March 30, 2009

Just checking in

Life has been absolutely nuts lately, and that's been getting in the way of simple things - like updating the blog.  It's also been getting in the way of riding.  I've been run-down, working too much, generally exhausted - but keeping my head up.  It will all pay off. 
There are some sacrifices, which is what life is about, and I'm going to miss out again this year on getting a full brevet series in - and I'm having to skip a month of long-distance altogether, it turns out.  I suppose if I was REALLY serious about R-12 #2, I wouldn't have run March all the way to the hilt - but it happened.  I missed an opportunity to ride earlier in the month, and then the weather closed in.  In the last 48 hours, the area was blanketed in snow and ice again!  Of course, it's nearly melted at this hour - but it ended up canceling the KC 200K twice, and it's rescheduled for APRIL 4th.  It's nice that it's been rescheduled, but the ride that was supposed to get my my March requirement has vaporized.  Yeah, I had a couple extra days to get it in this week -- but life at work has been, well, less than pleasant.  Still, the R-12 isn't putting bread on the table - work is, so I make my choices.  It's just that simple some times:  it may be a major mechanical, a flooded road, an injury, or nasty weather --- this time, it's work.  The R-12 is a hard medal to get.  The killer of it is, the mentally difficult Knob Noster 200K I rode last month is nothing more than a bonus 200K now... won't count, because I have to start over.  That didn't sit well - but I'll get over it.  I'll regroup, recharge myself a little and take it as a chance to stay rested.  The 300K is at the end of April, and I've got that date set.  I love the route, and I love the fact that it "should" be warmer.  It'll rain.  HA HA HA!!!  Part of me wants to figure out a way to ramp up a little and - even if it IS a bonus 200K - get a permanent between now and then.  The 70º temps have GOT to be around the corner.  That might do me some good.  Just get out there, and ride for a while.  Maybe I will just ride a route, and not even worry about the credit.... hmmmm..... perhaps "just" a century?  We'll see.  

I do need to get back into the commute habit -- I've been getting to work on time, but I must admit that, lately,  work hasn't exactly been the kind of environment that encourages me just bursting forth from under the covers each morning in glorious anticipation of the day's tasks ahead.  I've been smacking the snooze, delaying my departure - and that's put me into the car.  Ugh.  This compounds the "mood" issues even further.  I think I have been walking a dangerous line where I have been unable to ride as much as I probably NEED to, just to keep my head straight.  Not for fitness or anything like that - just for the mental relief it provides.  I can tell when I haven't ridden, because the stress just wells up - and that 's not fair to the folks around me, because I have a feeling THEY can tell, too.  Cycling is VERY therapeutic in these busy times, and I need to get my daily doses in.  

Burn out?  Perhaps.... perhaps I'm just run down from everything else, two jobs, etc.  I tell ya what, I don't like it - the run-down feeling.  It's not that so-called "good tired" I remember at the end of a long day between two jobs.  I need to start watching the moon cycle, and get to scheduling a night ride.... (psssst, watch your email).  

  It's a let-down starting over the R-12, but the silver-lining is I never really planned on continuing it in the first place.  I look forward to bigger goals, farther down the road:  My weight loss is progressing VERY well, to the point where I don't know what I'm going to do about work pants next week.  I know that my speed will start to improve simply from not having to shove the extra pounds up and down the hills.  That puts me on the track towards Tejas again.  Yes -- I'm not afraid to let a few cats out of the bag -- it's no secret, I want my revenge on that ride.  A lot could, and probably will, change between now and fall 2010, but for now I want to get that trophy, and make it third-times-the-charm.  
This is one of those times where I really miss the 12-hour venue, like Tinbutt used to be.  I need to find something like that, I think, see about breaking 200 miles.  Big dreams, big dreams.... 

Sometimes, it makes me smile just talking about it.... when I start writing this post, I was feeling pretty glum.  Now I wanna go ride.  
I highly recommend it.  

March 19, 2009

'Xactly what I needed

After a particularly hard and stressful day at the office, precisely what I needed was a night ride.  A couple guys from the shop, and (for me) about 40 miles of fun-fest.  
I was a little over-dressed - typical for a randonneur to look about 4 hours down the road, weather-wise - but layers DO come off, so I have a little back-pocket stuffage happening.  No biggie.  We headed out, first into the wind, and took a look at some roads that I hadn't ridden on in YEARS.  First on the menu was a little action at the new skate-park off of 135th.  THAT was interesting - I kinda watch from the sidelines, as those with FAR more mountain bike experience took their ROAD bikes onto the deep drops and such in the stake park for a couple minutes.  It was freakin' awesome to watch, seriously -- I should tried it, but on the Kogs?  Bah... a lot of those rules would be broken tonight.  Curb jumping, trail ghosting, parking lot mayhem - man, it was a blast, seriously.  Take the rule-book and toss it out the window.  I was seriously out-classed - which is exactly what I need to try and get some speed and fitness built back up:  someone to chase.  We traversed some roads from my old haunts, up in the Prairie Village area - hills!  Finally!  Lee Blvd again for the first time in years!  These are precisely the kinds of roads I need to be training on, honestly.  The long flat sections south of Olathe just don't get it done.  There are shallow rollers here and there, but nothing like up around 95th, 83rd, 75th streets headed north on Belinder, Lee Blvd, etc.  

My legs, after a long day, were feelin' it, for sure, but the group was kind enough not to completely obliterate me on this first outing.  It proves I have a lot of work left to go before I'm back to the level of fitness I used to enjoy, but it also shows I've made a lot of progress towards that goal.  I can definitely feel the 20-pounds that are gone when I climb.  It was easier to maintain pace on the hills and flats.  Hopefully, this will translate to a good performance coming up in a little more than a week at the first 200K brevet of the season.  Not an official goal to try and ride it faster - but might as well see what the differences are.  

After turning back southwest onto Tomahawk, coming within a block of my old house near Nall, it was nice to finally have a tailwind.  We didn't really hammer it out, but it became a pretty nice, relaxing ride - until, of course, the hills came down around Lamar.  MAN, I miss these stomping grounds.  I started thinking back to all the roads I'd ridden on back in here, all the times I took the kids out in the kiddie trailer when I was riding the old Univega single-speed - and wouldn't even think twice about the extra weight.  That thought instantly took me to the notion that, really, I'd been carrying around a kiddie-trailer's worth or weight around my middle, so what's the difference?  We rifled around the old mall, hit the trail alongside Metcalf, and disappeared again under the streets.  What a rush... although, it did make me realize that candle-power is sometimes royally important:  specifically on trails.  a good helmet light is a MUST.  My generator light was doing fine, if I was alone and if I slowed down.  My little helmet light, designed solely for reading cue sheets and reading reflective street-signs, wasn't quite enough to let it all hang out - but, you know, respectable for what it is.  For dark country two-lane, it's plenty.  Take it off-road and start twisting around, and well - you get the idea.  More exercises in finding out who the mountain-biker ISN'T on our ride!  Still, the helmet lights of my two companions were more than enough to ride by.  I think I was only providing "fill".

We finally made it back to our starting point after a short jaunt up Switzer and along 119th street - more excellent night-ride conditions:  very little traffic. 
A good climb up Nieman, and we're back in the 'hood.  I split off here and head home into the night.  An EXCELLENT ride.  
One of the coolest parts -- well, okay, the whole stinkin' ride was cool -- was soloing along Quivira in the pitch-black, and seeing the distant lightning from a cluster of thunderstorms that had set up shop about 30 miles to the south.  Stars overhead, and lightning in the distance -- magical.  I hit the driveway at, crud - I dunno:  late.  
Drank the rest of my water, had a little snack, and hit the sack - with soreness in my legs and a perfectly clear head.  


What a perfect night....  thanks, guys.  

March 16, 2009

Start the Season! The first KCUC Brevet is coming...

Mark your calendars, mileage-hogs:  
The first big test of the year, March 28th, the first of the KC Ultra-Cycling brevets!

On this year's 200K we journey from the American Motel in KCK, through Edwardsbille and Bonner Springs, Eudora, Wellsville and Ottawa, and back!
It's a great route, a great group, a great time.  

Visit to get more details and registration information.  

Come see what randonnuering is all about! 
200K = approximately 125 miles.
A great day on the bike!

(If you have any questions, feel free to email me )

March 13, 2009

Random stuffing and really cold toes

In an effort to curb a little of my frustrations this week, with regards to traffic and such --- gee, what a surprise?! --- I played around with my bike route this morning, got lost, and got really cold feet in a steady, cold, NE wind.  WHOOO!  I should learned this on the way home Tuesday afternoon, when a wicked west wind chilled my socked feet to the bone!   Perhaps its a factor of getting older and having my tolerances for things slip a little bit, or maybe everything else is so good, I just have to find something new to complain about.... maybe not:  okay, some things are complaints, other things are real:  when you can't feel your toes anymore because they are SO cold, it's not just a complaint... you need something other than socks and sandals when it's windy and in the 30's! Aw, well -- sometimes it's a good thing to know what it feels like to be cold on the bike.   It makes those warm days, those thick socks, that hot coffee, all the better.  This week has reminded me that sometimes dressing based on the temperature sometimes isn't quite enough, and headwinds make a big difference when it's cold, and my commute is just long enough for these things to become important.  Weird how I seem to learn these things just in time for the warmer breezes of spring to finally blow in, next week!

A couple of random pics:
After some fairly substantial rain-fall Monday and Tuesday night this week, my usual bike trail route is pretty well useless for a while.  The parks departments usually come in with Bobcats and clear mud from the low-water crossings, which is a blessing -- but I don't think they've gotten around to it this week, as I found out.  Crossing under Quivira, I had to put my sloppy-trail hat on PRETTY quick.... quicker than the guy that came here before me!  Staring me in the face as I came off the downhill that dives under the main road and right down to creek-level, I see a pair of dried-over mountain-bike tire tracks.... they head straight... then they separate as the rear wheel slides... there is a ridge of mud pushed up ahead of where he was sliding... and it keeps heading straight until I see a similar mud-ridge where the front tire must have been... then a big open section of exposed bike trail where the person's body must have come down, amid a scattering of handprints in the mud, and footprints everywhere!  This is all dried over, so I'm looking at it like some C.S.I. Bike Trail episode, watching the scene play in my mind like one of those ghost-image overlay scenes - where the agent is standing in the frame, and the events are playing out around him as he talks it out.  This is right about the time where I realized that, while I was staying upright in the still-wet section of 3"-deep mud that was covering the trail, I was slowing down... a lot...  shift, push, shift, push..... slidddddde, WHOOO!!  Morning.  Okay, foot down.  Squish....  My Fenders choked with mud now, brakes, all the usual places.... nice, thick, tire-stopping mud.  Okay, maybe it's too soon to get back on the trail.  I emerge, finger-clean the mud away from as much as I can, and then ride up to street-level to continue my way in.  The fun part:  after you accumulate this much mud, and then hit the streets again... as I'm motoring along, big hunks of mud are catapult above my head, off into the grass, up ahead of me -- fling, flong, pah-choooo!   I love that part... and, then for a few miles, every pavement joint is followed by a spray of smaller hunks of mud that were hanging on for life inside the fenders.... screeeeee.... all over the pavement as I putter along.   he,he,he... Makes me wonder on these trails sometimes if a Surly CrossCheck and bigger fender clearance is a good idea for a future commuter-steed.  That might be fun....some small 700c knobbies, just plow right thru that junk... whooo!

My right foot. This is after knocking most of it off. By the way... THAT'S why SPD cleats rule. Even after all that, I just step on the pedal, click... go. Mud don't matter.


Fake sausage from Morningstar Farms, hot coffee, Cheerios... I feel much better, and I can feel my toes again!

Other random-ness this week....and a few weeks ago that I forgot to post:

A cool, pinkish sunset out in front of job #2, as I prepare to head home:

A couple of Surly LHT's in front of one of my favorite (new) hardware stores:
You gotta love a store that calls itself "Nuts & Bolts" -- they were in there for the same reason *I* was... rack hardware. I can spend HOURS, and only $5.00 or $10.00 in a place like this... new stainless fender washers, fancier bottle cage bolts, wacky spacers I'll probably never need, aluminum rod for a random project, solutions for EVERYTHING... those Servalite boxes, it's like they were made for cyclists. At that moment, the ratio of cyclists to regular-joes-looking-for-bolts was pretty even. Rock on.

Nice set-ups: Ree-Lite battery-free safety flashers on the axles, SMV reflective triangles, bags, fenders. Set up for solid commuting, or a month out on the road. Sometimes my own policy of "mind-your-own-business" (read: social shyness) prevents me from getting the story. I shoulda asked, really. But, that day, I was in plain-clothes - they had ridden there. Shame on me, yeah, but it's harder to start a conversation when you're the one in cycling gear, and a regular guy comes up and starts asking you a buncha questions -- the best ice-breaker is sometimes the fact that both parties are obviously in cycling-wear. Anyways... sometimes a little mystery is good: I will forever have an image in my head of husband and wife wearing high-viz yellow, hunkered down in the aisle of Nuts & Bolts, comparing the bolt that broke with a bolt from the Servalite tray. that kind of self-sufficiency and inventiveness deserves be rewarded in these pages. It's the whole picture of the touring cyclist.

That's all I have for ya ---- enjoy the coming weekend! RIDE!

March 12, 2009

Dead Red... what does THAT mean?

SB 368, Dead Red for bicyclists & motorcyclists, passed Senate Transportation Committee Wed. & on Senate Consent Calendar...

That's only one of the latest headlines from MoBikeFed this week, courtesy Brent Hugh's latest email. 

But, it had me wondering... what IS "dead red", anyways? 

Here ya go:

Snippet from 3/27/2008 MoBikeFed post:
. "Dead red for bicycles".  Motorcyclists have been lobbying for this bill for years. This year MoBikeFed asked the motorcycle lobbying groups and the bill's sponsor to include bicycles in the provision as well.  The bill will allow motorcyclists or bicyclists who come to a traffic signal that will not change for them, to proceed through the signal, when safe, without any danger of receiving a traffic ticket.  The provision will also help put pressure on DOTs and public works departments to fix these traffic signals so that they properly recognize and activate for bicycles and motorcycles."

So, that basically means -- in Missouri -- if I'm commuting to work in the wee hours, and that pesky light won't change for me - I can go ahead and treat the intersection like a two-way stop. (if the bill passes)  CAREFULLY, of course.  And, I assume, after doing your required foot-down stop, and waiting for at least a little time to pass.  This should not take the place of common sense, and give cyclists license to determine if a light might not change for them.  Stop, look, wait, be safe!    That was originally from bill SB761, which now seems to be referred to as SB368.  In any case, the bill is moving forward, passing the Senate Transportation Committee on Wednesday, and currently on the Senate Consent Calendar.

Also included are items like allowing motorists to pass in a "no-pass" or double-yellow line zone, when coming upon a bicyclist (or other slow-moving-vehicle), when safe.  This will go a long way to help prevent cyclists from getting squeezed by motorists trying to pass on a hill - trying to find that magic zone between your bike, and the solid yellow line.  Whew! 

Just a couple steps closer to a better world.  I just hope the old thinking dies away, people start acting with responsibility and respect.
I got squeezed just the other morning on 127th street.  I mean, some people are just gonna be that way.  I was fine - but dang-it anyways.  DEEEEP breath....  
It's still better than driving.  It's still better than driving.  It's still better than driving.  
I still contend, however, that we all have a responsibility to ACT APPROPRIATELY on the roads, and keep up our side of the bargain.  There are many that are working tirelessly to get bills like this passed, introduced, etc.  Let's all make sure we're doing our part, and riding by example.  Be safe out there...  

March 9, 2009

A call to action:

I received this today from the League of American Bicyclists:  

Contact Your Governor
Tell your Governor to Build Bicycle and Pedestrian facilities with Economic Recovery Funding:

Congress set aside funding for the transportation enhancement program, which funds bicycle and pedestrian projects.  However, they also gave states a time limit. States must identify which projects they want to fund, and to obligate the funding to those projects.
If states do not do so, they will have to give back the money.
CALL or WRITE your Governor now to ensure that important bicycle and pedestrian projects get built, and the funding is not wasted.
On Monday, March 2, 2009, America Bikes sent each of the Governors a letter requesting they obligate their transportation enhancement funding in a timely manner.  
Now we need you to follow up:
CALL your Governor now to ensure that important bicycle and pedestrian projects get built, and the funding is not wasted.

March 8, 2009

Couldn't have said it better

Crowbar forwarded me a great article this morning -- it's worth your time to read it, and think AHEAD.
Kansas City - especially suburbia - is light-years behind the kind of city planning and forethought that a city the size and scope of NYC requires.
But, we are all bikers, we are all out there dealing with traffic and people and crosswalks.  
I tend to err on the side of NYC, being bigger, older, more populous, and the creation-center of what eventually becomes popular culture out here in the mid-west and beyond - that their drivers, law-makers, and critics are a touch more savvy that we are here.  That's not not say we are a bunch of cow-tipping morons that happen to ride bikes occasionally; but certainly our view-points and circumstances are different.  But, it's refreshing to see that is such an "advanced" culture as NYC, there are a lot of parallels.  A lot of the same problems, even now.
The big difference, however, is that they seem to be doing a lot more about it.  

Read on:

March 6, 2009

Two New Lists Added

Two new Google Groups have been created today - feel free to join up if either or both match your interest:

The KCUC List is for Bob Burn's brevets, and Spencer Klaassen's permanents, and will act as the official Kansas City Ultra-Cycling list for randonneuring in and around the KC-Area.

The Dark Side Rides list is for the "commuterDude-sponsored" night rides that a couple of us whackos try to put together during the warmer months!
If you like that kinda thing, feel free to join that one, as well!  

Both lists can be accessed via this webpage, framed over on the right-hand side.  The KCUC list box is in the Rando section, and the DSR list box is down closer to the bottom of the right hand items.  


By the way.... the first Dark Side Ride of 2009 is coming.... no dates yet, but stay tuned.  Join the list for more info!  

March 2, 2009

Sometimes stuff breaks.

Glad I wasn't riding.  Sometimes things break, right in your hands.  This time, I was lucky:  it happened in the garage.  

All I wanted to do was swap out the brake cables' inner wires.  After, geez - I dunno, certainly two years worth of riding almost - It was time to just put some fresh inner wires onto the bike, and get it ready for spring.  The kids are in bed, I've got a tall glass of ... okay, water. ...time to wrench a little.  

You know that trick, where - just like piano wire or guitar strings or anything else made like a cable, there is a little stretch that occurs.  There is a quick trick to get the stretch out of most cables on a bike, simply by running them, installing them like normal, and then giving the brake levers a good, hard squeeze.  This stretches the cable, now, as opposed to out on the road, and you'll notice that the brakes are a little looser than they were a second ago.  Simply back off the binder bolt, pull a little more cable through, and re-tighten.  Viola!  Most, if not all, of the cable stretch is done - and you won't notice your brakes getting looser over the next couple of rides, like you would had you skipped this step.  For derailleurs, simply install as usual, and - well, it's a little more complicated - but not much.  Anyways, let's focus on brakes:  because this is as far as I got tonight. 

I install the front brake cable by running it thru the brake lever, thru the cable housing, and it pops out the other end, where I then run it thru the brake binder bolt.  I take my fingers, squeeze the brake caliper together against the rim, and tighten the bolt.  Then, squeeze the lever.... 

Hmmm... that felt weird... LOT of stretch in that cable!  Dang...  Okay... next step is to pull the excess through... which I do... time for another squeeze to get the distance from pad to rim dialed in.  Wait a second... more stretch?  Raising an eyebrow to something new like this, I grab a permanent marker and make a little hash-mark on the cable, right below the brake binder bolt.  It almost feels like the cable wire is slipping past the binding on the caliper.  Crud.... that's not good... I reset the cable, make the mark, and give it another squeeze... MORE movement, the lever isn't reseting, and the little black hash-mark I made on the cable is in the same place.  OKAY... the caliper's binder bolt is good... UGH.  My attention turns to the brake lever, which is not retracting.  Inside the lever housing, I see the spiral of exposed brake cable housing innards, which has pulled through the back of the brake lever assembly, seperating itself from the vinyl outer jacket, which is still on the backside of the brake lever assembly!  HOLY.... Grrrrrrrrr......  I stiffen my bottom lip, and huff, like I do.  Well, that's how do I fix this?  After some investigation, I realize that FIXING it is not possible.  The tiny hole in the brake lever assembly through-which the inner wire is supposed to pass is now a LOT bigger.  All the plastic that was once there to stop the brake housing from moving when the cable is pulled is gone.  

Okay:  Cane Creek SCR-5 brake levers.  There is seldom else I got nearly as excited about as an upgrade on this bike a few years back.  SUPER comfy, ergo-designed, and solid.  Apparently solid.  Okay - never an issue until this very moment, I remember initially having reservations about the fact the brake lever body is made entirely of resin/plastic.  Not terribly hard material - but it never gave me a reason to second guess it, until now.  I mean, my upper body strength isn't like my leg strength:  it's not like I STOOD on the thing to tension the cables, and the squeezing required to DO so isn't any more vigourous than braking to a stop after a big downhill.  It flashes me back to all the hard braking done on countless hills over the last months, years... dang.  If this had happened on a ride, well, it'd be a potential ride-ender.  If the brake cable had pulled thru like that at the wrong time... wow.  I can't imagine.  I honestly can't imagine.  
Should there be a recall on this?  Should I tell someone?  (I'm kinda doing that now, aren't I?) Could I have done something differently?  Could I, should I have, installed a ferrule on the cable housing before putting it up inside the brake lever housing?  Well, I tried to replicate that, and it wouldn't have worked:  the brake lever assembly's hole for the cable simply isn't big enough.  The cable housing is designed to plug right up in there, bare - so the only thing stopping the cable, by design, is the plastic it's made from.

 Thinking back over the last few months, the front brake has acted - well... fadey.  Like something was giving.  I figured it was the pads, natural wear, the longer caliper arms of my "mid-reach" brakes.  It was so subtle, I really paid it no mind - but now it all makes sense.  Slowly, surely, that plastic was compressing, weakening.  Well, it is what it is.  I'll write a nice, polite letter to Cane Creek about it, for sure.  Seriously: a polite letter - I was an early adopter of this new brake lever when it came out, so I'm not sure if anyone else has come across this issue, and yelling about it won't accomplish anything.  Never does.  We're talking about a $25 brake lever pair here, so it's not a big dollar item:  but it should be safe, right?  Safe until... how long?  How many cycles?  I have another pair of these installed on the Trek 450 - and they feel a lot more solid... so this is something that clearly takes a few years of use to occur.  If you have these levers, check em, will ya?  

So, what should have been a quick, ten-minute cable refresh in the garage this evening turned into a full front-end swapout of parts.  Well, not "full", just a cockpit swapout.  Thankfully, there are some parts that I just refuse to take to the swap meets.  Stuff you either can't get anymore, or things I simply like to keep around.  One of those parts are the Shimano BR-600L aero brake levers that I was rockin' for a few years before buying the Cane Creek's.  These levers have been on the old Trek 720, the Bianchi, and the Kogswell's initial build-up, the Trek 900 Fixxie mtn bike, the Surly Steamroller, the Surly CrossCheck I had, and actually on one of Badgerland's bikes for a while until they ended up back in my shack again a few months ago:  lucky timing!

Mixed feelings, really:  I went to the Cane Creeks' to solve a specific problem:  comfort.  Sure, I did 200s, 300s, and 400K's on the Shimano levers before - no HUGE problems... but those Cane's were sure cozy.  The Shimano levers - aside from being paid-for, in the garage, and ready to go - are still good levers and, more importantly after this discovery, have a lever body made entirely of aluminum.  Good, machined, thick aluminum.  Weight?  Not that I care... but about the same, really.  I've got them installed now, but this has turned into (since the front brake cable housing is trashed now) an opportunity to refresh the rest of the cable housing.  It was probably time for that anyways, since this is the same cable housing that I put on this bike when I first built it up in April of 2006!  (Hey, kids:  don't follow my cable maintenance plan.)  Cassettes, chains, lube, tires:  dude, I'm on the schedule, tracking miles, etc.  But cables?  Bah... I don't know, it's quite possible this very cable housing came over from the Bianchi for all I know!!!  Use it until it just falls apart... not the BEST advice I can give ya.  Oh well.  At least it's not like I cracked a carbon crankset.  Ten or fifteen bucks, and I'll be back in business.  

Just stinks, because I really wanted to ride tomorrow AM.  UGH!!!
Hopefully I'll be back rollin' on Wednesday, with new cable housing, new inner wires.  Just in time for the spring brevet series, actually.  A blessing in disguise, perhaps... because, again, at least this didn't happen out on the road.  

Whew.... here's to "timing"...