Perfect weather for a bike ride . . .

July 26, 2007

Big Stiffy

Hey, this is a family show, jerk-face.

ANYways, I think I'm going to officially name the new commut-a-beast "The Big Stiffy", simply because of the initial impressions after my ride to work this AM.

This leads me back into materials discussions, and reinforces the technological wonder that was the Cannondale frame. Blends and alloying aside, there is something to be said for shaping and butting of tubes with regards to comfort. Where the Cannondale completely changed my mind about aluminum from a comfort AND lightweight standpoint, the Specialized Sirrus changes it right back again. It's not NEARLY as bad as the old Schwinn Passage, but the straight-gauge, all-round aluminum tubing certainly transmits energy well! It's like... I wonder where my sit bones are.... oh, wait, THERE THEY ARE! ouch. Nothing a suspension seatpost won't fix, but I actually will probably try to swap on the Pasela 32s first and lower the pressure a touch. It's just as stiff, however, as the Cannondale, and it climbs VERY well out of the saddle, WITH a load of panniers, to boot. A very capable machine, and something that will take away road-salt worries this winter. But, ultra-cozy it's not, and probably not brevet-ready unless REALLY big tires will fit. It's Stiff.

Plus, it's a 58cm frame, technically, but the wickedly sloped top-tube makes it perfectly fit for standover height, and the stem and handlebars are perfect fit thanks to slack tube angles. So, there's where you get the "Big" part of the title.

The "the" part of the title is just an article. Just FYI.

It's just finally nice to have my stable back in some sort of ORDER again, and bikes placed in roles where they are best suited. The Kogswell looks better than ever, and this new steed is mighty sharp-lookin', and gave me a chance to clean up a lot of the stuff that I'd kinda thrown randomly onto the Steamroller when it was tasked with daily-duty. Ahhhhhh.... the sun sets on another stable-reorg. You'd think I was some gigantic conglomerate doing a workforce reduction. Don't get me started on THAT.

Roll on.

Just don't ask me which bike I'm gonna ride.
"Hey, man, which bike you gonna ride, you gonna ride the.... nevermind."

July 25, 2007

Song of the Week - 7/25

"Lazy Eye" - Silversun Pickups

July 24, 2007

Dude 0, Railroad Tracks 1

Life is freakin busy right now , and I'm getting into this nasty habit of letting too much time pass before documenting stuff... booo! You stink!

ANYways...

So there I was, just riding along.... hahaaha!!!!
Yeah, let's do this a little differently this time, eh?

Corporate team outing time of year, the group at work decided they wanna go to the T-Bones game, which sounds pretty cool, since I'd never been there before.
For those non-sports types like me, and for those not in KC, the T-Bones are Kansas City's minor league team, and they have a really cool stadium with a lot of interactive stuff that makes it a lot more fun than a major league game.
Not being much on sports involving balls, I tihnk this is the closest I'd probably get to a sporting event anymore, so it's cool, not too corporate - very down-home.

As usual, the chance to sluff off a days work always sits well, and it's even better when the chance to ride to the event arises! So, a fellow commuter and I take up the challenge and ride from the comfort of suburbia into the northland delights of hills and industrial highways... get it ON.

Crowbar, since he refuses to send me his bio and I'm forced to make up his nickname - so I default to an old CB handle of his. So there!

Crowbar and I meet up at Prairie Star Parkway and Woodland for the jaunt north. It's a perfect day, a slight threat of rain in the area has a nice deck of sun-blocking clouds above us, and traffic for once is kinda light. It's a great day to ride, and we revel in the downhill of Woodland Road at high speed, taking in the fresh air and green grass. Hippies.

It's urban mayhem!!! Well, not really.
We make our way north, up the first couple of nasty hills of the day, and past a rousing crew of road pavers on rural Woodland. Some poor soccer whore in her Hummer is forced to turn around, probably worried about the road tar and her paint. tee-hee. Crowbar and I roll on past, hot gravel flying.

Rolling past a roadside park on Woodland, we pick up a passenger - a tiny girl on a nice road bike follows us the rest of the way up to 47th, and then in a flurry of gear clicking she passes us on a downhill. But, we have other plans rather than following her, as we turn north on Theden Road, one of my favorites curently - which is sadly on the endangered list. There is an industrial park in the plans, which will likely have this road off limits until it's "improved". Ugh. That just kills all the flavor. It's fine as it is, I think - but that's usually how I think anyways. Nice big fields of corn and beans currently line the road, which is board-flat at river level, and has a ricketty old concrete slab truss bridge that crosses over a little tributary before you reach K-7 to the west -- it's pretty cool, and I need to take some pictures before they bulldoze it all. Ugh.

Crowbar and I finally reach K-7, and it's time to cross the river on one of the few bicycle-legal bridges in town. Good scenery, but dang - the traffic is relentless here. Lots of debris in the shoulder. Neccessary evil.
We make it across, unscathed.

Now it's time for K-32, the industrial artery just north of the river that runs thru and between some of the little "forgotten" towns up north. Towns that most of the southern suburbanatzis have never been thru before -- Bonner Springs, Edwardsville, to be exact. K-32 runs west all the way to Lawrence with a good shoulder - but today, we head east.

Running big tires sometimes has it's disadvantages, I think -- when you go REALLY big, that is. There is lower pressure, and higher contact area - and that invites a lot of deformity over surface maladies -- which is GREAT for comfort, but not so great for really big, sharp objects that might want to push their way into rubber. It just seems like there is a point of diminishing returns when it comes to tire size. For Crowbar, it's about 26"x2.1", or whatever monster size those Michelin TransWorld City tires are. I ran these tires once, and I got a massive flat the second day on them -- it was a piece of expanded steel from a lawn-mower trailer or something! HUGE. A skinner 700C road tire probably would have just glanced over it, but it pushed thru those Michelins like they were molded from creme cheese. Today, it's Crowbar's turn - but on a smaller scale. Something white and plastic, fully visible while he was rolling at speed, was stuck in his rear tire - the closest thing I can akin it to was part of a toothbrush handle. Crazy - but at least it was easy to find the hole! A quick patch job, and we're done. The NICE thing about such big tires, and schrader valves for that matter, is the gas station air-pumps don't have a tendency to blow them off the rim and into your face.
Yeah, yeah -- There is a chance for flats with ANY tire, but my theory stands -- on 700x32c Pasela's, I rode over the same nasty shoulders without so much as a tread cut. Things like that plastic piece are just not gonna press into a tire at 100 PSI with a harder compound. At a nice, soft 50 PSI, with thick rubber sipes to hold onto debris, I think the odds were stacked against him. Still, it's fixable, and we were on our way in short order.

So, what's the biggest tire *I* would run? Oh, heck, I dunno -- whatever's on sale!
Actually, I'm curious to see how 700x37's or 42s would feel on something like the Kogswell -- assuming they'd fit. I think that frame will only take 35's as a maximum, but I'll bet that's a sweet ride, and at 85 PSI max pressure, my theory would pan out. The NICE thing about high-volume, lower-pressure tires: with a frame pump, you can actually hit maximum pressure without breaking a sweat during a flat-change. 120 PSI with a mini-pump? fuhgettaboutit. Thus the advent of CO2 inflators. Oddly, for now, The Kogswell is shod with Gommitalia 23cs, which kinda blows my whole theory above - but it's for Tejas training. There is a slight weight and speed advantage, yes - but it's also a race, and races are about efficiency - it simply takes less effort to spin that rubber over 500 miles than a larger tire, and I have to take that as having some value after 30 hours of pedaling. After Tejas, the tread will likely be gone, and Pasela's will find their way back onto that fine frameset, probably in a cozy 35c for winter riding. Sweeet.... but I digress...

Back on the road again, we hit Edwardsville Rd, aka 4th street, aka 110th street, whatever they wanna call it, it runs north to the speedway, thru Edwardsville, past the fire station, and up a long steady climb - a climb that isn't nearly as bad as I remembered it being. I remembered once on the Tongi Tango with Badgerland that coming DOWN this hill, I was coasting for a VERY long time -- but my memory deceives me, and even on the Steamroller stuck in one gear, this hill isn't that horrible.
Crowbar, always harder on himself than anyone else, is keeping the pace nicely, proving that he's more than ready for the MS-150 coming up.

We crest ths climb, and head around the bypass road to the ballpark, on the north side of the speedway. Traffic picks up, and riding defensively takes over -- in an instant we transition from quiet country spin, to suburban death-match. Awesome?
We arrive, after a little school bus (aka, Zabriskie Death-Wagon) polo and hide-n-seek. Fun parking lot antics aside, we find a big real-estate sign and lash our bikes. Ahhhh...success.

The game doesn't really warrant much notice -- it was fun, very cool compared to a major league game, and it kept my attention: but my attentions were literally more on the goings-on, the crowd, my co-workers, and the pizza and cheap beer in concession. I don't know who won, but friend-of-the-show Dansting won 5 Whoppers from BK by answering a trivia question about some guy that had hit his 100th homerun the previous evening. Nicely done, man... enjoy the free meat.

Sprinkles -- then bonafide rain -- and the crowd begins to reach it's tolerance level. Crowbar and I join in the shuffle, and decide it's time to roll out before traffic gets silly. We uncheck our rides, and head out onto the streets again, into the rain -- it's nice and warm, steady rain, and I don't even bother with the rain jacket -- but taillights and headlights come on. We're past the worst of traffic, and in another instant we're back in country spin mode again. Right about this point, I'm really missing my fenders. The Steamroller has been stripped down from commuter mode into almost -urban-warrior mode, in preparation for a component's swap to the Kogswell again, which has been reborn. With all that silliness of Cannondale vs. headset hassles, I'm full circle again -- more on that later, perhaps. Still, the Steamroller is bare-bones, and I'm getting wet and dirty. I think that's the difference, really: its been discussed recently that fenders in a heavy rain don't really afford you that much protection, on the notion that you're getting wet anyways, so what's the point? Easy arguement for a bike that simply won't TAKE fenders, but from this little foray into rain and nasty debris-ridden shoulders, I can tell you that fenders do very little to keep you any drier: but they do a TON to keep you CLEANER. As I occasionally get a piece of gravel or grit thrown up into my hair, onto my neck, down my back, and the fronts of my legs look like concrete pillars from the nasty road spray. Yeah, we can all shower -- and I can put up with it today for the next 30 miles -- but on brevet? Forget it. When the rain stops, I don't want to have to worry about it. It saves a LOT of post-ride cleanup, in more ways than one, and I will always run fenders on brevet - no exceptions. The benefits far outweigh the weight and mounting hassles. Am I digressing again? YES.

Back down Edwardsville Road in the rain, an interesting time around certain corners, and we're back on K-32. Crowbar shouts out that my taillight is having issues - specifically it's shorting out all over the place, moving from steady to flashing to off modes randomly. Ugh. Another case for fenders, I suppose -- keeps the road spray off your lights. Pretty much convinced I can't do anything about it after a little fiddling, I have to rely on the fact that I'm wearing a bright orange tee shirt, and I have a shoulder to ride on. Roll on. Of course, this HAS to happen along a highway. Great. Only a few miles until K-7, and then the backroads again.

Did I mention sometihng about railroad tracks? Oh yeah. I love em. They are the pathways for my other passion, railroads and trains. Since childhood, I have loved the railroad, and therefore I don't loath tracks the way some cyclists do. I know why they are there, and I revel in the times that I catch a train actually crossing the road in front of me, for the short rest, and the sight of it all. The rush of so much weight and power, it's amazing to me. Unfortunately, my OTHER passion, cycling, and the incumbent skinny tires and rubber vs. metal traction laws, make railroad tracks a thing that most cyclists cringe. I've had my share -- close calls on weird angled tracks, and the double pinch-flat that I had after a 30+ MPH fly-over at the bottom of the hill near Mission Road and 159th Street back in 2001, I think. I give them their due respect and caution, but I've also crossed them without incident hundreds of times. Here comes THESE tracks, now.

First off, the angle is ALL wrong. They are sloping across the road at a steep angle; if I was riding right up the hour hand towards 12-noon, these tracks were crossing at a 11-to-5 o'clock line across the road. Second, they are WELL worn. Not the polished "don't hurt my SUV suspension" grate decks and leveled crossings that suburbia offers, no - these tracks have been hammered with heavy truck traffic, and the road bed in between the rails is rutted and recessed, the rails sticking up farther than they should for some cars, much less a bike. Third, it's raining - and only has been for about 15 minutes -- long enough to wash the oils and soaps off the roads most anywhere else, but this is K-32. There is a petroleum-based slime covering everything MOST of the time up here. Just goes with the territory. Fourth, I look down, and my taillight is out. In order to hit these nasty tracks at a perpendicular, I would have to swing out into the lane and off the relative safety of the shoulder. With no rearward warning to the truckers on the road whizzing by, there was NO way I was about to do that. Maybe momentum will take up the slack, and I can off-angle them like I had on the other side of the road on the way outbound... Here I come.

And then I was on the ground. It didn't even happen in slow motion. It was fast -- one second I was up, the next second I was on the deck, burning to a stop - literally, burning a hole in my shirt, burning skin off bones. Biker down. Crowbar's account of the wreck from the rear, he said it was almost cartoon-like. In his words, it was like someone had reached down and jerked the bike out from under me, and for half a second I was fully airborne, and then gravity took over. This was evidenced by the fact that the Steamroller didn't have a ding on it, and aside from the slight scuff on the right pedal it didn't look like it'd hit the ground at all. Me, on the other hand, had - hard. Adding to the fun, here comes Crowbar -- having all the same train track issues that I had to deal with, the fifth variable for him was suddenly *I* was on the deck in front of him. I heard his back tire lock up on the gravelly surface, and then he was airborne, too, tumbling onto my leg and finally bouncing beyond me and landing without so much as a scrape on him. Lucky. For me, having 170 lbs of person dropped on the leg I had just landed on HURT. It hurt enough to make things go that oddly-numb feeling, when your nerves kinda shut down from the trauma. I could not get up, could not bend my hip, knee, ankle, toes. I was knocked silly, just about. Eventually, however, I DID get up on my own, and thankfully nothing was broken or cracked. The steady rain and my abrasions however, it looked like I'd been in a machette fight. It was actually kinda gross how much blood there was for a second there, and even grosser was the cargo I'd assumed from the ground. Bits of wood, glass, gravel, a small nail -- wow, this won't get infected at ALL. Niiiiiice.... After another couple minutes assessment, we mounted back up, and rode to the BP station on the other side of K-7 where I bought a bottle of water and began to rinse out and pick out the debris from my arm and knee and ankle. For a minute or two, it looked like I had something actually stuck IN my ankle, but it later turned out to be just a stain from something, who knows what. A borrowed 3x3" bandaid from the mechanic's first aid kit, and a little waffling, and we were back on the road. My shoulder and hip were sore, though - and suddenly this ride turned into a death march of survival. Fun fun, and climbing to come!

With each pedal stroke up the coming hills, I'd wished for gears - or a car. I was gun-shy at every pavement joint for at least a couple miles, suddenly not trusting anything that looks like it might be enough to throw me off the saddle. You all know how I think (read: OVER-think) stuff, so you can imagine something like this and its after-effects on my riding. Eventually, the confidence comes back in a few miles - but you'd have thought I was riding on eggshells for a while, at least until after we'd gotten off K-7. finally off the highways, I could relax a little, and Crowbar and I maintained a good pace on the return trip. The hills, however, MAN the hills HURT. Even the slightest hill made my right hip joint hurt like all get-out. It hurt to push, it hurt to stand on the pedals, and my shoulder made it hard to pull and push and counter-act the handlebars for leverage. Damn this one gear.
Still, I made it, even up the long monster of Woodland Road from 85th back up to Prairie Start Parkway - notably the first time I'd ever climbed that particular hill. Next time, it ought to be easier.

Crowbar and I parted ways, and I continued the slog-o-doom homeward, up and down the rollers on Woodland southbound back into Olathe. Ugh... what a ride. I suppose things didn't hurt that much after a while, tho -- but MAN I was gonna feel this the next day! After arriving home, and tweaking the hip REAL good on the dismount -- I would have fared better just falling over in the grass upon arrival -- it was time to recount the tale to the wife, take a hot shower, and does up on the Advil and Aleve. Yeesh. What a ride. Perhaps THIS is why I don't ride mountain bikes. I ain't much on this "falling" thing. Still, all-in-all, a good ride, a good single-speed metric century in the bag, and a good story -- I just hope certain parts of it aren't repeated for a while. At least another five years, as that seems to be the track records for me so far.

So, not counting the double pinch-flat of 2001, it's tracks 1, dude 0.

Curse you, railroad-crossing highway-maintenance worker.

July 17, 2007

Song of the Week - 7/17

"Wounded" - Nik Kershaw

Doofus brain, and the clarity of Cidermill donuts

I tell you, the last three posts reek. They cry foul of a sicko that's forgotten to take his pill. I'm a doofus-face, seriously.

But, I've wised up. I'm back to the "fit-of-idiocy" theory with the Cannondale. I needed that bike like I needed a tail. I'm not a cat. I don't need a tail. Although in some situations it might provide good balance.... I digress.

The Cannondale is up for sale, if anyone wants it. I'm a steel guy, thru-and-thru. That "special occasion" that I bought the thing for just never seems to come up, and of the times I've used it I've not been any faster for it. The kind of riding I do, it doesn't make any difference. I think the final straw was adjusting the headset after this weekend's Cidermill ride and finding a carbon steer tube waiting for me. I realized that nearly everything I was AGAINST in modern bicycle production was staring my right in the face, and I bought into it all. That steer tube was a surprise. You know, it probably IS strong enough - but someone else will have to find out. It's just not me.

One comment on my last post just screamed at me, too -- "you Cannondale guys are all over-analytical" He's right, and I'm trying really hard to get OUT of that mode. I don't want to be that guy, in either respect: Cannondale rider, or over-analytical freak-job. So, it ends now. I mean, look at what I was DOING on the last post!!!
10-speed vs. 9-speed and how much they WEIGHED??!!? What the hell, Dude????

What happened to me??? DOOFUS!

What was I thinking, indeed.

So, we move on. What of the Kogswell, you say? It's coming back. I realized that after the 600K, it was PERFECT. If the only thing standing between me and riding that bike is a few millimeters of extra steel above the fork crown, then I should simply take the elbow grease to it -- and so I did. It was a stupid notion to get rid of that awesome frame just because of a lousy fork issue like that. It took less than an hour to fix. DOOFUS! Here I was, ready to toss it in the dumpster, and save for my "dream bike", when in reality it was hanging in the garage the whole time, with a few MM of steel standing in my way. If I'd had a regular old ball-bearing headset installed, instead of a Chris King, NONE OF THIS EVER WOULD HAVE HAPPENED. But, we learn, we fix, we move on.

Enough self-degradation, tho -- I suppose on some level we all go thru life with certain levels of regrets and stupid moves, or it wouldn't be a very interesting journey. This has certainly been interesting. But, like I'd said before, it's also getting a little tired, so this is the end of this little "issue". Back to riding.


I'll see you on the road! Knuckle-draggers UNITE!

July 13, 2007

Devolution, and Little surprises

Ok, maybe ONE last post on equipment stuff....
The 10-speed stuff is a little touchy on the road with bar-ends in friction mode. In STI, it's great, but a little hard to adjust perfectly. Still, an impressive advance in technology. However, I figured that it would work, because it was pretty nice in the workstand, but on the road it was hard to fine-tune the rear shifting because the cogs are so close together - small movements on the lever translate into complete gear changes, not just trimming. So, I figured I'd take the hit on weight and take the 'Dale back a step to 9-speed, which is what I've run on the Kogs for so long with great success. I pulled out the old Dura-Ace 9-speed rear-D, and swaped cassettes. As I was performing these tasks, I kinda noticed "hey, the old derailluer feels lighter...how's THAT possible?" The Ultegra 10-speed set-up was supposed to be lighter than the 9-speed stuff in nearly every respect. Luckily, I am a bit of a tweak, and had an old Weight Watchers digital scale with gram graduation on it. Hmmm.... and that confirmed my initial reactions. The old Dura-Ace rear-D that I bought back in 2002 is indeed lighter than 2006 Ultegra 10-speed. Weird, and unexpected. Further, the stock 10-speed Ultegra cassette seemed a little chunky, too, when I removed it from the rear wheel -- oh, and thanks to whoever torqued this to like 600 NM. Good lord that was a pain to get off the hub. Anyways, stock Shimano to stock Shimano, the 10-speed stuff was supposed to add a whole other cog, and still be lighter than the old Shimano 9-speed stuff for cassettes. That may be the case, but the aftermarket SRAM 9-speed cassettes apparently are WAY lighter, like by nearly 110 grams. That's a lot to a former weight weenie. The only thing between 9 and 10 speed that appeared to be an improvement with regards to weight was the chain. The Ultegra 10-speed chain was FOUR grams lighter. Yeesh. Ok, lighter, but I can sneeze four grams. Yikes.
Not that ANY of this matters a twidge as I still battle my own bulge, but I was really expecting to put the old stuff on this bike and have it be heavier, which I was totally okay with. Surprise!

The minimialism thing is kinda cool, too -- finally got the seat bag stocked with pretty much everything I'd EVER need for anything that would cause a problem for me or the bike. Let's take a look in the magic bag, eh?

1) two tubes
2) two CO2 inflators
3) presta to schrader adapter
4) 9-speed SRAM powerlink
5) four zip ties
6) FiberFix spoke
7) extra spoke nipple
8) safety pin
9) two spare Lumotec bulbs
10) small "swiss" pocket knife
11) two spare AAA batteries
12) Park SuperPatch kit
13) Innovations Air Chuck (for CO2)
14) Crank Bros Chain tool
15) 5mm Allen wrench
16) 4mm Allen wrench
17) three small "lucky rocks" that kids and I picked up on bike trail once
18) tin of Lantiseptic
19) tin of Tiger Balm
20) tube of lip balm
21) three Park Tire Boots
22) Quik Stik tire lever
23) emergency space blanket

All of this fits into a 30 cu in. Pearl Izumi Tailgate seatbag. Minimialist indeed.
Also, on the bike is a Specialized AirTool frame pump. I'm using Ort's proven method of a small air pump to get tires started and most of the way to full pressure, and then the CO2 cartridges will take them up to maximum pressure without wearing me out, or wasting too much time. If worse comes to worst and I run out of inflators I can always get the tires to rideable, if not optimum, pressure with the pump itself, but I should never be without air. The inflators are simply for help.

On the seatpost, I have added a Minoura SwingGrip - normally used on handlebars for computers and spare lights, I've employed this nice mount to have two taillights nicely balanced and aimed, without having to fuss with clamps on the weird-shaped stays of the frame itself. Also doubles as a handy seatpost height minder, if I should need to pulling the seatpost for something.

Up front, the Dinotte light will serve as primary for racing and ultra in the summer months, and I'll switch to the Lumotec on the fork crown for brevets, when I can swap on the Mavic Cosmos rear wheel with the other 9-speed cassette, and the Schmidt hubbed front wheel, both with larger tires. I found out that 28's *DO* actually fit, another surprise - but the clearance is REALLY tight, so I'll probably opt for 25s to prevent any issues. It was kinda like runnign 25s on the old Bianchi -- THAT was tight clearance! This is actually really practical, compared to the notion that most modern road bikes can't handle anything larger than a 23c.

So, I'm ready to roll! The first longish test ride will be on the Cidermill Run tomorrow AM - I'm ready to enjoy this ride!

July 11, 2007

Flightly Bastards and Minimialism

Ok -- I've decided to save my money. That's right, save for the glory frame, like I'd originally planned. I know -- GEEZ, I wish this clown would make up his mind.
But, all of the consipracy theories, tales of exploding frames and ranting forum posts from disgruntled crit racers that expect their frames to survive four or five Cat.5 stupidity pileups have lead me to one conclusion: I need to make up my OWN mind. On one side are all of the upset people with broken frames. On the other side is a lifetime warranty for frame replacement, one such case involving someone who's frame failed after 40,000 miles. Ok, I might be bored with the setup by THEN. There is the Cannondale stress testing and unbiased third party testing, and the solid results. Of the problems Cannondale HAS had, very little of them have actualy had to do with the FRAMES. Usually it's their proprietary components, suspension, and the like, and usually it's with mountain bikes... so I've heard.
In typical Jeckyl and Hyde fashion, I have once again come full circle and decided the BEST thing to do right now is NOTHING. If my goal is speed for Tejas, this is the RIGHT bike. I don't plan on crashing -- and if I ever do someday it'll probably be a doozey that would trash a STEEL frame, too. Yeah, I'm all about steel -- but I'm all about BIKES FIRST. I'm not gonna be that much of a snob.

There are, however a few things I DO want to change about it before I get too crazy. The ten-speed rear end is a little touchy on the road, so I'm half considering converting it to 9-speed - a little devolution. Throw on one of my older 9-speed D/A rear D's, a new chain, and the shifting will improve from a standpoint of touchiness, with a small weight penalty. Plus, the 9-speed makes more sense from a brevet standpoint - the SRAM powerlinks are easier to work with, considering the ten-speed powerlinks don't come apart again once engaged, by design. Also, the chain is more substantial and may last longer. The front chainrings won't care if it's a 9 or 10 speed chain, but another thing I enjoyed on the Kogswell was the compact drive. The 'Dale has 53/29 road standard rings, and I'm really thinking that a smaller crankset would better suit my riding style, but I'm not 100% sure on that yet. Again, I could just put the cash in the hopper towards the glory frame of five-years-from-now. I'll sleep on it again.

But, this blog is getting a little tedious from a gear standpoint. Even *I* am getting tired of listening to me talk about what frame material is best for what, and floating back and forth on the issue like some crazed politician. This Saturday is the C'Dude Cidermill Run (hey, there's that CCR reference again!), so I'll ride it, and assess it, and see what I want to change, if anything. Personally, I think I need new tires before Tejas, more than I need a complete drivetrain re-tool, even if I DO have most of the components I need already.

So, let's put this silliness behind us, and talk about RIDES again, eh? Novel idea.

Song of the Week - 7/11

Southern Cross -- Crosby, Stills & Nash

July 10, 2007

What was I thinking, and other flood water notions.

So, there I was, waist-deep in flood water. With my Steamroller by my side, most of it under water, and the back-end sliding a little in the current, I thought to myself, "this could end poorly." It's amazing what trying to avoid a six-mile detour will make me do sometimes, but today I was really thinking that I should have taken the extra mileage. I was one giant floating branch away from becoming another flash flood statistic. Gotta get to work, though. Idiot.

Hey, Carradice bags DO float!

Making my way across the bike trail... I think that's what I'm stepping on.... underneath Switzer and US-69 highway, after a HUGE dumper of a thunderstorm, I suddenly felt like I was wading across some swamp in a foreign country during war-time, but my only weapon was a bicycle. Keep your powder dry, moron.

Easy to reminisce about it now, sitting safely at my day job, working my way to the bottom of a bowl of hot bean soup, but that was REALLY dumb at the time. At one point I thought about turning around, but I was already past the halfway point. What a mess I'll have to clean up after I get up outta here, too. The bike will need a lot of lube and a lot of time upside down to dry out after this. Don't
forget to pull the seatpost.

It's another in a long line of "what was I thinking?" moves. Along those same lines lives the Cannondale decision. After hearing tales of failed frames, cracks, truncated warranties, and other horrors, I'm starting to question my purchase in the first place, much less my desicion to put this bike in a randonnuering mode. These issues started popping up with the CAAD7 frames, and mine's a CAAD8 - even thinner and lighter. Maybe I ask too much, but for MY STYLE of riding, I don't need a bike that comes with an owner's manual that indicates "hey, be careful - this bike is designed to go fast for a couple seasons". I need a bike with an owner's manual that reads: "here's your new bike. Go ride the crap out of it. It won't care."

What gets me THAT? Steel. I have to chalk it up to a fit of idiocy. I "needed" this Cannondale for a purpose that STILL hasn't come up. I missed the KCCC time trial, which was the only remotely tangible reason I could think of to have this thing. Yeah, it's comfortable, fast, stiff, climbs well -- but it's twitchy. Especially after 2500 miles since January on the Kogswell, this bike feels WEIRD. I know I'll get used to it -- but I'm not sure I WANT to get used to it. It might as well be a ticking time bomb, and regardless of the reassurances I've received about other riders on Cannondales, I have to remember that those are OLDER Cannondales. Back when they were built sturdier. Before the legal provisos, and the ranting forum entries and secret dealer recall notices. The shop I work at flat stopped carrying them. Completely. Too many issues. That SHOULD be telling me something, and lately it's been screaming it in my ears. DON'T use this bike for brevets.

What was I THINKING???

Dudes, seriously --
I just can't fathom riding that aluminum can for another five years. It's just not me, not safe for me and my riding style, and not worth the risk. I'll take the hit. SOMEbody will want that frameset for racing, and that's what it's made for. Me? I'm steel. I'm good, solid, long-lasting components. That's what I have to stay true to. I don't know what I'm going to do exactly to accomplish that end, but I'm working on it. I may ride the Cannondale at Tejas, I may not.
We'll see --

I don't know what I was thinking THEN, but I do know what I'm thinking NOW.
Much like getting across the water yesterday, it might have been a mistake but I made it across unscathed. In this case, riding the Cannondale is almost like standing in that water and waiting for something bad to happen. THAT would truly be foolish of me.

Stay tuned --- and please forgive my momentary lapse of sensibility.

Steel is real!

July 5, 2007

Motivation low

I know it will come back -- but MAN it's been a tough week.
After talking things out and getting some feedback from the wife - who always knows me better than *I* know me - it's pretty clear that I'm having a bummer week and at the core it seems that this is another holiday that's come along with someone missing. This was one of his favorites, and I guess subconsciously I've been having trouble dealing with heading over to the parents' place like every year and having something very much out of place. It's affected a lot this week, and frankly I've been in a crappy mood because of it. Hard to shake such things.

It's just not fair, ya know? But anyways, it's making every OTHER hardship in life seem worse than it probably is. Had an absolutely *crappy* Monday - felt physically bad because of alergies or something, felt fatigued, tired, etc. Got thru job1 without a problem, I guess - then got to ride my bike: that always helps. Got to Job2, and was greeted by someone having apparently a worse Monday than *I* was, and - of course - I didn't SAY anything about it, just decided to "let it go", which was really an exercise in running it thru my head for about 18 hours. Man, it's a great job, but there is always that ONE guy, isn't there? Heaven forbid I don't catch the door on the 2nd attempt. Sheeesh. Later that night, albeit an accident, I get whacked in the chin by another co-worker. I mean, crap, THAT made my head feel better. (Pity party barge leaves in 5 minutes) Tuesday was slightly better except that job1 DRAGGED because everyone is on vacation this week, seemingly, and job2 we ran out of workstations, so I performed work outside and got a nice sunburn on my head. Feels great. At this point I'm just laughing about things so far. Because of the holiday, it seems like a whole new week now, and the events of Monday and Tuesday seem like they happened a month ago - but man...things probably woula rolled better if I hadn't had a hundred other things pending in my head.

So many things coming up in the next 6 months to plan for, so many things hinged on so many OTHER things. I haven't had "time" to ride, and take care of my mental state. Let's see: June was my lightest month this year on the saddle, and the only thing that kept it out of the basement of REALLY low mileage was the 600K. Thank goodness for the 600K, for without it all this stress would be a lot harder to absorb. But, honestly, I haven't commuted that much, and I haven't ridden a single WEEKEND ride of any length since the 600K. That really needs to change, and fast, before I lose fitness and endurance. I can't afford to let the stresses of the workweek wipe me out to the point where I stop doing the things I love.... but lately that's been the case. It's a vicious cycle, indeed. I need to get that zest back - but I keep forgetting HOW. Now that I'm working MORE, it's even more important that I be careful NOT to enjoy life LESS. I've got the Cannondale all built-up and ready to roll, and I haven't even test ridden it up the block and back yet. How do YOU spell "mild depression?" Snap out of it, dude!!!

Next week is a new week, and this weekend is a new weekend. Sunday, I think a nice, early-start, LONG ride is in order. Possibly 100 miles -- who knows. But, I think it would do me a tremendous amount of good to get out the maps, plot a route, and just kick my butt outta bed and get OUT there, and get my head reset. Maybe snap a few pictures and write a good story about it. Yeah..... I think that will work. La Cygne and back might be in order...maybe a trip out to Overbrook?

It's time to get back on track. Life is hard. Put on your helmet, and ride.

July 2, 2007

The 2007 MS-150 - Pledge now!

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Evolution

The swap-over is complete, and after a couple of days of good solid wrenching in the garage, the Kogswell is down to a bare frame and fork, pretty much exactly how it started it's life in my garage. It's always hard to let something like a bicycle go, especially when you lean towards the romantic the way I often do. I spent a lot of time with it, logged a lot of hard miles, achieved a few firsts, and overcame some really nasty weather with its sturdy tubes underneath me. But really, it's just a tool, just a collection of metals drawn into familiar shapes. It's strange - if melted down I'd probably not give it moments notice - but shaped and honed into a bicycle frame it has an aura of possibility surrounding it. Like the Bianchi, the CrossCheck, the Trek 720, the Schwinn, the World Sport, Purple Hippo, the Univega before it, it will always hold a place in my memory - but it's time to move on. It will find a good home with someone, I'm sure.

After transferring all of the parts to the swap-meet box, and salvaging the ones I wanted for the Cannondale, I now have two other bikes that are better for the whole thing. The Steamroller is complete, and seems more 'finished', instead of simply cobbled together with leftovers. It's something I could ride on the weekends now - not that I couldn't before, but something about it wasn't quite "weekend approved". Partly, it makes me consider the 2008 brevet series on single speed again, but that remains to be seen.

The Cannondale has gone thru a sort of evolution, however. It's not really improved so much as it's refined. The STI levers are gone, and I never realized how heavy they were until they were off the bike. They are, quite possibly, the heaviest item on the front of any modern road bike. Even some high-end front wheels are lighter. Replacing them with the new Cane Creek brake levers and the Shimano bar-end shifters, the front end of the Cannondale is not just light; it’s stupid light. Adding the generator hub might only serve to help keep the front end on the ground during seated climbs!

The shifters were a gamble, but the measurements didn't lie: the old 8-speed bar-cons in friction mode - which is how they've been set since they were last on the Trek 720 - work just fine. The rear spacing from 7 to 8 to 9 and now 10 speed rear cog-sets has remained the same - only the cogs themselves and the spacing between them has changed. So, the limits on the lever feel the same as they have always felt, and even the action is nice. It's a little quicker between gears than the 9-speed, but very manageable and not at all finicky. The brake levers are a great match to the Ultegra calipers, providing snappy feel and good modulation - and a much lighter feel than the stock STI levers. Plus, the hoods themselves are a little shorter and infinitely more comfy (for MY hands that is). Further, where the stock STI levers were a tad long in reach for me, the new set-up is about 12mm closer to me, and the shorter reach matches the Steamroller within a cm. Actually, the Steamroller's reach is now longer than the C'Dale's - but all in all, within one cm on the handlebars is close enough to prevent bike transition maladies, much as it was between the Kogswell and Steamroller previously.

The main thing gained from all this is less weight, and probably more efficiency. Knowing that the Cannondale frame is very efficient, and more power gets to the ground while remaining just as comfortable as the steel frameset it replaces, I can rest easy that both Tejas and the 2008 brevets (if performed on this bike) will be a little bit easier, and faster. I quote Greg Lemond: "it never gets easier…you just get faster." Hopefully that's the case. I have the distance down pat - the only thing I need to work on is speed-at-distance, and this new set-up will certainly help.

On the scales, the Kogswell in full brevet trim weighed in at just over 32 lbs. That's not bad - but certainly hefty. It's deceiving, however, because from the saddle I never had a complaint about weight. The Cannondale, however, in full brevet trim, weighs in at just over 18 lbs. That's nearly 50% lighter, while being more efficient in the process - and it's geared for a higher top-end, so I shouldn't find myself spinning out the top gear like I had in the past in a good tailwind.

In addition, I've also trimmed back my brevet set-up a little - while the Carradice saddlebag system would work just fine on the C'Dale, I had already changed things on the Kogswell after the 600K. Questions arose on that ride, like "why am I carrying clothes for tomorrow, today???" While the Carradice bags holds a lot, I also remember a quote from Dale-From-Iowa: "The only bad thing about big bags is they instantly make you want to fill them." This lends itself towards being OVER-prepared for rides. Layers and clothing are essential, but I did indeed find myself carrying things simply because I COULD - and 300 miles into a 600K, it's common to want to start tossing that extra ballast into the road-side ditch. It doesn't seem like much at the start, but towards the end of a ride, that third tube might as well be a brick. So, I have trimmed WAY back, carrying only the essentials - *NOT* cutting any corners with regards to preparedness, I placed each item from the 600K checklist, and asked myself "WHY am I carrying this?" For many items, I didn't have a need for it. The smaller seatbag that remains holds an amazing array of preparedness items - but only the essentials. Two tubes in a baggie wrapped in electrical tape, 8 Park Super-Patches, three Park tire boots, a tire lever, FiberFix spoke, extra spoke nipple, valve-stem nut, presta-to-schrader adapter, small Swiss-Army pocket knife, Crank Brothers 7-function multi-tool with chain breaker, SRAM 10-speed powerlink, 2 safety pins, 4 zip ties, two spare AAA batteries, and a pair of latex gloves. All of this fits inside a Pearl Izumi seatbag with room to spare for credit cards, ID and some cash. Everything else can fit in the back pockets. For longer brevets in questionable weather, I still have a Carradice Super-C saddlepack wedge that will hold extra layers of clothes and a rain jacket. In either case, it's far less than I've carried before, but more than I ever USED to carry in 2003. Taking Ort's lead after his successful 'minimalist' 600K in Texas, I'm carrying everything I need for anything that can happen to the bike that won't prompt a DNF. His catastrophic blowout 60 miles from the finish wasn't even enough to stop him. While others might have criticized him for taking only a small seat-wedge along, when that tire-splitting flat occurred, he had everything he needed to fix it and finish - and he did. I can't think of a stronger case. Pack what you need - nothing more - and if it's worse than that, it wasn't meant to be. I also hearken back to the Warbird, whom I'm sure will get a kick out of this as well: He rode stupid long distances on nothing more than a small seatbag and water. He told me once that "you can't bring along a spare bike, dude." Pointing to his bag, he'd often say that "this is all I need". Every once in a while he'd borrow a spare tube or a patch from me or another rider - but he was never stranded. All the while, I was purchasing bigger and bigger bags "just in case". Yeah, it worked, and I finished brevets consistently - but I could have been easier on myself. There is a huge difference between touring and randonnuering. Call it the commuter in me - but I always have used roughly the same set-up for brevets as well as rides to work. With a full arsenal of wool I simply don't need to carry as much stuff with me now, even in the nastiest weather, and that's an evolution I can like with. Hopefully for Tejas and the 2008 brevet season the numbers will also evolve to reflect less fatigue, more speed for less effort, and success with less.

The Cannondale looks awfully good, too, in brevet trim. Frame pump, bar-ends, and green (yes, green) bar-tape as a tribute to bicycles past, it's ready for battle. Let's get to training - Tejas is coming!!!