November 29, 2005

Wool: Wear it's at.

I forgot to mention, also, that Sunday's ride was the first ride of any length that I performed with wool on my back. This was a good test run to see if the cost of a wool cycling jersey could indeed be justified, and (unfortunately for my wallet) it certainly can be. Although not the BEST test case, this decidedly NOT cycling specific wool top started life as a casual piece of winter men's-wear. One fine laundry day, my washer decided to halp alter its fate by snagging the collar on the aggitator -- thus, upon removal from the washer, a light bulb came on in my head...
After a quick trip to the utility drawer to retrieve a scissors, I cut free the rest of the collar and hung it up to dry. Something that I normally would have worn to the office in the fall was destined for the cycling closet. 100% Merino wool no less - which just happens to be what more cycling-specific wool items are made from. Sunday, with the drizzle and gloomy skies, and lower-50ºF temps, it was a perfect time to test it out -- while not really suited for commuting, because of the extra heat created by the messenger bag, wool is great by itself, or with a thin shell over it. Today, I donned the wool 'jersey' with a windvest over it, just to block some of the drizzle away from my torso. The formula was perfect -- as the upper surface of the wool got moist from the rainy conditions, I stayed warm -- almost TOO warm, which makes me think wool would probably be good for a 40ºF rain, too. I never had to think about getting out the rain jacket for further protection, because the wool was doing its job nicely. A synthetic long-sleeve jersey, as I've experienced in the past, would have eventually saturated, and would have lost warmth quickly -- donning a rain jacket while wearing that kind of jersey is important, and I usually have to wear it even in marginal conditions like Sunday. After arriving at the Casey's, I considered for 1/2 a second to put the rain jacket on, as the rain increased in intensity, but then decided this was a perfect time to see how well wool REALLY does when it is WET. Try as mother nature might have, I never felt 'wet' -- just warm, even as water was visibly changing the color of the wool as it got wetter, I never felt that wetness migrate to my skin -- so, as they say, wool does indeed insulate as it gets wet -- the trick is never taking your heat away from it: if it rains and you take the wool layer off, for whatever reason, you'll be leaving it off as it will cool off an no longer offer warmth -- and you'll take too long to heat back up enough to get that feeling back again. On the return trip, riding with the wind, the rain - though more intense - didn't play as much of a factor, so I actually dried out a little bit -- the temperature control was nearly, dare I say, perfect -- and this is a medium-density, casual-wear, not-meant-for-cycling wool top! I can only imagine how well a true cycling piece would perform -- and now, unfortunately again for my wallet, I will HAVE to find out. As versatile as they are, however, I imagine I'll only need one good one -- and considering how pricey synthetic jerseys are ANYWAYS, wool is really not that much more, and likely far more flexible temperature-wise.
Certainly, come brevet-time, I have a feeling I'll have far LESS in my saddlebag with regards to extra layers and such. Now, I can talk the wife into replacing that wool top for the holidays -- but instead of buying it at the casual men's department, it will be from a well respected online cycling firm. Hmmmm.... My thanks in advance to the sheep.

The big shift

Even though winter doesn't officially start until mid-December, it's defintely testing the proverbial waters around here. After a week of near-record temps, the bottom kinda dropped out Sunday afternoon, with REALLY weird Kansas fall weather in the form of a late season tornado outbreak and severe thunderstorm event, complete with hail and high-winds. Crazy for November! I think I got the last official semi-warm ride in Sunday morning, before the major stuff blew thru. Not feeling much like riding, or waking up early, I just mounted up the fixxer and rode to nearby Spring Hill and back, but reprised a small section of the Hillsdale Gravel Road Ride, making this glorified coffee-run a near-70% gravel event! Even though the speeds are a little lower, and the going a little tougher, I REALLY enjoy this new-found off-season activity. I'm seeing scenery that I've never seen before, simply because in the past I was riding on tires that wouldn't have done too well on gravel and silt. 191st and Renner got added to the list of "never been here before", as well as a few more of Spring Hill's back-streets that wind through the old "down-town" area. Really cool. I was having so much fun, the constant drizzle/mist and 20+MPH headwinds didn't really bother me that much. Also checked off the list was the fact that the fixxer does really well on sketchy pavement and gravel -- making me almost regret having not taken it on the Hillsdale ride a few weeks back -- but there will be other times. After a bit, I stopped off at the Casey's on Webster Rd., had a coffee and a couple fig newtons, and was back on the bike - now with a wicked tailwind! Still taking my time, but the return trip did go faster, and I checked a few new sections of gravel off the "to-do" list in the process. Very cool, and with the dark skies, the drizzle, the 32c tires and the Carradice bag all in attendance, it seemed very comfortable and appropriate - as opposed to "weird" and "different", which is how I viewed the gravel-road riding thing a month ago. Granted, I'm not going to spend ALL my time on gravel now, but it's certainly not off-limits anymore -- and it may well solve finding that elusive back-route to the Cidermill for next weekend.
Assuming winter lets me get it in: more, heavier snow scheduled for arrival next Sunday... the big shift is coming. Ride while you still can!!!

November 22, 2005

What's "BOB", anyways?

For those that lean along the same lines that I do, you might enjoy the "BOB"list. Available to join at , the BOB-list is a busy list, with several dozen emails coming across daily on everything from fixed-gears, to restorals, saddle-bag discussions, lugged steel conversations, old-school equipment, and the like -- all geared towards the original intent of the list: BOB stands for Bridgestone Owners Bunch, and was originally started by and for fans of Bridgestone's very fine late-70's, early 80's lightweight road bikes -- if you've ever seen one, you know what I mean. Everything steel, everything lugged, nicely appointed, strong, built to be the last bike you'd ever buy. Unfortunately, many of the bikes we see today are NOT, with a few exceptions like Rivendell, specifically, employees of which often post to this very list. Rivendell's founder, after all, use to work for Bridgestone. A recent post asked "What's a "BOB" bike to you?", since the list has really grown beyond only Bridgestone bikes -- it's a great resource, if you dance this way, even if you have stuff in your stable that is not really "BOB", there is always something to learn. This was my recent submission, and attempt to answer that very question:

What's "BOB-ish" to me?
I've always regarded this list as the "brain-trust" of the sensible cycling community, and I am a member mainly in spirit and desire. I went through the miss-guided phase of "lighter-is-better", carbon everything, minimalist seatbag, bars-too-low, racer-wanna-be, marketing-slave, etc., ad nauseum. After a time, and after realizing it was far cheaper to lose 50 lbs. than it was to try and afford the latest 100 gram "whatever", I had a slow awakening. None of the expensive lightweight stuff lasted very long, nor was it comfortable over the distances I was exploring (my first brevet series, years back) -- over time, the lightweight stuff made it to the swap meet, and in its collective place arrived things with substance (i.e. Nitto stems, bars, posts, 32-spoke "traditional" wheels, and steel framesets).
The closest thing I had to a 'real' BOB-worthy bike was my Trek 720, circa 1982 -- lugged 531, gorgeous fork, plenty of clearance, rack and fender mounts, Campag dropouts -- beautiful, but in the end, too small, so after a few thousand miles it had to eventually go to a shorter owner, in lieu of a frame that fit me. In it's place, the only thing I have currently that's BOB-ish is my Bianchi Reparto Corse, and only because it's lugged Columbus steel -- the clearances are really too tight for it to be useful for anything other than fast, short rides -- won't take fenders (and that's with 23c tires!), and if a spoke breaks, yikes. In spirit, it represents the old-world craftsmanship I always found attractive, and it's VERY strong, and rides like a dream. Sweet enough to feel good on a 400K last year, despite the racer geometry! I just wish it had more room for real tires and fenders, and it might well be the only bike I'd need. I also have an early Surly Steamroller, which is BOB-ish in spirit, but sadly not lugged - a terrific ride, lots of tire clearance and fender room - but oddly, no rack or fender mounts to take advantage of. Finally, my bad-weather beater which is an early Specialized TIGged cro-mo Mtn.Bike -- which really has nearly the same geometry as my old Trek did, not the sloping single-track wonders of today's standard. That beauty has full fenders, big tires, handlebar bag and rack - a joy to ride in the rain with it's beefy canti-brakes and Kool Stop pads.
Someday, careful financial planning will yield a Rivendell, Heron, Kogswell, Hetchins or Thorn, perhaps even a Richard Sachs, for more purposeful brevet riding, which is really where my passions lie -- long distance. That, and Phil BB and hubs, to boot. My ideal and most "BOB-ish" bike would essentially be a combination of everything I own right now: The light, strong lugged frame of the Bianchi, with the fender and rack-mounts from the Specialized, and the big tire clearance & horizontal fork-ends of the Surly for my favorite drivetrain set-up -- single-speed/fixed. Maybe some extra provisions like canti-bosses, low, fork-braze-ons so I can fashion the Lumotec to the fork without a clamp, things like that.
Since very few of us "younger" BOBs will be fortunate enough to acquire a Bridgestone RB-1 in pristine condition, with NOS Campag Super-Record, Leppers saddle, Nitto racks and full complement of Gilles Berthoud bags while we're busy raising kids, we'll have to wait, and continue on as BOBs in spirit. I know what I like, I know what's good and what's not
-- but I can't afford all I would like that would truly make me a BOB in the eyes of some. Here's hoping! What's a BOB-ish bike, then? To me, it's steel - ALWAYS, lugged if possible - clearance for REAL tires, 28c at LEAST - provisions for good racks, without resorting to weird clamps and zip-ties, 1" THREADED steerers --- there is nothing as pretty as the clean lines of a fine quill stem diving into a fine, polished headset.
Single-speed and fixed is my preference, but gears are welcome - so long as it's not ALL Shimano. Sugino, TA and Stronglight still make wonderful stuff that is strong, easy on the eyes, and timeless. If you've got something similar to that in the stable, you're on the right track. Even my beater bike has Sugino cranks. Dare I say it, BOB-ism is very close to Rivendell-ism.... Keeping the strong, good-value, well-built, useful vibe alive.
That's what makes a bike "BOBish" to me.

If you think this way, you might like the BOB-list... enjoy, and be ready for a LOT of emails!

REVIEW: Descente Wombat gloves

Fingers are often the hardest things to keep warm while riding in wintry weather, and as a result I have amassed more pairs of gloves than any other piece of winter gear in my clothing arsenal. I have a pair, quite literally, for almost every 5-degree step from 50 degrees and down. Finding something that is durable, and versitile enough for a wide-range of temps has been difficult, and in this transitional time of year, I often have more than one pair of gloves in the bag - one for the morning, and one for the ride home in the evening. If it rains, I have glove shells to improve water-proofness -- those same glove shells are good for adding a few degrees to an otherwise thin glove, for finger layering. It's complicated, and each year I forget which gloves do what for me! This year, however, I tihnk I may have found a worthy replacement for a few pair.

The Descente "Wombat" glove, at $44.00, is not cheap, but compared to many cycling specific gloves of this type, it's on par with most price-points. First impressions are that it's well-made, well-stitched, and had a lot of thought put into it, likely from real riders. It's a combination of many materials, including what's widely referred to as "Windshear" or "Windtex" fabric, which is a high-polymer weave of material that blocks nearly 90% of outside air from circulating within the fabric. This material makes up the back of the palm, and the cuff, and extends to the fingers, but is layered underneath some insulating material.

All the fingers are articulated at the first knuckle for flexibility without stressing the fabric, which has become a problem in some of my older gloves without that addition. The fingers are reinforced and boxed for a good tactile feel, and look to last longer than glove fingers that are simply pinch-stitched. The thumbs are also articulated, and lined with an absorbent material for snot-collection - this material seems to be insulated from the rest of the thumb box, so as that material gets saturated on a long ride, your thumbs stays dry and warm - a big plus, since it's off by itself and can't garner warmth from the other fingers.

Getting the gloves on and off is a breeze, as Descente went with a flared, open gauntlet-style cuff, with no velcro, no elastic, no binding. This aids in wrist circulation, provides a little venting to prevent overheating and sweaty hands, and makes getting them on over bulky jacket sleeves easy. The connection to the rest of the glove is well stitched, so pulling them on likely won't rip out this critical seam, as I've seen other gloves do over time. Grip is exceptional, which would also make this a great wet-weather glove. The palm, middle and fore-finger are lined with a knobby silicone grip surface, which helps with braking, and general non-slip behavior on the handlebars. When wet, it's doubtful this glove would cause any grip issues. Although the box fingers don't allow enough dexterity to pass the 'dime' test, the grippy fingers did help it pass the 'quarter' test, when it comes to loose change. Anything smaller, you might have to remove them first.

The best, and probably premier feature of the "Wombat" glove is the convertible mitt. If the temperature drops, it begins to rain, or you turn into a stiff, cold headwind, simply reach into the integrated pocket on the back of each glove, and pull out the barrier mitt, which simply slips over the tops of your fingers, and seals them off from wind & moisture. If conditions improve, simply slip the mitt back off, and tuck it away. While this makes the back of the glove a little bulky, that bulk actually improves insulation while the mitt is stowed, so it doesn't feel like a hinderance at all. While this is not the first glove of this type to come along, it's certainly an improvement on previous designs, and I get the impression this will end up being my go-to glove this season.

So far, the coldest I've ridden this glove was 35ºF, which is a good test as many of my other 'winter' glove start to get chilly at this point. Riding with it below freezing will defintely tell me for sure if this glove will hold it's own when it gets REALLY cold -- but if it doesn't, that's okay. For a glove that really isn't terribly bulky, it insulates very well, and still offers enough dexterity to operate STI levers, if you happen to run them, helped largely by the aforementioned grippy palm and fingers. All in all, a very good buy, and very versatile. Will update when the temp really drops, but I'm thinking that anything below 20ºF might warrant a thicker glove, perhaps a lobster-claw style. In a world of gloves for the 'casual' off-season rider (read: 40º to 50º), the Wombat stands out as a real glove for 40º and colder, perhaps down to 20ºF or so. Time will tell, but I'm impressed!

I'm giving it 4 out of 5 lock-rings, as it gives very solid initial impressions, and gives little to balk at -- but it's still not a do-everything glove, so I can't give it a full five. Some might have issue with the bulk of the mitt when it's stowed, but that's small trade-off for the extra protection it adds. For anything above 50º, it might be too much glove, and still not sure how cold it will go -- but as my own glove collection attests, very few gloves can do it all -- and this glove has a much wider temperature range than anything else I own, which is notable.

UPDATE: I'm tempted after a few weeks of use to upgrade the rating on this glove to a solid 5-for-5: as the coldest temperatures of the season approach, this glove continues to impress, but I have found it's "unassisted bottom-end" -- which is about 20ºF -- very impressive, especially considering many winter gloves can only boast a 5-10 degree window of use. These Wombats have proven a range of nearly 4-times that, being not-too-warm in the mid-40's, and with glove liners being comfy for up to an hour at 11ºF! I have no doubts they might go lower, depending on the liners used (Hind Thermastat, in this case), but even un-assisted they are good for a good 20-degree spread. Very impressed -- buy slightly larger than needed, to use liners effectively, and you have a glove that will practically do it all.

November 21, 2005

Take 30 and call me in the morning.

After several days off the bike due to illness, it was awesome to be back in the saddle.
This time last year I got my obligatory once-per-year full-on nasty cold "thing", which usually coincides with the coming of the first sub-freezing temps, and subsequent "wait! I'm not done!" from summer, when temps soar to near-record levels for a week, then it gets cold and wet. Ding! Illness. "There's somethin' goin' around...", ya know. Another Kansas winter starts to take hold, but not before it knocks over half the population first!

Anyways, after some serious NyQuil trials, I was feeling mildly better - so it was time for a nice ride, and Sunday was IT. Had to be - it was the date of the first CCCR ride! I mounted up the fixxer, and rode off to the local high school to see if anyone would show up, and lo, it was Lee! Hadn't ridden with Lee since the coffee ride back in August, I think, so it was good to hook up again. While we waited for 8-bells to sound, we talked, compared headlights, talked about the weather, the usual - while I occasionally took a pause to hack something onto the pavement. Nice. Classy.

No-one else showed up --- BAH! Common, people!!! --- so we departed, and started to head northward on the wet-from-last-night's-rain pavement. Woodland Rd. was in great shape, a little muddy in places from construction, but otherwise pretty darn good. It's a great road, not too hilly, but generally up-hill until about 93rd St, where it pitches downhill at 8% for about a mile or so! A real thrill-ride on a coaster, but a little dicey on the fix. Still, pretty cool, and one of the best vistas in the county at the top, just before it drops off. After levelling off, we paralleled a freight train for a while, and eventually ended up at 83rd St., where we turned uphill to Monticello - but not before a quick pee-break. We hooked up with Badger, and proceeded north again, into the relentless and chilly headwind. Ugh. 38º if warm enough, as long as the wind isn't blowing too hard.

After a little bit, we arrived at the decision point for the short/long route, and hearing no objections, we went straight onto the long route. Ok, it's only 31 miles - but it's a longish ride for this time of year out here. Unfortunately, nobody wanted to take the short route, so I was commited to the hills that lay ahead. Ugh.... I was starting to wonder if I'd made the wrong bike choice! On a geared, coasting bike, with all the long downhills, this would have been a BLAST! Granted, I was still having a great time on the fix - but I yearned for a deep aero-tuck and a fast descent --- but on the flip-side of that coin was the fact my legs were never cold, and I was always ready to climb. We tee'd up with Holiday Drive (actually 47th St.), and began our trek east-bound, finally out of the clutches of the headwind, but headed towards some serious climbing. We got lucky near the railroad tracks, as the crossing gates started dropping RIGHT as we passed over the tracks, a freighter approaching from the west! We enjoyed paralleling along with it as it chugged up the grade towards the railyards ahead.

Soon, we stopped near Holiday Drive and Quivira Lane, to doff a few layers for the climbing, fuel up on Newtons, and hydrate a bit. The next 2-5 miles would be a challenge! We began climbing, slowly and steadily, and the grade increased -- the fix was doing fine, as was I, but I knew the worst was coming. Lee threw a chain during a shift, but was quickly back on the saddle, and Chris was smiling along as usual - no problems after having ridden in Colorado this summer!

After that first long grinder, the fast downhills began, leading up to the first of three monster rollers. Legs flying in a coastless downhill dive, I transistioned nicely, and stood up to check the first biggun off the list --- success! Ouch... The second big downhill, legs flying, and then the 2nd steep-one, which was the steepest of the three ---- Standing, cranking, pulling against the bars -- UGH!!!! It was a close one, but I managed it --- what a grunt-fest, and the biggest pain is the stop-sign at the top of it at 55th St.! After a sorta-trackstand, and no cross-traffic, I went on, up the rest of the grade, and then the third and final big downhill bomber down to the base of the third and final steep roller of northern Pflumm. DANG!! Made it! The trafficlight at Johnson Drive came up, a brief stop, and then the very last of the steep climbing was done! Whew!!!!
Made it, and on the fixxer no-less! Even though it was reluctant, I was no glad we chose the long route, because it means the brevet series on fixed-gear is now a very real possibility!

We continued south on Pflumm, over it's (by comparison) shallower rollers, to 83rd St., turned thru residential, and made our way to Santa Fe Trail Drive, to bisect Lenexa and mosey southward towards Olathe and the coffee stop.... yummy! Another couple of train encounters, too -- a really good day for railroad watching! Santa Fe turned into Kansas City Road, and make a perfect leg cool-down for the last part of a pretty hilly ride. We bid Badger farewell at College, hit the coffee stop and I enjoyed a nice, hot cuppa somethin' gooooooood. Sweet.
Back to the parking lot, bid farewell to Lee, and rode home to wrap up a nice 42-mile (for me) Sunday climbing ride! An excellent time, as usual, and the fix proved a worthy weapon for the counties steepest offerings... but next time I might bring the gears and enjoy a deep aero-tuck, or two. Maybe.... no matter what I ride these days, the fix seems to make it something special, and I really enjoy that feeling. But, it might be time to dust off the "good bike" one of these days. Ya'll that couldn't make it, ya missed a great ride! Get with us next time - you won't regret it!

The best part, the few days I took off the bike paid off -- not only was I well rested for this climbing-fest, but I managed to hack the rest of the lung-butter all over the pavement, and felt 100% better after arriving back at the house again. That's one of the best parts about cold-weather riding -- it tends to clean things out, if you wait until it's under control -- last year, riding too soon simply drove the junk deeper into my lungs -- this year, I waited until it slowed down a little, and THEN the riding helped finish it off. Excellent! So, Dr. Dude is up in the house now: you get something upper-respiratory, slap it across the face with some NyQuil for a few nights, take time off the bike, then take 30-miles of climbing, and call me in the morning.

That'll be a $10.00, co-pay, please. :)

November 15, 2005

Who said it ever HAD to be paved?

Well, I tell ya -- two years ago, I NEVER woulda thought that riding "off-road" would be fun. Ok, this was not REALLY "off-road" (which is why I keep putting it in quotes), but for the roadie that I really am, it was certainly not normal!

We gathered together with a mission -- just to have a nice bike ride, without the normal hassles of traffic, maybe a little more scenery, and something a little different -- and we got it all! With fat-tires, racks, a couple full-on mountain bikes, and some hybrid-mutts, we rolled out into the southern part of the county, and travelled over some very nice gravel roads - which we came to find were not really all that bad after all! Stuff that normal roadies would just flat cross OFF the map turned out to be a little challenging at first, but after a few miles we started to get the feel for it. Simple shock-absorbsion methods came second-nature, like just sanding on the pedals a bit, relaxing the shoulders, etc. Pretty soon, all the anxiety wore away to reveal what we had set out for: fun.

I won't go into too many details here, because if you are reading this and are in the KC area, you need to come experience it first-hand. I'll be adding ride details to the webpage before long, since this is defintely one we'll ride again, probably next Spring. Assuming your gear is up to it, the next time you see a sign that reads "pavement ends", just keep on going! I don't think it makes you weird, I don't think it makes you extreme -- you aren't going to sacrifice your "roadie" status. After all -- it's still a road, right? Roll on!

Dare I say it, this ride ranks up in the top-five for 2005. The Summer Breeze was in there, the MS-150 was great, and a few others I wrote about, too --- but this one was something special.
Can't wait to do it again! YOU should be there. Really!

November 11, 2005

No pain, no gain....sure.

Welp, proving my shiftiness often outweighs my ablility to learn from mistakes, the Brooks saddle that since last week was resting in it's box on the workbench has somehow found its way back onto the bike. Weird, huh? It's as if it was whispering to me all this time... "try me again!"

This time, however, I borrowed the seatpost from the Bianchi -- yeah, yeah... the Bianchi is "done", but I have a method here: First, the seatpost on the Bianchi is darn sexy... but that's not the real reason to use it. The real advantage is the adjustability of it. Compared to the seatpost that was on the Fixxer, this post doesn't have the inter-meshing teeth, which are nice to prevent movement, but not nice if you want to fine-tune saddle angle. So, now, I'm able to get the Brooks tuned to my personal "sweet-spot". The nicer finish is strictly a bonus. But what about a seatpost for the Bianchi? That brings us to point B) which is, if the Brooks realy DOES turn out to be the end-all, I can swap the seat back and forth simply by moving the seatpost between bikes. Since the Surly and the Bianchi have the exact same seat-tube angle, the saddle angle will be exact on either bike, and depending on which one I want to ride, I get all the advantages of the saddle that I've worked so hard to break in. This substantiates itself as point C), which solves the previous problem of "what if the Brooks is REALLY great, then I'd have to get one for each bike, right?" -- Well, not anymore. As long as the seat-tube angle, stem length, and seat-post diameter are the same between bike, just move the post, making sure saddle-height is consistant, and roll on. The only odd-man out here is the beater bike, but that bike is for weather so nasty I wouldn't want a Brooks on it in the first place.

So, once again, persistance might indeed be paying off here.... instead of a knee-jerk reaction that Brooks is terrible, I will give it another try. I have the Flite saddle on it's old seatpost, ready for re-install if it doesn't work out at all. But, to be fair, I *DO* need to give it time to break in, soften a little, and there is a ton of time to make changes before the '06 brevet season.

So far, things are looking up --- after fine-tuning the saddle angle, this morning's ride to work did not yield the same "problems" I was having LAST week - and that's a VERY GOOD SIGN. Only the next hundred miles will tell me for sure - but I have a new feeling that patience will indeed be a virtue here.

November 9, 2005

Fire! fire! FI-IIIRE!!!

Every once in a while, I come across something else to add to the ever-growing list of reasons that bicycles are infinitely BETTER than automobiles.

Today, on the way home, weaving through a pack of soccer-mom's and stay-at-homes picking up their kids from elementary school -- and consequently showing off the track-stand skills at a cross-walk -- I ventured towards the intersection of 139th and Brougham here in gorgeous suburbia, to witness an early-90's Ford F-150 in full flame. Yep, hood agape, rubber and gasoline-fueled flames lapping at the underside of the hood. DANG! Realizing little was needed on my part, as everyone AT the intersection, including the crossing guard, was on their cell-phone to the fire department (which I could hear approaching a few blocks away), I decided that it would be better if I was out of the picture.

I continued east and north on my way home, smiling to myself. Another reason added: no matter what happens, I can pretty much rest assured that my bike probably won't burst into flames.

That's a big plus.

November 4, 2005

If it isn't broken...

Once again, I find myself re-learning a valuable lesson: if it isn't broken, don't try to fix it.
This time, however, I can't tell if it's only my tolerance for discomfort that is at fault here, or lack of patience, or what. The new saddle I've chosen is far less comfortable than I built it up in my head to be, and it has me wondering if I had things right the first time or not. I'm starting to think that I might HAVE had things right. Ugh.
Maybe I'll give it more time, but after micro-adjustments and lots of break-in mileage, I'm still having some 'pressure' that is creating 'problems' -- and those are 'problems' that I can't live with. DID EVERYONE have this issue with these saddles?
Maybe it's just me --- after all, no matter HOW good something is, it can't possibly satisfy everyone. It's a shame, too, because it's SO FREAKING GOOD LOOKING on the bike!!! However, I can't suffer for asthetics. The verdict is still out.

On another note, I have had a really good week of riding, and life in general -
Something that started as a wild idea has turned into perhaps the most successful ride-planning campaign in CommuterDude history! And, confirming the terrific feelings I'm getting, I recently got in the mail the most recent edition of American Randonneur in the mail, and there is an article about someone in New Hampshire (or Vermont?) that put on a Dirt Road Randonee' this summer, and the results were FANtastic! I think I have found exactly what I need to set myself and my little band of rebels apart from the rest of the cycling world in this area.
We'll see how it goes, but I previewed the route last night, and I only saw TWO CARS in over 50 miles, and that was during "rush hour" --- this is gonna ROCK. Literally.

Combine that with a series of commutes with a 20+ MPH south wind that blew me to work in record time, three days in a row this week, and the most magnificent fall colors so far this season, and this is a guy that can stop smiling.

Which is good, considering I can barely sit down without wincing.

November 1, 2005

Cidermill II -- and the early week in review

Sunday was a fantastic ride! Okay, it's already apparent what time of year is my favorite: I think more than anything, I thrive on a feeling of having accomplished something extraordinary: while most riders have hung it up for the year, waiting for that next 70º weekend forecast to come out, Krishna, Akil and I met up at 7:00AM in the stinging rain and blustery, 20 MPH south winds of a 50º morning for a 50-mile ride. Call me crazy - call me insane -- but THAT, my friends, is love. Don't get me wrong; I really enjoy the 80º, sunny days with tailwinds and pacelines just like everyone else -- but it's almost, dare I say it, too easy! The rainy, 50º mornings??? NOBODY likes that crap! After polishing off a ride like that, I truly feel alive, like I accomplished something or beat some kind of 'odds'.

We took off from the parking lot, into the gale and rain, jackets flapping like angry flags. Making matters more intense, the entire first leg of the ride was INTO the 20 MPH wind -- it eventually took us three hours to reach our turn-around, and less than half that for the return. On the way, however, we were rewarded -- as the sun rose higher, the clouds began to part, and the rain slowed -- eventually, the skies were alive with birds and a piercing blue hue - the sun broke through, and the harsh wind slowed slightly into a warming breeze. Trees were alive with color against the ocean of sky, and the road seemed to ease up a little under our tires. Before long, we were at the Cidermill, sipping on hot apple goodness, and taking in a few donuts.

PURE HEAVEN. Nothing else tastes quite as sweet as good food earned in sweat and toil.

I packed a half-dozen more donuts into the saddlebag for the wife and kids, and poured the rest of the warm cider into my waterbottle, and we three were ready for our return. The sun was getting higher, the roads nearly dry, and the breeze was relentless - still from the south - perfect!

After a little harrowing cross-wind action on K-68, we were back on the safer secondary roads -- which reminds me that not all good riding HAS to be paved. A spark that was originally captured by Ort and I back in early July has me wondering if there is a better, if not harder, way to get to the Cidermill -- this highway stuff is for brevets. Anyways, making excellent time, we flew north with the stiff tailwind, and with good food in our guts and smiles on our faces, we shed layers and spun away the last few miles at a very relaxed effort.

It was perfection -- nature's reward for tenacity in the form of a postcard perfect cycling day. Next time you stand at the precipice of your garage staring out into the gloom, remember: it's probably going to be worth it. It was cold, wet, harsh, and arduous for the first 1/3rd of the ride, but the reward, and riding along as the very skies transformed above us, was magical.

Man -- fall cycling is the BEST, and I'll probably remember this ride for a long, long time...