October 26, 2014

Feeling good

Feels good to have a plan in place, finally, after a few months of sitting around waiting for my shoulder to be back in the game.  Although I have surely lost some fitness and some dieting discipline, printing out a waiver and marking a date on the calendar feel mighty good.  A big step in the correct direction.  Yes, back to my old habits once again... so, I'll wait and see about a few things:

Am I just going to ride?
Will I take a buncha pictures?
Will I have anything positive OR negative about the experience?

I don't know, honestly ---- but, the decision still seems appropriate.  Even if it's freezing cold outside, sitting at the keyboard for hours hammering out gigantic posts seems a little ... I dunno, like a waste of saddle-time if nothing else.  I know I'm sitting on the fence here.  It's not my intent to build up any false drama or whatever.  I just can't wait to get back out there again, maybe take some shots to remember thing by, and if nothing else perhaps take things toward equipment, rebuilding fitness, methods, madness, product reviews maybe... even if brief.  There's no plan at this point, other than to ride, smile and ENJOY IT.

Oh, speaking of reviews, I posted a teaser about getting a "natural flat" on the GB Cerf 700x28mm tires maybe a week ago or so... and, while I *did* take some photos, I'm not quite ready to post about the end-of-life longterm review , or whatever that was going to turn into.  Not for lack of time, no; but, I ended up putting the existing tire right back in place.  The tread STILL appears to have a little bit of life in it, maybe on the order of 1mm - 1.5mm left perhaps before I will begin to see the casing show through.  Now the marker may be one of two things:  the arrival of winter weather, and the accompanying road grit which will surely invite a plethora of flats to a thin tire.... or, the fact that I'm a little leery of starting a brevet/permanent (set for Nov. 3rd) on an old tire.  Not something I'd do normally, so I'm not sure I want to invite a roadside repair on my return to distance riding on the new shoulder.  I'll have to see.  The third possible scenario involves me finally having pulled the trigger on a long-overdue rear wheel rebuild.  The Open Pro is a GREAT rim, and the Shimano Ultegra 6600 (9 speed era) rear hub is pretty much bullet-proof... but, everything wears and has a service life.  In the case of the hub, this would be rebuild #4... and, well, I think that's a good enough reason to relegate it to "backup wheel" status.  I'll likely rebuild it onto a solid Open Sport or Sun CR18 rim, and leave it on the just-in-case hook in the garage.  The rim... well, this time around, with a different choice in brake pads since last time (where I'd worn through the sidewalls), it's the spoke bed that's thinning out and beginning to show signs of cracking around the eyelets - not uncommon for what is essentially  light-weight racing/training rim.  With the gravel, commuting, camping, gear-mashing climbs and general goofing off... well, I'm surprised I can keep them under me for as long as I do.  They really are a tough game to beat - and while I've shopped for other models lately, I'm sorta back on lacing up another Open Pro to a new Ultegra hub.  Shimano keeps improving them, now on the (yeesh, time flies) 11-speed series 6800 models.  Two generations later, I have little doubt that I'll likely get another 8-10 years from one, for far less money that some of the hubs I'd (honestly) really like to have if I could afford them... White Industries, Chris King, etc... I just can't fault the Shimano products enough to spend three-times the cost for a rear hub.  Not yet.  Still saving up, after all, for that All-City Space Horse frameset.  Priorities.

That's all for now, as updates go... stay tuned!  That tire review will come... as soon as it's truly dead and used.  And ride reprts?  OH, yeah... there'll probably be some version of one.  Hard to avoid, if for no other motivation than "old habits."   Check ya out on the roads, people!

Thanks for reading!

October 20, 2014

175th and Woodland, my favorite old store that hasn't been open the whole time I've known about it. Bonita Flats, KS. Construction nearby and other rustling around the property, I'm not sure this will be here in a few months time. Had to get one more pic. #blog

via Instagram http://ift.tt/1x2gXby

October 17, 2014

Grand Bois Cerf long-term update

Mileage?  Uhhh... Since July's shoulder surgery (non bike related) I have not only not ridden much, I have become catastrophically lazy on the matter of mileage logging.  I have the numbers... Somewhere.... Just not logged against equipment.  However, today marks the first "natural" flat I've experienced with the GB Cerf 700x28mm road tires.  By "natural", I mean a flat caused by something run over in the natural course of riding.  I did endure a front blow-out pinch flat back in... I'll look... Yet, that was caused by the rider being a little foolish.  I suppose it still presented a good test, but it certainly wasn't a normal puncture.  Today's, by contrast, occurred "naturally", wherein I noticed the loss of air pressure after a few wallowy-feeling corners, as the rear tire's pressure dropped below safe riding levels.  I stopped, examined the tire, found nothing on first glance... So, I aired it up and rode it the last ten miles to home.  So far this evening I haven't made the time to change it out and examine things - I may wait until the morning - but, I'll report back with mileage, tread status, and thoughts.  Maybe a photo if warranted.  I'm impressed, since I've crossed the mileage when I'd normally have swapped out the Panaracer Pasela TG (now PT) tires... Yet, I still wonder about buying a pair of Pasela non - flat - protected tires, for a direct comparison.  Their price is hard to ignore compared to the "boutique-ish" GBs.  We shall see. 

Stay tuned as I wrap up this long term test with this latest flat report.  Yea!

October 12, 2014

Get to work

The realization that October is practically half over, it occurs to me that I should be back in the saddle, that PT should be over (it is), and that I am way, way behind in my plans and "training."   Last week, I hammered hard on the commute home, chasing down a couple of faster gents, finding my limits.  At my favorite hill, near 106th and Foster on the bike trail, I nearly passed out from the anaerobic effort of catching up to (within a few yards.. But out of overtaking reach) the rider I'd been chasing.  Only a few months before, I'd sat comfortably at the top of the Map my Ride standings at 46 seconds from the climb to the sound wall separating the trail from I-435.  I'm outta shape. 

Solution?  Get to work.  Literally.
Tomorrow, we ride.

October 4, 2014

It's not goodbye.

Breaking the radio silence after a couple months away from the creative side of my keyboard, I find myself with very little to say on the subject of riding.  In large part, it comes from not really having ridden much.  What I have found interesting is the amount of free time I've seemed to already occupy in the wake of normally spending a few hours per weekend typing, proofing and cleaning up photos.  I've gotten a lot more done by not being strapped to the keyboard constantly, and that's a good thing.  Sure, much of it stemmed from a self-imposed need to post detailed ride reports to share the magic with the interwebs.  For myself, writing served to outline the mental journey involved with riding such distances, plus the therapeutic breakouts I'd often find along my way.  I don't mean to imply that I suddenly don't need the riding anymore - I don't need the writing 5,000+ words part, as I'd become accustomed to doing.

I'm already looking for unique ways to transition cleanly into a single-interface social media existence.  So far, using Instagram has forced me to use photographs to tell most of the story - and while its interface does allow more than 140 characters, I try to stick to the Twitter limit for cleaner cross-posting, which is all handled via API leveraging.  Post in one place, broadcast to many.  Not blogging the full story; yeah, it pains me a bit, but, maybe I have truly reached a tipping point wherein I either don't have much else to say, I feel as if its already been said, or find I myself lacking the muse.  Perhaps that will change once I get back out on the road... Yet, I'm mildly hopeful it doesn't.  I've really come to enjoy the time I've found, and the accompanying mental relaxation, resulting from not staring at a computer screen after work.  Or a TV screen.  Or fixing someone else's "screen-based" device.  I've dropped out of the business of fixing computers on the side, and phones - and the resulting work/life balance adjustment has served to restore my sanity.  I don't feel stressed out, nor constantly rushed for time.  Perhaps not trying to keep myself so busy should have happened years ago - but, I'm happy it finally happened. 

The shoulder surgery, as much as I'd dreaded it beforehand, has proved to be the best thing that's happened to me since the kids were born.  It slowed me down, forced me to stop EVERYthing.  I've learned from it.  I've relearned patience.  It's okay to just sit down and hang out with the kids.  It's okay that I don't constantly have a project in motion.  It's okay to sit and play guitar, listen to music.  It's okay to just go ride, or work on the bike when it needs it, instead of feeling like I'm obligated to.  The same goes for discussion and commentary on the same:  I'm the one who decided to put my riding under the microscope.  Now that I'm gaining this altered perspective, it's okay for me to decide on pulling it back.

I'm fully aware of the "responsibility" I've upheld out here in bloggerland, how I've attracted new riders, inspired others to commute to work, etc.  I'm truly flattered by the support and readership I've received over these last twelve years.  I don't plan to pull the page down or anything like that, and once I figure out a good way to post directly from social media without making the blog page an unorganized archive interleaved with non-cycling content, I'll likely keep posting little quips here and there.  But, in thinking over the mechanics of that, I'm already talking and thinking too much.  I'm really happy where I am right now, where I can pull the plug on over-thinking prior to it becoming problematic.  The void needn't be constantly fed with empty words.  Sometimes, that just gets in the way of the moment.

Keeping the reigns tied back like this, adding a little balance, it keeps me moving, it keeps me fresher, it keeps me engaged in my family instead of typing away, and by not overloading myself on the computer it keeps me fresher and more effective at work, too.  Work has been crazy again - but I've been creative, I've solved incredibly complex problems, and resolved process headaches previously thought impossible only nine months ago.  The flip side of that balance, however; had there been a long ride to post about, I doubt I'd have had the energy to do so anyhow.  The ramp-up elsewhere would have taken a toll here eventually anyway.  What I DO have, though, is the ability to take one or two minutes to compose about 140 characters on whatever may be happening with my cycling, and let the accompanying photo tell the rest.  I should have discovered Twitter ages ago.  Rediscovering my love of sketching makes me wonder about 1-3 panel rando comics, without the droll and cumbersome backstory.  Who knows.

While this all flies on the face of my ultimate retirement plan of writing the Great American novel - it seems as if the best writers collect their notes, then spend years arranging and rearranging them, quietly, before even working on the first draft.  Someone else I've chatted with this year gave me yet another perspective, which I must admit has weighed in with this decision, also.  He has, over at least the last few years in succession, tried one new thing each year.  Doesn't matter what, so long as he found himself interested.  One year it was this, the next year something else.  Some stuff stuck, others faded... But the experience of having done it or having learned something new has and will remain in place forever.  It occurred to me, instantly, that I'd been at this blog for a very long time, as blogs go... and not much has changed.  It became a much easier decision, suddenly.  What had I been keeping myself from?  Stop riding?  Heck no.  That's one of the things that has stuck.  Yet, maybe there's something else I'm avoiding, or missing, by wrapping myself up in the stories.  Maybe this was inevitable.  In any case, regardless, like those real authors, I've now amassed 12 years of notes.  It's time to come out of the trees and rest.

With that, I'm going to wrap this up, finish some chores, and then go out for an afternoon spin - without feeling rushed or guilty about having already spent 1/3 of my weekend at the keyboard describing my last ride.  I don't know what my next "thing" will be, but, taking a break here is a good thing.  I promise.  If it had been the writing all along, well, perhaps just a short break is in order no matter what happens.

Until next time, see you out on the road.  Thanks for reading.

September 27, 2014

Guest post! The Nebraska 400k - by Glen R.

The Nebraska 400k . . .

This is one of the most simple routes to follow: a cue sheet really isn't needed; yet, at the same time it is the hardest ride I have completed yet.  The route starts and ends in the same Nebraska town of Falls City.  Look on a map near the bottom right hand point of Nebraska move slightly to the East just above the Kansas border and you'll find it.  The route heads due west using primarily highway 8.  Ten riders started the trip, Spencer, Rodney G., Gary, Greg C., Joshua, Ron A., Jack, David M., Rod H. And Me.  Nine finished: Rod H. from Omaha had a pedal problem shortly after we started the ride, and turned back.

Check point #2 is in Pawnee city.  Two of America's greatest heroes were born here: Larry the cable guy and of course Me!  It had been a really good ride so far, with a cold start about 34°, little to no wind! ...But, dark with fog mixed in.  The group stayed together up to this point a little chit chat about previous rides and what was new with each other.

It's a long slog from CP2 to CP3 which is in Fairbury.  The group broke into smaller groups along the way with Gary leading by himself.  Greg also went ahead of the group.  Greg is a very strong rider and is working on his third series of the year, that's three sets of 200, 300, 400, and 600k.  Ron and Jack, who are working on their 50 states award and needed Nebraska, fell off the back but not by much.  As usual, I was in between the groups.  Everything felt fine but I couldn't help but stop and take pictures and look at the scenery.  There are several wind farms in this area, one we only see in the dark - the red warning lights flashing in sequence is freaky.  The second farm we see on the way out and back.  Riding in the rural parts you can get close to things.  One mill was right beside the road so I stopped to take a picture.  That's when I noticed the two workers repelling from the center portion down one of the blades.  Don't know how much they get paid but I'm sure it's not enough. 

On the way to CP 3 there are several small towns.  They're off the highway a bit and don't really have any services available, with the exception of O'Dell.  Today they were having an auction but I really didn't want to buy anything and carry it on my bike.  Ron and Jack came up the the store just as Greg and I were leaving.  None of the others stopped.

CP 3 Fairbury, NE.
The cue says stop at the McDonald's, so we stopped.  Some ate full meals, I had my usual fries and a coke.  Checking emails, calling wives to let them know everything's ok, then off to Deshler; Gary left before everyone else and road on by himself.

CP4 Deshler and the turn around.
  The group started to thin again as it always does, everybody finding their own grove.  I stayed close to David M and Joshua; Greg C was a mile ahead of us and the rest were not far behind.  The CP had changed this year instead of the small store in town we were using a C-store a little farther west just off the highway.  We saw Gary's bike parked in front of a fake-looking train stop which was really a restaurant/store.  Wrong stop: Gary never reads the cue sheet.  We rode less than a mile onward and found the right stop where everyone else regrouped for the ride back.

Back to Fairbury. 
As joshua pointed out, the route is all down hill from here, even though some hills remain.  Most of us used Wally's for the check point this time.  I had the grilled chicken sandwich and a Sam Adams seasonal, not much pumpkin or spice in this one; the rest had Wally burgers which are like sliders, with beer.  Once again Spencer asked for some kind of special brew, anything Red, and the waitress looked dumb-founded.  You'd think a bar in Nebraska on a game day would have red everything, but apparently not.  Gary ate next door at the subway then came in and sat down with us. We left as a group again. The wind held from the SSE so at times it felt like a tail wind but mostly it was a side wind.  About five miles out I started to drop off the back.  I don't really like riding in a group on small shoulder-less highways, and the pace was a little high.  Joshua started to drop off also and we held together for a while taking turns at the front, Josh most of the time.  The others continued to slowly pull away and I lost sight of them.  Miles later josh and I would separate also.  I found out later he was getting tired: he works nights and his sleep schedule was messed up on this ride.  He later said he had to stop several times and walk just to stay awake.  The sun started to set so we added lights.  I love riding at night, I should do it more often.  Some riders think it's more dangerous but I noticed that cars tend to slow down more and give a wider birth when passing.  At night you loose a lot of sight distance but you gain hearing and that fifth or is it sixth sense, of feeling.  I kind of feel things more: an approaching car, an animal, whatever, I just feel it before I hear or see it.  As I looked up the road I noticed red blinking lights, I thought theft might be windmills, or radio antennas, but they were really bikes.  I tried to judge the distance but in the dark you really can't.

CP6 Pawnee City
The highway entering Pawnee city is well lit. At night you can see these lights for about 18 miles. How do I know?, because I checked!  This is the bad part about riding at night, you can't judge distance well.  Those 18 miles take for-ever, like the shimmering water hole in those old desert movies, you just never get closer.  I did keep seeing the red blinkies, and that was all the motivation I needed.  I closed the gap a little and arrived at the check point about 10 minutes after the lead group.  Josh came in later.  I let the group take off ahead of me as I changed light batteries and added some gloves to take the chill off.   Joshua sat on the curb drinking a red bull and shaking the cobwebs out.  Found out later he had been  hallucinating thinking he was riding on a wooded trail and seeing things that weren't there.

CP7 the finish:
The last 35 miles takes forever.  The wind was gone, the stars were beautiful, the windmill lights fascinating, the sounds and smells cool.  Traffic was a little heavier but not too bad.  The Nebraska game was over, so it was time to watch for those who had celebrated too much.  The miles tick off slowly, the hills don't seem so bad, and finally you're there.  The lights leading into Falls City are different than Pawnee: they just appear.  You're riding along wondering when you're going to see them, then you're there.  A short two miles later and you're at the CP.

A really good ride, almost great.  All 400ks are difficult for some reason: that's what everybody says anyway.  This one is... that's for sure.  Everyone should do this one however, and I hope Spencer keeps having it.  Everyone finished, no one got hurt, no flats, no problems; just a darn good ride with good people.

I look forward to the Nebraska 600k!!!

See you down the road . . .

August 22, 2014

From A to Z, Everything In Between, and Whatever Lay Beyond.

They call the route "The Hell of the North", a partial homage to the legendary Paris-Roubaix race in northern France held each April, yes, somehow still apt for the generally north-south oriented Liberty-to-Albany, MO. 300k of KCUC fame.  Infamous, perhaps?

I love this route, and I really - sincerely - hope that Bob brings it back for 2015, as preparation for P-B-P.  Selfishly, I must admit... with most folks satisfied sticking to 200k for their monthly rides (me included, if I'm honest), it's really, really difficult to ride this route as a permanent unless one enjoys being alone.  Finding anyone to accompany me on this route has proved difficult in the past . . . and, it's proved difficult for me to attempt it on my own.  Mental, nothing more.  It's a route map and profile that can creep into one's head, if allowed, and it's aptly-named.  So, too, is the Ride with the Devil 200k permanent route - which passes this same intersection from the opposite direction.  It's a different slice of "hell."  Tasty... but tough.


Whichever distance, whether alone or with someone else...  it beckons.  I cannot wait until I'm cleared for riding longer distances...and, thankfully, it's a personal clearance:  I've permission from the surgeon, so it's up to me as to what I can tolerate.  Knowing what I've been through, I'm not rushing it.  That may work out fine... doing either route in the fall?  Maybe with calm conditions yielding a northern wind in the

August 18, 2014

Omaha Newspaper Heralds one of KCUC's Finest

As human interest stories go, randonneuring must reside high on the list of leisure activities overflowing with metaphors on the endurance of the human body and spirit, and the rewards of "reaching."  A regional newspaper recently caught up with KCUC member Joe Edwards for just such a story, talking about our sport and its unique challenges.  Read the article here.  Congrats, Joe!

August 17, 2014

Boredom stinks

Granted, I have plenty to occupy me - but, boredom when it comes to the bike.  I think this is what got me into trouble with the "fit phase" where I had problems.  Hide the tools... the dude is bored.

It's been an interesting 24-hours in the stable, all on the same bike - the Kogs.  Boredom first led me down a pathway which began with a dream of riding single-speed again, as I'd done successfully for several years about a decade ago.  Alas, the vertical dropouts on the Kogs presented obvious problems - but, after finding a photo online with a 'magic gear' (a combination of cog and chainring which creates perfect chain tension on a bicycle with vertical dropouts, and ideal without the use of a half-link).  After some tinkering, I found that gear - and, miracle of miracles, it happened to provide the exact same gear-inch result as my "old standby", the 42x17 (about 66") combination.  I'd successfully slayed Bob's old Liberty route and the Appleton City 400k on that ratio, without any major issues recorded.  In fact, I ended up catching and passing people.  It was magic time again!  

Then, I took her around the block.  First, the

Perfect weather for a bike ride . . .