March 20, 2006

Anyone got a snow-plow for rent?

Another weekend of training passes by, and the next 200K ride looms in the very near future. Let’s review:
Last entry, I had a few problems to solve, and I’ve come up with solutions for most of them so far.

Inflation issues that related to storage have been solved with the addition of a frame pump to the arsenal, which freed up a lot of space in the already-small seat bag I’m using. Now I can leave home the mini-pump, and the two inflators and air-chuck, which are better suited to semi-supported, shorter, club rides and commutes. Now, I can get a few other items out of my back pockets and into the seat bag, and after a few trial runs it’s very apparent that I can get a full load of high-pressure air into my tires with minimal effort. I’m really not sure why I never previously considered one of these wonders, but now, especially with the pump-peg on the headtube of the frame, it seems I’ll have one of these in the arsenal from now-on. Very handy, doesn’t weigh anything, and doesn’t interfere with operation of the bike at all.

The food-storage issues were also one-step closer to resolution with the addition of a stem-mounted bag that can hold, well, just about anything. A little more “aero” than a true handle-bar bag (like THAT matters), it hold just enough Fig bars to get me between controls in style, and I don’t have to break stride too much to reach for the back-pockets anymore – much less fishing for them underneath multiple layers of clothing without reducing them to inedible crumbles. There’s nothing quite as gross as sweat-soaked Fig Newton dough in your back pocket. Yuck.

The Cue Sheet Clip is mounted, also – looks fancy, and purposeful, and ready to help guide me through the turns of a couple completely unknown brevets later this spring in Oklahoma and western Illinois. Weighs nothing – solves a ton of navigation issues!

So, I’m totally ready for the 2nd of two 200K’s this weekend to shake everything down again. After a few short training rides this weekend, however, we are ready to roll!


After a nearly record-breaking weekend of March 11th/12th, the weather has taken a turn for the worse, and as I write this my office window is being battered by 25MPH east winds and sleet/freezing rain. Winter, at least for this week, is back and she is ANGRY. The forecasts indicate that all said-and-done, we should get about a foot of snow up in the area where the next brevet is to take place, and only a few days of melting temperatures forecast between now and then.
Yes, randonneurs are hearty people, by definition – but I’m wondering how much gusto I have for this ride, knowing that I already have a 200K in the bag, and that’s all I really need for the SR series I’m shooting for.
Temperature-wise, it’s on-par with the 2003 version of this same ride, where the morning temperature was about 26º, warming to barely 45º - and a touch of snow for good measure right near the end of the ride. That was actually FUN, but looking back now, I don’t see HOW I had that kind of fun. It’s that regression – during the ride itself, there may be some hardship, but AFTERWARDS it always seems more fun that it probably REALLY was. I dunno – it’s those pre-ride jitters again, and I just wouldn’t be “me” without those jitters!

Regardless of the forecast temps, however, there is something to be said for road conditions – brevets are rain/shine events, but to be fair, unless you live in a southern-tier state, they really aren’t held during the winter.

(Watch, someone from Manitoba will chime in and bust my theory now.)

The rural highways of Missouri are ALREADY the worst in the country (for real, and documented), and that’s when they are DRY. With snow-pack, snow-melt, black-ice patches to watch for – this could be a ride that might actually tax the limits of the brevet clock! How badly do I want it???

We shall see…

Sure wishing I had a way to get fenders on the Bianchi now, though – that’s for certain.

Also notable: the issue of saddle comfort came into scrutiny again this weekend.
The 200K on the 11th really reminded me that I need to log more saddle time closer to the big rides next season, but also that the padding in my trusty, seven year-old Selle Italia Flite Trans-Am saddle was about shot.

Luckily, I always keep a spare of ANYTHING that I like or that works for me. Including saddles.

Many years back I wrote something to the effect that “If they ever stop making Continental Ultra 2000’s, I’m buying a case of them…” --- well, I didn’t have a CASE, but…. You get the idea.

Anyways, this is a saddle they stopped making many years ago, also, as trends in racing and technology change, so too changes nearly everything you might currently like. If you wear it out, you have to start over with something new. I didn’t want to do that, so about 2 years ago I searched and searched and found ANOTHER Flite Trans Am saddle, and snatched it up. While old faithful remained on my seatpost, the backup laid in wait at the top of the “spares” shelf in the garage, wrapped in its original plastic.

So, after the pain-fest of the 11th, I decided – “ok, it’s the SAME SADDLE, only newer… might be time to swap em out.”
And so I did – and the evidence was clearly there – there was practically nothing left of the original Flite saddle, and it was bent downward in a distinct “U” shape when viewed from the side – wow. A bunch of hairline cracks on the underside also indicated that I either needed to lose some weight, or that time, ozone, heat, sweat and miles of pounding do indeed take their toll, eventually. This saddle was only a few months away from snapping and sending my onto the seatpost below. Youch.

I swapped it, after measuring and taking angle numbers, etc, and proceeded to ride it for a while – Ahhhh… much better. At least, for the first hour it was much better. The same tissue areas that I’d damaged on the 11th came flaring back up again after a little while, and I started to take stock of the issue. I was seated firmly on my “middle”, not really on my sit-bones, like they say you are supposed to. Hmmmm… A few tweaks, and life got better – but part of me wondered about a more dynamic change.

Now, most of you – assuming I wrote it here – probably remember my brief stint with the Brooks B-17. Didn’t work for me. Not even close. However, there are several other – often pricier – models in the Brooks stable to pick from, so I started up the research again. Talk about a ROCK in the saddle business, Brooks has never wavered from their formula, despite fads, racing culture, trends and fashions – only recently have they tried to garner some of the weight-weenie market by offering some of their saddles with titanium rails to save weight – but nothing else about those saddles deviates from tradition. Sufficed to say, EVERYTIHNG can and probably will change – but with a track record like Brooks, and through several buy-outs and take-overs, they have maintained their quality, and scope. Also, as a semi-traditionalist, I really like what they do and stand for, so naturally I’m compelled to own one, even if I don’t end up riding on it. That Honey-colored, copper-railed beauty of a B-17 ALMOST ended up just hanging on the shop wall – a real masterpiece of craftsmanship. But, alas, it was eventually sold off.

Cut to today, a Brooks Team Professional model calls my name – it specs out nearly identically to the Flite saddle, only it’s about 2cm wider at the heel, and – of course – doesn’t have the anatomic cutout in the middle. However, despite the scare of yet another “you’re gonna ruin your soft parts!” scare-tactic article referenced in RR37 this month, I am following all the right rules that would prevent the problems that everyone warns us about. My handlebars are only ¾” below my saddle height right now. If my bars were 6” below, like is the racer fashion, then yeah – I might have some numbness, but common! So, I sprang for it. I’ll report back on whether or not it ends up being the solution I was hoping for, but after a couple hours on the trainer on this thing this weekend, I’m fairly convinced that not only is it a TON better than the B-17 I’d tried before, it’s also a TON better than the Flite Trans Am.

For that kind of comfort, I’ll carry the 10gram plastic bag in the seat bag in case it rains. Boo-hoo.

I’ll write again after this weekend’s 200K – assuming I can get up the gumption to go!

If anyone from the Platte County public works happens to read this post, please pass it on that we’d really appreciate it if you could plow and cinder the roads near Camden Point, MO.

Thank you in advance.

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