August 17, 2014

Boredom stinks

Granted, I have plenty to occupy me - but, boredom when it comes to the bike.  I think this is what got me into trouble with the "fit phase" where I had problems.  Hide the tools... the dude is bored.

It's been an interesting 24-hours in the stable, all on the same bike - the Kogs.  Boredom first led me down a pathway which began with a dream of riding single-speed again, as I'd done successfully for several years about a decade ago.  Alas, the vertical dropouts on the Kogs presented obvious problems - but, after finding a photo online with a 'magic gear' (a combination of cog and chainring which creates perfect chain tension on a bicycle with vertical dropouts, and ideal without the use of a half-link).  After some tinkering, I found that gear - and, miracle of miracles, it happened to provide the exact same gear-inch result as my "old standby", the 42x17 (about 66") combination.  I'd successfully slayed Bob's old Liberty route and the Appleton City 400k on that ratio, without any major issues recorded.  In fact, I ended up catching and passing people.  It was magic time again!  

Then, I took her around the block.  First, the
entire bike felt weird... and it had nothing at all to do with the gearing - it was just me, returning to the bike after about six weeks off.  Settling in, and finally grinning (yay!  I'm riding!) my left arm (the surgery arm) began to stiffen and weaken considerably.  Uh oh.  Quickly moving from the hoods to the flat part of the bar and wincing a little, I turned around for home.  Ouch... not cool.  Nothing sharp and stabbing - just an amazing amount of fatigue from having to hold myself upright.  Dangit.

Oh, the gearing?  Clearly I've strengthened in the last ten years, which reinforces I'd been on the right track this year, finally; however, the olde 66" gear seemed WAY too easy to spin out of.  At a comfortable cruising cadence (which, on one gear, represents how to dictate things - the speed is incidental), I'd only been good for 14 MPH tops before beginning to feel like I was spinning my legs apart.... all while trying to get my left arm to shut up.  How did I ride this all the time?  Maybe the math is off... and this isn't the gear I think it should be.

Back in the garage, the parts came off far more quickly than they'd been installed.

Then, I tried to manage installing the gear I'd finished riding fixed on:  My not-so-olde "speed" favorite of 42x15, or around a 74" gear.  This gear ended up getting me some of my old PRs... and, again, it's really not the gearing so much as the lack of easier gears which did that. 

       Which, is really the whole point here... talking to myself:  simply having the gears shouldn't turn into an excuse to use them.  It's okay to push, hard.  You shouldn't have to take gears AWAY to get faster, assuming that's what you're after, dude.  Wise up...

 Unfortunately, even with single-tooth increments in cogs and chain-rings I couldn't get anything any taller than 66" to work - even with a half-link... well, at least with what I had laying around; and online calculators being what they are (amazing, but faulty sometimes), it appeared I'd end up with either too-short a gear, or something akin to being stuck in a 52x14.  Ugh.  It simply wasn't meant to be, not on the Kogs... and one of these years, I think I'll likely build up the Trek 450 again as a fixie -- but, a NICE one... Phil Wood hubs and cogs in 1/8", and a Gold Izumi Track chain... you know, REAL bling - yet, tasteful.  For now, lesson learned:  I pretty much wasted a day trying to get something to work, something that - with horizontal dropouts - should have taken about 3 minutes.  And, I know.... chain tensioner.  I won't do that.  Just can't.

SO... at least the annual disassemble and re-grease routine is complete now!  

 I still appreciate the simplicity of the single-cog, single-ring aesthetic - and part of me was looking forward to challenging myself in a different way - a way I'd forgotten.  Plus, talk about maintenance-free, practically!  It could have also turned into a money-saver, although, who am I kidding?  Road cassettes these days can be had for cheap, and even if they only last a season - that's only a couple dollars a month.  Everyone has to buy tires and chains - so, money-saving isn't the reason I should be using here.

So.  Now what?

The Kogs is back, more or less, as she was on Friday afternoon.  New bar tape awaits, once I figure out my next conquest:  shorter-reach handlebars.  

Despite doctor's reassurances that the bicycling - even excessive - wasn't responsible for my torn shoulder, the first round-the-block test ride seemed to indicate MAYBE things wouldn't be so tender if I wasn't reaching quite so far.  Looking down at the front hub, the handlebars flats are (according to ancient philosophies) where they should be... but, the reach of the bar itself puts the hoods, well... out of reach.  I miss my old Easton EA-50s.  Dang it.  

Still, I can't fault the VO Grand Cru handlebars... they have everything else I wanted in a rando handlebar:  flat ramps, flared drops, and long, parallel drop extensions.  They're great... they're just too freakin' long, front-to-back.  It seems like this "Mark" character I keep reading about gets all the cool, wacky 'bars HE wants, yet, I can't find one that works for me.  Grrr.

I worry about getting a shorter stem for knee clearance issues, so I'll need to take more measurements.  I also don't want to render the bike twitchy or unstable by squishing the cockpit... so, a while a shorter stem might solve the reach problem, it might cause problems elsewhere.  It's good to talk these things out.  

Also, option 2 -- and maybe the smarter one ---  don't do anything quite yet.  The pain I'm feeling is temporary, of course -- so, once I'm back to being able to ride more than a few thousand feet, I will reassess.  After all, if the torn-up shoulder hadn't caused me horrible issues on rides as long as 400km with these handlebars... a fully-healed me likely won't have any issues with them at all.  

Still... I logged a lot more miles on those Easton EA-50s.... maybe someone makes something within 90% of the VO bar, with the reach of the Eastons.  Salsa Cowbell?  Hmmm.... 
I'm keeping the new bar tape off, and have moved the bar-ends to the down-tube position, to facilitate faster 'bar swaps, should I find something.  

The hunt continues.  

Yeah, it's boredom... and if I can't ride, well, at least I can tinker.  BUT, comparative to my usual destructive silliness, I feel more solution-focused and patient ... and also willing to accept that perhaps nothing is needed at all.  I shouldn't be wasting time solving problems that may not be there.  Novel idea!

So, about that boredom...  time to go for a run.


Monkeywrangler said...

FWIW, it took about 8mo for my shoulder to fully heal from its major reconstruction. I hope yours heals more quickly, though mine did heal to 100% function, so I cannot really complain.

FYI there is a nicer Mercian KOM frame set on ebay, in better condition than the grey one at the same price point. I have no financial interest in any of them, I just always wanted a Mercian, but these days I ride mostly recumbents.

Also there are quite a few Easton EA50 drop bars also on ebay. It might be worth it to you to do a search on Easton EA-50 bars to find them all.

If you are going to ride Octoginta this fall, maybe we will see you there. We will be on the blue RANS Seavo recumbent tandem.

kG said...

Those old Mercians are terrific bikes -- I've been 'watching' a few like that lately, and also different parts groups, etc. Vertical vs. horizontal dropouts are the least of my worries, really --- I keep wanting to blame things on equipment, when the real issue involves the engine needing a tune-up. Gears or not, I'm lazy. hahaha -- aren't we all in some way?

So far , so good ... and my surgeon seemed to settle somewhere between 4-6 months TOTAL recovery. So long as I know I am not reinjuring anything - which I think I'm beyond now - I am allowed to ride "as tolerated", and that's where the problems begin: fatigue, holding myself up the right way, instead of locking my shoulder and neck muscles... things that PT and hard work will solve over time. BUT, the shorter reach handlebars are on the way, and those will help a TON.