Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Sixty Miles and What Do You Get?

Earlier I put in 60 miles with two riding buddies. It had been over a year since I rode with one of the guys. The weather was perfect. Right before the ride I swapped out the SLR saddle for a Fizik Pave. I had to lower it slightly, since the SLR had no padding, and the Pave is a normal saddle. I hate making adjustments to my ride. It makes me completely paranoid. I met one friend on the Greenway, and we rode out to the other guy's place in St. Louis Park. I noticed he had numerous upgrades. He said he had a professional fitting, and they raised his saddle TWO INCHES. He said all pain and discomfort are gone. Great! Now I was really paranoid. Anyway, I had a comfortable ride and no fit or adjustment issues. We rode around Minnetonka, Plymouth, Orono, and wherever we were. I felt great afterward and was surprised we rode that far. My Polar reported that I burned 3000 calories on that ride. I never really trust those things, since I should have blown away by now.

60 miles and no irate motorists. 60 miles and no flat tires. 60 miles and no rain.

Monday, May 30, 2005

BMXers and a Perfect Start to Summer

Today I was at Penn to buy another light, and as I was leaving, three kids were working on a bike near mine as I was unlocking it. One kid was trying to remove a pedal with an 11/16" wrench. I handed him my 15mm wrench (that no fixed gear rider should ever be without) and helped him change his pedals. These kids were very nice and appreciative. I'm sure I was some freaky "old guy" riding a "weird bike." The shop probably charges $50 in labor alone to change pedals. I still don't understand BMX, but anyone on a bike is OK with me.

Quest for a Helmet

We have the obligatory pet picture... now we can move on to the business at hand- another helmet.

Somehow, I really don't like the idea of dragging a top-shelf racing helmet into a bar after class, or dragging it into Lunds to buy groceries, or worst of all, locking it to my bike.

After taking a face plant last fall that happened so fast I was still clutching the bars as I hit, I'm a firm believer in helmets. Last week's Opus resulted in the banged up helmet of a teammate as he landed on the side of his head. My brain, for better or worse, is probably one of my better assets. As such, it deserves a bit of protection.

I am contemplating the antithesis to my Italian Selev and Limar racing helmets- the roundish "Citi" helmet by Bell. It screams of practicality. Better yet, it is dirt cheap.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Sociology of Riding

A road biking friend phoned tonight, wants to hook up for a ride on Monday. This is the same guy I tried to get into riding fixed over the winter. We both took old road frames to Freewheel Bike, and I built mine (leaving me with a second fixed gear as a rain bike) in a two days after scrounging for some extra parts. He still hasn't finished his. I don't think he likes the idea of riding fixed.

I've ridden thousands of geared miles with this friend. He is a great rider, if not a bit crash-prone. I've personally witnessed two solo, low-speed crashes, including a spectacular miscue while bunny-hopping a curb, resulting in his face plant in front of a sizeable audience. Another was when he was climbing, standing, as we rode up the High Bridge. He toppled over was he mishandled a water bottle. Most recently he trashed his rear wheel during a club ride when some stranger he was drafting went down. To his credit, he is one of the most supurb descenders I have ever ridden with, and annually takes bike trips through the mountains.

I have no scheduled races in the near future, so I am less concerned about following any structured training. He likes to ride competitively, as fast as he can- all the time. Usually, I'm either riding intervals, or recovery- if not commuting. None of which are very compatible with riding with others. I'm not anti-social about riding, but usually whenever two or more guys get together on bikes, both ride faster than either intended.

I am looking forward to tomorrow's ride. We should have another rider along that we often rode with two years ago. It will be like old times. The nice thing about being male is we can get together sporadically, and we don't need to spend much energy discussing updates with our lives. It will be like we just saw each other last week. If six months pass before we see each other again, we will pick up right where we left off. There is no worrying about whether someone isn't speaking to the other for "some reason." These are those ideal low maintenance friendships. Even better is that I met both of them riding, rather than in a bar. These are healthy friends and healthy influences, even if one of them crashes a bit too often. And, one can never have enough friends.

"That Guy"

Tonight, I met "that guy."

OK, so I ranted a bit after Tuesday's Opus. This afternoon we had a crit at the State Fair Grounds. I blew up badly and was off the lead group. I HATE chicanes. Maybe it is mental, but I can't handle them. I always lose position and end up at the end of the "slinky effect."

Anyway, a group of five of us worked together. We never made up any time on the lead group, but we didn't lose any either. If we could have stayed on after the blazing fast start, all would have been well. There were some squirrely riders out tonight, and getting stuck behind someone that can't fill the gap means the end is near.

Anyway, I was talking with one of the guys during the cool-down lap who was working with us. He was a really nice guy, and a great guy to have working with us. He mentioned that HE caused the second crash on Tuesday at Opus. That he went down after touching wheels, taking four or five other guys down. It was only then I noticed his road rash. He said he took his bike into the shop that night to have it fixed in time for this weekend's races. He said that he felt very bad about taking the others down, but pointed out they all made it back up. I found myself saying, "That's part of racing. That sort of thing can happen to anyone."

Taking out your own wheel is much better than taking out someone else's. Even if it does cause others to go down.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Musings on Commuting

I am becoming less and less materialistic the older I become. I know I'll never be a great racer without making sacrifices that I'm unwilling to make- but I think most people who race are in the same boat. I know very few people who commute, and there is something freakish about it- especially when I have a great job and a great car. I have difficulty recycling! I'm not out to change the world, but I feel marginalized in many regards for commuting. The practicality of commuting doesn't sit well with roadie aesthetics and there is the ever-present battle with motorized vehicles.

I remember a few years ago, out riding with a friend after work when we encounted an acquaintence of his, commuting home from work. I was aghast at the use of duct tape, his "vintage" helmet, his bike with fenders and mudflaps. When he took a pull at breakneck speed for five miles until we reached downtown, I realilzed he was a time trialist in disguise. It was ground zero for planting the seeds. I know it is a radical thought, but sometimes a bike can be used as transportation.

Saw A Dead Body Today

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I was driving to my "other job" this evening, heading south on 35E when traffic slowed to a halt. I could see flashing lights in the distance. Many lights. As I crept along the accident scene, I had to look. What I saw was truly horrifying. There were two vehicles that were crushed, and both had their occupants still in them. An occupant was half hanging out of the front vehicle, slumped over, looking quite dead. EMTs did not appear to be in any hurry to assist. The driver in the second vehicle was moving and still in the vehicle. There were maybe six additional vehicles on the shoulder. Traffic was passing on the right shoulder. It was the most horrific accident scene I have ever encountered. I truly regret looking. I really did not need to see the limp body.

I didn't feel like driving the speed limit of 70 after that. Of course, I was just driving to another job. Everyone else resumed speeding away after the traffic opened up.

When I arrived at work, I later found that the driver indeed was dead. The freeway remained closed for hours.

I can't figure out how this accident could have occurred. Both vehicles were in the center lane. I expected an accident this severe would result in vehicles driving off the road. I really wonder what happened. I hate accidents like this on dry, straight roads that I regularly use.

Sometimes cars really are coffins.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

I Love the Rain

OK, I much prefer sunny weather, but I've learned not to hate the rain. I commuted today, despite the forecast of 80% chance of rain. It rained all the way home.

Riding in the rain is a flashback to a wonderful part of childhood- of great memories- of playing with matches under a picnic table with the neighbor kid, Kent... of digging up worms, saving them in the refrigerator, and plotting great things with the millions we'd make selling them... of stomping through mud puddles walking home from school, without a care in the world. There is no other time in most people's life when rain is no excuse not to go outside and play- where the maxim, "doesn't know enough to get out of the rain" means absolutely nothing. Choosing to ride in the rain as an adult brings it all back to when life was simple, and getting wet was harmless fun.

I've spent much of my life avoiding weather, of allowing weather to determine what I do. Riding in the rain is all about conquering the weather, of beating it into submission, of evening the score. Of course, it helps being a bit prepared for rain, but there is no getting around that fact that it is impossible to stay completely dry.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Opus- Week 6 -War of Attrition

Don't be that guy.

Tonight was the last of the Opus series, and the weather was great. I actually rode to the race- not that it is very far. I used my regular wheels and tires so I wouldn't shred my usual race tires. Anyway, seeing how backed up Crosstown was and that it wasn't raining, and that the Tour of 10,000 Lakes starts Friday, and I have class tomorrow and can't ride (unless I ride to work) and I work late on Thursday, and on and on and on...

Riding was a nice warm up, although I caught a few sprinkles. There was no line at registration, which was a bit odd. I took a few practice laps. Our team had a reasonable turn-out tonight. Anyway, the 4/5's was uneventful, except someone somehow lost his rear wheel on the first sprint. We took a practice lap and lined up for our race. Some unattached guy wearing a plain white jersey and riding a Colnago lined up right next to me. I mean, right next to me as in, in my personal space close. Anyway, I was playing with my heartrate monitor and joking around with some other guy when the whistle went off, catching me daydreaming. I started in the second row, fumbled a bit with clipping in. These new Nike shoes just haven't been as smooth clipping in as the trashed cleats on my Sidis. I clipped in, and we basically took the usual gentlemen's first lap.

Tonight I wasn't feeling so well. I planned on playing it a bit conservatively, but wanted to stay near the front, feeling the field might actually split one of these times. My tires weren't gripping the road like my race tires, and coming off the corners was a bit sketchy, and there were some guys taking some crazy lines. Anyway, I was staying near the front when the first crash occurred. This was during the sprint lap. I was lucky NOT to be on the inside, where I normally am on that curve, since I had just passed a bunch of racers on the outside. What a tactically stupid place for a move that will result in a crash.

I survived the sprint, staying with the sprinter's group. Coming back around I noticed a couple guys, including a teammate sitting on the grass after the crash, although I couldn't tell who it was. I drifted back a bit to recover after the sprint and to take stock of who was left, and what was going on. It looked like one of the unattached guys was out.

I played it safe during the next few laps, moving up to position myself for the sprint on six, recovering, then staying near the front when again, on the inside, there was a nasty crash involving several riders. It looked like over half the field was out. As we approached the line, we were informed the road had cleared. I hung on and had an uneventful finish. It literally seemed half the field, if even that, finished together.

After the race I hung out with my teammates, including the guy who went down. Apparently he was hit and lost control. He had nasty road rash, a cracked helmet, a rear wheel out of true, but otherwise was fine. We discussed how a few guys were riding all over the road. It truly made no sense tactically on the fast part of the course to try to gain any position when anyone can pass at will during the uphill part. We later encountered another rider who had an out of true wheel after being run into the curb during the second melee. He identified the cause of the crash: the guy with the white jersey. I implore you, dear reader, don't be that guy.

Two big rider errors. Two crashes. I'm not saying I'm perfect, but big sudden moves have no place in a race when riding in close quarters. Besides, it is only a practice crit. It is Opus. Save the big stuff for this weekend, when it really counts!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Why I Hate Racing

It is a beautiful day today- sunny, in the 70s. Unfortunately, my legs feel like concrete and the final Opus is tomorrow. Monday is my day of rest. I don't commute Monday or Tuesday due to races, and every other Thursday I work late and need a car. Now that I think about it, I do quite well, considering how little I actually "train."

Monday, May 23, 2005

Ran Into a Guy I Know...

...at a graduation party. I've ridden with this guy on a few TCBC rides a few years ago, and have seen him at a few races, although he looked more like a spectator. I mentioned that I saw him at Opus a few weeks ago. He said he was there, but wasn't racing. He had been mostly riding the "Gears, Tears, & Fears" TCBC rides- said Opus was too sketchy, too many crashes. I've ridden plenty of GTF rides. Enough to know what testosterone-laden hammerfests they can be. The goal apparently is to drop as many riders as possible, to never regroup, and to ride as dangerously as possible, blowing red lights, etc. to catch up. They wouldn't lose one once of conditioning if they waited a few seconds after each hill, but that just wouldn't quite fit the agenda. The ride is ironically scheduled opposite the Tuesday night crits, so you can't ride both. I had talked to another riding friend earlier who still rides GTF. I encouraged him to show up at Opus. He said he might, but he was worried about crashing. The light bulb went on: it is the "race" of the week... for those who don't race. No wonder I never fit in.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Rain Bike

Everyone should have a rain bike. Everyone should bike in the rain. I've spent much of my adult life avoiding weather- particularly rain. I work indoors and live indoors. It wasn't until I started commuting that I really paid any attention to the weather.

Every adult should play outside in the rain. Make a choice. I'm not talking about being stuck in the rain, but rather deciding to be active, outdoors, in the rain. Fir me, it is a complete happy flashback to childhood.

Too stupid to get out of the rain

Whoever said that must have lived an unhappy life.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Ride Home

Many of the following shots were taken while riding. I guess you could say I'm like a still photography Lucas Brunelle wannabe. In recognition of Bike to Work Day (like I needed an excuse), here are images from the most interesting portion of my commute.

My bike in the shower room at work.

The shower.

The rail yard near Warner Road.

Empty barges east of downtown.

Warner Road.

Flat tire- oddly the Armadillo flatted- not the Open Corsa CX.

More barges.

The Lafayette Bridge.

South of downtown.

The Wabasha Bridge (and all those flags).

The basilica from afar.

The High Bridge.

"Live Here"- I always wanted to live in an abandoned power plant!

Looking back toward downtown at the functional power plant.

Old pilings in the Mississippi River.

Shepard Road.

The 35E tunnel.

The trail gets nasty.

Mississippi Blvd.

From the Ford Bridge.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Bike to Work Day

Today is it: bike to work day. Not that I needed a reason to ride, but I seemed to notice much more bikes than normal (yet still a tiny amount, given how easy it is to ride to work). I encountered maybe a dozen other riders on my 20 mile commute that began around 6am. Usually I see one or two.

I literally have the perfect commute, a shower, indoor spot to store my bike- and a great job to ride to. Life is wonderful.

This morning was a bit unusual in the sense that I usually don't encounter many other riders "going my way." Today, I saw two hammerheads tearing it up on a deserted MUT as I was on the road. At an intersection they hopped on the road behind me. The guy in front was in his aerobars followed by a guy on a Cannondale who said "nice bike" as they passed me on my fixed. I hopped on his wheel for a free draft- until they blew through a red light without even slowing. Sorry, that just isn't my cup of tea. I watched them blow through another- and I'm convinced they really didn't know each other, since they really weren't working together and the gap started widening as even the guy on the Cannondale probably realized they were riding a bit crazy.

Later, I encountered a guy in a full Postal kit that I managed to catch. He, of course, kicks it in high gear and drafts me for a few miles. Nobody likes being passed by the guy with a backpack on a beat up Schwinn fixed commuter He ended up taking the shoulderless highway as I took the commuter trail. The trail isn't so great, but nobody else uses it- except chronic inebriates who like to break bottles on the pavement. Anyway, watching cars buzz him in pre-rush hour traffic (it is posted at 45 or 50 mph, meaning everyone is driving at least 60) reinforced my belief that I am better off NOT using the road during that stretch.

Lest anyone think I'm using "Cannondale" or "Postal" as perjoratives, when I commute, I tend to attach nicknames to everyone I encounter- including "hockey-helmet-dude": no lie. Yesterday I passed a guy wearing huge winter ****-kicker boots, baggy shorts, and a hockey helmet without a face mask (on his head crooked)- riding an old roadbike- wearing some whackass goggles. Unreal. Looked like he'd lost a bet- but he was just too into it.

Rain Last Night

Last night I rode home in a downpour after hitting the bar after class. A woman was waiting under the entrance to The Black Forest. She was 40-ish, but looked like she was doing everything in her power to fight her inevitable aging. She was a bit drunk and seemed more interested in asking me about my bike and riding home in the rain than hanging out with her "date." Married people just don't go out on a rainy Wednesday night. She tried to convince him to give me a ride home, but it was obvious he had no interest. He genuinely seemed to look down on me, as if I were from a different social stratum. There was no point explaining that I chose to ride to class, that we have two very fun (dry) cars waiting at home in the garage. I was polite and I insisted that I'd be fine. She was concerned about my brakes in the wet. I explained that I really didn't need brakes with a fixed gear, but her eyes glazed over as I explained, and he grabbed her and dragged her off in the rain, running to his car.

I was no more than a half mile away when the rain nearly stopped. I was soaked. I didn't care. I have plenty of dry clothes at home. I don't know why this weekly seven mile ride home is one of my favorites. The city is so quite along this route, taking the Greenway to Bryant, down by the Rose Garden, and around Harriet to home in SW Minneapolis.

As I headed down a hill toward Dupont to catch the lake, my brake cable popped. I suddenly had no brake. Regardless of the brakeless/brake debate, it is handy to have brakeless skills when necessary. And thank god for the porta-potty near the Rose Garden!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Opus Week 5

This is what Opus looks like on a Polar HRM download.

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You can see after the third lap I had to do some extra work to catch some guys off the front after the first points sprint. Nobody around me wanted to work, so I "kindly" brought the pack up. I can't sprint and have no points this year. I might as well be useful at something.

I was a bit bored with my usual routine after recovering, so I decided to take off the final lap to see if I could at least split the field up a bit. Of course I caught a lot of wind and completely blew up, but I fared no worse than normal. Sure it was stupid, but what the hell? It beats sitting in week after week.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Brakes- Good News/Bad News

The Tektro brakes on my wife's bike suck.

Good News:

Some guy at RBR.com steered me to a site selling rear 105s for $15 each! Only rears, but considering Dura Ace pad refills are $10/set, you can see what a bargain it is. I'm in! So I ordered them.

Bad News:

I ventured down to Penn Cycle to buy a Problem Solvers brake bolt extended threaded sleeve for the front fork. They want $10 for it. It isn't even made of titanium. Not to blame Penn, since it is really QBP that stinks this one up.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Opus Week 4- (or why I hate Doppler Radar)

The race was uneventful, except that it rained again, and I'm soaked. The problem is that I checked the weather before I left at weather.com. Doppler showed no precipitation, and the forecast was for no rain. As I stood in line to register, black clouds rolled in, and we had another windy, wet crit. I probably would have dressed a bit differently, and one might argue that I could have prepared for the worst, but that misses the real issue. How can the weather be so wrong, so often? And it had to have already been raining somewhere nearby while it predicted no rain. And while I'm at it, why even comes up with the "odds" that there is a 40% chance of rain? Why can't they use Vegas oddsmakers to predict the weather? And while we are at it, toss some money into the mix to make the weather just a bit more interesting.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Centurion Project Complete

The Centurion is already finished. The Ultegra crank and BB may be a problem if this runs fixed, since it has a 109.5 Octalink BB- the shortest available. Also, the single-pivot Tektro brakes are a joke, but I found a place online selling 105 brakes for $15 each. New. Anyway, here it is in its present incarnation. My wife loves it.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Who Is Messing with my Bike?

After class I rode the Cadillac (I think the name fits the glossy black mystery framed bike) to the Black Forest for a few beers with my classmates. I had the bike double locked, and a classmate had his bike U-locked to mine as well. Anyway, when I was unlocking my bike to ride home, the lock face on one of my cable locks had somehow been removed. With the faceplate gone, I could easily view inside the lock mechanism. It occurs to me that this is truly the "weak link"- that this is a flawed lock design. Like the lighting system, I guess a "real lock" will just end up costing more than the frameset.

I hate even having to think about such things.

Opus Crit- Week 3

OK- this is more of a rant: tonight's Opus started out with a crash at the starting line. Someone went down rather hard while touching wheels while clipping in. The rest of the race was no better. Tonight was full-contact racing, with plenty of pushing and shoving, leaning, and yelling. I was furious at some bozo who couldn't hold his line at all, who nearly took out my front wheel a few times as he dove into the EASY curves (they really can't even be called corners).

I don't understand people. This is a meaningless "practice" crit. It isn't worth losing any skin. If someone wants to position themselves, do it when the road turns up. This idiot kept losing position going uphill and tried to get it all back on the fast, easy part of the course. There was nothing to be tactically gained by doing that. Oh well, it seems there is one in every race. Maybe the cold and rain is better if it keeps them at home.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Centurion Project

I'm building a single speed for my wife. I found a great deal on ebay for a Centurion Elite RS road frame. It has Tange 2 tubing and is compatible with the 700C wheels and 125 rear of the other conversions. It should build up to be a great commuter bike, and if she ever wants to try riding fixed, we can just toss a fixed wheel on the back.

Somehow I've come into a bunch of extra parts and have a perfect SR stem, 105 brake levers, Tektro brakes, and a nice Ultegra crankset and BB. I have a few extra saddles to choose from. All I need is a seatpost and chain... and pedals. I guess it isn't so bad being a junk collector.

On a side note, I had to stop by the bike shop today, and one of the employees was in the early crash in yesterday's race. He destroyed a $1200 wheelset when some guy in front of him went down, causing the pileup. Apparently the instigator had crashed in at least three other races. He should probably take up demolition derby or monster truck racing with those destructive tendencies. I guess my own race could have been worse. The shop guy's rather laid-back attitude about the incident has me wondering just how much of a shop discount they actually receive.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Ken Woods Memorial Race

Another freezing race, but this time it is a road race- 42 miles worth, with nowhere but open farmland to hide. I was still not feeling all that well after Tuesday's crit that chilled me to the bone. I had not felt the greatest and hadn't ridden all week, except a short commute to class in a snow shower, but that certainly didn't count as training. I was feeling run down most of the week, but there aren't that many road races in the season. Why are they all so early?

Anyway, having fully lowered my expectations, I would go for it. It isn't that far of a drive, and the forecast was for no rain. My wife drove us down. The staging area was a rural church near a valley. I registered, debated what to wear, and warmed up. The wind was brutal, and I swear I saw snowflakes landing on the car.

Eventually our wave started. I think we were the third of fourth wave to begin. There were sixty-something racers in my group. We had a nice start, with two guys immediately taking off the front. We'll see how long they last. Anyway, the pack was rather skittish, with a lot of sudden slowing for no apparent reason. I was a bit cold and sought shelter from the wind by hiding in the middle. About three miles in we encountered a crash scene from an earlier wave. Our pace continued to be erratic. We made the first turn and had the usual yo-yo effect. I started moving up as we started shelling off a few guys. We already caught a few stragglers from the earlier waves.

We ran into a bit of light rain about the time I realized there was pig shit all over the road, spraying all of us as our tires were kicking it up. The joys of rural road races- in April. Anyway, we continued with our herky-jerky tempo, losing a few guys here and there on the rolling hills. I was feeling OK, but I also knew I really hadn't been tested. About 14 or 15 miles in "we" decided to chase down the guys off the front and our speed suddenly shot up into the 30s. More guys were dropped, and I was feeling comfortable out of the wind, filling any gaps the opened. As we approached the area I had warmed up on earlier we had a bit of a hill, which proved to be the first real test. I didn't do so well and felt the tightness of my cold in my chest. I was falling a bit off the back, but figured I could catch up on the descent. It was a nice idea, but it was not to be as a guy in front of me started weaving all over the road for some inexplicable reason, forcing me to tap my brakes. I felt like I was moving backwards. This totally sucks!

I kicked it into gear to chase the pack, knowing there was a mile-long gradual hill looming. I grabbed the wheel of a teammate that looked like he was recovering. I did not want to blow up on this hill. About this time my calves started cramping up. It could well have been hydration- it is hard to drink enough when it is FREEZING outside. Anyway, I was cold, cramping, and felt the full effects of racing with a bit of a cold. My heart rate just wasn't popping like it should. I decided then that I'd drop out if I couldn't make any gains as we crossed the halfway mark. I've never quit a race, and it was an odd personal ethical dilemma. I could continue the race with whatever stragglers I could pick up, or what a bit for whatever others may have recovered a bit- OR -I could warm up in car and end what was sure to be an ordeal as the course shifted into the brutal wind again.

With great guilt, I took the easy way out.