Thursday, April 30, 2009

War Zone

I woke this past Saturday in the mood for a bike ride – a long bike ride. I drank coffee and surfed the net until my wife woke up. I talked her into dropping me off on the other side of the James River Bridge, so I could ride the loop north through Smithfield, Jamestown, Williamsburg, Yorktown and back home to Newport News.

At 9 AM, my wife drove away and it was just me and my bike. I started riding. After an hour and a half, the sun was getting higher in the sky and the temperatures were rising as well. Combine this heat with a semi-substantial cross wind that steadily buffeted me, I was looking forward to a few trees. One particualr stretch of this route that I look forward to is an area where the road enters a stand of trees. It reminds me of the Arenberg Forest, the legendary cobblestoned section of the Paris Roubaix. Except this section doesn’t have cobblestones, nor is it lined 4 deep with crazy, drunk fans screaming their heads off. Imagine my shock when I reached this highly anticipated section and this is what my eyes beheld.

I was straddling my bike trying to take in the devastation when a pick-up truck pulled along side me and the old gentlemen driving asked, “taking a picture of the war zone?” I asked him what happened. I could hear the sadness and bitterness in his voice when he said, “the damn loggers came in, that’s what happened!” He nodded to the opposite side of the road, where the trees still stood tall and proud.

“That’s my side” he said, “they’ll never touch it”. Then he drove away.
Our planet needs a few more men like that old man. I rode on.

A Taste of Summer - Oh How Sweet

This past weekend, we had unseasonably warm temperatures in Southeast VA. The temperature peaked out in the lower 90’s. Can you believe it: 90 F in April? Who would have thunk it!

I’m not one to kick a gift horse in the mouth. If Summer wants to rear it’s beautiful head early, I’m just the person to give it a great big wet kiss on the lips.

Saturday morning, after a couple cups of coffee, I donned lycra, grabbed my bike and put in 80 pure, sun blistering, sweat drenching miles.

Turns out – I wasn’t the only one puckering my lips.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Recovery Drink

The best recovery drink in the world - bar (pun intended) none!

The really cool part - it comes in zillions of flavors:-)

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Pollen Storm

Last weekend was a beautiful weekend. It was perfect for riding. I didn't ride - much. Why! Well I had a hard choice - spend time with Granddaughter or ride?

Actually, it wasn't a hard choice at all. I left work at noon on Friday, rode home, jumped in the truck and headed to North Carolina to visit my son and his family.
I got back home around 1:00 pm on Sunday and was able to get a ride in. I threw the Specialized in my truck and headed up to the Colonial Parkway. The Parkway runs from Yorktown to Jamestown by way of Williamsburg. It's a great ride, the traffic can be a bit heavy, but the road is wide and they have plenty of room to pass. The road surface is pretty rough, but I don't mind. I've been watching the Spring Classics, many of which feature cobblestone sections. When I ride the Parkway, I just pretend I am in the pro peloton riding the Paris Roubaix. In future posts I hope to feature the Parkway in more detail. But I didn't have much time on Sunday - so I put my head down and rode - not much time to smell the roses. But a didn't get a couple shots of the flowers in bloom.

The ride from Yorktown to Jamestown was spectacular. I felt good - I was strong - I was blazing fast. It wasn't until I arrived at Jamestown, refilled my waterbottles and starting heading back that I realized the reason for my break-neck speeds. I had been riding the crest of a pretty substantial tailwind. Now I was faced with 22 miles of a pretty substantial headwind - with a few hills to boot. Lucky me!
I put my head down and slogged away. The wonderful feeling of clipping along at a brisk pace evaporated as my field of vision narrowed to a small spot 5 feet in front of my wheel. The sun was starting to get lower in the sky and the temperatures dropped accordingly. It was close to 70 F when I started the ride and now it was in the 50's. I regretted not bringing along a jacket or arm warmers. Oh well - not much I can do about it now.
I passed through Williamsburg and was on the final 12 mile stretch when I looked up and noticed something unusual. As each car passed me, they kick up a fine mist of dust. As I looked further up the road, I noticed that I was riding through a light yellow haze. What in the world? A dust storm? No way? It was then that I glanced at a pool of water along the side of the road and noticed the yellow sheen floating on the surface.

Pollen!! I wasn't riding through a dust storm - I was riding through a pollen storm. Oh goodie - Spring is here! I reached the truck and felt good to have logged in 45 miles.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Lord Rideth With Me

This morning's commute was like the Lord had some extra time on His hands, so He decided to come along for a ride. The temps were mild (upper 40's). The skies were clear. The sun was rising. The wind was to my back. The traffic was next to nonexistent. All the traffic lights turned green as I approached.

I've often said, the second hardest part of a bike commute is arriving at your destination. For this morning's ride, that truth was especially poignant. I didn't want to stop, but two things caused me apply the brakes.

First - I am not financially independent. I need this job.

Second - I figured God had more pressing matters to attend to than ride with me all day long.

Building a Bike - Part 3 - Sub Assembly

Even though I have all the components, I can't start assembling the bike together because I still have to paint the frame. Unfortunately, the weather isn't cooperating, so that task is on the back burner. In the meantime though, there is some amount of sub-assembly that I have been doing:

The Shimano 105 cranks, I salvaged from a bike a friend of mine gave me when, after repeated crashes, he decided to give up the sport. They are 172.5 mm long (just my size) but are outfitted with double chain rings (53 and 39 tooth).

(Note: What be that in the middle of the picture? Why bless my soul - I believe it to be a pint of Legend Brown Ale.)

For the Roadster, I want a single chainring so I took both of the old chainrings off and installed a 44 tooth ring. Since I am only using one chain ring, the original chainring bolts are too long. That's why I bought single stack (shorter) ones when I bought the 44 tooth ring. Once the new chainring was firmly in place, I attached the pedals and wala the cranks are ready for final installation. (Note: I've put a bit of a dent in the Legend:-)

I am using Shimano RX100's hubs that I also salvaged from the bike my friend gave me. They have practically no miles on them, but they have been sitting around my garage for several years. During that time the grease has degraded and gummed up. So I took them apart, cleaned them, repacked them with fresh grease and reassembled. I then took the finely tuned hubs and the new Weinmann rims down to BikeBeat to have Rodney build me a set of wheels.

(Note: The color hath changed in the pint glass - Why I believe it to be a bit of good ole Bud Light.)

It was now time to turn my attention to the handlebars. To me the most important part of the bike, for they provide the window through which I gaze. I removed the stem from an old pair of drop bars and attached it to the North Road bars. I slipped on the grips, attached the brake levers and then attached the new, shiny perfectly tuned brass bell. (Note: The Legend Brown Ale kept calling me, so I went back for more.)

Now for the final bit of sub-assembly - The seat. I unpacked the new Brooks saddle and lovingly coated it top and bottom with Brooks Proofhide. I left the bottom as coated but polished the top once it dried. I then attached the seat post and now the sub-assembly phase of my bike building is complete.

(Note: Why that be a different color altogether - hmmm - Yuengling Lager it be.)

Friday, April 10, 2009

A Bit Less Drag If You Please

Have you ever been fishing, hooked and lost what you knew was a big one, because you had the drag set a bit too tight? That's what ran through my mind as I knelt beside the road and retied my shoe.

Normally, I'm pretty meticulous when I tie my shoes, particularly my riding shoes. I make sure that any extra shoelace is positioned to the side of my shoe opposite the cranks. Today though - the sun was shining - the thermometer registered 78 F and I was anxious to break the bonds of work and RIDE! As soon as the whistle blew, I slung off the steel toes, haphazardly threw on the riding shoes and I was out the door.

The first couple of miles were uneventful. It wasn't until I was riding through Huntington Park that the error of my ways manifested itself. I was midway up a small incline when I noticed an ever burgeoning tightness that grew on my left foot with each pedal stroke. Being the experienced commuter that I am, I immediately ascertained the precariousness of my plight. My shoe lace had become entangled with my pedal. The noose was tightening with each pedal stroke. On a free wheel bike, the exacerbation of this problem is easily remedied - STOP PEDALING! On a fixed gear bike - since the motion of the pedals is intricately and unequivocally entwined with the revolution of the wheels - extricating oneself from this troublesome scenario is infinitely more difficult.

If you want to stop the shoe lace from wrapping around the pedal - stop pedaling!

If you want to stop pedaling - stop the wheel from turning!!

If you want to stop the wheels from turning - stop the bike!!!

The tricky part is executing the aforementioned actions before:
A. The shoe string snaps in two or
B. The shoe string tears your shoes or
C. Your pedal motion and wheel locks up.

I grabbed both brakes for all I was worth and waited to see which option manifested itself. Lucky for me, I was going no more than 12 mph at a cadence of 50 rpm and was able to stop in time to preclude any escalation of problems. I slowly pushed the bike backwards, unwinding my shoe laces, all the time grateful I wasn't racing along at a cadence of 90 to 100 rpm. The results could have been disastrous.

I don't mean to wax philosophically, but when encountering a near death experience, one can't help but be a bit introspective (OK - maybe the "near death" thing is a bit of an exaggeration - but this is my blog so I ought to be granted a bit of literary license). So here goes: Life is full of little happenstances that teach us: right and wrong - good and evil - fulfillment and brokenness - valor and recklessness - prosperity and poverty. That which differentiates the wise from the foolish is not the nature of our experiences, but what we learn from them.

I retied my shoes tight and carefully tucked the laces inside, opposite from the cranks.
Mark my word - from this point forward - that's how I'll always tie them - no matter how inviting the weather is.

Oh yea - this experience gave me yet another idea for a Cycling Affair trait:
"You may be having a Cycling Affair - if you tuck your shoelaces inside your shoes."

Sunday, April 5, 2009

My Kingdom for Fenders

After not riding the previous week, for reasons discussed in prior posts, I was back at it full swing this past week. In fact, I rode to work everyday. The temperatures were mild - the winds were manageable - the air was kinda dry. There was threat of rain for two days, but when I walked out the house on those mornings, it wasn't raining, so I rode.

On Thursday morning, it didn't rain on me, but there was evidence that it had rained pretty heavy the night before. The roads were soaked. I could see the water spraying up from my front wheel and imagined the rear wheel was following suit. I so wanted fenders at that moment. I imagined the water leaving a nice trail of wet, brown, grittiness up my backside. That ought to be a tricky one to explain to my co-workers. I loosened the strap on my messenger bag and lowered it in an effort to protect me from having to make such awkward explanations. It must have done the trick - cause no one commented on my backside all day.

Friday, April 3, 2009

March Recap - New Year's Resolutions

OK - March is in the books. Time to review my New Year Resolutions:

1. Drive my truck to work less than 25% of the time. (GRADE = A)

Year to Date:
Bike = 41
Bus = 14
Truck = 5

Truck driven to work only 8% of the time. That's gone up a little bit since February, for reasons I've discussed in previous posts, but I'm still on track.

2. Complete a Triathlon. (GRADE = D-)

If life got in the way of my triathlon training in February, then in March, life pretty much stomped the living tar out of it. With the cycling season cranking up, I don't think I am going to be able to devote the time to running and swimming that I need to. I'll see how April goes, but I am leaning toward dropping this resolution.

3. Ride at least 3 centuries. (GRADE = TBD)

Still waiting for warmer weather. Targeting first century in May. I start my serious training regimen on Monday.

4. Start blogging and create a web site for "". (GRADE = A)

The blogging went very well in March. I was able to average 2 posts per week. On top of that, I got a digital camera and starting incorporating pictures. I'm becoming a blogging machine. I didn't work on the Web Page and will probably hold off on that for a while. I mainly want to focus on my blog and get it the best that it can be.