Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Month Of May

The month of May was National Bike Month and I made the absolute best of it.
  • I rode my first century of the year on May 9, the CaptoCap century from Jamestown to Richmond and back again.
  • I sold my first bike, you can read about it in my last blog.
  • I bought a new bike - a Bike Friday New World Tourist. I will tell you more about that on another post.
  • I joined the Peninsula Bicycle Association. I decided it was time for me to quit using the bike as a solo activity and start riding with others.
  • I rode my bike to work everyday in the month of May. I got wet a few times, but it was a small price to pay.
  • I went on a bike ride everyday in May. I rode the Fixed Gear, the Hybrid, the Light Roadster and the Road Bike.
  • I had planned to participate in the Ride of Silence on May 20 in Virginia Beach, but I had to work late and couldn't get over there in time. So instead, I took the Light Roadster out at 7:00 PM that night and did my own Ride of Silence.

The month of May was all about bikes and that was a good thing, a very good thing.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

I Betrayed Her - Oh The Shame

It is with a heavy heart that I post this blog. I did the unimaginable this weekend. Brace yourself my reader - it is with great trepidation that I must tell you that "I sold one of my bikes!" She was my Trek Hybrid.

You have to believe me when I tell you, this was my first time. I've never sold one of my bikes before. If I can go the rest of my life and never do it again, it will still be too soon.

Although she is gone, she will forever hold a very special place in my heart. She was my first in so many ways: She was my first real comfort bike. She was my first bike with a kickstand. She was my first bike with fenders. This bike caused me to slow down. Before owning her, I knew but one way to ride – put my head down and hammer. Before owning her, the thought of stopping to enjoy the view and smell the roses, seemed counterproductive. Since she became a part of my life, now matter what I'm riding, I find myself looking around more often.

When I first bought her, I primarily used her for commuting. However, later in life she became more or less my utility vehicle. I would throw on the panniers and use her for trips to the grocery store, post office, drug store or the bike shop. Yet, the thing she excelled at the most was as a beer truck. Outfitted with the trunk rack, she was perfect for carrying and keeping cold a six pack of beer. I rode her to 7-Eleven so much that I suspect if I gave her my credit card, she could have made the trip by herself.

I could ride her anytime and anywhere and she never complained about carrying my beer. What a girl! To think that I will never again enjoy the view looking over her bars.Letting go was not only hard on me. The rest of my harem insisted on saying goodbye. It was a moving moment. Well, I gotta go. I have to see if one of my other bikes is willing to make a beer run. It won't be an easy sell. They're all pretty mad at me right now.

In parting, allow me to leave you something to think about: "You may be having a cycling affair, if selling a bike brings you to tears."

Friday, May 22, 2009

Never Let Your Dog Out naked

When you commute to work, you see all kinds of unusual things, not to mention learn some of life's most important lessons.

This morning as I meandered though the neighborhoods on my way to work, I noticed a big black lab having a grand ole time running from yard to yard. His tail was wagging so furiously that it shook his whole body. He was too enthralled in sniffing around to take any notice of me. I've ridden this street hundreds of times over the years and this is the first time I ever saw this dog running free. Once I realized he wasn't going to make a sport of chasing me, I began to ponder where he came from? This nagging question was quickly answered, when 3 houses down, I saw a wet haired man tearing out his front door with nothing on but a towel. Where is my camera when I need it? I would love to have stuck around and seen how this scene played out, but I didn't want to be late, so I rode on. (Special Note: If it been the man's spouse running out the door with nothing on but a towel, I would have stopped to lend assistance, no matter how late that made me. I am a gentleman after all.)

Had I been roaring down the main traffic thoroughfare in a natural resource guzzling - sheet metal encased - internal combustion powered - environmental hazard, I would have missed this scene all together. The antics of a nearly naked man and his dog would have gone unnoticed. That would have been a shame.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Building a Bike - Part 6 - Final Assembly

The parts have been ordered and received.

The sub-assembly is complete.

The frame has been stripped.

The primer, base coat and clear coat have been applied.

We are now ready for the crowning jewel of this project. Assembling it all together. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. So instead on me telling you about it. Why don't you just just back, watch and enjoy as it all comes together.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Building a Bike - Part 5 - Painting

Now that my frame lay bare and naked, there is no time to lose in protecting her from the harsh elements that would love nothing more than to wreak havoc on her innocence and beauty. She longingly looks to me for protection. Sensing her vulnerability, I wasted no time in reaching for the paint can.

To paint my frame, I went down to our local auto store and chose some automobile grade paint. I don't know if one brand of paint is better than another, the one consistent theme that my research revealed was that it was important to stick with one brand of paint for the primer, base coat and clear coat. Even though it was more expensive than the name brands found at hardware stores, I chose to pick up paint from the auto store, cause I figured that automobile paint, given its intended purpose, had to be better quality. The supplies I chose are shown below:I have to admit that I was a bit nervous about spray painting my frame, primarily because of the high risk of runs and drips. I resolved that no matter how tempted I was, I was going to apply the paint in very thin coats.

I started out with the primer. I sprayed extremely light coats, waiting 10 to 15 minutes between coats. I must have applied 10 or more coats of paint. I didn't really keep track of the number of coats, but I know I went through 2 full cans of spray paint. The primed product turned out very nice, even if I were to say so myself.I waited a week for the primer to cure and then I was ready for the base coat. I chose black paint because in my mind it is simple and basic. That was what this bike was all about. I lightly sanded the primed surfaces with 400 grit sandpaper. As with the primer, I applied thin coat after thin coat until I had blown through 2 full spray cans of paint. I was very, very pleased with my handiwork.Once I had the base coat applied, the weather threw a major wrench in my top coating plans. I had to wait 3 weeks until the temperature and humidity got their act together. After what seemed like an eternity, I was finally able to put the finishing touches on my masterpiece. I used 600 grit wet paper to lightly sand the base coat. This dulled the finish a bit, but based on what I had read on the Internet, I was confident the clear coat would restore the luster and add depth. In applying the top coat, I followed the same procedure successfully employed on the primer and base coat. I applied 2 cans worth of multiple thin coats. When all was said in done, I was so proud of the finished product that I could restrain my glee.
With the paint job complete, now came the hardest part, waiting for it to fully cure before final assembly. Mind you, I am a Cajun and patience is not one of our virtues.

Stay tuned - the next episode is the final one in this series. You don't want to miss it. This is the episode when I take the assortment of parts and carefully install them, transforming my freshly painted frame into a masterpiece - a work of art - a labor of love.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

April Recap - New Year's Resolutions

April is fading into a distant memory. 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 = 56
Bus = 17
Truck = 5

Truck driven to work only 6% of the time. I've started to drive that number back down. Kickin butt!

2. Complete a Triathlon. (GRADE = DNF)

April drove the nail in the triathlon ambitions coffin. I'm back into cycling full swing and have neither the time nor inclination to devote to running. I will keep swimming, because I like it, but it's time to drop this resolution. However, I can't get off scott free. There is a price to pay. In lieu of completing a triathlon, I am going to double the number of centuries that I planned to ride. Instead of riding 3 centuries, I'm gonna shoot for 6. 3 additional centuries is approximately 18 to 20 hours of riding. I've exchanged a 3 hour triathlon for 20 hours of centuries. I think I've gotten the short end of the stick. Oh well - I must be punished.

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

My first century will be May 9 when I will participate in the CaptoCap ride from Williamsburg to Richmond and back to Williamsburg.

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

The blogging again went very well in April. I published 9 posts during the month. I still have some work to do to get the quality of my blog site up to par and then I am ready to start exploring ways to increase its visibility.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Building A Bike - Part 4 - Stripping

I finally got a break in the weather, the temperatures touched into the low 70’s and the humidity was next to nothing – the conditions were ideal for painting. Hey what do you know – I happen to have a frame for painting.
As with any paint project, the most important part is the prep work. I fancy myself one heck of a painter, but I don’t prep worth a poop. When it comes to painting – I subscribe to the “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” philosophy. This has been a bone of contention between my wife and me on countless home painting projects. This painting project though, is a horse of an entirely different color. This is my bike – my baby - my love – a half ass paint job simply will not do.

While waiting for the weather to break, I had been experimenting with various paint removal methods.

Hand Sanding – First I tried to sand the paint off by hand. While this method was effective at removing the paint – I quickly realized that it would be quite labor intensive and take a long time. While working on bikes is a labor of love, the prospect of manually sanding every square inch and every nook and cranny of the frame was daunting to say the least.

Heat Gun – a heat gun in my hand is as natural as a six gun in the hand of Doc Holiday. I have used a heat gun to effectively strip miles of paint. I have the technique down to a science. It was with great anticipation that I fired up the heat gun and directed it at the Bianchi frame. My enthusiasm quickly waned as I directed the heat on the paint and nothing happened. I expected the paint to bubble up and release its grasp but instead it seemed oblivious to the mounting heat and hung on tenaciously. The heat did manage to weaken it and using the paint scraper I was able to remove the top coat. After 5 minutes and managing to clean a spot ½” X 2”, I set the paint gun aside and pursued an alternate method.

Sand Blast – I had no doubt that sand blasting would have knocked the snot out of the paint and left me with a perfectly prepared surface. Unfortunately, I neither own nor have ready access to a sandblast machine.

Chemical Paint Stripper – Running out of options, I begrudgingly reached for a spray can of aircraft paint stripper. I had no doubt that the stripper would do the job, but I left this as a last ditch effort because I didn’t want to hassle with this messy and extremely toxic substance. I hung the frame outside, donned rubber gloves and standing upwind began to coat the frame. (Special Note: The warning on the paint stripper spray can urged the user strongly to avoid contact with the skin. It went on to say that if any got on the skin, one was to immediately wash with soap and water. The latter part of those instructions are largely unnecessary. Once while spraying, a gust of wind whipped up and directed a few small drops of mist on my face. When that happens – trust me – it burns so bad that you are going to run for the nearest water supply no matter what. My word of advice: WEAR LONG PANTS, LONG SLEEVE SHIRT, RUBBER GLOVES AND FACE SHIELD – REALLY – NO JOKE!)

In a matter of seconds after applying the stripper, I was rewarded by the sight of the paint bubbling off and almost falling from the frame. In 15 minutes or so the top coat of paint was effectively scraped away. I sprayed a fresh coat of stripper to the primer and 15 minutes later I was staring at the bare frame.
I used acetone and wiped away any residual stripper that remained. I then took the frame over to my workbench and using a buffing wheel, removed any small spots of paint that remained. Handling it only with rubber gloves, I wiped her down with acetone one more time and hung her up ready for paint. Behold – my light roadster frame in all her naked glory. Guys - try to contain yourselves!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Blondes on The Bow

One of my favorite bike rides begins on the west bank of the James River and traverses 80 miles of rural roads through Smithfield, Surry, Jamestown, Williamsburg, Yorktown and back to Newport News. I was midway though this glorious ride on an equally glorious day as I rode upon the Jamestown Ferry. This ferry is a 30 minute ride across the James River from Surry to Jamestown.

As I boarded, the attendant, deckhand, ferry person (whatever you call them) directed me to the starboard rail. I dismounted, leaned my bike against the rail and leaned against the same as close as I could get to keep from being crushed by the following stream of cars. It was a busy day, so they were packing them tight.

As the ferry pulled away, I caught a glimpse of the western shore. It was a sheer cliff of red clay rising majestically above the surface of the river.

I glanced south and pictured the direction from which John Smith had sailed more than 400 years earlier.
I glanced east and saw the Jamestown monument marking the first permanent English settlement in 1607.I was surrounded by beautiful scenery and a richness of history. Yet these were not the things that held my gaze. These were not the things that captured my attention. These were not the things that inspired my imagination. As you read this, with your mouth agape, you are wondering, what in the world could be so important as to trump these overwhelming inspirations? If you’re a guy, not even an especially astute one, you’ve probably already guessed.
That's right, a girl. Not only a girl, but a blonde. She was wearing a blue jean skirt and leaning against the rail some 40 feet away. She was talking to a cyclist and that cyclist wasn’t me. He was an old fart, with thinning, gray hair and a pot belly, riding a hybrid. For God’s sake, he was old enough to be her grandfather (of course I was old enough to be her father, but that ain’t the point). This old geyser had the unfettered attention of a blonde bombshell; while I, a handsome, middle aged hunk of a man, with an amazing physique, clad in sexy lycra, riding a super light, super fast carbon fiber bike, was left hugging the rail.

I was tempted to mosey to the bow and butt in, but my bike was leaning precariously against the rail and I dared not leave it fearing it would fall over into one of the cars squeezed but inches away. As with most of my encounters involving the fairer sex, I was a day late and a dollar short. All I could do was stand there and for the next 30 minutes resent the fact that this old fart had the unfettered attention of this drop dead gorgeous blonde.

I was comforted by but one fact. When this ferry docked on the east bank and this blonde drove away in her SUV, I would blow by this old fart so fast that my draft would literally pick him up and fling him off the road and into the river to drown. As the ramp lowered and the last car departed, leaving us two cyclist (one – a pot bellied old fart with thinning, gray hair on a 50 lb hybrid / the other – a younger, handsome, rock solid hunk of lycra, riding a 20 lb carbon fiber racing machine) we departed.

Imagine my incredulity and shame as I was left in his dust. Breathing hard, with my heart rate maxed out, I watched helplessly as he rode away from me and disappeared in the distance. Just before I lost sight of him, I was tempted to undo the straps of my helmet and tip it to him. It turns out that blonde had made the right choice. She had picked the better man.

Riding In Europe? I wish!

I was nearing the midpoint of my 80 mile ride this past weekend when I pulled up behind a line of cars at the Jamestown Ferry. The previous ferry had just pulled away, so I knew I had at least a 30 minute wait. I leaned my bike against a sign post and struck up a conversation with a couple of older gentlemen from Tupelo, MS. They were just arriving in the area and were planning to spend the next week touring all the Colonial areas.

I was wearing my RAGBRAI jersey. Not being cyclists themselves, one of the gentlemen asked where in Europe this RAGBRAI ride was. I explained that RAGBRAI stood for “Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa", which is an awesome, annual bike ride across the state of Iowa. They seemed stuck on the European track and inquired as to whether I had done much riding in Europe. Call it alignment of the stars, Divine providence, fate or whatever, but I felt compelled to spill my guts.

I explained to them that sadly I had never ridden in Europe. However, I was quick to point out that this blatantly cruel and unjust deprival had nothing to do with a lack of interest or desire. Quite the contrary is true. I would love to spend days, weeks or even months on two wheels exploring all that Europe had to offer. The cold hard truth is, I’ve never ridden in Europe because of my wife. She’s not the cycling type. While in every other area of her life, my wife is a loving, selfless, humble, tender human being; when it comes to cycling she is selfish, insensitive and unreasonable. It is beyond her ability to fathom why I would use the precious little vacation I have earned to go riding through Europe while she and the boys entertained themselves here in the states.

As the ferry pulled up, the two elderly gentlemen glanced around to make sure their wives weren’t within earshot and whispered, “Yea, you’re right, women are like that!” Then they spun around and hastily made their way back to their vehicle. As I grabbed my bike, I smiled a broad, contented smile and glanced back at the vehicle containing the two elderly gentlemen from Tupelo, MS. The glare of the sun on the windshield prevented me from seeing them, but I knew we exchanged a knowing glance. Though we came from different places, though we were bred in different generations, though we had completely different interests, we were kindred spirits. We shared an all important truth. “GIRL ARE BAD:-)"