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!