October 30, 2008

do NOT go in there! Whoooo!

Took a day off the bike, after finding out yesterday that running 2.25 miles on a questionable stomach turns your intestinal contents into rancid pancake batter. At least I got some exercise in.... but when I rose this morning, getting jostled on the bike was NOT a good idea. Yikes.
Anyhow, yeah - the first mention of this new fitness program was muttered Saturday night to Noah, who mentioned "wait...you hate running.." Correct.

An unlike some candidates and Secretaries of Treasury, I'll own it:

Yeah, lofty goals, and then realization. I'm certainly NOT doing anything like that this time.
NO goals for the sake of setting goals. This time, the "goal" is really the same - lose 20 lbs., and trim up the midsection. According to everyone I've talked to, and most things I've read, running is a good way to do it. It's very efficient. By design, the human body will begin to change itself to support whatever activity you happen to be doing. When I was fat and complacent and sedentary, my body wasn't designed for anything, really. When I lost the weight the first time and started cycling, it was like a clean slate - before long my lung capacity increased, my legs took shape and got stronger, etc. But, cycling does very little for the midsection. Running, on the other hand, while also building your legs, tends to use more of your core. There is stability, balance, coordination, pushing off the ground, landing, etc. - all things that the lower impact of the cycling doesn't do. My sides already hurt, my oblique muscles, my abs. It will work, it's proven. I just have to stick with it: sticking with it requires patience, MODERATION, and mental awareness, focus on my goal - running is just a tool to get there. Along with it will play diet, and continued cycling for cardio and mainteance. But, after several months of commutes and 200Ks, my weight is stable. I need to shake things up. I can ride a 200K and not have my heart-rate climb much. It's just not enough anymore! Keeping with running long enough to see results requires, again, moderation. No 10K's, no half-marathons, nothing like that: I can't afford to build up a tolerance for running that will cause IT to lose it's effectiveness. I have to use it, hang it up, and maintain the new midsection and weight, once I get there.
So, that's the latest --- I'm anxious to get on the scale tomorrow and see if the last two weeks have yielded anything yet.

As for commuting, back on it tomorrow, assuming my stomach comes back online.
Whatever I ate, and then ran into a slurry, isn't playing very nice.

October 29, 2008

R-12 gets real...

R-12 gets real....this weekend looks nearly perfect for a 200k...but, of course, I've got too much happening to get it knocked out on November One. That would be cool, but it jsut ain't gonna happen. But, MAN.... hard to complain, even though there will be a lot going on I will still probably have time to get outside for a little bit and enjoy a forecast high in the 70s!

Bad weather coming in next week, probably around Tuesday - but it looks like it's only rain.
Still, he-eere we go! Time to earn it.
Heck, I might just have to pull an "October" and take a day off during the week and get it knocked out. The typical Kansas weird weather continues --- right now it's shorts and short-sleeves weather outside again, where only 24 hours ago I was answering emails about frozen brakes and fogging glasses. More of the same for the rest of the week, the weekend, and probably until mid-week next. Wow. Of course, it ISN'T November for a few days --- I'm anxious.... Halloween hasn't even passed yet, and I'm chomping at the bit to get November's requirement checked off! Look at me, gettin' all excited! Whooo!

More to come....

Apparently, for now, it's fall again... I'm gonna go ride without any heavy winter stuff on for a while!

October 28, 2008

Wher'd Fall go?

I first need to mention that I had an absolute BLAST at the Dark Side Ride on Saturday night.  It was a rare treat, got about ten cyclists and it was an awesome adventure in the darkness.  Got home about 1:10 AM, and when I woke up (entirely too early, I might add) the next day, I knew how perfectly we had this one timed.  It's almost like I knew what I was doing.  I rode to stiff north winds and steadily dropping temps on Sunday morning - we probably truely caught one of the last nice, calm, clear evenings of October, maybe of fall altogether.  
I want to thank everyone that came out -- sorry I didn't post any updates on it --- it was a crazy, nutty, busy Sunday...and Monday for that matter. 

Speaking of fall, and where did it go... yikes.  Monday morning dawned briskly cold, about 32.7ºF to be precise.  The coldest of the fall so far, and with typical Kansas manic-depressive will.  CLICK, it's cold.  The NW wind made things miserable in the afternoon Monday, turning me into a complete snot dispenser.  This morning, Tuesday, a full-on freeze.  26ºF when I left!  But, you know -- I think I'm acclimating pretty quickly this year.  When I emerged from the garage, it really wasn't all that bad...yeah, it was cold, but there was a sensation in the air that really felt pretty darn good.  I was well dressed, but not too much, and the wind wasn't bad.  There is something affirming about it - with headlight beaming into the cold haze, the grass across the way lit up with a silvery frosty glow and my breath cast an eerie fog around my head.  I'd kinda forgotten how much I enjoy this kind of riding, contrasted to last year's attitude about late fall/early winter riding:  I hated it, don't remember anything good about it.  This time around, so far, I am feeling pretty charged up.  My effort up the first couple hills is rewarded with a nice warm rush from my insides, and my water bottle still has a touch of warmth left in the morning coffee - there is even that first hint of crust on my beard, icy remnants of my labored breath blowing back into my face as I propell myself towards work.  I'm further encouraged this morning by the emails from folks that are trying to solve problems with their bikes and clothing and eyewear in these colder conditions.... an indication that they are having a good time, too, and not looking to hang things up just yet.  I like that... I think too many cyclists hang up the bikes too early in the fall.. there is SO much good riding to be had, and it's very rewarding -- even if you only do it ONCE, riding when it's this cold you get a pretty big boost of accomplishment, survival, pride --- I'm smiling a lot today, I'm more upbeat - I can feel it.  I've got my plastic halloween pumpkin with flickering LED light inside zip-tied to the rack, laughing with glee all the way to work!  This afternoon on the way home, more to the acclimation point, it's clear there are more challenges than just the cold to deal with.  Dressing and packing for a near 40º temprature swing is a task.  I end up riding home gloveless in the 52º heatwave, compared to the morning.  I have my head-cover off by mile five, and my wind vest unzipped by mile six.  I'm thinking of losing the arm-warmers by mile eight, but the shadows are getting longer so I leave them on.  But MAN, seriously... only a month ago, 52 would have been almost unbearable.... and tomorrow's forecast for 32 in the morning, and 65 in the afternoon.  Dang.  More on that later.... time for sleep.... 

October 22, 2008

Rain, rain - wash me clean

The bike is clean now, thanks to a HEAVY, heavy rain on the commute home this afternoon. Complete with whipping SE wind and a steady drop in temperatures, well - this is a pretty good indication how fall and winter are gonna go. It's gonna be one heckuva ride. I haven't been this cold and wet in a while - even with the rain jacket, I was wanting more on my knees, my feet, my head. Still, it was tolerable, and I wasn't over-heated that's for sure. Not shivering, either. Nearly perfect - just a touch uncomfortable, which isn't bad on the bike every once in a while. The creeks were WAY up, and so I stuck to the roads for the majority of the ride home, but there are a few turns I don't prefer in the afternoon, so the route was something of a hybrid. I jumped onto the trail on the "highlands", which is close to Deanna Rose Farmstead - here, getting up to the golf course and into the hills, the creek is out of reach -- but it's all downhill from there. Beyond the point where turning around or finding another route was practical, I started to notice the rushing sound directly to my south. It was still within its banks - but a couple more hours of this rain, and the trail would be under water for sure. Many of the low spots close to the banks were, which made for some VERY wet wool socks. Still, that's why I like wool -- a little sting of cold, icy water - and then a mild warmness takes over. But, the farther west I rode, the more water logged things became - eventually finding my exit path was flooded -- BIG TIME flooded. Standing by the side of the trail were some teenagers tossing fallen hedge apples into the raging current, laughing with delight as they disappeared down river in a flash. I remember the simple stuff like that, and I smile to myself. The water was impressive, too. Later on, I encounter two turkeys retreating from the waters that had risen and probably taken over their .... nest? hideout? Gosh, come to think of it, I don't know where turkeys roost for the night.... something to research, I suppose. Wherever they were comfortable was underwater, and so they were milling about in the grasses on the uphill side of the trail, looking at me rather curiously as I passed. A couple of deer also were in repose, hiding under a tree and crouching while the rain fell around them - seemingly uninterested in my passage for once, perhaps getting used to seeing me here nearly every day, and I no longer pose a threat? Skitish animals, but pretty calm today in the dreary conditions.

Back out onto the roads, I am starting to enjoy the fruits of summer's labor --- you see, one thing I've grown accustomed to as a cyclist in suburbia; cycling's busiest season, the summertime, seems to also bring about the most anger in drivers. It has to be that certain driver, someone ticked off, wronged somehow by a cyclist - or just had a bad day - and we cyclists happen to be there. We get the squeeze, the honk, the discourteous behavior at four-way stops, whatever the case -- and, sadly, more than likely caused by a poor example set by a decidedly summertime cyclist: you know the type, unfortunately: Joe or Jill Expensive-Bike, running the lights, riding five abreast, whatever. Cut to days like this: okay, I have had worse, but this afternoon was downright miserable for probably 95% of cyclists out there. This is it - they hang up the bikes, generally. Commuters, we're still out there -- and I don't know what it is. If anything, visibility alone should make me harder to see; but today I got more room, more courtesy, more of those semi-feeling-sorry-for looks like, "dang, this guy isn't kidding, is he?" Nope. I'm riding home. Whether it's a head shaken in disbelief or a nod of approval for being "green" when it's less than conveinient, I like being a commuter this time of year. It feels more worthwhile than normal, somehow, even if I am soaked to the bone and dreaming of a hot shower, some bourbon, and a hot fireplace. On that note..... g'night....

October 20, 2008

R-12, Pt.9 -- Never let 'em tell ya Kansas is flat

REPOSTED to correct font -- wow, don't know how that happened!

Success! 133 miles, a paltry 14.8 MPH average - but I'm flippin' TIRED, fighting off the last of a chest cold, and completely out of practice on the hills. This was my first run at the WMGM route that I'd designed earlier in the year - and part of the challenge of designing a route from the car is that you have to remember that you're eventually going to have to RIDE it. Yowza. Some of these hills, some of these roads - I don't know what I was thinking. But, at the same time, it's tasty - not too easy, not impossible - but one to allow extra time for. Still, I finished with hours to spare - but MAN, I'm gonna feel this one tomorrow.

(the next day)

I tell ya, I'm beat. While my legs are working just fine -- maybe a little tenderness on the stairs today -- and I was probably in good shape to ride to work today, I skipped it. The stuff I hocked up this AM was indication enough that I probably shouldn't be riding in the coming rain. The cold, fall rain that would likely just make things worse. Of course, I'll probably be going nuts and will still ride anyways tomorrow. HAHA!
((update - I'm bummed, because it didn't start raining until I was at home, indoors, and wondering why I didn't ride today.))

The WMG Memorial permanent is a great route, a great ride -- but it's not easy. I wish I had some sort of altimeter to find out exactly how much climbing is involved here. It sure felt like a lot, and steep. I'll work on plugging the route into an on-line program I know that will spit out some numbers. That'd be interesting.

I'm WAY out of practice on the hills. The Border Partol route has its moments, but it's nothing like this - and there are more gentle rollers and flats to keep the legs fresh, but not bored on the Border Patrol. The WMGM route in some places requires nearly constant attention because of the grade. There is little time to get bored, and when there isn't breath-taking scenery to take in, there are hills. Never a dull moment. I hadn't ridden the northern section of this ride since 2006, and I had forgotten the majesty of eastern Leavenworth county - it's like a whole other country, ANYwhere but Kansas. Contrast that to, on the same route, the industrial byway of K-32, the hectic river crossing on K-7, and the sprawling suburban traffic on KC Road and Renner Blvd in the afternoons - you get a taste of everything. It's something of a tour of Kansas highways that the interstates made us all forget; travelling near K-10, on K-7, K-5, K-32, K-92, and Missouri 45, and SR JJ into Weston. You cross the Kansas River twice, the Missouri twice, and dance with the railroads on more than a few occasions. There are magnificent vistas, a TON of history, historic Leavenworth, Edwardsville, Bonner Springs, old KCK, ghost towns like Holliday, KS., the old Monticello district just west of Lenexa, Wolcott, an old racetrack, The Leavenworth National Cemetery, Lansing and the Federal Pen., the Eisenhower VA Hospital, and more.

Read about it --there is a lot of history in Kansas' first city, one of the first western territory forts. Riding down these streets, many still brick-lined - it's hard not to think backwards in time. I owe a lot of credit to "Andy", who created the northern part, dubbed Andy's Weston Ride back in the day -- now George's Weston ride since Andy moved away. Still, there are enough differences to make it unique, and of course the extra mileage back to Olathe.

I couldn't have planned this ride better if I'd tried.
The morning was cool, and there was nearly no wind ... the small breeze that was there was from the south! An unexpected treat, I had just a touch of a tailwind for the entire first part of the ride! There was little enjoying it, unfortunately, due to a nagging chest cold that seemed to hold me back a couple percent, and some lingering digestive issues. Later, in Weston, I'd exit the Weston Cafe to a brisk north wind blowing leaves, and me, far to the south. Awesome, rare - the double tailwind ride!

The digestive thing seems to be a theme of late, unfortunately - and the Perpetuem isn't helping. I'm not sure what it is about this stuff. While I haven't blown it all over the inside of a porta-john like I did back in 2003 on the MS-150, I still have a touch of distress whenever I drink it. I tried tapering back the serving size, to a little less than they recommend on the side panel - but still, it feels like its sitting like a rock in my lower intestines. Sustained Energy doesn't seem to do that, by contrast. Perpetuem seemed to solve the issue of having to take along extra electrolytes, which I was getting from HEED mixed with SE previously -- but I don't think the benefits are outweighing the issues in this case. I was gonna give it one small container, to see if I would have better results, but now that the container is empty it's back to the ole' tried and true. While it did supply me with needed energy, it just wasn't giving me the same kind of comfort as Sustained Energy has in the past. Heck, I may just hit Carboplex again, and eat more real food at the controls for protein like I ended up doing today anyways. At Weston I had a terrific plate of hashbrowns with veggies, two slices of toast with jelly, and some good coffee - and after that I felt really good. Unlike in 2006 when I did this ride and ate WAY too much, this time I tempered my intake and enjoyed a good, cozy full feeling instead of the food coma. This resulted in me leaving the restaurant with a spring in my step, instead of wanting to take a nap - and the hilly trek back out to MO-45 from Weston was pretty good this time! I had plenty of push, a good feeling in my legs and gut, and a smile on my face. Instead of Perpetuem in the bottles for the leg back from Weston to KCK, I just went with straight water --- the hearty breakfast would get me there.

It was one of the first times I had ridden on JUST food, as opposed to some sort of energy cocktail - and I felt pretty darn good. Sometimes, I think my own nervousness gets the best of me. (doy, ya think?!) Being a vegetarian for over a decade, my system won't tolerate as wide a range as the open road sometimes offers. It's hard to stumble into a 24-hour diner and expect to find something on the menu that will sit well, much less get me 10, 20, 30 miles farther down the road. I have to be careful. That lifestyle started before I became a cyclist, and so when I started riding it was pretty much Gatorade, Clif Bars, Cytomax, then Hammer Nutrition - and that's been about it. While others have pedalled away without plastic baggies and gels filling their pockets, just aiming for the next McDonalds, I've had to measure, scoop, and bag my way thru brevet after brevet. It's been interesting. Sure, there are fig netwons, crackers, pretzels, chips, nuts, fruit, Casey's cheese potato breakfast bites -- but sometimes you just want to sit down and have a MEAL. This trip to Weston was AWESOME from that standpoint -- for the first time EVER since throwing a leg over a bike (for something longer than a century), I was sitting down - mid-ride - and eating a solid meal. A chair, a hot plate of food, and a waitress bringing me coffee. This is nice! It makes the hills more tolerable, and makes this route a real winner.

I ran on straight water and the stored food from my meal in Weston, and it got me MOST of the way back. About 31 miles to be exact, before I started feeling empty, weird, semi-bonkish... I can feel it coming, usually in time to react. Unfortunately, between nowhere KCK and the QuikTrip on Parallel Pkwy... well, maybe having a few gels in the pocket aren't a bad idea. I played it well, however, as I was still carrying enough Perpetuem to make the rest of the journey, so I stopped and emptied about a scoops-worth into the rest of one of the water bottles and downed it. That oughta hold me over, and it did - before long, the QuikTrip was in sight, and JUST in time, as the bonky feeling was sneaking back in. Time for more food!!!

Let's be real here - we're only talking about a few miles between where I had the first bonk feeling and the QT itself, but I don't want to actually bonk on the road -- takes too long to work back from it, with the clock ticking. Let's also mention this: While I want deseprately to GROW the sport of randonneuring and the riding of Permanents in the KC area, I have to be honest about this route. I like a challenge, and I didn't hold much back on this route. WHERE I started getting bonky was inside Wyandotte County Park, and it's not exactly flat in there. Nor is 91st street coming back south out of the park, nor is Georgia Avenue, nor is 83rd Street. I tell ya what... if you feel the bonk here... EAT NOW. Steep? Hilly? Whatever do you mean? he,he. At that moment I was cursing myself for designing such a challenging section -- but hey, it's character building. I won't talk up the hills too much - it's all relative. I didn't have to walk up any of them.... but I REALLY wanted to. If Johnson Drive is the grandchild, then the Georgia Avenue hills are the grandparents. The "I lived thru the dust bowl and the Great Depression and two world wars... whatcha got?" grandparents. These grandparents don't like whiners. Mount up. I'm constantly on a quest to find the DUMBest hills in the metro and turn them into a route, somehow... I've got to design a perm that goes thru Shawnee Mission Park someday, using the Ogg Road entrance. MUAAHAHAHAA. Maybe this is why I'm always riding these things solo?

Back at the QuikTrip, card signed, melage of sugar, cheese, bread and hydration purchased, I proceeded to stuff my face for the last 33 miles of the day. Now, even with the tailwind, I'd have to march my way back south in stages. Stage one was just getting back to K-32... 86th Street, yeah, the theme continues. Not exactly flat. K-32 more than makes up for that: dead flat. But, plenty of distratcions along the way. Riding up the entrance ramp to K-7 to get across teh Kansas River just feels WEIRD, even though it's perfectly legal on a bicycle - there is this nagging feeling like "I really should be merging a LOT faster than this!!!" - but there is a great shoulder, and a great view of the river. After that mini-stage, there is 43rd Street which turns into Theden Road. Like another planet again, there isn't much back here. Cool. Then there is Holiday Drive, and finally Renner. If you've ridden the Tour De Shanwee before, you know this hill on Renner. It's a really fast and fun downhill that tees at Holiday Drive... well, now, you have to go back up. They don't make you do THAT on the TdS, do they? There's a reason. Wow. Legs feeling like Jello, the rest of the ride seems really easy after this one, and then before you know it you are back in Olathe.

Making it home finally, I am relieved to just hang up the bike, shower and collapse. Ugh..... a great day for a ride, and great conditions -- but if there had been a headwind to contend with....holy.... I'm tired.

There's number nine! Three more to go.... and in the toughest months Kansas can dish up. They are already talking about snow flurries this WEEK here, so November, no doubt, will be a challenge - regardless of route.

That's the midwest life.... never a dull moment!

October 17, 2008

The SnowBeast roars to life!

...and that gives me time to get the SnowBeast up and running. 
I think I should quit qhile I'm ahead, honestly -- this will be a good bus-stop getter, but not much else.  I've got it fixed up, and it works ---- but the chain tension leaves a little to be desired.  Man, vertical dropouts SUCK.  Without investing in a half-link and/or a new chainring, this is as good as it's gonna get -- and it's got about, oh... maybe an inch and a 1/4 of slop in it... BARELY enough for me to, if I REALLY try, get the chain to come off the front chainring.  Would this ever happen during real riding... I really don't think so.  But, it's just not as confidence inspiring as with track-ends where you can just yank everything taut and slam the track-nuts home.  I wanted to be able to bounce a quarter off the chain, but instead its got a little sag to it.  I test rode it, still brakeless, and it really works fine, even during a trackstand the slop isn't too evident.  I even whipped out the Dremel and some aggressive metal working bits, and milled some of the dropout surface out to allow the axle to come backwards just a titch more, and it helped -- but that metal is pretty tough stuff.  Trying to file down investment cast steel ain't easy - and for a beater, that's about all the elbow grease I think I want to put into her.  After all, as I'm working the steel, the vibrations are producing a LOT of "rust-dust" from the chainstay vent holes.  I mean, a LOT.  I wonder if this thing will even make it through ONE winter, seriously.  More salt and moisture, man I don't know how much metal is left in there.  It's a real shame, because it feels FAN-tastic on the road.  I'm also pretty darn happy with my rear wheel rebuild -- my self-confidence has improved with regards to wheel-building, as its nice and true after its maiden voyage and some light pounding.  But, I have a feeling I'll be saving up some cash next season.  Fixed gear on the road is fun, the Steamroller I used to have -- well, I do miss her.  But, this really short gear, the knobbies, the way it responds to input, the way the short gear doesn't really require brakes - but is only good for about 12 MPH at normal cruising RPM....I'm beginning to see a strong notion for some off-road fixxie activity.  A Surly 1x1 sounds REAL nice right about now.  With all the rust evidence, and the hoaky dropouts - well, I'll ride her hard this winter, and then start shopping for a replacement in the spring - something new, that I can apply good coatings of Frame Saver to, something to put some decent parts onto.  Heck, for what I'll be doing, I can just swap everything off this bike and onto the new frame, with the exception of a pre-built 135mm Surly-hubbed wheel, that is.  Tasty.  
For now, this Dude is ready for some winter bus-stop runs.  Pub runs, short errands.  Some Shawnee Mission Park single-track jaunts...  Hmmmmm.....

October 15, 2008

Been a couple days

Might give you an idea how busy work and life has been in general lately -- been hard to get to the keyboard for anything fun or cycling related. Ugh. Such is life....
I've been busy in the garage, too, per the previous post aboutthe Peugeot, which has been a fun project of discovery and knowledge-gathering on all things French... having some of my lust for Phil Wood displaced by new lust for Maxicar, finding out the correct pronunciations for Mafac and Mavic, which surprised me -- (FYI, there is no incorrect or correct way to pronounce either: while most would lean towards the French-sound of "mah-VEEK" or "mA-fack", the truth is that both of those French bicycle part company names are acronyms. I did not know that. Mavic = Manufacture d'Articles Velocipediques Idoux et Chanel. Mafac = Manufacture Auvergnoise de Freins et Accessoires pour Cycles.) So, no more worries about sounding like a linguistically challenged Francophobic baffoon at the bike store when asking about that new wheelset. You can call em "MAY-vick" or whatever you like. Anyways, I digress.... I've learned a lot this week, just researching stuff about this bike - and that's kept me busy enough not to blog. So, I guess I HAVE been having fun at the keyboard after all!

riding has been good, and the challenges of October have been manageable so far. There has been rain on two occasions this week - a reallly chilly and misty rain on Monday night, and more rainy conditions both yesterday and today - but I have stayed largely dry, managing to get to work inbetween downpours. The smells, the sloppy trails covered with wet leaves, the headlight staying on a lot longer and that chill under the collar - it's starting to change around here pretty quick. I've actually decided to enjoy my previous years wool purchases instead of leaving them to ferment inside plastic bags until that special weekend ride comes up, or that special brevet. They are quite capable commuter clothes, too, and in this day an age I can't have anything sitting in the shelf not earning back the money I spent on it. Echoing Noah's sentiments about rainy weather, I've jumped into the camp that anything above 45 degrees is pretty much a sweaty death-sentence with regards to wearing a rain jacket. Even with my trusty Rain-Shield from O2, it's just too darn hot inside sometimes unless it's just pouring rain. Wool and nothing else covering it works perfectly, so that will likely be the new rule for dressing. Even in this cooler weather, like happens every year, I've forgotten how I dressed the year before and have been arriving at work just as sweaty as if it were still summertime.

This morning was no exception - but the nice thing about rain jackets is the ability to remove them enroute. Especially when stopped dead by a raging flooded creek. Yeah, I had to back-track this morning after taking a chance that the rain overnight and into the morning hadn't been all that heavy... but at the bottom of the first hill near the creek was a frothing torrent of water, moving quite fast. Not even worth trying...easily rushing along at 20 MPH, and would have made short work of me and my bike, easily two feet deep. Water is heavy, and I'm no hero. Luckily, there is a bridge about a mile west of there, so I just reversed course and re-routed. The rest of the trail was in pretty good shape.

Have seen some interesting birds lately, too -- most interestingly and recently a turkey, trotting along the trail in front of me before darting into the trees near the water. The number of other people on the trail has plummetted, much like the Dow Insustrial of late. I've spent much of this week utterly alone with the trail to myself -- which is kinda nice, but also kinda lonely. After a summer of exchanging waves and on-your-lefts with a lot of regulars, almost regularly enough to use them as landmarks in some cases, it's kinda stark - just me and the squirrels. Damn rodents...cute, sure....but freaking skittish as they get ready for winter. Apparently, they have no fear of me that outweighs their fear of starvation - they are taking more risks. The W'bird knows what I'm on about here. I'm all about nature, but c'mon... if you're gonna run to the left, just go with it. Don't change your mind when I'm six inches from your tail. Tree rats... get off my trail.

Today is day-one of the ole diet. It's time to get on the boat, and stay on it until Spring. Yeah, I know the new batch of winter lager will probably be out soon, and there are still a lot of pumpkin beers to try out - but I've got to put a foot down for myself at some point. My desires and temptations have to take a back seat. The winter 200Ks that lie ahead for my R-12 are going to be hard enough --- let's make it a little easier and drop some freaking poundage already.

In other news, I've got two more of the parts needed to get Hippo II up and running, the new snow-beast. The cog and lockring are on the way. After that, all that's needed is a decent front brake -- rather, one that will actually WORK on these backwards canti-mounts.
Winter riding in style is one step closer to reality... before long, when the snow hits, I'll be rockin' the messenger bag on the bus, with the snowbeast on the front of it. Roll on.

More later.... back to work...

October 13, 2008

Of things French

How do I appreciate thee?  Let me count the ways...

Mafac, Stronglight, Rigida, Normandy, Simplex, Atax, Peugeot, Ideale, Christophe, Segis, Lyotard, Cibie, Velox.  

In fact, the only things on this bike that aren't French are the Swiss-made rear rack from Pletshcer and the front wheel mechanical odometer from Joseph Lucas, Ltd in England.  The tires; I can only guess, unfortunately, as the sidewalls are dried and rotted to the cords leaving no trace of the label on either side - clinchers, but no idea on the make.  But, I'll bet they're French.  This is the first time I've been in the midst of so much bicycle that ISN'T American.  My father's old Schwinn, the polar opposite, entirely made in the States.  The Trek 450, the frame is American made, with American tubing - but everything else on it is from somewhere else, mostly Japan save for the saddle and seatpost.  The Trek 900, same deal there.  The Kogswell is American at the lugs - most of the other work being done overseas, and the running gear a hodge podge of a lot of countries efforts.  It makes me long for the old Bianchi Reparto Corse that I once had, and that I would also find a full set of Campy - because aside from the French, the Italians hold a lot of credit for bikes from the golden age of lightweight bicycles.  Yeah, regret and hindsight are very pure and always twenty-twenty.  For now, however, I get to play with something French, something classic.  Not a hopeful garage-sale find where closer inspection reveals that everything was made in Taiwan or Malaysia.  This one is pure. 

What am I talking about?

I currently have in my posession a 1974 Peugeot PR-10, an absolute "barn-find".  Unfortunately, I don't get to keep her when I'm done.  I've been commisioned to restore her, though, which is privledge enough and makes me proud that I have garnered a certain reputation for knowledge of bicycle antiquity and it's associated appreciaton and care.  In finished condition, however, this is a bike that I'm sure would feel fantastic on a brevet.  Taking part in a French-established tradition on a French bicycle?  Where's my beret and baguette sac?  Heck, yeah -- wine, cheese, and this freakin' bike... I'd be happy as a clam.  I'll I'd ask is a cork-stopped metal bottle to hold some port while I ride.  Maybe a cigarette.  

My uncle has decided that this old bike is outdated, and doesn't quite fit him the way it did when he was in his late 20's.  Granted, with the shorter stem there isn't a whole lot of adjustment available, and it is more of a low racer design.  He's looking towards a hybrid of sorts, and so has decided to sell this gem.  There is a story with this bike, as there are with most good finds - he was riding a bike across most of Europe at the time, and was struck by a car.  Thankfully he was not injured terribly, but the bike he was riding at the time was destroyed.  The insurance company stepped in, and after some time gave him clearance to get a new bike which they would cover the costs of.  In Holland at the time, he found a bicycle dealer and picked out this Peugeot.  The tube-sticker from the shop is still affixed and legible, but my Dutch is a little rusty.  SO, not only is this a complete Peugeot, it's also a Euro Peugeot, precisely as the Europeans would have enjoyed them. 

First, however, it needs the 34 years of grime removed from it and a going-over.  New tires, new brake and derailleur cables, the usual.  Most of the work involves simply delayering the bike from years of basement dust mixed with old chain lube and grease.  It's a tedious process, but rewarding -- under the filth is a perfectly preserved bicycle, like I say the hallowed barn-find.  A bike, purchased new, ridden, then left to sit.  No modifications, no haphazard teenage son or daughter use, never left in the rain.  The only wear it has is a couple of moves to new homes, and time.  

I've been careful to photo-document the progress so far, because it truly is all original and has a lot of bits on it that have become hard to find over the years.  The Simplex-logo cable clamps for the top tube, the clamp-on frame pump stops, the Simplex rear-dropout inserts, the Mafac cable hangers.  For me, this is the first time I've actually had my hands on some of these parts, after years of reading about them and seeing pictures.  It's remarkable, and nothing was talked up too much to my surprise.  The Mafac Racer brakes, for example -- everyone gets this notion that because of some of these things are old, they are going to be heavy and clunky.  That gives engineers and designers of the past very little credit.  Sure, there were price-point products back then, too, which were cheap and heavy - just like today's stuff.  You have Shimano Dura-Ace, and then you have no-name derailleurs with the gold Made in China sticker on them.  The 70's were no different -- but these Mafac brakes were certainly at the top of their pile.  They are surprisingly light; the action - even with years of dryness and goop on them - is strong and quick.  These will stop you.  No question.  Excellent brakes, unique design by today's standards.  I instantly think how cool a set of them would look on the Kogswell, but never for an instant is there a notion that they are somehow inferior to today's stuff.  Sure, a SRAM Red caliper might stop harder, and weigh next-to-nothing - but these Mafac's are classy.  Matching levers, too.  Interestingly, and perhaps a European thing, the cable routing for the brakes is reversed - the front brake being controlled by the right-hand lever.  Upon reassembly, I'll have to remember that!  

The simplex derailluers are the same way -- the front is a "Criterium" model, really cool, and instead of a multi-link pivot design like is common on most everything, this uses a really interesting pushrod piston-like design.  The throw of the cage is perfectly linear.  It's quite interesting, actually, and once I get the drivetrain back together I'll bet it shifts marvelously.  The weight, also, is surprisingly low for as much hardware is involved.  The clamp that holds it to the seat tube of the bike is really over-built, but somehow still elegant.  The same can be said for the rear derailleur, a Simplex "Prestige" model -- simple, elegant, effective.  There is even a touch of color, the red center caps over the radial tension spring.  Nice touch; not garrish.  

The crankset is made by Stronglight, model 49D, 53x45 teeth -- just gorgeous looking, ornate but very stiff and strong.  And, LIGHT.  They are very much a company that lives by their name:  Strong and Light.  Not anything like the Schwinn stuff of the same era, for sure.  Not discounting Schwinn, mind you, but the deeper I dig into this old Peugeot I am continuously shocked how LIGHT everything is.   The theme seems to be consistent:  everything on here is light enough to have raced on in the 70's, with the exception of some custom wheels, perhaps:  The only exception to the surprises lie in the wheels.  The rear five-speed Simplex freewheel is quite heavy - as most were.  A lot of metal there.  The Normandy hubs are very heavy, and the Rigida rims are very stout.  With the wheels removed, however, this bike really doesn't weigh that much for what's on it.  Top notch.  In fact, if the PX-10 was the pure racer, then this is the sport tourer -- light where you can, string where you need it -- the wheels, for example, are TRUE.  Yeah, they're heavy - but this was more of a "real world" bike for the age.  

I see why fixie riders love their Peugeots.  Every one of them looks like it could have been a track bike; when you strip everything off and put on a fixxie drivetrain, there is a very clean look left over.  Peugeot wasn't much on braze-ons.  The only thing brazed (or tacked) on the frame tubes is the cable stop for the rear derailleur on the driveside chainstay.  That's it.  The downtube shifters have their own clamp.  There is a Simplex cable stop assembly clamped on above the bottom bracket shell.  The cable clamps for the rear brake cable, the pump pegs, the water bottle cage.  Everything has a clamp associated with it.  There are no bottle bosses.  The dropouts do have fittings for fenders, however - but they are Simplex dropouts, not Peugeot.    

 A little more research reveals that this PR-10 was one notch down from the top-end PX-10 -- the PX-10 having lighter Wolber wheels, and a fork with Reynolds 5-3-1 blades.  The PR-10 still has a nice fork, but I'm not sure what it's made from.  The PR-10, otherwise, is all Reynolds 5-3-1 tubing with Nervex lugs, and has almost the same spec at the PX-10's that were ridden in Le Tour.  By way of comparison, the PX-10 weighed 9,9 kg., and the PR-10 weighed 10,8.  Not bad, but you can see the PX racing model weighed over two pounds less, and as far as I can tell it's all in the wheel-set and the fork.   

To be sure, I will be getting a test ride or two before she goes away.  

Start your bidding now, before I buy it for myself.  

October 9, 2008

Half Moon, Half Jupiter, Dark Trail, more IQ Fly notes.

Shrugging to the 'after-dark' rule of the local bike trails, I decided it would be a good venue to see how well my new headlight worked under the trees and on the twisty path. So, after the bike shop closed up - quick side note, after a good visit and hub-fixit session with DCG - I clocked out and headed down the road. Instead of heading straight down the road, I took the little trail offramp and hit the forest. Dang.... it's dark back here.
The light performed quite well, but as expected it isn't much of an off-road ready trail light, say for a 24-hour offroad race or something. It would have to be augmented with a spot beam or a helmet light - which is something I've gotten into the practice of using on over-night brevets anyways, so that's not a big deal. The beam is wide, lighting up the grassy areas on both sodes of the trail itself, and of course the entire trail itself. The only issue I ran into was the sharp vertical cut-offs on each side of the beam -- not a lot of spill light to see around the sharper corners of a trail, that's for sure - but I never found myself slamming on the brakes in a panic or riding off into the grass, either. Partly, I know the trail, partly, there is a half moon helping matters. Some of it was my eyes watering so badly from allergies. Ugh. Still, despite the conditions the light did well -- although it's clear the Lumotec IQ Fly is defintely a ROAD headlight. For anything on regular roads it's brilliant - and after a couple weeks of use I'm very satisfied. Okay, there is only ONE thing I would change about the design: IMHO, I think the light sensor should be on the bottom surface of the light, instead of the back. The reason I mention this, I have taken notice to how the auto-senso feature behaves in certain situations:

Situation one: It's a dawn-lit morning, and I leave the house as the morning sun is stil below the horizon. The headlight, and wired taillight, are on -- nice! This is where the light performed magically. The headlight stayed illuminated almost all the way to work, and didn't switch off until I actually saw the sun itself with my own eyes, as it was rising about 5 degrees above the horizon. Only then did the sensor determine there was enough light to power down. For morining commutes, this is spectacular. It should also be noted, something that still has me giggling with glee, that a bit further on that same ride when I'd pass underneath a road overpass the light would come back on. VERY cool.

Situation two: While riding home on a straight stretch of road, at night, with the light burning perfectly, taillight also, I have noticed in areas where my speed is within a few MPH of cars approaching from the rear that their upcoming headlight beams - in that moment of hesitation before they pass me - produce enough light shining directly into the sensor that it causes the light to power off, then back on, then off again, then on again -- as the light levels vary, and until the car safely passes. While the headlight's standlight is STILL bright enough to safely light the way, it makes me wonder what the taillight is doing at that moment, as its standlight is considerably dimmer -- does the sudden flashing confuse the driver, wondering if I'm about to make a move and therefore causing the extra hesitation? Hard to tell, but it's there. Has only happened a couple times, and it's usually on a certain section of road: when the road curves to the left slightly, enough to put a car approaching from the rear directly in my path if he were going straight. That puts the headlight beams essentially shining directly into the sensor.
This is where my notion of hiding the sensor under the light body might help -- but it occured to me an interesting variable: These lights are made in Germany, and largely expected to be used in the European market where cycists and cars' positions on the roads are reversed! So, the light sensor being on the left-hand side of the light body makes perfect sense, and nobody would be approaching you from behind on the left side. If I were riding in England, Japan, or anywhere else for that matter, this situation would never occur.

Siuation 3: A rainy, overcast day. I mount up for my ride home, and at first the light is on while I'm in the parking garage. As soon as I exit into the rain, however, the light switches off. this is not a HUGE deal, as there is a manual override switch - but I guess I was hoping the light had a moisture sensor as well, or some such nonsense. There was plenty of light to see by, and since the cloud deck was beginning to thin and the rain abating, the sensor was probably right on the money. Wearing a hi-vis yellow rain jacket and ankle bands, its not as if the red LED on the rear or the bright headlight up front would have made a difference, but I like being lit during inclement weather. And, as I have adopted, that's what a battery taillight is for. Not a REAL complaint, but notable -- if you want to make sure you are seen in traffic, make sure the Senso feature agrees with you.

That's all I have for now, kids -- stay tuned!

October 7, 2008

Bird, not bike

An interesting ride to work this morning as the coming sunrise was completely obscured by thick clouds and mist. Feeling acclimated already to the upper 50s, I even left the usual cycling cap at home today. As I climbed a hill on 143rd street, overhead a multi-engine prop plane was coming into JCExecutive to land, landing lights piercing the mist overhead...spooky and surreal. I arrived at work just before a big downpour, which was lucky. It was a cold rain. Later in the afternoon, the temperature had actually dropped from the morning start, so I donned the rain jacket for a little extra insulation - but it proved too much, so I shed it before the halfway mark. The birds were gathering along the trail, which I hadn't ridden since last week. As I rode past, they scattered. Later, near Deanna Rose, I was treated to a rare close encounter with another kind of bird entirely: standing IN the trail around a bend near the creek was a magnificent Great Blue Heron, maybe the same one that was caught stealing fish from my parents-in-law's pond. As I approached, it spread its wings - easily as wide as I am tall - and took to the air with a graceful whoosh. Brilliant creature, and rare to get such a close look. I made my way up the monster hill, now covered with wet leaves making things a little slippery. Today, not a soul on the trail to interrupt my mindplay about outdoors adventure and a journey through this midwestern forest. Back in suburbia, I make my way west into a 22mph headwind, and finally turn south on Brougham for the home stretch, where I encountered a curious happening: a long line of slow moving cars was approaching from the south, all following a small terrier whose exact breed I could not identify. The dog turned towards me, I slowed, and suddenly the leading vehicle slammed on its brakes - the driver, a fully uniformed policeman, lept onto the road attempting to reign in the little 8 lb. dog. Another vehicle swerved and tried to block the dogs retreat, and a third car had its occupant emerge with a trout net, trying to snag the little pup. The dog, of course, probably seeing everything in slow motion, was quick to act and easily dodged all the attempts, turning 180 degrees and running back south along Brougham. That's where I came in. As I got around the cluster of cars and people, I continued south and realized that I could MAYBE get within arms reach of this little canine and maybe help out the cause. This little dog was TRUCKIN', seriously. I'm putzing along at 16 MPH, and this dog looks totally comfortable, claws clicking against the pavement, always holding within a few feet of my front wheel. In retrospect, I might have been driving him instead of reeling him in - but I got the honest impression that he may not have known I was behind him. Fortunately, for me and the dog, there was no oncoming traffic at this stage - but eventually, as the dog blew the stop sign at 146th Street - and I stopped, looked, waved at a Jeep, and carried on, the dog turned suddenly east up across a sidewalk and up into a field behind an elementary school. Oh well.... maybe I should have grabbed the trout net from that guy back there....
Still, it was an entertaining ride home, and the sights and little dog adventure was a good distraction from the strong headwind and cooler temperatures. The shower at home felt good.

Song of the Week - Oct 7th

"Burn that Broken Bed" by Iron & Wine, and Calexico

...and after seeing this picture, I want that guy's beard.  

October 6, 2008

Louis and Clark Style

Welcome to Camp Dissappointment!
Aw, it ain't THAT bad, but I do have a rather Oregon-like ride between jobs to look forward to this aftrernoon. I'm nearly done reading a pretty good book recommended by El Dude South, Del Loco Rio Lobo Gigande, aka Ort. "Undaunted Courage" by Steven A. Ambrose, subtitled "Thomas Jefferson, Meriweather Lewis, and the Opening of the American West" -- a very good account of the Lewis & Clark expedition to the Pacific Ocean and back. It's good stuff, and I'm to the part where they are camped for the winter (actually, just about to leave) off the mouth of the Columbia River about March, 1806. Stories on constant rain (like eleven-days worth of rain!) and such make this afternoon's rainy foray seem piddly by comparison - especially since I'll be performing the much shorter trek over paved trails. But, "savages" abound with every SUV, Minivan and BMW I encounter. Personally, I'd rather - somedays - get charged by a grizzly.
Anyways ... that's about it from here.

Today, with new "rain flaps" fashioned from the cut-off sleeves of an old ripped rain jacket, I hope my belongings stored in the outside pockets of my waterproof panniers will stay dry. Yeah, for the first six months, the waterproofing on the zippers held up nicely - but it's since failed, requiring other means of defense. So, the jacket sleeves, made from flexible 2mil clear PVC, was cut into identical 10 inch by three inch strips, and those strips fastened to the panniers themselves with clear RTV silicone sealer. They are held in place nicely, don't flap while riding, and completely cover the surface of the pocket's openings on each bag. This should prove to be a good shield to entering water. Yeah, granted, I'm still putting my stuff in plastic baggies, just in case -- which ought to be enough to protect them, right? Correct -- the main thing I'm trying to prevent here is the pockets themselves actually filling up with water. Since the fabric of the bag that makes up the pockets is indeed waterproof, if any water gets through the zipper, it stays there. Last time it rained, I had three inches of water in each bag, and very little practical method bywhich to dry them out. I stuffed them with paper towels, and that mostly worked. Keeping water at bay will save a lot of paper, and hassle. To be clear, however, I'm still very impressed with these bags from Axiom, a Canadian company. The MAIN compartments are still, and probably always will be, completely bone dry after heavy rains. This is thanks to the roll-top closure design. There simply isn't any way for water to get in there. My only beef has been with the outside pockets on the top of each bag's main flap. Handy, but the zipper treatment would have been better if there had been a factory storm-flap designed into it, or maybe a snap closure that overlays the top of the pocket itself. In either case, since my phone and other valuables usually hang out in these outer pockets, protection is a must. A little ingenuity and some glue, voila. Carry on!

Aside from that, the rain is cold enough that I opted for the RainShield O2 jacket, instead of the short-sleeve summer rain vest. Also in tow, since I expected the rain and it's a two-job day, I packed dry shorts and a dry jersey for the final ride home in the evening - sparing myself the "fun" of pulling on cold, wet cycling gear for the ride home. I'm simply not at the bike store job long enough to have things dry out, so this time I've planned ahead. The leg homeward tonite is only 5 miles or so, so with any luck I can keep the pace light, rinse the extra clothes out and hang dry them for tomorrow AM's ride - which should still be rainy, per the forecast.

Hopefully, the creek isn't too high as I write this... not anxious to do a mid-commute re-route like a couple weeks back!

Stay tuned...

October 3, 2008

On the side of caution

It's never a good thing to roll the dice unless you absolutely have to... 
It's also a good thing that nobody was crazy enough to sign up for this one, so I'm not leaving anyone out in the wind either, but I'm cancelling the R-12 ride tomorrow for medical reasons.
I won't get into that here, but I just didn't think I should risk it: not bouncing back as well as I should have, and since it's digestive in nature it'd be best not to risk anything out on the open roads of Kansas, all alone in the dark. I'll wait until I feel 100% and reschedule - which, you know, means I'm rolling the dice in a different way at the same time:  I hope the weather holds because this weekend was going to be N I C E for a bike ride! I'm a little bummed, yeah, but it's better than having an issue on the ride that I can't get around.
So, stay tuned -- the R-12 will continue, just not this weekend -- I've got 28 days to squeeze it in!

October 2, 2008

Fall is here, so let's get it ON

It's finally official, in my mind - not so much by the calendar or the sun angle, but the first few mentions of the words "Canadian Air Mass" in the forecast jargon. It's fall, kids. This is your midwest kinda fall, too -- excellent colors are beginning to show, and there is a chill in the night air and a sense and a smell to things that would take the better part of a novel to describe. It's magical, crisp like a ripe apple - warm and comforting like a good cup of perfect-temperature coffee at sunrise - bracing, like steping out of a hot shower into a cold, empty locker room. The invigoration of moist and cold morning air rushing into my jacket as I slip silently down a hill on a dark country lane, the headrush of breathing in deep while climbing a hill and feeling the chest expand with cool, 40 degree air. The feel of the inside of a good pair of trusty wool gloves, a warm cap, good socks, and the snaping flap of a wind vest against your back. I LOVE Fall - defintely my favorite cycling season. Beer, food, coffee, apples, cider, fresh bread, hot oatmeal, maple syrup -- EVERYthing tastes better this time of year after a ride. Latest treat included a cold New Belgium Fat Tire after a hard, fast and cool commute home last week. Always in moderation, Tony Sinclair eat your heart out.
Moderation is the theme this fall and winter.

This is the time of year, also, where commutes, resolve, all things become a little bit harder. At least its that way for me, year over year...but this year I'm planning on maintaining a pretty consistent weblog (hey, that's what this is!) about the falling temps, the precip, and more notes from the road as I make my way towards another Spring. By this, I hope to keep myself motivated and hopefully drop some good tips and discoveries along the way that will help keep you and your commuting quest on-track. Yeah, I love summer, too - but let's face it: its almost too easy. Starting right about now, when the first shots of Canadian air come down, it starts to get real.  So far it's comfortable and nice - but with the mildness of the summer leaving clues about the coming winter, I'm betting on challenges with temparatures within the next 30 days. 

To that end, the winter beater project is coming along -- about $30 away from having it running.  As it sits right now it doesn't have a drivetrain, but I have the rear wheel rebuilt and found some dumpster tires that will work for the time being until I can get studs on it.  Nokians are in the future - as the spring and summer were also wet, it's a fair bet there will be more of the same, which means black ice and such.  I'll be ready with this new beater for sure, then, moreso than in years past.  I've elected not to put a rack on it, for now, as when the weather gets THAT bad I'll probably be using the bus for most of the trip:  that means messenger bag, which I still have hanging around, and that means no fussing with panniers while trying to get the bike onto the bus rack, and easy passage into and out of the bus with all my belongings safe on my back.  That's the plan.  

So, you'll probably start to see more, shorter entries here as this turns into a more daily/bi-weekly commute log instead of just epic tales of long brevets.  Oh, yeah --- the march to R-12 will still continue as well, so THOSE tales will probably start to be a lot more about struggle than easy summer spinning.  It ought to be good, and I'm not planning on backing down.  Picking weekends, that will be tough, but with only four to go, and a really nice one coming up this weekend with excellent early fall weather on tap and possibly the last time I'll see a tailwind on this particular route - well, the last three will be tough.  Bring it.  

That's it for now kids ... nothing spectacular to report -- time for bed.  

Thanks for reading!