from different riders, from faster speeds, to shorter times to better power that have been attained for the year. 

For myself, I know that I’m faster.  I have very few numbers that show that directly but there are some.  I have set new speed/time records on my commute and I was far faster on the HPC (over 30 minutes) this year.  I travel at a higher rate of speed on average and climb much better.  In high power groups I can hold my own both on climbs and flats; I’m not the fastest at either but I can stay with the front group for both.

Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely a lot of riders that climb faster, ride faster, longer and generally better.  Had I started riding competitively when I was younger and made different choices concerning my health I could probably have been a fairly competitive Cat 1 or 2 as a GC.  But I didn’t and I’m not so I have to work with what I have.  I will probably never measure metrics closely as I don’t need to, I just need to add to my general fitness and focus on my general abilities.

So part of it comes down to why RAAM; why if I’m in the 10% of the riders in this area in my category and maybe only the top 25% (if that) in the world is there not a lot more people at RAAM and why am I?  One piece is that I am fairly well rounded; I can jump out and catch another rider, I can climb, I can ride for long periods and I am a pretty good technical rider.  Another part is that I can and do push myself very hard, recover and push hard again.  I also want to do this where a lot of others simply don’t.  I don’t expect to win, simply succeed.

I do have work to do to get into better physical shape, but I probably won’t be measuring a lot metrics to do so.  The biggest issue I have to work on is pacing.  I tend to push too hard; part of the issue that I had on the S2S.  I made great time into Orondo and then suffered.  I need to back off my pacing a bit on longer rides and do a better job of resting and feeding.  That over everything else is going to be the metric I measure; did I ride the ride I was on and pace for it.

Friday, October 15, 2010

RAAM presentation - October 15, 2010

So in the end Trisha helped me with the decision to go to the seminar.  It was great; George is a great speaker and he had a well laid out presentation.  There were several RAAM riders present to add input from their personal experiences.
One of things I have had concerns about is whether RAAM will even exist in 8 years but those were quickly put to rest.  George (race director) has a clear plan to grow RAAM from its current point to nearly double in the next few years.  They will be focused on team participation which makes sense; with a really good crew, even fairly novice riders can jump onto an 8 person team and be fairly confident they will make it to the other side with a few hours of riding each day.
I think it is a great idea as it will introduce more people to endurance riding and give them an epic ride that will cause excitement among their cycling peers.  Considering there is almost a million dollars raised each year for various causes, an increase in the number of riders will greatly benefit all the organizations.
After attending I realized that Trisha and I really need to attend a seminar fairly soon.  Prior to RAW and RAAM, Trisha will most often be the entirety of my crew and the information in one of the seminars will benefit both of us on any future rides as well as help us prepare for RAAM.  I think that even if she is not part of the final crew, she will be able to provide a lot of insight into the planning stages.
For the upcoming year I need to look towards the S2S and possibly the Cannonball and Ramrod as well.  I thought about maybe the STP, but then adding the ride back.  It would eliminate the expense of a hotel and I would see how a 400 mile ride would feel.  With the excellent support down there, I think I could get back to Centralia in the daylight and then have someone leap frog me for support the last hundred plus miles.  I don’t know, it will depend on a lot of things.
It’s funny to me that I don’t tend to get excited about a ride or race until right before the event.  I may prepare, but I don’t anticipate it.  This time it’s different, I am excited to do this.

Monday, October 11, 2010

RAAM seminar - October 11, 2010

It has horrible timing.  First it’s in the middle of the week and then it’s in downtown Seattle (ugh!) and then it starts and runs late.  If anyone of these were different it would be very doable. 

At this point I still haven’t ruled it out, but really 7:00 to 8:30?  The only upside to this event is that it is free.  My choices are drive to work, on a really nice day for this area in October, get off of work and either hang around in Bellevue or Seattle and then get home late.  I won’t have time to go home (or I would, but I would have to leave as soon as I got there) so I will miss bed time and everything else that night.

My other option is to take my bike to work and ride to the event.  Again I may have some time to kill (it won’t take me two hours to get to Seattle), but I may get a chance to talk with the RAAM people.  Here lay this issue.  I would then either then have to bike home and get home around ten or ask my family to come and get me which would keep the kids up past bed time.

Of course the third option is just to not go.  They are holding a seminar later this year, but that one is $125.00.  ARGG!!! I just don’t know.  Ah well I have 3 hours to figure it out.

UPDATE: Trisha helped me figure this out.  I will drive to the event, but she will bring everyone down to meet me for dinner first.  So very excited!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The first victim - October 9, 2010

Two posts one day!  It’s just catch up for not having anything for the last five.

I have worked out a few possible logistic items in the last couple of days. 

The first one concerns Trisha.   I had hoped to include her in the crew as she has so many strengths and such fantastic communication skills that she would be able to make decisions and get a team moving in the right direction if they should falter.  Sort of like a back up to the crew chief.  She is also an excellent navigator and I would prefer her as a masseur over anyone else (personal space issues).  In the end even with the huge benefit she would be as part of the on-road team I don’t think it would be fair to her and may be detrimental to me and completing the race.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that she would pursue my dream with me on the road as far as she could, but I don’t think it would be far enough no matter how hard she tried and I don’t want to have her hurt by seeing me do it.  Having her at the finish to celebrate with me when I cross the line will be the moment I want her to be part of; not the personal torture getting there.

I could change my mind on this, but even knowing how strong I am (and multiplying that) and ready to let Trisha pursue her dreams regardless of the cost to her, I don’t think I would be able to see her put herself through something similar without trying to stop her and I don’t think she would want me to be in that much emotional anguish over her actions; so I won’t do it to her.  We are too close, too in touch with each other and really what one of us experiences, we both do.  Knowing that I need to finish the race in order to have her with me at the finish line will also work as an amazing incentive.

As to the rest of my family, I haven’t ruled out Sean as a possible driver/co-driver; he will be old enough by then and this would be a huge adventure for a 17 year old.  My in-laws may also choose to participate and they have a huge range of skills including possible mechanic and crew chief material as well as cook and gopher.  There are lots of possibilities there and with others people in the future.

I have currently a great possible victim for a medic/driver.  In a conversation with a friend/co-worker who asked me “what next?”, I discussed my plans for RAAM.  Corey immediately offered to take up the position of medic (he has similar training to an EMT) and also to drive.  WOW!  One down.  That is if he is still on the crazy side of normal in eight years.

People are going to be a hurdle (one of many, but a big one) for me.  I am not social and tend to have issues asking for help, but if I can ride across the country I’m pretty sure that I can overcome that as well.  At least for this.

Planning - October 9, 2010

I am a person who does routines very well.  Once I start to do something consistently I streamline it into a series of flowing steps and can put together a fairly intricate routine quickly.  However until it is a routine, I remain challenged.  I have a hard time planning for one time events.  It took me nearly 3 months before I remembered everything I needed for my daily commute. I was constantly forgetting something, at least one thing each time.

Thank goodness for Trisha, the maker of lists, the super organizer.  She has the ability to take one time complex plans and break them down into a series of lists; to do, to pack, etc.  So Trisha...HELP!  Please take my ramblings and organize them into a list or lists as you see fit.  My hope is to post them on the blog somewhere and have them in front of me as a reminder of what I need to accomplish.  

In no particular order here are some things that will need to be done or acquired over the next few years: 
I need a crew.  Based on what I know so far that will be a minimum of six people: 2 drivers per shift in 8 hour shifts.  Of those I will need a mechanic, cook, gopher, masseur, medical and crew chief.  Some cross over (besides driver) would be good so there is someone that can step into a position if needed.

I need another bike.  I anticipate that I will probably run two different types of bikes to keep up with the different terrains and provide different riding positions to alleviate muscle soreness.  I want to experiment with a triathlon bike; maybe a Softride before committing.  I will also need to have a couple of sets of wheels, especially rear to provide different gearing options.

I need to figure out food.  One of the lessons learned from the S2S was that I need to figure out a way to get more calories in my system.  Hammer seems to provide a wide range of products that work for a lot of cyclists and endurance athletes, but I need to work it out to a science.
I need to work on endurance riding.  Part of this is just riding, part of it is riding with more specific training, and part of it is developing a plan with known biometrics.  I will probably consider joining SIR (Seattle International Randonneurs) as this is the type of riding they do.

I need to get my weight consistent.  Fluctuations are ok but they need to be at lower weights.  If I ran between 162 and 167 as opposed to 167 and 172 I will struggle less with my overall fitness.
I really (REALLY!) need to work more on my overall body strength, especially core power.  I think this is more critical for endurance riding and preventing injury than anything else that I can do for improvements.

These are really long term goals and I will use them to develop intermediary goals and then short term goals from there.  Things I can think immediately think of include: developing a training plan for core strength, look at power meters and replace the headset, cables, crank bearings and upgraded wheelset for my bike.  I had considered a set of rollers for training, but instead will use my rower and outdoor training in the form of commuting.

I am missing a ton of things, but they will get added as I go. 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Qualifiers - October 3, 2010

The Furnace Creek 508 is running this weekend.  It is a 508 mile race with 35,000 feet of climbing that goes through Death Valley.  The top competitors will finish in around 35 hours.  Competitors like Chris Ragsdale; a Seattle native who holds the world record for fastest 1000km ride (31 hours).  It is also a RAMM qualifier, but not one that I have on my “to do” list.  Riding around in the heat with a large ultra-competitive field late in the year; nothing there appeals to me.

The current RAAM regulations state that you have to either complete or complete a minimum distance in 24 hours or finish within 20% of the race leader depending on the race within the two years immediately preceding RAAM.  My focus will be on the first two types of competitions.  With those I don’t have to worry about whether there is a super cyclist entered that year, so that even if I have a good race I don’t qualify.  The logistics of finishing a 24 hour race with 425 miles covered seems easier.  It is measurable and obtainable and effort can be adjusted during the race.  The same goes for finishing with a specific time period.  It is a challenge against my abilities not someone else’s.

I don’t remember the names of them, but there is a challenge in Sebring, others in Iowa, Georgia, Montana and finally Alaska.  They tend to have smaller fields and moderate temperatures.  Of course in six years time those events may not exist or the requirements may have changed.  Of course there could be new events as well (a combined S2S/Cannonball – into Spokane on Hwy 2 and back to Seattle on I90, that would be a 550 mile race with 18,000 feet of climbing with a 36 – 40 hour time limit).

I will probably plan on attending three or four of the events in the two years prior to RAAM.  I want to cover a couple different types of events at different times of year so that I am guaranteed to qualify at least once.  With the growth RAAM has seen in the last couple of years I could see the requirements being raised in order to make the field more competitive.  Possibly moving to an Hawaii Iron-Man event where you need to qualify in a number of races.  It will all depend on what the owners decide to do.

One last event I am considering before RAAM is RAW.  This is the Race Across the West.  It starts and runs at the same time as RAAM, but only covers the first 800 miles of the race, typically ending in the Colorado area.  Most competitors are completing it around 3 days.  I think that this will be a great way to get a feeling for the next year as well as shake out some of the logistics with the crew as well as using it as a backup for qualifying.

Good luck to all those on the 508 today and go Chris!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Around which all things revolve - October 1, 2010

Many times as this blog continues, Trisha will be at the forefront (so get used to it).  With good reason; she is my source of, well, everything!  When I think of the general courage and determination that she has for everything she does it can’t help but inspire to try big things.  She supports me and with that I can do anything, which is good because RAAM will be brutal.

Trisha has two bikes that she rides (soon to be three).  One is a big Schwinn cruiser with mustache handle bars and big 700x32 tires, add in a suspension fork and seat post that this thing defines cruiser.  It is her bike to keep up with the kids when they want to go off the beaten path, when we are biking down the Hiawatha trail.  At over 35 pounds it rides like a Cadillac, but it’s not fast.
Enter the road bike.  I built up an aluminum DBR frame with a carbon fork and Campagnolo Mirage components and mid-line FSA rims.  Because of the small frame the bike comes in between 17-18 pounds.  To accommodate her style of riding I converted it to a high rise stem and flat bar set up.  This gives her a good position on the bike and allows her to develop power naturally.  She easily holds 15 mph or better on flat surfaces.
Her third bike isn’t built yet.  That is the semi-recumbent tandem.  This will be a fantastic bike for us when I am out doing longer rides.  It will allow us to share the work and provide us positions that work to our body strengths and well as allowing for conversation and “together” time.

So outside of having a clear understanding of the dedication it will take to get to RAAM and the time involved and supporting me she is also determined to help me with the logistics and planning of the next few years.  Everything from making sure that I can attend information meetings (and finding them) to making this blog functional and readable.  She will eventually develop the website that will be used and begin creating the lists of things that need to be done each step of the way.  It is all of this that makes it possible for me to concentrate on training; on getting to the next step.

I will say it here and know that I will say it again over and over and over.  Thank you Trisha!  Oh because I need to get a head start on it, “You were right”.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010 - September 29, 2010

I have scared a good number of pedestrians while on my bike.  They get into a groove, have music on and don’t hear a nearly silent bicycle behind them.  I am always courteous and two to three seconds before I overtake them call out “on yer left” to let them know they are not alone.  I pitch my voice specifically for their hearing and keep it calm.  Most of the time this works and I pass without incident, occasionally the person is so wrapped up in their world that they jump a little.  The exception to this has been dogs; with better hearing, noses and sense of what is around them, they often look around at me before I even get close.  Today was the exception.
Before I get to today’s events, I need to digress.  When I say two or three seconds, I mean exactly within that range.  The variance takes into consideration the speed at which I am travelling and has been dialed in through a lot of experience.  While I don’t ride the major MUTTs while commuting or training (only on family rides) I often pass pedestrians that on sidewalks, or walking/running in the bike lanes or shoulders of the road.  And I have learned that if I call out too late (within a second of passing them), they tend to startle and I worry they will jump into me or it I call out too soon (four or more seconds) they tend to get confused and move in front of me.  With only a couple of seconds warning, it gives them enough time to hear me (and enough for me to get out of the way if they jump towards me) but not enough time to move in front of me.  It’s a science!
Back to this morning: I was at the bottom of the Market Street hill where there is a bike lane and a shoulder.  I noticed a pedestrian, jogging with a bigger dog (looked like a Weimaraner maybe).  I did a quick check for headphones (I up the volume of my voice if I can see them) and assumed the dog was ignoring me.  Whoops!
As I called out “on yer left” the jogger jumped up and almost got taken out by the dog that hadn’t  heard/smelled/sensed me and was rapidly skating sideways (thank goodness away from me) as quick as it could, all the while peeing.  I apologized as I went by and did a quick check to make sure neither dog nor jogger were keeling over in shock.  After I got by, I revisited my actions and determined that I had called out within my prescribed time, passed at a safe distance and a safe speed.  I felt bad that I startled the dog so badly but it lead me to wonder if dogs begin to mimic their owners and get in the “zone”; ignoring everything around them.  I’ve never seen it before, but I now know it can happen.  I’m just glad the dog chose flight over fight or I might be missing part of my leg.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

My bikes - September 28, 2010

My bikes.  I have a number of them (and sad to say, I will probably add more).  Each has a use and often each one is ridden in any given week.

Big Blue:  This was the first new bike that I purchased as an adult.  It is a flat bar Schwinn SuperSport.  When we purchased it (and a bike for Trisha, but more on that later) it was a HUGE expense; about $250.  It is an all aluminum frame, including fork, running heavy duty 36 spoke rims and a 24 gear, triple ring drive-train.  I had initially planned to do a one day STP on it, but later upgraded, and for awhile it was my commuter bike.  Right now it is a work bike.  By that I mean, it is set up for panniers, to tow the tag along or the trailer.  It is a great bike for cycling with my family, rugged and versatile. 
I don’t have the true mileage on it, but I would estimate around 4000 to 5000 miles.  The chain, tires, crank and shift levers have all been replaced but I would estimate that it will continue to serve in it’s current role for the next 10 years.

Little Red: Sadly this bike has been retired.  It was my first foray into “building” bicycles and I picked out every piece and put it all together.  It was a Scattante aluminum road frame with carbon drop outs and a carbon fork.  With its large oversized aluminum tubing and really cheap carbon bits the frame was incredibly stiff and road like a car without suspension.  Of course at the time I had no idea.  All I knew is that it weighed less than half of my existing bike (Big Blue) and was very fast.
I built it up with Campagnolo Centaur components after months of research and equal grade Campy wheels.  By finding deals on parts here, there, and everywhere, before the seat I managed to get it all together for about $400-$500.  The seat itself was about another $150 (at the time it was a HUGE expense, and for a seat would be now), but the saddle was especially designed to prevent certain boy parts from going numb on long rides.  With one exception this has proven to be the case and the Selle SMP Evolution is still my saddle of choice.
Little Red was decommission last year and striped of most of its parts to help build up/pay for a new bike.  I still have the (very beat up) frame and in two years probably put about 8000 to 10,000 miles on it.

Master Fixed: Thank you to a long time friend of my FIL I was able to acquire an early ‘80s Motobecane Grande Jubilee.  This became a challenge as I had to relearn many of the older components and sizing while I turned it into a fixed gear.  It has fantastic Reynolds tubing and big 27” wheels.  It now sports a flip-flop hub with a 17 tooth fixed and 19 tooth freewheel gear attached to a 46 tooth crank.  It recently had the crank replaced due to my ripping the other chainring from the crank arms; gotta love metal fatigue.
 The bike is outfitted with full fenders and flop/chop pursuit bars as well as my winter light set up.  It rides great and though it isn’t particularly fast going up, down or along the flats it is simple, durable and perfect for cycling in great Northwest winters.  I would estimate that I have put nearly 3000 or so miles on it so far.

The Ibis: This is my current race bike.  The Ibis Silk SL was the lightest frame I could afford and is built up with (again by me) Campagnolo Chorus and Campagnolo Zonda wheels.  I have my trusty Selle SMP saddle, generic carbon (but light) seatpost, stem, spacers, pump and water bottle holders.  I do run a Specialized aluminum handlebar (I can’t bring myself to run carbon for that sudden “snap”) that fit and have the perfect drop for me.  Altogether, weighed properly my bike comes in a touch over 15lbs.  Not bad for a sub $1000 bike.
I have probably 6000 miles on this bike already and outside of replacing the computer (Garmin 305 under warranty), a set of tires and a chain the bike has been great.  It is outfitted with a compact crankset paired with a 12/27 (my modification) cassette.  I easily cruise on the flats between 22 to 24 mph and it climbs like a dream.  I attempted the S2S on it this year and was the first person into Orondo, placed 20th at the HPC and been able to keep up with the High Performance Cycling club (led by Tom Meloy).
For the spring I think I am going to try the new tubeless tires and see if I can get a better ride without sacrificing the speed, as well my 15,000 mile pedals are about done and need replacing.  Look has a new pedal that is reasonably priced and seems to be a good performer.  The only other modification may be a trying a set of aero bars in preparation for RAAM.

Future bikes: The next immediate bike (well next spring depending on finances) is a semi-recumbent-tandem.  A what?  It is a tandem in which the captain is on a standard upright configuration BEHIND the stoker who is sitting on a recumbent style bike.  This configuration should work well for Trisha and I, allowing us to do longer rides together, putting each of us in our strongest position.   Initially I was looking at the Hase Pino and Bilenky Viewpoint: new between $4000-$6000, used $3000-$4000.  That is not even remotely in our budget.
I found another source that will allow me to buy just the frame for $600 and I have enough components lying around to build up the rest.  With the sale of a couple of our existing bikes (good bye Little Red), we should be able to do it for next to nothing.

Further down the road (read two or three years), I will probably play with a triathlon setup and bike again for the long flat areas of RAAM.  Based on the overall cost saving I will probably build that one up as well.  I will be curious to see what new technologies come out over the next 8 years, before RAAM and which ones make sense (tubeless tires) and which ones don’t (electronic shifting?).