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?). 

Monday, September 27, 2010

The first time - September 27, 2010

If you know me, then you know that I am a private person and less then eloquent when it comes to writing.  Trisha far outstrips me in this regard but my thoughts are bicycle thoughts and need to be told my way.  So in a way a blog may seem counter-intuitive and in another is a personal journey towards a major life goal.

Welcome to the premier post.  I am hoping this will make my Facebook a little less cycle focused.  There are several reasons for my bicycle thoughts.  First to keep track of what I have done, so that I can look back and see all the steps that it took to reach my accomplishment.  Second, I will use it to help me define the journey going forward; to set and meet goals.  Third, it will help me plan and grow as a cyclist and provide the basis of the story of my (our) undertaking of RAAM.

The primary focus will be on preparing for the Race Across America, but it will include general things that are cycling involved and other events as I see fit.  I tinker with bicycles and ride a number of different ones always looking to add to my collection.  I am not a racer or commuter or casual rider or hipster or mechanic; I am all of them in my own way.

Of course I can’t do this without my family.  This will be an eight year journey for them too.  Time when they will be in direct support or emotional support of me; without them this is not something that I could do.  The key is Trisha.  Everything from making this blog more functional to giving me time on the bike to being inundated with “bike” talk to probably being the only reader of my ramblings.  She will be the thing that keeps me pedaling when all I want to do is quit.  She is my inspiration for life.

I hope to have updates at least once a week; initially more, as I try and empty all my thoughts and feelings here over the next couple of months.  Not really a cleansing (I don’t tend to need that), but more something to look back on and see the excitement and heaps of naivety at this point.  I am not a visual person, but will try to include pictures and links when possible.

I’m glad to be started and look forward to seeing how it turns out.