Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tortoises are not aerodynamic - March 31, 2011

They aren’t, but they should be.  I mean look at their shells.  They are flat on the bottom, often with great wind channels.  They have a nice narrow profile and smooth air flow over the top of their shells, with a minimization of turbulence down the back over an elongated end point.  With a low center of gravity and all wheel drive, they should be tearing it up in the animal kingdom, but they don’t.
Apparently human tortoises don’t either.  I discovered another hybrid species of humans.  I have often chased down the rabbits and seen the jack-asses, but this morning I discovered this new species. 
They seem to be commuters like me for the most part and like their animal counter-parts are loaded down with either a back-pack or panniers much like the shell of a tortoise.  Unlike rabbits which tend to move quickly for short periods of time, human tortoises seem to have one pace (slow) that they are able to maintain regardless of terrain or conditions.
This morning was a wonderful, windy commute.  With the promise of rain in the forecast I took my winter bike and drove part way.  Maybe it was the light traffic or just good timing, but I ended up being on my bike ten minutes ahead of schedule.  No argument from me as I refuse to push hard into a wind, especially one that is 15 to 20 miles per hour.
I had seen the telltale flash of another poor cyclist battling the wind ahead of me, but I had it firmly in my head that I wasn’t chasing anyone down or battling the wind any harder than I needed to.  Imagine my surprise when I found myself quickly catching up to them.  It was my first tortoise.
Granted they had a bulky pannier and we were into the wind.  They also had what looked like a good solid (read heavy) commuter with nice wide tires.  But seriously!  They were in their second lowest gear doing maybe 6 mph…on a flat section of road!  I hope they didn’t have far to go.  Granted they made it up a 5% slope, but if they had too much further they would hit an 8% and I worry they wouldn’t make it up.
After waiting for traffic, I passed them and carried on my way still cursing at the wind.  I pedaled down a steep slope barely above a pace I could normally keep on the flats.  Still grumbling about the wind (and still not hurrying) I started up Market Street hill.  There is not one, but two blinking lights ahead of me.  The first one is pretty darn close and even though I can see they are standing up (in a very easy gear) I’m catching up quickly.
I pass the back-pack burdened tortoise, happy to have a brief respite from the wind and noticed that the other cyclist had disappeared over the top of the hill.  Good to see someone who is not moving like the two cyclists in the new species I discovered.
At the crest of the hill, I found myself back in the full brunt of the wind and pedaled my way down the hill.  Without trees or buildings for protection, the wind along the lake was brutal.  Again, I was ahead of schedule and not fighting the wind.  Apparently I was putting more effort in then the new cyclist that appeared ahead of me.  Ah! It was the one that had made good time up Market Street, but now they were in a super-easy gear at maybe 10mph on the flats.  I pulled around and figured if I was breaking the wind they would probably keep up in my draft.  Maybe it was the panniers slowing them down or maybe it was the tortoise effect, but they quickly dropped off my wheel and I was once again alone.
I don’t know how to feel about the new tortoise-humans.  It’s great that they are out biking.  It’s great that I won’t feel inclined to spend energy chasing them down , but I worry that I will have to try and get around them on a busy street or they will pull their tortoise shell asses in front of me at an intersection. 
Really, I’m not the fastest person and some days slow and steady doesn’t win the race.  Even though they look the part, tortoises really aren’t aerodynamic.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I wish it would make up it's mind - March 29

The weather that is.  It's not even the weather, it's the inability of the forecasters to tell me what it is likely to do in the next 6 hours and be right.  I don't think it's their fault, it's the area.  The weather is...variable.

Why am I grumbling about it?  Because I took my winter bike to work two days running when there was a 90% chance of rain on all three sites I check, only to get up and find there not only isn't any rain, but the roads are dry.  I guess I shouldn't be greedy, it could be snowing or have hurricane like winds, but I need to get some miles in.

I have about 9 weeks of training before my big ride of the year and that means the Ibis and that means mostly dry roads (I won't hold out for sunshine).  Patience Scott.  Even with a very eventful May, I'm aiming to get in around 1200 miles (that plus some cool prizes from Cascade) or more.  I wouldn't mind being closer to 1500, then some more miles in the beginning of June before a week of rest preceding my ride.  Of course I will take as many miles soon as the weather clears up!

Other quick notes: I've gotta learn to leave the damn rabbits alone, I shaved most of the hair off my head, I don't understand why vehicles feel the need to pull into the bike lane when they are stopping in traffic and I want some sun!

Done rant.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

March 24 - We had spring

For three whole days; and now it's gone.

I was able to use those days and get some miles in.  Depending on how the weather goes for the rest of the month, I should be close to 700 miles for the month and 1500 for the year.  I know repetitive, too bad!

I have some things to work on, but overall my jump into summer training has gone well.  I have been averaging around 19mph, 90rpm and 250 watts for my rides.  I started fine tuning my pedal stroke a bit and while it is going to take some new muscle memory to perfect, it should keep down fatigue as well as pick up my power.

The other thing I am still needing to work on is pacing myself and not chasing down the rabbits.  Part of that is the sudden increase in traffic levels.  You wouldn't know that gas prices are rising based on the volume of cars out wandering around.  Must be the economy getting better.  The increase in traffic means more aggressive drivers and means that I end up exerting myself to stay safer.

Oh who am I kidding!  The little human rabbits are my weakness.  I see the flashing red lights (or better yet none-meaning they are too worried about weight to put one one) ahead of me and it calls to me to chase it down.  The non-commuters are the worst.  They are probably home from work and doing a quick 8-10 mile loop of some hills.  They might have a phone and spare tube, but I am packing half my life with me and still I am driven to catch them.

I really need to get over it.  I need to ride my ride at my pace for my benefit and allow them to run away from me...even if they have a team kit on.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Making some headway - March 22, 2011

I preposted my  mileage for tomorrow – something I don’t do very often, but I was very excited to have over 150 miles in the last few days.  Obviously some days in the summer coming up, I may have that many on a single day, but considering the weather I will take that as a good number.
Over 500 miles this month!  I should end up between 650 and 700 by the end of the month which is slightly higher than I targeted.  Considering I was under target the last two months, I will take it!
Two of those rides were simply nicer weather allowing me to take the Ibis from home.  The other ride however was sort of a test run at a possible commute trip if/when our offices move later this summer.   I had a good ride and got a feel for the roads and route.  I was able to pick up my FIL for the second half and he pointed me in the direction of alternate routes and short cuts.
That is one nice thing with the route, there are lots of bail outs if I’m running behind, because I’m slow that day, blow a tire, etc.  I did learn a number of things, some which are good to know and others that will force changes:
Nike hill is steep no matter which side you approach it from, one side is just shorter.  At 50mph my bike hops due to a slightly out of round tire.  Do not descend Nike hill over 50mph on hopping wheels!  The hill behind Shoreline is not that big of a deal when you have ridden fixed gear all winter and suddenly have gears.  130th North Seattle is in bad need of paving.  I am not sure how cars get up and down 125th in LFP and 123rd is the better option to safely descend.  The climb at the end of my ride behind 3rd Place books is going to be a challenge if there are other riders out, I may hurt myself chasing them down.  205th going home *shudder* I need to find a different route.  The Interurban will be a nice way to get home in the evening.
The route to work is about 38 miles (depending on any changes) with 3200’ of climbing and should take me about 2.5 hours depending on traffic.
I have also discovered that while I was able to moderate my pace during the winter, I will need to learn that all over again on the Ibis.  It just wants to go fast.
Aiming for 800-900 miles for April and over 2000 for the year.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

March 17 - Woo Hoo!

I got there a little later than I wanted to, but I crossed over 1000 miles recently.  Even if I didn’t change my riding between now and the end of the year, I would still be over 5000 miles.  Of course I am still aiming to be at 10,000. 
A few things this last week: I had the day of the old Ford trucks.  I don’t know what it was but I must have had 15 to 20 drive past me all within half an hour.  It was like everyone decided to go hunting after work all on the same day; weird.  I had very few rabbits to catch, in fact there was only one, and though he was a quick one I caught him before he turned.  I’m wondering if it has been the torrential rain and howling winds that have kept people off their bikes in the last little bit.
I have a small section of the BG that I ride right now because they have the road that I would normally take all torn up, with temporary lines and flashing lights and construction cones.  Not a place I want to be.  Anyhow, in the afternoon there are often a number of walkers, joggers and other bikes on the path I slow down for my safety and theirs.  I really don’t think that fast moving cyclists belong on MUTs, but that’s a different thread.  A cyclist goes past me in the opposite direction at probably 20mph and says “there’s morons on the trail up ahead”. 
Well thanks.  Seeing how fast he were moving and expecting that may have been part of the issue, I didn’t think much of it.  Bad me.  As I came around one of the corners there were a group of kids/teenagers on long-boards and BMX bikes, four in total.  They were all the way across the trail, so as I came up behind them I called out an “on yer’left”.  And…nothing.  No one moved.  Ah, these must be the morons.
The two kids on the long-boards looked like they were shooting video from their phones.  I let them know again that I was behind them and one of them turned around to look at me, but still no one moved.  I watched as a jogger coming the other way stepped off the trail to go around them with a shrug to me as well.  Screw this!  I waited until one of boarders drifted a bit and rode between him and one of the bikes.
I heard a chorus of “heys” and the guy on the bike moved to cut me off, but I held my line.  He caught my rear tire with his front and I’m not sure if he went down, but at that point I didn’t care.  I was grumbling about “those kids” before I stopped and remembered they were the exception.  I had passed two other collections of kids in the previous days and they had all cleared a path for me once they knew I was there.   
In other news the click is fixed.  Still not sure what it is/was, but on my ride this morning it was gone.  Speaking of rides this morning, I rode the Ibis in and will ride it back out; from home.  I am in better shape compared to this time last year, but I’m way off the mark for how I finished the season up.  That and I have to learn how to go slow all over again.  I made great time getting to work this morning, but I am going to feel it for the next few days.
I hope that we start to see nicer weather.  The roads still have a lot of sand left over from the winter on them, and a little rain causes that to kick up into my drive chain, so until the streets are cleaned I am really only willing to ride on dry days.  Maybe we are finally done with the gloom and doom of this winter.  I certainly hope so.
Oh, and: DAMN my road bike is fast!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The "click" - March 8, 2011

No this isn't some new superhero.  It is the sound that my front wheel is making.

It is a once per rotation sound that is fairly quiet and only happens when the wheel is loaded.  Initially I had thought maybe a bearing and asked my LBS to look at it.  Initially they were unable to find it, but when we tried again in a quieter area with the wheel under load they heard it.

My LBS is great!  They tried a number of things but were unable to correct the issue.  My biggest concern was that it was a bearing that would suddenly seize, probably when I was doing 50 mph down a hill in traffic.  I have been assured that this won't happen...probably.  Without any charge for an hour of tinkering (or solution) I was assured that it would be fine unless it got worse.

I posted the question to the couple of boards that I keep up with and had a whole range of possibilities that were suggested, many that I was able to quickly discard or didn't apply because of the type of spokes and nipples that I have.  There were four that I found possible: an un-round bearing about to seize, a crack in the rim weld, a loose skewer or a spoke nipple slipping.  I added a fifth myself after some extensive research which could be a crack in the plastic bearing shield.

I hope its the simple skewer.  If it's the bearing or rim; ACK!!  That would be bad on the downhill-fast scenario.  If I can't correct this with the skewer then I will have to get the wheel in to be rebuilt.  FUN!  The worst part is we are back to the Seattle drip, so I won't be able to test it anytime soon, and I fear that once it clears up I will be without my bike while I'm getting this dealt with.

The up-side is, once corrected I should be good to roll another 15,000 miles on these wheels.

Oh and the other up-side is, I got a chance to ride it (thus discovering the click).  It was very, very nice to be back on my race bike!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

February flop - March 3, 2011

Between a broken bike and snow, the end of February was dismal for mileage ridden.  Not good, the first two months of the year and I am already behind 100 miles for my targets.  The upside is, the weather is getting nicer, there are a lot more work days in March and I hope to get on my summer bike a couple of times.  My goal is 600 miles this month…we will see.
I had a successful foray into a new/old steel frame.  Bike Works is a non-profit in Seattle and takes in donated bikes, teaches kids in the area how to recondition them and then helps them build their own.  They have a warehouse where they store the bikes before reconditioning.  I found a mid-line, mid-80s Schwinn for next to nothing.  After a quick swap of components (the ones on the bike where garbage) I was back in business.
“Take2”(name of the bike) has a little more aggressive handling but weighs a couple of pounds more.  It’s fine as a winter commuter but lacks the softness of the Motobecane.  After a couple of glitches with bolts needing to retightened, it has been good enough to get me to and from work.  I figure the extra weight will only help me with my winter training.
My biggest hope is that the weather will cooperate and I can take the Ibis out on Sunday for a quick ride.  I need to shake out any mechanicals after the winter and repairs and get little things done like my computer set back up to the bike.  I know it’s spring because I not only do I have an itch to get this done, but I made my commute both ways yesterday in the daylight.